The Middle Way … the Path to Complete Destruction of Suffering

The Path to Nibbana, complete destruction of suffering, is also called Middle Way

The Blessed One has proclaimed Four Establishments of Mindfulness, Four Bases of Spiritual Power, Five Faculties, Five Powers, Seven Factors of Enlightenment, and the Noble Eightfold Path as the way to Nibbana, complete destruction of suffering. How Four Establishments of Mindfulness relate to Four Bases of Spiritual Power … Noble Eightfold Path? Are they the same or different from each other? The Blessed One did not necessarily mention all of them at once. There were times when the Blessed One talked about Four Establishments of Mindfulness; … there are times when the Blessed One talked about Noble Eightfold Path. Each of them was proclaimed by the Blessed One as The Middle Way.

How does, Four Establishments of Mindfulness, relate to Noble Eightfold Path? Are they the same or apart from each other?

The Noble Eightfold Path being proclaimed by the Blessed One is Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. It’s commonly being stated as the way leading to the end of suffering; or being said as the holy life. There are also cases where the Blessed One said that Right Mindfulness should be seen as Four Establishments of Mindfulness. As Right Mindfulness is a path factor in Noble Eightfold Path, someone has thus said Four Establishments of Mindfulness is included in Noble Eightfold Path. For the realization of Nibbana, Right Mindfulness should be developed in conjunction with other seven path factors. In this regards, is it correct to say that right mindfulness is one of the eight things that needs to be developed to complete the path? Such that standing on its own, right mindfulness may not be enough for the realization of Nibbana?


Contents

  1. Four Establishments of Mindfulness as the One-way Path or the Only Way?
  2. Two Cases of Right Mindfulness: Mundane and Supramundane
  3. The Mundane Noble Eightfold Path
  4. Right Concentration is Four Jhanas? Mundane Right Concentration, that is.
  5. Four Establishments of Mindfulness
  6. Careful Attention
  7. Restraint of Sense Faculties
  8. Four Establishments of Mindfulness Fulfills Seven Factors Enlightenment
  9. Seven Factors of Enlightenment Fulfill True Knowledge and Liberation
  10. Transcended Dependent Origination
  11. Trainee’s Right View and Arahant’s Right View
  12. The Supramundane Noble Eightfold Path
  13. Three kinds of taints
  14. Four Right Strivings
  15. Four Bases of Spiritual Power
  16. Five Faculties are Five Powers; the difference lie in different methods of exposition
  17. Middle Way Being Explained in Seven Ways … Four Establishments of Mindfulness … Noble Eightfold Path
  18. Mundane Path Can Be Conducive to Supramundane Path?
  19. Four Jhanas Are Not Supramundane Right Concentration
  20. Four Establishments of Mindfulness … The Only Path to Nibbana


Four Establishments of Mindfulness as the One-way Path or the Only Way?

The Blessed One also said that Four Establishments of Mindfulness is the one-way path for the realization of Nibbana. In this way of exposition, Four establishments of Mindfulness is being said as a standalone path, rather than being a path factor. Both methods of exposition exist within the four major Nikayas. The Blessed One also says that Noble Eightfold Path is conditioned. Each path factor relates with each other. How they relate to reach other would give us an answer to why Four Establishments of Mindfulness could be treated as a standalone path but also a path factor.

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Two Cases of Right Mindfulness: Mundane and Supramundane

The Mundane Noble Eightfold Path

In what way right mindfulness is NOT regarded as Four Establishments of Mindfulness? When one knows and sees three kinds of misconduct leading to misery and destination of woes; he knows and sees three kinds of good conduct leading to future happiness and heavenly rebirth; that is right view. Mindfully he dwells in his right view; that is right mindfulness. He makes an effort to develop right view. He guards his action in body, speech, and mind carefully. He does not know the origination and passing away of suffering. He does not practice for the complete destruction of suffering. He sees no benefit from harming himself or the others. While enjoying five chords of sensual pleasures, he exercise restraints by carefully guarding his body, speech, and mind.

Based on right view, he makes effort to abandon arisen wrong intentions, such as the intention of harming himself or others, intention of excessive indulging in five chords of pleasure, reluctance of helping those in need, etc., and develop right intention; that is his right effort. Mindfully he develops right intention; that is his right mindfulness. From right view, he strives and remains mindful in developing right intention… right speech… right action… right livelihood…

Based upon virtue, he develops right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, and right mindfulness. As he recollects that his action by body, speech, and mind is virtuous, rapture is born. When there is rapture, his body is tranquil; his mind becomes concentrated; thereby he fulfills right concentration by fulfilling seen requisites.

This is the Noble Eightfold Path that is mundane that leads to further existence, happiness in this very life and future life. In this mundane path, right mindfulness is not seen as four establishments of mindfulness.

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Right Concentration is Four Jhanas? Mundane Right Concentration, that is.

Based upon virtue, one weakens and abandons five hindrances. The Five hindrances are sensual desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and remorse, and doubt. The five hindrances are said to be the cause and condition for ignorance. When one regards five chords of sensual pleasure, which are form cognized by eye, sound cognized by ear, odor cognized by nose, taste cognized by tongue, and tactile object cognized by body, would lead to perpetual happiness, he relinquishes sensual desire for sensual pleasure. Possessing these five qualities, he is able to dwell in right concentration, which is to say, the first jhana, second jhana, third jhana, and fourth jhana. Four jhanas lead to pleasant dwelling in this very life; should he does not lose access to this concentration, upon death he is to be reborn in heavenly realms corresponding to his attainment in concentration. This is the Noble Eightfold Path that is mundane that leads to further existence, happiness in this very life and future life. In this mundane path, right mindfulness is not seen as four establishments of mindfulness.

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Four Establishments of Mindfulness

What is four establishments of mindfulness? He dwells contemplating body in the body, mindful, clearly comprehending; he dwells contemplating feeling in the feeling, mindful, clearly comprehending; he dwells contemplating mind in the mind, mindful, clearly comprehending; he dwells contemplating phenomena in the phenomena, mindful, clearly comprehending. How is one being mindful? He dwells contemplating body in the body … mindful, clearly comprehending.

How does one exercise clear comprehension? He acts with clear comprehension while he stands, walks, sits, sleeps, defecates, urinates, etc. When a feeling arises, he knows a feeling arises; when a feeling passes away, he knows a feeling passes away; when a thought arises, he knows a thought arises; when a thought passes away; he knows a thought passes away; when a perception arises, he knows a perception arises; when a perception passes away; he knows a perception passes away. That’s how he exercise clear comprehension.

How does one dwell contemplating body in the body, mindful, clearly comprehending? He contemplates the origination and passing away in the body. … How does one dwell contemplating phenomena in the phenomena, mindful, clearly comprehending? He contemplates the origination and passing away in the phenomena.

What is the origination and passing away of the four establishments of mindfulness? In dependence of nutriments, body arises. In dependence of contact, feeling arises. In dependence of name and form, mind arises. In dependence of attention, phenomena arises.

When one dwells contemplating the dependent origination; that’s how he contemplates origination and passing away of the four establishments of mindfulness.

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Careful Attention

It’s said that careful attention is the nutriment for the arising of mindfulness and clear comprehension. Having cognized form with eye, one grasps the beauty and ugliness of form; he thus perceives form as pleasing or displeasing; feeling is born of contact; he searches for pleasant feeling and escape from painful feeling by dwell contemplating form he can crave for; his attention is said to be careless. Again, having cognized sound with ear … having cognized odor with nose … having cognized taste with tongue … having cognized tactile object with body … having cognized mental phenomena with mind … his attention is said to be careless.

How does one exercise careful attention? Having cognized form with eye, one does not grasp the beauty and ugliness of form; he regards eye as impermanent, suffering, dependently arisen, non-self; he regards form as impermanent, suffering, dependently arisen, non-self; he regards eye-consciousness is impermanent, suffering, dependently arisen, non-self; he contemplates the origin, nutriment, source, condition of eye … form … eye-consciousness … feeling … perception … contact … volition … Seeing it correctly; that is his right view. Again, having cognized sound with ear … having cognized odor with nose … having cognized taste with tongue … having cognized tactile object with body … having cognized mental phenomena with mind … The non-attention to beauty and ugliness of form … mental phenomena and the attention to the origination and passing away of dependently arisen phenomena are said to be careful attention.

As one understands that: “With ignorance as condition, craving arises. With feeling as condition, craving arises. With craving as condition, clinging arises. With clinging as condition, existence arises. With existence as condition, birth arises. With birth as condition, aging and death arises. Such is the origin of suffering. With the cessation of ignorance, craving ceases … aging and death. Such is the cessation of suffering”, he relinquishes all craving for form … mental phenomena, by doing so he is liberated by non-clinging, thus making an end to suffering.

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Restraint of Sense Faculties

For the one whose eye faculty is restrained, having cognized form with eye, he is neither pleased nor displeased by form; he dwells equanimously by abandoning pleasant and painful feeling … ear faculty… sound … nose faculty … odor … tongue faculty … taste … body faculty … tactile object … mind faculty … mental phenomena … he dwells equanimously by abandoning pleasant and painful feeling.

Having setting up mindfulness and exercising clear comprehension, the six sense faculties or internal sense bases are well-restrained. Unwholesome states are utterly abandoned and wholesome states arise and be well developed. It’s thus said mindfulness and clear comprehension is the condition for restraint of sense faculties; restraint of sense faculties is the condition for three kinds of good conducts, those are bodily, verbal, and mental. With volitional formations being purified, the five hindrances, which are sensual desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and remorse, and doubt, which subsist through three kinds of misconduct, are being utterly destroyed. His mind is thus firmly established in four establishments of mindfulness; such is the way four establishments of mindfulness is fulfilled by three kinds of good conduct.

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Four Establishments of Mindfulness Fulfills Seven Factors Enlightenment

The four establishments of mindfulness fulfills seven factors of enlightenment. As one recollects the Dhamma, on that occasion the enlightenment factor of mindfulness arises. Dwelling mindfully, he makes an investigation of Dhamma, discriminate it carefully, think it over, on that occasion enlightenment factor of discrimination of states arise. As he investigates the Dhamma, energy is aroused, on that occasion enlightenment factor of energy arises. With energy he abandons unwholesome states and develop wholesome states; rapture is born, on that occasion enlightenment factor of rapture arises. For one whose mind is uplifted by rapture his body is tranquil, on that occasion enlightenment factor of tranquility arises. For one whose mind is uplifted by rapture and his body is tranquil, his mind becomes concentrated, on that occasion enlightenment factor of concentration arises. Having abandoned painful and pleasant feeling, he dwells equanimously. He closely looks on with equanimity at the mind thus concentrated, on that occasion enlightenment factor of equanimity arises. These seven factors of enlightenment are fulfilled by four establishments of mindfulness.

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Seven Factors of Enlightenment Fulfill True Knowledge and Liberation

When these seven factors of enlightenment are fulfilled, they fulfill true knowledge and liberation. He fully understands the origination and passing away of suffering; thus his mind is liberated; he directly knows: “Birth is destroyed. Holy life has been lived. What needs to be done is done. There is no more further existence.”

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Transcended Dependent Origination

Careless Attention → Lack of Mindfulness and Clear Comprehension → Non-restraint of sense faculties → three kinds of misconducts → five hindrances → ignorance → craving → volition (three kinds of misconducts) → five hindrances

Careful Attention → Mindfulness and Clear Comprehension (Four Establishments of Mindfulness) → Restraint of Sense Faculties (Six Internal Sense Bases) → Three Kinds of Good Conducts → Four Establishments of Mindfulness → Seven Factors of Enlightenment →True Knowledge and Liberation

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Trainee’s Right View and Arahant’s Right View

The Supramundane Noble Eightfold Path

The supramundane right view is also twofold.

When one correctly sees phenomena arise dependently, he knows whatever arises and passes away is merely suffering; that is his right view. When he has faith with regards to the Dhamma, having given up all perplexity with regards to Dhamma, he knows by following the right path that he is certain to attain Nibbana. He is called a trainee, the one who has entered the stream. He practices for the revulsion of ignorance. Because he has not yet fulfilled his training in four establishments of mindfulness he is called a trainee. He has yet to completely understand the origination and passing away of suffering but has destroyed the fetter of identity view. He has utterly destroyed the fetter of distorted grasp of rules and vows.

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Three kinds of taints

There are three kinds of taints being proclaimed by the Blessed One. They are taint of sensual desire, taint of existence, and taint of ignorance. All these taints have ignorance as their source.

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Four Right Strivings

The right view of the one whose taints are destroyed, is wisdom, faculty of wisdom, power of wisdom, enlightenment factor of discrimination of states. The right effort is to be seen as four right strivings. What are four right strivings? He generates desire for the abandoning of arisen unwholesome states; he generates desire for the development of wholesome states that are yet to be arisen; he generates desire for the abandoning of unwholesome states that are yet to be arisen; he generates desire for the development that are already arisen. How does one abandon unwholesome states and develop wholesome states? He restrains his sense faculties. With the restraint of sense faculties, three kinds of good conducts are being fulfilled; three kinds of bad conducts are being conducts are being abandoned; five hindrances are being abandoned.

From trainee’s right view, one arouses energy to develop wholesome states and abandon unwholesome states. Faculty of energy is seen as four right strivings. By four establishments of mindfulness, he arouses energy and develops wisdom. Such that four establishments of mindfulness shall be seen as the supramundane right mindfulness. For one who practices four establishments of mindfulness, right view and right effort are being fulfilled. For the one whose taints are destroyed, his intention is right intention; his speech is right speech; his action is right action; his livelihood is right livelihood. The noble right concentration, which is supramundane and of the one whose mind is taintless, is being fulfilled by fulfilling seven requisites: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort and right mindfulness.

Such is the supramundane Noble Eightfold Path being proclaimed by the Blessed One. When one speaks right of the supramundane path factor of right mindfulness, it should be said four establishments of mindfulness.

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Four Bases of Spiritual Power

The Blessed One has proclaimed that the four bases for spiritual of power as a way to realize Nibbana, complete destruction of suffering. How does one develop four bases of spiritual power? He develops the basis of spiritual of power that possesses concentration due to desire and volitional formations of striving; he develops the basis of spiritual of power that possesses concentration due to energy and volitional formations of striving; he develops the basis of spiritual of power that possesses concentration due to mind and volitional formations of striving; he develops the basis of spiritual of power that possesses concentration due to investigation and volitional formations of striving.

The volitional formations of striving could be seen as faculty of energy, power of energy, four right strivings. When he strives, he abandons unwholesome states and develops wholesome states. The desire that one generates is for the abandonment of unwholesome states and development of wholesome states. When rapture arises due to abandonment of unwholesome states and wholesome states, his body is tranquil. For the one whose mind is uplifted by rapture and his body is tranquil, his mind becomes concentrated. Dwelling mindfully, he investigates the Dhamma, which is to say the origination and passing away of suffering. When he sees correctly eye … mind are impermanent, suffering, dependently arisen; when he sees correctly form … mental phenomena are impermanent, suffering, dependently arisen; when he sees correctly craving for form … mental phenomena conditions food, consciousness, volition, and contact, he abandons craving and do not seek delight in form … mental phenomena. He is thus liberated by non-clinging and attains Nibbana in this very life …

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Five Faculties are Five Powers; the difference lie in different methods of exposition

The Blessed One has proclaimed five faculties. They are faculty of faith, faculty of energy, faculty of mindfulness, faculty of concentration, and faculty of wisdom. As another method of expositions, five faculties become five powers. For the one who has faith and having abandoned doubt, he exercises careful attention to five aggregates … six sense bases… origination and passing away of suffering.

Four establishments of mindfulness … noble eightfold path are being proclaimed by the Blessed One as different methods of exposition. As such, four establishments of mindfulness is being proclaimed by the Blessed One as the one-way path for the realization of method, overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, realization of Nibbana.

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Middle Way Being Explained in Seven Ways … Four Establishments of Mindfulness … Noble Eightfold Path

Depending on the method of expositions, the middle way for the realization of deathless can be rightly called four establishments of mindfulness … noble eightfold path. For the one who sees suffering, he sees the origination and passing away of suffering. For the one who sees the origination and passing away of suffering, he sees the way for the complete destruction of suffering.

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Mundane Path Can Be Conducive to Supramundane Path?

Following mundane right path alone, without following the supramundane path, does lead to further existence. In many cases, the Blessed One does explain Noble Eightfold Path that encompasses both mundane path factors and supramundane path factors. For those who are new in Dhamma, he may follow mundane path but having realized that he has to ultimately settle on supramundane path. Before he ultimately attains security from bondage, he may develop mundane path and supramundane path in conjunction; in such a way even mundane path factors can be said to be conducive to Nibbana.

When one carefully guards his action by body, mind, and speech, he strives to be accomplished in virtue. He abandons sensual desire, ill will, cruelty, false speech, harsh speech; he learns to enjoy altruist joys by giving the things to the needy. Though the actions by body, mind, and speech cannot be purified completely without restraint of sense faculties; when he is mindful of wrong actions and right actions, he dwells abiding in virtues. When three kinds of good conducts are to be developed and three kinds of misconducts are to be abandoned, five hindrances that weaken the wisdom are being abandoned. By then he pays careful attention to see the things they really, the origination and passing away of suffering, to make the breakthrough to the Dhamma. In such a way mundane path factor is conducive to Nibbana.

Again, by dwelling in first jhana … fourth jhana, he realizes the pleasure that are more sublime and superior than the five chords of sensual pleasure. Attainment in Jhanas does require the development of virtues at mundane level. In such a way, aggregate of virtue is said to be a condition for aggregate of concentration. While some people who may be addicted to five chords of sensual pleasure, those who regularly dwells in jhanas find themselves dwell happily without five chords of sensual pleasure. When the five hindrances are being abandoned, he recollects how jhanas are conditioned by volition, realizing dependently arisen phenomena are impermanent, suffering, and non-self. In such a way, jhanas could be said as right concentration that is conducive to Nibbana. For those who strive to arrive at serenity first then insight, they are following the path with insight preceded by serenity.

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Four Jhanas Are Not Supramundane Right Concentration

Ultimately, the path to Nibbana goes down to a single supramundane path. The jhanas or formless attainments are not prerequisite of four establishments of mindfulness or the result of four establishments of mindfulness. Even when the Blessed One has proclaimed mundane or supramundane right concentration has seven requisites; he has never claimed that four establishments of mindfulness could lead to the attainment of four jhanas. Four jhanas, as mundane right concentration, do require mundane right mindfulness as a requisite. Such mindfulness should not be seen as four establishments of mindfulness; it refers to being mindful of wrong action and right action by body, speech, and mind. On its basis, virtuous behavior specifically refers to, abstinence from destruction of life … taking what is not given … sexual misconduct … divisive speech … harsh speech … idle chatter … speaking falsehood … covetousness … ill will and abstinence from wrong view.

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Four Establishments of Mindfulness … The Only Path to Nibbana

The utter destruction of five hindrances can only be achieved by practicing four establishments of mindfulness. Note that five hindrances subsist through nutriments; they can be abandoned temporarily by putting away their nutriments. The utter destruction of ignorance is fundamentally about cutting off the root or elimination of all nutriments.

When one has fulfilled four establishments of mindfulness and thereby completely destroy the suffering; due to non-arisen of unwholesome states, he is certainly accomplished in virtuous behavior and has no more work to do. On the other hand, for the one who is said to be accomplished in virtuous behavior but yet to fulfill four establishments of mindfulness, he needs to strive diligently to cut off the root of unwholesome states.

That’s what the Blessed One explains the way to completely destroy suffering in various ways of exposition; and how mundane path factors can be conducive to Nibbana.

The key to the practice of four establishments of mindfulness is the dependent origination. That is inherently complex, deep, and profound, which requires another separate discussion. One of the goals on this blog post is to clarify what the Middle Way is; I also demonstrate the Blessed One explains the same path using seven different methods of exposition.

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