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In the Buddhas Words

An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon


Translated and Edited by Bhikkhu Bodhi

MABAs Buddhist Study Group

Notes for Chapter 6: Deepening Ones Perspective on the World


(Tentative dates: September 4th October 9th)

Lesson 1 Gratification, Danger, and Escape Part I (September 4


Text 1 Four Wonderful Things [AN 4:128] Key Concepts: Four wonderful and marvelous things appear with the manifestation of the Tathagata: People, subject to attachment, wish to listen to and understand the Buddhas teaching on non-attachment; People, subject to conceit, wish to listen to and understand his teaching for the abolition of conceit; People, subject to restlessness, wish to listen to and understand his teaching on peace; and People, subject to ignorance, wish to listen to and understand his teaching on for the abolition of ignorance. Texts 2 - 4 Gratification, Danger and Escape [AN 3:101 and AN 3:102] Key Concepts: Text 1 So long as the Buddha did not know fully the gratification, danger, escape from the world, he did not claim to have awakened to enlightenment. Text 2 The Buddha sought for and found how far gratification, danger, and escape extend in the world. Text 3 There truly is gratification, danger and escape in this world. Questions for Lesson 1: 1. Why are the four things mentioned in the first text wonderful? 2. Can you explain how gratification, danger, and escape relate to the Four Noble Truths? 3. Is it important to see all three moments (gratification, etc.) at the same time? How can we do this? 4. Is there a particular factor of the eightfold path that is most helpful in properly seeing gratification, danger, and escape? If so, which one? 5. What if we dont want to see the danger or the escape?

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Lesson 2 Gratification, Danger, and Escape Part II (Sept. 11


Text 1 Properly Appraising the Objects of Attachment [MN 13]

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Key Concept: Fully understand as it really is gratification as gratification, danger as danger, and escape as escape in regard to sensual pleasures, form, and feeling. Notes: The Buddha shows what gratification, danger, and escape entail for sense pleasures, form, and feeling: Gratification Indulging in sense objects pleasing to the senses. Enjoying the beauty of form. The bliss and rapture of feelings dependent upon attaining the jhanas. Danger Impermanent nature of sense objects, and how things dont work out the way we want them to. The aging and decay of beauty and form. The impermanent, and thereby unsatisfactory nature of any kind of feeling. Escape (the character used in the Chinese version is ch which literally means to come/go out; to exit, like to come out of a house) The removal of desire and lust, the abandonment of desire and lust for sense pleasures, form, and feeling. Questions for Lesson 2: 1. What does escape mean? What are we escaping from? 2. Can you give examples of how you have known these three moments in your life? 3. Absent complete and perfect enlightenment, what can we do now to engender a more realistic approach to the experience of sensual pleasures, form, and feelings?

Lesson 3 The Pitfalls in Sensual Pleasures (September 18

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Texts 1 Cutting Off all Affairs [from MN 54] Key Concept: The Buddha uses seven strong similes to describe how a noble disciple should view sensual pleasures, and thus cuts off all affairs. Notes: The seven similes are: Sensual pleasures are like: A meatless bone for a starving dog; A piece of meat fought over by birds of prey; A blazing grass torch a person holds who is facing the wind; A deep pit of bright, burning charcoal; A dream; Borrowed goods; and A fruit tree that will soon be cut down. Texts 2 The Fever of Sensual Pleasures [from MN 75] Key Concepts: For one free from craving, sensual pleasure make no sense. Also, it because of mistaken perception that people see sensual pleasures as pleasurable. Notes:

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The Buddha again uses strong images, many of a leper and his/her wounds, to illustrate the nature of both sensual pleasures and one who is free from craving from them. He makes the point toward the end that regardless of whether we are enlightened or not, sensual pleasures are always painful to touch, hot, and scorching. We just convince ourselves otherwise.

Text 3 Life is Short and Fleeting [AN 7:70] Key Concept: Life is very short: meditate, monks, do not be negligent, or you will regret it later. Notes: The Buddha uses a striking story and an interesting analysis to make the point of how short life is. Questions for Lesson 3: 1. What is a sensual pleasure? 2. What are these teachings asking of us? 3. Does guilt play any role in the proper appraisal of sensual pleasures? 4. Do these teachings have a wider role and implications beyond what we consider to be Buddhism? 5. How do the Five Precepts relate to the teachings in this chapter?

Lesson 4 Four Summaries of the Dhamma (September 25

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Text 1 Four Summaries of the Dhamma [from MN 83 the Ratthapala Sutta] Key Concepts: Four summaries of the Dhamma: Life is unstable; Life has no protector, no shelter; Life has nothing of its own (one has to leave everything at the time of death); Life is incomplete and the slave of craving. Notes: A young Arahant disciple of the Buddha responds to the Kings bewilderment as to why someone endowed with youth, health, wealth, and family would enter into the homeless life (become a monk). In response, Venerable Ratthapala explains each of these four summaries with similes for the King. Questions for Lesson 4: 1. In our experience of life, pleasures, family, etc., is there an underlying assumption or wish that such experiences will endure? Does this wish have to be there for us to enjoy them as much as we do? 2. What does Life has nothing of its own mean to you? 3. These four summaries have nothing to do with the Four Noble Truths, do they?

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How can they be Buddhist then? 4. Where, or how, do we look for the antidotes (i.e. a solution) to these four summaries? What does it take for us to begin to seriously look?

Lesson 5 Danger of Views (October 2

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Text 1 A Miscellany on Wrong View [AN 1] Key Concept: Wrong view (disregarding the law of kamma) is seen by the Buddha to be the primary seed for states of suffering. Notes: The Buddha explains that, to him, no other factor more than wrong view leads to the arising of unwholesome mental qualities and prevents the arising of wholesome mental qualities. Whenever one acts upon such wrong view, the result is inevitably suffering of various kinds. Text 2 The Blind Men and the Elephant [Ud 6:4] Key Concepts: The famous parable of the blind men and the elephant, showing the dangers in holding fast to narrow views. Notes: Blind men from birth try to describe an elephant after only experiencing different parts (the trunk, body, ears, tusk, etc.) They disagree with each other as what an elephant is, and thereby quarrel. Text 3 Held by Two Kinds of Views [It 49] Key Concept: Monks, held by two kinds of views, some devas and human beings hold back and some overreach; only those with vision see. Notes: One holds back by not relinquishing existence. One overreaches by wishing for non-existence. One with vision sees what has come to be (and how it has come to be) as having come to be, only then does s/he practice the course for dispassion and the cessation of what has come to be. Questions for Lesson 5: 1. What does wrong view here mean? 2. Are all views wrong? 3. When does a view stop being a view and becomes vision instead? 4. Can you relate this section to the previous ones? 5. What does cessation mean in the third text? 6. What is the important lesson in this section?

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Lesson 6 From the Divine Realms to the Infernal

(October 9th)

Text 1 From the Divine Realms to the Infernal [AN 4:125] Key Concept: Four kinds of persons in the world. Notes: The four kinds of persons are ones who, because of their practice of 1) lovingkindness, 2) compassion, 3) altruistic joy, and/or 4) equanimity, are reborn in states of bliss (heavens). However, because they relish and are thrilled by this practice (i.e. are attached to it), they, after their life ends in the heavens, are reborn in states of misery. A disciple of the Buddha, however, achieves final Nibbana in the same set of conditions, as (presumably), s/he is not attached to such sublime practices. Texts 2 and 3 The Perils of Samsara Key Concepts: This samsara is without discoverable beginningit is enough to become disenchanted with all formations, enough to be dispassionate toward them, enough to be liberated from them. Notes: Text 1 [SN 15:3] the tears we have shed in all the rounds of rebirth are more than the water in the four great oceans. Text 2 [SN 15:13] the amount of blood we have shed in all the rounds of rebirth is more than the water in the four great oceans. Questions for Lesson 6: 1. What is the lesson in the first text? 2. The stark similes in the second and third texts are intent pointing our minds in a certain direction; which direction is it? 3. How do these teachings help us become more compassionate and kind people? Can they actually help us become less compassionate and kind? 4. What kind of conclusion is this for the whole chapter? What kinds of feelings does it leave for you?

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