Mahabodhi
Recent articles 2010
ideology mindfulness psychology: buddhism
 
Stream Entry and the ‘Five Paths’




The path to awakening is expressed in the Jewel Ornament of Liberation as the ‘Five Paths.’ [1]  Among them are distributed the thirty seven wings of enlightenment or bodhi-pakkhiya dhammas in seven ‘sets.’ [2]  The Five Paths and their respective ‘sets’ of bodhi-pakkhiya dhammas are:


                  The Path of Preparation (sets 1-3)
                  
Sambhara-marga

                  The four foundations / establishings of mindfulness
                  The four right efforts
                  The four bases of success

                  The Path of Application (sets 4-5)
                   Prayoga-marga

                  The five spiritual faculties
                  The five powers

                  The Path of Seeing (set 6)
                   Darsana-marga

                  The seven factors of enlightenment

                  The Path of Practice (set 7)
                   Bhavana-marga

                  The (Transcendental) Noble Eightfold Path

                 The Path of Fulfilment
                   Nistha-marga 

                  Nirvana.



As an aside, it is interesting that the first ‘set’ are the four satipatthanas.  These are also known as the direct path to Nirvana.  This makes sense if they come first because the remaining ‘sets’ can be a ‘working out’ of the first set.  Interestingly, within the system of the seven ‘sets,’ mindfulness appears six times. It appears firstly as sati, as the mental state of mindfulness, which is one aspect of satipatthana, an ‘establishment / foundation of mindfulness.’ It then appears as satindriya (one of the five indriyas or  spiritual faculties,) as sati-bala (one of the five balas or  powers,) as sati-sambojjhanga (one of the seven bojjhangas or factors of awakening / enlightenment-factors) and it appears as samma-sati or perfect mindfulness (one of the ‘limbs’ of the Ariya-Atthangika-Magga or Noble Eightfold Path.)  Mindfulness then is present in a some form in five of the seven ‘sets.’


The Path of Preparation
The Path of Preparation includes three ‘sets’ of bodhi-pakkhiya dhammas.  In sequence they are the four satipatthanas or foundations of mindfulness, the four samma-ppadhanas or right efforts, the four iddhi-padas or bases of success.

Its’ flavour is predominantly mindfulness, ethical skilfulness, and the attainment of mundane ‘siddhis,’ in particular skill in meditation technique.  Sangharakshita has compared the first ‘set’ with Integration and the second with Positive Emotion (see Mind in Buddhist Psychology seminar) and he incidentally comments that this sequence shows, contrary to a view often expressed in the Theravada, that’s it is not enough to just bring mindfulness to our experience to change it, The presence of the four right efforts in the sequence show we always have to make an effort to eradicate the unskilful.  Perhaps bringing mindfulness to a difficulty does eradicate it if one already has the four right efforts developed. The idhhi-padas are a bit mysterious.  They seem to represent mundane achievements connected with meditative absorption (such as disappearing in one place and reappearing in another.)  The nun Uppalavanna says to Mara: ‘I can make myself disappear, Or I can enter inside your belly, I can stand between your eyebrows, yet you won’t catch a glimpse of me.  I am master of my mind, the bases of power (iddhi-padas) are well developed; I am freed from all bondage therefore I don’t fear you friend.’ The four iddhi-padas seem to represent four different types of meditative concentration or, we could say, them being a ‘basis of power,’ steadfastness / resilience, even strength. The four types of meditative concentration are based on chanda (interest,) viriya, citta (heart and mind) and vimamsa (investigation.) [3]

Short of any other explanation, the iddhi-padas might represent four basic ways in which a person might excel –four mundane strengths.  The nun Uppalavanna was able to drive away Mara (entering into his belly … reminds me of Neo diving into the belly of Mr. Smith at the end of ‘The Matrix’! It’s a mundane power, not insight) …through the force of her concentration.  So in the categories of doctrine follower, faith follower and body witness, people are more ‘at home’ respectively with their intellects, emotions and working with their body (yogi.)  Those are their strengths or ‘lead faculties,’ areas in which they have ‘fluidity.’ We might think of these ‘mundane powers’ in the same way as being good at something – a creative / original individual, a good organiser / team player / brilliant leader, or a responsible / dedicated citizen.


The Path of Application
These things are helpful in themselves but they aren’t necessarily informed by insight (they are often more informed by identity.)  Insight comes in with the second path - The Path of Application. The Path of Application prepares us for the subsequent path, the Path of Seeing (or as Sangharakshita translates it, the Path of Insight.)    Guenther (Jewel Ornament of Liberation p233) comments: ‘it is called the Path of Application because at this stage one concentrates on understanding the (Noble) Truths.’ I can see why he is saying that, but I would say this stage is not so much about taking on those Truths directly, but in preparing oneself for insight.  The Path of Application is also the path to stream entry.  It is about developing a ‘spiritual personality’ that is actually able to take that insight in.  The development of this ‘spiritual personality’ is in two stages, the development of the five spiritual faculties and the five powers   The connection between the five spiritual faculties and the five powers is simply that the five powers are the five spiritual faculties when they are unshakable.

In the scriptures there is a connection between the five spiritual faculties and stream entry. In the Indriya Samyutta in the Samyutta Nikaya the Buddha says the stream entrant ‘sees the gratification, danger and escape in the case of the five spiritual faculties.’ As Sangharakshita points out in his talk on the five spiritual faculties: ‘The Pattern of Buddhist Life and Work (see What is the Dharma?) with faith and wisdom, and concentration and viriya, both pairs need to be balanced by mindfulness.  So, the danger then is a lopsided development of the ‘spiritual personality.’

I think the five spiritual faculties constitute the conditions for stream entry, with satindriya being the faculty of mindfulness being aware of those conditions (faith, wisdom, concentration and viriya) and balancing them out, and the five powers constituting stream entry itself - because at the level of the five powers there is no weakness in any of the five spiritual faculties, they are each ‘ready’ for the Path of Seeing.


The Qualities of Stream Entry
All of the spiritual faculties are focussed on the Three Jewels.  Faith is faith in the accomplishment of the Buddha; wisdom is directed to examining conditionality and to the destruction of suffering, viriya is directed to the robust maintenance of skilful states, and concentration is one-pointedness on the goal (having release as its object.)   They involve therefore a shift of emphasis from oneself to the Three Jewels.  It is as if on the Path of Application a person becomes less concerned with themselves and their identity, and more concerned with the Dhamma and at stream entry they see themselves in terms of the Dhamma, which is to break the fetter of fixed self-view. In this sense Guenther is right. They have seen the need to develop the spiritual conditions that are necessary for them to engage with and understand reality, and they have done that. They have gradually becomes less concerned with how they are doing, in particular in relation to others (pride or manas), and have become more interested in ‘what do I need to do?’ or ‘what do I need to develop?’ in order to take on reality.  And I think this is how Sangharakshita's teaching of the true individual connects with stream entry.  The stream entrant has come to see there is little point in going through the motions for instance, because they know that going through the motions won’t help them take on reality, whereas for a person concerned with their image, there is some benefit to going through the motions.


The Path of Seeing
To finish off the schema, at the culmination of the Path of Application a person is a stream entrant and embarks on the Path of Seeing.  Having no weaknesses in the five spiritual faculties (now become powers) they can now really practice in the full light of the way things are, and the ‘climb up’ the seven factors of enlightenment.  Reality cannot now shake their mindfulness.  Whereas before they may have been able to maintain their mindfulness under certain (conducive) conditions, now there are no conditions under which they cannot maintain their mindfulness. On the basis of the awakening factor of mindfulness (sati-sambojjhanga,) they are able to (really) investigate phenomena (dhamma-vicaya- sambojjhanga.)  On that basis they know clearly what it is best to invest their interest in.  This stage probably connects with the stage of dispassion (for the conditioned) on the spiral path, as well as passion for the unconditioned, and therefore the arising of (real) energy in pursuit of the good (viriya- sambojjhanga.)  That in turn leads to (real) joy (piti-sambojjhanga,) real concentration (samadhi-sambojjhanga) and finally real equipoise / equanimity (upekkha-sambojjhanga.)


The Path of Practice
Having established equipoise in relation to all phenomena (one’s mindfulness can now go anywhere) one effortlessly lives out the (transcendental) Noble Eightfold Path, on the Path of Practice.  Probably the (transcendental) Noble Eightfold Path exists as a teaching to illustrate the fact that awakened beings, though they have nothing more to achieve themselves, out of compassion for others, do need to carry on demonstrating the path to others, and also, it is their natural way of being in the world. 


The Path of Fulfilment
The Path of Fulfilment isn’t really a path in itself but just marks the fact of the achievement of the goal.  







[1] See Guenther’s translation of the Jewel Ornament of Liberation, chapter 18.
In Know Your Mind Sangharakshita calls the Five Paths, the Path of Accumulation or Preparation; of Practice or Application; of Insight; of Transformation; and of No More Learning, respectively.

[2] See Rupert Gethin The Buddhist path to awakening: a study of the bodhi-pakkhiya dhamma. Leiden: Brill. (1992) p20-25 and chapter 10.

[3] An iddhi-pada seems to be the combination of meditative concentration (samadhi) based on a particular base, for example interest (chanda,) and the volitional tendency or positive habit (sankhara) in making effort to be skilful (padhana).  The iddhi-pada associated with chanda is therefore called chanda-samadhi-padhana-sankhara.

[4] Samyutta Nikaya (Bodhi) p1670.
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