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[ Beginner's Questions ]

Leaves of Concrete

Unbeatable[1]

This sutta was delivered by The Buddha to the brahman householders of the Kosalan village of Sālā.

There he asked the householders if they had a teacher they trusted based on good reason, and on hearing that they did not, he suggested using the following apaṇṇaka[2] dhamma.

Apaṇṇaka. certain, true, absolute.

Paṇṇattika having a manifestation or name; Apaṇṇattika-Bhaava = a state without designation, state of non-manifestation, indefinite or unknown state (with reference to the passing nature of the phenomenal world)

> Paṇṇatti > paññatti making known, manifestation, description designation, name, idea notion, concept

I would translate it as something like "concrete Dhamma"

 


 

On the one hand there are teachers out there that say:[3]

There is no giving,
no offering,
no sacrifice
no result or consequence from doing good deeds or bad (the view that there is no such thing as kamma)
There is no "This World" and no "World beyond" (take as meaning both that there are other realms of being, and also that there is rebirth)
There is no Mother or Father
There is no being reborn without the intermediate stages of conception, gestation and birth (parents)[4]
There are no good, righteous sorcerers and wisemen in the world who can testify to having seen This World and the World Beyond by higher knowledge.

And on the other hand there are those who say just the opposite.

Regarding this choice, the layman is told to reason this way:

"With regard to those teachers who hold that "There is not," what is to be expected is that they will abandon good conduct of body, speech, and mind and take up pain-causing conduct of body, speech, and mind because the views they hold do not conduce to seeing the danger in wrong behavior or the advantages of good behavior.

And:

Horner:

...because there is indeed a world beyond, the view of anyone that there is not a world beyond is a false view of his. As there is indeed a world beyond, if anyone has the conception that there is no world beyond, it is a false conception of his. As there is indeed a world beyond, if anyone utters the speech: 'There is not a world beyond,' it is a false speech of his. As there is indeed a world beyond, if anyone says that there is not a world beyond, he makes mock of those perfected ones who are knowers of a world beyond. As there is indeed a world beyond, if he convinces others that there is not a world beyond, that convincing of his is against true dhamma, and because of that convincing which is against true dhamma, he is exalting himself and disparaging others.

Nanamoli/Bodhi:

Since there actually is another world, one who holds the view 'there is no other world' has wrong view. Since there actually is another world, one who intends 'there is no other world' has wrong intention. Since there actually is another world, one who makes the statement 'there is no other world' has wrong speech. Since there actually is another world, one who says 'there is no other world' is opposed to those Arahants who know the other world. Since there actually is another world, one who convinces another 'there is no other world' convinces him to accept an untrue Dhamma; and because he convinces another to accept an untrue Dhamma, he praises himself and disparages others.

 


 

With regard to this, the intelligent man thinks this way:

If the one who says "there is not" is correct, he will suffer no bad consequences as a result;
But if he is incorrect, and "there is", he will end up in a painful rebirth;
But even if is true that "there is not", here and now the intelligent look down on this individual's immoral behavior and further, right or wrong, condemn him for holding what they hold to be wrong views;
And if it is true that "there is", there is grief for him on two levels; a bad rebirth and condemnation by the intelligent in the here and now.

And he concludes that that position has been constructed lopsidedly, not taking into consideration both possibilities.

And he sees that the reverse is true for one who holds the position: "There is"[5]

 


 

But how are we to understand this statement:
 
"Santaṃ yeva kho pana paraṃ lokaṃ";
"Since, moreover, there is a world beyond;"
 
in the face of the continuous exhortation not to hold views concerning the existence of the world?[6]

The simple, short answer here is that here the Buddha is using "conventional speech." The long way around to arriving at this conclusion is this:

There are, these days [@ Tuesday, March 04, 2003 12:50 PM] endless debates concerning the nature of Nibbana, the existence or nonexistence of some continuing substratum of consciousness, the reality of or nonexistence of the self or the world, and the mechanisms of action of that which cognizes Nibbana, the self and the world.

Here (on BuddhaDust) the position that is consistently upheld is that all of these positions boil down to a debate concerning the existence or non existence of a "true" or "real" or "eternal" self, and are really a very personal debate about one's own "feeling" that one is real and eternal, and, as a consequence of the fact that it is not possible[7] to distinguish between "creation" and "conception" to hold a position on either side of the debate requires "point of view" or "ditthi", and consequently can never be resolved in favor of one side or the other, and therefore should just be let go as not being conducive to ending pain.

The idea of Anatta (again and again and again and again!, not the view that there is no self, but the view that there is no thing which is the self in this and that)[8] is a sub-routine of the above, the explanation, if you will, as to why it is that the debate concerning an eternal self cannot be resolved: That is, that because a thing which has come into existence (has attained identity, and shape or form), is subject to time and will therefore by definition have "beginning" "middle" and "end" as characteristics, and that that which is so subject to such change, not being within one's control, cannot rightly be considered to be one's self (no matter how one feels).

The Paticca Samuppada is, in it's turn, an explanation of how what is apparent to ordinary observation (that there is a world and beings) comes about.

The sequence:
1. Let Go of Views,
2. Because this is why you cannot hold views, and
3. This is what is really happening, satisfies the mind and allows one to do #1, Let Go, and the whole serves the master "The Magga" in it's goal of Ending Pain.

The reason I mention what is happening elsewhere, is that what I see happening is that a position is being taken by many teachers with regard to how the Buddha speaks to people that is fundamentally different from that which is held here.

In most other discussions of what the Buddha taught the First assumption is that what he is saying is always incomprehensibly deep; that it can never be taken at face value.

I hold that the Buddha means what he says when he says that he teaches without the "closed fist" of the guru.

I say that after the conventional meaning has been understood, and only then, that what he says should be studied for deeper meaning.

In other words, I am saying that when asked a question, or when dealing with an issue that comes up, The Buddha is always first speaking to the face of it (at the primary level) on the level of common understanding...what is often called "conventional speech."[9]

In the case of this case the Buddha is speaking about teachers of other systems speaking for or against the possibility of what we would call "heavens" and he is speaking to ordinary common people whose interest is in these heavens.[10] The discussion is not of the specialized knowledge of the Buddhas concerning "dependant uprising" or even the debate about the existence or not existence in an ultimate sense of the world or the self. In this sense what is being spoken of is just an observable thing, as the existence of this world is an observable thing, that there are "other worlds" and beings born in them, and that there is rebirth, subsequent to death, in those "other worlds."

In effect, this sutta is at the level of "Giving" or "Making Good Kamma": if you don't believe in an after-life, you will be careless in your behavior, if you do you will be more careful, therefore the wise thing to do is to at least act as though you believe, and the Buddha says that this is the correct position because, at this level, there is rebirth into other worlds.

 


 

First Look for the Obvious Solution

Sherlock Holmes

More on the same theme

The question came up with regard to Majjhima Nikaya #111, as to the implications of the indicated presence in the jhanas of factors not usually included in the description of the jhana state. MO is responding to U.

I think I see the issue you (U) are raising pointing out the presence of phasso vedanā saññā cetanā cittaṃ chando adhimokkho viriyaṃ sati upekhā manasikāro...(the usual attributes of the Jhana, plus) contact, sense experience, perception, intent, heart, wish, resolve, energy, memory, detachment, and work-of-mind in the various jhana even up to the sphere of No Thing There.[11]

I think this is the same issue, in inverse form as that suggested by the discussion as to whether or not Nibbana is destroyed by the attainment of Parinibbana; and by the discussion attempting to establish a conceptual description of Nibbana, or a description of the consciousness that perceives Nibbana.

What I see going on here is effort to "imagine" what Nibbana or the state of Arahantship is like. Thus, for example, The Sphere of No Thing is imagined to be a place where there is nothing, blank, black, empty; or the sphere of Akasa is imagined to be a perception of something like outer space. Then, based on the imagined state, an attempt to reason back to the mental state that could perceive such a thing absent a self.

The thing that really should be being done here by people is a putting aside of this intellectual speculation, replacing it with whole-hearted practicing of the Eightfold path, including meditation. Then these states would be seen directly (and I am not using some kind of technical term there, I am speaking of seeing for one's self). But I understand this is too much to ask! However, I do think these issues are resolved in the suttas.

In the case of the case of the difference between Nibbana and PariNibbana, I believe the idea is made clear by the statement made in several places that what is left for the Arahant to do after he has attained freedom, seen freedom as freedom, and knows he is free etc, but he has not yet died and attained parinibbana, is a duty towards that which remains, namely the body (here, really, rupa, because, as I understand it, this process can carry on for a while past the death of the body) with it's senses and that which arises as a result of their contact with their sense objects. This is said another way (for the not-yet dead Arahant) as "there is only a sphere about a plow-length in diameter that remains unclear.

As an experiment: Open your eyes and look at the world in front of you, then imagine (oh well!) that beyond that you are able to see as the Arahant sees. That is the difference, at the death of the body that small sphere of unclarity has gone.

Then, in the case of the case of what it is that is the mental state of the Arahant, in stead of trying to figure out that, go to the statement made by the Buddha himself about what it is he is conscious of:

"... I, Vaccha, whenever I please, recollect a variety of former habitations, that is to say one birth, two births ...with purified deva-vision surpassing that of men ... see beings as they pass hence and come to be ... and I, Vaccha, by the destruction of the cankers, having realized here and now by my own super knowledge the freedom of mind and the freedom through wisdom that are cankerless, entering thereon, abide therein.[12]

In other words the Arahant is able to see the past, the future, and his present free'd state. This (tevijja) is elsewhere called: Aññā, which we think of as omniscience[13], but which is really the ability to know whatever we wish to know whenever we wish to know it.

This, all, meanwhile, with no thought that it is "I" that is knowing, or that this knowing is somehow "mine", etc. (and no speculation about "thinking about Nibbana in any of the ways we thought about Nibbana"[14]) what it is that is knowing, or how what it is that is knowing is knowing, which we, in training, abstain from doing because that is the way we may come to know, and which we, fully trained, do not do because we fully understand.

Then we take this attitude towards undertaking the dhamma and apply it to the "attainment" of the jhanas, and, knowing that the jhanas are not Nibbana, but are states which are downbound to the world, we can see that they must be being attained "by" what we conventionally understand as "so and so" and therefore are states being attained through the senses, and therefore necessarily involve contact, sense experience, perception, intent, heart, wish, resolve, energy, memory, detachment, and work-of-mind. But it is not "our" contact, etcetera.

To make it clear to the mind, I personally would make a division between what is considered to be the attributes of the jhana (the attributes we usually encounter) and the attributes of the being experiencing jhana, but because this is not clearly spelled out I think it is just as easily let go and resolved in much the same way as the dispute concerning the ways of describing sense experience (vedana) where to cling to the idea that there are three or that there are two, or sixteen or thirty-two, or 108, is to cling to only one description of a thing which can be described in many ways.

In any case, here, Sariputta is being described at that point where from seeing these attributes as "his own" he is seeing them as "not his own".

Nanamoli/Bodhi's translation of this "anupada" as "One by one" I think reflects Bhk. Bodhi's Abhidhamma bent (certainly his reliance on the commentaries), Horner's translation is "Uninterrupted" "For half a month, monks, Sariputta had uninterrupted insight into things."

Thinking about this issue this way resolves also, the thing which was bothering me from the point you brought it to my attention: that translating it "One-by-one" would necessitate perceiving "vedana and sanna" separately, which as pointed out in Majjhima Nikaya Sutta #43 is not possible.

The B/N translation contradicts itself in this matter as it translates the passage there: "Feeling, perception, and consciousness, friend — these states are conjoined, not disjoined, and it is impossible to separate each of these states from the others in order to describe the difference between them. For what one feels, that one perceives; and what one perceives, that one cognizes."

 


[1] From: MN 60.

[2] Horner: "sure dhamma"; B/N: "incontrovertible teaching"

[3] See: Teachers Not Worth/Worth Following for more on what some teachers teach.

[4] opapātikā arisen or reborn without visible cause (i.e. without parents), spontaneous rebirth, apparitional rebirth.

[5] This much (without the sections on "Since there actually is...") I have used as the basis for Covering Your Bets in The Pali Line/Sila.

[6] See DN 1 First section on Dhammas

[7] MN 43

"That which is feeling, your reverence, and that which is perception and that which is discriminative consciousness [viññāṇa] — these states are associated, not dissociated, and it is not possible to lay down a difference between these states, having analyzed them again and again. Your reverence, whatever one feels, that one perceives; whatever one perceives that one discriminates; therefore these states are associated, not dissociated, and it is not possible to lay down a difference between these states, having analyzed them again and again.

pp355:

Your reverence, these five sense-organs, different in range, different in pasture, do not react to the pasture and range of one another; that is to say the organ of eye ... ear ... nose ... tongue ... body. Of these five sense-organs, your reverence, different in range, different in pasture, not reacting to the pasture and range of one another, mind is the repository, and mind reacts to their pasture and range."

[8] See: Anatta: "Not-Self" not "No Self"

[9] This is not to say that these people are not the first to condemn any discovery of magic or deep meaning in any sutta with the statement that such a thing is impossible because the Buddha teaches with an open hand ... !

[10] We can say that as a group they do not constitute those who might be interested in deeper matters because they have already confessed being confused about the simple stuff.

[11] MN 111

[12] MN 71 see Dhammatalk: Omniscience footnote 4

[13] See: Dhammatalk: Omniscience

[14] See The Root of All Evil (MN 1: The Mulapariyaya Sutta)


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