"Knowable here and now" as a criterion for Dhamma

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

"Knowable here and now" as a criterion for Dhamma

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jun 02, 2010 10:00 pm

Dear All,

There seem to be several threads, now and in the past (here are a few)
viewtopic.php?f=16&t=41&start=860
viewtopic.php?f=16&t=4554
viewtopic.php?f=17&t=1122
where an argument is put forward which I would summarise as:

"Only those things that are directly knowable in this moment are useful Buddha-Dhamma".

This sort of statement is commonly used to argue that such-and-such is a "speculative view" because it can't be directly known, or that a certain meditation technique is not useful because it involves inference or visualisation. I think it might be interesting to examine whether the Buddha actually taught this. Since there are clearly many teachings in the Suttas that discuss the past, the future or inference, I'm not going to make a list of them...

I think that the meditation aspect is relatively straightforward. Techniques that lead to jhana generally involve some sort of visualisation (e.g. metta, kasinas, breath nimitta), whereas insight practises focus on "realities", such as form, feeling, etc. However, the use of the "only directly knowable is important" argument as a way of filtering the teachings on, for example, Dependent Origination, is more interesting and central and I would be interested in thoughts on the matter.

Mike
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Re: "Knowable here and now" as a criterion for Dhamma

Postby Sobeh » Wed Jun 02, 2010 10:37 pm

Samiddhi Sutta (SN 1.20):

"...this Dhamma is visible here-&-now, not subject to time, inviting all to come & see, pertinent, to be known by the wise for themselves."

You can do a search here towards {/Saṃyuttanikāye/Sagāthāvaggo/1. Devatāsaṃyuttaṃ/2. Nandanavaggo/10. Samiddhisuttaṃ} to find that passage in Pali (at least I think so - someone will please need to check against their own knowledge of Pali, as I have very little):

Sandiṭṭhiko ayaṃ dhammo akāliko ehipassiko opaneyyiko paccattaṃ veditabbo viññūhī”ti.

---

I believe "akāliko" is the word translated as "not subject to time" or sometimes "timeless", "ehipassiko" is "come and see", and "sandiṭṭhiko" is "visible in this world" or "visible here and now". The Pali Word of the Day thread contains this:

"sandiṭṭhika-, Adj.: visible in this world. Derived from the word sandiṭṭhi-, N.f.: the visible world (futher analysed into diṭṭhi-, N.f. with the prefix saṃ-, together. The word diṭṭhi comes from the verbal root dis-, to see). The suffix -ka transforms the noun into an adjective.
Nom.Sg.m. = sandiṭṭhiko.

"The Dhamma is visible in this world. We can reap the fruit in this very world, we do not have to wait for the fruits to same future life, or the other world. The results of meditation will come in this very life."
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Re: "Knowable here and now" as a criterion for Dhamma

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Jun 02, 2010 11:12 pm

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:...or that a certain meditation technique is not useful because it involves inference or visualisation.

Regarding visualisation as an example, the classic Theravada meditation in this space would be the body contemplations detailed in the Satipatthana Sutta. These visualisations promote dispassion and can be used to dispel lust and attachment - therefore are of practical value. That said, what is "to be known by the wise for themselves" is that the body is not worthy of being an object of attachment and desire. The scope of the experience is in the domain of factors such as mind-consciousness, perception, attention etc.

The wisdom developed follows the formula of this/that conditionality...

With the arising of THIS, THAT arises. When THIS is not present, there isn't THAT, With the cessation of THIS, THAT ceases.

... where THIS is delight, and THAT is sankharas.

These are the things experienceable here and now, as objects of mind consciousness, during visualisation, without speculation, which can be known as truth (Dhamma).

MN 1: Mulapariyaya Sutta wrote:He directly knows Unbinding as Unbinding. Directly knowing Unbinding as Unbinding, he does not conceive things about Unbinding, does not conceive things in Unbinding, does not conceive things coming out of Unbinding, does not conceive Unbinding as 'mine,' does not delight in Unbinding. Why is that? Because he has known that delight is the root of suffering & stress, that from coming-into-being there is birth, and that for what has come into being there is aging & death. Therefore, with the total ending, fading away, cessation, letting go, relinquishment of craving, the Tathagata has totally awakened to the unexcelled right self-awakening, I tell you.

That is what the Blessed One said. Displeased, the monks did not delight in the Blessed One's words.

In the absence of conceiving about, conceiving in, conceiving coming out and conceiving 'mine', there is no more conception of self (pun intended, bolded, underlined and bordered in flashing lights).

"...this Dhamma is visible here-&-now, not subject to time, inviting all to come & see, pertinent, to be known by the wise for themselves."

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: "Knowable here and now" as a criterion for Dhamma

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jun 03, 2010 1:05 am

Hi Sobeh, Retro,
Sobeh wrote:"...this Dhamma is visible here-&-now, not subject to time, inviting all to come & see, pertinent, to be known by the wise for themselves."
...
"The Dhamma is visible in this world. We can reap the fruit in this very world, we do not have to wait for the fruits to same future life, or the other world. The results of meditation will come in this very life."

Sure, I'm not disputing that the results are in known in the present moment and that paying wise attention to the present moment is not important.

I'm talking about using "whether the subject of teaching/discussion is/can be experienced right now" as a criterion for labelling something "proliferation", "speculative" and so on. As I said, there is plenty of Dhamma in the Suttas that is not about "present moment".
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
'I am subject to illness, have not gone beyond illness.' ...

"'I am subject to death, have not gone beyond death.' ...

These teachings involve inferential knowledge. I'm not sitting here experiencing death right now. At least I hope not... Is the Buddha teaching speculation here?

Mike












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Re: "Knowable here and now" as a criterion for Dhamma

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jun 03, 2010 1:13 am

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:...or that a certain meditation technique is not useful because it involves inference or visualisation.

Regarding visualisation as an example, the classic Theravada meditation in this space would be the body contemplations detailed in the Satipatthana Sutta. These visualisations promote dispassion and can be used to dispel lust and attachment - therefore are of practical value. That said, what is "to be known by the wise for themselves" is that the body is not worthy of being an object of attachment and desire. The scope of the experience is in the domain of factors such as mind-consciousness, perception, attention etc.

I don't disagree with that. However, I was talking about practises that lead to jhana (such as metta meditation).

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Re: "Knowable here and now" as a criterion for Dhamma

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Jun 03, 2010 2:27 am

Greetings Mike,

Mike wrote:However, I was talking about practises that lead to jhana (such as metta meditation).

OK then... the wisdom that can be developed through metta meditation is that actions (kamma) rooted in loving-kindness are conducive to heavenly states. Because it is based on action (kamma) and its mental result (vipaka) it is called a brahma-vihara because it is conducive to heavenly states, rather than specifically being directed towards cessation. In other words, it is about the intentional cultivation of wholesome action, rather than the cessation of action.

It is this structural relationship between wholesome action and happy/heavenly experience that is "visible here-&-now, not subject to time, inviting all to come & see, pertinent, to be known by the wise for themselves". I believe this is what is meant when the Buddha says...

Extract from AN 6.63: Nibbedhika Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... tml#part-5

"'Kamma should be known. The cause by which kamma comes into play should be known. The diversity in kamma should be known. The result of kamma should be known. The cessation of kamma should be known. The path of practice for the cessation of kamma should be known.' Thus it has been said. In reference to what was it said?

"Intention, I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect.

"And what is the cause by which kamma comes into play? Contact is the cause by which kamma comes into play.

"And what is the diversity in kamma? There is kamma to be experienced in hell, kamma to be experienced in the realm of common animals, kamma to be experienced in the realm of the hungry shades, kamma to be experienced in the human world, kamma to be experienced in the world of the devas. This is called the diversity in kamma.

"And what is the result of kamma? The result of kamma is of three sorts, I tell you: that which arises right here & now, that which arises later [in this lifetime], and that which arises following that. This is called the result of kamma.

"And what is the cessation of kamma? From the cessation of contact is the cessation of kamma; and just this noble eightfold path — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration — is the path of practice leading to the cessation of kamma.

"Now when a disciple of the noble ones discerns kamma in this way, the cause by which kamma comes into play in this way, the diversity of kamma in this way, the result of kamma in this way, the cessation of kamma in this way, & the path of practice leading to the cessation of kamma in this way, then he discerns this penetrative holy life as the cessation of kamma.

"'Kamma should be known. The cause by which kamma comes into play... The diversity in kamma... The result of kamma... The cessation of kamma... The path of practice for the cessation of kamma should be known.' Thus it has been said, and in reference to this was it said."

Whether the square brackets above (i.e. that which has been inserted by the translator which is not actually featured in the text) are appropriate or misleading and can "be known" in the way the Buddha is referring to everything else in this sutta extract, I'll leave for you to discern.

To me, in the context of this sutta, later just means later, and it needn't be sectioned off to a future life. 'Later' can be known, if one can link the kamma with the vipaka. 'Later in the next life' is far more difficult to see and to know, and is it even necessary? Can arahantship be attained without the ability to see future or past lives?

Mike wrote:As I said, there is plenty of Dhamma in the Suttas that is not about "present moment".

Whilst "present moment" is a popular turn of phrase, I don't find it particularly useful because if we restricted ourselves exclusively to the present moment, we could not know anything of causality, and causality is the foundational underpinning of the entire Dhamma. The Dhamma is not subject to time, but it is structural in the sense of this/that conditionality. It is these conditional structures that are "visible here-&-now, not subject to time, inviting all to come & see, pertinent, to be known by the wise for themselves." As you can see, I don't take "here-&-now" to mean this moment (in the sense of Abhidhammic momentariness and this particular moment or citta) but here, now, today, as you practice.

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: "Knowable here and now" as a criterion for Dhamma

Postby alan » Thu Jun 03, 2010 3:38 am

Hi Mike
Not sure if the contemplation of death is speculative or inferential. Seems like something we all know but go out our way to avoid. So maybe that practice is designed specifically to be understood right now, and inspire us to be diligent.
-edited for a misspelled word
Last edited by alan on Thu Jun 03, 2010 6:14 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "Knowable here and now" as a criterion for Dhamma

Postby alan » Thu Jun 03, 2010 3:52 am

I'd say proliferation of ideas and concepts can be called unskillful when they are shown to have no use. And since we generally use things in the present, then yes, excess speculation can be evaluated by it's efficiency in the moment of practice.
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Re: "Knowable here and now" as a criterion for Dhamma

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jun 03, 2010 4:50 am

Hi Retro,

You seem to be saying that the key thing is the knowledge being here and now, not the causes and effects being here and now. That's good, because, as you know, I am totally unconvinced by arguments that are sometimes presented on this Forum that Dependent Origination can never be referring to multiple lives (clearly much of the cause and effect is on shorter time-scales) because then it would be talking about causes or effects in the past or future, not in the "here and now".

Of course, I agree that it is not necessary to be able to discern the effect of dependent/origination across lives in order to become an Arahant. And that it is most fruitful to place attention on the short time scales, which is, as far as I can see, the approach to insight development of all classical and modern teachers/commentators. What I object to is the implication that the classical understanding (of all schools as far as I know) of kamma and dependent origination acting over multiple time scales has some obvious logical flaw.

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Re: "Knowable here and now" as a criterion for Dhamma

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Jun 03, 2010 4:58 am

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:You seem to be saying that the key thing is the knowledge being here and now, not the causes and effects being here and now.

As per my previous post, the time doesn't matter... it's the observation of the structure that constitutes the knowledge and vision. If you can observe this over the space of a few seconds then that is valid knowledge and vision. If you can observe this over multiple lifetimes then that is valid knowledge and vision. "When" (i.e. the position in the temporal dimension) does not matter. It is not the notion of seeing the relationship take place over three lifetimes which is a problem, it the insistance that this is how it must be, despite the fact an arahant can see the causal structure here-and-now without the aid of the ability to see future or past lives, and yet, know (and I mean know) that jati has ended.

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: "Knowable here and now" as a criterion for Dhamma

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jun 03, 2010 5:12 am

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote: If you can observe this over the space of a few seconds then that is valid knowledge and vision. If you can observe this over multiple lifetimes then that is valid knowledge and vision. "When" (i.e. the position in the temporal dimension) does not matter.

Well, of course, I don't claim to be able to do this, but the Buddha often describes it:
"Now when the disciple of the noble ones has arrived at this purity of equanimity & mindfulness, he recollects his manifold past lives, i.e., one birth, two... five, ten... fifty, a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand, many eons of cosmic contraction, many eons of cosmic expansion, many eons of cosmic contraction & expansion: 'There I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure & pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose there. There too I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure & pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose here.' Thus he recollects his manifold past lives in their modes & details. This is his first breaking out, like that of the hen's chicks from their shells.

"When the disciple of the noble ones has arrived at this purity of equanimity & mindfulness, he sees — by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the human — beings passing away & re-appearing, and he discerns how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma: 'These beings — who were endowed with bad conduct of body, speech & mind, who reviled noble ones, held wrong views and undertook actions under the influence of wrong views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell. But these beings — who were endowed with good conduct of body, speech, & mind, who did not revile noble ones, who held right views and undertook actions under the influence of right views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the good destinations, in the heavenly world.' Thus — by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the human — he sees beings passing away & re-appearing, and he discerns how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma. This is his second breaking out, like that of the hen's chicks from their shells.

But then follows with the important breaking out:
"When the disciple of the noble ones has arrived at this purity of equanimity & mindfulness, he enters & remains in the fermentation-free awareness-release & discernment-release, having directly known & realized them for himself right in the here & now. [Footnote: becomes an Arahant] This is his third breaking out, like that of the hen's chicks from their shells.


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Re: "Knowable here and now" as a criterion for Dhamma

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Jun 03, 2010 5:15 am

Greetings Mike,

Well there you go... the Buddha used what he could recollect of previous lives and the ability to read others' minds to see the structures in question and become enlightened. That's entirely consistent with what I've said above - the timeframe does not matter. The point is that he saw the structure for himself... he didn't merely accept it on inference or on authority. He did not extrapolate beyond the domain of his experience and he didn't have speculative view.

As you are aware, and as the suttas say, one does not need the skill of seeing previous lives in order to attain arahantship, but it sure can help.

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: "Knowable here and now" as a criterion for Dhamma

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jun 03, 2010 5:47 am

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote:Well there you go... the Buddha used what he could recollect of previous lives and the ability to read others' minds to see the structures in question and become enlightened. That's entirely consistent with what I've said above - the timeframe does not matter. The point is that he saw the structure for himself... he didn't merely accept it on inference or on authority. He did not extrapolate beyond the domain of his experience and he didn't have speculative view.

It's a relief to hear that the Buddha didn't have speculative view... :tongue:

So are the Buddha's teachings on kamma or past lives more speculative than the teachings on the attainment of Arahantship (which I certainly have not experienced for myself)?

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Re: "Knowable here and now" as a criterion for Dhamma

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Jun 03, 2010 5:51 am

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:So are the Buddha's teachings on kamma or past lives more speculative than the teachings on the attainment of Arahantship (which I certainly have not experienced for myself)?

Nope... precisely the same. He saw these things for himself. The sutta extract you provided above shows this. For us though, as people who have not seen previous lives, it is a view, and it is taken on authority. It is not based on vision. It may be Right View, but it is not Right Knowledge.

You can see kamma for yourself, as per the above quote I provided. Like you, I cannot see it over multiple lifetimes, but we can see the this/that causality of kamma and vipaka in instances when it ripens in an observable period of time... if our observable range expanded, so would the trackable instances of kamma and their associated vipaka. "Kamma is to be known".

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: "Knowable here and now" as a criterion for Dhamma

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Jun 03, 2010 5:55 am

mikenz66 wrote:So are the Buddha's teachings on kamma or past lives more speculative than the teachings on the attainment of Arahantship (which I certainly have not experienced for myself)?


The teaching on kamma is only speculative in relation to it's operation over multiple lives, otherwise it is discernable here and now though not always in a way we find logical. Past lives and Arahantship are speculative however you can get a taste of what Arahantship is probably like by developing wisdom here and now, you you can't get a taste of past and future lives in that way.
"Whenever we feel that we are definitely right, so much so that we refuse to open up to anything or anybody else, right there we are wrong. It becomes wrong view. When suffering arises, where does it arise from? The cause is wrong view, the fruit of that being suffering. If it was right view it wouldn't cause suffering." - Ajahn Chah
"Remember you dont meditate to get anything, but to get rid of things. We do it, not with desire, but with letting go. If you want anything, you wont find it." - Ajahn Chah
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Re: "Knowable here and now" as a criterion for Dhamma

Postby alan » Thu Jun 03, 2010 6:01 am

"Speculative" will need to be defined at some point.
Until then I'll just enjoy the conversation :popcorn:
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Re: "Knowable here and now" as a criterion for Dhamma

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Jun 03, 2010 6:04 am

Greetings Alan,

As a definition for 'speculative', how about "view (ditthi) that is not experientially verified as knowledge (nana)"?

Tying this back to dependent origination, which Mike enquired about in the original post, the structural links between any nidanas which are not yet experientially known fall into that category of "view (ditthi) that is not experientially verified as knowledge (nana)" and are therefore speculative.

Yet, "this Dhamma is visible here-&-now, not subject to time, inviting all to come & see, pertinent, to be known by the wise for themselves." When the linkages between certain nidanas are interpreted to necessarily span two separate and discrete lifetimes (i.e. the links from sankhara to vinnana, and bhava to jati) as takes place in the Visuddhimagga for example, their verification (nana) comes to require skills that not all arahants possess. Whether this poses a contradiction for the adherent of the Visuddhimagga is for them to determine... I'd be interested in how such adherents view this situation.

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: "Knowable here and now" as a criterion for Dhamma

Postby alan » Thu Jun 03, 2010 6:10 am

Pretty much sums it up!
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Re: "Knowable here and now" as a criterion for Dhamma

Postby PeterB » Thu Jun 03, 2010 6:46 am

mikenz66 wrote:Dear All,

There seem to be several threads, now and in the past (here are a few)
http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f= ... &start=860
http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=4554
http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=1122
where an argument is put forward which I would summarise as:

"Only those things that are directly knowable in this moment are useful Buddha-Dhamma".

This sort of statement is commonly used to argue that such-and-such is a "speculative view" because it can't be directly known, or that a certain meditation technique is not useful because it involves inference or visualisation. I think it might be interesting to examine whether the Buddha actually taught this. Since there are clearly many teachings in the Suttas that discuss the past, the future or inference, I'm not going to make a list of them...

I think that the meditation aspect is relatively straightforward. Techniques that lead to jhana generally involve some sort of visualisation (e.g. metta, kasinas, breath nimitta), whereas insight practises focus on "realities", such as form, feeling, etc. However, the use of the "only directly knowable is important" argument as a way of filtering the teachings on, for example, Dependent Origination, is more interesting and central and I would be interested in thoughts on the matter.

Mike


It seems to me Mike that there is are actually a spectrum of views presented here.
The view that ONLY what is known in the now can be useful is actually a minority one I think.
My own position is that I am unwilling to suggest or imply that I have seen more than I have seen. Or know more than I have known. I have no direct knowledge of past lives for example. I dont know anyone personally who I would consider credible who claims to remember their past lives. Which does not imply an inverse knowledge that Rebirth does not happen.
Sometimes we who are agnostic about Rebirth tend to overegg the pudding and we can even imply that we know it aint so.
Which is not entirely honest. The sobering reality is that the majority of people reading these pages do not know either.
My own practice is motivated by those things which i can see for myself.
The actual practice is the same technically whatever we believe or dont.
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Re: "Knowable here and now" as a criterion for Dhamma

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Jun 03, 2010 6:51 am

Greetings Peter,

I agree with your sentiments and the notion that it is important to understand there is a middle way between declaring rebirth as true or declaring rebirth as false... subtleties seemingly lost on some former Buddhist forum participants.

:spy:

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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