Sabbasava Sutta

The Sabbasava Sutta provides a comprehensive practice for attaining enlightenment. There are seven aspects to the training, all of which the Buddha advises us to develop if we are to achieve the ultimate goal.  In this post I offer a brief description of each aspect and why they should be developed…

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All that arises eventually ceases and is not self. As a Buddhist practitioner my aim is to fully realise this teaching of the Noble One, as opposed to merely understanding it intellectually.

My understanding of the Sabbasava Sutta [1] is, it provides a comprehensive practice for attaining enlightenment. There are seven aspects to the training, all of which the Buddha advises us to develop if we are to achieve the ultimate goal –

1. Seeing

This means attending appropriately and seeing things for what they are – ‘This is stress…This is the origin of stress… This is the cessation of stress… this is the way leading to the cessation of stress…’ On or off the cushion, it can be helpful to depersonalise experiences instead of merely focusing on the craving or aversion.  So, rather than simply reacting and thinking, for example; ‘I like this – I want more of it?’ Or, ‘can’t bear this – how can get rid of it?’  We can instead try to label whatever is arising – ‘Pain, pain, pain…’ or ‘Feeling, feeling, feeling…’ or ‘Worrying, worrying, worrying…’ etc.

2. Restraining

Mara's Daughters (www.indianreligionannex.blogspot.co.uk)

Mara’s Daughters
(Image source: Indianreligionannex.blogspot.co.uk)

We Buddhists are training in order to open up eventually to unadulterated reality.  But in the meantime it is important to guard the senses against excessive sights, sounds, smells, tastes and tactile sensations – because too many pleasant ones will undermine our resolve to practice and too many unpleasant ones will undermine our confidence in the teachings.  So, for example, when out walking we should avert our gaze instead of looking all around us, as this will distract us from our awareness of walking.  We should avoid intoxicants and activities which are a distraction and cause heedlessness (drugs and alcohol, sporting events, music, theatre, news media, internet chat rooms… etc.).  We should also avoid confusing ourselves by pondering unanswerable questions or wasting time by dwelling on problems that are beyond our ability to resolve.

3. Using

Our aim should be to live simply, to give up what is unnecessary and be content with little.  Use the requirements of life appropriately – e.g. food and drink to sustain the body rather than for amusement; clothing and medicines for protection rather than to look good; a bed for sleeping in rather than indulging laziness; a dwelling place suitable for meditation rather than a status symbol for entertaining and impressing others…  It’s not the objects themselves or how many there are but one’s attachment to them that causes suffering.

4. Tolerating

Certain sufferings can’t be avoided and we should bear them with patience.  If we do not bear with the unpleasantness we will never see it as anicca (impermanence), dukkha (dissatisfaction), anatta (non-self) and we will continue to suffer.  But when suffering is seen for what it is we won’t have to bear it – we will have developed equanimity.

5. Avoiding

Living fearlessly doesn’t mean putting ourselves in harm’s way.  So harmful people, places and situations should be avoided where possible.  One should avoid associating with people who routinely break the five precepts, for example.  It is important not to be sentimental about long-standing relationships and the ties should be loosened or severed completely if they are a barrier to attaining the ultimate goal.

6. Destroying

Pleasurable fantasies and painful fears are unskillful thoughts that develop craving and aversion, and they can be counteracted by developing opposing thoughts. For example, lust for a person can be counteracted by contemplating what lies beneath the skin of a human body. Greed for food can be counteracted by contemplating it’s natural raw state prior to cooking and how the body will process it after eating. Harbouring ill will and cruel thoughts towards a perceived enemy can be opposed by cultivating generosity and compassion. Pride, anger, feelings of inferiority, etc. all stem from reification of the self and such thoughts can be destroyed or removed from mind by clear seeing.

Enlightenment (www.globalone.tv)

Enlightenment
(Image source: Globalone.tv)

One should practice to develop the ‘Seven Factors of Enlightenment’ – mindfulness, investigation, energy, joy, tranquillity, concentration and equanimity – dependent upon seclusion, dispassion, cessation, resulting in letting go. The Buddha says, “Just as, monks, in a peaked house all rafters whatsoever go together to the peak, slope to the peak, join in the peak, and of them all the peak is reckoned chief: even so, monks, the monk who cultivates and makes much of the seven factors of wisdom, slopes to Nibbana, inclines to Nibbana, tends to Nibbana.” [2]

In all the universe there is nothing worth clinging to – just anicca, dukkha, anatta.  That is basically what the Buddha taught.  We can investigate this claim by studying the Sabassava Sutta and practicing accordingly, or not. The choice is entirely ours.

 

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Notes

[1] Go directly to an online translation of the Sabbasava Sutta by Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu at: Access to Insight.
     Go directly to a video talk on the Sabbasava Sutta by Ven. Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu  at: YouTube.

[2] Quoted in ‘The Seven Factors of Enlightenment’ by Piyadassi Thera, Access to Insight, 2011,

 



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