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  • Thong Tri Temple

The Fourth Noble Truth, Part I: The First Five Sets of Requisites

Updated: Jan 26


| Compassion {Karuṇā} |



The First Noble Truth establishes that Suffering Exists (Dukkha). The Second Noble Truth explores the Cause of Suffering (Sameda Dukkha). The Third Noble Truth illuminates the End of Suffering (Nirodha Dukkha). The Fourth Noble Truth is the Path (Magga) leading to the End of Suffering. This Path is called the Noble Eightfold Path and leads us to attain Enlightenment. The Buddha called the Noble Eightfold Path “the Middle Way” that avoids the extremes of sensual pleasures and asceticism. It is the Path of Moderation. 


The PATH leads us out of craving or attachment, desire, ignorance, hatred, greed, and delusion. Avoiding the two extremes and following the Middle Way will lead to clarity, compassion, inner peace, liberation, enlightenment and Nirvana.


There are thirty-seven individual Enlightenment (Bodhipakṣa Dharma) qualities or requisites that are organized into seven sets and form the foundation of most schools of Buddhism. They represent the most basic of the Buddha’s Teachings and the practical application of the Four Noble Truths. The Noble Eightfold Path provides the path of Dharma practice leading to liberation from suffering and attaining Enlightenment, while the other twenty-nine qualities include details and explanations of the Noble Eightfold Path. You’ll see that the 29 qualities from the first six sets are repeated in the Noble Eightfold Path. 


The Buddha never intended his followers to believe His Teachings blindly, but to practice them and judge for themselves whether they are correct.


As mentioned earlier, there are thirty-seven [37] qualities conducive to Enlightenment (Bodhipakṣa Dharma), which can be divided into seven sets. The seven sets are: 


I. Four presences of mindfulness

II. Four Right Effort to be practiced

carefully

III. Four bases of mental power

IV. Five Spiritual Faculties

V. Five Spiritual Powers

VI. Seven Factors of Enlightenment

Practices 

VII. The Noble Eightfold Path


Set #1: Four presences of mindfulness – These four foundations will build your awareness of mindfulness: 


[1] contemplating the body 

[2] contemplating physical

sensations or feelings

[3] contemplating the mind

[4] contemplating mental

qualities or mind objects     

                                                               

Before describing the four foundations of mindfulness (Satipatthana), their practical aspects, and the benefits of practicing them, let’s highlight what the Buddha stated about them:  


“Bhikkhus, this is the one and the only way for the purification of beings, for overcoming sorrow and lamentation, for the cessation of physical and mental pain, for attainment of the Noble Paths, and for the realization of Nibbana. That is the four Satipatthana.”  (~Satipatthana Sutta~)


When practicing the four presences of mindfulness, pay attention to phenomena, as they are - without trying to evaluate and judge them or use them for illusions or conspiracies. 


[1] Contemplating the body – Contemplation of the body, including mindfulness of breathing, takes precedence among the various methods of practices described by the Buddha due to its ability to lead to all other forms of contemplation, various states of concentration and ultimately to liberation.


Contemplating the body, and only the body, with no sense of mine, myself or “I” must be practiced in six parts:


  • Mindfulness of breathing: awareness of the movement of the breath, in and out, exactly as it occurs

  • Mindfulness of the four postures: walking, standing, sitting, and lying down

  • Mindfulness of all activities: eating, speaking, going to the bathroom, etc.

  • Mindfulness of the four elements: earth (solidity and durability), water (fluid, moisture and liquidity), wind (gas, air and movement) and fire (heat and energy)

  • Mindfulness of the nine stages of a decaying corpse: distension, rupture, exudation of blood, discoloration and desiccation, consumption by animals, dismemberment, reduction of bones, and parching to dust

  • Mindfulness of the  32 impurities of the body*: head hair, body hair, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, bone marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, diaphragm, spleen, lungs, large intestine, small intestine, stomach, feces, brain, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, saliva, mucus, oil of the joints, and urine


*Footnote: The methodical practice of contemplating the 32 impurities of the body is called Thirty-two Parts of the Body Meditation. This meditation can help one penetrate and understand the true nature of the body. It can help one see the impermanence of life and understand that the body is made of four main elements. Practicing the Thirty-two Parts of the Body Meditation can help one build high levels of concentration, increase potential self-healing abilities, and allow one to experience the taste of deep freedom and peace.


In Buddhayana practice, one meditates and concentrates on impermanence.  During meditation, if you think any of these objects are permanent, then you have an attachment to them.


[2] Contemplating physical sensations or feelings – From being mindful of the body, its activities, composition, and dissolution, the meditator begins to observe other sensations with the same clear, non-judgmental, awareness of the pleasant, unpleasant, neutral in response to sensory input. One becomes aware of whatever physical sensation has arisen. This prevents the mind from getting caught up with indulging in pleasure or running away from pain. The mind becomes able to look at all the states of experience with calm, equanimity, and self-control.


Contemplating feelings, as only physical sensations and recognizing the three types of feeling with no sense of mine, myself or “I.” 


  • Pleasant feelings

  • Unpleasant feelings

  • Neither pleasant nor unpleasant feelings


[3] Contemplating the mind – Monitor any mental laziness, prejudices or baseless opinions. Check that the mind is clear and focused. Develop pure awareness of moods such as greed, aversion, delusion, and their opposites.


Contemplating the mind, as only a phenomenon with no sense of mine, myself or “I” must be done by observing the following:


  • A mind with greed or without greed;

  • A mind with anger or without anger;

  • A mind with delusion or without delusion;

  • A lazy mind;

  • A distracted mind;

  • A developed or undeveloped mind;

  • An inferior or superior mind;

  • A concentrated or unconcentrated mind;

  • A mind free from defilements or not free from defilements


[4] Contemplating mental qualities or mind objects


1. The five hindrances that prevent one from concentrating on the mind and attaining insight are: sensual desire, anger or ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry, and skeptical doubt.

2. The five aggregates

3. The six internal and external

sense bases

4. The seven factors to

enlightenment

5. The Four Noble Truths


Another way to view this requisite is to meditate on the Dharma. Meditate by observing an aspect of the principles related to the Four Noble Truths. Once one has a clear awareness and understanding of the true nature of phenomena and is free from ignorant craving, one can then understand the Four Noble Truths on the basis of one's own understanding. Thus, the Four Noble Truths themselves become the objects of mindfulness, no longer a mere theory or a set of propositions, but one’s own experience.


Contemplating mind objects with no sense of mine, myself or “I” is performed on the following:


  • Five Mental Hindrances to Enlightenment:

  1. Sensual Desire is seeking pleasure through the five senses of sight, sound, smell, taste, and physical sensation.

  2. Anger or Ill Will is negative energy, which takes away the ability to concentrate, to be at peace, and feel joy.

  3. Sloth and Torpor hinders the development of any real growth. Sloth is laziness of the mind, body, and self-effort. Torpor is a state of senseless physical and mental activity.

  4. Restlessness and Worry is the inability to calm the mind and focus one’s energy.

  5. Skeptical Doubt is a lack of trust in one’s abilities or skills. Without trusting our own abilities or skills, we create an obstacle to growth.


  • The Five Aggregates of Clinging: the material body, feeling, perception, mental formation, and consciousness.


  • Six Internal and External Sense Bases: the eye and visible objects, the ear and sounds, the nose and smells, the tongue and tastes, the body and touch, the mind and mental objects.


  • The Seven Factors to Enlightenment are:

1. Mindfulness (the balancing factor)

2. Investigation of phenomena such as sloth and torpor

3. Energy (to regain mindfulness)

4. Joy (to be used when experiencing)

5. Tranquility (to be used when experiencing)

6. Concentration (to combat restlessness and worry)

7. Equanimity (to regain mindfulness)

 

The Seven Factors of Enlightenment will be examined and explained further in the next blog. Please see Part II: Seven Factors of Enlightenment.


Set #2: Four Right Effort to be practiced mindfully – Four types of Right Effort are needed to eliminate existing and undeveloped negative actions.


  1. [5]  PREVENT: Effort to prevent states (negative actions) – do not let unwholesome, unskillful thoughts that have not yet arisen continue to arise.

  2. [6] ABANDON: Effort to abandon states – do not let unwholesome, unskillful thoughts which have already arisen continue to arise. 

  3. [7] CULTIVATE: Effort to cultivate states (positive actions) - give rise to wholesome, skillful thoughts that have not yet arisen. 

  4. [8] MAINTAIN: Effort to maintain states - increase wholesome, skillful thoughts that have already arisen. 


Unwholesome mental states that have not yet arisen refer to the Five Mental Hindrances which are sensual desire, anger or ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry, and skeptical doubt.


The unwholesome mental states that need to be abandoned are thoughts of ignorance, hatred, and sensual desire while the wholesome mental states that need to be cultivated and maintained are the Seven Factors leading to Enlightenment.


Set #3: Four bases of mental power – Strengthening the four bases of mental power will prepare us for the Noble Path leading to the end of suffering. The four bases of mental power are: 


  1. [9] Desire or Will to act in practice to end suffering

  2. [10]  Effort or Energy to end suffering

  3. [11] Consciousness or the Mind to end suffering

  4. [12] Investigation or Discrimination to end suffering


By practicing and developing these four mental qualities, one can possibly attain certain superhuman powers such as the ability to walk on water, the ability to move cross-legged in the air, the ability to move through the earth, the ability to read other people's minds, and the ability to remember one’s past lives. However, on the path of liberation, they help develop wholesome mental states and supra-mundane knowledge regarding the eradication of mental defilements to achieve Nirvana.


Referring to the importance of these four bases of power in the Viraddha Sutta of the Samyutta Nikaya, another collection of Buddha’s discourses, the Buddha stated that:


“Monks, those who have neglected the four bases of spiritual power, have neglected the noble path leading to the complete destruction of suffering. Those who have undertaken the four bases for spiritual power have undertaken the noble path leading to the destruction of suffering.”


Set #4Five Spiritual Controlling Faculties - These five faculties are one’s belief or faith, effort, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom. They are considered latent qualities that can be developed by anyone through proper discipline and training. When the Five Spiritual Faculties have been developed, they are called the Five Spiritual Powers.


  1. [13] Belief or faith – Of the two types of faith, blind faith and investigative faith, it is investigative faith that is necessary for one to develop skillful mental qualities and engage in skillful activities such as meditation to achieve spiritual progress. One must have faith (with an investigative faith, not blind faith) in the Triple Gem

  2. [14] Effort - The persistence to avoid unskillful mental qualities that have not yet arisen, to abandon unskillful mental qualities that have arisen, to cultivate skillful mental qualities that have yet arisen, and to maintain arisen skillful mental qualities.

  3. [15] Mindfulness – The mind remains in the present by focusing on the four domains; contemplating on the body, contemplating feelings just as feelings, contemplating the mind just as the mind, and contemplating mental objects just as mental objects.

  4. [16] Concentration – By choosing an appropriate object of meditation and focusing attention on it, the meditator will develop a state of deep concentration known as the four Jhanas.

  5. [17] Wisdom and Awareness – Through wisdom, one realizes the Four Noble Truths: the Truth of Suffering; the Truth of the Cause of Suffering; the Truth of the End of Suffering; the Truth of the Way that leads to the End of Suffering by following the Noble Eightfold Path.

 

In the Five Spiritual Faculties, Faith and Wisdom are paired together, while Effort and Concentration are paired together in a reciprocal relationship. There has to be a balance between faith and wisdom as well as between effort and concentration in order to facilitate spiritual progress. The faculty of mindfulness acts as the moderator to ensure that each pair maintains the correct balance without resorting to either extreme, which can adversely affect spiritual development.


Set #5: Five Spiritual Strength Powers - As powers, faith controls doubt, effort controls laziness, mindfulness controls neglect, concentration controls distraction, and wisdom controls ignorance. The five spiritual controlling faculties and the five spiritual strength powers are parallel. Faith and Wisdom balance each other, as do Energy and Concentration. When the Five Spiritual Controlling Faculties are cultivated and developed, they become strong and powerful enough to control or master their opposites. The faculties and powers are two aspects of the same thing.


  1. [18] Belief or Faith – controls doubt; when faith becomes a power, it manifests itself in four immeasurable traits: loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. Read more about the Four Immeasurable Traits here: Part II: Seven Factors of Enlightenment.

  2. [19] Effort – controls laziness; when effort and concentration become powers, they lead to a state of deep concentration, or Jhana.

  3. [20] Mindfulness – controls carelessness; when mindfulness becomes a power, one can develop mindfulness by contemplating on the body, feelings, mind, and the mind objects.

  4. [21] Concentration – controls distraction; when concentration and effort become powers, they lead to a state of deep concentration, or Jhana.

  5. [22] Wisdom and Awareness – controls ignorance; when wisdom becomes a power it leads to insight into the three universal characteristics of impermanence: unsatisfactoriness, suffering, and not self. 


The Seven Factors of Enlightenment will be explored further in the next blog. Please see Part II: Seven Factors of Enlightenment.


May you all be free from suffering and all the causes of suffering!


Namo Shakyamuni Buddha.



References:

“Chơn Lý,” Tác Giả Đức Tổ Sư Minh Đăng Quang (Language in Vietnamese)


“Phật Học Phổ Thông,” Tác Giả Hòa Thượng Thích Thiện Hoa (Language in Vietnamese)

“The Seeker’s Glossary of BUDDHISM,” Edited by the Van Hien-Study Group, Sutra Translation Committee of the United States & Canada

“A Simple Path – Basic Buddhist Teachings,” by His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama

“The Buddha and His Teachings,” by Venerable Narada Mahathera (Sri Lanka 1970), Buddha Dharma Education Association Inc.

“Buddhism,” from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism.

"Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta: Setting Rolling the Wheel of Truth" (SN 56.11), translated from the Pali by Ñanamoli Thera. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 13 June 2010, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn56/sn56.011.nymo.html .

"Nibbāna Sutta: Unbinding (3)" (Ud 8.3), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 3 September 2012, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/ud/ud.8.03.than.html

“A Verb for Nirvana by the Theravada Scholar Thanissaro Bhikkhu 2005”

“Bhikkhu Bodhi 2012, Sambodhi sutta, The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha, Anguttara Nikaya, Wisdom Publications.”

“The Noble Eightfold path: The Way to the End of Suffering, Bhikku Bodhi, 1994, ‘The Wheel Publications, No: 308/311’, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka.”

“Spiritual faculties, Ayya Khema, accessible at “(To Be Seen); Here and Now”; Ten Dhamma Talks” by Sister Ayya Khema, ‘Access to Insight (Legacy Edition)’, November 2013.”

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