Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

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Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby Shonin » Thu May 20, 2010 6:14 am

I have to hold my hand up and admit that at this stage I can't make sense of Dependent Origination. As I understand (please correct me if I'm wrong) the orthodox Theravadin interpretation is described in the Mahanidana Sutta and spans over three lifetimes. The other dominant interpretation is championed by the likes of Buddhadasa Bhikkhu where Dependent Origination is describing the arising of suffering in a general way that does not necessitate more than one life. I have some questions about both of these.

Is there someone who is willing to advocate the Mahanidana interpretation, to describe it and answer questions on it? (I'll come to the Buddhadasa version later.)

Much appreciated,
Shonin
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Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby retrofuturist » Thu May 20, 2010 6:20 am

Greetings Shonin,

The Mahavihara version is explained at length in the Visuddhimagga... certain chapters of this text seem to have made their way on line but I don't know if the relevant chapter(s) are.

An abbreviated version of the Mahavihara account of dependent origination can be found in Nyanatiloka Mahathera's "The Significance of Dependent Origination in Theravada Buddhism", which doesn't seem to be online, but is available here - http://bps.lk/w_specificteachings.asp - for just US$1 + postage.

It's worth also noting that the Mahavihara version is inherently conjoined with the 24 paccaya of the Abhidhamma Pitaka, and both of the above resources make use of this in their explanations. In my opinion, the Mahavihara account is more explicitly based around this than it is the Mahanidana Sutta, although the Mahanidana Sutta is the single most detailed account of dependent origination in the Sutta Pitaka, so is a common reference point in any Theravada discussion on the topic.

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: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby Ben » Thu May 20, 2010 6:30 am

retrofuturist wrote:The Mahavihara version is explained at length in the Visuddhimagga... certain chapters of this text seem to have made their way on line but I don't know if the relevant chapter(s) are.


Chapter XVII: The soil of understanding - conclusion: dependent origination. p525 - 599 in Bhikkhu Nanamoli's fifth edition, BPS.

Hi Shonin

I'll have to track down a quote by Bhikkhu Bodhi which might be relevant to this discussion. He says that the three-lifetime model is really just an expository device.
kind regards

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Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby cooran » Thu May 20, 2010 7:42 am

Ben said: I'll have to track down a quote by Bhikkhu Bodhi which might be relevant to this discussion. He says that the three-lifetime model is really just an expository device.


P.4 Introduction "The Great Discourse on Causation" The Mahanidana Sutta and Its Commentaries" Translated from the Pal by Bhikkhu Bodhi.ISBN 955-24-0117-8 BPS 1995.

"To prevent misunderstanding it has to be stressed that the distribution of the twelve factors into three lives is an expository device employed for the purpose of exhibiting the inner dynamics of the round. It should not be read as implying hard and fast divisions, for in lived experience the factors are always intertwined. The past causes include craving, clinging, and existence, the present ones ignorance and volitional formations; the present resultants begin with birth and end in death, and future birth and death will be incurred by the same resultants. Moreover, the present resultant and causal phases should not be seen as temporally segregated from each other, as if assigned to different periods of life. Rather, through the entire course of life, they succeed one another with incredible rapidity in an alternating sequence of result and response. A past kamma ripens in present results; these trigger off new action; the action is followed by more results; and these are again followed by still more action. So it has gone on through time without beginning, and so it continues.
From this it is clear that dependent arising does not describe a set of causes somehow underlying experience, mysteriously hidden out of view. What it describes is the fundamental pattern of experience as such when enveloped by ignorance as to the basic truths about itself. This pattern is always present, always potentially accessible to our awareness, only without the guidance of the Buddha's teaching it will not be properly attended to, and thus will not be seen for what it is. It takes a Buddha to point out the startling truth that the basic pattern of experience is itself the source of our bondage, "the origin of this entire mass of suffering."

with metta
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Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby Aloka » Thu May 20, 2010 8:39 am

As Shonin has mentioned Buddhadasa, there are some links here which might be helpful to readers later :

Bhikkhu Buddhadasa http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/Books6/Bhikkhu_Buddhadasa_Paticcasamuppada.htm

Also...


Ven P.A. Payutto http://www.buddhanet.net/cmdsg/coarise.htm

(see 5 - Other Interpretations- for an example of DO in everyday life)





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Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby retrofuturist » Thu May 20, 2010 8:43 am

Greetings Aloka,

Aloka wrote:There are some links here which might be helpful to readers :

Bhikkhu Buddhadasa http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/Books6/Bhikkhu_Buddhadasa_Paticcasamuppada.htm


That might be helpful for rebutting the Mahavihara account down the track, but it's not particularly helpful for understanding what the Mahavihara account is in the first place. Shonin rightly wishes to understand it on its own terms before looking at the rebuttals.

:reading:

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: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby Aloka » Thu May 20, 2010 8:45 am

Oops, so sorry Retro ! :rolleye:

I was too eager....please delete my post.

.
Last edited by Aloka on Thu May 20, 2010 8:58 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby retrofuturist » Thu May 20, 2010 8:57 am

Greetings Aloka,

Nevermind - it may come in later down the track (as Shonin points out in his OP)

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: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby Sylvester » Thu May 20, 2010 9:50 am

Hi

The Appendix to Ven Payutto's essay makes the point that it is a little known fact that the Vibangha (2nd book of the Abhidhamma) actually outlines also DO operating from citta-to-citta. He makes the rather astute observation that the Commentaries devote so much ink to the 3-Lives model, to balance out the Abhidhamma's focus on the citta-to-citta model.
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Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby BlackBird » Sat May 22, 2010 12:17 am

Inevitably, I would recommend reading Ven. Nyanavira Thera's 'A note on Paticcasamupada' from Notes on Dhamma/Clearing the Path, if for nothing else: Simply a clear understanding of the traditional interpretation.

metta
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Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby retrofuturist » Sat May 22, 2010 12:39 am

Greetings Shonin,

Shonin wrote:Is there someone who is willing to advocate the Mahanidana interpretation, to describe it and answer questions on it?


I think it will be hard to anyone to "describe it" in adequate detail given how many pages of the Visuddhimagga it took Buddhaghosa to describe it (see Ben's note above), so hopefully you're able to find some 'original source material' that you can read for yourself, and that any advocates of his position here (and I know there are some - Dmytro comes to mind as someone I remember being quite au fait with it) might be able to field questions on it.

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: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby pt1 » Sat May 22, 2010 4:29 am

BlackBird wrote:Inevitably, I would recommend reading Ven. Nyanavira Thera's 'A note on Paticcasamupada' from Notes on Dhamma/Clearing the Path, if for nothing else: Simply a clear understanding of the traditional interpretation.

Perhaps reading Bhikkhu Bodhi's critique of Ven.Nanavira's work will also be helpful.

Re OP questions, D.O. is a deep and complex subject, it seems it's treated in many ways in the commentaries, e.g. from citta to citta scale that Sylvester mentions, to "3 lives" scale, etc. But even the 3 lives thing is not quite so simple. E.g. the short summary in VII, 21:
Herein, ignorance and formations are one summarization; consciousness,
mentality-materiality, the sixfold base, contact, and feeling are another;
craving, clinging, and becoming are another; and birth and ageing
and-death are another. Here the first summarization is past, the two
middle ones are present, and birth and ageing-and-death are future. When
ignorance and formations are mentioned, then also craving, clinging and
becoming are included too, so these five states are the round of kamma
in the past. The five beginning with consciousness are the round of
kamma-result in the present. When craving, clinging and becoming are
mentioned, then also ignorance and formations are included too, so these
five states are the round of kamma in the present. And because [the five]
beginning with consciousness are described under the headings of birth
and ageing-and-death, these five states are the round of kamma-result in
the future. These make twenty aspects in this way.


So rather than splitting D.O. in 3 separate sections, it's more like many of the links arising at the same time, thus causing further arising of similar loops. Anyway, if you find Vsm too complicated, there's a bit more succinct summary of the topic in A comprehensive manual of abhidhamma (whole book online there) chapter VIII (page 292), which treats both the 12 links explanations, and then the 24 conditions specific to abhidhamma.

Regarding more recent developments of treating D.O. as a very fast sequence of steps that can be experienced during insight (as described by Venerables Buddhadasa, Nanavira, etc) - my take on this is that it's in fact an experiential equivalent of the abhidhamma commentarial explanation of sense-door (usually 17 cittas in a fixed sequence) and mind-door (usually 10 cittas in a fixed sequence) processes of cittas, which are said to happen in a fixed way/sequence every time (e.g. see chapter IV, paragraph 6 in A comprehensive manual of abhidhamma). But this is just my speculation on the matter as I can't really know what the Venerables were experiencing when they talked about it as D.O.

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Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby cooran » Sat May 22, 2010 4:59 am

Thank you pt1 - I agree with all of your post.

with metta
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Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby retrofuturist » Sat May 22, 2010 5:34 am

Greetings pt1,

pt1 wrote:Regarding more recent developments of treating D.O. as a very fast sequence of steps that can be experienced during insight (as described by Venerables Buddhadasa, Nanavira, etc) - my take on this is that it's in fact an experiential equivalent of the abhidhamma commentarial explanation of sense-door (usually 17 cittas in a fixed sequence) and mind-door (usually 10 cittas in a fixed sequence) processes of cittas, which are said to happen in a fixed way/sequence every time (e.g. see chapter IV, paragraph 6 in A comprehensive manual of abhidhamma). But this is just my speculation on the matter as I can't really know what the Venerables were experiencing when they talked about it as D.O.

I think that's a pretty fair assessment actually, and why each respective system is so important to those who utilise it.

Abhidhammists seem a little disheartened when it is suggested that Abhidhamma is just a philosophy or metaphysical system to conceptually demonstrate the truthfulness of anatta.

Likewise, those who follow a non-Mahavihara version of dependent origination get disheartened when it is said that Dependent Origination is just a philosophy or metaphysical system to conceptually demonstrate how samsaric wandering and transmigration take place without an atman.

Both teachings are available, there to be used, in practice, here and now... not just as the basis of pontification, speculation and profound chin-scratching. When that's all they're reduced to, they're no longer particularly connected to the important matters of suffering and its cessation.

Whether the Mahavihara version is something "to be used, in practice, here and now..." I'm not sure... because for all I've read of it, I'm still not sure if I've even seen anyone practically demonstrate how it is to be applied..... or whether you just "accept it" and go to yourself ,"OK". If anyone would care to share their personal experience of the application of the Mahavihara model, I'd be very interested to hear about your experiences and how you practically apply it in your practice.

: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: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby Anicca » Sat May 22, 2010 5:40 am

pt1 wrote:[ Bhikkhu Bodhi's critique of Ven.Nanavira's work will also be helpful.


Sorry but the link does not work.

???


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Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby retrofuturist » Sat May 22, 2010 5:48 am

Greetings Anicca,

Anicca wrote:
pt1 wrote:[ Bhikkhu Bodhi's critique of Ven.Nanavira's work will also be helpful.


Sorry but the link does not work.

???

It would be best to read Nanavira's original, then Bhikkhu Bodhi's critique, and then the critique on Bhikkhu Bodhi's critique that's available on the Nanavira website.

If you do it in that order, you'll actually have a proper chance to see and understand what each person is talking about, on their own merits.

If you jump into the chronology part way through you may not be giving people a fair listening to, and merely using it to reinforce your own existing views (which won't do anyone any good). I started with Bhikkhu Bodhi's version, based on someone's recommendation, and now regret doing so. At the time I was looking for the learned Bhikkhu Bodhi to come in, be Theravada's saffron knight in shining armour, and defend the "true Dhamma" against an alleged heretic. In retrospect, I see now that's a terrible and incredibly immature way to approach the Dhamma. Whatever anyone says should be considered on its own merits, with an open mind, assessed against the suttas, and not used as a tool to reinforce or back up ones own prejudices against the unknown. What better way to stay a puthujjana than to cling tenaciously to your views?

That's why I'm glad Shonin wants to see the Mahavihara view first, on its own merits, before looking at the rebuttals. It's the most sensible way to do it. Now, speaking of which...

:focus:

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: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby cooran » Sat May 22, 2010 6:49 am

Hello all,

This link might work:
A Critical Examination of ~Naa.naviira Thera's "A Note on Pa.ticcasamuppaada" - Bhikkhu Bodhi
http://f1.grp.yahoofs.com/v1/4HL3SyYYnD ... navira.doc

with metta
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---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
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Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby mikenz66 » Sat May 22, 2010 6:58 am

Hi PT, Retro,
pt1 wrote:Regarding more recent developments of treating D.O. as a very fast sequence of steps that can be experienced during insight (as described by Venerables Buddhadasa, Nanavira, etc) - my take on this is that it's in fact an experiential equivalent of the abhidhamma commentarial explanation of sense-door (usually 17 cittas in a fixed sequence) and mind-door (usually 10 cittas in a fixed sequence) processes of cittas, which are said to happen in a fixed way/sequence every time (e.g. see chapter IV, paragraph 6 in A comprehensive manual of abhidhamma). But this is just my speculation on the matter as I can't really know what the Venerables were experiencing when they talked about it as D.O.

Thank you for bringing this up. It makes a lot of sense. The descriptions in the meditation instructions that I'm most familiar with (from the Mahasi) school tend to be in terms of sense door processes. I'm not so familiar with exactly how the teachers who base their understanding on the "fast DO" version phrase it in detail, but in both cases the experiential thing to be focussed on seems to be the rapid rising and falling of phenomena.

As Retro says:
retrofuturist wrote:I think that's a pretty fair assessment actually, and why each respective system is so important to those who utilise it.


retrofuturist wrote:Abhidhammists seem a little disheartened when it is suggested that Abhidhamma is just a philosophy or metaphysical system to conceptually demonstrate the truthfulness of anatta.

Likewise, those who follow a non-Mahavihara version of dependent origination get disheartened when it is said that Dependent Origination is just a philosophy or metaphysical system to conceptually demonstrate how transmigration takes place without an atman.

Why would anyone who has a well-established practise based on one or other paradigm be disheartened? I would have thought the sensible approach would be to just recognise that alternative views exist and some other people appear to find them useful, and move on with your own practise.

As you say:
retrofuturist wrote:Both teachings are available, there to be used, in practice, here and now... not just as the basis of pontification, speculation and profound chin-scratching. When that's all they're reduced to, they're no longer particularly connected to the important matters of suffering and its cessation.

Yes, and one is hardly likely to make much progress on a meditation retreat if one is sitting there wondering which scheme to use to classify the arising phenomena...

retrofuturist wrote:Whether the Mahavihara version is something "to be used, in practice, here and now..." because for all I've read of it, I'm still not sure if I've even seen anyone practically demonstrate how it is to be applied..... or whether you just "accept it" and go to yourself ,"OK". If anyone would care to share their personal experience of the application of the Mahavihara model, I'd be very interested to hear about your experiences and how you practically apply it in your practice.

I think PT already answered that. Teachers using the Commentarial interpretation already have a classification scheme for experiential phenomena in terms of rising and falling of sense-door consciousness and so on. Besides, the contact-feeling-craving-clinging sequence is a present-moment thing no matter what interpretation of DO you subscribe to.

As for the rest of the sequence, I guess it's "applied" in the same way as other teachings, as a basis for reflection and understanding.

Mike
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Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby Ben » Sat May 22, 2010 7:02 am

retrofuturist wrote:Both teachings are available, there to be used, in practice, here and now... not just as the basis of pontification, speculation and profound chin-scratching. When that's all they're reduced to, they're no longer particularly connected to the important matters of suffering and its cessation.


Indeed!
retrofuturist wrote:Whether the Mahavihara version is something "to be used, in practice, here and now..." I'm not sure... because for all I've read of it, I'm still not sure if I've even seen anyone practically demonstrate how it is to be applied..... or whether you just "accept it" and go to yourself ,"OK". If anyone would care to share their personal experience of the application of the Mahavihara model, I'd be very interested to hear about your experiences and how you practically apply it in your practice.


Retro, a message to you from Bhikkhu Nanamoli:

Chs XVI to XVII on understanding are entirely theoretical. Experience in general is dissected, and the separated components are described and grouped in several alternative patterns in Chs XIV to XVI, §1-12. The rest of Ch XVI expounds the Four Noble Truths, the centre of the Buddha’s teaching. After that, dependent origination, or the structure of conditionality, is dealt with in its aspect of arising, or process of being (Ch XVII; as cessation, or Nibbana, it is dealt with separately in Chs XVI and XIX). The formula of dependent origination in its varying modes describes the working economics of the first two truths (suffering as the outcome of craving, and craving itself – see also Ch XVII, n.48). Without an understanding of conditionality the Buddha’s teaching cannot be grasped: “He who sees dependent origination sees the Dhamma” (M.i, 191), though not all details in this work are always necessary. Since the detailed part of this chapter is very elaborate (§58-272), a first reading confined to §1-6, §20-57, and §273-314 might help to avoid losing the thread. These four chapters are theoretical because they contain in detailed form what needs to be learnt, if only in outline, as ‘book learning’ (sotavadhana nana). They furnish techniques for describing the total experience and the experienceable rather as the branches of arithmetic and double-entry book-keeping are to be learnt as techniques for keeping accurate business accounts.

Chs XVIII to Ch XXI, on the contrary, are practical and give instructions for applying the book-knowledge learnt from Chs XVI-XVII by analysing in its terms the meditator’s individual experience, dealing also with what may be expected to happen in the course of development. Ch XVIII as ‘defining of mentality-materiality’ (first application of Ch XIV – XVI) and Chs XIX as ‘discerning conditions’ (first application of Ch XVII) are preparatory to insight proper, which begins in Ch XX with contemplation of rise and fall. After this, progress continues through the ‘eight knowledges’ with successive clarification – clarification of view of the object and consequent alterations of subjective attitude towards it – till a point, called ‘comformity knowledge’, is reached, thrugh one of the ‘three gateways of liberation’, heralds the attainment of the first supramundane path.

-- Introduction to Visuddhimagga p.xliv-xlv
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Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby retrofuturist » Sat May 22, 2010 7:05 am

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:Why would anyone who has a well-established practise based on one or other paradigm be disheartened?

Only to the extent that it makes it difficult to have meaningful Dhamma discussions with others on it. Different views on "what's it about?" make subsequent discussions fruitless to impossible... see some of my recent correspondence with pannapetar for an example of this. Or to use another example, if everyone you encountered was a Mahayana Buddhist who thought of Theravada as hinayana, you (plural) would be very hamstrung in terms of having meaningful conversation on concepts and passages from the Pali Canon. Someone with a "well-established practise" may not need quality Dhamma discussion, but I have no doubt they would benefit from it.

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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