It is sweet even to hear the sound of the word “Arahant.” To be able to meet a venerable Arahant monk or nun is an extremely fortunate event. In this human world, living among the humans, walking on this earth, these Arahants belong to a group of marvelous humans.
Arahants Cannot Be Measured
In this universe, these magnificent beings only appear with the help of a fully enlightened Buddha. This is because it is only under the instruction of the Buddha that the Noble Eight-Fold Path which leads to the attainment of the fruit of Stream-entry, Once-returning, Non-returning, and Arahantship is revealed. Therefore it is impossible to measure these Arahants who have achieved the ultimate purity, having destroyed all defilements.
“Monk Upasīva, there is no way to measure an Arahant who has achieved ultimate freedom, Nibbāna. If someone uses an ordinary unit of measurement to measure ordinary people, Arahants cannot be measured in this way. Once all defilements have been eradicated, all arguments cease.”
Upasīva Sutta, Sutta Nipāta verse 1076
Like Golden Swans
For an ordinary person, it is impossible to comprehend the life of Arahants. An Arahant’s life is unimaginably peaceful, simple, and liberated. In this world the only person that walks with perfect freedom is an Arahant. In this time period the very first person to become an Arahant was the fully enlightened Buddha. The Buddha spoke about the lives of Arahants in this way:
“Arahants are well established in the Four Establishments of Mindfulness. They are not bound by craving. Like the swans that fly away from the lake, they let go of everything, large and small.”
Dhammapada, verse 91
The Tamed Arahant
If the six sense bases are completely tamed in someone, that person is definitely an Arahant. The tameness that arises from virtue, concentration, and wisdom is mind-blowing. This is the exact reason that they are extremely humble.
“Arahants tame their senses with the same skill that an expert horse tamer tames his horses. Because of this they become utterly extinguished. Humble and with unshakeable minds, these unblemished Arahants are a pleasant sight, even for the gods.”
Dhammapada, verse 94
Beautiful Is the Place They Reside
The Arahant sages who do wholesome actions, who speak wholesome words, and who think wholesome thoughts, make even the environment around them become beautiful. The liberated personality of these Arahant monks and nuns matches the beauty of nature very well. Like the beauty of a flower, they possess an untarnished, inherent beauty.
“Whether it be a village, a jungle, a valley, a hill or any other place, if Arahants dwell there, that place is truly delightful.”
Dhammapada, verse 98
Glowing with Wisdom
Possessing an enchanting wisdom, our Great Teacher, the Buddha, shared his knowledge with his disciples. Those disciples used the power of the Buddha’s enchanting wisdom to stimulate their own wisdom. It was because of that power of wisdom that they were able to rise above the ordinary people. The Buddha explained that point in this way:
“A beautiful, fragrant lotus blooms in a mud-hole filled with filth along the highway road. In the same way, in the world with its ignorant, worldly people that have stained and impure beliefs, a disciple of the Buddha will stand out among them, shining with brilliant wisdom.”
Dhammapada, verses 58 & 59
The Realization of an Arahant
One becomes an Arahant by realizing the Four Noble Truths fully. That realization must occur in three phases and twelve modes. The Blessed One explained this fact in his very first discourse—the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta.
When one becomes a stream enterer, that disciple attains the first phase with regard to the Four Noble Truths. It is known as “the knowledge of the truth.”
The Knowledge of the Truth
The one who attained the Knowledge of the Truth embraces the first factor of the Noble Eight-fold Path. This means he has within himself the right view that comes from the understanding of the Four Noble Truths. He knows by his own understanding: suffering as a noble truth, the cause of suffering as a noble truth, the end of suffering as a noble truth, and that the path that must be followed to end suffering is the Noble Eight-fold Path as a noble truth. This is the Knowledge of the Truth.
The Knowledge of the Task to Be Accomplished
This is the second phase. In the first phase, the disciple understood the knowledge of the truth with regards to the Four Noble Truths. In this second phase, the disciple should have the knowledge of the task to be accomplished with regard to each noble truth. He understands that the noble truth of suffering is to be fully understood, the noble truth of the cause of suffering is to be abandoned, the noble truth of the end of suffering is to be realized, and the way leading to the end of suffering is to be developed in terms of virtue, concentration, and wisdom. This way the disciple of the Buddha realizes the Four Noble Truths completely, having established on the knowledge of the Four Noble Truths itself.
The Knowledge That the Task Has Been Completed
In this way, when one has started to develop the Noble Eightfold Path, he is capable of developing the thirty-seven aids to enlightenment. Within it, the three-fold way of training called virtue, concentration, and wisdom is developed. Then, he becomes liberated from all defilements and becomes enlightened. Having completed the task with regard to the Four Noble Truths he possesses the Knowledge That the Task Has Been Completed.
This means he has the knowledge that what had to be done with regard to the Noble Truth of Suffering has been completed. That is, the complete understanding of the Noble Truth of Suffering. He has the knowledge that what had to be done with regard to the Noble Truth of the Cause of Suffering has been completed. That is, the complete eradication of the Noble truth of the Cause of Suffering. He has the knowledge that what had to be done with regard to the Noble Truth of the End of Suffering has been completed. That is, the achievement of the Noble Truth of the End of Suffering. He has the knowledge that what had to be done with regard to the Noble Truth of the way leading to the End of Suffering has been completed in terms of virtue, concentration, and wisdom. That is, the development of the Noble Truth of the way leading to the End of Suffering. This is the third phase.
In this way, we have passed through an era where thousands of Arahants lived with the all-encompassing knowledge of the Four Noble Truths.
Inspired Utterances of Arahants
There are accounts mentioned in the Dhamma that those Arahants uttered inspired utterances about this amazing transformation which took place in their lives:
“Birth is destroyed. The holy life has been lived. What had to be done to attain enlightenment has been done. There is nothing more to be done to attain enlightenment.”
The Era of a Buddha
The era of a Buddha occurs extremely rarely in the world. During that time, the chance to be born human and to come across the teaching of the Buddha is known as a time of momentous fortune. This moment in a human life is an extremely rare occurrence. Arahants are the only ones that make maximum use of this fruitful moment.
Each discourse of the Buddha contains teachings that solely lead to Arahantship in this very life. There aren’t any other hidden meanings within it. Wise people are skillful in understanding that fact. With that knowledge, they place confidence in the Buddha. Furthermore, they strongly believe in the ultimate solution presented by the Buddha. They give the highest priority to realizing it. They abandon the home life and go forth into homelessness and become monks and nuns.
The Buddha’s Path
The Buddha’s path is a name given for the way leading to Nibbāna, preached by the Buddha.
Sabba pāpassa akaraṇaṁ
Etaṁ Buddhāna sāsanaṁ
“To abstain from all evil, to cultivate the thirty-seven aids to enlightenment, and to cleanse your own mind, this is the teaching of all Buddhas.”
Dhammapada, verse 183
Entering the Buddha’s Path
Entering the Buddha’s path means that you embrace the Three Refuges and receive the full ordination. After that, one is gradually tamed, all the way up to Arahantship. It is because of this that Arahants utter the inspired utterance saying “Kataṁ buddhassa sāsanaṁ” (the Buddha’s path has been fully followed).
The Buddha had this unsurpassed, extraordinary ability to guide the disciples who enter the path until Arahantship is reached. There is an occasion in the Middle Length Discourses where the Buddha explains the instructions on taming his disciples to a brāhmin named Gaṅaka Moggallāna in the Gaṅaka Moggallāna Sutta (Majjhima Nikāya 107).
Instructions from the Buddha
“Just as, brāhmin, when a clever horse-trainer obtains a fine thoroughbred horse, he first makes him get used to wearing the bit, and afterwards trains him further, so too when a person comes to the Tathāgata to be tamed, he first disciplines him thus: ‘Come monk, be virtuous, restrained with the restraint of the major code of discipline, possess courteous behavior and good conduct, and seeing fear in the slightest fault, train in the precepts you have undertaken.’
Guard Your Sense Faculties
“When, brāhmin, the monk is virtuous… and seeing fear in the slightest fault, trains in the precepts he has undertaken, then the Tathāgata disciplines him further: ‘Come, monk, guard the doors of your sense faculties. On seeing a form with the eye, do not grasp at its signs and features. Since, if you were to leave the eye faculty unguarded, evil unwholesome states of desire and anger might invade you, therefore practice the way of its restraint, guard the eye faculty, undertake the restraint of the eye faculty. On hearing a sound with the ear… On smelling an odour with the nose… On tasting a flavour with the tongue… On touching a tangible with the body… On cognizing a mind-object with the mind, do not grasp at its signs and features. Since, if you were to leave the mind faculty unguarded, evil unwholesome states of desire and anger might invade you, therefore practice the way of its restraint, guard the mind faculty, and practice the restraint of the mind faculty.’
Take Meals with Full Awareness
“When, brāhmin, the monk guards the doors of his sense faculties, then the Tathāgata disciplines him further: ‘Come, monk, be moderate in eating. Reflecting wisely, you should take food, neither for fun nor for intoxication nor for the sake of physical beauty and attractiveness, but only for the endurance and continuance of this body, for ending painful feelings, and for assisting the holy life, considering: “Thus I shall give up old feelings without making new feelings and I shall be healthy and blameless and shall live in comfort.’
Meditating with Wakefulness
“When, brāhmin, the monk is moderate in eating, then the Tathāgata disciplines him further: ‘Come, monk, be devoted to meditation with wakefulness. During the day, while walking back and forth and sitting, clean your mind of states that block it. In the first part of the night, while walking back and forth and sitting, clean your mind of states that block it. In the middle part of the night you should lie down on the right side in the lion’s pose with one foot overlapping the other, mindful and fully aware, after noting in your mind the time for wakening up. After rising in the morning, in the third part of the night, while walking back and forth and sitting, clean your mind of states that block it.’
Be Mindful of Your Body Position and Daily Routines
“When, brāhmin, the monk is devoted to wakefulness, then the Tathāgata disciplines him further: ‘Come, monk, be possessed of mindfulness and full attentiveness. Act in full awareness when going forward and returning; act in full awareness when looking ahead and looking away; act in full awareness when flexing and stretching your limbs; act in full awareness when wearing your robes and carrying your double robe and bowl; act in full awareness when eating, drinking, consuming food, and tasting; act in full awareness when defecating and urinating; act in full awareness when walking, standing, sitting, falling asleep, waking up, talking, and keeping silent.’ (This means that one should not allow unwholesome states to arise)
Live in Seclusion
“When, brāhmin, the monk possesses mindfulness and full awareness, then the Tathāgata disciplines him further: ‘Come, monk, spend time in a secluded resting place: the forest, the root of a tree, a mountain, a ravine, a hillside cave, a charnel ground, a jungle thicket, an open space or a heap of straw.’
Give Up the Five Hindrances
“He resorts to a secluded resting place: the forest… a heap of straw. On returning from his alms round, after his meal he sits down, folding his legs crosswise, setting his body straight, and establishing mindfulness on the meditation object. Giving up greed for the world, he lives with a mind free from greed; he purifies his mind from greed. Giving up ill will and hatred, he lives with a mind free from ill will, compassionate for the wellbeing of all living beings; he cleans his mind of ill will and hatred. Giving up sleepiness and drowsiness, he lives free from sleepiness and drowsiness, able to perceive light, mindful and fully aware; he purifies his mind from sleepiness and drowsiness. Giving up restlessness and remorse, he lives without an agitated mind and is peaceful inside; he purifies his mind from restlessness and remorse. Giving up doubt, he lives having gone beyond doubt, without confusion about wholesome states; he purifies his mind from doubt.
“Having thus given up these five hindrances, imperfections of the mind that weaken wisdom, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, he enters upon and stays in the first jhāna, which has applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of seclusion.
“With the stilling of applied and sustained thought, he enters upon and stays in the second jhāna, which has self-confidence and singleness of mind without applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of concentration.
“With the fading away as well of rapture, he lives in equanimity, and mindful and fully aware, still feeling pleasure with the body, he enters upon and stays in the third jhāna, because of which noble ones announce: ‘He has a pleasant abiding who has equanimity and is mindful.’
“With the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the previous disappearance of joy and grief, he enters upon and stays in the fourth jhāna, which has neither-pain-nor-pleasure and purity of mindfulness due to equanimity.
“This is my instruction, brāhmin, to those monks who are in the higher training, whose minds have not yet attained the goal of Arahantship, who live hoping to achieve the supreme security from bondage.
“But these things lead to both to a pleasant living here and now and to mindfulness and full awareness for those monks who are arahants with taints destroyed, who have lived the holy life, done what had to be done, laid down the burden of defilements, reached the goal gradually, destroyed the things that tie one to existence, and are completely liberated through final knowledge.”
In this manner, having developed the knowledge of seeing things as they really are, that monk or nun contemplates all formations as impermanent, suffering, and non-self. Through the realization of the Four Noble Truths, he becomes liberated from suffering.
Now you have learned about the incredible gradual training used by the Buddha to discipline his disciples. The Buddha explained about the noble lives of his enlightened disciples who were fully tamed under that instruction in this way:
“Monks, to whatever extent there are dwelling places of beings, even up to the peak of existence, Arahants are the foremost in the world, Arahants are the Supreme.
Paṭama Arahanta Sutta, SN 22.76
Verses of Enlightened Nuns
Through this sacred book, you will meet the noble nuns who attained enlightenment when the Buddha was alive.
These exalted nuns achieved the essence of the Buddha’s path: the liberation through Arahantship and ultimate freedom. The account of their struggle for enlightenment is amazing. It is hard to imagine how they practiced the Dhamma with such extreme energy and determination, even at a risk to their own lives.
Saying “Saṅghaṁ saranaṁ gacchāmi,” we go for refuge to this community of noble disciples. How exalted and pure they are! We who are living in the twenty-sixth century of the Buddhist era can be overjoyed simply by recollecting the pure lives of such enlightened disciples.
While you are reading this sacred book, those Arahant nuns might seem to appear in front of you. You will feel like they are conversing with you. You will witness before you the display of the ultimate purity of their hearts. The community of the Buddha’s noble disciples is absolutely remarkable and magnificent.
Venerable resident monks in the Mahamewnawa Meditation Monastery, members of the Maha Sangha, and faithful devotees supported me in compiling this sacred book. May they achieve the Supreme bliss of Nibbāna!
May our noble friends, Mr. Dayawamsa Jayakodi and Mrs. Jayakodi, and their staff who aided in of the publishing of this sacred book, also achieve Nibbāna! May you who read this book attain Nibbāna in this Gautama Buddha’s path!
Ven. Kiribathgoda Ñānānanda Thero
Mahamewnāwa Meditation Monastery