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[ Dhamma Talk ]

Imaginary Dialog with Chai Na Pol A

Here is a dialogue in the style of the Old Time Debators: 'Anything you can say, I can say better; Any style you can use, I can use better; I can teach Dhamma better than you.'[1] which occurred after a certain Jotiphala posted some excerpts from the work of Chai Na Pol A[2]. I responded with counter-statements to Chai Na Pol A's statements, and Jotiphala requested detailed explanation of the responses:

Explanation of my objections to the statements of Chai Naa Pol A as requested by Friend Jotiphala,

As he requested I am here going into somewhat greater detail (than that provided by my direct responses) concerning the differences I have with two quotations he posted from Chai Naa Pol A.

Groundrules:

The assumption here is that the translation we have represents the view of Chai Na Pol A. We have no assurances that this is in fact the case. We are discussing the hypothetical case in which the quotations are translated accurately.

Jotiphala has stated that this material is not Dhamma. Therefore to hold Chai Na Pol A to the need to be interpreting Dhamma correctly does not apply. But for the purposes of this discussion here, the assumption is going to be made by me that Chai Na Pol A is attempting to interpret Dhamma. Again, a hypothetical case being adopted to explain the differences between these teachings and the Dhamma as requested by Jotiphala.

Background:

The first Quote is:

"The foolish assume themselves to be great, Not realizing that they are dust
of the unbounded nature.
Little and temporary creatures are they.

The clever recognize nature's greatness,
And sacrifice to her;
They leave the unexplainable event into His hands.

The wise recognizes Purity as the greatest state,
Because all of mankind and creatures are heading toward:
The real purity.

My reply was:

The foolish generally behave as though they were immortal
and all knowing and all powerful,
not realizing that there is no part of anything anywhere,
whether great or small,
temporary or lasting
that is their own.

The clever see nothing great in nature
and let go their ambitions;
they leave the world to Mara's will.

The wise see Objective Detachment[3]
as the greatest state
because it is free of all desire.
Mankind, gods . . . all living creatures
head this way and that;
only those ridding themselves of desire
are headed toward this, the real purity.

The second quotation was:

Speaking

The foolish like to argue,
They only create conflicts and contradictions,
Instead of gaining knowledge.

The clever like to ask,
In return, gain relationship,
Add informational knowledge.

The wise tend to remain silent,
Observing deeply, realizing truth as knowledge,
And recommend properly.

The Foolish - The Clever - The Wise

To this material I responded:

Speaking and Refraining from Speech:

The foolish speak what is Dhamma
and what is not Dhamma
indiscriminately,
thus sometimes speaking well and sometimes not,
sometimes arguing with the world,
sometimes not,
what they gain from this we know not.

The clever, understanding that Wisdom depends on knowledge[4],
ask appropriate questions of the Wise
when they do not understand
and gain knowledge
and set the foundation
for wisdom.

The Wise know the time to remain silent
and the time to speak,
and when speaking, talk Dhamma,
words of Wisdom,
on Giving, Ethical Culture, Self Control,
Mental Culture, Giving Up, and Ending,
words which penetrate through to
and resonate in the Heart.
Living at peace with the world
they enjoy the Fruit of the Light.

Discussion

When the ordinary common man speaks, he speaks in accordance with his "ditthi" or point of view; when the Buddha speaks, he speaks from a position above points of view.

When the ordinary common man attempts to make a generality, his view becomes apparent in the exceptions to the rule of his generality. When the Buddha speaks it is almost always in generalities and the limits of these generalities are not to be seen.

This is the mechanism used to analyze and compare the speech of Chai Naa Pol A with the Dhamma of Gotama the Buddha (I do not say "with my responses" because my responses (to the degree they are accurate) are only reflections of the speech of Gotama).

Line By Line

CNPA:
The foolish assume themselves to be great,
Not realizing that they are dust of the unbounded nature.
Little and temporary creatures are they.

At the level below that of the Streamwinner, it is possible to point to various indications that all thinking beings assume themselves to be great in a fundamental sense (most beings, for example, go through life with no conscious fear of death, and often behave as if they were immortal - the observation on which my reply was based). On the other hand there are (at least) two other cases: the Streamwinner is considered foolish on a relative basis compared to the Arahant and yet has no such assumption of greatness; and the ordinary person is, in his subjective state of mind, often of the mind that he is of no significance whatsoever. The teaching of the Buddha consistently includes the ordinary subjective state of mind as well as that of the highest condition.

To go on to say that "they are" (in this case dust), is to adopt the point of view: "it is".

To say that this that "is" is a "part of" an "unbounded nature" is to put forth the further view that "it is a part of" as well as to propose an "unbounded nature" which is to categorize the goal. (I highly recommend everyone read or read again the first sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya: the MulaPariYaya, which is a merciless scouring out of all the varieties of ways one can hold views about all the varieties of confounded things. . . including Nibbana. . . all in broad generalities.)

This comes powerfully close to, if it does not state exactly the Mahayana doctrine of Buddha Nature. The Pali goal, Nibbana, is not to be stated in the affirmative: it is always: Not This. Not Bounded, Not Subject to Time, Objectively Detached, Free From, and so forth. What is a subtle distinction in language use is a massive difference in practice: The Pali is a goal achieved by Letting Go, Dropping, Abandoning; the Mahayana goal is one to be achieved by Getting, and, as such, in practice, it will invariably lead its practitioners away from the Pali Goal.

We can let CNPA have his "Little and temporary creatures are they," although it smacks of arrogance to my mind...temporary for certain, but little is a matter of judgment from a point of view that gives importance to individualities. The Buddha's claim to be the eldest and highest of all, for example, is not a claim being made on his individuality, but is a statement concerning the importance of the Dhamma or his position as the revealer of the Dhamma.

CNPA:
The clever recognize nature's greatness,
And sacrifice to her;
They leave the unexplainable event into His hands.

Here again the goal is being characterized or conceptualized, something it is not possible to do with Nibbana. To call Nibbana "great" actually limits it.

I must assume that by "unexplainable event" CNPA is speaking of events in the sense of destiny. To leave such into anyone (or thing) else's hands (let alone assume that it is a "her" or "he") but one's own is not the Pali way. We are told to test for ourselves. We are told that the Dhamma is something to be realized for one's self. We are given a description of this attitude of "fatalism" as being uninspiring of effort. We are given a theoretical basis for not assuming a fatalistic attitude in the proposition that what occurs in life and the fate of an individual depends on kamma and that therefore, in the world it is within our power to generate powerfully good states, and towards the higher end, it is our goal to get beyond the reach of kamma.

CNPA:
The wise recognize Purity as the greatest state,
Because all of mankind and creatures are heading toward:
The real purity.

Actually, in the Pali, Upekkha (objective detachment) is considered to be the greatest state (because "change" is the most powerful condition in the world. But we can let Purity ride if we define it as freedom from all conditioned states. (In other words, I'm not letting it ride.)

Again here we have a doctrine which is very close to if not exactly the same as a Mahayana doctrine (and, just as an aside, let me hasten to say that I am not criticizing a thing simply because it is Mahayana, but because it is a doctrine that is held to be Buddhist by the Mahayana school and it is not a true Pali doctrine).

It is possible, using the expanded version of Downbound Confounded Rebounding Conjuration (paticca samuppada or nidana paccay'akara) wherein Old Age and Death, Pain and Misery and so forth lead to investigation of things[5], that to testing, that to coming to conclusions, that to finding the right path, that to attaining the goal, to come to the conclusion that all beings are headed toward Nibbana.

What it is not possible to do with this doctrine is to come to the conclusion that there will be any end to the coming into existence of beings (that is, that the number of beings is somehow finite), or that it is possible that all beings (that are left over from the various gatherings up of the Arahants by the Buddhas) will ever come to the state of Arahantship at any given point in time. This is the Mahayana doctrine, and I understand that this is not exactly what CNPA is saying here. What he is saying is not possible to determine from his words; however, if he is not stating the doctrine as in the Pali, then he has neglected the ordinary reality, which is that beings are for the most part headed in the wrong direction.

CNPA: The foolish like to argue,
They only create conflicts and contradictions,
Instead of gaining knowledge.

Again the generality "the foolish like to argue" is too broad. Some fools like to argue, some fools abstain from arguing from fear and for other reasons. The ordinary common man can be seen to be arguing with his condition, but if that was the intention of this statement, then it should have been stated that way. Sometimes the argumentations of a fool lead to his gaining of knowledge.

CNPA: The clever like to ask,
In return, gain relationship,
Add informational knowledge.
The wise tend to remain silent,
Observing deeply, realizing truth as knowledge,
And recommend properly.

No real argument here to either of these, and (I hope) my replies only served to focus, broaden and clarify the statements, converting them to the service of the Pali.

I hope that this response to Jotiphala's request was helpful to him and possibly to the rest as well.

 


[1]If you think this style is dead, take a listen to the so-called Rap and Hip-Hop lyrics of the past few years.

[2]I did a quick search for this fellow and could come up with nothing informative. Better information welcome.

[3]Upekkha

[4]Nana --precedes paññā (wisdom)

[5]See the version in Glossology: Paticca Samuppada


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