"Common Sense" interpretation of the suttas

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"Common Sense" interpretation of the suttas

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Nov 03, 2011 5:07 am

I'm not sure if the following example is the best one, but it often occurs to me that too much "philosophy" and too little "common sense" is applied to various sutta passages.

In this "Illusion" thread:
viewtopic.php?f=16&t=10283&start=0
various suttas are quoted, including these ones:

SN 35.23: Sabba Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. ...

SN 12.44 Loka Sutta: The World
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
The Blessed One said: "And what is the origination of the world? Dependent on the eye & forms there arises eye-consciousness. The meeting of the three is contact. From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling. ...

My question is this. In such passages is the Buddha trying to make some philosophical point, or is he simply saying:
"I define this 'all'/'world' to be the 'all'/'world' of experience, and that is all that you need to work with for awakening".


If one takes this "common sense" interpretation then any arguments about "reality", "illusion", and so on are simply not relevant. These suttas are simply discussing experience and are not claiming to say anything about other ways of looking at "the world" via philosophy, science, etc.

So, I can see the advantages of this attitude: one can simply ignore discussions about "what it means", in favour of discussions about "how should I practise?"

But presumably there are some disadvantages to taking such an attitude?

I'd also be very happy to hear of other examples where there are "simple" and "complicated" interpretations. A general category would be suttas where the Buddha seems to be poking fun at Brahmin doctrine.

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Re: "Common Sense" interpretation of the suttas

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Nov 03, 2011 5:15 am

Greetings Mike,

"I define this 'all'/'world' to be the 'all'/'world' of experience, and that is all that you need to work with for awakening".

That's pretty much it.

The whole point is to set aside the speculative and to accept one's range of possible experience.

All this talk of "reality" or "illusion" is only of benefit to the extent that people do not acknowledge the proper range of possible conditioned experience.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: "Common Sense" interpretation of the suttas

Postby Sylvester » Thu Nov 03, 2011 5:28 am

Hi Mike.

I think, sometimes, the over-wrought and complicated explanation may be worthwhile pursuing.

Since you cited the Sabba Sutta, I would mention the problem a "common sense" reading would present when applied to the Kaccanagota Sutta SN 12.15 which discusses the propositions "The All exists" and "The All does not exist". Most of us equate the All (sabba) in the Sabba Sutta, with the Sabba in the Kaccanagota Sutta.

In fact, if you look at the expanded version of SN 12.15 to be found in the Lokatiya Sutta, SN 12.48, the context reveals very clearly that the Buddha was not criticising ontological views about the bases, the indriyas etc, but was attacking the 2 competing theries of Causation that pre-dated Him. This would be the Vedic idea of self-causation and the wanderers' concept of other-causation. SN 12.48 expands the discussion to capture the ideas of Monism and Pluralism expounded by the rival schools to account for these 2 models of causation.

On this, Kalupahana's "Causality - the Central Philosophy of Buddhism" would be a worthwhile read to contextualise the Buddha's critique of "Sabba". Kalupahana gives a stupendously wide survey of the attested Causation theories recorded in the Nikayas, Agamas as well as Jain literature to furnish the backdrop for the pre-Buddhist conception of the All. I think SN 35.23 is the Buddha's re-working of the All theories that pre-dated Him, so that He could invest Sabba with its Buddhist flavour.

So, should we persist with a common sense application of SN 12.48, based on the understanding that the Sabba in SN.35.23 = the Sabba in SN 12.48, and thereby end up with non-common sense denials about the reality of our senses and sense data?

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Re: "Common Sense" interpretation of the suttas

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Nov 03, 2011 7:54 am

retrofuturist wrote:The whole point is to set aside the speculative and to accept one's range of possible experience.

I agree, but remember (pushing this point), this means that I would reject any claim that the Buddha taught that there was NO external reality. Whether you believe in external reality or not is a purely philosophical point that is irrelevant to practice, therefore criticising someone for believing that is not allowed (by this view).

Sylvester wrote:Since you cited the Sabba Sutta, I would mention the problem a "common sense" reading would present when applied to the Kaccanagota Sutta SN 12.15 which discusses the propositions "The All exists" and "The All does not exist". Most of us equate the All (sabba) in the Sabba Sutta, with the Sabba in the Kaccanagota Sutta. ...

Yes, I'm aware it's possible to do these interpretations. But if we agree that that's what the Buddha was doing, perhaps he was doing it just to make the point that such speculation was useless, not with the aim of providing yet another philosophical approach.

I can still see an argument for saying that this "all" is just what we are experiencing, and he's just saying "forget this silly worry about existence or non-existence and just look at what you are experiencing."

Can you give a clear example of where that sort of "naive common-sense approach" would actually lead one astray in following the eight-fold path?

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Re: "Common Sense" interpretation of the suttas

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Nov 03, 2011 8:11 am

Greetings Mike,

retrofuturist wrote:The whole point is to set aside the speculative and to accept one's range of possible experience.

mikenz66 wrote:I agree, but remember (pushing this point), this means that I would reject any claim that the Buddha taught that there was NO external reality.

Correct, as he did no such thing.

mikenz66 wrote:Whether you believe in external reality or not is a purely philosophical point that is irrelevant to practice

This is where I diverge slightly from your way of thinking. Let us say that you crave for something to be "mine" - a new yacht for example. You're not necessarily craving the sight, sound, taste etc. of the yacht... you're craving for possession of something "out there" you believe "exists"... wishing to make it "mine". The more acutely we can train ourselves not to regard things in terms of "exist" and "not-exist" the less likely we are to crave along the lines of "I", "me" or "mine". This is done by correctly regarding the all as loka. Removing perceptions and cravings that are "I", "me" or "mine" is very much what the practice ought to be about - therefore very relevant.

Turn it on its head and look at the case of "not exist" and you have the whole "separated from what one holds dear" cause of dukkha.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: "Common Sense" interpretation of the suttas

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Nov 03, 2011 8:19 am

Retro, you seem to be arguing that if you talk yourself into the philosophical view that there is nothing out there that it is easier to let go of it... Hmmm... Sounds fishy to me, but perhaps it's a useful approach... :thinking:

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Re: "Common Sense" interpretation of the suttas

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Nov 03, 2011 8:24 am

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:Retro, you seem to be arguing that if you talk yourself into the philosophical view that there is nothing out there that it is easier to let go of it... Hmmm... Sounds fishy to me, but perhaps it's a useful approach... :thinking:

Not that there's nothing out there - that would be "does not exist".

The Buddha teaches down the middle of "existence" and "non-existence" (i.e. he teaches dependent origination ala SN 12.15).

Perceptions of "exists" and "does not exist" should both be abandoned.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: "Common Sense" interpretation of the suttas

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Nov 03, 2011 8:34 am

OK, but my model is that he is NOT saying anything about the possible existence or non-existence of a "physical" world. Only the "experienced world".

Therefore your line of reasoning is disallowed (by this model). So there! :tongue:

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Re: "Common Sense" interpretation of the suttas

Postby Sylvester » Thu Nov 03, 2011 8:47 am

mikenz66 wrote:Yes, I'm aware it's possible to do these interpretations. But if we agree that that's what the Buddha was doing, perhaps he was doing it just to make the point that such speculation was useless, not with the aim of providing yet another philosophical approach.

I can still see an argument for saying that this "all" is just what we are experiencing, and he's just saying "forget this silly worry about existence or non-existence and just look at what you are experiencing."

Can you give a clear example of where that sort of "naive common-sense approach" would actually lead one astray in following the eight-fold path?

:anjali:
Mike


Forgive me if my point was not put forth clearly.

The "common sense" approach I was criticising was the easy (but mistaken) conflation of the Sabba Sutta's "sabba" with the "sabba" theories criticised in the Kaccanagota Sutta. If one takes a naive reading that the Buddha intended the Kaccanagota discourse to an anti-ontic essay on the 'sabba-s" of Sabba Sutta, the outcome might be a predilection in denying the reality of the very things that are supposed to be the subject of contemplation.

So, a critical approach in this case, which takes into account the Upanisadic notions of Sat ("Being" - derived from the word "atthi"/exist) that was criticised in the Kaccanagota Sutta may perhaps furnish a context on how far to apply the Kaccanagota Sutta. Retro's posts is one of those examples that I fear.
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Re: "Common Sense" interpretation of the suttas

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Nov 03, 2011 8:51 am

Greetings,

You enjoy your sankharas then, Sylvester. :D

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: "Common Sense" interpretation of the suttas

Postby chownah » Thu Nov 03, 2011 8:55 am

mikenz66 wrote:My question is this. In such passages is the Buddha trying to make some philosophical point, or is he simply saying:
"I define this 'all'/'world' to be the 'all'/'world' of experience, and that is all that you need to work with for awakening".

I would say that that experience through the six sense media is all that you have to work with for awakening or anything else...that is all that we have there isn't anything else that we have to work with. If you think we have something else to work with then please let me know what it is.
mikenz66 wrote:
If one takes this "common sense" interpretation then any arguments about "reality", "illusion", and so on are simply not relevant. These suttas are simply discussing experience and are not claiming to say anything about other ways of looking at "the world" via philosophy, science, etc.

There is no other way to look at the world other than through our six sense media...all philosopher, scientists,,,,,,everyone only has the six sense media....if they haver somthing else then please let me know what it is.
mikenz66 wrote:So, I can see the advantages of this attitude: one can simply ignore discussions about "what it means", in favour of discussions about "how should I practise?"

But presumably there are some disadvantages to taking such an attitude?

I think "what it means" is an important topic to discuss....because what it means (among other things) is that all of our experience is fabricated views and the experiences which are the basis for those views are the very same six sense media which we also think of as being "self"...my eye, my ear, my nose, my tongue, my body, my mind,,,,,what I see, what I hear, what I smell, what I taste, what I think.....what I am.....
mikenz66 wrote:I'd also be very happy to hear of other examples where there are "simple" and "complicated" interpretations. A general category would be suttas where the Buddha seems to be poking fun at Brahmin doctrine.

:anjali:
Mike

Sorry, but so far it seems we are stuck on The World and The All....and more importantly I do not think that the Buddha was poking fun at Brahmin doctrine when he gave his discourses on The World and The All....on the contrary I think these are two of the most central teachings both for understanding the "theoretics" of his teachings and for understanding the practice he recommends.
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Re: "Common Sense" interpretation of the suttas

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Nov 03, 2011 8:57 am

:goodpost:
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: "Common Sense" interpretation of the suttas

Postby Sylvester » Thu Nov 03, 2011 9:06 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

You enjoy your sankharas then, Sylvester. :D

Metta,
Retro. :)



In case you haven't noticed, so did the Buddha -

And how does a monk remain focused on mental qualities in & of themselves?

There is the case where a monk remains focused on mental qualities in & of themselves with reference to the five hindrances. And how does a monk remain focused on mental qualities in & of themselves with reference to the five hindrances?

There is the case where, there being sensual desire present within, a monk discerns that 'There is sensual desire present within me.' Or, there being no sensual desire present within, he discerns that 'There is no sensual desire present within me.' He discerns how there is the arising of unarisen sensual desire. And he discerns how there is the abandoning of sensual desire once it has arisen. And he discerns how there is no future arising of sensual desire that has been abandoned.

Kathañca, bhikkhave, bhikkhu dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati?

Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati pañcasu nīvaraṇesu. Kathañca pana, bhikkhave, bhikkhu dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati pañcasu nīvaraṇesu?

Idha , bhikkhave, bhikkhu santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ kāmacchandaṃ ‘atthi me ajjhattaṃ kāmacchando’ti pajānāti, asantaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ kāmacchandaṃ ‘natthi me ajjhattaṃ kāmacchando’ti pajānāti; yathā ca anuppannassa kāmacchandassa uppādo hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca uppannassa kāmacchandassa pahānaṃ hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca pahīnassa kāmacchandassa āyatiṃ anuppādo hoti tañca pajānāti.


The underlined santo (present participle for atthi) is the Pali cognate for the Vedic "Sat".

I don't see the Buddha mucking around with some wooly notions that our experiences are neither "atthi" nor "natthi".
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Re: "Common Sense" interpretation of the suttas

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Nov 03, 2011 9:27 am

chownah wrote: I do not think that the Buddha was poking fun at Brahmin doctrine when he gave his discourses on The World and The All....on the contrary I think these are two of the most central teachings both for understanding the "theoretics" of his teachings and for understanding the practice he recommends.
chownah

The suttas I was referring to that may well be poking fun at the Brahmins were not the ones about "the all". Sorry, I wasn't very clear there...

I also agree that the senses are all we have access to. The difference between Buddhism, science and philosophy is how we make use of that information.

I do still worry, with Sylvester, about any attempt to use the Buddha's teaching to decide that certain things are not real. I really (:tongue: ) don't see how that does anything other than distract and I think that it is just as erroneous as arguing that certain thing are real.

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Re: "Common Sense" interpretation of the suttas

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Nov 03, 2011 9:38 am

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:I do still worry, with Sylvester, about any attempt to use the Buddha's teaching to decide that certain things are not real.

Serious question.... do you think anyone here is doing that?

If you say me, I'll show you a man stuffed with straw, as I've explained countless times to you on this forum that the Buddha did not advocate the view of non-existence.

:twisted:

:rofl:

mikenz66 wrote:I think that it is just as erroneous as arguing that certain thing are real.

Here you, I and SN 12.15 are in alignment.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: "Common Sense" interpretation of the suttas

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Nov 03, 2011 9:58 am

retrofuturist wrote:If you say me, I'll show you a man stuffed with straw, as I've explained countless times to you on this forum that the Buddha did not advocate the view of non-existence.

So you would agree that using the suttas to argue that the Buddha denied any kind of external reality would be a mistake?

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Re: "Common Sense" interpretation of the suttas

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Nov 03, 2011 10:10 am

Greetings Mike,

Indeed... such a proclamation would be beyond range, and as such, could be neither proved nor disproved. What's that called in the scientific lingo, non-falsifiable?

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: "Common Sense" interpretation of the suttas

Postby kirk5a » Thu Nov 03, 2011 1:31 pm

mikenz66 wrote:My question is this. In such passages is the Buddha trying to make some philosophical point, or is he simply saying:
"I define this 'all'/'world' to be the 'all'/'world' of experience, and that is all that you need to work with for awakening".


We use this word "experience" a lot. Did the Buddha explain things using this concept of "experience"?
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: "Common Sense" interpretation of the suttas

Postby pegembara » Thu Nov 03, 2011 3:33 pm

How does one view the world
so as not to be seen
by Death's king?

[The Buddha:]
View the world, Mogharaja,
as empty —
always mindful
to have removed any view
about self.

This way one is above & beyond death.
This is how one views the world
so as not to be seen
by Death's king.

Mogharaja's Question

Did the Buddha meant for us to pretend that the world is "empty" or is the world truly empty? Remember the Buddha is described as knower of the worlds and said "I know".
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
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Re: "Common Sense" interpretation of the suttas

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Nov 03, 2011 6:25 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Indeed... such a proclamation would be beyond range, and as such, could be neither proved nor disproved. What's that called in the scientific lingo, non-falsifiable?

OK, great! I'll be sure to remind you of that I catch you denying that there is an external reality... :tongue:

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