“All men are born free” they say! The truth? All that is born is conditioned, all that is conditioned is unfree!
It is not true that all men are born free, rather, all men are born slaves, to their kamma. The Dhamma is needed to make free that which is unfree, pure that which is impure, steady that which is in frenzy, serene that which is feverish, unattached that which is fettered, discerning that which is blind, unconditioned that which is entirely conditioned; freedom here is a totally acquired quality. And that is why the first spark of Dhamma in the heart, the very first moments of awakening to Dhamma, is a miraculous event, because it proves that something exists inherently in the human being, that is of the nature of Nibbāna, inclined towards Nibbāna, just by itself and according to its own nature, so that when the Dhamma is heard, it is understood, and so that when it is understood, one ginally gains access to true freedom and refuge, and the Path becomes acquired.
So all men are born with that, that miraculous capacity, to awaken to Truth. And Sīla _the awakened conscience_ is an aspect of just that same capacity; a necessary foundation and support for the transcendental intuition (Pañña) that understands the Truth and, thereafter, saturates the consciousness and the will with it. And this Sīla exists inherently, also, at the very least in a potential form, as an inexhaustible capacity, resource, possibility, in all human beings; and it serves as the most vivid “proof” _if you will_ that materiality, in its entirety, is encompassable by a human being; and that it is only due to desire, emotional attachment, and imagination, that the fantom-like and hollow force of kamma, succeeds in holding-back a human being from breaking through, wholly transcending conditioned existence, unto Nibbāna.
“Dhamma” as an independent Truth and as a relative teaching
“Saddhā cepi bhāradvāja, purisassa hoti, ‘evaŋ me saddhā’ti iti vadaŋ saccamanurakkhati, na tveva tāva ekaŋsena niṭṭhaŋ gacchati: ‘idameva saccaŋ moghamañña’nti. Ettāvatā kho bhāradvāja saccānurakkhanā hoti. Ettāvatā saccamanurakkhati. Ettāvatā ca mayaŋ saccānurakkhanaŋ paññāpema.” _MN 95 Cankīsutta.
The Dhamma is not that of the Buddha, it does not belong to Him, it is not in itself His! This Dhamma is transcendental, and many a human aspiration to discover or unravel the transcendent truth, will reach, by various degrees of success, certitude, truthfulness, and clarity, this same Dhamma. The excellence which we attribute to Venerable Gotama arises from His efforts primarily as a teacher, as a clarifier, a revealer, as one who explains the Dhamma, conveys it successfully to our still conditioned minds, and provides training methods or principles through which we too can become liberated in the same way He was. Had He just been liberated and remained silent, we would not have even known Him _ and even if we did, we would not have found in ourselves the ability to be “convinced” by His enlightenment and the Truth to which He had awakened. This same condition applies to every other human being who has ever uttered a word about the transcendental reality as it was revealed and experienced by them, only, these two excellences are not completely separate, the excellence of the Dhamma as independent transcendental reality, and that of the Dhamma as revealed truth, appropriated to the conditioned and conventional mind and language of the unenlightened. For it is just through the conventional, that the wholly transcendent is reached, and is being made intelligible in such a way as to be deserving of our faith and effort. The reason for which we consider the Buddha-Dhamma to be our guide in life is not really that it is in itself superior to other Dhammas -[for essentially the transcendent truth must be identical, and again, essentially, our very ‘sekha’ understanding of the transcendental truth which we already follow and place faith in, remains considerably incomplete and developing!]- but rather that the manner with which Venerable Gotama had expressed and taught it proved to be more excellent in providing “for us” that very life-guidance. Had another Dhamma or Teaching succeeded even better in affording us with such life-guidance, we would have adhered to it. But this very excellence which we find for ourselves, through our own experience, in the Venerable Gotama’s teachings, necessarily speaks directly of the excellence of his enlightenment as well, at least in so far as we ourselves can tell. Whether a proclaimed Dhamma and Teaching are transcendental and true is something that does not appear to us through unexamined faith, whimsy or emotional inclination, social consensus or tradition, or sceptical opinions and reasoning (saddhā, ruci, anussava, ākāraparivitakka, ditthi-nijjhānakkhanti – MN 95), but only through the experiential path itself which we already have to take in order to realise the transcendental truth for ourselves, that is, through applying the teachings, through examining and observing how well the Dhamma is expressed, taught, practised, and lived. That these are our criteria is what makes us Buddhists in the first place!
MN 47 Vimaŋsaka
MN 76 Sandaka 21-33.
MN 95 Cankī.
MN 100 Sangārava 7.