Beginning with this post, I will match Buddha’s answer to the questions of Alavaka. The questions by Alavaka is in green box and Buddha’s reply is in yellow box
1. Kiṁsū’dha vittaṁ purisassaseṭṭhaṁ? – KKathaṁsu taratī oghaṁ? – Kathaṁsu taratī aṇṇavaṁ?
Kathaṁsu dukkhaṁ acceti? – Kathaṁsu parisujjhati?
Saddhāya taratī oghaṁ – Appamādena aṇṇavaṁ
Viriyena dukkhaṁ acceti – Paññāya parisujjhati
How does one cross over the flood?
By faith one crosses over the flood
Commentary for the above verses can be found in Alavaka Sutta – part 4
Another approach to explaining the above verses is to focus on the Buddha’s reply. Faith in Buddhism at the ultimate level refers to a clear perception of the Dharma, where there is no longer any confusion caused by worldly views. Thus one’s conviction in the Dharma becomes unshakeable.
One realizes non-“I” and is freed from the unenlightened perception of an inherent, permanent “I”, “inside” of us, “in our head”, etc (we remove the delusion of a “soul” or “atman”) This denotes the 1st stage of enlightenment – Sottapanna.
When we attain this stage of enlightenment, we are no longer deluded by rites and rituals (mundane “Truths). Thus, one enters the stream of Dharma that will lead towards ultimate enlightenment within 7 rebirths (maximum).
After attaining this stage of enlightenment, we can still progress to the other higher stages of enlightenment in this very lifetime too. In that manner, 7 rebirths are the max and it can be lesser. Furthermore, one will not be reborn in the lower realms of existence too.
During Buddha’s time, Sariputra was reputed as the next best teacher besides Buddha who can guide beginners to this stage of enlightenment.
How does one cross over the ocean?
by diligence is the ocean crossed
Ocean refers to Samsara and samsara refers to the various types of existences that our minds grasp. In that manner, we continuously experience new existences after death.
For beginners, it is very typical of us to swing into extreme views, this is because we grasp an “I” and form our views from that “platform”. Thus, when we read words like grasping and existences, we imagine enlightenment means complete annihilation. That is a mistaken assumption and approach.
Buddhism is the Middle Path and enlightenment does not mean seeking nihilism. This is because a nihilistic positioning of our mind is just the opposite of grasping. That kind of mental “positioning” is also a “becoming”. Thus, one is still stuck in samsara.
ok, going back to the verse.
To cross over the Ocean/Samsara, we need to do so with diligence. Although it is a very short verse, it is nonetheless, very important. This is because it shows that enlightenment is not some mystical mumbo jumbo that is bestowed/rewarded by a fairy or god or immortal or Buddha or any other mystical being.
Enlightenment is attained from our own diligence. So what should we be diligent about?
Another approach to this verse is to interpret it as correlating to the 2nd stage of enlightenment – Sakadagami.
This is where one has reduced sensuous desire and ill-will in one’s mind significantly after attaining Sottapanna. When we attained Sottapana, we know non-“I”. Our understanding of Karma becomes clearer. We know the path towards enlightenment without confusion. We know what is necessary for enlightenment. We appreciate the Dharma better. Although we still have that polar tendency in our mind for sensual cravings and ill-wills, we know it can be reduced and should be reduced.
Without any doubt, we automatically go about doing that (eliminating sensual cravings and ill-wills). How fast we transform ourselves, depends on our diligence in practicing the Dharma.
A Sakadagami will only have one more rebirth in the sensuous realm and one will not be reborn in the lower realms too.
May all be well and happy.
In the next post we will continue with the rest of the Q&A between Alavaka and Buddha.
How does one overcome suffering?
by effort one overcomes suffering
How is one’s life purified?
by wisdom one’s life is purified.
Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu