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The Four Sublime States
Doctrine and Practice in Buddhism
Thich Vien Ly

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Section VIII:  Conclusion: The Now-Moment

The foregoing is a brief discussion of the Four Sublime States as the focal point of the Heavenly, the Divine and the Noble Abodes. Now in conclusion there is a need to reflect again on their being linked to mindful meditation and constant practice of virtue (sila). There is a true sequence in meditation, as we see to make our meditation meaningful, to eliminate the Five Hindrances, most importantly the first one, that of “sense desires”. In the words of the Buddha, “(the hindrances) are associated with pain and do not lead to nibbana”. If our task is to reach nibbana, it is then through kammic intervention that our work gives us the energy to proceed in that direction by setting the now-moment when nibbana appears as a fragile part of our psyche.

R.E.A Johansson, psychologist, in The Psychology of Nirvana, states:

‘The problem of the Buddha was the human situation here and now: suffering, as conditioned by impermanence, kamma and rebirth. To eradicate suffering and stop the chain of causes leading over to new life was his aim.’

In this context, Johansson concludes that one’s mental (psychological) health and Buddhist practice arrive at the same destination – nibbana. The truth to follow is the elimination of sense desires, and that with the diligent practice of lovingkindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity in meditation. In all areas of life, our human condition of happiness and freedom is not based, to any extent, upon the dictates of the self or ego. In living a moral (sila) life, according to the standard of the Buddha’s teachings, we are free from attachments to the self and causes of suffering, ignorance and rebirth.

Finally for a concluding thought on freedom and happiness, let’s look at the Buddha’s teachings which punctuate the all-out endeavor to eliminate non-attachment. The Most Venerable Thich Thien An, Vietnamese master and Buddhist scholar, warned devotees to not become attached to happiness, lovingkindness and even the Dharma (Skrt.). He relates one Vietnamese writer’s analogy of happiness being like the butterfly. It is beautiful, flying, and we enjoy its freedom, but do not try to catch it. Caught in the hand, or net, it becomes no more than an insect – robbed of its beauty of flight. If one makes Buddhahood the object (to be caught like the butterfly) and oneself the subject (the catcher), that is creating a false dualism and the need to discriminate, nullifying any work toward equanimity.

In essence, the spirit of the Buddha-Dhamma is that of non-duality; great compassion is great wisdom – there is no difference. There is no independent self-standing being. We are all interdependent – connected to everything, and everything is fleeting. As emphasized earlier, our life, our present existence, is just a fleeting moment on this earth…which lasts no longer than a billionth part of an eye-wink, or a flash of lightning. Yet, it is this now-moment that opens the immense richness of the earth – if we learn to pervade every place equally with our hearts filled with lovingkindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity.


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