This post is a reflection based on readings presented by Venerable Analayo in an online course that I am currently auditing.
I am especially moved by the gradual path articulated by Ven. Anuruddha in MĀ 80 with the final line “relying on the precepts, established in the precepts, using the precepts as my ladder, I ascended to the hall of unsurpassable wisdom, to the pavilion of true Dharma and, with little effort, I observed the thousand worlds.”
As most of us will probably agree, a foundation of virtue is so very important for the development of concentration, insight, and all the various attainments that a meditative path offers. This discourse beautifully articulates the humble foundation and the gradual development of the path of release. Although the supernormal powers that Venerable Anuruddha possessed might be dramatic and impressive, they rest on the integrity and commitment to virtue.
Similarly, I appreciated MĀ 77 with the descriptions of the attainments of various disciples, each of whom developed precepts, faith, wisdom, kindness, and generosity. Reminders of the link between what we do and what we later experience serve the important purpose of continuing to inspire the purification of action side by side with the refinement of mind.
In a world that hungers for achievement, growth, and the confirmation of self through personal accomplishments, reminders of the gradual dimension of this training are welcome and refreshing teachings. Most people will easily agree that virtue is a vital foundation, and yet time and again I see people rushing to gain accomplishments and longing to have spiritual experiences, sometimes overwhelming themselves with forceful striving. Better to embrace the gradual training, and give plenty of care to right action, restraint, and observing precepts. Then remarkable achievements may occur apparently “with little effort” as the natural unfolding of practice.
As we explore the refined states of jhana, and discuss the potential for blissful rebirths, supernormal powers, and stages of awakening, the Buddha’s teachings remind us to reflect on the most basic element of practice—the purity of our sila (virtue).