The Rapid Path to Liberation

Linmu (Chinese Arahant)

Question: ...The path of meditation you mentioned is undoubtedly the right path, but... it seems like a long journey. Is there a quicker way to gain insight and escape from the sea of suffering?

Answer: Your understanding of liberation might be somewhat skewed. You should consider the canonical Buddhist teachings: keeping precepts, guarding the sense doors, practicing right mindfulness and right understanding, eliminating the Five Hindrances, attaining the first jhana up to the fourth jhana, and finally realizing the ending of defilements. This is the fastest path to liberation, and you can witness it in the present moment.

Perhaps you think that you need to achieve the ending of defilements to be free from suffering and find happiness. But in reality, that's not the case. As soon as you genuinely start keeping precepts, even in the very moment you decide to keep them, you will experience great joy because of that decision. Further guarding the sense doors will prevent afflictions from invading your mind. Not to mention the inner peace arising from right mindfulness and right understanding, as well as the joy found in meditation. But why can't you experience joy right away because of keeping precepts? It's because you still lack faith in the Buddha and his teachings.

Even though you may think you have faith in the Dharma, you are holding onto a false version of the Dharma. You believe that you can attain some legendary form of Nirvana through a specific method, and this Nirvana will annihilate your afflictions. This is a wrong view, a false interpretation of the Dharma propagated in the world, and those who believe in such a distorted version of the Dharma will not experience joy from keeping precepts. This is because this twisted form of Dharma doesn't require precepts. So, how could keeping precepts bring joy? People who believe in this distorted version of the Dharma will only experience happiness when they believe they've realized a false Nirvana. Until they achieve this false Nirvana, they won't experience the unshakable joy of liberation. They might even add more suffering.

However, true Dharma is different. If you understand that so-called Nirvana is the cessation of greed, hatred, and delusion, and not Nirvana that terminates these, you won't expect to quickly attain something to resolve your afflictions. If you understand that ending afflictions, preventing them from arising is the right path to liberation, you'll find joy in keeping precepts because doing so immediately stops unwholesome bodily and verbal actions that lead to the rebirth of coarse afflictions. It's similar to how someone feels elation when they're hungry and then sees food because they know eating is the only way to end their hunger. When someone who's nearly starving sees food, they're filled with ecstatic joy. They don't have to wait until they're full to feel happy.

In the same way, if you know what the right Dharma is, believe in it, you'll feel joy when you make the decision to keep precepts. The moment you decide to keep precepts, guard the sense doors, practice right mindfulness and right understanding, you will be brimming with joy. Deep inside, you will have no doubt that you now have hope and are on your way to eliminating afflictions. Thus, you should seek the right view in the sutras to understand what Buddha Dharma is, what liberation is, and what the path to liberation is. That's what you need to do right now.

Postscript: People have accepted teachings that suggest through certain practices, they can have a sudden realization of something like extinction, Nirvana, awakening, enlightenment, etc., quickly eradicating greed, hatred, and delusion, putting an end to afflictions, eliminating suffering, and achieving transcendental sanctity. From ancient times to the present, many people have propagated such teachings. However, these are not the teachings of the Tathāgata, nor are they the true path to liberation. If you strip away all interpretations and simply study the sutras, you will find that the entire canon teaches from various perspectives how to eliminate greed, hatred, and delusion concerning form, feeling, perception, mental formations, and consciousness. This is because the elimination of greed, hatred, and delusion is Nirvana, just as eliminating illness is health. It is not some sort of thing called health that eliminates illness. Keeping precepts can eliminate the most evil forms of greed, hatred, and delusion. Guarding the sense doors can stop new greed, hatred, and delusion from arising. Right mindfulness and right understanding can remove more subtle forms of greed, hatred, and delusion.

By eliminating the Five Hindrances, the mind becomes righted. Through rightening the mind, true reality is seen. And with this vision of true reality, defilement is completely eliminated, and defilement cessation is the ending of afflictions, affliction cessation is the ending of suffering, and suffering cessation is the ending of all suffering.