Master Acharavadee Wongsakon
The closure of gate to Apāyabhūmi refers to an attainment of the first stage of enlightenment called Sotapanna by the Path of Stream-Entry (Sotāpattimagga). It is a primary wish of Dhamma practitioners as most of them think that Nibbāna is far beyond their destiny. “To attain just Sotapanna” is a highly possible wish and is the wish of general virtuous people despite not practicing Dhamma. Some are trying shortcuts such as chanting, worshiping holy objects, or doing small good deeds but thinking of Sotapanna attainment. What is the correlation between Sotāpanna attainment and the closure of gate to Apāyabhūmi? Apāyabhūmi is the lowest realm where spirits can be reborn in four possible individualities: hell beings, hungry ghosts (Peta), angry demons (Asurakaya), and animal beings. Attaining the first stage of holiness or the Fruit of Sotapanna is a state of Dhamma wisdom that guarantees the rebirth after death will no longer be in the stages of misery and can be born as celestial beings or human beings. If being born as the human beings, one shall only be reborn not more than 7 lives in order to reach the enlightenment as Arahant. Therefore, the attainment of Sotapanna is called the closure of gate to the stages of misery.
How do the spirits obtain Apāyabhūmi realm? The important reason is caused by a strong intention to severely breach the precepts or even without strong intention, but constantly breaking precepts without realizing that this encroaches oneself and others. It is considered as ill-will leading to be born in the lowest realm. For example, the first precept breaching is the killing others due to very angry, or as a game, or without concerning how painful the life gets killed would be. As for second precept breaching, it is the stealing of both intangible and intellectual assets, intentionally cheating or planning to deceive without concerning others’ troubles.
On the third precept breaking, one commits adultery intentionally without thinking it is wrong and keep doing it again and again. The fourth precept breaking refers to those who tell lie in order to take advantage of others. The fifth precept breaking refers to those who get addicted to intoxication causing to loss of consciousness and subsequently leading to act coarsely and shamelessly. In addition, the results of doing unwholesome deeds such as not having right occupations and committing all sinful actions would lead one to the lowest realm. This is because the mind has accumulated such bad deeds making the mind’s weight heavy. When one dies from human realm, its mind would fall down to the hell to compensate ones’ Kamma. If not falling into the hell realm, one may be born as animal according to karmic wave determining which realm to be reborn.
The animal is a creature that has a heavy kamma. The karmic weight has suppressed its body so that it cannot be erected perpendicularly to the ground. Therefore, it becomes reptile or animal. This means the animal with horizontal torso would obstruct the world as well as the path to Nibbana.
If one keeps the five precepts perfectly in the past, one’s mind will not be afraid of falling into Apāyabhūmi at all. However, if one only keeps five precepts perfectly with the understanding that one would not fall into the lowest realm, it is probably not quite correct understanding because the old karmic deeds accumulated in mind has not been eradicated as if the karmic root remains still. This could cause the rebirth in a particular life, still in the cycle of rebirth, with a chance to fall into the lowest realm. Because karmic root, similar to the root of tree, is not eradicated yet. The seed of sin and unwholesomeness embedded in minds can grow at any time if one is careless of unwholesomeness again. To make perfect wholesome deeds, thus, comprises of Vipassana meditation to get rid of sins because it is powerful practice to burn bad karma and end a heap of defilements accumulated countless lives in the mental formation. The practice of Vipassana meditation therefore will result in not only lifting up the realm of the mind but also paving the way to Nibbana. The closure of gate to Apayabhumi is a matter of attainment in the mental level. It is not achieved through reading Dhamma books or doing relatively good deeds, then making such a guess of achievement. Using intellectual thinking to gauge how much good deeds made in order to attain Sotapanna is still far away from the objective. If, especially, precepts alone could not be observed perfectly, this is no need to think by oneself about Sotapanna attainment. Moreover, how many lives one has been reborn? How much sins and unwholesomeness has been accumulated? One should realize by oneself on what kind of deeds have been done in this life. There are some deeds that one can realize. How about countless deeds that one cannot realize? How could it possibly be to close the path of the lowest realm with little effort? Therefore, if one wishes to close the path to Apayabhumi and to attain Sotapanna, one must practice Vipassana meditation. If one gets persuaded to do all kind of things, such as chanting as much as one can, without practicing meditation for concentration and mindfulness and without observing precepts perfectly, that would make one to be able to close path to the lowest realm and to attain Nibbana automatically! The persuaded person must contemplate it carefully. How would any actions not in line with Buddha’s core teaching lead one to close the path to Apayabhumi or to reach Nibbana? Would there be anyone wiser than Buddha? Or one must contemplate it greatly. In the mundane world, would there be a small investment in share with high yield up to 30 – 93%? Finally, it is a fallacy causing the loss. In terms of Dhamma, it is not different though. There is often a deceptive persuasion of investment in doing small actions but advertising huge return in Nibbana. Wise persons should think carefully. Buddha teaches us to have faith with wisdom, not because somebody says it then we believe in it. As long as, we follow the core of Dhamma: restrain from unwholesome deeds, make complete wholesome deeds, and purify the mind by properly and seriously practicing within the principle framework (not just to sound nice by quoting the teaching), we will be better persons. We can observe precepts naturally and firmly. Our mind become delicate and wise in Dhamma, and detach from selfness. Those practices are good and are subject to a character (Carita) for which practice technique is suitable. The Carita is not an indicator if the practice technique is correct or not. However, it directly impacts the Dhamma advancement because the Carita is a mental familiarity that have been long accumulated. If the practicing technique is in line with one’s familiarity, such as Techo Vipassana is suitable for those who were worriers, and whose characters are direct and determined in the past, the Four Paths of Accomplishment (Iddhipada) will be easily developed: starting from will (Channa), exertion (Viriya), thoughtfulness (Citta), and examination (Vimangsa) of one’s practice against the four foundation of mindfulness; and will lead to Dhamma advancement. If the practice is not suitable for one’s familiarity, the will and the rest will be difficult to take place.
The Carita is directly linked to Iddhipada – Dhamma leading to accomplishment. The Sila is directly linked to the closure of gate to Apayabhumi.
In the mundane world, many types of insurance can be purchased. In the spiritual world, purchasing is not required but one must invest with heart. How and for what purpose do we dedicate our breath in the illusive world? At the end, what life reward do we obtain through mundane path? To strictly observe precepts, to cultivate Vipassana meditation, and to adhere our mind to morality is the excellent and effective way to insure our next life to higher realm and Nibbana ultimately.
Master Acharavadee Wongsakon 17 November 2019
Translator: Chotika Rujirachun, Supravee Veerapala, Patcharanan Laopimolpan, Wisuwat Sutthakorn