Life of Blessings
The Supreme Blessings
To practice self-restraint
To be unaffected by worldly conditions
Path to Nibbana
We have now entered the
highest stage where a greater effort is needed for further progress. We should no longer be easily swayed by sensual desires or
physical discomforts. We must
train ourselves to remain focused on the path.
The most basic way is by the strict observance of the Five
Precepts, or better still by observing the Eight Precepts.
For many practicing Buddhists, it is a tradition to observe the
Eight Precepts on new and full moon days, but they can be observed on
other days as well.
A good way of training ourselves in self-restraint is to attend meditation retreats where we can practice the Eight Precepts over an extended period of time. This also allows us to lead a simple life of voluntary austerity, providing us the mental and bodily discipline to follow closely to the Eight-Fold Path. Meditation, particularly Vipassana or Insight Meditation, also trains us in the best way of self-restraint, which is constant mindfulness.
At this level of
spiritual maturity, this blessing does not simply mean a superficial
observance of the Eight-Fold Path. At
this level, it means a serious and mindful adherence to each and every
factor of the Path. All the
previous blessings are the preparations for us to follow this path with
determination and diligence. The
Eight-Fold Path can be summarized into its three aspects of sila
(morality), samadhi (mental development), and panna (wisdom).
By following the
Eight-Fold Path, true understanding of the Four Noble Truths will arise. This is different from academic knowledge based on studies,
or understanding coming from mere thinking.
It is the deep and experiential realization of the truths of
reality and existence, arising from the careful practice of morality,
mental development and wisdom.
Each aspect of the
Eight-Fold Path supports the cultivation and development of the other
aspects. For example, observing morality is the foundation necessary
for mental development, which leads to wisdom.
Wisdom enables us to see the benefits of morality, which we will be
more attentive in observing.
A higher standard of
morality allows for a greater level of mental development which results in
an even deeper penetration of wisdom.
And this cycle of spiritual growth continues as an upward spiral
towards true understanding of the Four Noble Truths and the eventual
attainment of Nibbana.
Four Noble Truths
34. To attain Nibbana
All of us are capable of
attaining Nibbana. We may not
get enlightened straight away but it is possible for us to attain a level
from which Nibbana is assured. Enlightenment
is not necessarily realized suddenly or completely.
For most people, it will come in gradual stages.
There are four stages leading to enlightenment which are Stream-Entering, Once-Returning, Non-Returning and Full Enlightenment. Anyone who has attained the first three stages can advance to higher stages depending on their practice. To attain full enlightenment, ten fetters or obstructions, must be overcome.
those who have at most seven more lifetimes to go before attaining full
enlightenment. They have
‘entered the stream’ to Nibbana.
During their remaining lives, they will be reborn only in the human
or a heavenly realm, and never in a lower realm.
Stream-Enterers have eradicated the first three fetters.
However, they still have a long way to go as they have yet to
weaken the next two fetters (4 & 5) or fully eradicate all the remaining
A characteristic of
Stream-Enterers is that they observe the Five Precepts strictly but
easily, and are extremely averse to committing harmful actions of any
kind. Their other characteristic is an unshakeable confidence in
the Buddha, the Dhamma and the (noble) Sangha.
These characteristics may have arisen naturally, possibly carried
over from a past life, or developed in the present life through the
serious practice of the Eight-Fold Path .
Once-Returners will have
only one more life in the human or a heavenly realm before attaining full
enlightenment. They have
eradicated the first three fetters and weakened, but not yet completely
eradicated the next two (4 & 5).
Non-Returners will have a final life in a very high and refined
heavenly realm and will gain full enlightenment in that realm.
They have eradicated the first five fetters.
Arahants have successfully eradicated all ten fetters and have
become fully enlightened. They
have freed themselves from rebirth and attained Nibbana.
All of us should strive
hard to become at least Stream-Enterers.
It is well within the reach of all sincere Buddhists, whether they
are monks, nuns or lay people, who accept and have confidence in the
Dhamma and live according to the Eight-Fold Path.
With commitment and sincerity, it is very much achievable in the
present life. Attaining
Nibbana then becomes just a matter of time.
Fruits of the Path
The following are the
Fruits of the Path, or the Supreme Blessings attained by the enlightened. While we may not yet be able to achieve all the following
blessings in full, we will be able to at least experience and taste these
Fruits of the Path to Nibbana. Having
had even a small taste of Nibbana will encourage us to strive on.
35. To be unaffected
by worldly conditions
There will always be
changes in our lives, some which cause happiness while others bring
sadness. It is the nature of
existence that change is always taking place and the changes relating to
our lives are always fluctuating between extremes.
Realizing the ever-changing nature of our existence and practicing
equanimity enables one to be unaffected by these worldly conditions.
Eight Worldly Conditions
36. To be free from
Sorrow, distress, grief and worry are part of our lives and stem from clinging and attachment to the things we desire and love. The enlightened realize the truth of impermanence that whatever arises must also one day cease to exist. By facing this truth directly and understanding it, one will be free from sorrow.
The defilements of greed, hatred and delusion are the root causes of all suffering and unsatisfactoriness. Even the most subtle aspects of the defilements should be eradicated. These subtle aspects include desire and clinging, aversion and irritation, and disinterest and ignorance. The enlightened are totally free from all of these defilements.
Unlike the ever-changing and unsatisfactory nature of our mundane existence, the peace and happiness of Nibbana is permanent. Even the slightest taste of Nibbana can never be lost. Thus to have attained Nibbana is to have attained the ultimate blessing of perfect peace and absolute security.
For those who abide by this teaching,
cultivating these 38 Blessings,
can all enjoy A Life of Blessings!
said that at the end of the Buddha’s teaching on the Mangala Sutta,
Discourse on the Ariyavasa Sutta