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 [Dhamma Talk]


In the Seen See Only the Seen

In SN 4.35.95] The Buddha gives Mālunkya-putta a teaching in brief which inspires him to attain arahantship.

This is a well-known sutta which is the source of a catch-phrase-teaching of Zen Buddhism.

The Buddha first asks Mālunkya-putta if he has any desire for sights, sounds, scents, tastes, touches, or things that he has never seen or heard of before. In other words not yet even imagined.

This is a difficult idea to grasp. It is essentially saying that the past and the present are past, and that the future is completely unknown. It is a fresh, blank tablet if one's mind is taken off the desire for repeating past experiences.

Then, seeing this way, abandoning the views and opinions and biases concerning things of the past, that which is seen, heard, sensed, and become conscious can be experienced thus (the zen catch-phrase in full context):

"... in what is seen
there will be only the seen.

"diṭṭhe diṭṭha-mattaṃ bhavissati,"
(no 'you will have' as per Woodward just 'there will be'.

In what is heard
there will be only what is heard.

In the sensed
there will be only what is sensed.

In the cognized
there will be only what is cognized.

When in what is seen
there is only the seen;
in what is heard
there is only what is heard;
in the sensed
there is only what is sensed;
in the cognized
there is only what is cognized;
there is no 'you' Mālunkya-putta 'by this'.

There being no 'you' Mālunkya-putta 'by this,'
there is no 'you' Mālunkya-putta 'there.'

There being no 'you' Mālunkya-putta 'there,'
it follows that there will be no 'you' experience,
no thrusting forward,
no waffling-around like a philosopher.

And that is the end of dukkha."

I agree with Bhiks Thanissaro and Bodhi that what is being spoken about is not the 'having' of no 'by this-ness' by Mālunkya-putta as Woodward has it, but the having of no 'you' by or through or because of that 'this'.

I suggest there is another layer of meaning here: That when in the seeing, there is only the seen, what is missing by the absense of ideas of "I" and "my" is the sense organ itself. That what is happening is that there is an extra-sensory awareness or consciousness or experience of the seen thing, a seeing in mind only.

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