The topic for this week’s Zoom sesssion was The True Goal, and the Relay of Chariots to reach the goal.
Readings from, The Masterful Teachings of Gotama Buddha for Wednesday, May 17th
The True Goal
Hence, the purpose of the Holy Life does not consist in acquiring alms, honor, or fame, nor in gaining morality, concentration, or the eye of knowledge. That unshakable deliverance of the heart—that, indeed, is the goal of living the Holy Life, that is its essence, the pith, that is its end. It is like a man going to the forest with an ax, looking for, aiming at pith, seeking for the pith of a great stable and pithy tree. He passes by the softwood; he passes by the bark, passes by the shoots, and passes by the branches and foliage. He cuts out the pith of that great and stable, pithy tree, knowing it to be the pith. He is not fooled or satisfied with the outer coverings, and goes away, taking the pith with him. So he will get the good that can be done by the pith because it is the pith. (MN, 30)
These things—faith, the perfection of moral habit, fulfilling the rules of conduct, self-control, and sensory restraint, concentration, mental purifications, overcoming doubt, knowledge, and vision of the true way—are not the true essence of the Holy Life. However, without perfecting these things the destruction of the ten fetters and the attainment of Arahantship cannot be achieved. The following is a sutta involving two of the Buddha’s disciples concerning the various aspects of training needed to arrive at the realization of Truth, to experience Nibbana, which is given in a simile of a relay of chariots used to get to one’s destination.
The Relay of Chariots
Your Reverence, why is the Holy Life lived under the Sir? The Holy Life under the Sir, your Reverence, is lived for utter Nibbana without attachment. Sir, is the purity of moral habit utter Nibbana without attachment? No, it is not this, your Reverence. Then, Sir, is not purity of mind, utter Nibbana without attachment? It is not this, your Reverence. Then is the purity of view—purity through crossing over doubt— utter Nibbana without attachment? It is not this, your Reverence. Then, Sir, is the purity of knowledge and insight into the Way and what is not the Way—or purity of knowledge and insight into the Path—utter Nibbana without attachment? It is not this, your Reverence Then, Sir, is purity arising from knowledge and insight utter Nibbana without attachment? It is not this, your Reverence. Then, Sir, what is utter Nibbana without attachment, except these states? It is not this, your Reverence. But, Sir, when you are asked: ‘Is the purity of moral habit… purity arising from knowledge and insight, utter Nibbana without attachment?’ you say: ‘It is not this, your Reverence.’
And when asked: ‘What is utter Nibbana without attachment, except these states?’ you say: ‘It is not this, your Reverence.’ Venerable Sir, the meaning of what has been said, please tell me.
I will make you a parable, for by a parable well informed men understand the meaning of what is said. ‘Your Reverence, it is as if the King of Kosala were studying in Savatthi [a town in north India], and something to be done urgently should arise in Saketa [a hundred miles from Savatthi]. Then chariots would be arranged for him between Savatthi and Saketa, being used in a relay. Then, having left Savatthi by the palace gate, the King of Kosala might mount the first chariot in the relay, and by means of the first chariot in the relay, he would reach the second chariot in the relay. He would then dismiss the first chariot and mount the second chariot, and by means of this second chariot in the relay he would proceed and reach the third chariot in the relay… the fourth… the fifth… the sixth… and would mount the seventh chariot in the relay, and by means of the seventh chariot in the relay, he would reach the palace gate at his destination, Saketa.
Even so, in the same way, your Reverence, purity of moral habit is of purpose in order to arrive at purity of mind; purity of mind is of purpose in order to cross over doubt and uncertainty; purity by crossing over doubt is of purpose to gain knowledge and insight into the Way and what is not the Way. This is of purpose in order to arrive at knowledge and insight into the Path; the purity arising from knowledge and insight into the Path is of purpose to realize the purity arising from knowledge and insight [to realize Nibbana for the first time], and the purity [the realizing Nibbana] arising from knowledge and insight is of purpose to carry one to the final utter Nibbana without attachment [Arahantship]. It is wonderful, Sir, it is marvelous, Sir, that the very deep questions were explained step by step by an instructed disciple who knows the Teacher’s instructions properly.”
(Summary of MN, 24)