Buddha Speaks of Amitabha Sutra – Part 4c (part 1)

37 Limbs of Enlightenment – 4 bases of miraculous Power

So far, we have explored the 4 mindfulness. It helps us break free from our attachments to our existence (which according to Buddhist ideology; is just an illusion) Strong attachment prevents us from realizing the ultimate Truth. An important note for this practice is that it doesn’t breed aversion to life, nor does it promote nihilism or suicide.

Likewise, in Pureland practice, we cannot be reborn in Amitabha’s Buddha land unless we are willing to let go of Samsara. Thus, the 4 mindfulness is equally important for pureland practices.

Following that, the 4 efforts detail the constant discipline in creating wholesome karma for enlightenment. Likewise, rebirth in Pureland is for beings who have accumulated good karma. Again, the 4 efforts is equally relevant for pureland practices.

In this post, we explore the next 4 enlightening factors.

4 Bases of Miraculous Power

The miraculous power refers to Meditative States or Jhana / Samadhi. Please refer to my previous posts on Kevatta Sutta.

To obtain Jhana, there is 4 mental base or mental positioning that we need to adopt in our mind. Each of this 4 mental positioning is further guided by 8 guidelines.

Desire for Jhana / spiritual accomplishment

We are used to the hearing that Craving/Desire is a cause for suffering. And many students had asked; “What about craving for enlightenment? Do we get rid of that?” Here’s the answer.

The desire for enlightenment or jhana need not be eliminated during our spiritual journey. This is because we will not reach our goal if we do not have a strong “wanting”. It is a simple, logical and rationale Buddhist way of living. Some students become caught up with words and end up stumbling or tripping over themselves….

Let us refer to the scripture (Iddhipāda-Vibhaṅga Sutta) for some important advise /guidelines about desire for enlightenment.

It is amazing to witness how a short phrase in the Mahayana Sutra actually leads to many references in the Theravada Sutta. I am feeling wonderment as I journey and explore this sutra. I’ll try my best to tie both ends (Theravada and Mahayana together)

According to the Iddhipāda-Vibhaṅga sutta, our desire for spiritual accomplishments must be guided by the followings;

thinking, ‘This desire of mine will be (1) neither overly sluggish nor overly active, (2) neither inwardly constricted nor outwardly scattered.’ (3) He keeps perceiving what is in front & behind so that what is in front is the same as what is behind, what is behind is the same as what is in front. (4) What is below is the same as what is above, what is above is the same as what is below. (4) (He dwells) by night as by day, and by day as by night. (5) By means of an awareness thus open & unhampered, he develops a brightened mind.

  1. It mustn’t be overly sluggish
  2. It mustn’t be overly active (agitated)
  3. It mustn’t be inwardly constricted
  4. It mustn’t be outwardly scattered
  5. Mindfulness of subject must be equal for the front and back
  6. Mindfulness of subject must be equal for the top and bottom
  7. Mindfulness of subject must be equal for day and night.
  8. Awareness of subject must be open and unhampered

Desire for accomplishment must not be overly sluggish

When our desire for success is sluggish, it is just day dreaming. According to the sutta, sluggish means that our desire for success is accompanied by laziness. It applies to both our mundane and spiritual desires. If we “want” something but is too lazy to put in effort; then our “want” is just a form of wishful thinking.

Worst of all, our want is just a spur of the moment. For example, when we hear a fantastic dharma talk or met a wonderful teacher or read an inspiring autobiography; then we became inspired to be enlightened. We tell ourselves, “okay, I must be like that master. I want to be enlightened too.” But we don’t maintain that desire. We forgot about it in the next moment. That kind of desire for accomplishment cannot bring result.

(Okay, reflecting back. I am guilty of that. Sigh, that’s why I am still unenlightened)

In Buddhism, a desire for enlightenment must be real and present in every moment. And in this case, if we wish to accomplish in our pureland practice, then our recitation must be earnest and diligent. That desire to be reborn in pureland cannot be “half-baked” It must be a daily mental positioning that is present at every moment!

Desire for accomplishment must not be overly active

And how is desire overly active? Whatever desire is accompanied by restlessness, conjoined with restlessness, that is called overly active desire.

An Analysis of the Bases of Power
Iddhipāda-Vibhaṅga Sutta  (SN 51:20)

Opposite to a lazy desire, is an overly active one. In this instance, one becomes agitated and our mind becomes disturbed. My personal experience for this is when desire for success leads to extremism. In my situation, aversion and contempt arose in my mind whenever situations were perceived as detrimental to practice or prayers. I think that is how religious extremism arise. You end up wishing everybody practice just like you?

There is this restlessness in our mind. We become impatient with ourselves and our practice. Sometimes we blame ourselves and sometimes, we blame others for that “Failure” to accomplish our goal (achieving Jhana / Samadhi). Ironically, when our mind becomes agitated and restless, it cannot go into Jhana / Samadhi. In this instance, that restless desire for accomplishment becomes that stumbling block for success!

For example, we lock our door and stay in our room to chant or meditate. We desire jhana or samadhi so much that our mind becomes restless. Then we feel hot or cold. (we blame the weather), or we hear our neighbour’s dog barking and we thought “Darn dog, my bad karma to be living next to that noisy devil that is preventing me from meditating”

But in reality, our agitated mind caused by overly active desire for spiritual accomplishment is the real culprit. That is because it causes our mind to be restless and unable to “let go” Consequently, it becomes an obstacle to Jhana/Samadhi.

The balancing of our mind to avoid a sluggish desire for enlightenment and a over active desire for enlightenment is the middle path. That balancing is part of the practice.

May all be well and happy.

Reference (37 limbs of enlightenment)

4 mindfulness (四念处) – Being mindful that (1) Our physical body is impure and repulsive (2) All sensations leads to sufferings (3) Mind is impermanent (4) there is no “I”

4 right efforts (四正勤) – (1) cease all unwholesomeness (2) do not create new unwholesomeness (3) preserve and maintain existing wholesomeness (4) Create new wholesomeness

4 bases of miraculous power (四如意足) – (1) Concentration build upon desire (desire for samandhi) (2) Concentration based on persistence (3) Concentration build upon intention (4) Concentration of contemplation (Reference Link)

5 roots ( 五根) – (1) Faith/conviction (2) Energy/persistence (3) Mindfulness (4) Stillness / jhanas (5) Wisdom/understanding

5 powers (that arises from the 5 roots) – (1) Faith/conviction (2) Energy/persistence (3) Mindfulness (4) Stillness / jhanas (5) Wisdom/understanding

7 factors of Enlightenment (七菩提) – (1) Mindfulness (2) Investigation (3) Effort (4) rapture (5) Relaxation (6) Concentration, (7) Equanimity 

8 fold path (八正道) – (1) Right Understanding (2) Right Intent (3) Right Speech (4) Right Action (5) Right Livelihood (6) Right Effort (7) Right Mindfulness (8) Right Concentration.

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