The Wisdom Blog: Classic & Contemporary Buddhism

Teachings of the Buddha: Shining the Light of Wisdom and Forty-Four Cases of Knowledge

by Bhikkhu Bodhi
November 20, 2013
Wed, 11/20/2013 - 09:30 -- bbodhi

Dependent origination is not a mere theory but a teaching that should be directly known by personal experience, a point clearly made by today's text, which comes from The Kaḷāra Khattiya. This sutta instructs the disciple to understand each factor by way of the four-truth pattern: one should understand the factor itself, its origin, its cessation, and the way to its cessation. First one understands this pattern in relation to one’s personal experience. Then, on this basis, one infers that all those who correctly understood these things in the past understood them in exactly the same way; then that all those who will correctly understand these things in the future will understand them in exactly the sameway. In this way, dependent origination acquires a timeless and universal significance.

At Sāvatthī. “Bhikkhus, I will teach you forty-four cases of knowledge. Listen to that and attend closely, I will speak.”
    “Yes, venerable sir,” those bhikkhus replied. The Blessed One said this:
    “Bhikkhus, what are the forty-four cases of knowledge? Knowledge of aging-and-death, knowledge of its origin, knowledge of its cessation, knowledge of the way leading to its cessation. Knowledge of birth … Knowledge of existence … Knowledge of clinging … Knowledge of craving … Knowledge of feeling … Knowledge of contact … Knowledge of the six sense bases … Knowledge of name-and-form … Knowledge of consciousness … Knowledge of volitional formations, knowledge of their origin, knowledge of their cessation, knowledge of the way leading to their cessation. These, bhikkhus, are the forty-four cases of knowledge.
    “And what, bhikkhus, is aging-and-death?… Thus this aging and this death are together called aging-and-death. With the arising of birth there is the arising of aging-and-death. With the cessation of birth there is the cessation of aging-and-death. This Noble Eightfold Path is the way leading to the cessation of aging-and-death; that is, right view … right concentration.
    “When, bhikkhus, a noble disciple thus understands aging-and-death, its origin, [58] its cessation, and the way leading to its cessation, this is his knowledge of the principle. By means of this principle that is seen, understood, immediately attained, fathomed, he applies the method to the past and to the future thus: ‘Whatever ascetics and brahmins in the past directly knew aging-and-death, its origin, its cessation, and the way leading to its cessation, all these directly knew it in the very same way that I do now. Whatever ascetics and brahmins in the future will directly know aging-and-death, its origin, its cessation, and the way leading to its cessation, all these will directly know it in the very same way that I do now.’ This is his knowledge of entailment.
    “When, bhikkhus, a noble disciple has purified and cleansed these two kinds of knowledge—knowledge of the principle and knowledge of entailment—he is then called a noble disciple who is accomplished in view, accomplished in vision, who has arrived at this true Dhamma, who sees this true Dhamma, who possesses a trainee’s knowledge, a trainee’s true knowledge, who has entered the stream of the Dhamma, a noble one with penetrative wisdom, one who stands squarely before the door to the Deathless.
    “And what, bhikkhus, is birth?… What are the volitional formations?… This Noble Eightfold Path is the way leading to the cessation of volitional formations; that is, right view … right concentration.
    “When, bhikkhus, a noble disciple thus understands volitional formations, their origin, their cessation, and the way leading to their cessation, this is his knowledge of the principle. By means of this principle that is seen, understood, immediately attained, fathomed, he applies the method to the past and to the future…. This is his knowledge of entailment.
    “When, bhikkhus, a noble disciple has purified and cleansed these two kinds of knowledge—knowledge of the principle and knowledge of entailment—he is then called a noble disciple who is accomplished in view … one who stands squarely before the door to the Deathless.”

From SN 12:33

To read more from The Kaḷāra Khattiya, click here.

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