Don't let the gloves intimidate you; the gloves are off.

[Home]  [Sutta Indexes]  [Glossology]  [Site Sub-Sections]


 [Dhamma Talk]



With Daniel Ingram
MD MSPH, Arahat

Below is the dialog. It ends where it says it ends, and then I re-open the issues but addressed not to him, but to the reader, in a line-by-line analysis of one of Dr. Ingram's essays.

3.3.12 Please allow me to introduce myself ...

Hello Daniel,

I have been given your name as a person who is completely off track. They always give me the hopeless cases!

I would like to say right off that I am going to post whatever if any dialog results from this. I do this to keep clear what was and what was not said. When people understand that the public eye is on them they tend to be more careful in their statements. OK, mostly they say the same stupid things they would say as if nobody were there but themselves ... but I need to make the attempt. I am not going to include my 'bio' information below nor other communications irrelevant to 'issues'.

I have one question:

You have written with regard to those who would question your views and statements concerning your accomplishments by reference to 'the books':

"Consider that the texts contain numerous contradictions even within themselves."

Can you cite just one contradiction within the Suttas, that is: The Digha Nikaya, Majjhima Nikaya, Samyutta Nikaya, Anguttara Nikaya?

That is my question.

By contradiction I intend the meaning to be 'contradiction in doctrine'. There are a few places where so and so is said to be in one place and time in one place and in another place and time in another place. There are places where suttas are incomplete. There are variations in the order of the suttas in various collections. Some suttas are clearly (or maybe not so clearly) compiled from other suttas while claiming to be unique. There are suttas which modern linguistic analysis 'proves' were written later than others. Those are not the sort of contradiction I am asking about.

I ask this question because without some starting point I do not see how anyone could claim to be practicing this or that system for the study and realization of anything and without at least the Suttas there is no 'Buddhism'.

The Suttas alone are held by almost all schools as containing the word of Gotama the Buddha. Gotama has suggested a method for determining whether or not a statement that is made is what he taught[7]: Compare Sutta with Sutta. So by that method we can throw out all commentary, we can throw out the Jataka and the Abhidhamma and the Questions of King Milinda, we can throw out the suttas unique to Mahayana, Chan, Zen and Tibetan Buddhisms, etc. But if we are going to claim that we are 'Buddhists' we need to be referring to something otherwise we are inventing a system of our own.

Now I have no problem with inventing a system of one's own. The problem is in claiming that it is what The Buddha "really" taught.

Again, by the method of comparing sutta with sutta we are enabled to use the Suttas as the authority for what is and what is not the Buddhist system. If there is a contradiction, the contradictory statements can be eliminated. If there is a statement from outside that is consistent with the doctrine found inside that statement can be taken as doctrine.

With this as our basis we can test the truth and effectiveness of what is claimed by the system and Gotama himself to be true and effective for the goal the system and Gotama call it's goal.

If we are allowed to pick and choose what we allow to be the goal and the methodology and the measure of accomplishment from whatever sources we want based on what we believe from the start, we are inventing a system of our own.

I ask the question only because in 45 years of Sutta study I have yet to find an internal contradiction in the Suttas. I allow I may have missed something, it is a vast and complicated literature.

Of course the term 'Buddha' is not the exclusive property of Buddhists and you may be using it in the sense of 'Awakening'. I have read through much, but not all of your site and the posts on Dhamma Overground and that does not seem to be the case. If it is the case I believe to avoid the accusation that you are being deceptive and riding on the fame of Gotama the Buddha, this should be more clearly pointed out.

Now, to forestall the criticism that I am questioning you with my head in the books, a little about me:

[Here I have deleted my boasting and bragging about my accomplishments and learning without yet reaching the point of claiming to be Arahant. I gave him this information so that he might conclude for himself whether or not I was worthy to debate with.]

I think that is my introducing myself to you.





[Obo: Daniel has replied indicating that he would like more time to directly respond to the question asked. He has, however, brought up some subjects which I read as an oblique response in that 'various opinions' is second cousin to 'contradiction':]

DI: If you need a question to ponder in the meantime, consider the Buddha's various opinions voiced on the powers, or the practice of meditation and the jhanas as they differ between The Fruits of the Homeless Life vs One by One as They Occurred, or why, if arahats do not suffer, did one kill himself from suffering and yet the Buddha said of it that there was no suffering in that, as compared to The Shorter Discourse on Voidnesses there remains that suffering dependent on birth and conditioned by life. All good fun...

Finally, a question for you: how do the various views relating to the Pali Canon Suttas, commentaries and Abhidhamma, etc (we can leave ofc the Jataka) help or hinder direct comprehension for one's self?

This is my response:

DI: [Edited. Reformulated to conform to the clarification made by Daniel, below. The original answer to the first question was responded to as though it were asking for a comparison of the Buddha's comments on the Powers in the two cited suttas. It has been deleted as it does not now apply. It is responded to (or, more precisely, not responded to) in the next exchange]: How are the various opinions voiced by the Buddha on the powers to be reconciled;
How is the practice of meditation and the jhanas reconciled between the statements made on these topics in The Fruits of the Homeless Life[1] and One by One as They Occurred[2].

OBO: First of all I must object to the form of the response. It throws the entire burden of finding and making the comparisons and pointing out the variations onto me, when I have asked about what it is that you find is a contradiction, or, using the wording here, a variation. I don't find any variation here. The issue is how you understand what we have and for that we need to have your specific thoughts on specific ideas. Nevertheless I will take a stab at a response guessing at your views.

I will quote from the translations and only quote from the Pali where there is a divergence that bears on the issue of 'variation.'

On Meditation and Jhana. [I take these to be two words for the same thing]:

From DN 1.2:

The Pali: So vivicc'eva kāmehi vivicca akusalehi dhammehi savitakkaɱ savicāraɱ vivekajaɱ pīti-sukhaɱ paṭhamajjhānaɱ upasampajja viharati.

Rhys Davids: Then estranged from lusts, aloof from evil dispositions, he enters into and remains in the First Rapture — a state of joy and ease born of detachment, reasoning and investigation going on the while.

Walshe: Being thus detached from sense-desires, detached from unwholesome states, he enters and remains in the first jhana, which is with thinking and pondering, born of detachment, filled with delight and joy.

From MN 111:

The Pali: vivicc'eva kāmehi vivicca akusalehi dhammehi savitakkaɱ savicāraɱ vivekajaɱ pīti-sukhaɱ paṭhamajjhānaɱ upasampajja viharati. Ye ca paṭhamajjhāne dhammā vitakko ca vicāro ca pīti ca sukhañ ca citte kaggatā ca phasso vedanā saññā cetanā cittaɱ chando adhimokkho viriyaɱ sati upekhā manasikāro, tyāssa dhammā anuupadavavatthitā honti, tyāasa dhammā viditā uppajjanti, viditā upaṭṭhahanti, viditā abbhatthaɱ gacchanti.

Horner: ... aloof from pleasures of the senses, aloof from unskilled states of mind, enters on and abides in the first meditation which is accompanied by initial thought and discursive thought, is born of aloofness, and is rapturous and joyful.
And those things which belong to the first meditation: initial thought and sustined thought and rapture and joy and one-pointedness of mind, impingement, feeling, perception, will, thought, desire, determination, energy, mindfulness, equanimity, attention, are uninteruptedly set up by him; known to him these arise, known they persist, known they disappear.

Bhks Nanamoli and Bodhi: ... quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, Sariputta entered upon and abided in the first jhana, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of seclusion.
And the states in the first jhana — the applied thought, the sustained thought, the rapture, the pleasure, and the unification of mind; the contact, feeling, perception, volition, and mind; the zeal, decision, energy, mindfulness, equanimity, and attention — these states were defined by him one by one as they occurred..."

I have supplied quotes for the first Jhana only as the description of the subsequent jhanas follows the same pattern. There is variation here, but not contradiction. The description in the Digha is just less detailed than that in the Majjhima. The important thing to note is that jhana is a matter of letting go of factor after factor. This is the consistant in both Suttas.

Now if there were a real contradiction there, say between the description of the jhana and the description of the factors remaining, following Gotama's method for Dhamma Research, we would put the description of the factors to one side. There might be at some later point in our study some explanation made or insight attained or knowledge from experience arisen that reconciles the two in one's mind and at that point the statement may be re-incorporated into what one understands as what the Buddha taught. Meanwhile what remains will be a description of entry into jhana that is consistant, non-contradictory (the differences are in the translators words only, the Pali is the same). This way we retain the Dhamma as our guide to Awakening.




DI: Why, if arahats do not suffer, did one kill himself from suffering?[3] And how do you reconcile the fact that in this case the Buddha said that there was no suffering in that and in The Shorter Discourse on Voidness[4] he states that there remains that suffering dependent on birth and conditioned by life?

OBO: There is no statement in SN 4.35.87 that Channa was arahant at the time he 'used the knife' and there is no statement made in this sutta concerning his suffering. There is enough there to say he was experiencing great pain. There is a distinction made in this system between the experience of pain which is a bodily matter and being mentally disturbed (the mental aspects of dukkha in suffering, misery, lamentation, despair, breast-beating, etc) by that pain. The questions put to him by Sariputta and Channa's responses could indicate a state as 'low' as Stream-entry. But it doesn't matter, the body of an Arahant, for as long as the body remains, can experience pain. He does not experience mental pain.
To put that another way: If Channa's statements about not bearing up indicate that he was experiencing mental pain, then he was not arahant at that point, if he was merely indicating that the body was at the end of it's life then he may have been Arahant but was not suffering mental pain. Sariputta's questions put to Channa and later to Gotama would indicate that he had doubts about Channa's being Arahant. His questions and guidance however could well have resulted in Channa achieving Arahantship at the time or at the time of death.
The issue in this sutta was the blamelessness [anupavajja, meaning free from the sort of blame made by gossips and ordinary people] of his life, and that we can see from the context was with regard to ordinary things. Channa says of himself: [Woodward]: "In so far as he served the Master with a service that was delightful, not tedioous, blameless (must be accounted) the brother Channa's use of the knife." The Buddha's remark on the case was with regard to his blamelessness. The Buddha's statement was: [Woodward]: "Was it not face to face with you, Sariputta, that the brother Channa declared that no blame attached to him?" The Buddha's statement could be made with regard to the state of Stream Entry or to a Non-returning or Arahantship. After being pressed, The Buddha then strongly hints but does not say outright, that Channa did not take up another body, a statement that would indicate that Channa was indeed an Arahant or became one upon death. We don't know which. Again, Channa's responses to Sariputta could mean he was not Arahant at the time of his death. There is another very similar case of suicide in which this attainment upon death is described as such.

There are several other suttas[12] that describe the difference between the ordinary person and the Arahant as being that although both experience pain, the Arahant does not add to the problem with mental pain.

From MN 121

So evaɱ pajānāti: ayam pi kho animitto ceto-samādhi abhisaɱkhato ābhisañcetayiko yaɱ kho pana kiñci abhisaɱkhataɱ ābhisañcetanitaɱ, tad aniccaɱ nirodhadhamman ti pajānāti. Tassa evaɱ jānato evaɱ passato kāmāsavā pi cittaɱ vimuccati. Bhavāsavā pi cittaɱ vimuccati. Avijjāsavā pi cittaɱ vimuccati. Vimuttasmiɱ vimuttam iti ñāṇaɱ hoti. Khīṇā jāti, vusitaɱ brahmacariyaɱ, kataɱ karaṇīyaɱ, nāparaɱ itthattāyāti pajānāti.|| ||

So evaɱ pajānāti: Ye assu darathā kāmāsavaɱ paṭicca, te'dha na santi. Ye assu darathā bhavāsavaɱ paṭicca te'dha na santi. Ye assu darathā avijjāsavaɱ paṭicca, te'dha na santi. Atthi c'evāyaɱ darathamatthā, yad idaɱ imam eva kāyaɱ paṭicca sa'āyatanikaɱ jīvitapaccayā ti. So Suññam idaɱ saññāgataɱ kāmāsavenāti pajānāti. Suññam idaɱ saññāgataɱ bhavāsavenāti pajānāti. Suññam idaɱ saññāgataɱ avijjāsavenāti pajānāti. Atthi c'ev'idaɱ asuññataɱ yad idaɱ imam eva kāyaɱ paṭicca sa'āyatanikaɱ jīvitapaccayāti. Iti yaɱ hi kho tattha na hoti. Tena taɱ suññaɱ samanupassati Yaɱ pi tattha avasiṭṭhaɱ hoti, taɱ santaɱ idaɱ atthīti pajānāti. Evam assa esā Ānanda, yathābaccā avipallatthā parisuddhā paramānuttarā suññatāvakkan ti bhavati.|| ||

Horner: He comprehends thus,
'This concentration of mind that is signless is effected and thought out.
But whatever is effected and thought out,
that is impermanent,
it is liable to stopping.'

When he knows this thus,
sees this thus,
his mind is freed from the canker of sense-pleasures
and his mind is freed from the canker of becoming
and his mind is freed from the canker of ignorance.

In freedom is the knowledge that he is freed
and he comprehends:
'Destroyed is birth,
brought to a close the Brahma-faring,
done is what was to be done,
there is no more of being such or so.'

He comprehends thus:
'The disturbances there might be resulting from the canker of sense-pleasures do not exist here;
the disturbances there might be resulting from the canker of becoming do not exist here;
the disturbances there might be resulting from the canker of ignorance do not exist here.
And there is only this degree of disturbance,
that is to say the six sensory fields that,
conditioned by life,
are grounded on this body itself.'

He comprehends:
'This perceiving is empty of the canker of sense-pleasures.'
He comprehends:
'This perceiving is empty of the canker of becoming.' He comprehends:
'This perceiving is empty of the canker of ignorance.
And there is only this that is not emptiness,
that is to say the six sensory fields that,
conditioned by life,
are grounded on this body itself.'

He regards that which is not there as empty of it.
But in regard to what remains he comprehends;
'That being, this is.'

Thus, Ananda, this [109] comes to be for him a true,
not a mistaken,
utterly purified and incomparably highest realization of (the concept of) emptiness.



Olds: He understands: "This Mental High-Getting that is Signless is something that has been constructed, thought out. Whatever has been constructed or thought out is subject to change and coming to an end." Knowing and seeing this, his heart is free from the grip of sense pleasures, his heart is freed from the grip of living, his mind is free from the grip of blindness. In Freedom comes the knowledge of Freedom, and he knows: "Left Behind is Rebirth, Lived is the Best of Lives, Done is Duty's Doing, Crossed over Am I; No More It'n and At'n for Me!"

He understands: "This way there is no disturbance emanating from the grip of sense pleasures. This way there is no disturbance emanating from the grip of living. This way there is no disturbance emanating from the grip of blindness." Thus: "This way is empty of the disturbance emanating from the grip of sense pleasures. This way is empty of the disturbance emanating from the grip of living. This way is empty of the disturbance emanating from the grip of blindness. This way there is only this that disturbs the emptiness, that is the six sense-realms bound to this body reacting to life."

In this way he regards that which is present as empty of that which is not present, and, with regard to what remains, he understands that 'That being, this is.'

Thus, Ananda, there is in the case of this case, a sitting-down-to-empty-out that results in surpassing purity.

OBO: The word here is 'disturbance' [daratha], not suffering [dukkha]. The meaning is something that is present that limits the emptiness. A person who loves quiet will have that quiet 'disturbed' by a loud noise but may not 'suffer' or get angry or even react to it. Bhk. Thanissaro translates it incorectly as but in a way that makes the meaning clear as: 'non-emptiness'.

This sutta again shows that the Arahant (or even the Buddha himself) who still retains the body (one who is still living) is aware of the body, that the body remains in his mind, and occupies (aka, disturbs) it's emptiness.

Rather than contradicting each other these two suttas confirm each other.



DI: How do the various views relating to the Pali Cannon Suttas, commentaries, and Abhidhamma, etc help or hinder direct comprehension for one's self?

OBO: If I am seeking food and someone saying: "Food is to be found here" points in stead to a foodless waste and I follow his directions I will not attain what I am seeking in terms of direct experience for myself.

There are two ways for Arahantship to be attained: either independently of a Buddha and his teaching through careful examination of things back to their beginnings and through the word of an Awakened being, or Buddha. For one attempting to solve the problem of pain by way of the word of an Awakened One, it is off track to be following what he did not teach, on track to be following what he did teach. For one who is attempting to solve the problem through 'studious etiological examination' [yonisomanasikaro] it is a contradiction in methodology to be digging around in the teachings of an Awakened One; it negates the method. One will not be able to say that one arrived at Arahantship without the word of an Awakened One. This methodology applies to people who have no recourse to an Awakened one, who may never have heard of such. A third sort of person, the ordinary common man attempting to solve the problem through a method other than one or another of these two will just spin his wheels because of the vast complexity of mind and the weakness of the individual subject to delusion.

The thing I have been trying to point out to people here and for a long long time is that what we are dealing with in this issue is a matter of good methodology. We begin blind. We do not know more than that there is a problem here: we are experiencing pain. Or we are just intellectually curious about the term 'Awakening' we have heard. Either way we should then take a look at what is available out there that deals with the issue. Who is claiming to have the solution? Who is making the best claim according to your own goal.

If you have no perception of the real issues of pain in rebirth or even of pain here in this life there will be a multiplicity of solutions out there and a great deal of sifting will be needed to see what is what. If you have the perception of the problem of pain in rebirth, the field narrows. You eliminate the claims of those whose doctrines do not address the issue. Promises of good health, long life, happiness here and now, happiness in rebirth in heaven. Eventually you will find that there is only one system out there that speaks directly to the issue of the pain of rebirth. [That is not precisely true, there are a few, one will need to examine them closely to see that all but Gotama's system, although claiming to solve the problem, address another problem or use a methodology that cannot work because it produces a different result.] That is Gotama's system. It is then a form of insanity not to go to what Gotama himself says before going to those who claim to know what Gotama says. "Go to the original documentation first." It's a basic principle of research!

The other issue is that it is a strange phenomena that with regard to the idea of enlightenment almost everyone starts out feeling that they already know all that is needed to be known.[9] I recently read early letters between Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsberg in which Jack's discovery of Buddhism is the subject. Almost immediately Jack assumes he is Arahant. Later on he has another attitude. I have seen this time and time again. I myself experienced my first Satori when I was maybe 15. I was enlightened with absolute certainly at least a half dozen times since. This mind is highly deceptive and we are weak creatures that do not tolerate well the idea that we may be COMPLETELY OFF TRACK.

People do not approach the documentation with a spirit of inquiry, but with a spirit of fault-finding. They do not ask: "How can this be true in spite of how I feel."

Some will twist what is said into what they believe it should be saying and then loop back and claim that what they are saying is what was said. There are two problems with that: The first is that by that one has left one's self no upward path. There is no more to learn. You know it all. The second is that by claiming to know what one does not know, one misleads others and the bad kamma from that is excruciating sorrow.

This is my response to your suggestions of things to ponder.




3.4.12, Second

[Daniel has responded with a quick note again requesting time to collect sutta references, to correct the fact that I got his name incorrectly, and to object to the way I read his question. This is what he wrote:]



DI: My name is Daniel, not David


I proposed 3 separate unrelated questions with OR in between them and you read it as related questions.

They are:

Buddha on the powers.
How to practice and what is jhana.
The suffering of arahats.

Perhaps alter your reply so we don't appear so confused about who we are and what we are saying



This is my response:

The point is well taken, that is, that we need to be mindful, careful and precise. I am afraid I fail in this way too often. Thank you for correcting me. Sariputta: "This Dhamma is for the precise, not for the diffuse."[11]

Dealing with your questions as restated: I will pass on a response to the first of 'The Three Questions' which I read now as intending the following question:

"How do you explain the various [?contradictory] opinions voiced by The Buddha with regard to the powers?"

I will await your quotations. There are simply too many places in which the powers are dealt with to answer this question as it is now stated. The purpose of my initial question, under which this discussion is still headed, is to find out what you think are contradictions in the suttas.

I believe it can be fairly said that my responses above are responses to both the second and third of 'The Three Questions'. Again, for a better understanding of what it is you believe are contradictions in the suttas I will await your quotations.




Tuesday, March 06, 2012 9:39 AM

Daniel, with a new set of questions:

Question for you ...:

Is it

A) your conviction in the lack of internal contradictions, or

B) your conviction in the infallable perfection and reproducible efficacy here and now of the Pali Canon's doctrine

that you find most important and compelling, and if B, should we be discussing that instead?



Hello Daniel,

Haha. Isn't that: "Are you still beating your wife?" Only A and B are possible? You think I cannot see a trap when I see one?

What I find most important and compelling is neither of the two issues you bring up. I will answer as though this question related to our discussion.

I do not have a conviction that there is a lack of internal contradictions in the Suttas [Restricted to Digha Nikaya, Majjhima Nikaya, Anguttara Nikaya, Samyutta Nikaya]; what I have in this regard is a long time spent in reading and re-reading and carefully studying and researching the original terms in these works in multiple translations, making charts of the way the terms are used in multiple categories of the Dhamma (e.g., Sati in the Seven Dimensions of Self-awakening vs. in the Satipatthana), collecting the numerous internal definitions of terms (virtually every term used is defined internally somewhere see: The Method), cross checking the translations of certain words by others (see the Glossology section) and in doing my own translations, the Pali. Doing a translation I go over every single word of a sutta dozens of times. I think about what is intended. I look it up in the dictionaries. I make it fit the whole of the sutta and make every effort not to introduce what might be construed as an internal contradiction. I translate from my experience. And as I mentioned before, I have been reading these works since 1964. I have not yet found an internal contradiction. That is as far as I would go down that road. You're dealing with 25 700-page highly abbreviated books.[5] Lotta stuff there to claim certainty.

Remember: The Buddha did not speak English. What you and most people are doing (at least as far as I have read of what you are doing — and what I am talking about is not the occasional use of a Pali term, but the words used in the translation of that term and in statements being made about what is and what is not Gotamas system) is quoting and reacting to translations. Translations are interpretations. Most importantly we cannot say, even from the Pali language alone, that we can ever really know what the words really said. I have a completely different understanding of Pali from the Harvard scholors, the Oxford scholars and the Theravadan scholars. I have a completely different understanding of the tone of life at the time. The best we can do is to judge by context and through the results of practice. It is possible some will be able to 'remember'. It is possible some may have 'guidance' from Abhibhu. I have just never found any place where there was an apparent contradiction where it was not my understanding that was wrong and not the original wording as best I could understand it. After making such a big thing about my differences with the other translators out there, I cannot say that I have found much in the way of contradictory statements from translator to translator!

With regard to 'B', I need to change some wording to respond to the question. No conviction, meaning 'belief'. No conviction, belief, faith in the perfection even of the Suttas. The Suttas are the words of some narrator incorporating what he says was the word of Gotama. I know there are minor errors and there are additions made by the story teller. These are open and visible as what is said by Gotama is always made clearly separate. What is important is the doctrine as expounded by Gotama in the suttas. No faith at all in the Pali Cannon, as that includes the commentaries, the Jataka, the Abhidhamma, and Kuddaka Nikaya which I personally reject as being in contradiction in certain aspects, with the Suttas. These works all depend on the suttas so why not let them go and just work with the suttas?

With regard to Gotama's system I do not go by faith. If one perceives the problem of being identified with the senses, then simply hearing the words: 'There is no thing there that is the self' solves the problem. Proof or certainty without faith is a matter of realizing that that which has 'become', which has 'existence' is bound up in Time. Time is a matter of beginnings, middles, and ends. That which comes to an end is not under one's control. What is not under one's control cannot be one's own or one's self. One does not need to know or see 'all' to see that this applies not only to what is within one's own experience, but also to whatever was or will be. The rest is a matter of detachment.

The system solves the problem in theory and as to the method outlined for realizing the goal [freedom in detachment] absolute faith is not required. What is required is a willingness to test and evaluate and move on to the next step if the result of the test is positive. I am not claiming to have reached the end of the story. As far as I have got the method has held up and I perceive no contradictions in the Suttas as to what that method is. I believe it would hold up for anyone but I do not know that and as far as myself, I go one step at a time.

In debating me, you need to consider me a tactition. I asked the question I asked to approach an understanding of what it is you consider Buddhism, whether or not you were an outright fraud, or whether or not you were simply trapped by a trap which I have seen many times before.

I do not approach you as prey. Even with just the small familiarity I have with what you have written, I have complete certainty that you are no Arahant in Gotama's system as found in the Suttas as far as my experience.

One purpose of the question was to allow that I might not know enough; to give you opportunity to educate me.

I have complete certainty that you are no Arahant according to my experience of Gotama's system. You demand by your writing that one not approach debunking your position from within the books because they have internal errors. I want to see what you think is there that is in such contradiction that it should cause you to rule in this way as to what was admissible. And, if the suttas were to be ruled out, what it was and how it could be called Buddhism needs to be clarified. I do not have any certainty that you are not an Arahant according to some interpretation of the commentaries or according to some teacher's method. I need to approach the debate with you in such a way that you can see for yourself that you are in variance with the system as found in the Suttas while allowing you to claim what you want with regard to some other system. I have long enough experience that I know I will not eliminate, snap fingers, all the schools out there calling themselves Buddhism. I am pretty much convinced that I will have no success getting a person who is practicing a method not in the Suttas but who thinks what he is studying is in the suttas to make clear the distinction. But I follow Don Juan in this regard. I practice controlled folly and try.

I cannot force you to do this, but I highly recommend you follow the links I give you in this discussion. One of them, the link to the discussion of Kaccha, gives a really good breakdown of what is good debating practice. That is the method I attempting to follow in this case.

If successful I will have caused you to realize that you are practicing a system of your own devising or devised by someone other than Gotama and with a different set of criteria for what is and what is not the goal and what is and what is not a stage in attaining the goal. And I will have done this in a way that makes it clear to others without having made you loose face irredemably. ... or I will have written you off as a hopeless case.

There comes a time when a person's identity is so bound up in their persona that it is both seen as and is in fact life threatening to crack their views. I think, but do not know, that you are still young enough to be able, should you realize you are holding on to a foolish position, to let it go, go around retracting your stand in as many places as possible, and move on.

Proceeding the way I am proceding will have predictable results. If you are unable to give up your views, you will get angry. That will have proved my point. The Arahant does not get angry. I know that from the Suttas. I also know that from having penetrated through to the origin of anger in a personalized, identified-with response to an unpleasant sensation. Anyone who has solved the problem has no such response. You may note here and there on my site certain signs of anger. I have not, as I said, finished the story entirely myself. One can know and see before one has 'got'. My effort will stop there.

You can see I must proceed carefully and as gently as possible given my thug nature. I need you to respond directly to the questions I ask.

There is no time pressure. I have no stake in this. Someone pointed you out, I am following up.




Tuesday, March 06, 2012 9:39 AM

Daniel writes:

While you are waiting, perhaps you could apply your talents and knowledge base to this question that relates to our discussion:

Leigh Brasington on Possible Altered Sutras to do with Jhana

From James E P

The Culasaropama Sutra (Majjhima Nikaya #30) in addition to being an excellent teaching on the dangers of spiritual materialism, also refers to the Jhanas. However, it shows signs that suggest the text has been altered.

Its beautiful mathematical harmony of the sutra suddenly breaks down in section 12 with a discussion of the Jhanas.

The Jhanas are a concentration practice and concentration has already been stated in section 10 to be a lesser state than knowledge and vision. But when the Jhanas are introduced in section 12, they are said to be "higher and more sublime than knowledge and vision." The inclusion of the Jhanas here actually makes the sutta self-contradictory.

It also contradicts other pro-Jhana sutras. The formulation of the eight Jhanas is the standard "short" one, (similiar to what is found in the Mahasatipatthana Sutta) but with the addition of a last sentence in each of the paragraphs: "This [too] is a state higher and more sublime than knowledge and vision." This sentence directly contradicts the last sentence of section 84 of the Samannaphala Sutta (Digha Nikaya #2).

In the previous paragraph of the Samannaphala Sutta, the recluse directs the concentrated, pure, bright mind resulting from the fourth Jhana towards knowledge and vision. The understanding gained "is a visible fruit of recluseship more excellent and sublime than the previous ones".

Many other suttas show signs of this type of tampering and we are left today with the task of puzzling out the original teaching.



Hello Daniel,

First some definitions.

Pali: Samādhi, ññṇadassana, jhāna
SAMA=Even,ADHI=Higher; NANA: a blend of 'Na's' 'knows'; jhana = burn, shine, know, chan, zen.
Bhks. Nanamoli/Bodhi: concentration, knowledge and vision, jhana
Horner: concentratin, knowledge and vision, meditation
Olds: serenity, book-knowledge and understanding, attainment of a degree of detachment in the burnings.

There is no word for 'meditation' in the Pali, unless you understand the term literally in which case it is using sati (thinking about a thing). Otherwise the place is also sometimes taken by 'bhavana', development.

Jhana is not 'concentration.' Concentration is an aspect of Jhana.

Samadhi is a general term that is defined in different ways. If it is defined as the jhanas as in Samma Samadhi, High serenity, it is the first four jhanas. It can be just ordinary serenity, it can be a fruit of the practice of loving kindness, it can be any number of practices of other doctrines, and in this doctrine it can also be the three: Aimlessness, Signlessness, Emptiness.

Within this doctrine, samadhi can be higher or lower than knowing and seeing (nana and dassana) depending on if it is attained in a manner that is informed by nana book-knowledge of and dassana seeing or understanding the goal, which in this case is described as the ending of the corruptions (asava: lust, anger, and blindness[6]).

Suppose a person came upon the description of jhana in Gotama's system without being informed about any of the rest of the system or it's goals such as could be the case in the case of this sutta (he is going after the heart-wood without knowing what it is). In the case of such a one, even able to attain the jhana, such jhana would be contentless or have content meaningless in terms of the goal. For one understanding and striving after the goal then, samadhi by any definition when not informed by knowledge of the goal, would be lower than knowing and seeing. Informed by the goal jhana is an actual step in the direction of letting go of the world and therefore higher than mere book knowledge and understanding (aka, intellectual knowledge).

So so far, we might put it this way:

Samadhi is lower than
Nana and dassana which is lower than
Jhana attainment informed by nana and dassana

In dealing with the Digha, our understanding of nana and dassana becomes important. This is a term which is applied to the Streamwinner, not the arahant. It does not imply accomplishment of the goal which is vision of the Paticca Samuppada and because of that vision the ending of the asava (corruptions). It is essentially the acceptance of Samma Ditthi, the Four Truths as a working hypothesis, whereas Samma Dittha, which is 'Fold' or 'dimension' 9, is actually seeing it at work.

But without the book knowledge and understanding one could look for a long time from the mental state called the ending of perception and sensation (or the ending of sensation-perception, or the ending of the perception of sensation ... doesn't really matter as 'sensation, 'perception' and 'consciousness' are terms for aspects of a single phenomena which cannot be separated out in the same way as heat, flame, and light are aspects of a single phenomena which cannot be separated out)(except for the fact that it is said, at least, that this state is unique to Gotama's system, that prior to his exposition of the Dhamma the highest mental state imagined was Neither-perception-nor-non-perception, so without book knowledge of this state it would not likely be reached) and not see what is valuable to be seen from the point of view of the goal of this system. You need to know what you are looking for.

So in the Digha the jhanas are used to rise to a point where knowing and seeing can be used to attain wisdom — the vision (vijja) which makes it possible to see what is going on without (avijja) blindness and to see also that because of that it is impossible that lust and anger could arise again. But it is the freedom gained through the vision that is the fruit of the way, not the knowing and seeing. You need to go forward to section 97 to see this.

I hope I have given you the information you need to dig into this and check it out for yourself.

I have a couple of editorial comments.

The first is that this is a great example of the 'Magic' of sutta study. Going to the Abhidhamma first this would never have come up, having come up it breaks up a clot of blindness and moves the story forward. We see that this sutta must have been set up just to provoke such a question or at least to make those who believe jhana is the end-all stop and think.

Going to the commentators and the Abhidhamma for clarification would have given you the vague hint that is found in the note to Bhks. Nanamoli/Bodhi's translation which was apparently read by Leigh but who gives no indication that this is the case, who in stead of investigating further saw in it an opportunity to fault-find exalt himself and disparage others.

Figuring it out by going back to the Pali and seeing the problem in the translation and then examining the meanings of the various terms that are actually there exercises the mind and burns in the knowledge (that's Dhamma Vicaya and a fruit of the first jhana when that jhana is used in conjunction with nana and dassana).

The second is: How is anyone who didn't know this from the outset ever going to figure it out?

The answer is that it is not necessary.

What is necessary is a change in attitude. People are approaching their investigation in a fault-finding know-it-all-first-and-better than-anyone-else-nothing-will-change-my-mind manner where what is needed is a rigorous methodology and an open mind: the ability to say: "How may this, which appears to me to be contradictory, be not contradictory?"

Maybe it's because it's a translation. Maybe because it's a question arising from a person quoting a person quoting a person who is quoting a translation who neither has knowledge of what words are really being used and has no real experience with anything other than a practice he makes up on the fly for the sake of fame and fortune. Maybe I should research the original documentation before making up my mind and announcing to the world my great achievements in fault-finding. Taking this tack one keeps the issue open while investigating. This, in stead of closing the book, allows mind to do it's work. The mind is like an Internet search tool. Give it a topic and it will relentlessly and forever chase down that topic until it is resolved. Have faith in the mind. It will drive you to the adventure of discovery. Keeping the mind open, such an unresolved issue might lead, for example, to finding the books, finding the Pali, learning the Pali, finding people who understood the Pali, finding people who understood the system and the Pali well enough to explain the matter.

The third is: people have a stake in fault-finding. Especially of something claiming to have the highest Truth. What stake? If someone else besides them has the highest knowledge, then their innermost conviction that they are the 'doer', the 'Creator' is shaken. Shaking that is shaking a person's foundation stone. Might even force them to retract their position. They should let that go. Better men than they are have let go of stronger positions than they stand on when faced with this system.

The Fourth is a caution. We need to read this writing, even in the Pali, with a great deal of flexibility of mind. They said things then in ways that are heard differently today. Gotama says things using puns and other word-games. Things appear in the suttas that nobody can believe would be in 'a religious work' ... some very raunchy stuff! Things are said that are much deeper than they look at first glance. Gotama doesn't keep anything back, but he certainly did hide stuff! He always tells the truth, always answers the question asked, but what he says can go much further than what the questioner intended when asking the question. Things are said in ways that deliberately make one stop and think. Look at the way the Book of the Ones is translated. Translaters tie themselves in knots trying to justify what they hear as: I see no other single thing more dangerous than x. Followed immediately with 400 other things said with the exact same wording. "More" This is not More, but is Equal to.




Thursday, March 15, 2012 4:48 AM

Daniel has responded with the following:

Very simply:

In DN 2, the Buddha goes into elaborate detail about power after power and labels these clearly as "fruits of the homeless life", the whole quoting of which adds little to the essential point. There are also numerous places where the Buddha, and others, such as Moggallana, use the powers for various positive things, including surveying the world to see that there were those with little dust (the insight arising from this power being that he actually should teach the dharma rather than remain quite, which thus means that it was the use of a power that was the immediate proximate cause that made the entirety of the Buddha's teachings happen) and many others, such as declaring the rebirths of dead monks and thus using a power to explain the finer workings of karma, meaning teaching, etc.

DN 11, however, explicitly has the Buddha stating, again explicitly in the context of teaching, that he dislikes, rejects and despises the powers, this without any qualification or exception at all.

While on can rationalize aspects of context here, these are profoundly different views on the powers, and while taken together they do sum up the pervading contradictory sets of opinions that people have had of the powers throughout the history of Buddhism and in many other non-Buddhist contexts, this is still a contradictory set of statements.

Further, take MN 37, in which Moggallana goes and visits Sakka, ruler of the gods, to see if he has understood what the Buddha was saying, and used his toe to shake his palace and thus impressed the gods and inspired them to urgency regarding the dharma, and the sutta seems to be strongly emphasizing the benefits of his using his powers to help teach the dharma, and later, when Moggallana sits by the Buddha, the Buddha does not admonish him, but instead recounts his own teaching of Sakka, which obviously requires the Divine Eye, a power.

Hence, the texts contradict themselves regarding the Buddha's impression of the value of the powers for teaching and in general.

On to the deeper topic:

It is disappointing that you will neither talk on the phone with me nor Skype with me, as you asked about an example of the texts contradicting themselves, which is not difficult to come up with and doesn't even require any practice abilities and only a rather cursory knowledge of the texts, but you state that your deeper purpose is to prove to me that I am not an arahat, and this is a wholly different matter, one that I am happy to address and discuss, but is so much better done in person, if possible, but as we live roughly 2,000 miles apart, and I presume you are not coming here, and I am not likely to be in your area anytime soon, in person is not likely to happen.

So, I ask you, if you truly wish to pursue the stated goal of trying to pull me back onto the path you feel I have wandered so far from, to make an exception to your not Skyping and/or not phoning habits for the purpose of doing this in a way that is closer to proper for a topic of that degree of importance and weight, with the proper method being in person face to face, but Skype being the best we are likely to come up with, and the phone being a step down from even that, but clearly better than text, as so much is conveyed by more direct contact that is missed in text

If you wish for a public record, I would be happy to record and post our Skype chat, as I have nothing to hide and have been explicit about what I mean when I claim what I claim, and I wonder why you will not engage in these more appropriate and skillful methods of communication regarding this topic, speculating that you either don't really care to give them their due, or perhaps don't really want to spend the time it really takes to get a good sense of where someone is coming from, or perhaps have other aesthetic or eccentric reasons for avoiding these forms of communication, or may have other reasons I can't fathom, but I would be amazed if the underlying reasons were so sacrosanct and inviolable that you couldn't bend your predilections for a brief period to better serve your dhammic goals and enhance our mutual understandings of each other and our own practices as well.

It is even possible in our interaction that you will learn some things of value, as my practice has had many interesting aspects that, as one who has stated they have not completed things, you might just find of useful and thus pleasantly surprise yourself.



I responded briefly as follows:

Thank you for this communication which I will post on the site. I will respond to you there (including the below comment).

Briefly about telephone and chat: My experience with these sorts of communication is that people are, using them, much more likely to jumble up their thinking and skip and miss issues than with either formal essays or face-to-face discussions.

Additionally you have yourself written that flare-ups are more likely with you when speaking on the phone.

As to urgency: there is enough information already posted on the site to 'save' a person of intelligence, one who is able to grasp what was well said, who had his real own best interests in mind. I asked a question as part of a necessary fact-finding in your case. To try and speed past the necessary steps to make conscious all the relevant points would be counter-productive.



With regard to your example of an internal contradiction:

I do think it is necessary to "rationalize aspects of context here".[10]

Powers can be a fruit of the homeless life. Powers are also a distraction to the goal. Powers can be useful teaching tools. Powers can lead people astray. Powers in the hands of Gotama and the early monks were handled properly, at a later time it became necessary to make a rule, and the rule applied to everyone except Gotama. The use of powers in other worlds is to be judged by the realities and standards of those worlds.

What this issue comes down to is the ability to judge circumstances.

Throughout the suttas there are examples of cases where Gotama does things he does not allow others to do. Use of some of the powers is one. The rationalization is that in his case alone being the path-finder, a skeptic can trust (that is, allow for the possibility that he knew more than one's self) the action to have been properly motivated.

The rules for the bhikkhus evolved with the sangha. At first the sangha was made up of men of very refined 'form', high ethical standards and high mental development, as time went on many entered the order simply because it was an easy way to make a living or to obtain fame and fortune.

The rules for the display of powers was to prevent their inappropriate use for such things as fame and fortune so that their use, if at all, by Gotama, could be shown to be for educational purposes.

That is the context for the rules regarding the powers.

The context for the approval or disapproval of the powers in general is that of their effective use as teaching tools on the one hand and on the other hand their danger as distractions irrelevant to the goal.

The reservation of certain powers (those of what we would call magic: turning the world upside down, for example, versus those we would call esp, mind reading, seeing past lives being examples) for himself was, like the rules, a later development and which began, if I remember correctly after Moggliana performed a magic feat in public. What we are talking about here is the rules for the order, no proclamation was being made with regard to the use of magic powers by the lay population.

I don't think it is too difficult to see that handled properly 'amazing the people' with a display of real power could be a very effective teaching tool while remaining a thing very dangerous to do for the wrong reasons.

As for having a general attitude of condemnation of the powers, this too seems reasonable in that they are a very dangerous distraction. The goal is not the doing of anything 'in the world'. Powers take a long time to develop and are not something that should be pointed to as something of value. On the other hand, there are minds that will not be content to give up the world without having explored it thoroughly and for those the cultivation of the powers is not only allowed but explained in detail.[8]

The one other issue you raise is use of magic powers in other worlds. That is not something that is forbidden by the rules and was here clearly a teaching tool.

You have responded to the question I asked. While I do not see what I would call an internal contradiction here, I can see where someone else might.

Following the methodology recommended by Gotama, holding the perception that there are contradictions here between sutta and sutta one should put the topic of magic powers to one side as being questionable, one should not, because of this, as you have done, disallow the critiquing of one's claims to achievements from all the rest of what we have in the books.

You say: "I have been explicit about what I mean when I claim what I claim." But this is exactly what I do not see and what I have been trying to clarify and I think my method for approaching such clarification is the one that will be the most effective for making clear to myself and others precisely what it is that you hold explicitly about what you mean when you claim what you claim.

I have to this point asked of you one, and only one thing: to provide and example of what exactly you see as an internal contradiction in the suttas.

My reason for asking this question first is that you have disallowed use of the books to critique your claims because of your perception that there are within them contradictory statements.

I need to see if what you see as contradictory statements are contradictory statements that would hold up under examination, and to see if they are of such a nature as would justify ruling out all the other teachings in the suttas, and, to see, if all the other teachings in the suttas are to be ruled out because of these perceived internal contradictions, what it is you are calling 'Buddhism", how Arahantship is to be defined and what it is others are to use to judge whether or not your claim to arahantship in the Buddhist system is reasonable.

If you are claiming for yourself the right to pick, choose, reject and invent criteria for judging Arahantship in the Buddhist system and you are denying others the use of the one source of authority allowed by virtually all schools of Buddhism and all reasonable people familiar with the Pali, how else is one to believe your claim? Are we supposed to take your word for it?

I think your statement that I "don't really want to spend the time it really takes to get a good sense of where someone is coming from," is unfair and lacking in perception and shows a poor memory. I have already spent several half days in just the writing of my responses to your questions, I have spent even more time thinking about what has been said. I have read already, and I have told you that I was in the process of reading, several of your essays, many posts on your site and so far about a third of your book taking notes. I think the evidence for my depth of caring is right here for all to see and that you cannot see it is indicative. Let me ask you: Have you considered the possibility that your position needs to be re-examined, have my responses made no dent whatsoever as your non-acknowledgement of them would indicate, or is it that what I really need to do is to understand your statement: "Those who wish to debate these points should realize a few things, chief among them that I am a strong debater and that I am not going to have my view changed on these points."

As for me learning from you, I have no problem with learning from anyone. One of the great lessons of my life was taught to me by a man clearly a lunatic homeless beggar of the sort that causes bhikkhus to hate being called beggars. Drunk and mad he was crossing a plaza in front of me saying: "I begs! It's the only honest way to earn a living."

So there is always hope I might pick up something from anyone. But before I place any confidence in anything said by someone asking me to take their word for it, especially when I am aware of that person stating many things that I find very questionable, I would like to see that I am dealing with a person able to recognize his own good, able to recognize another's good, able to know what is well-said from what is sloppily thought through, a person who is able to think clearly in the system of ethics based on the law of kamma as delineated by the suttas, one who has cultivated self control in his habits of eating, sleeping, talk and desires, one who has prepared and organized his mind so as to see the given data without imposing on it his own pre-conceptions, one who has heard much, not one who has read a couple of suttas and already has concluded that he knows more than their author, one whose sit down practice was aimed at the goal of bringing an utter and total end to pain, especially that of the pain of birth, not one whose aim was self-indulgence, fame and fortune.

You make up the criteria for your claim, rule out what you don't like, rule out the only real authority for examining and critiquing your claim and declare your mind closed on the issue. Why should I take any time with you? If I did state I had the intent to bring you back on track, I retract that statement and acknowledge defeat in the face of your strong debating.

What has been worthwhile is that readers here have been given enough of a view of your position not to be taken in.

As promised, my effort will stop here.






[1] DN 1.2: Sāmañña-phala Suttanta, PTS: Rhys Davids: The Fruits of the Life of a Recluse
WP: Walshe: The Fruits of the Homeless Life

[2] MN 111: Anupada Sutta, WP: Bhks Nanamoli and Bodhi: One by One as they Occurred.

[3] See: SN 4.35.87 Samyutta Nikaya, IV: Salayatana-Vagga: I: Salayatana Samyutta: #87: Channa, pp30 PTS: Woodward, trans: Kindred Sayings IV: Kindred Sayings on Sense: #87: Channa, pp30 WP: Bhikkhu Bodhi, trans: The Connected Discourses of the Buddha II: The Book of the Six Sense Bases: I: Connected Discourses on the Six Sense Bases, #87: Channa, pp1164

[4] MN 121: Cūḷasuññata Sutta, WP: Bhks Nanamoli and Bodhi: The Shorter Discourse on Voidness

[5] Ahum. OK. Limited to just the 4 Nikayas, it's 16 volumes, the Average page count of the Pali is 345 not counting indexes; the average page count of the PTS is 305 not counting indexes. Highly abbreviated it is.

[6] I have this incorrectly here. The 'asavas' are kāmāsava bhavasava avijjāsava and sometimes also diṭṭhāsava Lust (or desire), living or becoming, blindness, and theories or opinions or points of view. See Glossology: Asava. However anger is included under kamasava as without wanting there is no identified-with reaction to unpleasant sensation. Ditthasava can also be included under avijjasava.

[7] I have seen further into how this works. Suppose you have a situation where there is a great doubter. He picks on a certain aspect of the teaching and compares it to another and declares for himself that there is a contradiction. That aspect of what is taught is to be put aside for him. Suppose he continues on this way. Sooner or later he will come across the Four Truths. If this alone remains for him as valid teaching, he will be able to attain the goal and say he attained the goal using Gotama's system, or 'Buddhism'. If he then were to find a reason to put that aside he would no longer be able to claim that he had attained the goal of Buddhism as taught by Gotama The Buddha and others could say of him he was no Arahant in that system.

[8] Another similar case is with regard to atainment of rebirth in the Brahma Realm. While this is condemned as falling short of the goal, the method for attaining it is taught in detail. From only small evidence, for sure, I believe it is the case that the Buddha answered any question that was asked of him if it could be fit into someone's stepping along the way. So for one who could get no further, rebirth in the Brahma realm would be a step forward. The same goes for magic powers.

[9] In the Dhamma of Gotama this is further complicated by the way he uses language which is to make what he teaches useful to all levels: begining, middle, and end, so that the beginner, thinking 'I understand this,' stops before he understands completely. This is not a flaw in the teaching method, as without any teaching at all people think they know it all, and on the other hand, though the details of the instructions might have been known before, their organization is unique in his teachings. There is, also, a faith in the mind here that over time it will see that it is seeing ever more deeply as a result of the way this is taught.

[10] This is the clue. In making the passing comment about context, Daniel reveals that he has himself seen the solution to the question he asks. But rather than conceding the point and accepting the implications with regard to his position, he attempts to neutralize the thing which destroys his argument by bringing it up himself and dismissing it as though it was not worth consideration. Nuh uh.

[11] Sariputta may also have said this. But one reference is to [AN 8 30] where it is the Buddha speaking to Anuruddha.

[12] See, for example: [SN 5.52.10:] Illness, Bhk. Thanissaro, translation.

Copyright Statement