Sutta Study Reflection Theme 6-2-2012
The Middle Length Discourses: MN 26 The Noble Search (Ariyapariyesana Sutta)
To be read out-loud: p. 254 Sections 5 and 12; pp.266-267 Sections 31-37
In this sutta, the Buddha uses his own journey to enlightenment to urge leaving the ignoble path and taking up the noble path. The ignoble path seeks security in “what is subject to birth, ageing, sickness, death . . . ,” i.e., the insubstantiality of mundane life. The noble path, by contrast, seeks “supreme security” in “the unageing, unailing, deathless. . .,” i.e., the unbounded nature of our freedom.
The Buddha guided himself onto the noble path by considering that, given his own conditioned and impermanent nature, he should not look to what was likewise conditioned and impermanent for release of suffering. Rather, he should direct his efforts consistent with realizing the security of the final ending of all delusion.
The sutta ends with the Buddha’s teaching on the “five cords of sensual pleasure.” The Buddha urges us to recognize and escape from the bonds which can arise from our five sense faculties of eye, ear, nose, tongue and body. Through deepening degrees of awareness, described as jhanic levels, our relationship to sense faculties can be transformed.
At times, the Buddha’s story of his final awakening is intimidating. However, we may see ourselves in this sutta as ‘ones with little dust in our eyes,’ open to the teachings and the path of practice. Even a Buddha passes through many levels of understanding.
This month we might practice with the instructions on sense pleasure. As embodied beings, we have sense input continuously. When are our sense cognitions imbued with notions of self and desire, and when are they met with wisdom and freedom? What is our experience when we are infatuated, versus when we are fearless?