Saturday, July 2, 2011

How to develop the mind beyond Sotāpanna step ?

Well, just keep on meditating, both Samatha (peaceful way), and Vipassana (contemplative). The first way is to strengthen the mind: it 's like to give it a deep sleep. The latter is to let it work after it got its full rest by inspecting carefully the Tri-Luksana (the 3 characters) I mentioned in earlier post.

When the mind is fully developed in its stage, it would move itself to the next level, like a chick breaking out from the egg's shell after it's fully matured enough. In the process of enlightment for each level, the mind would enter a deep Jhana state, would experience Nirvana briefly, and light might be noticed.

A first enlightment moved the state of mind stream of a person from layman to that of a Sotāpanna.

The second enlightment moved the state further to be that of a Sakadagami. At this stage, he or she would have less attachment to wealth, fame, less sexual desire (but prefer more serene hapiness state of the mind under meditation), less negative emotions (angers, envy, selfishness, arrogance, etc.).

The third enlightment moved the mind stream further to that of a Anagami. He or she would no longer want sex, and would no longer have anger and other negative feeling. He would treat other people offending him with kindness, or in the worst case, with neutrality feeling. He would put his most attention to meditation and serenity and happiness associated with it, being able to do other life's activity like talking to other people, concurrently with meditational activity inside in mind in his day-to-day activities.

The fourth enlightment would move the mind stream to that of an Arahant. He or she would be able to feel the utmost serenity of Nirvana any time he wishes.

Happiest man in the World

It is said in Buddhist scriptures that a Sotāpanna is among the happiest men in the World. He is happier than a King of Kings, happier than an Emperor.
An Emperor who ruled many ancient cities or kingdoms feared nobody, yet he feared death, and life after death. A Sotāpanna does not fear death, because he sees that life is impermanence and there is no such thing as selfness. It is just an illusion cooked up by the mind. And he is not afraid of whatever will happen in life after death either since he knows that his mind current is well-trained and a future reincarnation would no doubt be much better than this current life.

It is said that a Sotāpanna eliminated 90% of mental stress from his head. You can see from his face how happy he is. Money or wealth, fame, means little to him. As a just 1st level Ariya (developed person), he still adheres to many things in the Worldly live. Yet he would not break the 5 rules of Buddhist precept. He would also obey rules of his society, and rule of law, so that he does not offend other people's feeling. He also starts to be more careful of this interaction with other people. He is kind to other people and does not want people to offend him (verbally or physically) since an offense to a developed person is extremely un-meritful. An offending person would face serious consequences due to bad Karma.

More tips on how to become a Sotāpanna

If we talk of an analogy, compare a person practicing dharmma and meditation to a grade 1 student. The learning process for an entire year of a grade 1 student is quite important. At the end of the year, if the student took the final exam and passed it, he or she became a grade 1 graduate, and will be ready to study for grade 2 after a summer break.

Passing a final exam for grade 1 is the key step. Yes the 1 full year study is a very important process as I said before. But if he did not take the exam, and he stopped studying for a while, he would forget all what he studied in the past year, and he would not even have a grade 1 certificate from school with him.

Passing the "final exam" to become Sotāpanna, a 1st level developed person called a stream-enterer, is very important. Frequent meditation of both Samatha and Vipassana would prepare the mind so that it is ready for the final exam. When the time comes, the mind will enter a Jhana state by itself, and the observer would see some phenomenon in the mind briefly, to which he felt neutral and indifference to it, and experienced an emptiness, the Nirvana, briefly. He might "see" an extremely bright yet cool light sphere coming out from his own chest while he sat closed eyes in a lotus position. Moment after, it would be gone and everything is dark again, he would start pondering of what had happened, and he would realize that his mind had changed inside permanently. His selfness disappeared, or mostly disappeared, or became irrelevant. He did not even feel proud of what just happened at all.

My time online is running out

I plan to become a forest monk in northeastern Thailand in the next 2 months. I will be without access to electricity. I will have rarer chance to access any computer network. As such, I can see that my posting will cease from this September 2011 onward until when I have an access to network again, which is quite unpredictable. So I 'll try to come back to post some useful information here in the next 2 months. If I don't do that, this might be the last post.

What is the quality of a Sotāpanna ?

A Sotāpanna has following mental properties.

1) He eliminated Sakkāya-diṭṭhi (a Pali word which means a Belief in permanent-self, or real existence of himself, that he really existed)

2) He eliminated his skeptical doubt in teaching of Lord Buddha, called Vicikicchā (another Pali term). Doubt in other things are ok. We are talking about a very strong irrevocable believe in Buddha's teaching here. He will be ready to die rather than disavow Buddhism as his faith) In this regard, he would revere Lord Buddha as his ultimate teacher.

3) He eliminated Sīlabbata-parāmāsa (another Pali term), his attachment to rites and rituals of nonsense such as animal sacrifice, certain diets, and seriously practice the 5 precepts of Buddhism (the Panca Sila) for the rest of his life. It will be quite mentally tormenting if he were to violate any of the 5 precepts. In this regard, he respect dharmma and the Vinaya (Buddha's rules and guidances for monks and lay persons) as a part of his normal way or life.

It should be noted that, although I use the masculine pronoun "he" and "his" when describe the quality or property of a Sotāpanna, a female can be Sotapanna just fine as well. Living creatures above human beings (like angels, Brahma) can also attain Sotāpannaship. Living creatures below human beings can not attain Sottapannaship due to their lower moral quality of mental streams.

Why need to practice to become Sotāpanna

Buddhists believe in reincarnation, as a fact. Every animals, in this life frequency as human beings, or those in other frequencies (regarded as ghosts, angels, demons, etc.) are Earth's living animals like humans as well. Mental current, one can think of as pulses of mind spheres or blinking lights, each pulse started and existed for a short time and terminated, is a key component of the animals (man included). Mental current may have different quality, fair one can be coupled to fertilized and developed human embryo and formed a living fetus. Bad one or better one can be coupled to physical embryonic bodies (including energy) to form other live forms (even hard to visualize by most people) on this Earth. Mental stream from a dying person, may leave the physical body to couple in a new life form, depending on the terminal mental quality of dying person. What I just briefly described here explain a scientific-compatible teaching of Buddha about birth of all animals and creatures (except for plants and microbes).

Sotāpanna, the first level of the morally developed person, is the person whose quality of his mental current is above of lay person's. So there is a guarantee that his mental stream will always improve its quality, eventually to attain Nirvana in the long run.

How can one become a Sotāpanna ?

My advise is that, first, one must strictly observe the 5 precepts (Panca Sila = Penta Sila) of Buddhism.

1) No killing of other living animals, from other human beings down to even tiny creatures like insects. (Plants and microbes can be killed, since they don't have minds.) No harm or pain is to be inflicted to other animals.
2) No stealing of other peple's belongings, valued 5 US Cents (1 Thai Baht) or more.
3) No sexual relation with other people's spouse or person under a protection of existing parents, brothers or sisters.
4) Speaking no lie. (This can be later extended to include bad-mouthing, sarcasm, and non-sense chatting.)
5) No alcohol, narcotics.

After accepting these rules, life of dharmma practitioner will gradually improved over a period of few months.

Second, one can also concurrently practice daily meditation. Samatha meditation is to let the mind rest at the serene peaceful state. Vipassana meditation, often done alternatively to samatha in the same sitting session, is to observe things and they happen, esp. one's own mental activity. Try to separate "the observer" from the emotional objects under observation. Then one day, one would gradually feel that the physical body and the conscious mind are separable entities. This is the starting process of dismantling of your selfness.

Third, to frequently use wisdom, in considering things as they are. I am talking about "the 3 characters" of everything (except Nirvana) here. That they are always changing (quick or slow, it does not matter, even the Everest only started to form just few million years ago), that after they start they always end (i.e. impermanence), and that you don't have any mental control over them. These are called the Tri-Laksana (i.e. the 3 characters)

After a long period of these 3 prong practice, the mind will soften its stance on "selfness", and accept the law of Tri-Laksana. One day the mind will accept that selfness is always changing, is impermanence, and is independent of mental control. This is the eureka moment of the mind attaining the Satapanna state.