Thus the Buddha was enlightened: Step by Step

The Bodhirajakumara sutta (MN 85) is possibly the most important sutta of the entire Canon because it is enlightening to those who seek the same as the Buddha, that is, the final liberation, Nibbāna.

The autobiographical account is based on a conversation with Prince Bodhi. In it, the Buddha relates what he thought and what he did. What worked and what did not. Actually in this sutta he describes the Blessed in its most accessible version. Far from being a celestial being, a fairytale prince surrounded by pleasures, he appears to us in his most human version and very close to anyone who seeks the final answer, with its occurrences, its proofs and its errors, its reflections and reflections .

The story begins before leaving his parents’ house, when he was a Bodhisatta, he had his first occurrence:

“Prince, before my Enlightenment, when I was still a Bodhisatta not fully enlightened, this thought occurred to me: ‘Pleasure is not obtained through pleasure, pleasure is obtained through pain’.

The Bodhisatta makes a single sentence of two theses. I was not very lost, but it was a good start.

Later, when I was young, a man with black hair, endowed with the blessing of youth, in the first fruits of life, although my mother and father wanted something else and shed tears, I shaved my head and beard, I put on my yellow habit and left the home to assume a homeless lifestyle.

“Having renounced, prince, in search of what is healthy, seeking the supreme state of sublime peace, I went together with Alara Kalama

What brings the Bodhisatta to the roads is the search for the supreme state of sublime peace. He wanted to become very well, to achieve the maximum pleasure that sublime peace provides. It is necessary to make see that it did not leave to solve the problem of the suffering of the world, or anything similar nor went out to solve anything to anybody. Only himself.

The first thing he did was to look for two famous masters at that time. It’s what he initially does, badly, either. I say badly because what has to be solved is always done by oneself and that way of wanting to skip the effort of investigating by going to teachers is a stupid tendency that is very human, but in the end, you pay with lost time and go back to start.

Of course, the teachers he chose did not have the answer. This experience modulated slightly his initial approach, from ‘ Pleasure is not obtained through pleasure, pleasure is obtained through pain’ we pass to the thesis that will prove to be true: if you manage to end impulsive, obsessive, obtunded desire , anxious and ardent for the pleasures of the senses, one is enabled to attain knowledge and vision .

This approach is great and premonitory. It is an authentic revelation: to reach Wisdom it is necessary to previously eradicate the innate desire for sensory pleasures.

This is totally true and, as we shall see, the Buddha insisted on this point throughout his life, is what he called delight , which is the true root of attachment.

He called delight , in pāli, nananda , to pleasures. This eagerness for pleasures, in general, is translated as the dependence on happiness, pleasure, joy, love, etc. And if we refer to neuroscience, avidity for nanandarefers to the dependence of serotonin, dopamine, anandamide, epinephrine, oxytocin, etc.

In other words, the aim of the Bodhisatta was to achieve an end to that dependence. But, as we will see, it did not start well:

“Then, I came up with three similes never before heard. Imagine a piece of wet green wood submerged in the water, and a man who approached it with a stick thinking: ‘I will light a fire and generate heat’.

“What do you think, Prince? Will that man be able to light a fire and generate heat by rubbing his stick with the piece of wet green wood submerged in the water? “.

“No, Master Gotama, because it’s a piece of green, wet wood submerged in the water.That man will only get tired and exasperated. “

“Likewise, those ascetics and brahmins who, although not living with bodies and minds withdrawn from the pleasures of the senses, have not renounced and completely reassured within them the impulsive, obsessive, obtunded, anxious and ardent desire for the pleasures of the senses, although they feel piercing and sharp pains, provoked by effort, are incapacitated for knowledge and vision, the highest illumination. This is the first simile I have never heard before that occurred to me.

“Then I came up with the second simile I’ve never heard before. Imagine a piece of green, damp wood that is on solid ground far from the water and a man who approached it with a stick thinking, ‘I will light a fire and generate heat.’

“What do you think, Prince? Will that man be able to light a fire and generate heat by rubbing his stick with the piece of green and moist wood that is on dry land away from the water? “.

“No, Master Gotama, because it is a piece of green and humid wood, although it is on solid ground far from the water. That man will only get tired and exasperated. “

“In the same way, those ascetics and brahmins who do not live with bodies and minds withdrawn from the pleasures of the senses, who have not renounced and completely reassured in their interior the impulsive, obsessive, clouded, anxious and ardent desire for the pleasures of the senses, although they feel piercing and sharp pains, provoked by effort, they are incapacitated for knowledge and vision, the highest illumination. This is the second simile I’ve never heard before that occurred to me.

“Then I came up with the third simile never heard before. Imagine a piece of dry wood without moisture that is on solid ground, far from the water, and a man who approached it with a stick thinking: ‘I will light a fire and generate heat’.

“What do you think, Prince? Will that man be able to light a fire and generate heat by rubbing his stick with the piece of dry wood and without moisture that is on solid ground far from the water? “.

“Yes, Master Gotama, because it is a piece of dry wood with no moisture, which is on solid ground and far from the water.”

“In the same way, those ascetics and brahmins who live with bodies and minds withdrawn from the pleasures of the senses, who have renounced and completely reassured in their interior the impulsive, obsessive, clouded, anxious and ardent desire for the pleasures of the senses, whether they feel piercing and piercing pains, or if they do not feel them, they are capable of knowledge and vision, the highest illumination. This is the third simile that came to my head and that I had not heard before.

“These are the three similes never before heard that occurred to me.

He himself states that this occurrence was completely original. In essence the thesis is this: “those who live with bodies and minds withdrawn from the pleasures of the senses, who have renounced and completely reassured in their interior the impulsive, obsessive, obnubilado, anxious and ardent desire for the pleasures of the senses, whether they feel piercing and sharp pains, or if they do not feel them, they are capable of knowledge and vision, the highest illumination. “

That is, withdrawn from the pleasures of the senses.

Then for a time he dedicated himself to eliminate all kinds of pleasures of the senses, both pleasure and pain. In this way he submitted to all kinds of physical torture to try to end the dependence on pleasures.

He tells us this:

“Then, I thought: ‘And if squeezing the teeth and with the tongue touching the palate submit, subjugate and dominate the mind with the mind?’.Thus, with clenched teeth and tongue touching the palate, I subdued, subjugated and dominated the mind with the mind. Making such an effort, sweat ran down my armpits. Like a strong man, grabbing a weak man by the head or shoulders, I would subdue him, subjugate and dominate, clenching my teeth with my tongue touching the palate, subdued, subjugated and dominated the mind with my mind, while I ran the sweat by the armpits. But, despite putting indefatigable energy and establishing uninterrupted attention, my body was excited and unsettled by the painful effort to which it was subjected.

Then, I thought: ‘What if I concentrated on meditating without breathing?’ So I stopped inhaling and exhaling through my mouth and nose. In doing this, my ears were powerfully buzzing like when a strong wind blows. Like the strong puff of a blacksmith’s bellows, when I stopped inhaling and exhaled through my mouth and nose, my ears were powerfully buzzing. But, despite putting indefatigable energy and establishing interrupted attention, my body was excited and unsettled by the painful effort to which it was subjected.

“Then, I thought: ‘What if I concentrated even more on meditating without breathing?’ So I stopped inhaling and exhaling through mouth, nose and ears. In doing this, my head buzzed powerfully like when a strong wind blows. As if a strong man were nailing me a sharp sword in the head, when I stopped inhaling and exhaling through my mouth, nose and ears, my head buzzed powerfully. But, despite putting indefatigable energy and establishing uninterrupted attention, my body was excited and unsettled by the painful effort to which it was subjected.

“Then, I thought: ‘What if I concentrated even more on meditating without breathing?’ So I stopped inhaling and exhaling through mouth, nose and ears. In doing so, I suffered severe headaches. As if a strong man squeezed my head with a leather strap, when I stopped inhaling and exhaled through my mouth, nose and ears, I suffered severe headaches. But, despite putting indefatigable energy and establishing uninterrupted attention, my body was excited and unsettled by the painful effort to which it was subjected.

“Then, I thought: ‘What if I concentrated even more on meditating without breathing?’ So I stopped inhaling and exhaling through mouth, nose and ears. When I did that, strong hums of winds tore at my belly. As if an expert butcher or his apprentice eviscerated a beef with a sharp butcher’s knife, when I stopped inhaling and exhaled through mouth, nose and ears, strong hums of winds tore at my belly. But, despite putting indefatigable energy and establishing uninterrupted attention, my body was excited and unsettled by the painful effort to which it was subjected.

“Then, I thought: ‘What if I concentrated even more on meditating without breathing?’ So I stopped inhaling and exhaling through mouth, nose and ears. In doing so, my body burned intensely. As if two strong men, grabbing a weak man by both arms, burned it in a well of red coals, when I stopped inhaling and exhaling through my mouth, nose and ears, my body burned intensely. But, despite putting indefatigable energy and establishing uninterrupted attention, my body was excited and unsettled by the painful effort to which it was subjected.

“Then, Prince, seeing me in such a state, some gods said: ‘The ascetic Gotama is dead’. Other gods said: ‘The ascetic Gotama has not died, but he is dying’. Other gods said: ‘The ascetic Gotama is neither dead nor dying, the ascetic Gotama is a saint and that is how the saints live’.

“Then, I thought: ‘What if I stopped eating at all?’ Then the gods came to me and said: ‘Lord, do not stop eating at all. If you do, we will feed you with the food of the gods through the pores of the skin and you will sustain yourself with it. ‘

“Then I thought: ‘If I say that I practice abstinence, but the gods feed me with their food and I support myself with it, then I will be lying.’ So I gave up telling the gods: ‘It’s okay’.

“Then I thought: ‘What if I ate only a little each time, a single spoonful of bean soup or lentils or chickpeas or peas?’ So I did and my body was exhausted. From eating so little, my limbs looked like the stems of a wilted vine, my ass the hoof of an ox, my vertebrae the beads of a trinket, my ribs protruded like the troughs of a ruined roof, my eyes sank into their sockets Like water in a deep well, my scalp wrinkled and shriveled like a green and bitter gourd that, ripped out before time, exposed to wind and sun, wrinkles and shrinks. The skin of the belly got to stick to my spine and, if I happened to touch it, it was my spine that I touched; if it occurred to me to touch my spine, it was the skin of my belly that touched. When I had to relieve myself, I fell on my face right there. If he tried to relieve me by giving me scrubs, my hair, rotten in its roots, would fall off as I rubbed it.

“Some men when they saw me said: ‘The ascetic Gotama is black’; others said: ‘The ascetic Gotama is not black but brown’; others said: ‘The ascetic Gotama is neither black nor brown, it is yellow’.

“Up to that point, prince, the pure and clean color of my skin faded, and all of it to eat so little.

 

After a while, exhausted, he reflected:

“Then I thought: ‘There have been in the past, there will be in the future and there are also today, ascetics and brahmins who have experienced piercing and throbbing pains caused by the effort, but there is nothing in them that surpasses them. However, I have not come through them to any superhuman state or to any knowledge and vision proper to the Nobles, will there not be another path to enlightenment? ‘

He could assure that what he had suffered had not been suffered by anyone before or since. However, it did not come to anything. Neither knowledge nor vision. So he realized that repressing sensual pleasures does not get anywhere. Because as much as it departs from pleasures, dependence continues.

This is similar to the alcoholic who turns away from drinking. For a long time that passes away from her, the tendency to alcoholism remains unchanged. So, to have access to alcohol again, he falls down again and all that effort is useless.

So there should be another way. He started to think … and thinking, thinking, he remembered an episode that happened as a teenager:

“Then, prince, I remembered: ‘One day, when my father, of the clan of the sakyas, was working, I was sitting taking the fresh one in the shade of a tree. There, apart from the desires of the senses, apart from what is harmful, I reached and remained in the first meditative abstraction, in which there is joy and happiness born of isolation and is accompanied by ideation and reflection. Could not that be the path to enlightenment? ‘

“And, in the light of that memory, I understood: ‘This is the path to enlightenment.’

He had experienced a state of spontaneous jhāna that he did not give much importance to. But now he realized his true dimension. There is a way to keep satisfied the need for pleasure and happiness, but without falling into the nefarious dependence of the senses. He reflected as follows:

“Then I thought: ‘Why fear a happiness that has nothing to do with the pleasures of the senses or with what is harmful?’

“And I said to myself: ‘I do not fear that happiness that has nothing to do with the pleasures of the senses or with the detrimental.’

Can I use this happiness? This pleasure? This joy? They are pleasures independent of the senses and far from what is harmful. These pleasures obtained in this way do not create dependence, but serve to satiate any need for pleasure without falling into what is harmful.

The initial approach is restated: the bad thing is not dependence itself, but the tendency to look for those pleasures in the senses .

So try to repeat it, but you can not. Then he realizes that being so weak the body can not generate these substances. With that instinct that the body has to know what food needs more strongly think like this:

“Then, prince, I thought: ‘It is not easy to achieve that happiness with a body reached to such exhaustion, and if I ate something solid, rice boiled and curdled?’

And break the fast. But it breaks it to be able to generate endogenous happiness and pleasure and goes to look for boiled and curdled rice, precisely foods rich in vitamin B6, tryptophan and glucose, necessary to synthesize serotonin. His companions of hardship criticized this decision, which broke in practice with the hard asceticism that followed, so they left him:

So I ate something solid, boiled and curdled rice. On that occasion I was accompanied by five monks who thought: ‘If the ascetic Gotama achieves the Teaching, he will tell us.’ But, for taking something solid, rice and curd, they disappointed me and left thinking: ‘The ascetic Gotama sticks the good life, has left aside the effort giving to the good life’.

Once he was ready he could enter the jhānas:

“So, after eating solid food and regaining strength, away from the desires of the senses, away from what is harmful, I reached and remained in the first meditative abstraction, in which there is joy and happiness born of the separation, and goes accompanied by ideation and reflection.

The first jhāna requires doing the ideation exercise, as well as pleasure and happiness.

“Then, when ideation and reflection ceased, I reached and remained in the second meditative abstraction, in which there is joy and happiness born of concentration, it is free of ideation and reflection, and it is accompanied by the unification of the mind and inner serenity. .

The second jhāna no longer requires doing the ideation exercise. Only generate pleasure and happiness.

“Then, as the joy disappeared, I remained calm, attentive and lucid, experiencing with the body that state of happiness that the Nobles call: ‘Live happy, attentive and equable’, with what I achieved and remained in the third meditative abstraction.

The third jhāna no longer requires the concurrence of pleasure, it is arrived at through happiness.

“Then, by renouncing pleasure, by renouncing pain, and after the disappearance of joy and affliction, I reached and remained in the fourth meditative abstraction, without pain or pleasure, completely purified by attention and equanimity.

Finally, the fourth jhāna no longer requires either pleasure, happiness or joy. At this point, having used the internal delights, that is, by generating their own neurotransmitters reaches the state they were looking for and there is what I did not expect: Wisdom.

So he could see and remember their previous lives. Obviously this can not be achieved in a normal state, but in these altered states of consciousness:

“Then, with the mind thus concentrated, completely purified, clear, blameless, free of impurities, malleable, ready for action, balanced, immutable, I directed it towards the knowledge and memory of my previous lives. I remembered my multiple previous lives, that is, a birth, two, three, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, one hundred, thousand, one hundred thousand births, many cosmic cycles of contraction, many cosmic cycles of expansion, many cosmic cycles of contraction and expansion: ‘There, that’s what he called me, such was my family, such was my appearance, such was my food, so I experienced pleasure and pain, so much my life lasted, there I died and elsewhere I reappeared; there, that’s what he called me, such was my family, such was my appearance, such was my food, so I experienced pleasure and pain, so much my life lasted, there I died and here I reappeared. ‘

“This is how I remembered my multiple previous lives with their characteristics and details.

It is necessary to make see that in this state the ignorance dissolves and the knowledge appears. So he tells us:

“This one, Prince, was the first knowledge I achieved in the first third of the night. Ignorance vanished and knowledge arose, darkness vanished and light emerged, as happens when one remains alert, constant and diligent.

In the second session he went to the whole of Samsara, seeing how beings die and are reborn in different kingdoms depending on conditionality, that is, of kamma:

“Then, with the mind thus concentrated, completely purified, clear, blameless, free of impurities, malleable, ready for action, balanced, immutable, I directed it towards the knowledge of the birth and death of beings. With the purified divine eye, which goes beyond the human, I saw the beings dying and reappearing, I met the inferior, superior, beautiful, ugly, fortunate and unfortunate beings according to their previous actions, and I knew: ‘Certainly, the beings of bad body behavior, verbal misconduct, mental misconduct, insulting the Nobles, who hold misconceptions, whose actions are derived from misconceptions, after the death and decomposition of the body, reappear in perdition, in a bad destiny , in places of suffering, in the underworld. But those beings of good corporal behavior, of good verbal behavior, of good mental behavior, who do not insult the Nobles, who hold true conceptions, whose actions are derived from true conceptions, after the death and decomposition of the body reappear in a good destiny , in some celestial world. ‘

“Thus, with the purified divine eye that goes beyond the human, I saw the beings dying and reappearing, I met the inferior, superior, beautiful, ugly, fortunate and unfortunate beings, and I knew that they were reborn according to their previous actions.

“This, Prince, was the second knowledge I achieved in the second third of the night. Ignorance vanished and knowledge arose, darkness vanished and light emerged, as happens when one remains alert, constant and diligent.

In the third part of the night he turned his attention to the mechanism that binds beings to existence, to becoming, to Samsara and saw the way to destroy it.

“Then, with the mind thus concentrated, completely purified, clear, blameless, free of impurities, malleable, ready for action, balanced, immutable, I directed it towards the knowledge of the annihilation of the corruptions.

“I knew just how it is: ‘This is suffering’, I knew just how it is: ‘This is the origin of suffering’, I knew just how it is: ‘This is the cesar of suffering’, I knew how it is: ‘This is the path that leads to the cessation of suffering’; I knew just how they are: ‘These are the corruptions’, I knew just as it is: ‘This is the origin of the corruptions’, I knew as it is: ‘This is the cesar of the corruptions’, I knew just how it is : ‘This is the path that leads to the cessation of corruption’.

“When I knew and saw this, my mind was freed from the corruption of the desire of the senses, my mind was freed from the corruption of Samsara, my mind was freed from the corruption of ignorance.

“When I was released, I knew that I was liberated and I verified: ‘Annihilation is reborn, the life of holiness has been fulfilled, what has to be done, there is no more happening’.

“This, Prince, was the third knowledge I achieved in the last third of the night. Ignorance vanished and knowledge arose, darkness vanished and light emerged, as happens when one remains alert, constant and diligent.

Thus, in this way he was freed from the corruption of the desire of the senses, from the corruption of Samsara, he was freed from ignorance.Freed from ignorance, he is freed from existence and therefore from any kind of rebirth. Therefore, the objective was achieved.

The jhānas served him for two things, the first to be freed from the dependence of the senses and the second, thanks to those states of altered consciousness, he was able to attain Wisdom and thanks to it to tear away ignorance and with it, final liberation.

This is like that and it really works like that. The key to liberation is the mastery of the jhānas because it is these, and nothing else, that allows one to disengage sufficiently from the dependence of the senses, which would be to tear the tree, and also serves to make the Wisdom arise and with it know how to tear out the roots of the Samsara tree that still remain.

This is what the Buddha did and that is how it is done. Yesterday, today and always.

You do not liberate yourself by studying or praying to the Buddha or by performing ceremonies or going to courses or retreats, or meditating on universal compassion.

You free yourself like that.

If you are capable of a minimum concentration it is very accessible.However, if you have a very sick mind, like thoughts that arise and arise and do not allow you a minimum concentration, what you should do is find a way to exercise this important tool.

It depends on you. No one is going to release you more than yourself.

Do not study, practice.

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