Ajahn Sucitto

Dawn of the Dhamma: Illuminations from the Buddha’s First Discourse

Dawn of the Dhamma: Illuminations from the Buddha’s First Discourse

by Ajahn Sucitto | March 2, 2021

Thus Have I Heard

“Ekaṃ samayaṃ bhagavā bārāṇasiyaṃ viharati isipatane migadāye. Tatra kho bhagavā pañcavaggiye bhikkhū āmantesi…”

“Once the Blessed One was staying in the Deer Park at Isipatana, near Varanasi. There he addressed the bhikkhus of the Group of Five thus…”

The Two Extremes

“Dveme, bhikkhave, antā pabbajitena na sevitabbā. Katame dve? Yo cāyaṃ kāmesu kāmasukhallikānuyogo hīno gammo pothujjaniko anariyo anatthasaṃhito, yo cāyaṃ attakilamathānuyogo dukkho anariyo anatthasaṃhito. Ete kho, bhikkhave, ubho ante anupagamma majjhimā paṭipadā tathāgatena abhisambuddhā cakkhukaraṇī ñāṇakaraṇī upasamāya abhiññāya sambodhāya nibbānāya saṃvattati.”

“Bhikkhus, these two extremes should not be followed by one who has gone forth into homelessness. What two? The pursuit of sensual happiness in sensual pleasures, which is low, vulgar, the way of worldlings, ignoble, unbeneficial; and the pursuit of self-mortification, which is painful, ignoble, unbeneficial. Without veering towards either of these extremes, the Tathagata has awakened to the middle way, which gives rise to vision, which gives rise to knowledge, which leads to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbāna.”

The Path Beyond

“Katamā ca sā, bhikkhave, majjhimā paṭipadā tathāgatena abhisambuddhā cakkhukaraṇī ñāṇakaraṇī upasamāya abhiññāya sambodhāya nibbānāya saṃvattati? Ayameva ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo, seyyathidaṃ—sammādiṭṭhi sammāsaṅkappo sammāvācā sammākammanto sammāājīvo sammāvāyāmo sammāsati sammāsamādhi. Ayaṃ kho sā, bhikkhave, majjhimā paṭipadā tathāgatena abhisambuddhā cakkhukaraṇī ñāṇakaraṇī upasamāya abhiññāya sambodhāya nibbānāya saṃvattati.”

“And what, bhikkhus, is that middle way awakened to by the Tathagata, which gives rise to vision … which leads to Nibbāna? It is this Noble Eightfold Path; that is, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. This, bhikkhus, is that middle way awakened to by the Tathagata, which gives rise to vision, which gives rise to knowledge, which leads to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbāna.”

The First Noble Truth

Idaṃ kho pana, bhikkhave, dukkhaṃ ariyasaccaṃ—jātipi dukkhā, jarāpi dukkhā, byādhipi dukkho, maraṇampi dukkhaṃ, appiyehi sampayogo dukkho, piyehi vippayogo dukkho, yampicchaṃ na labhati tampi dukkhaṃ—saṃkhittena pañcupādānakkhandhā dukkhā.”

“Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of suffering: birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering; union with what is displeasing is suffering; separation from what is pleasing is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are suffering.”

The Second Noble Truth

“Idaṃ kho pana, bhikkhave, dukkhasamudayaṃ ariyasaccaṃ—yāyaṃ taṇhā ponobbhavikā nandirāgasahagatā tatratatrābhinandinī, seyyathidaṃ—kāmataṇhā, bhavataṇhā, vibhavataṇhā.”

“Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of the origin of suffering: it is this craving which leads to renewed existence, accompanied by delight and lust, seeking delight here and there; that is, craving for sensual pleasures, craving for existence, craving for extermination.”

The Third Noble Truth

“Idaṃ kho pana, bhikkhave, dukkhanirodhaṃ ariyasaccaṃ—yo tassāyeva taṇhāya asesavirāganirodho cāgo paṭinissaggo mutti anālayo.”

“Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering: it is the remainderless fading away and cessation of that same craving, the giving up and relinquishing of it, freedom from it, nonreliance on it.”

The Fourth Noble Truth

“Idaṃ kho pana, bhikkhave, dukkhanirodhagāminī paṭipadā ariyasaccaṃ — ayameva ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo, seyyathidaṃ—sammādiṭṭhi sammāsaṅkappo sammāvācā sammākammanto sammāājīvo sammāvāyāmo sammāsati sammāsamādhi.”

“Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering: it is this Noble Eightfold Path; that is, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.” 

Light on Dukkha

‘Idaṃ dukkhaṃ… cakkhuṃ udapādi, ñāṇaṃ udapādi, paññā udapādi, vijjā udapādi, āloko udapādi.”

“There is this Noble Truth of Suffering: …
This Noble Truth must be penetrated to by fully understanding Suffering: …
This Noble Truth has been penetrated to by fully understanding Suffering:
such was the vision, insight, wisdom, knowing and light that arose in me
about things not heard before.”

Abandonment

‘Idaṃ dukkhasamudayaṃ… cakkhuṃ udapādi, ñāṇaṃ udapādi, paññā udapādi, vijjā udapādi, āloko udapādi.”

“There is this Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering: …
This Noble Truth must be penetrated to by abandoning the Origin of Suffering …
This Noble Truth has been penetrated to by abandoning the Origin of Suffering:
such was the vision, insight, wisdom, knowing and light that arose in me
about things not heard before.”

Realization

“Idaṃ dukkhanirodhaṃ… cakkhuṃ udapādi, ñāṇaṃ udapādi, paññā udapādi, vijjā udapādi, āloko udapādi.”

“There is this Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering: …
This Noble Truth must be penetrated to by realizing the Cessation of Suffering: …
This Noble Truth has been penetrated to by realizing the Cessation of Suffering:
such was the vision, insight, wisdom, knowing and light that arose in me about things not heard before.”

Cultivation

“Idaṃ dukkhanirodhagāminī paṭipadā… cakkhuṃ udapādi, ñāṇaṃ udapādi, paññā udapādi, vijjā udapādi, āloko udapādi.”

“There is this Noble Truth of the Path leading to the Cessation of Suffering: …
This Noble Truth must be penetrated to by cultivating the Path: …
This Noble Truth has been penetrated to by cultivating the Path:
such was the vision, insight, wisdom, knowing and light that arose in me
about things not heard before.”

The Host of Mara

“Yāvakīvañca me… abhisambuddho’ti paccaññāsiṃ.”

“As long, bhikkhus, as these Four Noble Truths in their twelve aspects were
not seen clearly as they are, I did not declare to the world—with its devas,
maras, and brahmas, with its samanas and brahmins, its monarchs and ordinary folk—
that I had realized the complete and perfect Awakening.”

Nibbāna

“Yato ca kho me, bhikkhave… abhisambuddho’ti paccaññāsiṃ.”

“But as soon as these Four Noble Truths in their twelve aspects were seen clearly
as they are, then I taught the world—with its devas, maras and brahmas,
its samanas and brahmins, its monarchs and ordinary folk—
that I had realized the complete and perfect Awakening.”

Unshakeable Freedom

“Ñāṇañca pana me dassanaṃ udapādi: akuppā me vimutti, ayamantimā jāti, natthi dāni punabbhavo ti.”

“The knowledge and the vision arose in me:
‘Unshakeable is my deliverance. This is the last birth. There is no further becoming.’”

What Kondañña Knew

“Idamavoca bhagavā… yaṃ kiñci samudayadhammaṃ sabbaṃ taṃ nirodhadhamman ti.”

“This is what the Blessed One said. Elated, the bhikkhus of the group of five delighted in the Blessed One’s statement. And while this discourse was being spoken, there arose in the Venerable Kondañña the dust-free, stainless vision of the Dhamma: ‘Whatever is subject to origination is all subject to cessation.’”

Heaven on Earth

“Pavattite… kenaci vā lokasmin ti.”

“When the Wheel of Dhamma had been set rolling by the Blessed One,
the devas of the earth cried out with one voice: “At Varanasi, in the Deer Park at Isipatana,
the matchless Wheel of Dhamma has been set rolling by the Blessed One,
not to be stopped by any samana, or brahmin, or deva, or mara, or brahma,
or anyone in the world.”

The Realms of the Guardians

“Bhummānaṃ devānaṃ… tāvatiṃsā devā saddamanussāvesuṃ.”

“Having heard the cry of the earth-dwelling devas, the devas of the realm of the Four Great Kings cried out with one voice: ‘At Baraṇasi … this unsurpassed Wheel of the Dhamma has been set in motion by the Blessed One, which cannot be stopped … by anyone in the world.’ Having heard the cry of the devas of the realm of the Four Great Kings, the Tavatiṃsa devas cried out with one voice…”

The Abodes of Bliss

“Tāvatiṃsānaṃ devānaṃ saddaṃ sutvā yāmā devā… tusitā devā saddamanussāvesuṃ.”

“Having heard the cry of the Thirty Three devas, the Yāmā devas cried out with one voice: ‘At Baraṇasi … this unsurpassed Wheel of the Dhamma has been set in motion by the Blessed One, which cannot be stopped … by anyone in the world.’ Having heard the cry of the Yāmā devas, the Tusitā devas cried out with one voice…”

Creative Delight

“…nimmānaratī devā… paranimmitavasavattī devā saddamanussāvesuṃ.”

“… the Nimmānaratī devas cried out with one voice… When they heard the cry of
the Nimmānaratī devas, the Paranimmitavasavatti devas cried out with one voice…”

Formless Rapture

“…brahmakāyikā devā saddamanussāvesuṃ… kenaci vā lokasmin ti.”

“… the devas of the retinue of the Brahma deities raised a cry with one voice: “At Varanasi in the
Deer Park at Isipatana, the matchless Wheel of Dhamma has been set rolling by the
Blessed One, not to be stopped by any samana, or brahmin, or deva, or mara, or brahma,
or anyone in the world.”

The World of Dhamma

“Itiha tena khaṇena tena layena tena muhuttena yāva brahmalokā saddo abbhuggacchi.”

“So indeed in that hour, at that moment,
the word traveled up to the realm of the highest divinities.”

Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On

“Ayañca dasasahassilokadhātu saṅkampi sampakampi sampavedhi.”

“…and this ten thousandfold world system shook and rocked and quaked.”

Light in the World

“…appamāṇo ca uḷāro obhāso loke pāturahosi atikkamma devānaṃ devānubhāvanti.”

“…and a great measureless radiance,
surpassing the very nature of the devas,
was displayed in the world.”

The One Who Knows

“Atha kho bhagavā imaṃ udānaṃ… aññāsikoṇḍañño tveva nāmaṃ ahosī ti.”

“Then the Blessed One uttered the great exclamation: “Truly, it is the good Koṇḍañño
who has understood, it is the good Koṇḍañño who has understood.”
Thus it was that the name of Venerable Koṇḍañño became: Aññā Koṇḍañño—
“Koṇḍañño who understands.”

The End and the Beginning

“Dhammacakkappavattanasuttam nitthitam.”

“This concludes the Discourse on the Setting in Motion of the Wheel of Truth.”

The Pleasure of Release | Ajahn Sucitto

by The Fourth Messenger Podcast

Listen to Ajahn Sucitto’s talk about the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta on our podcast:     iTunes    Google    Download    +

Introduction

Turning the Wheel of Dhamma (Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta) is a central discourse in the Buddha’s teachings. It is the first full teaching that the newly Awakened One gave, and it sets out the four noble truths and the ‘Middle Way’ – the teaching structure that is the heart of his Way of realization. You can read the discourse in Connected Discourses (Samyutta Nikaya 56).

What follows is a series of paintings that I made between 1981 and 1984 that illustrates this discourse… It is presented in the style of an illuminated manuscript in which the words of the text are embellished or surrounded by figurative elements. The viewer will probably note that the style echoes that of an illuminated Gospel in the tradition of the Celtic Church. The knotwork that is predominant in the earlier pictures of the series, and the uncial script throughout, is borrowed from the art of the Book of Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels. This is a deliberate gesture of respect to the early monastic tradition of Britain, made at a time when I was part of a small Sangha of Buddhist monks (bhikkhus) who had recently arrived in Britain and were engaged in establishing Cittaviveka Monastery in Chithurst, West Sussex. In this ancient settlement, it was very clear that despite the many differences between the traditions, we were inheriting the respect and the place in the society previously held by Christian monks. After selling us the house that became the centre of the monastery, its previous owner excitedly reported to his neighbours: ‘The monks are coming, the monks are coming! Without knowing a thing about the Buddha’s Dhamma, people knew that these ‘bhikkhus’ would be men of peace and virtue, and that was a good thing. In a conservative part of England, the innate respect for a spiritual life granted acceptance to our odd, oriental-styled Sangha. It feels important to acknowledge that.

One of the differences however between the Celtic manuscripts and this series is that the letters themselves are relatively unadorned. This was so that they remain legible and usable as a means of reciting the text – because the series originated out of a wish to present the sutta in a way that would attract the attention of the bhikkhus and encourage them to learn to recite it. As the series evolved, this need fell away and what began as an illuminated manuscript turned into a set of paintings.

Another reason for this shift is due to changes in my contemplative practice. As a beginner my meditation was technique-oriented, with an emphasis on observing a formal structure (such as counting the breath, and ‘noting’ the momentary movements of mind with a thought). You might say it was ‘left-brain linear.’ Over three years, how I meditated became more a matter of feeling and sensing the mind and working in a more intuitive way. So the early pictures are more a matter of line, whereas the latter are more chromatically attuned. In fact for the celestial realms, what arose first in the mind was the chromatic tone that seemed to represent the atmosphere of the deva-loka that was being referred to. This sequence later became the source of a book – The Dawn of the Dhamma – with an extensive accompanying text. This book (from 1991) is now long out of print.

However that book inspired Shambhala Publications to request a revised edition of the text, without illustrations. This became Turning The Wheel of Truth (Shambhala 2010). If you are looking for a more thorough explanation of the meaning of the text, you will find it in Turning The Wheel of Truth. (Editor’s Note: An online transcript of the original book may also be found here).

Finally, what follows is an act of gratitude. When I completed it, I presented the series of paintings to Ven. Ajahn Sumedho as a gesture of my gratitude for his guidance and example as my teacher. Naturally that gratitude extends to the Buddha, to the Sangha that has transmitted this teaching for over two millennia, and to all the people who have supported the opportunity that I have to practise the Dhamma as a bhikkhu.

-Ajahn Sucitto

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The Pleasure of Release | Ajahn Sucitto

The Pleasure of Release | Ajahn Sucitto

Ordained for over forty years, Ajahn Sucitto trained under Ven. Ajahn Sumedho in the lineage of the Thai forest master, Ven. Ajahn Chah. He was part of the group that established Cittaviveka, Chithurst Forest Monastery, in England. More information and monastic teachings may be found at https://www.fourthmessenger.org.