Thanks for journeying together with me. So, we have covered up till the 3rd Q&A. The questions by Alavaka are in green boxes and Buddha’s replies are in yellow boxes. Some of us may find some of the verses in this Sutta unrelatable. This is because Buddha was teaching a spirit. Although they are short verses, it contains Truths of existence.
Here is a quick recap.
In the 1st question. Alavaka asked about the spiritual flood. To understand this simply, we can relate it to our dreams. In our dreams, we are helplessly carried along by our subconsciousness. We know it is a dream after we wake up. However, not many people realize that their waking state is similar. In our daily life, we are also helplessly carried away by delusive thoughts. We are swept away by our thoughts and experience various emotions. Then we react according to our habitual tendencies that are mired by ignorance. For a beginner, overcoming the onslaught of thoughts seems impossible. This is especially obvious when we try to meditate and stop our discursive thoughts. Beings in the spiritual realms also suffer the same problem. To overcome this challenge, we need faith. Once we have faith that it can be done, we will practice until we can overcome it. We can reflect on its meaning in this manner.
Next, Alavaka asked about overcoming the ocean of existence. Buddhism talks about various forms of existence. One can be reborn from moisture, an egg, a womb, or self-materialize (eg. the spirits, ghosts, angels). We die from one state and come into existence in another. We cannot control it. The only way to be freed from the prison of Samsara or the ocean of Samsara is through diligence. We train our mind so that it is clear enough to see the Truth,
In the previous post, Alavaka ask how we can overcome suffering and Buddha replied that it is through effort.
SO far, we read about faith, diligence, and effort. Do they sound similar? If so, it is because we haven’t practiced enough and do not have the ability to differentiate the subtle differences in our minds. How does a beginner benefit from these verses then?
In the olden days, our masters will make us chant it daily. That way, we will adopt it as one of our daily routines and not forget the teaching. This is important because when our mind is ready, the truth will dawn upon us. It’s a learning technique.
Faith -Enlightenment is possible for us. The method to achieve enlightenment works. Because Buddha was enlightened and the Sangha is enlightened. So we can do it too!
Diligence – practice, practice, and practice. We practice the Buddhist moral code of conduct (5 precepts) to simplify our way of living our life. (戒）Then we practice mind training. We train our minds to stop wandering in discursive thoughts. That is samadhi / Jhana. (定）Once our mind is disciplined and can focus, we start examining our state of being (physical) and our sense of being (mental formation). That is Vipassana meditation which leads to wisdom (慧）
Effort – Letting go of our habitual tendencies requires strong effort. Our tendencies for “becoming”. To a beginner, we can understand effort as an effort to keep our mindfulness. Maintain our state of clarity. Maintain our focus on our mantra.
Next, let us examine the last Q&A in this stanza.
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
How does one cross over the ocean?
by diligence is the ocean crossed
Commentary for the above is in part 5
How does one overcome suffering?
by effort one overcomes suffering
Commentary in part 6
How is one’s life purified?
by wisdom one’s life is purified.
In the utter purity of mind, one is beyond Samsara. Our true face before we were born. Our Buddha-nature. The above question and answer can be referred to as the final stage of enlightenment. The 4th stage of awakening (Arhat) I had nothing much to comment. Sorry, Really beyond my comprehension. Too subtle. But I can share a story. 🙂
This happened in the spiritual state where a monk with high level of Samadhi was meditating and he “witnessed” the enlightenment of Pra Ajahn Mun. There was a ‘loud” boom! And for a moment, that meditating monk thought that the world had ended. A brilliance more magnificent than thousand Suns lit up the spiritual realms, originating from where Ajahn Mun was.
Alavaka asked about the complete purification of existence. Buddha replied that it is through wisdom. The wisdom in Buddhism doesn’t refer to the knowledge we gained from studies and reading. It also does not refer to our wising up from gaining experience in life. Buddhist wisdom refers to “seeing” the Truth.
For example, When we examine something under a powerful microscope, we see beyond its appearance, we can see the cells and even atomic particles that it is made up of. Similarly, in Buddhist wisdom, we see (not using our physical eyes or sense of sight) beyond the delusion of “I” and ultimately beyond the delusion of Samsara. That is Buddhist wisdom.
When Buddha finished his reply to this last question. Alavaka’s wisdom awakened and he attained the 1st stage of enlightenment (Sotapanna)
This sutta will continue and it is not the end yet. But the subsequent questions by Alavaka are interesting because we get a chance to read about the concerns of a Sotapanna. Interestingly, Buddha’s reply can also be interpreted in 2 manners that is equally relevant from a mundane perspective or from a spiritual practice perspective.
I am starting to enjoy this sutta and hope you do too,
May all be well and happy