Back in Perth – new directions old directions

Dear readers, I have been active with other priorities and not blogged much. Now that I’m busier, I’ll probably blog more.  I hope you enjoy the new blog page style. I updated my June post on Sri Lanka and added a lot of photos.

I returned to Perth about 12 weeks ago. I applied for many jobs and finally accepted an interesting role starting on Monday, 14 November.  In order to generate income for paying bills I usually work as a in government on social policy development and project management.  I always find work though it can take about 2 months of applying.  This time it took nearly 3 months…

I enjoyed my recent trips to Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom. On the first trip to Sri Lanka (3.5 weeks in June 2011) I stayed with Bhante Nyanatusita at the Forest Hermitage where I installed mosquito screens, door handles, and tidied up a storage area. Bhante and I also went on a 5 day tour of places north of Kandy. We hiked in forests and climbed hills. I really enjoyed visiting ancient monasteries at Ritigala and Kaluda Pokuna as well as several significant sites at Anuradhapura.  I learned a lot from close association with Bhante and our Dhamma discussions.

The second trip was only about 10 days and again mostly in Kandy working at the Forest Hermitage. Bhante and I installed a wifi antenna with lightning protection on the roof and significantly improved Bhante’s Internet connection.

The detailed map located just past the main entry gate to Udawattakele, Kandy, Sri Lanka
Old sign for the Forest Hermitage, Udawattakele, Kandy, Sri Lanka

Michael made two mosquito screens with scrap wood and left over mesh at the Forest Hermitage in June 2011. These two screens were installed in the window frames of the outside kuti sometimes used by guest monks.


Inside the outside kuti sometimes used by guest monks at the Forest Hermitage, Kandy, Sri Lanka, June 2011

Shaded meditation walking path near outside kuti, Forest Hermitage, Kandy, Sri Lanka

Wifi antenna installed on the Forest Hermitage roof, 13 August 2011. It is not quite finished. After this photo we attached three metal pipes connecting the antenna pole to the solar panel frame. These connections were insulated to prevent any lightning current flowing between them. The green wire in the photo is an earth wire that leads from the lightning attractor above the antenna itself down to a lightning rod embedded in the ground. You can see the white plastic pipe protecting the wire from the antenna and entering a small hole in the roof tile.

A new LED lamp for an existing socket at the Forest Hermitage, Kandy, Sri Lanka, June 2011

New lamps, medicine and ARRID plugs for the 12 volt electrical solar powered system at the Forest Hermitage, Kandy, Sri Lanka, June 2012

My second trip (10 days in August 2011) coincided with the Australian cricket team’s tour of Sri Lanka which I had no interest in. It also coincided with the annual 10 day Perahera festival held in Kandy. I have little interest in colourful parades mainly because I don’t like mixing with crowds of people. I saw parts of the parade when I was in town shopping for items to install the wifi antenna. The parade is very popular among Sri Lankan people.

Michael & an elephant at the forecourt of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth, Kandy, Sri Lanka, 10 August 2011 (photo taken by Ven. Nyanatusita)

Corner of Dalada Veediya and Yatinuvara Veediya, Kandy, Sri Lanka, 13 August 2011.  People were sitting on plastic sheets on the pavements waiting for the Perahera festival parade so pedestians had to walk on the roads to get around. 
My trip to the United Kingdom was my first trip to the mother country since 1974. Except for my own two children, all other members of my Australian family (two parents and three siblings) had visited more recently and some have visited many times. I had a mild case of culture shock when I first arrived at Heathrow Airport and then spent my first week mostly in Wittering (near Chichester), Sussex. The weather was sunny and warm almost the whole time I was in the UK, even in Scotland.  I then went to Telford in Shropshire; Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen in Scotland; and then Beverley, Hull and Polkington in Yorkshire. I visited most but not all of my UK relations. I was warmly welcomed by all and I learned a lot about family history.

This trip to Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom was part of my exploration of ways to live a spiritual life as a lay man. I validated this approach and am very confident that this is the right thing for me to do it (not saying this is the right thing for everyone).  In previous blog posts I wrote about getting stuck at the same point during Mahasi method vipassana meditation retreats. Since January 2010 I changed my primary meditation practice to samatha though I am still doing satipaathana (mindfulness of body, feelings, mind and dhamma; it has always been a combination of samatha and vipassana).

Some might say that I have not tried hard enough. I am not keen on metaphorically bashing my head on a brick wall. I believe the path is gradual and gentle.  I think the right amount of viriya-energy arises with the right amount of samaadhi-concentration. An imbalance in the faculties is an obstacle.

On these two recent trips to Sri Lanka I kept precepts and offered items and service to the Sangha that stays at the Forest Hermitage.I also participated in Dhamma discussions with Bhante and others. I listened to and read  Dhamma. Although positive and wholesome, these good deeds maybe less important or virtuous than bhavanaa-mental development through vipassana and samatha.  However, the importance of developing samaadi.t.thi-Right View cannot be overstated. Dhamma discussion, hearing the Dhamma and asking pertient questions are all excellent ways of developing and supporting Samaadi.t.thi.

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Quick tour – Ritigala, Anuradhapura, Mahintale, Dambulla

Sri Lanka, June 2011

On Friday last week, Ven. Nyanatusita and I took a bus from Kandy to Matale and visited the Aluvihare Rock Temple. There were some interesting paintings and caves converted into small buildings. Many Sri Lankan pilgrims and a few foreign tourists were walking around.

A view looking West from the main gate up the hill toward the Aluvihare Rock Temple, near Matale, Sri Lanka, June 2011
A view looking east at a courtyard between boulders at the Aluvihare Rock Temple, near Matale, Sri Lanka, June 2011

Michael near a moustached lion figure at the Aluvihare Rock Temple, near Matale, Sri Lanka, June 2011

After walking around, we ate lunch and then took a bus north to Dambulla where we thought we might be able to climb the hill to see the cave paintings. We arrived around 2pm in the hottest part of the day. There were many pilgrims perhaps returning from the Poson Poya (possibly the most significant uposatha day in Sri Lanka – Thursday, 16 June 2011) celebrations in Anuradhapura and Mahintale. We heard a report that there were over 5000 Sri Lankan Police Officers mobilized to monitor over 1,000,000 pilgrims. We decided to visit the Dambulla caves another day and walked across the road to drink tea at the “Tourist Welfare Center”.

We then rode a three-wheeler towards Sigiriya stopping at a national park where we walked around inspecting the remains of an ancient meditation monastery.  I was very impressed with this place. It was quite overgrown in many parts and the paths not clear. We explored many old cave sites and found evidence of kutis being built hanging between large boulders. I felt inspired and imagined the ancient Sangha living on the site possibly over many hundreds of years.  After 2-3 hours we got back in the three-wheeler and continued on to the Pidurangala Temple located at the base of a large granite hill 800m north of the more famous Sigiriya. The young pirivena monks allowed us to stay the night in the dusty local village headman’s office including an ensuite occupied by many varieties of local frogs.

On Saturday morning, we climbed the stairs to view various cave kutis (meditation huts) and ruins. Unfortunately none of the kutis were occupied. Though looking well built on the outside, the kutis stank of bat faeces and needed repairs. We doubted any meditation monks would like to live there now because of the steady traffic of curious tourists and pilgrims walking by. We climbed up the hill and through some boulder strewn areas to reach the flat peak. I didn’t see the easy way at first and took a rather dangerous and steep climb with no supports.  We passed a young English woman on the way up who also later climbed the hard way. After a false start, I expressed respect for mutual bravery. Shortly afterwards some Sri Lankan people and more foreigners arrived (the easy way). The top of the hill is spectacular. The winds were gusting strongly and could be dangerous for people near the edges. There are no railings so visitors must take care. It is best to go early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the heat of the day. The rock would become very hot.  We could see nearby Sigiriya and in the distance also see the hill with the Dambulla cave temple.

A restored reclining Buddha statue at the ancient ruins of a monastery near Sigira, Sri Lanka, June 2011. 

A view looking south at the ancient ruins of a monastery near Sigira, Sri Lanka, June 2011

A view west at a modern Buddha statue at a monastery near Sigira, Sri Lanka, June 2011

A view looking north at a monastery near Sigira, Sri Lanka, June 2011. The kuti under the rock in the photo was built over 20 years ago and abandoned. It is now inhabited by bats.

A view looking northwest at the ancient ruins of a monastery near Sigira, Sri Lanka, June 2011

The central buildings of a monastery near Ritigala, Sri Lanka, June 2011.  The building on the left is used as a dining hall and is built under a large boulder.

Michael climbing the hill where the stupa was being constructed at Ritigala, Sri Lanka, June 2011




Michael climbing between boulders on the hill where the stupa was being constructed at Ritigala, Sri Lanka, June 2011



A makeshift ladder near the top of a hill where the local Ritigala monks wanted to build a stupa, Sri Lanka, June 2011. 





Michael feeling rather nervous after getting off the ladder near the top of a hill where the local Ritigala monks wanted to build a stupa, Sri Lanka, June 2011


The top of a hill where the local Ritigala monks wanted to build a stupa, Sri Lanka, June 2011

Michael near the top of a hill where the local Ritigala monks wanted to build a stupa, Sri Lanka, June 2011

A rough path on the side of the hill where the local Ritigala monks wanted to build a stupa, Sri Lanka, June 2011.  This section of the path is relatively easy to walk on.

Michael scrambling down the hill where the stupa was being constructed at Ritigala, Sri Lanka, June 2011


Sunday , Amarvarti, Abhayagiri Vihara, Abhayagiri stupa, Great Stupa


Monday Anuradhapura Mahabodhi tree, 


Tuesday Mahintale many cave kutis and stupas, Kaludiya Pokuna


Wednesday Mahintale  many cave kutis and stupas

Some ruins at Abhayagiri monasteryAnuradhapura, Sri Lanka, June 2011. 

Some ruins at Abhayagiri monasteryAnuradhapura, Sri Lanka, June 2011. 
Some ruins at Abhayagiri monasteryAnuradhapura, Sri Lanka, June 2011. 

The restored elephant tank at the ruins of Abhayagiri monastery, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, June 2011. 

Restoration work at the Abhayagiri stupa, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, June 2011. There are probably 30-40 monkeys not quite visible in this photo, climbing around the framework and making a lot of noise.

Restoration work at the Abhayagiri stupa, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, June 2011. 

The Great Stupa at night, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, June 2011. Michael sensed something very special about this stupa.

Looking north towards the Great Stupa, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, June 2011

A water catchment “tank” near the Great Stupa at Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, June 2011

Kaludiya Pokuna, Mahintale, Sri Lanka, June 2011

I got safely back to Kandy last night (Wednesday) around 9pm. The 100km ride from Dambulla at night was thrilling. The fare was about 60 cents each with front seats to a rally car race in which out bus was participating. I’ve done it before in Thailand but this was perhaps more intense. I just let it happen and enjoyed the ride and the psychedelic light show above the dashboard glorifying various Buddhist and Hindu deities. Many cyclists with no lights and chaotic traffic weaving in and out, sudden stops and turns. Bald tires, soft suspension and bouncy seats set to a sound track of falsetto vocals and deep bass drums etc. At the second last town the bus filled beyond capacity and I had to keep my arms out to stop people sitting or falling on me.  All a memory now.

I’m flying to London on Monday 27 June. Not long now. I’ve been sort of preparing by downloading travel guides for England and Scotland and even reading the text of Macbeth which I hope to see performed at Stratford Upon Avon sometime in July or August.

Maybe England first in early to mid July and then Scotland in late July-August.

Note: I didn’t get around to writing this posting in as much detail as I’d planned.

Forest Hermitage, Kandy

I feel privileged to visit  the Forest Hermitage. This is an historical place for Western Buddhists and where Ven. Nyanaponika and Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi both lived and worked for many years. Ven. Nyanatusita is very kind and patient with me. He showed me around and answered all my Dhamma questions and questions about daily life. Bhante is a very intelligent and practical man who works very hard for the Buddhist Publication Society. I encourage all readers to visit the BPS website and download the collections that are free or at low cost.


Forest Hermitage, Udawattekelle, Kandy Sri Lanka, 7 June 2011


MK relflected in the window of the FH, 7 June 2011

There are two cats also living at the FH and I have a mild allergic reaction to them manifested by sneezing and itchy skin.

Bhante allowed me to read an early proof copy of the forthcoming complete translation of the Anguttara Nikaya by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi. I didn’t read it cover to cover and there were bits missing even as it was. I was able to read many sutta that had puzzled me while reading Woodward 100 plus year old English translation published by the Pali Text Society.  Excellent work Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi!

I met a young German and a young Austrian monk staying in the monastic compound next to the FH. There is also a kind Sri Lankan lay man working as caretaker at FH. Ven. Nyanatusita, the Austrian monk and I rode in a three-wheeler driven by Nihal (excellent driver and enthusiastic monastery sponsor) from FH to one of 3 (or more) monasteries at Hantana (a hilly district adjoining Kandy) to visit Ven.Subhuti, a US monk. This monastery is about 800m above sea level and located on the site of an old tea estate. It feels remote, despite being only 20 minutes from downtown Kandy. There are many poor Tamil tea workers/families living on the slopes around the monastery. Ven. Subhuti usually stays at Na Uyana Aranya. Nihal had to return to Kandy by 4:30pm.  I plan to visit Ven. Subhuti again this afternoon.


Bhikkhu Subhuti (left) and Bhikkhu Nyanatusita (right) standing on the precarious balcony of the kuti at Hantana where Ven. Subhuti is staying, 7 June 2011


Three Bhikkhus approaching the kuti at Hantana where Ven. Subhuti is staying, 7 June 2011

My lower back has been painful for the past few days. I think it is due to the travel. I won’t let it stop me though.  As with all physical pain, if we focus our attention on the painful spot(s), we can notice how it constantly changes. What changes is suffering, whatever is suffering is not me, not I, not mine. We let go of whatever is not ours. Then there is release, freedom and liberation.

Perth to Kandy

I left Perth on Tiger Airline on Friday night arriving in Singapore at about 3am Saturday, 4 June 2011. I then flew Tiger to KL arriving about 7:30am. I then learned that Tiger lands at the Budget terminal which is 20-30 minutes drive from the KL International terminal.  My Sri Lankan Airline flight from KL to Colombo was due to leave at 9:20 am, so I missed it. They close the check in counters one hour before the flight because the check-in counter is about 20 minutes away from the boarding gate – even including the free light rail that transports passengers around the vast KL International Airport.  The KLIA is impressive for its size and high-tech facilities, however, the signage and lack of information about these logistical matters is a negative.  Sri Lankan Airlines should have some note on their e-ticket about the counters closing 1 hour before flight and maybe something about warning passengers who may be connecting from the KL budget airport.

From what I saw, the KL budget  airport might just as well have been called Air Aisa Airport since Air Asia dominates  so much. The access to taxis was difficult. There seems to be no consideration for passengers such as myself who might be going to the KLIA. Buses between terminals depart about every 20 minutes and I just missed one so I was obliged to take a taxi. However, you need to go to a special counter, through a police checkpoint just to get a taxi voucher. The taxi voucher counter didn’t accept any currency except Malaysian Ringits. I didn’t have enough MR so I had to go back out through the police checkpoint and find a currency exchange service, wait in the queue and accept an exorbitant exchange rate, go back through the police checkpoint to the taxi counter, back out through the police check point and cross a busy road to find the taxi rank. The taxi had a very small boot so no-one’s normal size luggage would fit in it. The driver then puts on an act about my luggage and then puts it on the back seat.  To his credit, he did driver rather quickly to try and get me to the KLIA on time for my Sri Lankan Airline check-in. He dropped me at the wrong end of the terminal (he wasn’t to know – not his fault) so I ran pushing my trolley loaded with luggage from one end of the terminal to the other, only to find the area completely unstaffed – too late!

I then found where the Sri Lankan Airline office is located and pushed my trolley up there. I waited for about 30-40 minutes in the empty corridor outside the office and then wrote a note to stick on their door while I wandered off to find a toilet and some refreshments. I enjoyed some noodles and sambal washed down with coffee. I went back and waited in the corridor doing pacing up and down for exercise – no where to sit except the floor. Then about 10:30 the Sri Lankan Airline officers arrived at their office. The lady was very helpful and arranged for me to go on the next flight leaving at 2pm, but going via Singapore.  I was relieved.

So I passed time and ate a delicious murtabak ayam (pancake stuffed with curried chicken) and drank tea and juice for lunch.  My seat on the SLA flight was 67G which is right next to the toilet on the last row. The leg room was relatively cramped due to some device on the floor. Many passengers were Indians returning from holidays in Malaysia – some kind of package tour that included a one night stay over in Colombo. Many were rude to the crew and made many demands. Unfortunately there did not seem to be enough vegetarian meals provided by the catering company so some Indian men became very upset. I felt sorry for the SLA crew. Then the captain announced that for some  unknown reason, Changi Airport (Singapore) was only using one runway and our flight was obliged to fly in circles around Singapore in a queue waiting to land. We all had to get off the plane in Singapore and wait for 30-40 minutes to board again. After boarding we waited another 30-40 minutes in our seats to get permission to take off. I suppose all these delays might have aggravated passenger moods. So finally we arrived in Colombo at 7pm – two hours after the scheduled time for that flight and 9 hours after my planned time of arrival (10am).

I got a taxi to my hotel in Negombo and after checking in, went out to buy a Sri Lankan SIM card for my mobile – success. However, when I tried it out, I found my phone is locked to Telstra and the Norton security software also prevented me from changing the SIM. I forgot to disable that before I left Australia. Now I need a new phone.

After a cold shower (no hot water at the A$78 per night hotel – don’t go there – Rani Beach Resort) and lots of water, I spent some time horizontal for the first time in over 24 hours. I woke refreshed, packed my stuff and ate some included breakfast within sight of the Indian Ocean. It was lovely.  I then got in a three wheeler to the Negombo bus station and found that there are no air conditioned buses to Kandy. In retrospect, I could have gone to Colombo to take the train or an AC bus to Kandy, or I might have found an AC bus to Kurunegala, get off and get a different AC bus on to Kandy. I just wanted to keep moving so I got on the non-AC bus. I managed to buy three front seats (111 SL rupees each = about A$1 or about 65 British pence) just behind the driver that are normally reserved for clergy. I took a risk that if a monk boarded, I’d have to relinquish my seat (even though paid for). I pushed my luggage onto the window seat and sat comfortably on the other two seats for about 1 hour while the bus was not full. Later when many passengers boarded and I felt guilty for having pregnant women, old men and children standing in the narrow aisle, I invited a woman to sit down next to me while I squashed in next to my luggage. The woman spoke English and we had a brief conversation. She actually worked at the airport. She was fascinated by my Kindle e-book reader and I showed it off to her. She showed me a book by Ajahn Sumedho “Now is the Knowing”.  I told her how I’d met Ajahn Sumedho in Bangkok and in Perth many years ago. She seemed pleased to meet a non-Sri Lankan Buddhist.  As soon as she got off, another lady sat down for the remainder of the trip to Kandy.

Kandy was warm and humid but not excessively so. I found a three wheeler to take me to the Buddhist Publication Society BPS bookshop but found it closed on Sunday, so I went straight on to Mrs Clement Disanayake’s guest house where I had stayed several times when I was in SL last year. Without a booking, she welcomed me. She had no other guests. She is a lovely 72 yo widow. We chatted about our lives in during the past year I’d been in Australia. I noted that I left Sri Lanka around 19 May 2010 and now returned 4 June 2011, just over one year away. With Mrs Disanayake’s recommendation, I found Mr Nimal Pieris at Tele-pix on Perideniaya Road, a much awarded SL businessman who promptly sold me a Samsung touch phone which may have been once destined for the Polish market judging by the language of the instruction booklet). Anyhow, the phone works fine. I finally phoned Mum to reassure her that I arrived safe and well.

[Mrs Clement Disanayake’s guest house is listed in the Lonely Planet and possibly Rough Guide books for Sri Lanka – recommended]

I ate a good Sri Lankan curry meal as lunch at one of the Devon restaurants for less than A$5.  I didn’t need dinner after that. I chatted more with Mrs Disanayake, showered and slept early. There is a 2.5 hour time difference with Perth. (6pm Sri Lanka is 8:30pm Perth).

This morning after a pile of toast, eggs, jam, bananas, herb rice porridge and 3 cups of tea for breakfast 🙂 I went down to the BPS book shop which opens at 9am. There I spoke with Berty who remembers me. He is very charming and operates the till in the shop.

I am donating some items to the Sangha of the Forest Hermitage lead by Ven. Nyanatusita Bhikkhu. The box is a little bulky but not heavy – about 10 kg or less.  Berty and his colleagues at the BPS shop phoned Ven. Nyanatusita and we have agreed that the BPS van will transport the fridge and me to the Forest Hermitage which is in the middle of the Udawattekelle bird sanctuary. Usually entry fee is 600 rupees but if visiting the Hermitage, this can be waived if you are carrying an official letter provided by the BPS. On the other hand, providing money for the maintenance of the bird sanctuary is a good thing.

I will stay overnight at the Forest Hermitage for a while. I am looking forward to some Dhamma talks with Ven. Nyanatusita.

Going to Sri Lanka and United Kingdom

My last job finished on Friday, 27 May 2011 and with no other employment in the near future, I decided to fly to Sri Lanka to visit sacred places I haven’t been before and then visit relatives in the United Kingdom.  I might stop in Bangkok to see friends while returning to Perth. This trip is a tour and not for meditation.

I depart this Friday, 3 June, arriving in Sri Lanka on Saturday 4 June. I may stay overnight at Negombo before taking a bus to Kandy. I plan to visit Ven. Nyanatusita at the Forest Hermitage for a few days and then visit Na Uyana Aranya to pay respects to monastics.  I may not stay overnight there though.  Then I might go on to  Matale to see the Aluvihara and to Anuradhapura to pay respects to the ancient Bodhi tree, stupas and various ruins.

I shall continue to blog my travels and post photos.

Ageing and death – urgently practice the Dhamma

There have been a few disasters happening recently. I have been feeling a bit low on energy for spiritual practice while being distracted by worldly matters. I noticed some friends were also struggling. It is timely to develop a sense of urgency for Dhamma practice.  


SN3.25 The Simile of the Mountain in the Kosalasa.myutta


The whole sutta translated by Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu may be read here:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn03/sn03.025.than.html 

I have pasted just the verses from the end of the sutta which convey the message very clearly.

Like massive boulders,
mountains pressing against the sky,
moving in from all sides,
crushing the four directions,
so aging and death
come rolling over living beings:
noble warriors, priests, merchants,
workers, outcastes, & scavengers.
They spare nothing.
They trample everything.


Here elephant troops can hold no ground,
nor can chariots or infantry,
nor can a battle of wits
or wealth win out.


So a wise person,
seeing his own good,
steadfast, secures confidence
in the Buddha, Dhamma, & Sangha.


One who practices the Dhamma
in thought, word, & deed,
receives praise here on earth
and after death rejoices in heaven.

The sutta outlines a conversation between Lord Buddha and King Pasenadi of Kosala and uses a metaphor of massive mountains rolling in from the four cardinal directions, crushing and killing all living beings in their path as they roll towards you.  The idea is that death is inevitable to everyone regardless of their background – rich and poor.   King Pasenadi is a confident Buddhist and understands that even though he is a powerful king, he may not resort to his usual remedies such as military forces, his diplomats or bribes. Just like four rolling mountains, death and ageing are relentlessly powerful and cannot be defeated by material resources.

The solution to this dilemma is to establish confidence in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha and then to practice the Dhamma in thought, word and deed.  This much will achieve a happy rebirth in a heavenly realm though death and ageing are still not defeated.

Although this sutta doesn’t go as far as explaining the way to defeat death and ageing – the Noble Eightfold Path, the sutta is very good for stimulating spiritual urgency and reminding Buddhists to waste no time in practicing the Dhamma in thought, word and deed.

Although a heavenly rebirth may be pleasant and relatively long-lived, it is also temporary. Eventually, even the devas must die and take rebirth in any of the various realms (hells, ghost, animal, human, heavens, and brahma realms) depending on their kamma. Without the Noble Eightfold Path, the cycle of rebirths will continue, on and on – Sa.msaara.

This reminds me of the story of Lord Buddha’s younger brother, Prince Nanda. This is a well known story about the young prince about to be married to a beautiful woman.  Lord Buddha took Prince Nanda on a quick tour of one of the heavenly realms. Nanda agreed that the deva ladies were many times more beautiful than his human bride to be. Lord Buddha then motivated Nanda to ordain as a bhikkhu and initially aspire to a heavenly rebirth so Nanda could be with the lovely deva ladies.  Nanda then abandoned his fiancee and ordained.  He later realised that this aspiration for a heavenly rebirth was too low and gave up his desire for deva ladies and any further rebirth in heaven or elsewhere by attaining Nibbaana.  You may read the Nanda Sutta translated by Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu for the full story.

For those of us who come to Buddhism in this human realm and struggle to practice the Dhamma to the extent of attaining Nibbanna, we may be consoled by the thought of a heavenly rebirth.  It appears that unlike most humans, devas are usually able to remember a few past lives and will probably associate with Buddhist devas who will encourage the newly arrived deva to practice the Dhamma.  There are likely to be a great number of Buddhist devas who can teach the Dhamma.  Readers interested in this topic may enjoy reading an early blog posting “If you pentetratively study the Dhamma but die confused“.

May all beings develop the Noble Eightfold Path and realise Nibbaana.

Bojjha’nga – Seven Factors of Enlightenment

This is one of my favourite themes in the suttas. The Bojjha’nga show a progression of dependence in various wholesome states arising from attending to bhikkhus who are accomplished in virtue, concentration, wisdom, liberation, knowledge and vision of liberation.  I believe it is also possible to do this in our imaginations in a virtual way. We can study the Dhamma and imagine visiting an accomplished bhikkhu.  We can record ourselves or others reading profound suttas and then later prepare a sacred moment to listen respectfully, with wise attention.  Of course if your do have convenient access to a an accomplished bhikkhu-monk or bhikkhuni-nun, then you are very fortunate…  
Sa.myuttanikaaya  translated by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi 
S46.1  The Himalayas 

At Saavattii. “Bhikkhus, based upon the Himalayas, the king of mountains, the naagas [dragons] nurture their bodies and acquire strength.  When they have matured their bodies and acquired strength, they then enter the pools. From the pools they enter the lakes, then the streams, then the rivers, and finally they enter the ocean. There they achieve greatness and expansiveness of body.   So too bhikkhus, based on virtue, established upon virtue, a bhikkhu develops and cultivates the seven factors of enlightenment, and thereby he achieves greatness and expansiveness in [wholesome] states…
S46.3  Virtue

“Bhikkhus, those bhikkhus who are
   accomplished in virtue, 
   accomplished in concentration, 
   accomplished in wisdom, 
   accomplished in liberation, 

   accomplished in knowledge and vision of liberation: 

  
   even the sight of those bhikkhus is helpful, I say; 
   even listening to them … 
   even approaching them … 
   even going forth after them is helpful, I say. 
For what reason?  Because when one has heard the Dhamma from such bhikkhus one dwells withdrawn by way of two kinds of withdrawal – withdrawal of the body and withdrawal of the mind.
[1] “Dwelling thus withdrawn, 
               one recollects that Dhamma and thinks it over
Whenever, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu dwelling thus withdrawn recollects that Dhamma and thinks it over, 
   on that occasion the enlightenment factor of mindfulness is aroused by the bhikkhu; 
   on that occasion the bhikkhu develops the enlightenment factor of mindfulness; 
   on that occasion the enlightenment factor of mindfulness comes to fulfilment by development in the bhikkhu.
[2] “Dwelling thus mindfully, 
                he discriminates that Dhamma with wisdom, 
                examines it, 
                makes an investigation of it.   
Whenever, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu dwelling thus mindfully, 
                discriminates that Dhamma with wisdom,  
                examines it, 
                makes an investigation of it,
   on that occasion the enlightenment factor of discrimination of states is aroused by the bhikkhu; 
   on that occasion, the bhikkhu develops the enlightenment factor of discrimination of states  [dhammavicaya]
   on that occasion the enlightenment factor of discrimination of states comes to fulfilment by development in the bhikkhu.

[3] While he thus 
              discriminates that Dhamma with wisdom, 
              examines it, 
              makes an investigation of it, 
his energy is aroused without slackening.  
Whenever, bhikkhus, 
     a bhikkhu’s energy is aroused without slackening as he
               discriminates that Dhamma with wisdom, 
               examines it,
               makes an investigation of it, 
  on that occasion the enlightenment factor of energy is aroused by the bhikkhu;
  on that occasion the bhikkhu develops the enlightenment factor of energy [viriya]
  on that occasion the enlightenment factor of energy comes to fulfilment by development in the bhikkhu.

[4] When his energy is thus aroused,

    there arises in him spiritual rapture.
Whenever, bhikkhus, spiritual rapture arises in a bhikkhu whose energy is aroused,
  on that occasion, the enlightenment factor of rapture is aroused by the bhikkhu;
  on that occasion the bhikkhu develops the enlightenment factor of rapture [piiti];
  on that occasion the enlightenment factor of rapture comes to fulfilment by development in the bhikkhu. 
[5] For one whose mind is uplifted by rapture

   the body becomes tranquil and the mind becomes tranquil.
Whenever, bhikkhus, the body becomes tranquil and the mind becomes tranquil in a bhikkhu whose mind is uplifted by rapture,
   on that occasion, the enlightenment factor of tranquility [passadhi] is aroused by the bhikkhu;
   on that occasion the bhikkhu develops the enlightenment factor of tranquility;
   on that occasion the enlightenment factor of tranquility comes to fulfilment by development in the bhikkhu.

[6] For one whose body is tranquil and who is happy

   the mind becomes concentrated. 
Whenever, bhikkhus, the mind becomes concentrated in a bhikkhu whose body is tranquil and who is happy,
   on that occasion, the enlightenment factor of concentration [samaadhi] is aroused by the bhikkhu;
   on that occasion the bhikkhu develops the enlightenment factor of concentration;
   on that occasion the enlightenment factor of concentration comes to fulfilment by development in 
   the bhikkhu. 
[7] He closely looks on with equanimity at the mind thus concentrated.

Whenever, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu closely looks on with equanimity at the mind thus concentrated,
  on that occasion, the enlightenment factor of equanimity [upekkhaa] is aroused by the bhikkhu; 
  on that occasion the bhikkhu develops the enlightenment factor of equanimity;  
  on that occasion the enlightenment factor of equanimity comes to fulfilment by development in the bhikkhu. 

Bhikkhus, when these seven factors of enlightenment have been developed and cultivated in this way, 
seven fruits and benefits may be expected. What are the seven fruits and benefits?

[1]  One attains final knowledge early in this very life [full-enlightenment – Arahat].

[2]   If one does not attain final knowledge early in this very life, 

          then one attains final knowledge at the time of death
[3]  If one does not attain final knowledge early in this very life or at the time of death, 

          then with the utter destruction of the five lower fetters one becomes 
          an attainer of Nibbaana in the interval.
[4]   If one does not attain final knowledge early in this very life … or become an attainer of Nibbaana in 

             the interval, 
          then with the utter destruction of the five lower fetters one becomes 
          an attainer of Nibbaana upon landing.
[5]   If one does not attain final knowledge early in this very life … or become an attainer of Nibbaana

             upon landing,
          then with the utter destruction of the five lower fetters one becomes
          an attainer of Nibbaana without exertion.
[6]   If one does not attain final knowledge early in this very life … or become an attainer of Nibbaana

             without exertion,
          then with the utter destruction of the five lower fetters one becomes
          an attainer of Nibbaana with exertion.

[7]   If one does not attain final knowledge early in this very life … or become an attainer of Nibbaana 
             with exertion, 
          then with the utter destruction of the five lower fetters one becomes 
          one bound upstream, heading towards the Akani.t.tha realm 
          [the exclusive heavenly realm for Non-returners-Anaagaami].
When, bhikkhus, the seven factors of enlightenment have been developed and cultivated in this way, these seven fruits and benefits may be expected. 

Note The first six of these seven benefits are the achievement of Arahat – full enlightenment, the fourth and final type of ariyapuggala-noble person. These six benefits are varied by time taken to attain Arahat. The series begins with the fastest and ends with the slowest in terms of time taken to attain full enlightenment. The seventh benefit is the attainment of anaagaami – non-returning, which is the second highest type of ariyapuggala and destined to attain full-enlightenment after a possibly very long life span as a Brahma being (diety, celestial being…).

Readers should note that a prerequisite to either Arahat or Anaagaami is very well developed indriya-controlling faculties and particularly well developed controlling faculty of concentration – samaadhi, also known as the enlightenment factor of concentration. The lower two ariyapuggala, the stream enterer – sotapanna, and the once-returner – sakadaagaami, have less well developed concentration. Even so, those lower two have well developed virtue – siila and unshakable confidence – saddhaa in the three refuges. Although the bojjhan’ga appear to be advanced training for sotapanna and sakadaagami seeking the higher paths and fruits, don’t be put off.  The bojjhan’ga are still open for faithful worldlings – putthujana to study and practice and reap great benefits.

S46.6 Ku.n.daliya Sutta
I  have summarised this sutta and provided a dependent sequence of fulfilment.  This is an important set of relations and well worth contemplating.

restraint of the sense faculties
   fulfils

three kinds of conduct (bodily, verbal and mental)
   fulfils

the four establishments of mindfulness
   fulfils

the seven factors of enlightenment
    fulfils

true knowledge and liberation [enlightenment].

There is a shorter version of this series in the Aanaapaanasa.myutta S54.13.

You can read more details about the three kinds of conduct (bodily, verbal and mental) in many sutta including M114 and M78.

For readers who are interested in academic study of the Bojjha’nga I recommend “The Buddhist Path to Awakening” by R.M. L. Gethin, published by Oneworld Publications in 2001.  This book covers the 37 Bodhipakkhiyadhamma; Chapter V Factors of Awakening specifically covers the Bojjha’nga. However, this book maybe too theoretical for Buddhists seeking practical advice on the path.  Even so, I transcribed and paraphrased below the bare headings of practices that assist in the arising of each of the seven Bojjha’nga.    These tips are very useful practical advice.

Mindfulness – Sati

  • mindfulness and clear comprehension (sati-samaja~n~na)
  • avoidance of people of lost mindfulness 
  • association with people of established mindfulness
  • commitment to the above

Discrimination of the Dhamma – Dhamma-vicaaya

  • asking questions
  • keeping the body and belongings clean
  • balancing the five controlling faculties
  • avoiding unwise people
  • associating with wise people
  • reflection on practice with deep knowledge
  • commitment to the above

Strength/Energy – Viriya

  • reflection on the dangers of decline to unfortunate existences such as hell, ghost, poor unhealthy human and so on.
  • seeing the benefits of rising to fortunate existences such as sensual heavens, brahma realms and wealthy healthy human worlds etc.
  • reflection on the course of the journey
  • honouring alms received
  • reflection on the greatness inheriting the Buddha’s dispensation
  • reflection on the greatness of the Buddha
  • reflection on the greatness of one’s birth
  • reflection on the greatness of the other practitioners
  • avoidance of idle people
  • association with strong energetic people
  • commitment to the above

Joy/rapture – Piiti

  • recollection of the Buddha
  • recollection of the Dhamma
  • recollection of the Sangha
  • recollection of virtue
  • recollection of generosity
  • recollection of devas
  • recollection of peace
  • avoidance of rough people
  • association with affectionate people
  • reflection on satisfying discourses
  • commitment to the above

Tranquility – Passadhi

  • consuming fine food
  • living in a pleasant climate
  • keeping a comfortable posture
  • maintaining balance
  • avoidance of violent people
  • association with tranquil people
  • commitment to the above

Concentration – Sammaadhi

  • keeping one’s person and belongings clean
  • balancing the five controlling faculties
  • skill regarding the sign-nimitta
  • appropriate application
  • appropriate easing off
  • appropriate encouragement
  • appropriate overseeing
  • avoidance of unconcentrated people
  • association with concentrated people
  • reflection on the jhaanas and liberations
  • commitment to the above

[some of these refer to jhaana techniques and for people unfamiliar with jhaana practice, I recommend you read meditation manuals such as the Vissudhimagga and Vimmuttimagga.]

Equinamity – upekkhaa

  • balanced regard for all beings
  • balanced regard for all mental forces
  • avoiding people with a bias regarding beings or a bias regarding mental forces
  • commitment to all that
Michael’s comments
Note the fundamental significance of virtue-siila [S46.1 quoted above].   “…based on virtue, established upon virtue, a bhikkhu develops and cultivates the seven factors of enlightenment, and thereby he achieves greatness and expansiveness in [wholesome] states…”

The seven Bojjha’nga are developed and the five hindrances are suppressed (see S46.38 & S46.40].  

The seven Bojjha’nga need to be balanced. Bojjha’nga 2, 3 & 4 are stimulating and Bojjha’nga 5, 6 & 7 are  tranquilising. If the stimulating group dominate, one may become overexcited whilst if the tranqulising group dominate, one may become sleepy. Either way, the Dhamma will not be clear and progress will be slow. The first Bojjha’nga, mindfulness-sati, is the most important factor because it helps one to know and see clearly when the other factors are undeveloped or out of balance. See S46.53 for more details and some explanatory similes about the stimulating and tranquillising groups in the bojjha.nga.

I have transcribed S46.3 above in such a way to enable the reader to see the structure of clauses.  This makes the sutta easier to read as well as highlight the differences between the stimulating group and the tranquillising group.  Maybe you can see that as soon as rapture arises, the discriminating, examining and investigating stops.  This is a very important point.  To progress, one must allow the rapture, tranquility and concentration to proceed without analysing. This is subtle and may take a while to get right.  I for one am quite prone to analysing.  There needs to be a balance though.  Analysis and rationality are useful but limited.  Profound wisdom may arise when the mind is tranquil and concentrated.

Note the final factor of upekkhaa-equinamity. “He closely looks on with equanimity at the mind thus concentrated.”  I understand this to be conciousness-vi~n~naana being aware of the feelings-vedanaa, perceptions-sa~n~naa and intentional volitions-sankhaara (form/body-ruupa is not part of mind-naama) that occur in the “mind thus concentrated”. This would be a relatively peaceful mind but still subject to the three general characteristics-tilakkhana (unsatisfactoriness-dukkha, impermanence-annicca and not-self-annattaa). A person with a concentrated mind may not have well developed upekkhaa and due to craving and attachment to rapture-piiti and tranquility-passadhi (M138.12), may not initially have profound insight leading to a breakthrough. As soon as  upekkhaa is mature enough and there has previously been well developed right view, then a breakthrough in the Dhamma will occur – enlightenment. It is natural.

Note the similarities with the noble eightfold path which begins with right view – sammaadi.t.thi and ends with right concentration – sammaasamaadhi. There are differences in emphasis only. The Dhamma may be likened to a multifaceted jewel. One facet may look like seven factors another facet may look like four establishments (of mindfulness), another facet may look like an eightfold path and so on.

May the seven factors of enlightenment be developed and cultivated, may the seven fruits be realised.