Path to Nibbana
is Nibbana to be attained?
is by following the Noble Eightfold Path which consists of Right
Understanding (samma-ditthi), Right Thoughts (samma-sankappa),
Right Speech (samma-vaca), Right Actions (samma-kammanta),
Right Livelihood (samma-ajiva), Right Effort (samma-vayama),
Right Mindfulness (samma-sati), and Right Concentration
Right Understanding, which is the keynote of Buddhism, is explained
as the knowledge of the four Noble Truths. To understand rightly
means to understand things as they really are and not as they
appear to be. This refers primarily to a correct understanding
of oneself, because, as the Rohitassa Sutta states, "Dependent
on this one-fathom long body with its consciousness" are
all the four Truths. In the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path,
Right Understanding stands at the beginning as well as at its
end. A minimum degree of Right Understanding is necessary at the
very beginning because it gives the right motivations to the other
seven factors of the Path and gives to them correct direction.
At the culmination of the practice, Right Understanding has matured
into perfect Insight Wisdom (vipassana-pañña),
leading directly to the stages of sainthood.
Clear vision of right understanding leads to clear thinking. The
second factor of the Noble Eightfold Path is therefore, Right
Thoughts (samma-sankappa), which serves the double purpose
of eliminating evil thoughts and developing pure thoughts. Right
Thoughts, in this particular connection, are threefold. They consist
Nekkhamma Renunciation of worldly pleasures
or the virtue of selflessness, which is opposed to attachment,
selfishness, and possessiveness;
ii. Avyapada Loving-kindness, goodwill, or benevolence,
which is opposed to hatred, ill-will, or aversion; and
iii. Avihimsa Harmlessness or compassion, which
is opposed to cruelty and callousness.
Right Thoughts lead to Right Speech, the third factor. This includes
abstinence from falsehood, slandering, harsh words, and frivolous
Right Speech must be followed by Right Action which comprises
abstinence from killing, stealing and sexual misconduct.
Purifying his thoughts, words and deeds at the outset, the spiritual
pilgrim tries to purify his livelihood by refraining from the
five kinds of trade which are forbidden to a lay-disciple. They
are trading in arms, human beings, animals for slaughter, intoxicating
drinks and drugs, and poisons. For monks, wrong livelihood consists
of hypocritical conduct and wrong means of obtaining the requisites
Right Effort is fourfold, namely:
the endeavor to discard evil that has already arisen;
ii. the endeavor to prevent the arising of unarisen evil;
iii. the endeavor to develop unarisen good;
iv. the endeavor to promote the good which has already arisen.
Right Mindfulness is constant mindfulness with regard to body,
feelings, thoughts, and mind-objects.
Right Effort and Right Mindfulness lead to Right Concentration.
It is the one-pointedness of mind, culminating in the jhanas
or meditative absorptions.
these eight factors of the Noble Eightfold Path the first two
are grouped under the heading of Wisdom (pañña),
the following three under Morality (sila), and the last
three under Concentration (samadhi). But according to the
order of development the sequence is as follows:
(sila) is the first stage on this path to Nibbana.
killing or causing injury to any living creature, man should be
kind and compassionate towards all, even to the tiniest creature
that crawls at his feet. Refraining from stealing, he should be
upright and honest in all his dealings. Abstaining from sexual
misconduct which debases the exalted nature of man, he should
be pure. Shunning false speech, he should be truthful. Avoiding
pernicious drinks that promote heedlessness, he should be sober
elementary principles of regulated behavior are essential to one
who treads the path to Nibbana. Violation of them means the introduction
of obstacles on the path which will obstruct his moral progress.
Observance of them means steady and smooth progress along the
path. The spiritual pilgrim, disciplining thus his words and deeds,
may advance a step further and try to control his senses.
he progresses slowly and steadily with regulated word and deed
and restrained senses, the kammic force of this striving aspirant
may compel him to renounce worldly pleasures and adopt the ascetic
life. To him then comes the idea that,
den of strife is household life,
And filled with toil and need;
But free and high as the open sky
Is the life the homeless lead."
should not be understood that everyone is expected to lead the
life of a bhikkhu or a celibate life to achieve one's goal. One's
spiritual progress is expedited by being a bhikkhu although as
a lay follower one can become an arahat. After attaining the third
state of sainthood, one leads a life of celibacy.
a firm footing on the ground of morality, the progressing pilgrim
then embarks upon the higher practice of samadhi, the control
and culture of the mind the second stage on this Path.
is the "one-pointedness of the mind." It is the
concentration of the mind on one object to the entire exclusion
of all irrelevant matter.
are different subjects for meditation according to the temperaments
of the individuals. Concentration on respiration is the easiest
to gain the one-pointedness of the mind. Meditation on loving-kindness
is very beneficial as it is conducive to mental peace and happiness.
of the four sublime states loving-kindness (metta),
compassion (karuna), sympathetic joy (mudita), and
equanimity (upekkha) is highly commendable.
giving careful consideration to the subject for contemplation,
he should choose the one most suited to his temperament. This
being satisfactorily settled, he makes a persistent effort to
focus his mind until he becomes so wholly absorbed and interested
in it, that all other thoughts get ipso facto excluded from the
mind. The five hindrances to progress namely, sense-desire,
hatred, sloth and torpor, restlessness and brooding, and doubts
are then temporarily inhibited. Eventually he gains ecstatic concentration
and, to his indescribable joy, becomes enwrapt in jhana,
enjoying the calmness and serenity of a one-pointed mind.
one gains this perfect one-pointedness of the mind it is possible
for one to develop the five supernormal powers (abhiñña):
divine eye (dibbacakkhu), divine ear (dibbasota),
reminiscence of past births (pubbenivasanussati-ñana).
Thought reading (paracitta vijañana) and
different psychic powers (iddhividha). It must not be understood
that those supernormal powers are essential for sainthood.
the mind is now purified there still lies dormant in him the tendency
to give vent to his passions, for by concentration, passions are
lulled to sleep temporarily. They may rise to the surface at unexpected
Discipline and Concentration are helpful to clear the Path of
its obstacles but it is Insight (vipassana pañña)
alone which enables one to see things as they truly are, and consequently
reach the ultimate goal by completely annihilating the passions
inhibited by samadhi. This is the third and the final stage
on the Path of Nibbana.
his one-pointed mind which now resembles a polished mirror he
looks at the world to get a correct view of life. Wherever he
turns his eyes he sees nought but the Three Characteristics
anicca (transiency), dukkha (sorrow) and anatta
(soul-lessness) standing out in bold relief. He comprehends that
life is constantly changing and all conditioned things are transient.
Neither in heaven nor on earth does he find any genuine happiness,
for every form of pleasure is a prelude to pain. What is transient
is therefore painful, and where change and sorrow prevail there
cannot be a permanent immortal soul.
of these three characteristics, he chooses one that appeals to
him most and intently keeps on developing Insight in that particular
direction until that glorious day comes to him when he would realize
Nibbana for the first time in his life, having destroyed the three
fetters self-illusion (sakkaya-ditthi), doubts (vicikiccha),
indulgence in (wrongful) rites and ceremonies (silabbataparamasa).
this stage he is called a sotapanna (stream-winner)
one who has entered the stream that leads to Nibbana. As he has
not eradicated all fetters he is reborn seven times at the most.
up fresh courage, as a result of this glimpse of Nibbana, the
pilgrim makes rapid progress and cultivating deeper insight becomes
a sakadagami (once returner) by weakening two more fetters
namely sense-desire (kamaraga) and ill-will (patigha).
He is called a sakadagami because he is reborn on earth
only once in case he does not attain arahatship.
is in the third state of sainthood anagami (never-returner)
that he completely discards the aforesaid two fetters. Thereafter,
he neither returns to this world nor does he seek birth in the
celestial realms, since he has no more desire for sensual pleasures.
After death he is reborn in the "Pure Abodes" (suddhavasa)
a congenial Brahma plane, till he attains arahatship.
the saintly pilgrim, encouraged by the unprecedented success of
his endeavors, makes his final advance and, destroying the remaining
fetters namely, lust after life in Realms of Forms (ruparaga)
and Formless Realms (aruparaga), conceit (mana),
restlessness (uddhacca), and ignorance (avijja)
becomes a perfect saint: an arahat, a Worthy One.
he realizes that what was to be accomplished has been done, that
a heavy burden of sorrow has been relinquished, that all forms
of attachment have been totally annihilated, and that the Path
to Nibbana has been trodden. The Worthy One now stands on heights
more than celestial, far removed from the rebellious passions
and defilements of the world, realizing the unutterable bliss
of Nibbana and like many an arahat of old, uttering that paean
and wisdom, mind by method trained,
The highest conduct on good morals based,
This maketh mortals pure, not rank or wealth."
T.H. Huxley states "Buddhism is a system which knows
no God in the Western sense, which denies a soul to man, which
counts the belief in immortality a blunder, which refuses any
efficacy to prayer and sacrifice, which bids men to look to nothing
but their own efforts for salvation, which in its original purity
knew nothing of vows of obedience and never sought the aid of
the secular arm: yet spread over a considerable moiety of the
world with marvelous rapidity and is still the dominant
creed of a large fraction of mankind."