The Progressive Path

อาจารย์ ถิรธัมโม

The Progressive Path

On a number of occasions, the Buddha described the Path of Spiritual Practise as a spiritual progression or evolution.
[See note from the book below]

On one such occasion, in answer to the query about how to realize the cessation of I-making, he elaborated as follows:

‘A person hears the Dhamma taught by the Buddha or one of his disciples.

They gain faith and, recognizing that it is not easy to practise the teaching as a layperson, eventually go forth into the monastic life and undertake to follow the detailed moral guidelines.

They become content with robes to protect the body and almsfood to maintain bodily strength.

They develop restraint of the six senses and maintain mindfulness and full awareness regarding all bodily and verbal actions. They retire to a solitary place and cleanse the mind of the Five Hindrances.

With a mind free of the hindrances, they proceed to develop the four fine-material absorptions and then direct the mind to the waning of the Outflows (of selfhood).

Through the direct knowing of the Four Noble Truths and the cessation of the Outflows, the mind is liberated.’
M.III,33f summarised

This is the ideal path of practice as envisioned by the Buddha.

He went on to say that it is by knowing and seeing thus that I-making, mine-making and the underlying disposition to conceit are uprooted, which is equivalent to directly knowing the Four Noble Truths and liberation from the three Outflows.

Since the Buddha was addressing monastics, the path of practice is modelled on that lifestyle.

However, there are common principles applicable to anyone interested in spiritual practice.

These begin with faith in the teaching, which leads to earnestness in undertaking refined moral training, and proceeds to the principles of contentment with simple living, restraint of the senses, and the training in mindfulness and full awareness.

This is then the basis for training the mind in collectedness and contemplation of the Four Noble Truths and the three Outflows, resulting in liberation.

In the present time, most spiritual aspirants are ‘self-taught’ or ‘do-it-yourself’ practitioners. The self-taught student needs to be particularly vigilant and astute, especially due to the insidious power of self-referencing and self-deception.

We can easily find ourselves choosing the easy, self-supporting option of spiritual practice, rather than developing a more comprehensive approach, one that involves practices that are challenging and difficult for our self.

A helpful reminder at this juncture is that anything our self finds challenging (within reason) is very likely ‘good practice’, because it is our self-satisfaction that is being challenged.

This Buddhist Path of Spiritual Practice is a very practical, step- by-step approach to spiritual development, providing a stable and comprehensive foundation, leading to a direct realization of liberation.

This reflection by Ajahn Thiradhammo is from the book, Beyond I-Making, (pdf) pp. 177-179.

Note from the book:
This general outline is presented in many places in the Pali Canon, sometimes with alterations (MN.27, MN.38, MN.39, MN.51, MN.53, MN.107, MN.125). The version in DN. 2ff also includes many similes.

In a different context, another form of ‘spiritual evolution’ is outlined; that is, associating with worthy people nourishes listening to the true teachings, this nourishes faith … appropriate attention … mindfulness and clear comprehension … sense restraint … practising the three ways of right conduct … the four attendings with mindfulness … the seven factors of awakening, arriving at true knowledge and liberation (A.V,115).