The Wisdom Blog: Classic & Contemporary Buddhism

Teachings of the Buddha: Shining the Light of Wisdom and The Conditions for Wisdom

by Bhikkhu Bodhi
November 22, 2013
Fri, 11/22/2013 - 10:30 -- bbodhi

Today's text gives a list of eight causes and conditions for obtaining “the wisdom fundamental to the spiritual life” and for bringing such wisdom to maturity. Of particular interest is the fifth condition, which not only emphasizes the contribution that study of the Dhamma makes to the development of wisdom but also prescribes a sequential programof education. First one “learns much” of those “teachings that are good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end.” Then one memorizes them; then recites them aloud; then investigates them with the mind; and finally “penetrates them well by view.” The last step can be equated with direct insight, but such insight is prepared for by the preceding steps,which provide the “information” necessary for thorough penetration to occur. From this, we can see that wisdom does not arise automatically on the basis of concentration but depends upon a clear and precise conceptual understanding of the Dhamma induced by study, reflection, and deep contemplation of the teachings.

“Bhikkhus, there are these eight causes and conditions that lead to obtaining the wisdom fundamental to the spiritual life when it has not been obtained and to its increase, maturation, and fulfillment by development after it has been obtained. What eight?
    (1) “Here, a bhikkhu lives in dependence on the Teacher or on a certain fellow monk in the position of a teacher, toward whom he has set up a keen sense of moral shame and moral dread, affection and reverence. This is the first cause and condition that leads to obtaining the wisdom fundamental to the spiritual life when it has not been obtained and to its increase, maturation, and fulfillment by development after it has been obtained. [152]
    (2) “As he is living in dependence on the Teacher or on a certain fellow monk in the position of a teacher, toward whom he has set up a keen sense of moral shame and moral dread, affection and reverence, he approaches them from time to time and inquires: ‘How is this, bhante? What is the meaning of this?’ Those venerable ones then disclose to him what has not been disclosed, clear up what is obscure, and dispel his perplexity about numerous perplexing points. This is the second cause and condition that leads to obtaining the wisdom fundamental to the spiritual life.…
    (3) “Having heard that Dhamma, he resorts to two kinds of withdrawal: withdrawal in body and withdrawal in mind. This is the third cause and condition that leads to obtaining the wisdom fundamental to the spiritual life.…
    (4) “He is virtuous; he dwells restrained by the Pātimokkha, possessed of good conduct and resort, seeing danger in minute faults. Having undertaken the training rules, he trains in them. This is the fourth cause and condition that leads to obtaining the wisdom fundamental to the spiritual life.…
(5) “He has learnt much, remembers what he has learnt, and accumulates what he has learnt. Those teachings that are good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end, with the right meaning and phrasing, which proclaim the perfectly complete and pure spiritual life—such teachings as these he has learnt much of, retained in mind, recited verbally, mentally investigated, and penetrated well by view. This is the fifth cause and condition that leads to obtaining the wisdom fundamental to the spiritual life.… [153]
    (6) “He has aroused energy for abandoning unwholesome qualities and acquiring wholesome qualities; he is strong, firm in exertion, not casting off the duty of cultivating wholesome qualities. This is the sixth cause and condition that leads to obtaining the wisdom fundamental to the spiritual life.…
    (7) “In the midst of the Saṅgha, he does not engage in rambling and pointless talk. Either he himself speaks on the Dhamma, or he requests someone else to do so, or he adopts noble silence. This is the seventh cause and condition that leads to obtaining the wisdom fundamental to the spiritual life.…
    (8) “He dwells contemplating arising and vanishing in the five aggregates subject to clinging: ‘Such is form, such its origin, such its passing away; such is feeling … such is perception … such are volitional activities … such is consciousness, such its origin, such its passing away.’ This is the eighth cause and condition that leads to obtaining the wisdom fundamental to the spiritual life when it has not been obtained and to its increase, maturation, and fulfillment by development after it has been obtained.
    (1) “His fellow monks esteem him thus: ‘This venerable one lives in dependence on the Teacher or on a certain fellow monk in the position of a teacher, toward whom he has set up a keen sense of moral shame and moral dread, affection and reverence. This venerable one surely knows and sees.’ This quality leads to affection, respect, esteem, accord, and unity.
    (2) “‘As this venerable one is living in dependence on the Teacher or on a certain fellow monk in the position of a teacher … [154] … those venerable ones … dispel his perplexity about numerous perplexing points. This venerable one surely knows and sees.’ This quality, too, leads to affection, respect, esteem, accord, and unity.
    (3) “‘Having heard that Dhamma, this venerable one resorts to two kinds of withdrawal: withdrawal in body and withdrawal in mind. This venerable one surely knows and sees.’ This quality, too, leads to affection, respect, esteem, accord, and unity.
    (4) “‘This venerable one is virtuous; he dwells restrained by the Pātimokkha … he trains in them. This venerable one surely knows and sees.’ This quality, too, leads to affection, respect, esteem, accord, and unity.
    (5) “‘This venerable one has learnt much … and penetrated well by view. This venerable one surely knows and sees.’ This quality, too, leads to affection, respect, esteem, accord, and unity.
    (6) “‘This venerable one has aroused energy for abandoning unwholesome qualities … not casting off the duty of cultivating wholesome qualities. This venerable one surely knows and sees.’ This quality, too, leads to affection, respect, esteem, accord, and unity.
    (7) “‘In the midst of the Saṅgha, this venerable one does not engage in rambling and pointless talk … or he adopts noble silence. This venerable one surely knows and sees.’ This quality, too, leads to affection, respect, esteem, accord, and unity.
    (8) “‘This venerable one dwells contemplating arising and vanishing in the five aggregates subject to clinging.… This venerable one surely knows and sees.’ This quality, too, leads to affection, respect, esteem, accord, and unity.
    “These, bhikkhus, are the eight causes and conditions that lead to obtaining the wisdom fundamental to the spiritual life when it has not been obtained and to its increase, maturation, and fulfillment by development after it has been obtained.”

AN 8:2

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