retrofuturist wrote:Greetings bhante,
Interesting - thank you.
I wonder if that's related in any way to why the Mahanidana Sutta of the DN (the nikaya recognised by scholars as being the 'sales pitch' to other religionists) misses one of the nidanas which otherwise appears in all end-to-end analyses of dependent origination through the Sutta Pitaka. Generally speaking, the Mahanidana Sutta (perhaps even the title is significant?) teaches dependent origination with a slightly different bent to the rest of the canon.
Oh well, guess we'd better get...
From pp. 100-101 of Jurewicz, "Playing with fire", in Journal of the Pali Text Society, XXVI, 2000:
It is surely significant that the locus classicus for the exposition of the pratityasamutpada is called the Mahanidanasutta. The word nidana appears in the cosmogonic context in RV 10.130.3: "What was the prototype, what was the counterpart and what was the connection between them?" (kasit prama pratima kim nidanam). In SB 188.8.131.52 pratima is the cosmos identified with the fire altar, in SB 184.108.40.206 pratima is sacrifice. The prama is Prajapati, the Creator, the nidana, the link between the Creator and the creation: their identity. Thus prama and pratima resolve themselves into nidana which guarantees and expresses their identity.
Nidana, denoting the ontological connection between different levels and forms of beings, also refers to the epistemology: it also gives the explanation of this connection. I presume that this is the first meaning of nidana in the title of the Buddha's sermon. It is really "a great explanation": there is no atman, the nidana of the cosmogony. The negation of the ontological nidana constitutes the Buddha's mahanidana.
... Let us imagine the Buddha enumerating all the stages of Vedic cosmogony only to conclude: "That's right, this is how the whole process develops. However, the only problem is that no one undergoes a transformation here!" From the didactic point of view, it was a brilliant strategy. The act of cutting off the atman - or rather, given his fiery nature, the act of blowing him - deprives all the hitherto well-defined concepts of their meanings and challenges the infallibility of all their associations, exposing the meaninglessness, absurdity even, of all the cosmogonic developments they express.
... To apply the doctrine of anatta here would be to deny the atman as the metaphysical basis of all cosmogonic transformations as well as its final forms as they successively appear in the stages of the process.
... And since fire is the intrinsic character of the atman, nirvana can mean not only the liberating recognition of the atman's absence, but also the refutation of the whole of Vedic metaphysics, which postulates the fire underlies, conditions, and manifests itself in the cosmogony.