Thirty-Seven Limbs of En1ightenment
The 37 Limbs of Enlightenment
THE TA CHIH TU LUN
Prof. Lewis Lancaster
The Four Applications of Mindfulness: T. 1509-198b: 18 ff.
One should first teach about the Path. Why is this so? The practice of the path comes first and afterwards the attainment of all the good dharmas. A man must first travel along a path and then he reaches his destination. Now why use the reverse process and first teach about the Four Applications of Mindfulness and then the Noble Eight-Fold Path?
It is not reversed! The Thirty-seven are the designation for those at the time when they initially want to enter the path. (The Process by which one moves from the Four Applications of Mindfulness to the Path.)
I. Four Applications of Mindfulness:
When the disciple comes to the place of the teacher and hears the teaching of the Path, he first uses his mindfulness to hold on to this teaching. This is what is meant by Application of Mindfulness.
II. Four Right Efforts (samyak-prahana);
Because he holds on (to this teaching) and seeks the fruit which results from following the Dharma, he practices with vigor. This is what is meant by Right Effort.
III. Four Bases of Psychic Power (rddhi-pada):
If because of too much exertion his mind becomes distracted, he then orders and pacifies his mind. This is what is meant by Psychic Power.
IV. Five Faculties (indriya):
After the mind becomes ordered and pacified, the Five Faculties will be produced. The true suchness (bhuta-tathata) of (these Five) dharmas is very profound and difficult to understand.
1) By virtue of the Faculty of Faith one can believe; this is what
is meant by the Faculty of Faith.
2) The seeking of the Path with indifference toward body and life, with one-pointed ness of mind is what is meant by the Faculty of
3) Always being mindful of the Path and of the Buddha and not of other things is what is meant by the Faculty of Mindfulness.
4) Always keeping the mind on the Path, is what is meant by the
Faculty of Concentration.
5) Observing the true suchness of the Four Noble Truths is what is
meant by the Faculty of Wisdom.
These Five Faculties by their development can obstruct the passions (klesa) in the same way that a large tree can (be used to) hold back water.
V. Five Powers (bala)
When these Five Faculties are developed. they can penetrate (the meaning of) the profound Dharma. This is what is meant by Powers.
VI. Seven Limbs of Enlightenment (bodhyancra):
After attaining these Powers he can discern that the teaching about the Path has three divisions:
1) The Limb of Investigation into Dharmas (dharma-pravicaya);
2) The Limb of Vigor (virya):
3) The Limb of Joyous Zest (prithi).
The Path of practicing these three dharmas, provided the mind is tranquil, can cause to arise:
4) The Limb of Tranquillity (prasrabdhi);
5) The Limb of Concentration (samadhi):
6) The Limb of Even-Mindedness (upeksa).
(In turn), the Path of practicing this group of three dharmas can center the mind if it is dispersed and cause to arise:
7) The Limb of Mindfulness (smrti) in two ways:
(a) It can collect the wholesome dharmas;
(b) And it can obstruct the unwholesome ones.
This functions in the same way as a gatekeeper who permits a worthy person to enter but excludes the unworthy. Thus, if the mind is tranquil, the mindfulness of the three dharmas arises, and if it is dispersed, then the mindfulness of the three dharmas can center it.
Having arrived at a true enlightened awareness of these seven, he then is one who has nothing further to learn (asaiksa); this is what is meant by Limbs of Enlightenment).
VII. The Eight-Fold Path (marga);
When he has attained these dharmas and his tranquility is perfected, then he has the desire to enter Nirvana, the unconditioned place. Because of this, he practices these dharmas, and this is what is meant by the Path.
Question: What are the Four Applications of Mindfulness?
The Four Applications of Mindfulness are:
1) The Application of Mindfulness to the body (kaya);
2) The Application of Mindfulness to feelings (vedana);
3) The Application of Mindfulness to thoughts(citta);
4) The Application of Mindfulness to dharmas.
These four dharmas are seen in terms of four categories:
(1) The body is impure;
(2) Feeling is suffering;
(3) Thought is impermanent;
(4) Dharmas are lacking in own-being.
Even though these four dharmas have four categories each,
(1) The body should be viewed essentially as having impurity,
(2) Feelings essentially as having suffering,
(3) Thought essentially as having impermanence,
(4) And dharmas essentially as lacking in own-being.
Why is this? Foolish people, before they have entered the Path, wrongly practice these four dharmas and so produce the Four Perverted Views (viparyasa):
(1) (Seeing) purity in impure things;
(2) (Seeing) ease in suffering;
(3) (Seeing) the permanent in impermanence;
(4) (Seeing) a self in the not-self.
We speak of the Four Applications of Mindfulness because they refute these four errors:
(1) In order to refute the error of purity, we speak of the
Application of Mindfulness to the body;
(2) In order to refute the error of ease we speak of the [[Application
of Mindfulness]] to feelings;
(3) In order to refute the error of the permanent we speak of the
Application of Mindfulness to thought;
(4) In order to refute the error of self we speak of the [[Application
of Mindfulness]] to dharmas.
This is why we speak of the Four, neither more nor less.