Are You a Noble One?
The Buddha’s Description of liberation
Note to readers: There is much speculation about who is enlightened or what is enlightenment. The Buddha’s teachings point to a profound shift at the root of the mind or, to put it in another way, a realisation about the true nature of things unrestricted by the self and its story. He described realised people as Noble Ones. The Buddha shows the features of an authentically awakened consciousness. In the Dharma, whether connected with a tradition or not, there are noble ones today who have come to a deep and liberating wisdom and live as much possible in accordance with their realisation. The stream enterer is a noble one yet is still working with unresolved issues.
The Dharma offers a practical and direct approach to a fully enlightened life; it is a resource pointing directly to full and unexcelled enlightenment of a human being. The Dharma is not something cling to.
Stream Enterers are enlightened since they know authentic liberation, but they still have work to do on themselves. Their realisations and way of living make them Noble Ones. There is a knowing for Stream-Enterers of this immeasurable and indestructible freedom in daily life. Unwelcome and unwanted states of mind may arise and may well need clear attention, but these mind-states have no power to eradicate the discovery of freedom. The sun shines whether clouds drift across the sun or not. Stream-enterers know the sweetness of living with the truth of things, the emptiness of the ego and the joy of freedom. Some will speak the language of finding God. Their sustained practice destines them for complete enlightenment, free from any remaining fetters or obstructions. Stream entry indicates the first major turning point of an enlightened life.
There are practical signs of such realisations. The knowing of liberation does not exist in a vacuum. This means that any inner change that takes place remains relatively steady. It is not easily overcome by the changing circumstances of day-to-day life. The signs are:
There is commitment to ethical principles; there is no wish to harm or exploit. The quality and level of awareness with regard to this are deeply significant. The nature of dependent-arising circumstances is understood and the gap of us and them has dissolved dramatically. In a very real way, one often perceives others as oneself. This view affects one’s heart, mind and activities – true morality belongs to realisation. There is an effortless acknowledgement and appreciation of the five precepts; they are not commandments or pressures to define oneself in a particular way. The Stream-enterer understands the interconnectedness of things.
There is not doubt. Conflict and uncertainy o longer torture the mind. In sudden transformation, one may wonder what happened, what that was all about. The Stream enterer may not be able to put such realisations into language or description. Thoughts may arise about the significance of the change or one may have some doubts about its long term impact, but there is freedom from doubt about freedom itself. One has tasted pure, fresh water. There is no doubt about it.
There is the end of clinging, attachment and identification with rites, rituals and techniques. It is not unusual for teachings and practices to deteriorate into clinging to religious observances. Ceremonies, rituals, methods and techniques become a substitute for opening the heart, depths of samadhi and insight into liberation. We begin to imagine that our particular methodology guarantees the highest wisdom. The method and technique then matter more than liberation from clinging to such forms. There are countless numbers of sincere people who become stuck with their particular form. They cannot see through it. The problem is over for the Stream-enterer.
There is not more clinging to personality belief. It is easy to become obsessed with our personality, our self. Our personality becomes an area of major attention. There is the desire to impress and please. We think that our personality has an inherent existence to it. Through preoccupation with it, we can become narcissistic. Self-infatuated, we only want to talk about ourselves. Everyone and everything else becomes secondary. . Seeing through this, the Stream-enterer does not great significance to personality. One has seen much more deeply than that. Others may speak of our personality in various ways. They will isolate different aspects of the mind, and make that a description of who we are, but in clarity and realisation, there comes natural happiness and contentment. One is no longer thinking in terms of me and my personality and the ego that involves.
There is no falling into hell. Hell is an acutely painful state of mind. There are far too many people living a tortured inner life. There is much despair, depression, and evidence of abnormal psychology. Falling into the pits of unhappiness is hell. There is a sufficient degree of inner well being to stop that from ever happening. Clarity and freedom becomes one’s refuge. Consciousness is steadfast and supported with wisdom, and this brings confidence and understanding, diminishing the chance for any descent into hell.
The Stream-enterer can still experience unresolved issues. There is no hiding behind roles or acting through large layers of ego. Faults and failings do not remain hidden. The question often arises, ‘How then can I know a liberated person?’ How do I know that there are such people on this earth? It is easy to draw conclusions, favourable and unfavourable, about the realisations and attainments of certain people. Sometimes we measure people by the amount of good they do, their warmth and kindness or their clarity of mind. We cannot draw quick conclusions.
We must have a long-term association with somebody, we regard as liberated. It is folly to ignore their wisdom. We may become impressed with a guru or charismatic figure, and with very little contact build up a picture of this person. Time and close contact will tell whether he or she lives a noble life or not.
How does that person deal with a difficult situation or respond to a crisis? How do they deal with personal health or life-and-death issues? Stream-enterers know the sweetness of the non-duality of life and death, presence and absence, coming and going. Stream-entry reveals the knowing of inner freedom and any patters and inner conditions to work on. The mind is truly vast, deep and immeasurable. The waves belong to the ocean. The Stream-enterer knows what is what. It is this clarity and its practice that brings complete fulfilment in the journey to Arahantship.