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A Discourse on Paticcasamuppada

or The Doctrine of Dependent Origination

Chapter 4 - Beyond Reasoning And Speculation

Then when it was time to preach, the Buddha thought thus: This dhamma which I know is very profound. It is hard to understand; it is so sublime and so conducive to inner peace. It is not accessible to intellect and logic (atakkavacaro). It is subtle and it is to be realized only by the wise.

All over the world, philosophers have racked their brains about freedom from old age, sickness and death. But freedom from these evils means Nibbana and Nibbana is beyond the reach of reason and intellect. It is to be realized only through the practice of the middle way and vipassana. Most philosophers rely on intellect and logic, and there are various doctrines which they have conceived for the welfare of all living beings. But these doctrines are based on speculations that do not help anyone to attain vipassana insight, let alone the supreme goal of Nibbana. Even the lowest stage of vipassana insight, viz., insight into the distinction between nama and rupa does not admit any intellectual approach. The insight dawns on the yogi only when, with the development of concentration, and in accordance with Satipatthana method he watches the nama rupa process and distinguishes between consciousness and corporeality, e.g. the desire to bend the hand and bent hand, the ear and the sound on the one hand and the consciousness of hearing on the other and so forth. Such knowledge is not vague and speculative; it is vivid and empirical.

It is said on the authority of scriptures that nama rupas are in a constant flux and that we should watch their arising and passing away. But for the beginner this is easier said than done. The beginner has to exert strenuous effort to overcome hindrances (nivarana). Even freedom from nivarana helps him only to distinguish between nama and rupa. It does not ensure insight into their arising and passing away. This insight is attained only after concentration has been developed and perception has become keen with the practice of mindfulness. Constant mindfulness of arising and vanishing leads to insight into anicca, dukkha and anatta of all phenomena. But as merely the beginning of lower vipassana, this insight is a far cry from the path and its fruition. Hence the description of the dhamma as something beyond logic and speculation.

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