By Bhikkhu Bodhi
Translation from the Pali of the Anguttara Nikaya, the fourth number of the canonical discourses of the Buddha.
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Extra resources for The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha: A Complete Translation of the Anguttara Nikaya (complete page)
However, even in AN the practice for a lay follower is not exhausted by merit. In several suttas the Buddha mentions four qualities that lead to the superior welfare of a lay follower. The first three are faith, virtue, and generosity, the constituents of merit. But the fourth is wisdom, specifically “the wisdom that discerns arising and passing away, which is noble and penetrative and leads to the complete destruction of suffering” (8:54, 8:76). This is the 40 The Aṅguttara Nikāya wisdom of insight into impermanence, which leads beyond all spheres of rebirth to the final goal of the Dhamma, the realization of nibbāna and release from the round of rebirths.
Kamma also denotes the moral force created by our deeds. All our morally determinate deeds create a potential to bring forth results (vipāka) that correspond to their ethical quality. Our deeds generate kamma, and when suitable conditions come together, the kamma ripens and produces the appropriate fruits, bringing misery or happiness in dependence on the moral quality of the original action. The kamma we create may ripen in this very life, in the next rebirth, or on some subsequent occasion (3:34, 10:217).
The monastic quest does not always culminate in the nirvanic realization that inspired the monk to embark on the life of renunciation. The Nikāyas show a keen awareness of human weakness and thus ring precautionary alarms. One sutta mentions four “perils” that face a clansman who has “gone forth out of faith from the household life into homelessness”: anger at being instructed by younger monks, craving for food that is frustrated by the regulations governing meals, attraction to the five kinds of sensual pleasure, and the encounter with seductive women (4:122).