Believing in the Power
of Skillful Action

Thanissaro Bhikkhu

From Wings to Awakening
Part I (B) Kamma & the Ending of Kamma

The Buddha's doctrine of kamma takes the fact of skillful action, which can be observed on the ordinary sensory level, and gives it an importance that, for a person pursuing the Buddhist goal, must be accepted on faith. According to this doctrine, skillful action is not simply one factor out of many contributing to happiness: it is the primary factor. It does not lead simply to happiness within the dimensions of time and the present: if developed to the ultimate level of refinement, it can lead to an Awakening totally released from those dimensions. These assertions cannot be proven prior to an experience of that Awakening, but they must be accepted as working hypotheses in the effort to develop the skillfulness needed for Awakening. This paradox -- which lies at the heart of the act of taking refuge in the Triple Gem -- explains why the serious pursuit of the Buddhist path is a sustained act of faith that can become truly firm only with the first glimpse of Awakening, called stream-entry. It also explains why a strong desire to gain release from the stress and suffering inherent in conditioned existence is needed for such a pursuit, for without that desire it is very difficult to break through this paradox with the necessary leap of faith.


 The entire book is available free of charge:

The Wings to Awakening: an Anthology from the Pali Canon, translated and explained by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Barre, Mass.: Dhamma Dana Publications, 1996; multi-part HTML book; 1109k/370pp.)

One facet of the Buddha's genius as a teacher lay in his ability to organize the vast body of spiritual teachings he left behind so that his students -- his contemporaries and all those who have come since -- could readily put the teachings into practice and reap their results. The "Wings to Awakening" (bodhipakkhiya-dhamma) is the Buddha's own list of his most important teachings, and includes teachings on the Four Frames of Reference, the Four Right Exertions, the Four Bases of Power, the Five Faculties, the Five Strengths, the Seven Factors of Awakening, and the Noble Eightfold Path. Toward the end of his life, the Buddha stated several times that as long as the teachings in this list were remembered and put into practice, his message would endure. The Buddha himself described the Wings to Awakening as being what was most worth mastering and passing along to others.

    The material gathered in this anthology consists of over 200 newly translated passages from the suttas, along with extensive commentary to help the reader grasp their full meaning and their relation to the practice of meditation. This volume is thus both a treasure-house of important passages from the Canon covering the key points of the Buddha's teachings, as well as a practical manual to help the serious meditation student navigate through some of the most fundamental and profound points of Dhamma.

    Printed copies of this book are available free of charge from Dhamma Dana Publications.

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