A Progressive Training

The Dhamma, the reality taught by the Buddha, is uncovered slowly through continual practice. The Buddha made clear often times that Awakening does not happen like a bolt out of the blue to the untrained and unprepared mind. Rather, it culminates a long journey of numerous phases: [1]

Just as the ocean has a gradual shelf, a gradual slope, a gradual disposition, with an unexpected drop-off just after a long stretch, in the exact same method this Doctrine and Discipline (dhamma-vinaya) has a gradual training, a progressive performance, a steady progression, with a penetration to gnosis only after a long stretch.

— Ud 5.5

Monks, I do not state that the attainment of gnosis is simultaneously. Rather, the attainment of gnosis is after progressive training, gradual action, gradual practice. And how exists the attainment of gnosis after steady training, progressive action, steady practice? There holds true where, when conviction has occurred, one sees [an instructor] Having actually gone to, one grows close. Having actually grown close, one lends ear. Having actually lent ear, one hears the Dhamma. Having actually heard the Dhamma, one remembers it. Keeping in mind, one permeates the meaning of the teachings. Permeating the meaning, one concerns a contract through pondering the teachings. There being a contract through considering the teachings, desire occurs. When desire has arisen, one is willing. When one wants, one contemplates. Having considered, one makes an exertion. Having actually made an exertion, one recognizes with the body the supreme fact and, having penetrated it with discernment, sees it.

— MN 70

The Buddha’s mentors are instilled with this notion of steady development. His method of “gradual direction” (anupubbi-katha), which appears in numerous kinds in numerous suttas, always follows the exact same arc: he guides beginners from very first concepts through progressively more advanced teachings, all the method to the satisfaction of the Four Noble Truths and the full awareness of nibbana:

Then the Blessed One, having encompassed the awareness of the entire assembly with his awareness, asked himself, “Now who here can comprehending the Dhamma?” He saw Suppabuddha the leper being in the assembly, and on seeing him the thought occurred to him, “This individual here can comprehending the Dhamma.” So, focusing on Suppabuddha the leper, he offered a step-by-step talk, i.e., a talk on providing, a talk on virtue, a talk on paradise; he declared the downsides, degradation, & corruption of sensual enthusiasms, and the rewards of renunciation. Then when he saw that Suppabuddha the leper’s mind was prepared, malleable, devoid of obstacles, elated, & bright, he then gave the Dhamma-talk strange to Awakened Ones, i.e., stress, origination, cessation, & path. And just as a tidy cloth, free of spots, would appropriately absorb a dye, in the very same method, as Suppabuddha the leper was being in that really seat, the dustless, stainless Dhamma eye arose within him, “Whatever undergoes origination is all based on cessation.”

— Ud 5.3

At each stage of this “steady training” (anupubbi-sikkha), the practitioner finds a new and important dimension of the law of cause-and-effect– kamma, the foundation of Right View. It is therefore a really helpful organizing structure with which to see the totality of the Buddha’s mentors.

The steady training begins with the practice of kindness, which assists start the long procedure of deteriorating the unawakened professional’s habitual tendencies to stick– to views, to sensuality, and to unskillful modes of idea and behavior. This is followed by the advancement of virtue, the basic level of sense-restraint that helps the specialist develop a healthy and trustworthy sense of self. The assurance born from this level of self-esteem offers the structure for all more progress along the path. The practitioner now understands that some sort of happiness are much deeper and more reliable than anything that sense-gratification can ever offer; the joy born of kindness and virtue can even cause rebirth in paradise– either actual or metaphorical. However eventually the specialist starts to recognize the intrinsic drawbacks of even this type of joy: as great as rebirth in wholesome states might be, the happiness it brings is not a real and enduring one, for it counts on conditions over which he or she ultimately has no control. This marks an essential juncture in the training, when the practitioner starts to comprehend that real joy will never be discovered in the world of the physical and sensuous world. The only possible path to an unconditioned joy lies in renunciation, in turning far from the sensuous world, by trading the familiar, lower types of happiness for something even more rewarding and honorable. Now, at last, the professional is ripe to get the mentors on the Four Noble Realities, which define the course of mental training required to realize the greatest joy: nibbana.

Numerous Westerners first experience the Buddha’s teachings on meditation retreats, which typically start with instructions in how to develop the competent qualities of right mindfulness and best concentration. It deserves keeping in mind that, as essential as these qualities are, the Buddha placed them towards the very end of his steady course of training. The significance is clear: to enjoy the most take advantage of meditation practice, to give full maturity all the qualities needed for Awakening, the fundamental foundation should not be ignored. There is no short-cutting this procedure.

Here is the Buddha’s six-stage gradual training in more information:

  1. Generosity (dana)
  2. Virtue (sila)
  3. Paradise (sagga)
  4. Drawbacks (adinava)
  5. Renunciation (nekkhamma)
  6. The 4 Noble Truths (cattari ariya saccani)
    1. The Noble Reality of Dukkha (dukkha ariya sacca)
    2. The Noble Reality of the Cause of Dukkha (dukkha samudayo ariya sacca)
    3. The Noble Truth of the Cessation of Dukkha (dukkha nirodho ariya sacca)
    4. The Noble Reality of the Course Resulting In the Cessation of Dukkha (dukkha nirodha gamini patipada ariya sacca)— The Noble Eightfold Path. The Commentaries group the 8 course factors into three divisions: Discernment (pañña): Virtue (sila): Concentration (samadhi):


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