“To see the essence in the unessential and to see the essence as unessential….(Dhammapada 11)”
These words of Buddha are frightening, for they express an actual experience on the part of the wanderer, not just some crack-brain ideas or concepts held only in the intellect. All of us consider that we know something when we have experienced it. So many firm-binding illusions have arisen from our own wrong-seeing. “I know it for myself” is often nothing more than the raving of the strait-jacketed ego. And things can get worse. Illusions of “truth” and “enlightenment” abound in the world of the “awakened” unawakened. And as Buddha points out, we cannot get to the perception of reality as long as these errors exist.
It is not just our mistaken perceptions that prevent our escape from bondage. Rather, they give rise to another ingredient in the stew of our samsaric misery: wrong intention. Our whole purpose is wrong. Our goals are themselves delusive. We want “things” or power, or exalted positions–even in heaven-worlds. In other words, we want some more chains to wind around us rather than to slip out of the bonds and be free–free not only from such stuff, but free from even the capacity to desire them or be bound by them.
In the seventh chapter of the Bhagavad Gita Krishna lists four kinds of spiritual seekers:
“The world-weary, the seeker for knowledge, the seeker for happiness and the man of spiritual discrimination.”
The first he calls artas: one who is aware of a sense of loss or emptiness, who is aware of oppressions inner and outer, and who is suffering from it all.
The second is jijnasus: one who desires to know, to gain knowledge.
The third he calls artharthi: one who wishes to attain the summun bonum of life in the form of Highest Truth.
The fourth is the pure jnani: one who is a man of wisdom, who seeks not to either gain something or be divested of something, who is not motivated by desire or aversion, but aims for the entrance into his essential nature. Who seeks for What IS for Itself alone.
Escaping “wrong intent”: The Four Aryan (Noble) Truths
Now if we look closely we will see that these four types embody the Four Aryan Truths enunciated by Buddha.
The first is aware of suffering; the second knows that suffering has a cause and wants to know what to do about it; the third knows that the cessation of suffering is possible and is the paramartha–the highest aim and attainment–for all beings; and the fourth has known the way to end suffering and looks to that goal alone, knowing that knowledge (jnana) alone is the way to the goal.
“The man of discrimination [jnani] is the highest of these. He is continually united with me. He devotes himself to me always, and to no other. For I am very dear to that man, and he is dear to me.
“Certainly, all these are noble: but the man of discrimination I see as my very Self. For he alone loves me because I am myself: the last and only goal of his devoted heart. Through many a long life his discrimination ripens: he makes me his refuge, knows that Brahman is all. How rare are such great ones!” (Bhagavad Gita 7:18, 19).
Grow Your Spiritual Library:
- The Dhammapada for Awakening: A Commentary on Buddha’s Practical Wisdom, in paperback and ebook from Amazon and other online bookstores.