SN 35.236 The Simile Of Hands And Feet

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: SN 35.236 The Simile Of Hands And Feet

Postby retrofuturist » Fri May 14, 2010 3:30 am

Greetings Bodom,

Well, that's your decision to decide according to your own reason and logic. Just letting you know the options available...

:anjali:

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: SN 35.236 The Simile Of Hands And Feet

Postby Dan74 » Fri May 14, 2010 4:01 am

bodom wrote:The Dhamma obviously needs to be understood in its conceptual framework before one can practice it. Its the old cliche simile of the map. Once you get to where your going you dont need the map anymore. Once you reach arahantship what use are the suttas?

:anjali:


You seem to assume that the person is able to read the map. But the trouble is that we approach liberating instructions with a deluded mind. That's why even to begin to understand the conceptual framework is not possible until some wisdom and discernment is developed.
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Re: SN 35.236 The Simile Of Hands And Feet

Postby bodom » Fri May 14, 2010 4:28 am

Dan74 wrote:
bodom wrote:The Dhamma obviously needs to be understood in its conceptual framework before one can practice it. Its the old cliche simile of the map. Once you get to where your going you dont need the map anymore. Once you reach arahantship what use are the suttas?

:anjali:


You seem to assume that the person is able to read the map. But the trouble is that we approach liberating instructions with a deluded mind. That's why even to begin to understand the conceptual framework is not possible until some wisdom and discernment is developed.


Is it you who are assuming or me? Did I say that one does not need teachers to follow the path?

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: SN 35.236 The Simile Of Hands And Feet

Postby bodom » Fri May 14, 2010 4:29 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Bodom,

Well, that's your decision to decide according to your own reason and logic. Just letting you know the options available...

:anjali:

Metta,
Retro. :)


Im not in disagreement about anything with you Retro. :smile:
I just dont see the need too separate the two. I dont see it as so black and white.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: SN 35.236 The Simile Of Hands And Feet

Postby bodom » Fri May 14, 2010 4:47 am

Dan,

From Bhikkhu Bodhi:

To follow the Noble Eightfold Path is a matter of practice rather than intellectual knowledge, but to apply the path correctly it has to be properly understood. In fact, right understanding of the path is itself a part of the practice. It is a facet of right view, the first path factor, the forerunner and guide for the rest of the path. Thus, though initial enthusiasm might suggest that the task of intellectual comprehension may be shelved as a bothersome distraction, mature consideration reveals it to be quite essential to ultimate success in the practice.


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... toend.html

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: SN 35.236 The Simile Of Hands And Feet

Postby Dan74 » Fri May 14, 2010 5:03 am

This is an old debate "study versus practice", what is the right balance?

I think no one would argue that in most cases one needs a balance. A very rare person may have the right view already sufficiently there for the practice to take off. Another rare person may awaken from reading the suttas or delving into the study very deeply.

For most of us one supports the other. But since conceptual proliferation based on ignorance is what perpetuates delusion, personally I prefer instruction that points this out in the most direct and suitable (for my case) way, rather than building up more concepts albeit dhammic ones.
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Re: SN 35.236 The Simile Of Hands And Feet

Postby retrofuturist » Fri May 14, 2010 5:16 am

Greetings,

Dan74 wrote:This is an old debate "study versus practice", what is the right balance?


If it is, I don't understand how or why it came to be about that.

The topic is people's understanding on SN 35.236 and has nothing whatsoever to do with the old "study versus practice" debate.

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: SN 35.236 The Simile Of Hands And Feet

Postby Dan74 » Fri May 14, 2010 5:21 am

I am sorry, I thought you spoke of ontological versus phenomenological understanding. I thought bodom and I were talking about the same thing. But I am known to make strange leaps of logic...

:oops:
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Re: SN 35.236 The Simile Of Hands And Feet

Postby retrofuturist » Fri May 14, 2010 5:34 am

Greetings Dan,

Dan74 wrote:I am sorry, I thought you spoke of ontological versus phenomenological understanding.

Yes I did, perhaps I might clarify what I meant by the distinction.

Phenomenology (ignore the bit about "person or self", of course)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phenomenology_(psychology)

In psychology, phenomenology is used to refer to subjective experiences or their study. The experiencing subject can be considered to be the person or self, for purposes of convenience. In phenomenological philosophy (and particularly in the work of Husserl, Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty) "experience" is a considerably more complex concept than it is usually taken to be in everyday use. Instead, experience (or being, or existence itself) is an "in-relation-to" phenomenon, and it is defined by qualities of directedness, embodiment and worldliness which are evoked by the term "Being-in-the-World".

Nevertheless, one abiding feature of "experiences" is that, in principle, they are not directly observable by any external observer. The quality or nature of a given experience is often referred to by the term qualia, whose archetypical exemplar is "redness". For example, we might ask, "Is my experience of redness the same as yours?" While it is difficult to answer such a question in any concrete way, the concept of intersubjectivity is often used as a mechanism for understanding how it is that humans are able to empathise with one another's experiences, and indeed to engage in meaningful communication about them. The phenomenological formulation of Being-in-the-World, where person and world are mutually constitutive, is central here.


Ontology
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontology

Students of the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) first used the word 'metaphysica' (literally "beyond the physical") to refer to what their teacher described as "the science of beings qua beings" - later known as ontology. 'Qua' means 'in the capacity of'. Hence, ontology is inquiry into a being in so much as it is a being, or into beings insofar as they exist, and not insofar as, for instance, particular facts obtained about them or particular properties relating to them. More specifically, ontology concerns determining whether some categories of being are fundamental, and asks in what sense the items in those categories can be said to "be". For Aristotle there are four different ontological dimensions: i) according to the various categories or ways of addressing a being as such, ii) according to its truth or falsity (e.g. fake gold, counterfeit money), iii) whether it exists in and of itself or simply 'comes along' by accident, and iv) according to its potency, movement (energy) or finished presence (Metaphysics Book Theta).

Some philosophers, notably of the Platonic school, contend that all nouns (including abstract nouns) refer to existent entities. Other philosophers contend that nouns do not always name entities, but that some provide a kind of shorthand for reference to a collection of either objects or events. In this latter view, mind, instead of referring to an entity, refers to a collection of mental events experienced by a person; society refers to a collection of persons with some shared characteristics, and geometry refers to a collection of a specific kind of intellectual activity. Between these poles of realism and nominalism, there are also a variety of other positions; but any ontology must give an account of which words refer to entities, which do not, why, and what categories result. When one applies this process to nouns such as electrons, energy, contract, happiness, space, time, truth, causality, and God, ontology becomes fundamental to many branches of philosophy


Re-read the original sutta twice, coming from each perspective, and let us know your thoughts!

Does eye refer to the ontological existence of an eyeball, or does it relate to the phenomenological perception or experience of an eye?

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: SN 35.236 The Simile Of Hands And Feet

Postby Dan74 » Fri May 14, 2010 5:51 am

Quickly:

Ontological: When this doesn't arise, that doesn't arise. When reification of eye, etc through to consciousness are seen to be empty, provisional and ultimately delusory, so is the reificiation of visual experience, etc through to all the arising and ending as we know it.

Phenomenological: Just this. This. This. This. This. Everything else is fermentations. But even so, also part of this, this, this. very unsatisfying, I know, we like pretty explanations and conceptual frameworks to hang on to. What if there is nothing to hang on to? Just this, this, this.

What Ven Nanananda says is somewhere in between! A skillful balancing act of someone drawing on deep experience, I suspect.

This is my poor attempt drawing on arrogance...
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Re: SN 35.236 The Simile Of Hands And Feet

Postby mikenz66 » Fri May 14, 2010 7:30 am

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote:"Spk" (which I assume is the SN commentary) that Bhikkhu Bodhi refers to in his notes, seems to be of the perspective that it's comparing pre-parinibbana existence to post-parinibbana. In other words, the arahant dies, therefore will not be reborn with eyes, ears and so on. To me that's too crude, and misses the point... but then again, I generally think the commentarial tradition interprets things in an objectified ontological manner which would be better understood phenomenologically / experientially... so that is little surprise really.

You make Bhikkhu Bodhi's notes about the Commentary sound extremely complicated...

Footnote 172 is to the sentence:
So too, bhikkhus, when there is the eye, pleasure and pain arise internally with eye-contact as condition [172]

Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote:Spk: In this sutta and the next, the round of existence and its cessation are discussed by showing kammically resultant pleasure and pain.

I know that some disagree with the standard interpretation of dependent origination referring to the round of existence. There may be some good arguments in favour of that view, but I find this stuff about phenomenology and ontology a rather complicated way of presenting them.

The way this Sutta strikes me is that, like many others, it takes one inward, starting with self-evident observations about "macroscopic causality" and connecting it with causality at the "microscopic" level. So, in my opinion, it is about experience, whichever interpretation of dependent origination you subscribe to.

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Re: SN 35.236 The Simile Of Hands And Feet

Postby retrofuturist » Fri May 14, 2010 7:44 am

Greetings Mike,

Thanks for presenting the exact quotation - I didn't have it with me at the time.

In essence though, by speaking of the "cessation" of that which is "kammically resultant" in the context of "round of existence"... it is indeed talking about the arahant at death. Do you agree, or do you think that's a misrepresentation of the classical view on my part? Either way, I'm assuming it is conceiving "eye" as a fleshy physical eyeball, rather than the experience and perception of eye. That would be in keeping with its ontological representation of dependent origination.

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: SN 35.236 The Simile Of Hands And Feet

Postby mikenz66 » Fri May 14, 2010 11:29 am

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote:In essence though, by speaking of the "cessation" of that which is "kammically resultant" in the context of "round of existence"... it is indeed talking about the arahant at death. Do you agree, or do you think that's a misrepresentation of the classical view on my part? Either way, I'm assuming it is conceiving "eye" as a fleshy physical eyeball, rather than the experience and perception of eye. That would be in keeping with its ontological representation of dependent origination.

Personally, I just read these things in what I think is the obvious way. Eye is the physical sense base as far as I understand the Suttas. Presumably "pleasure and pain" mean pleasant feeling and painful feeling (vedanā), which are still present in an Arahant, e.g.
SN 36.6 Sallatha Sutta: The Dart http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nypo.html
"But in the case of a well-taught noble disciple, O monks, when he is touched by a painful feeling, he will not worry nor grieve and lament, he will not beat his breast and weep, nor will he be distraught. It is one kind of feeling he experiences, a bodily one, but not a mental feeling.


I don't really understand how pursuing this ontological/phenomenological distinction would be useful to my understanding. Perhaps it is interesting to analyse Dhamma in terms of some particular Western Philosophical categories, but it doesn't do much for me. As I said, the immediate impression that I have from the Sutta is that phenomena arise and cease according to conditions at both a macro and micro (or conventional and paramattha) level. It's about understanding those experiences...

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Re: SN 35.236 The Simile Of Hands And Feet

Postby retrofuturist » Fri May 14, 2010 11:42 am

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:I don't really understand how pursuing this ontological/phenomenological distinction would be useful to my understanding. Perhaps it is interesting to analyse Dhamma in terms of some particular Western Philosophical categories, but it doesn't do much for me.

Which is fair enough, but nobody comes to the Dhamma with a blank slate. People like ourselves who aren't born into a Buddhist family may have Western backgrounds, we have modern Western educations. We then have further educational studies where we are taught not only what to know, but how to think. There are different modes of thinking for different disciplines. If a scientific, objectified, "matter of fact" mode of thinking has predominated our life until approaching the Dhamma, we may very well unconsciously and unquestioningly approach the Dhamma in the same way we've approached other mental challenges, regardless of whether that's the right way or not. It took me a while even to see that Right View was only that which related specifically to suffering and its cessation. Statements like "a spider has seven legs" are neither Right View nor Wrong View, they're just simply irrelevant. Much of what we may be tempted to think about is in fact irrelevant. Modern Western Philosophy is largely irrelevant to knowing dukkha and nirodha, but unless we become deliberately conscious of the mode by which we understand the world, we may simply assume that our approach is right, when it is clearly wrong. The fact that Buddhism is about personal issues like dukkha and nirodha (i.e. dukkha wouldn't be a problem if nobody could experience it! You can't see dukkha under a microscope!) leads me to believe that the Buddha's teaching more closely represents the phenomenological mode of analysis, even if Western existentialism has not realised the wisdom of the Buddhadhamma.

Being a man of science, you know it is wise to challenge our assumptions, and many assumptions go unchallenged simply because we are not aware that they could actually be assumptions. Nothing should be taken as 'given', yet invariably, too much is. Frankly, I thought Gabriel, venerable Gavesako and Chownah gave excellent interpretations of the sutta, but if someone possessed an empirical or ontological mindset (and didn't think to challenge their own mindset) they would have just dismissed these interpretations out of hand (much to their loss).

That's why it's important... not because the truth lies in Western philosophy, but because much of our ignorance does.

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: SN 35.236 The Simile Of Hands And Feet

Postby mikenz66 » Fri May 14, 2010 12:12 pm

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote:Being a man of science, you know it is wise to challenge our assumptions, and many assumptions go unchallenged simply because we are not aware that they could actually be assumptions. Nothing should be taken as 'given', yet invariably, too much is.

I guess I can't understand the argument that reading the Sutta and understanding "eye" to be the obvious piece of hardware that I use to see my screen is somehow "scholarly" or "ontological".
Ontology is the philosophical study of the nature of being, existence or reality in general, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations.


And I'm not really sure what you mean by phenomenology, since it is used in a variety of disciplines in a variety of ways. I presume that this definition from Wikipedia is not what you have in mind:
Phenomenology, in Husserl's conception, is primarily concerned with the systematic reflection on and analysis of the structures of consciousness, and the phenomena which appear in acts of consciousness. Such reflection was to take place from a highly modified "first person" viewpoint, studying phenomena not as they appear to "my" consciousness, but to any consciousness whatsoever. Husserl believed that phenomenology could thus provide a firm basis for all human knowledge, including scientific knowledge, and could establish philosophy as a "rigorous science".

In physical science this definition would be fairy common:
Phenomenological Theory. A theory which expresses mathematically the results of observed phenomena without paying detailed attention to their fundamental significance

So such a theory is a way of doing some modelling when you don't understand the situation well enough to develop a fundamental theory. It usually involves the theory having some adjustable parameters which are determined by fitting to experimental data.

All of those definitions of phenomenology seem to involve various kinds of analysis that don't appear to have much to do with Dhamma practise. It all seems distracting to me.

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Re: SN 35.236 The Simile Of Hands And Feet

Postby retrofuturist » Fri May 14, 2010 12:33 pm

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:I guess I can't understand the argument that reading the Sutta and understanding "eye" to be the obvious piece of hardware that I use to see my screen is somehow "scholarly" or "ontological".


Well, consider your view against this... (http://nanavira.xtreemhost.com/index.ph ... &Itemid=80)

As rūpa in nāmarūpa, the four mahābhūtā get a borrowed existence as the behaviour of appearance (just as feeling, perception, and intentions, get a borrowed substance as the appearance of behaviour). And nāmarūpa is the condition for viññāna as viññāna is for nāmarūpa. When viññāna (q.v.) is anidassana it is said to have ceased (since avijjā has ceased). Thus, with cessation of viññāna there is cessation of nāmarūpa, and the four mahābhūtā no longer get a footing in existence. (The passage at Salāyatana Samyutta xix,8 <S.iv,192> is to be understood in this sense.)

...bhikkhu catunnam mahābhūtānam samudayañ ca atthagamañ ca yathābhūtam pajānāti, .
..a monk understands as they really are the arising and ceasing of the four great entities.


On the mutual dependence of viññāna and nāmarūpa you can see the Mahanidana Sutta in the DN.

I'm sure also you can see how the two bolded sentences relate to SN 35.236 and their role in setting the ball rolling on the way down the dependent origination sequence. I'm sure you can also see how very different an approach it is to what you and Spk incline towards.

Ontology is the philosophical study of the nature of being, existence or reality in general, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations.

Right, the "existence" of rupa, independently in-and-of-itself, without any account for whether it is in the field of vinnana.... which is clearly very different to what is said above on the mutual dependence of viññāna and nāmarūpa. In SN 12.15 the Buddha cautions against polarised views over whether things "exist" or "don't exist". To the empiricist, this warning of the Buddha is just wishy-washy gobbledigook, when really it is the Middle Way.

And I'm not really sure what you mean by phenomenology, since it is used in a variety of disciplines in a variety of ways. I presume that this definition from Wikipedia is not what you have in mind:
Actually, it's much closer to what I meant than the alternative you put forward.

All of those definitions of phenomenology seem to involve various kinds of analysis that don't appear to have much to do with Dhamma practise. It all seems distracting to me.

Have a read of this - http://nanavira.xtreemhost.com/index.ph ... &Itemid=60 - and if you remain totally unconvinced, I'll leave you to your own devices. However, since totally discarding a scientific/objectified mindset in relation to the Dhamma, matters of perplexity have cleared significantly, and my peace and knowledge have deepened too. Alas, much of what I say will be rather meaningless if taken from an ontological standpoint... consider this a translation guide to the ramblings of Retrofuturist. :D

The Dhamma is cool. :thumbsup:

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: SN 35.236 The Simile Of Hands And Feet

Postby beeblebrox » Fri May 14, 2010 5:13 pm

Weird... I just read about this simile in one of Ven. Nanananda's books. :smile: (Concept and Reality, page 81.) Interesting book, by the way.

He basically said that an Arahant sees through the concepts as easily as a person without hands would see that he have no hands.

I guess it follows that you'll know there's nibbana when there's no attachments to be found, just as easily as the person would see that he have no hands. Kinda weird way of seeing it.

This is my first post on here, hope you guys don't mind.
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Re: SN 35.236 The Simile Of Hands And Feet

Postby mikenz66 » Fri May 14, 2010 9:27 pm

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote:Well, consider your view against this... (http://nanavira.xtreemhost.com/index.ph ... &Itemid=80) )

I think you are missing my point.

Clearly Venerable Nanavira has fashioned a particular philosophical position, and he disagrees with the commentary.

Perhaps I'm misunderstanding your point, but your argument, here and elsewhere, seems to be:
1. The Dhamma is best understood according to some particular philosophical point of view X.
2. Therefore interpretation Y is better than interpretation Z because it is in line with X.

By all means use whatever tools you find useful to analyse the Dhamma, but recognise that others may not find those particular tools helpful, and that an argument such as the above seems rather circular.

For me, putting modern philosophical labels on the Dhamma to try to support one or other position is not particularly useful. Its just seems like more papañca. I see the Tipitika as an instruction manual, rather than a philosophical treatise. Therefore, the question of philosophy does not apply...

Rather than try to substitute one philosophical (or scientific) viewpoint for another, I would prefer to just consider the Dhamma as Dhamma...

Mike.
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Re: SN 35.236 The Simile Of Hands And Feet

Postby bodom » Fri May 14, 2010 9:41 pm

While Nanaviras works may be very helpful in the aspect of the practical application of the Dhamma, I am of the opinion that a commentary is a commentary is a commentary. Albeit It may be a modern day commentary, but we are still reading someone elses interpretation and realisation of the Dhamma.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: SN 35.236 The Simile Of Hands And Feet

Postby mikenz66 » Fri May 14, 2010 10:01 pm

Welcome beeblebrox, :hello:
beeblebrox wrote:Weird... I just read about this simile in one of Ven. Nanananda's books. :smile: (Concept and Reality, page 81.) Interesting book, by the way.

He basically said that an Arahant sees through the concepts as easily as a person without hands would see that he have no hands.

I guess it follows that you'll know there's nibbana when there's no attachments to be found, just as easily as the person would see that he have no hands. Kinda weird way of seeing it.

Yes, I agree that this is a helpful way to think about it.

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