Defilements vs purity

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Lazy_eye
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Defilements vs purity

Postby Lazy_eye » Wed Apr 30, 2014 5:55 pm

All:

I was reading over some posts concerning the kilesas yesterday and noticed, again, that there is something about the formulation of this concept that bugs me. I hadn't quite thought it through before but now I realize what the issue is.

When we speak of something being "defiled", it implies a prior state of purity, right? Something can't be defiled if it was that way to begin with; that is its natural state.

So the term defilements implies there was a mind that was pure. The idea of returning to or accessing one's pure mind comes up frequently in later schools, though it doesn't seem to me a Theravada notion. Still, isn't it basically implied by the term "defilements"?

Just wondering...

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Re: Defilements vs purity

Postby indian_buddhist » Wed Apr 30, 2014 6:04 pm

I am only recently started learning Buddhism.

All notions of "there was a pure state" comes from notion of a permanent self. I dont think it is what the Buddha taught.
Identification with my country is one of my fetters.

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Re: Defilements vs purity

Postby Virgo » Wed Apr 30, 2014 6:21 pm

No because defilements are that which defile the mind. When they are exterminated, the citta is free of those once latent propensities towards unwholesomeness. That does not necessitate there having previously been unafflicted cittas at some other time.

:anjali: Kevin
Last edited by Virgo on Wed Apr 30, 2014 7:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Defilements vs purity

Postby santa100 » Wed Apr 30, 2014 6:30 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:So the term defilements implies there was a mind that was pure. The idea of returning to or accessing one's pure mind comes up frequently in later schools, though it doesn't seem to me a Theravada notion. Still, isn't it basically implied by the term "defilements"?

From MN 7 or AN 1.49, the "pure mind" is not something unique to later schools. However, the Theravada position is quite clear about the importance of great effort to transform a defiled mind to a pure mind, unlike some later ideas that the pure mind is pure and incorruptable in and of itself, and as a result, all it takes is a simple change in perception and one would instantly become the Buddha that s/he has always been. Ven. Nyanaponika's comment for MN 7:
Comy: "It may be asked why the Buddha had given this simile of the soiled cloth. He did so to show that effort brings great results. A cloth soiled by dirt that is adventitious (i.e., comes from outside; agantukehi malehi), if it is washed can again become clean because of the cloth's natural purity. But in the case of what is naturally black, as for instance (black) goat's fur, any effort (of washing it) will be in vain. Similarly, the mind too is soiled by adventitious defilements (agantukehi kilesehi). But originally, at the phases of rebirth(-consciousness) and the (sub-conscious) life-continuum, it is pure throughout (pakatiya pana sakale pi patisandhi-bhavanga-vare pandaram eva). As it was said (by the Enlightened One): 'This mind, monks, is luminous, but it becomes soiled by adventitious defilements' (AN 1.49). But by cleansing it one can make it more luminous, and effort therein is not in vain."

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Re: Defilements vs purity

Postby Lazy_eye » Wed Apr 30, 2014 6:33 pm

indian_buddhist wrote:I am only recently started learning Buddhism.

All notions of "there was a pure state" comes from notion of a permanent self. I dont think it is what the Buddha taught.


I don't think so either, yet if something can be "defiled" it must have previously been clean. Or maybe the issue here has to do with how we translate "kilesa"?

These is also this passage in the Pabhassara Sutta:

"Luminous, monks, is the mind. And it is defiled by incoming defilements."

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Re: Defilements vs purity

Postby Edith Clampton » Wed Apr 30, 2014 10:59 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:yet if something can be "defiled" it must have previously been clean.


Not at all; the word ‘defilement’ is quite non-committal about this. With some defiled things there may be a prior state of purity (as with iron before it’s defiled by rust). With others there may not (as with unextracted gold that’s defiled by its ore and has always been as far as anyone knows).

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Re: Defilements vs purity

Postby Lazy_eye » Thu May 01, 2014 12:08 am

Edith Clampton wrote:
Lazy_eye wrote:yet if something can be "defiled" it must have previously been clean.


Not at all; the word ‘defilement’ is quite non-committal about this. With some defiled things there may be a prior state of purity (as with iron before it’s defiled by rust). With others there may not (as with unextracted gold that’s defiled by its ore and has always been as far as anyone knows).

Edith Clampton (Mrs)


I don't know much about metallurgy, but I believe the gold exists prior to the extraction process; it's an element. What happens is that it gets embedded in rock and mixed with other stuff that is less valuable; thus it has to be extracted somehow.

"Defiled" according to the dictionary has the following meanings:

to make unclean or impure
to violate chastity/purity
to corrupt
to make physically unclean

Maybe someone with knowledge of Pali could say whether the term kilesa has identical connotations.

In the Agganna sutta there is a passage concerning a defilement/corruption process:

At a time of contraction, beings are mostly born in the Abhassara Brahma
world. And there they dwell, mind-made, feeding on delight, self luminous, moving
through the air, glorious—and they stay like that for a very long time. But sooner or later,
after a very long period, this world begins to expand again. At a time of expansion, the
beings from the Abhassara Brahma world, having passed away from there, are mostly
reborn in this world. Here they dwell, mind-made, feeding on delight, self-luminous,
moving through the air, glorious, and they stay like that for a very long time.

At that period, Vasettha, there was just one mass of water, and all was darkness, blinding
darkness. Neither moon nor sun appeared, no constellations or stars appeared, night and
day were not yet distinguished, nor months and fortnights, nor years and seasons; there
was no male and female, beings being reckoned just as beings. And sooner or
later, after a very long period of time, savory earth spread itself over the waters where
those beings were. It looked just like the skin that forms itself over hot milk as it cools. It
was endowed with color, smell, and taste. It was the color of fine ghee or butter and it
was very sweet, like pure wild honey.


Well, you know what happens next...the beings can't help wanting to taste the sweet, ghee-like substance, and it's all downhill from there. Maybe
this passage offers some clues as to why the term "defilement" is used?

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Re: Defilements vs purity

Postby SarathW » Thu May 01, 2014 2:47 am

This post may some help;

“Radiant is this consciousness,”
viewtopic.php?f=18&t=15567

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Re: Defilements vs purity

Postby Edith Clampton » Thu May 01, 2014 3:41 am

Lazy_eye wrote:I don't know much about metallurgy,


Me neither. In fact I now see that my point would have been better made with reference to the uranium in pitchblende rather than the gold in ore. But never mind, let’s move on.


Well, you know what happens next...the beings can't help wanting to taste the sweet, ghee-like substance, and it's all downhill from there. Maybe this passage offers some clues as to why the term "defilement" is used?


Improbable, I think. Avijja is a defilement and the Suttas say there’s no discerning any first point to avijja. So that means there’s never been a time when we weren’t defiled. Seen in this light, I wouldn't take your Agganna passage as describing a beginning to defilement but merely a stage in our samsaric stravaiging when defilements that had hitherto been merely latent and subtle finally became manifest and gross.

Edith

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Re: Defilements vs purity

Postby ancientbuddhism » Thu May 01, 2014 4:57 am

Edith Clampton wrote:...

Improbable, I think. Avijja is a defilement and the Suttas say there’s no discerning any first point to avijja. So that means there’s never been a time when we weren’t defiled. ...


Since avijjā is synonymous with taṇhā it begins as a choice at vedanā.
Anuvicca papañca nāmarūpaṃ
ajjhattaṃ bahiddhā ca rogamūlaṃ,
sabbarogamūlabandhanā pamutto
anuvidito tādi pavuccate tathattā
.

“Having known the naming of objects,
With its proliferation, its root in illness – within and without;
One is released from bondage to the root of all illness.
And thus is called the Knowing One – the Such.

– Sn. 3.6 (Sabhiyasuttaṃ)

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

A Handful of Leaves

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Re: Defilements vs purity

Postby James the Giant » Thu May 01, 2014 5:30 am

If the citta or whatever was originally undefiled, like you say, then you would have been enlightened back then.
You, and I, are not enlightened. Therefore the citta was never undefiled.
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11

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Re: Defilements vs purity

Postby SarathW » Thu May 01, 2014 5:45 am

Un defilement and wisdom (enlightenment) are two different things.
Once you have radiant consciousness (undefiled Citta) you should develop wisdom to attain Nirvana.
Radian consciousness is not Nirvana.

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Re: Defilements vs purity

Postby James the Giant » Thu May 01, 2014 8:46 am

SarathW wrote:Un defilement and wisdom (enlightenment) are two different things.
Once you have radiant consciousness (undefiled Citta) you should develop wisdom to attain Nirvana.
Radiant consciousness is not Nirvana.

Aha, I thought it was, thanks for clarifying that. :bow:
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11

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Re: Defilements vs purity

Postby Lazy_eye » Sat May 03, 2014 12:33 am

James the Giant wrote:If the citta or whatever was originally undefiled, like you say, then you would have been enlightened back then.
You, and I, are not enlightened. Therefore the citta was never undefiled.


Ok, yes, I see this is the right view from a Theravada perspective, but I am still wondering about this term "defiled". As far as I know, it always implies some already-existing pure element. Defilement is, by definition, the process of tainting or corrupting something that was pure.

A different word could have been used; why was this one chosen?

Although I understand that Theravada does not posit such later notions as "buddha nature", "innate enlightenment" and so on, I am wondering if those doctrines originated in part as a way to explain the problem presented by the term defilement; i.e. that there must already be something that got defiled.

I remember Stephen Batchelor in one of his talks saying that the Chinese schools presented "buddha nature" as comparable to gold without the ore. He felt that the concept arose from a Chinese mistranslation of a Sanskrit term; however, perhaps the term "defilement" already encourages or implies this line of thought?

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Re: Defilements vs purity

Postby barcsimalsi » Sat May 03, 2014 3:28 am

The root of defilement is ignorant/wrong view. It is called defiled because the view one holds is distorted from the truth.

Regarding the terms like luminous mind, radiant consciousness or Buddha nature, it implies the potentiality rather than a pure state of mind…IMO.

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Re: Defilements vs purity

Postby cooran » Sat May 03, 2014 5:56 am

This might be of interest:

Kilesa - Defilement
http://www.palikanon.com/english/wtb/g_m/kilesa.htm

With metta,
Chris
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Re: Defilements vs purity

Postby Lazy_eye » Sun May 04, 2014 12:32 am

barcsimalsi wrote:The root of defilement is ignorant/wrong view. It is called defiled because the view one holds is distorted from the truth.


Thanks. This way of explaining it makes sense to me.

cooran wrote:This might be of interest:

Kilesa - Defilement
http://www.palikanon.com/english/wtb/g_m/kilesa.htm

With metta,
Chris


Yes, the list is interesting and helpful; I notice, though that it refers to kilesas as "mind-defiling, unwholesome qualities."

This choice of phrasing brings me back to my original question. If we say "mind-defiling" it seems to suggest there was a previously pure mind that became defiled.

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Re: Defilements vs purity

Postby barcsimalsi » Sun May 04, 2014 4:08 am

"But, Mālunkyāputta, in what way do you remember the five lower fetters as taught by me?”
“Venerable sir, I remember identity view as a lower fetter taught by the Blessed One. I remember doubt as a lower fetter taught by the Blessed One. I remember adherence to rules and observances as a lower fetter taught by the Blessed One. I remember sensual desire as a lower fetter taught by the Blessed One. I remember ill will as a lower fetter taught by the Blessed One. It is in this way, venerable sir, that I remember the five lower fetters as taught by the Blessed One.”

“Mālunkyāputta, to whom do you remember my having taught these five lower fetters in that way? Would not the wanderers of other sects confute you with the simile of the infant? For a young tender infant lying prone does not even have the notion ‘identity,’ so how could identity view arise in him? Yet the underlying tendency to identity view lies within him. A young tender infant lying prone does not even have the notion ‘teachings,’ so how could doubt about the teachings arise in him? Yet the underlying tendency to doubt lies within him. A young tender infant lying prone does not even have the notion ‘rules,’ so how could adherence to rules and observances arise in him? Yet the underlying tendency to adhere to rules and observances lies within him. A young tender infant lying prone does not even have the notion ‘sensual pleasures,’ so how could sensual desire arise in him? Yet the underlying tendency to sensual lust lies within him. A young tender infant lying prone does not even have the notion ‘beings,’ so how could ill will towards beings arise in him? Yet the underlying tendency to ill will lies within him. Would not the wanderers of other sects confute you with this simile of the infant?”

MN64 suggest that the taints were already there when one was born.

And what, Ānanda, is the path, the way to the abandoning of the five lower fetters? Here, with seclusion from the acquisitions, with the abandoning of unwholesome states, with the complete tranquillization of bodily inertia, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the first jhāna, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of seclusion.

Whatever exists therein of material form, feeling, perception, formations, and consciousness, he sees those states as impermanent, as suffering, as a disease, as a tumour, as a barb, as a calamity, as an affliction, as alien, as disintegrating, as void, as not self. He turns his mind away from those states and directs it towards the deathless element thus: ‘This is the peaceful, this is the sublime, that is, the stilling of all formations, the relinquishing of all attachments, the destruction of craving, dispassion, cessation, Nibbāna.’ If he is steady in that, he attains the destruction of the taints. But if he does not attain the destruction of the taints because of that desire for the Dhamma, that delight in the Dhamma, then with the destruction of the five lower fetters he becomes one due to reappear spontaneously in the Pure Abodes and there attain final Nibbāna without ever returning from that world. This is the path, the way to the abandoning of the five lower fetters.

And only by realizing nibbana is the taints/defilements completely gone.

However, if we are referring to the mind as the momentary arising and ceasing citta or thoughts moment then i think it should be fine to say that one’s mind is pure as long as it is not associated with greed, hatred and delusion along with their manifestation.

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Re: Defilements vs purity

Postby Dan74 » Sun May 04, 2014 8:44 am

Maybe ignorance, as a starting point, is easier to swallow. "From beginningless ignorance..."
_/|\_

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Re: Defilements vs purity

Postby Mkoll » Sun May 04, 2014 10:54 am

Lazy_eye wrote:All:

I was reading over some posts concerning the kilesas yesterday and noticed, again, that there is something about the formulation of this concept that bugs me. I hadn't quite thought it through before but now I realize what the issue is.

When we speak of something being "defiled", it implies a prior state of purity, right? Something can't be defiled if it was that way to begin with; that is its natural state.

So the term defilements implies there was a mind that was pure. The idea of returning to or accessing one's pure mind comes up frequently in later schools, though it doesn't seem to me a Theravada notion. Still, isn't it basically implied by the term "defilements"?

Just wondering...


Defilement may imply a state of purity, sure that sounds fine. But then you say that the state of purity is its "natural state". That's an assumption. How do you know it's not the other way around and that defilement is its "natural state"?
Peace,
James


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