2.3.1 Eradication of Self-view and Self-attachment in the Solitary-realizer Bodhi
In this section, the self-view and self-attachment in the Solitary-realizer Bodhi will be explained to help readers better understand the method of practice in the Middle Vehicle as taught by the Buddha. Both the Solitary-realizer Bodhi and Sound-hearer Bodhi are paths to liberation specifically derived from the Buddha Bodhi. Both gear toward the goal of attaining liberation and transcending from the cycle of birth and death in the three realms by eradicating self-view and self-attachment.
What is self-view? It is the belief that there exists an indestructible and permanent true-self among the four or five aggregates in the three realms. The three realms refer to the desire, form, and formless realms. Sentient beings from the desire or form realms possess five aggregates—the form, sensation, perception, formation, and consciousness aggregates. Since sentient beings in the formless realm have no physical body, so they do not possess the form aggregate but still possess the other four. If we examine self-view carefully, we will discover that it involves either taking the physical body or the conscious mind or both as an indestructible true self. Many people can recognize and accept that their physical body formed from substances will deteriorate; however, many firmly hold on to the belief that the conscious perceptive mind can traverse through three lifetimes (past, present, and future) and can transmigrate from the past to present and from the present to future lives after death. Such an erroneous view that takes the perceptive mind as the primordial and fundamental mind that transmigrates in the three realms is referred to as self-view.
What is self-attachment? Self-attachment can be subdivided into self-attachment and attachment to self-belongings. Self-attachment is the attachment to the self-view that treats oneself as the permanent indestructible true-self and leads to attachment to the craving for everything in the three realms of existence; habitual tendency of greed, aversion, delusion, conceit, skeptical doubt are all parts of self-attachment.
Attachment to self-belongings refers to attachment to everything that one possesses, which can be further subdivided into the attachment to external as well as internal self-belongings. The attachment to external self-belongings refers to the attachment to one’s wealth, family, reputation, and even everything one enjoys in the world. The attachment to interior self-belongings refers to the attachment to the functions of the six consciousnesses, i.e., the visual function of eye consciousness, the auditory function of the ear consciousness, the olfactory function of the nose consciousness, the gustatory function of the tongue consciousness, the sensational function of the body-consciousness, and the perceptive function of the mental consciousness.
If self-view and self-attachment are not eradicated, the attachment to internal self-belongings such as the physical body and the greed of the five desires can never be eliminated. As a result, during the stage of intermediate existence after death, the seeds of retributive fruition that correspond with one’s self-attachment and self-view will flow naturally from one’s tathāgatagarbha—the embryo-entering consciousness—and drive the conscious mind in the state of intermediate existence to seek out opportunities of rebirth and enter an embryo. Then renunciation from the cycle of birth and death among the three realms of existence will be impossible.
If leaners of the two vehicles can eliminate their self-view and go even further to eliminate the three fetters (self-view, skepticism about true reality, and misconceptions about precepts), they will be able to attain the first fruition of liberation and become stream-enterers. Even the dullest or the most indolent among the stream-enterers will be able to attain the fourth fruition of arhats and liberate themselves from the three realms of existence with a maximum of seven rounds of rebirth between the human and celestial worlds. After the eradication of self-view, if they further train with vigorous efforts, do not allow their mind to go unbridled, work really hard to eliminate all kinds of attachments, and no longer take the perceptive mind as the truly indestructible self, they can become arhats liberated through insight within just one lifetime. They can attain parinirvana in this very life without giving rise to the state of intermediate existence after death. Therefore, eliminating self-view and self-attachment is the paramount objective in the cultivation of the Path to Liberation.
The approach to eliminating self-view and self-attachment in the Solitary-realizer Bodhi is different from that in the Sound-hear Bodhi. The method of practice in the Sound-hearer Bodhi is to observe and contemplate that the self that is made up of the aggregates, sense-fields, and elements is impermanent, suffering, empty, and without a true self with the help of the Four Noble Truths—the Noble Truth of Suffering, the Nobel Truth of the Origination of Suffering, the Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering, and the Noble Truth of the Path to the Cessation of Suffering; aided further by contemplating the Four Foundations of Mindfulness and the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path, self-view and self-attachment are eliminate.
On the other hand, practitioners of the Solitary-realizer Bodhi eliminate self-view and self-attachment through contemplation on the Principle of Dependent Arising, i.e., through carefully contemplating the Principle of the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising that one’s ignorance conditions acts, acts condition consciousness, consciousness conditions mind-and-body, mind-and-body conditions six-entrances, six-entrances condition contact, contact conditions sensation, sensation conditions craving, craving conditions grasping, grasping conditions becoming, becoming conditions birth, and birth conditions aging, illness, death, worry, sorrow, vexation, and suffering. Note though one can never truly realize the Principle of the Twelve links of Dependent Arising without contemplating on the Principle of the Ten Links of Dependent Arising (i.e., consciousness conditions mind-and-body, mind-and-body conditions six-entrances, six-entrances condition contact, contact conditions sensation, sensation conditions craving, craving conditions grasping, grasping conditions becoming, becoming conditions birth, and birth conditions aging, illness, death, worry, sorrow, vexation, and suffering).
The 287th sutra in Chapter 12 of the Miscellaneous Agama Sutra [Samyukta Agama] records that when the Buddha was studying and practicing the Solitary-realizer Bodhi in the causal ground, He contemplated earnestly in solitude the Principle of the Ten-link of Dependent Arising in reverse order to inquire the reason for the arising of mind-and-body and discovered that mind-and-body came to be due to the embryo-entering consciousness. He further discovered that no other dharma could give rise to the embryo-entering consciousness. He reconfirmed that this is absolutely correct by contemplating again in the forward order. If the contemplation is directly performed via contemplating the emancipation-gate of the Principle of the Twelve-link of Dependent Arising without having first gone through the contemplation of the Principle of the Ten Links of Dependent Arising to reach the conclusion that no other dharma can give rise to the embryo-entering consciousness, one will conclude that it will be nihilistic nothingness after the elimination of mind-and-body. In other words, without having first contemplated the Principle of the Ten Links of Dependent Arising, it will be impossible to find out and know that there still exists an embryo-entering consciousness after the elimination of mind-and-body.
It is recorded in Chapter 5 of the Miscellaneous Agama Sutra [Samyukta Agama] that Bhikkhu Yamaka claimed: “There will be nothing left after the death of an arhat who has eliminated all his taints.” In other words, nothing is left behind after an arhat passes away with the elimination of his mind-and body. Such a claim is a nihilistic and erroneous view that no Buddhist practitioner can accept. Hence, the Buddhist disciples who opposed to such idea at that time asked the venerable Śāriputra to clarify and rectify this false claim. If “there is nothing left after death” were a fact, then Buddhist disciples would not be sure that they would want to eliminate mind-and-body by practicing the emancipation-gate of the Principle of the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising because they would have fear of ending up in nihilism eventually. Therefore, the Buddha clarified repeatedly in the sutras that the correct contemplation and investigation of the Principle of the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising has to rely on the contemplation of the Principle of the Ten Links of Dependent Arising as the basis. Without the eighth consciousness as the basis to establish that “mind-and-body is produced by the embryo-entering consciousness and nothing else can give rise to the embryo-entering consciousness” and with the belief that there are only six consciousnesses in mind-and-body, one will have “fear externally”—will be afraid of the total extinction of the external dharmas of the five aggregates. Without an everlasting real dharma, nothing would remain with the demise of the physical body, and one would fear that the result of practicing the Principe of the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising would lead to nothingness—“internal fear.”
Buddha established the concept of eight consciousnesses: There exists the eighth consciousness in addition to the seven consciousnesses that are part of the mind-and-body. The seventh consciousness—mental faculty—is one of the elements in the eighteen elements and the five aggregates that are encompassed in mind-and-body. The eighth consciousness, which gives rise to mind-and-body, is a dharma not included in mind-and-body. It will never and cannot be destroyed with the destruction of mind-and-body. Even if mind-and-body no longer comes to be in future rebirths, the eighth consciousness will still remain in existence by itself. As a result, practitioners of Solitary-realizer Bodhi will have the courage to study and investigate the emancipation-gate of the Principle of the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising to find out why mind-and-body continuously comes to be from embryo-entering consciousness and why the embryo-entering consciousness continuously gives rise to mind-and-body life after life. They will eventually discover that it is all because of ignorance.
Due to ignorance, sentient beings are unable to eradicate the mental activities of their six consciousnesses in the consciousness aggregate and fall into the cycle of continuous habituation and attachments in all kinds of situations. In the intermediate state of existence after death, seeds of attachment that have been habituated and stored in their embryo-entering consciousness continue to flow out and induce them to seek for chances to enter the wombs of their future parents with whom they have close karmic connection for future rebirths. After taking rebirth, a new physical body is born, followed by the six consciousnesses, and subsequently the reappearance of the mind-and-body. With mind-and-body, the six entrances, contact, sensation, craving, …, aging, illness, death, worry, sorrow, vexation and suffering will inevitably come to be and hence the endless cycle of suffering and transmigration. After completing the contemplation in both forward and reverse orders, one can infer that one can eliminate all kinds of suffering such as aging, illness, death, worry, sorrow, vexation, and suffering in future lives if the embryo-entering consciousness no longer gives rise to mind-and-body. Due to the reaffirmation through prior contemplation on the Principle of the Ten Links of Dependent Arising that it is not nihilism but rather the sole existence of the embryo-entering consciousness when mind-and-body no longer reappears, one can have the courage to practice the emancipation-gate of the Principle of the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising to eliminate mind-and-body in future lives without any fear. One can subsequently eliminate self-attachment, attain the highest fruition of liberation—the fourth fruition of Solitary-realizers—never give rise to mind-and-body, and attain instant nirvana after death, i.e., eliminate the cycle of birth and death by entering into remainderless nirvana.
In summary, the practitioners of Solitary-realizer Bodhi eradicate self-view and self-attachment through contemplating the Principle of the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising. However, they must contemplate the Principle of the Ten Links of Dependent Arising before contemplating the Principle of the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising to confirm and accept the concept that “there are altogether eight consciousnesses” as taught by the Buddha and firmly believe that it is not the state of nihilism after the eradication of mind-and-body for there is still the sole existence of the embryo-entering consciousness. Only after having fully understood and wholeheartedly accepted that the embryo-entering consciousness does give rise to mind-and-body and nothing can give rise to the embryo-entering consciousness can one fearlessly practice the emancipation-gate of the Principle of the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising and eliminate self-attachment totally and eradicate any rebirth of mind-and-body in future lives. Upon successful realization of the Principle of the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising, one achieves the liberation of the fourth fruition and become a saint who has transcended the cycle of birth and death in the three realms.