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Lokuttara - Beyond the World
I don’t usually write blogs that are so much about Buddhist dogma as this, but here is one that has grabbed me – as usual it is from Ajaan Buddhadasa. Whenever I am sourcing Buddhism, I always source Ajaan Buddhadasa, I just like what he has said – died in 1993. Mostly I am Theravada, which means for me what the Buddha taught. Unlike Buddhadasa I have not studied the suttas, I cheat and rely on Buddhadasa’s teachings because he spent his life studying what the Buddha taught – the suttas.
When talking of Buddhadasa I have to talk about his style. He appears extremely dogmatic, appearing to just repeat dogma, and for me before I realise he has slipped into insight. However he has such a grasp of the Buddha’s teachings that he brings them all together, there is not a focus on separate teachings but a recognition of dhamma as a whole. In this talk, an overview of realisation, (taken from here following from this facebook page suan mokh bangkok - BIA), effortlessly he introduces going beyond without bells and banjoes.
Kama – sensual. “The act of sex or the reproductive act itself is difficult, awkward, rather silly and not much fun in itself. However the sexuality, the kama, of it, is very delicious, enticing, and fun for people. So these feelings of sexuality are used by nature to trick us or force us into reproducing – nobody would bother reproducing if there weren’t these strong sexual feelings to get us to do so.” As an old man I can love this, as a young man I would have been too immersed in the desire to accept it; most of the old white men in Thailand cannot relate to this as their raison d’etre is being “rather silly”.
Rupa – materiality. “But then after a while, they (young people) look further to the material level – to wealth, possessions and material things like this and they become more and more concerned with material things in a non-sensual way.”
Arupa – non-materiality. “After a while, they look further, and start to be more and more interested in things like one’s honor, one’s reputation and other non-material or formless things like that.”
Nirodha – quenching, “when the defilements are cool”; “finally, one goes even further, one sees that all of these first three are just worldly things and they’re disturbing, they can be a hassle. And so one stops – one stops the disturbing and the hassling, and then there is peace, there is freedom …. This is the level of quenching, ‘nirodha.’ In Buddhism we call it ‘being above the world’ – ‘lokuttara’ (being above, beyond the world). If you prefer, you can call it ‘living with God,’ but it’s not what we call it so much but the meaning that when one is beyond sensuality and sex, beyond materiality, beyond even immateriality, when one no longer depends on and is no longer seeking pleasure from these first three levels, then that is, in Buddhism, called ‘beyond the world,’ ‘lokuttara.’” Beyond conditioning, beyond the world – lokuttara.
He describes hunger:- “These first three levels are the objects or basis of hunger – wanting to get, wanting to have, wanting to keep, this is what we mean by ‘hunger.’ But on the fourth level there’s no more hunger – it’s the level that is free of hunger, there’s no more wanting to have or to get or to keep or any of that …. when there’s no hunger, then we don’t have to search for things to satisfy them, and we don’t have to go through the difficult and messy of business of consuming them. The life of no-hunger, can just be peaceful.” Hunger where there is ego and self, me and mine, as opposed to the natural life of no hunger; “one just acts in terms of one’s duty, the responsibilities of life – one sees what needs to be done and does it. There’s just the doing without a doer, in the way that we’ve asked you to practice walking here as walking without a walker. Let it be a natural function of the body and mind without adding any of the egoistic concepts to it. All of life can be that way – doing without a doer. That then is the life of non-hunger.”
Then he talks of anatta:- “Now something that creates a lot of difficulty in this matter is that in each of us, deep down, there is the instinct of self. In all living things there is some instinct of self as the basis of life. And so when we are born, we have this instinct of self, and then as we grow and have more and more interaction with the world, then due to the power of ignorance, this instinct of self develops more and more into ego. However it is possible to live without self, it is possible to be free of that instinct of self – or, another way of looking at it is to live keeping the instinct of self under control. Keep the instinct of self under control until it slowly fades away.” For many self-realisation is something to aspire to, Buddhadasa just talks about it as an instinct to fade away. “When there is no self left, all that remains is Dhamma – is duty – and one just does what needs to be done, without any hunger, without any struggling, fighting, without any competition, and all that.” Kama, rupa and arupa are just instincts to be allowed to fade away as we mature.
When he talks of nirodha he talks of sankhata, a life that is beyond all concocting “First the positive concocts and then the negative concocts and then even neutral concocts, constantly being re-arranged by the positive, by the negative, by neutral …. We think we know about political freedom or material freedom, but these kinds of freedoms are freedoms in which there is still a lot of self, even if we’re not conscious of it. There is still a lot of self and so it is not yet free of dukkha, it’s not yet free of the pain, it’s not yet free of concocting – but real freedom is freedom from concocting, where freedom from being arranged and re-arranged over and over again …. This is all you need to understand – the life of ‘concocting’ and the life of ‘non-concocting.’ If you study Dhamma, if you practice Dhamma, then you will start to understand these things – please try to understand this concocting and non-concocting.”
Then Buddhadasa describes two levels of nibbana-dhatu, and he is talking of words like arahant. “The first level of Nibbana is that of the arahant, the arahant who thoroughly understands what it is to be concocted and what it is to be non-concocted … The second level of nibbana-dhatu which is the result of the highest insight, the highest understanding of insight, is seeing that the positive is just thus, negative is just thus. It’s not this or that, both positive & negative are just thus, are merely ‘thus-ness’ – they’re ‘just like that.’ And seeing this, truly realizing this, the arahant is not in the least affected by positive & negative – asankhata …. The first level, there’s positive & negative, but it can’t concoct the mind. There’s concocting, but it’s not re-arranging the mind. In the second kind, there’s no concocting at all – there’s no re-arranging at all.” I have included this out of a sense of completeness – to be true to his text.
He then takes a bird’s eye view. “First, there’s the ordinary people … who are being constantly cooked up and re-arranged, just like they’re put in a pot and salt and vinegar and sugar and all kinds of things are always being put in and stirred around and mixed up. And then there is the life of the arahant. The first level of the arahant, there’s still positive & negative right in front of the arahant, right in the face, but that positive & negative can’t cook up that arahant … And then the highest level of arahant, there’s no more positive & negative left … the fruits of Dhamma practice are like this – this is the most correct, the best kind of understanding that we ought to try and understand.”
Now that I have introduced the dogma, I want to take it further – in a sense apply the theory, and in applying it I want to look at engagement. “And all four of these (levels – kama, rupa, arupa, nirodha) are natural – whether in the world or beyond the world, they are totally natural.” All four of these are natural, in the context of the Treatise Ch22 I would describe the first three as conditioning and the fourth as beyond conditioning. In a sense following the path begins when we start nirodha, the path seeks peace and quenches disturbance - defilements, here described as kama, rupa and arupa. Spirit seeks peace by moving beyond kama, rupa and arupa.
If these four are natural why do I bang on about the 1%? If these four stages are natural why do we have to talk about engagement? Examine materialism in our society, it is based in kama and rupa. Rather than attempting to move beyond kama-rupa (and arupa), we are encouraged through our conditioning to indulge kama-rupa. Rather than quenching, our conditioning encourages indulgence (attachment or clinging). Spiritual leadership would encourage nirodha, indulgence is exploitation through consuming. It is not that the 1% create conditioning, it is that their satrapy promotes indulgence in immature desire.
The path takes us beyond conditioning by quenching attachment and indulgence, I like the word lokuttara as a word describing going beyond the “world” – beyond the world of conditioning that is ego and self.
As this blogpost is about Buddhadasa I wanted to look at Buddhadasa’s view on engagement. I have no direct quote but in the Oxford Handbook of Buddhist Ethics there is this:-
As a final aside it is interesting to note he says this – “These four things (kama, rupa, arupa, nirodha) were laid down or proclaimed by some human beings of great intelligence and wisdom – they were previous to the Buddha, but nonetheless they obviously had good understanding of things.”
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