The Dhammapada exploration – part 7: Arahants

This is a series of articles I’m doing on one of the basic Buddhist texts, the Dhammapada. Read the rest of the articles in this series.

Buddhism often concerns itself with wisdom. Wisdom is not the same as intelligence, as being smart. Wisdom comes from direct experience of reality and can be cultivated, not learned from a book. So even if you enjoy the Dhammapada for what it is, you must also practice the cultivation of wisdom, you must meditate. This is not a matter of choosing. You can choose to learn about Buddhism intellectually, but the realization comes only by also practicing.

There are two fundamentally different types of meditation (samadhi and vipassana). I invite you again to read Sri Walpola Rahula’s What the Buddha Taught, page 48 in this PDF version treats meditation and mental culture.

But now on to the Dhammapada chapter about wisest, the most having-meditated peeps on earth, the arahants:

90. The fever of passion exists not for him who has completed the journey, who is sorrowless and wholly set free, and has broken all ties.

This must be a very liberating thing indeed! No more attachment to falsenesses, no more clinging, no more wrong view!

91. The mindful ones exert themselves. They are not attached to any home; like swans that abandon the lake, they leave home after home behind.

This is also a mental non-attachment. They float from place to place, idea to idea, nothing growing attachment in them.

92. Those who do not accumulate and are wise regarding food, whose object is the Void, the Unconditioned Freedom — their track cannot be traced, like that of birds in the air.

93. He whose cankers are destroyed and who is not attached to food, whose object is the Void, the Unconditioned Freedom — his path cannot be traced, like that of birds in the air.

Wow, he lays on the metaphors now! The object is the void. The emptiness of things. All things are empty. But this emptiness is not nihilistic. Freedom means knowing the emptiness, but that doesn’t mean knowing nothingness.

94. Even the gods hold dear the wise one, whose senses are subdued like horses well trained by a charioteer, whose pride is destroyed and who is free from the cankers.

Again the simile of the craftsperson, or the animal handler in this case. In senses Buddhism also includes mind, the Buddhist view has six senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell and mind). Mind is the sense that occupies itself with the sensing of mind-objects, such as ideas.

95. There is no more worldly existence for the wise one who, like the earth, resents nothing, who is firm as a high pillar and as pure as a deep pool free from mud.

There was a previous verse about being unmoving like rock. This is the same. The wise ones are firm, unshakable. Neither praise nor blame nor insults can move the wise to commit unwise acts.

96. Calm is his thought, calm his speech, and calm his deed, who, truly knowing, is wholly freed, perfectly tranquil and wise.

It sounds awesome now, and who wouldn’t want it? But remember that this comes after years of practice.

97. The man who is without blind faith, who knows the Uncreated, who has severed all links, destroyed all causes (for karma, good and evil), and thrown out all desires — he, truly, is the most excellent of men.

The wheel of saṃsāra no longer turns for the arahant, the cycle of rebirth is broken.

98. Inspiring, indeed, is that place where Arahants dwell, be it a village, a forest, a vale, or a hill.

99. Inspiring are the forests in which worldlings find no pleasure. There the passionless will rejoice, for they seek no sensual pleasures.

This also means that wherever an arahant is, whatever they’re doing, things are fine. Things are most pleasant for them. You sit on your only non-broken chair in a crappy apartment and it doesn’t matter. But you don’t grin like a loon all day either. Okay, so the world’s happiest man happens to be a French Buddhist. But look at him, he’s non non-stop smiling.

I can’t imagine what this pleasant feeling might be like. In samadhi meditation, you only get a glimpse of it. Sometimes you get a glimpse that last all of a second. If that’s the feeling that arahants have cultivated so they have it non-stop, I’m actually amazed they’re not laughing like hyenas all day long. But they’re not. So it must be more like a subtle undercurrent to existence.

Ah. So nice!

Join me next time when we look at chapter 9: Thousands.

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