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The Sangha or Buddhist Community

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by Sangharakshita

... as impermanent, as transitory, as existing in a stat of perpetual flux with nothing stable in it. Then as seeing it as sorrowful, a not capable of giving in any part full, final, ultimate satisfaction to th uman heart. And then finally seeing it as basically unreal. Not unreal in the s see of completely illusory, but unreal in the sense of not ultimately real, t final, not itself the absolute not the ultimate. So this is insight into, wised m with regard to conditioned existance or the Samsara.

And the second kind of insight, the second kind of Vipassana, or ultimately Wisdom - because Vipassana when fully developed becomes Wisdom in the highest sense - this consists in the direct vision through as it were the veil of the conditioned, the direct vision of the unconditioned or Nirvana. It is as though through insight one pierces throug the conditioned, one sees its true nature, one sees how it is riddled with permanence, sorrow and unreality; but one pierces through and through unt 1 one comes out as it were on the other side and then, as the mists clear away ones sees, one comes face to face with, one is confronted by the ultimate, irvana which one sees is permanent in the sense of above and beyond time, tra scending past present and future; one sees it is blissful in the sense of affo ing complete and final satisfaction to the human heart; and one sees that it i an absolute existant, or rather an absolute above and beyond the extremes o existence: and non-existence, and so on.

So these two kinds of insight into the conditioned, into the unconditioned - these correspond the first two grades or kinds of voidness or emptiness. There are four grades together, as we may be seeing in the course of some other talk. The insight in the conditioned, into the Samsara corresponds to what is called Asamskrta state, Emptiness of the Conditioned. When we see that conditioned existence s empty of the attributes or qualities of the unconditioned; that in the co itioned there is no permanence, no bliss and no reality. And then the second k d of insight, insight into Nirvana, into ultimate. reality corresponds to Asamskrta-sunyata which is the emptiness or voidness of the unconditioned, consi sting in the understanding or in the vision of the fact that in the unconditioned there is an emptiness of the conditioned. The unconditioned is empty with regard to the conditioned, in the sense that the attributes of the conditioned - that is to say impermanence, sorrow and unreality - are not found in the unconditioned; the unconditioned is empty with regard to those attribut es of the conditioned.

So we find the two kinds of insight therefore corresponding to these two kinds or grades of Sunyata - Voidness or Emptiness.

Now, in the Buddhist life, in the spiritual life we find that nothing comes all at once.

Everything comes gradually; everything comes by degrees, whether it is Ethics, whether it is Concentration and Meditation, or whether it is even Insight. So at all these stages we have to go slowly and steadily and systematically. So we find therefore that there are different degrees of insight, insights of varying degrees of intensity. You can get a feeble flash of insight if your meditation is weak; it wont support more than a feeble flash of insight. But you can also have a very strong, a very brilliant flash of insight which illumines as it were far into the depths of existence, far into the de ths of reality. So flashes of insight are of different degrees of intensity.

And here we come back to our original point and make connection again. It is according to the degree of intensity of insight that the different types or kinds of Ariya Pudgala - Noble or Holy Person - are distinguished. You will remember that we have got four kinds basically of Holy or Noble Person, Ariya Pudgala; well, they are distinguished one from another into lower and higher grades, lower and higher types of Holy Person according to the degree of intensity of their insight. But the question which emerges is how do you measure the intensity of insight.

This is surely a very difficult question. If it is a question of measuring say the temperature, you have got a thermometer. But how do you measure insight ? This is not so easy.

Now, insight traditionally in Buddhism is measured in two ways. It is measured subjectively; it's measured also objectively. Subjectively it is measured according to th nuber of spiritual Fetters or Samyojanas which it is capable of breaking. Objectively it is measured according to the number of births or rebirths maining after that insight is attained.

Now, the Sayojanas, the spiritual Fetters are ten in number. And it is these ten spiritual Fetters or ten Sanyojanas which chain us down as it were to the Samsara, A o the Wheel of Life on which we revolve. Some of them are more gross; some of them are more subtle So let us take a look at them first. They are of course connected as we shall see with the objective way of measuring the intensity o insight, they are connected with the question of the number of births remaining.

Now, I have said there are four kinds or degrees of Ariya Pudgala - the Noble the Holy Person. First of all there is what we call the Sotapenna. The Sotapenna literally means Stream Entrant, as we shall see. Secondly what we cal the Sakridagamin; thirdly the Anagamin; end fourthly the Arahant. These are th technical terms for the four Noble or Holy Persons. Now, first of all the Sotapanna. As I have said this literally means One who has entered the Stream.'The stream which leads eventually to Nirvana. And the Sotapanna has developed a degree of insight powerful enough to break three Fetters; the first three of the ten Fetters. So let us take a look at these three Fetters. We shall dwell upon them ger then on the others because obviously they concern us more.

The first of the three is what is known as Sakkaya-drsti, which means Personality View. And this is twofold. I am sorry to give you so many technical terms. I have avoided them so far, but when we come on to certain aspects of the Dharma it is a little difficult to avoid them. The first kind of Sakkaya-drsti or Personality View is called Sasvata-drsti. This holds that after death personal identity persists unchanging. This is a form of traditional Soul belief. You have got a soul an unchanging ego identity within you, quite distinct from your body and this marches on after death. It continues. It either goes to heaven or it reincarnates. But the basic point is t t it is unchanged. It is an entity, it is not a process. The other view, the o er kind of Sakkaya-drsti or Personality View says that at death....finish! Everything finishes, you are cut off. Uccheda literally means `cut off'; that death is the end. So according to Buddhism these are two extreme views. One view that your ego soul - a sort of spiritual billiard ball almost, if you like - rolls on unchanged. The other, that the psychical side of life at the time of death, like the material side, like the physical side, stops. So Bu ism teaches a middle view. It teaches that death is not the end in the se e that when the physical body dies there is no complete to the mental or the psychological or the spiritual processes. These continue. But is not an unchanging ego soul which continues, it is the process; the mental, the psychological, th spiritual process in all its complexity; ever changing, ever flowing on like stream. This continues, but not as anything unchanging. It is the continuity or the continuation essentially of a process. So this is the Buddhist view.

So the first Fetter to be broken is the idea that you have got a permanent unchanging soul within you which either goes on after death or is smashed at the time of death. And Right View consists in this respect in understanding that what goes on after death goes on as a process, a sort of flow, a stream if you like of psychical events. So much for the first Fetter: the Fetter of Personality View.

Secondly the Fetter of Vicikiccha, usually translated as `skeptical doubt', or sometimes as `indecision'. Now, this is not that honest doubt which Tennyson says `there is more faith in it than in all the Creeds' - it is not that. We may rather say that Vicikiccha in this sense, in this context represents a sort of unwillingness to cometo a definite conclusion. People sort of wobble and they like to keep on wobbling; they like to sit on the fence as it were, saying `Well, it may be true, it may not be true. It may be true, it may not be true.' They do not want to commit themselves. They keep in this wobbling state of indecisiveness, not really making up their minds and not really trying to. For instance if you say to people `Well, is there life after death ?' I'll say `Well, there may be; maybe ther isn*t. I don*t know. One.Aa I think one, one day I think the other.' And so they wont think it really out. They wont commit themselves to pursuing this to the end. They allow themselves to remain in that sort of state od doubt and indecision. So this unwillingness to think things out, this unwillingness to come to a conclusion, this unwillingness therefore to commit oneself, this is a Fetter which has to be broken according to the Buddha*s teaching.

Then thirdly, the third Fetter is what we call Silabbata-paramasa. This is usually translated as `Attachment to rights and ceremonies', but this is quite wrong. We must remember that some of these Buddhist scritures were first translated towards the end of the Victorian period,and you may remember that around that time in this country, in the Church of England especial1y, the great Ritualist Cotroversy. You may remember that the Oxford movement had flourished earlier in the century and had tried ...

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