Nanavira.

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Nanavira.

Postby alan » Sat Jun 26, 2010 4:37 am

Thought this might be a good day to discuss all things Nanavira.
Did he really get to stream entry, and if so, was it acceptable for him to proclaim it? (in the spirit of his writings I will make the obligatory parenthetical comment--he did it in Pali in a private letter).
I've been impressed, sometimes inspired, but at times also slightly dismayed while reading through his writings. Seems to be worth study. I'd like to solicit opinions.
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Re: Nanavira.

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Jun 26, 2010 4:45 am

Greetings Alan,

alan wrote:Thought this might be a good day to discuss all things Nanavira.

Sure, why not.

alan wrote:Did he really get to stream entry

Well, who's to know and who's to say? All I can say is that there's nothing in his Notes and Letters that I find inconsistent with the Sutta definitions and explanations of stream-entrants.

alan wrote:and if so, was it acceptable for him to proclaim it? (in the spirit of his writings I will make the obligatory parenthetical comment--he did it in Pali in a private letter).

It's worth mentioning that the envelope in which the letter was contained said that it was to be opened in the event of his death. If the envelope hadn't been opened prematurely, no one would have known while he was alive, so he would have nothing to "gain" from making such a claim. The letter also was intended for a bhikkhu (an abbot, I believe?) - not layfolk... so there is no fault in what he did. Writing it in Pali was a good precautionary measure too.

alan wrote:I've been impressed, sometimes inspired, but at times also slightly dismayed while reading through his writings. Seems to be worth study. I'd like to solicit opinions.

I find him to be extremely insightful and is one of only two bhikkhus of the modern era with whom I agree with virtually everything they've said. In saying that, I am excluding his pre-sotapanna (pre-1960) writings.

I'm happy to answer more specific questions, but for now I'll leave it at that.

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: Nanavira.

Postby alan » Sat Jun 26, 2010 4:56 am

I think this is the anniversary of his stream-entry. I've been reading him with increasing satisfaction, and just wanted to check in and make sure I'm not going off the deep end.
It is a bit difficult, however, on the website--they seem to want to replicate the typeface and single-spacing of what I assume must be his old typewriter. Authentic, maybe, but difficult to read. Also, his relentless parenthetical comments become a distraction.
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Re: Nanavira.

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Jun 26, 2010 4:59 am

Greetings Alan,

You can buy hard copies pretty cheaply at...

http://www.buddhistcc.net/bookshop/index.asp

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: Nanavira.

Postby alan » Sat Jun 26, 2010 5:12 am

Hi Retro
So, Who is the other one...?

You have never steered me wrong. (It took a while but the Nibbana lectures are starting to resonate). I value your opinion--Thanks.

Alan
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Re: Nanavira.

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Jun 26, 2010 5:16 am

Greetings Alan,

alan wrote:So, Who is the other one...?


Venerable Nanananda... whom you evidently know from the Nibbana Sermons. The Nibbana Sermons are very good, but his two texts still available through BPS (Concept and Reality, and Magic Of The Mind) are probably a bit more structured and therefore easier entry points. I think you can buy those cheap from that same site I referenced above as well.

Anyway, back to Nanavira Thera... I think it's best to start with Notes... start to finish, before getting to Letters, again... start to finish. He is a difficult author to approach piecemeal, and you need to be prepared to share his assumptions (or at least suspend judgement) in order to evaluate his interpretations, explanations and conclusions. If one approaches them defensively, or with fixed views, it will be hard to get anything much out of 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: Nanavira.

Postby alan » Sat Jun 26, 2010 5:34 am

I'll read them start to finish with an open mind.
Thank you.
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Re: Nanavira.

Postby Wind » Sat Jun 26, 2010 6:54 am

retrofuturist wrote:
I find him to be extremely insightful and is one of only two bhikkhus of the modern era with whom I agree with virtually everything they've said.


Hi Retro

Who is the other bhikkhu of this modern era besides Nanavira whom you agree with on everything? I actually don't know much about Nanavira but he sounds like a person worthy of knowing.
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Re: Nanavira.

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Jun 26, 2010 7:03 am

Greetings Wind,

See my last post.

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: Nanavira.

Postby Wind » Sat Jun 26, 2010 7:05 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Wind,

See my last post.

Metta,
Retro. :)


Oh I should have read further. I will look into him as well.
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Re: Nanavira.

Postby atulo » Sun Jun 27, 2010 6:45 am

Alan, thanks for reminding us about Ven. Nyanavira's sottapati day. I forgot about it.

Like Retro also I have deep respect for Ven. Nanavira (which is probably quite obvious by now from reading my posts on this forum. ;-) ) I have been studying the writings for many years. At the beginning it was very difficult to follow, but I pushed myself to go through the texts as much as I could. What keep me striving? I meet another monk who inspired me and I gain faith in him. When I learned that that monk is 'disciple' of Ven. Nanavira, then I took the Clearing the Path very seriously. (I think that otherwise I would never touch the book: it looks unreadable). It takes time: sometime I had to read NoD, then letters, and then again to Notes, and so on. But it was worthwhile.

The Notes on Dhamma can be bought on http://www.pathpresspublications.com They offer new version which is much more correctly prepared and I have more trust into it. Clearing the Path I think should be printed this year (cf. Preface, Letters to Sister Vajira).

The letter (L.1 of CtP) was given to Ven. Kheminda Thera, but he then showed letter to other monks and laymen. Ven. Kheminda and other monks in Vajirarama had already respect for Ven. Nanavira at that time.

Have a wise day.
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Re: Nanavira.

Postby bodom » Sun Jun 27, 2010 2:44 pm

Sotāpatti Day

51st Anniversary of Ven. Ñānavīra’s Stream-Entry

27 June 2010 marks the anniversary of the Ven. Ñānavīra Thera achieving sotāpattior ‘stream-entry’, noble fruit before attaining nibbāna(Skt: nirvana), and he become, thereby, an ariya.

http://pathpress.wordpress.com/

: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: Nanavira.

Postby cooran » Sun Jun 27, 2010 9:37 pm

Hello bodom,

What makes you think that Nanavira Thera attained the stage of Stream Entry?

with karuna
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Re: Nanavira.

Postby cooran » Sun Jun 27, 2010 9:58 pm

Hello all,

This may be of interest:

Existence, Enlightenment and Suicide ~ Stephen Batchelor
This essay on the English Buddhist monk Ven. Nanavira Thera (Harold Musson) was first published in Tadeusz Skorupski (ed.) The Buddhist Forum. Volume 4. London: School of Oriental and African Studies, 1996.

EXCERPT:
The debate over the validity of Nanavira's claim to be a stream entrant had already begun in Sri Lanka before he died. It is an offence deserving expulsion from the order for a bhikkhu to declare himself to have a spiritual attainment that he in fact does not have. Even if he does have the attainment, he is forbidden to tell of it to anyone except a fellow bhikkhu. Nanavira's claim to stream entry was recorded in a letter in a sealed envelope that was only to be opened by the senior bhikkhu of the Island Hermitage in the event of his death. For some reason (perhaps a rumour of suicide?), the letter was opened in 1964 and the contents became known. To defuse the matter, Nanavira spoke openly about it for the first time to a fellow bhikkhu in Colombo, thus letting "this rather awkward cat ... out of the bag."94
How does one decide whether another person really is a stream entrant or whether they are deluding themselves? According to the suttas , only an arya can recognise another arya . It would follow, therefore, that only a bona fide arya would have the authority to deny Nanavira's claim. But then the same questions would arise with regard to that person, which would require the authority of yet another bona fide arya , and so on ad infinitum.

Subjectively, however, the attainment of stream entry can be validated by a discernible and definitive psychological change. For upon attaining stream entry three "fetters" (samyojana) disappear for good: (1) views that a self abides either in or apart from the psycho-physical aggregates (sakkaya-ditthi); (2) doubts about the validity of the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha, the Training, Conditionality and other key doctrines (vicikiccha); and (3) attachment to the efficacity of mere rules and rituals (silabbata-paramasa). For Nanavira to have made the claim he did implies that he actually experienced the disappearance of these tendencies from his own mind. But only he (or another clairvoyant arya) would have been able to know this. Although his writings bear no trace of these attitudes, that alone would be insufficient evidence to conclude anything about the degree of the author's attainment; for it could reflect merely a commitment to doctrinal orthodoxy.

One also cannot rule out the possibility that Nanavira Thera was suffering from a delusion, that he was driven to suicide by unconscious fears and desires over which he had no awareness or control. The clearest statement of his own views on the matter appears in a letter of 16 May, 1963. "Do not think," he writes,
that I regard suicide as praiseworthy - that there can easily be an element of weakness in it, I am the first to admit... -, but I certainly regard it as preferable to a number of other possibilities. (I would a hundred times rather have it said of the Notes that the author killed himself as a bhikkhu than that he disrobed; for bhikkhus have become arahats in the act of suicide, but it is not recorded that anyone became arahat in the act of disrobing.)95
It might help overcome the unease about the stigma of suicide if one described Nanavira's act as one of "enlightened euthanasia."

The greatest irony of this story is how a passage from a sutta saved an Italian fascist from committing suicide, in gratitude for which he wrote a book that impelled an English army officer to become a bhikkhu , who eventually committed suicide with the conviction that it was fully justified by the suttas.

The value of Nanavira Thera's life lies not so much in the answers it gives but in the questions it raises about what it means for a European to be a practising Buddhist. His writings clear away many woolly ideas about the Buddha's Teaching (at least as found in the Pali Canon) and force one to address uncomfortable questions that are usually ignored.

Are either Evola's fascist or Nanavira's life-denying interpretations of the Buddha's Teaching any more or less tenable than the liberal-democratic and life-affirming readings of the tradition that abound in the West today?
Even if Nanavira's work only forces us to recognise the sub-conscious and culturally biased assumptions we project onto Buddhism, then it will have provided an important service. This does not mean that we would then have to adopt his (or, heaven forbid, Evola's) views rather than our own, but simply that we would have stepped free of one more "thicket of views," thus enabling a clearer vision of how to proceed along a path whose ultimate destination we cannot know.

Whatever reservations one may have about Nanavira Thera, one has to acknowledge that he was the first European to have left such a vivid and rigorous account of a life dedicated to realising the truths disclosed by the Dhamma. Of course, it is impossible to say whether other Western Buddhists have not accomplished the same or more. But their published writings tend not to discuss these matters. Nanavira's uniqueness lies in his having embraced the Dhamma with wholehearted confidence, having sought to clear away with reason much of the confusion surrounding its orthodox interpretation, having practised it relentlessly, having recorded his experience of it in detail, and ultimately having sacrificed his life for it.
http://www.stephenbatchelor.org/existence1.html

with metta
Chris
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Re: Nanavira.

Postby bodom » Sun Jun 27, 2010 10:04 pm

cooran wrote:Hello bodom,

What makes you think that Nanavira Thera attained the stage of Stream Entry?

with karuna
Chris


Hi Chris

Did you read the lnk? That was not a personal statement, but a statement from the site. Whether he actually attained sotapanna is of no concern to me. I received the email this morning from path press with the announcement of Nanavira's anniversary. Thought I should post it.

: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: Nanavira.

Postby cooran » Sun Jun 27, 2010 10:06 pm

Hello all,

And ... as far as I know, it was only Arhats where there was the possibility that one or two may have reached enlightenment during suicide ~
This may be of interest:

- Buddhism and Suicide --- The Case of Channa - ~ Damien Keown - University of London, Goldsmiths

EXTRACT:
Where does all this leave us with respect to the seventy-year consensus that suicide is permitted for Arhats?
I think it gives us a number of reasons to question it. First, there is no reason to think that the exoneration of Channa establishes a normative position on suicide. This is because to exonerate from blame is not the same as to condone.

Second, there are textual reasons for thinking that the Buddha's apparent exoneration may not be an exoneration after all. The textual issues are complex and it would not be safe to draw any firm conclusions. It might be observed in passing that the textual evidence that suicide may be permissible in Christianity is much greater than in Buddhism. There are many examples of suicide in the Old Testament: this has not, however, prevented the Christian tradition from teaching consistently[54] that suicide is gravely wrong. By comparison, Theravaada sources are a model of consistency in their refusal to countenance the intentional destruction of life.

Third, the commentarial tradition finds the idea that an Arhat would take his own life in the way Channa did completely unacceptable.

Fourth, there is a logical point which, although somewhat obvious, seems to have been overlooked in previous discussions. If we assume, along with the commentary and secondary literature, that Channa was not an Arhat prior to his suicide attempt, then to extrapolate a rule from this case such that suicide is permissible for Arhats is fallacious. The reason for this is that Channa's suicide was-- in all significant respects-- the suicide of an unenlightened person. The motivation, deliberation and intention which preceded his suicide-- everything down to the act of picking up the razor-- all this was done by an unenlightened person. Channa's suicide thus cannot be taken as setting a precedent for Arhats for the simple reason that he was not one himself until after he had performed the suicidal act.

Fifth and finally, suicide is repeatedly condemned in canonical and non-canonical sources and goes directly "against the stream" of Buddhist moral teachings.

A number of reasons why suicide is wrong are found in the sources[55] but no single underlying objection to suicide is articulated. This is not an easy thing to do, and Schopenhauer was not altogether wrong in his statement that the moral arguments against suicide "lie very deep and are not touched by ordinary ethics."[56] Earlier I suggested that the "roots of evil" critique of suicide-- that suicide was wrong because of the presence of desire or aversion-- was unsatisfactory in that it led in the direction of subjectivism.

The underlying objection to suicide, it seems to me, is to be found not in the emotional state of the agent but in some intrinsic feature of the suicidal act which renders it morally flawed. I believe, however, there is a way in which the two approaches can be reconciled.

To do this we must locate the wrongness of suicide in delusion (moha) rather in the affective "roots" of desire and hatred.
On this basis suicide will be wrong because it is an irrational act. By this I do not mean that it is performed while the balance of the mind is disturbed, but that it is incoherent in the context of Buddhist teachings.

This is because suicide is contrary to basic Buddhist values. What Buddhism values is not death, but life.[57] Buddhism sees death as an imperfection, a flaw in the human condition, something to be overcome rather than affirmed. Death is mentioned in the First Noble Truth as one of the most basic aspects of suffering (dukkha-dukkha).

A person who opts for death believing it to be a solution to suffering has fundamentally misunderstood the First Noble Truth. The First Noble Truth teaches that death is the problem, not the solution. The fact that the person who commits suicide will be reborn and live again is not important. What is significant is that through the affirmation of death he has, in his heart, embraced Maara! . From a Buddhist perspective, thi s is clearly irrational.

If suicide is irrational in this sense it can be claimed there are objective grounds for regarding it as morally wrong.
http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma/suicide.html

with karuna,
Chris
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---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: Nanavira.

Postby cooran » Sun Jun 27, 2010 10:07 pm

bodom wrote:
cooran wrote:Hello bodom,

What makes you think that Nanavira Thera attained the stage of Stream Entry?

with karuna
Chris


Hi Chris

Did you read the lnk? That was not a personal statement, but a statement from the site. Whether he actually attained sotapanna is of no concern to me. I received the email this morning from path press with the announcement of Nanavira's anniversary. Thought I should post it.

:anjali:


Thanks for clarifying that bodom ~ I was a little startled.

with metta
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Re: Nanavira.

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Jun 27, 2010 11:06 pm

Greetings,

I'm not going to bother pursuing the suicide angle, as it's been done before in other topics such as...

If A Stream Winner...
viewtopic.php?f=13&t=4241&start=40#p63907

Suicide and Re-birth
viewtopic.php?f=16&t=3411&p=49548

...other than to say that in light of his health issues and the alternatives they presented, venerable Nanavira made a decision that he calmly evaluated was most in keeping with ongoing personal progress in the Dhamma. Having read Letters, I am not in the slightest bit perturbed by his decision... in fact, I found it quite a logical decision on his part.

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: Nanavira.

Postby cooran » Sun Jun 27, 2010 11:53 pm

Hello all,

The article by Bhikkhu Bodhi :twothumbsup: may be of interest also - posted in two parts:

A Critical Examination of ~Naa.naviira Thera's "A Note on Pa.ticcasamuppaada" - Bhikkhu Bodhi

Introduction
1. ~Naa.naviira Thera's Notes on Dhamma was first published in 1963, during the author's lifetime, in a small cyclostyled edition distributed to a select list of recipients. During the following two years the author made a number of corrections and substantial additions to his original text, leaving behind at his death an enlarged typescript entitled Notes on Dhamma (1960-1965). For twenty-two years this version circulated from hand to hand among a small circle of readers in the form of typed copies, photocopies, and handwritten manuscripts. Only in 1987 did Notes on Dhamma appear in print, when it was issued along with a collection of the author's letters under the title Clearing the Path: Writings of ~Naa.naviira Thera (1960-1965).

Even this edition, a printrun of 1,000 copies, turned out to be ephemeral. Barely nine months after the book was released, the editor-publisher (who had invested at least five years preparing the material for publication) died under tragic circumstances. Path Press effectively closed down, and the question whether the book will ever be reprinted still hangs in the air. But in spite of its limited availability, Clearing the Path has had an impact on its readers that has been nothing short of electric. Promoted solely by word of mouth, the book has spawned an international network of admirers -- a Theravaada Buddhist underground -- united in their conviction that Notes on Dhamma is the sole key to unlock the inner meaning of the Buddha's Teaching. Some of its admirers have called it the most important book written in this century, others have hailed it as the most outstanding work on the Dhamma to appear since the Nikaayas were first written down on palm leaves at the Aluvihaara. For the book's enthusiasts no effort is too much in struggling through its dense pages of tightly compressed arguments and copious Pali quotations in order to fulfil its author's invitation "to come and share his point of view."

Ven. ~Naa.naviira's purpose in writing the Notes was, in his own words, "to indicate the proper interpretation of the Suttas," the key to which he believed he had discovered through an experience that he identified as the arising of the Eye of Dhamma (dhammacakkhu), that is, the attainment of stream-entry. His proposition sounds innocuous enough as it stands, until one discovers that the author sees this task as entailing nothing less than a radical revaluation of the entire Theravaada exegetical tradition. Few of the standard interpretative principles upheld by Theravaada orthodoxy are spared the slashing of his pen. The most time-honoured explanatory tools for interpreting the Suttas, along with the venerated books from which they stem, he dismisses as "a mass of dead matter choking the Suttas." The Abhidhamma Pi.taka, the Milindapa~nha, the Visuddhimagga, the Pali Commentaries -- all come in for criticism, and the author says that ignorance of them "may be counted a positive advantage as leaving less to be unlearned."

2. Strangely, although Notes on Dhamma makes such a sharp frontal attack on Theravaada orthodoxy, to date no proponent of the mainstream Theravaada tradition has risen to the occasion and attempted to counter its arguments. The few traditionalists who have read the book have either disregarded it entirely or merely branded it as a thicket of errors. But to my knowledge, none has tried to point out exactly what these errors are and to meet its criticisms with reasoned argumentation based directly on the texts.

The present essay is an attempt to fill that gap. I will be concerned here with only one note in Ven. ~Naa.naviira's collection, his "A Note on Pa.ticcasamuppaada." This note, however, is the main pillar of Ven. ~Naa.naviira's distinctive approach to the Suttas; it is the first and longest note in the book and the most consistently radical. The Note sounds a bold challenge to the prevailing "three-life interpretation" of the twelve-factored formula of dependent arising. The traditional interpretation of this formula, expounded in full detail in the Visuddhimagga (Chapter XVII), has guided followers of mainstream Theravaada Buddhism for centuries in their understanding of this most profound and difficult principle of the Dhamma. Hence a criticism of it that claims to be validated by the Suttas themselves strikes from within at the very core of the orthodox Theravaada commentarial tradition.

At the beginning of his Note, Ven. ~Naa.naviira states that he assumes his reader is acquainted with this traditional interpretation and is dissatisfied with it (#2). Such dissatisfaction, he asserts, is not unjustified, and he proposes to provide in its place what he modestly claims "may perhaps be found to be a more satisfactory approach." I too will assume that the reader is already acquainted with the three-life interpretation, and hence I will not recapitulate that interpretation here. While the reader who has personal access to Ven. ~Naa.naviira's Note and can refer to it in the course of this discussion may be able to follow my arguments here more easily, for the benefit of readers who are not so situated I will recount below those contentions of his with which I take issue.

3. My purpose in writing this examination is to vindicate the traditional three-life interpretation against Ven. ~Naa.naviira's critique of it. I propose to show that the approach which he considers to be "more satisfactory" not only cannot be justified by reference to the discourses of the Buddha, but is in fact flatly contradicted by those discourses. I also intend to establish that, contrary to Ven. ~Naa.naviira's allegations, the three-life interpretation, though not explicitly stated in such terms, is fully in accord with the Buddha's teachings. In my view, this interpretation, far from deviating from the Suttas, simply makes explicit the Buddha's intention in expounding dependent arising.

In making this assertion, I am not saying that the detailed exposition of pa.ticca-samuppaada (PS) as found in the Pali Commentaries can in all particulars be traced back to the Suttas. The aim of the Commentaries, in their treatment of PS, is to correlate the Suttanta teaching of PS with the systematic analysis of phenomena and their conditional relations as found in the Abhidhamma. This results in an explanation of PS that is far more complex and technical than anything that can be drawn out from the Sutta texts themselves. I do not think that acceptance of the basic dynamics of the "three-life" approach entails acceptance of all the details of the commentarial explanation, and I also believe that the Commentaries take unnecessary risks when they try to read back into the Suttas ideas deriving from tools of interpretation that appeared perhaps centuries after the Suttas were compiled. All that I wish to maintain is that the essential vision underlying the commentarial interpretation is correct: namely, that the twelvefold formula of PS extends over three lives and as such describes the generative structure of sa.msaara, the round of repeated births.

Like Ven. ~Naa.naviira, I take as the sole ultimate authority for interpretation of the Dhamma the Buddha's discourses as found in the four main Nikaayas and in the older strata of the Khuddaka Nikaaya. I share with Ven. ~Naa.naviira the view that these books can be considered the most trustworthy record of the Buddha's teachings, and hence should be turned to as the final court of appeal for resolving questions about the correct interpretation of the Dhamma. Unlike Ven. ~Naa.naviira, however, I do not hold that all later works, such as the Abhidhamma Pi.taka and the Commentaries, should be rejected point blank as miasmas of error and decay. We must certainly accept the findings of scientific scholarship regarding the dating of the canonical and post-canonical texts, and should recognize that Theravaada doctrine has evolved in several strata through the Abhidhamma, the Commentaries, and the later exegetical works. In my view, however, this does not mean that every text that was composed after the age of the Nikaayas must be regarded with distrust or disdain.

Fundamental Attitudes
4. Before I turn to examine specific points in Ven. ~Naa.naviira's Note I wish to focus on one discomfiting consequence entailed by his insistence that his view of pa.ticca-samuppaada is exclusively and absolutely correct. The three-life interpretation of pa.ticca-samuppaada has been maintained by the Theravaada tradition virtually from the time that tradition emerged as a distinct school. It goes back long before the time of Buddhaghosa's commentaries and can be found already in near-definitive form in the Vibha"nga of the Abhidhamma Pi.taka and the Pa.tisambhidaamagga of the Sutta Pi.taka, works dating from around the 3rd century BC. Further, this interpretation, in its essential outlines, is by no means peculiar to the Theravaada school. It was also shared, with minor differences in details, by the early rivals of the Theravaada, the Sarvaastivaada and Mahaasanghika, which suggests that at least in outline this way of explaining pa.ticca-samuppaada already preceded the first schisms. The same three-life division can be found in the works of the great Maadhyamika philosopher Naagaarjuna (e.g. in his Muula Maadhyamika Kaarikaa, chapter 26), and is also held in the present day by the Mahaayaana schools that have inherited the exegetical methodology of ancient Indian Buddhism.

In contrast, Ven. ~Naa.naviira's view of pa.ticca-samuppaada, as pertaining solely to a single life, appears to be without a precedent in the tenet systems of early Buddhism. Thus, when Ven. ~Naa.naviira holds that he has correctly grasped the Buddha's intention in expounding PS, this implicitly commits him to the thesis that the entire mainstream Buddhist philosophical tradition has utterly misinterpreted this most fundamental Buddhist doctrine, and had already done so within two centuries after the Master's demise. While it is not altogether impossible that this had occurred, it would seem a lapse of an astonishing magnitude on the part of the early Buddhist community.

5. Of course, the above argument is not in itself compelling, for one might still be prepared to stand behind Ven. ~Naa.naviira's claim no matter how audacious it may be. So let us now turn to the Note itself and examine his views on pa.ticca-samuppaada. For the present we will pass over his opening salvos against the three-life interpretation. Instead, let us move directly into the sections of the Note in which he reveals his own "more satisfactory approach." We will return to the criticisms later and see if they truly require us to abandon the traditional understanding of the doctrine.
Ven. ~Naa.naviira maintains that pa.ticca-samuppaada, in its twelve-factored formulation, applies solely and entirely to our existential situation in this present life, without any reference to temporal divisions. It is, in his view, an ever-present existential structure of the unenlightened mind describing the mode of being of the "uninstructed common person" (assutavaa puthujjana). Ven. ~Naa.naviira insists that this interpretation of PS alone offers us a way to resolve the immediate problem of existence in the present itself: "It is a matter of one's fundamental attitude to one's own existence -- is there, or is there not, a present problem, or rather, anxiety that can only be resolved in the present?" (#7).

I fully agree with Ven. ~Naa.naviira that our interpretation of pa.ticca-samuppaada must flow from our "fundamental attitude to (our) own existence." It is also clear from the Suttas that the Buddha's motive in teaching PS is to lead us to a present resolution of the existential problem of suffering. Repeatedly in the Suttas we see the Buddha teaching PS in order to lay bare the structure of conditions that underlies the origination and cessation of dukkha. However, in order to understand how pa.ticca-samuppaada fulfils this function, we should focus on the question: What is the meaning of the dukkha that the Buddha's Teaching is designed to liberate us from? Ven. ~Naa.naviira contends that this dukkha is the anxiety and stress that pervades our present existence, and hence he interprets all the terms of the standard PS formula in a way that lends support to this contention. But if we read the Suttas on their own terms, in their totality, we would find that Ven. ~Naa.naviira's understanding of dukkha falls far short of the vision of the first noble truth that the Buddha wishes to impart to us. Of course, dukkha does include "existential anxiety," and there are several suttas which define the conditions for the arising and removal of such dukkha. An unbiased and complete survey of the Nikaayas, however, would reveal that the problem of dukkha to which the Buddha's Teaching is addressed is not primarily existential anxiety, nor even the distorted sense of self of which such anxiety may be symptomatic. The primary problem of dukkha with which the Buddha is concerned, in its most comprehensive and fundamental dimensions, is the problem of our bondage to sa.msaara -- the round of repeated birth, aging, and death. And, as I will show presently, these terms are intended quite literally as signifying biological birth, aging, and death, not our anxiety over being born, growing old, and dying.

A glance at the Suttas would suffice to reveal to us the "fundamental attitudes" that motivated the Buddha and the early disciples in their own quest for deliverance. We find, for example, that each Bodhisatta, from Vipassii to Gotama, seeks the path to enlightenment with the thought, "Alas, this world has fallen into trouble, in that it is born and ages and dies and passes away and is reborn, and it does not know of the escape from this suffering of aging and death." When young seekers go forth into homelessness out of faith in the Buddha, they do so because they have realized: "I am immersed in birth, aging and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair; I am immersed in suffering, afflicted with suffering. Perhaps one can discern here an end-making to this entire mass of suffering." Again and again the Buddha stresses the misery of repeated existence within sa.msaara, again and again he underscores the urgency of escaping from it (see e.g. SN ii,178-93). And his constant injunction to the monks throughout his ministry was to dwell diligently so that "having abandoned the cycle of births, you will make an end of suffering." These words should leave no doubt that by putting an end to suffering the Buddha means -- not release from existential anxiety -- but release from the round of rebirths. In so far as the Dhamma addresses the problem of our present suffering, it does so by situating that suffering in its larger context, our condition of sa.msaaric bondage. The present cannot be considered only in its vertical depths. It must also be viewed as the intersection of the past and future, shaped by our past experience and harbouring our future destiny in its womb.

If the Dhamma is to enable us to extricate ourselves from the dukkha of repeated birth and death, it must make known the chain of causes that holds us in bondage to this round of repeated birth and death, and it must also indicate what must be done to bring this cycle to a halt. Throughout the Suttas we can find only one basic statement of the causal structure of sa.msaara, one overarching formulation with many minor variations, and that is the twelvefold formula of dependent arising. If one's aim in following the Dhamma is to gain release from existential anxiety, then the three-life interpretation of PS may seem unsatisfactory and one may turn to Ven. ~Naa.naviira's version as more adequate. But the task which the Buddha sets before his disciples is of a different nature: namely, to gain liberation from the recurrent cycle of birth, old age, and death, that is, from bondage to sa.msaara. Once one accepts this task as one's own, one will then see that PS must be looked upon as a disclosure of the conditional structure of sa.msaara, showing us how our ignorance, craving, and volitional activity keep us chained to the round of existence and drive us from one life to the next.

Birth, Aging and Death
6. I now intend to take up for scrutiny what might be regarded as the two main planks of Ven. ~Naa.naviira's interpretation. The two planks to which I am referring are his attempts to explain the relationships between those conditions which, in the traditional interpretation, are held to extend over different lifetimes. These are: (i) the nexus of bhava, jaati, and jaraamara.na -- becoming ('being', in Ven. ~Naa.naviira's translation), birth, and aging-and-death; and (ii) the nexus of avijjaa, sa"nkhaaraa, and vi~n~naa.na -- ignorance, formations ('determinations'), and consciousness. I will show that Ven. ~Naa.naviira's explanations of both these groups of factors fail to draw support from the source that he himself regards as the supreme authority in interpretation of the Dhamma, namely, the Pali Suttas. I will also show that, contra Ven. ~Naa.naviira, on both points the Suttas confirm the traditional interpretation, which regards these connections as involving a succession of lives.

7. Let us first turn to Ven. ~Naa.naviira's treatment of the former nexus (#10 of his Note):
The fundamental upaadaana or 'holding' is attavaada, which is holding a belief in 'self'. The puthujjana takes what appears to be his 'self' at its face value; and so long as this goes on he continues to be a 'self', at least in his own eyes (and in those of others like him). This is bhava or 'being'. The puthujjana knows that people are born and die; and since he thinks 'my self exists' so he also thinks 'my self was born' and 'my self will die'. The puthujjana sees a 'self' to whom the words birth and death apply.

Before we go any further, we should point out that Ven. ~Naa.naviira does not cite any suttas to support his understanding of bhava, jaati, and jaraamara.na, and in fact there are no suttas to be found in the Pali Canon that explain the above terms in this way. Moreover, on Ven. ~Naa.naviira's interpretation it may not even be quite correct to say 'jaatipaccayaa jaraamara.na.m'. On his view, it seems, one would be obliged to say instead, 'bhavapaccayaa jaati, bhavapaccayaa jaraamara.na.m'. Since he regards the puthujjana's taking himself to be a self as the basis for his notions "my self was born" and "my self will die," it would follow that 'being' would be the condition for both 'birth' and 'aging-and-death'. But that is not what the Buddha himself asserts.

In many suttas dealing with PS the Buddha defines the above terms of the formula, and if we look at these texts we will see that they are starkly different from Ven. ~Naa.naviira's explanation of them. The definitions are standardized and can be found at DN 22/ii,305; MN 9/i,49-50; SN 12:2/ii,2-3, etc.:
"And what, monks, is aging and death? The aging of beings in the various orders of beings, their old age, brokenness of teeth, greyness of hair, wrinkling of skin, decline of life, weakness of faculties -- this is called aging. The passing of beings out of the various orders of beings, their passing away, dissolution, disappearance, dying, completion of time, dissolution of the aggregates, laying down of the body -- this is called death. So this aging and this death are (together) called aging-and-death.
"And what, monks, is birth? The birth of beings into the various orders of beings, their coming to birth, descent (into a womb), production, manifestation of the aggregates, obtaining the bases for contact -- this is called birth."

The above definitions, with their strings of synonyms and concrete imagery, clearly indicate that 'birth' refers to biological birth and 'aging-and-death' to biological aging and biological death -- not to the puthujjana's notions "I was born; I will age and die," or "My self was born; my self ages and dies." The textual definitions are perfectly staightforward and unambiguous in meaning, and give no hint that the Buddha had some other idea to convey about the significance of these terms.

Bhava and Rebirth
8. The definition of bhava or becoming (Ven. ~Naa.naviira's 'being') offered in the Suttas dealing expressly with PS is nowhere near as transparent as the former definitions, the reason being that the definition of this term is set against the particular cosmology that underlies the Buddha's Teaching. Nevertheless, the Suttas provide no basis for Ven. ~Naa.naviira's claim that bhava means the puthujjana's taking himself to be a self.
In the suttas on PS, when the Buddha defines bhava, he does so merely by enumerating the three types of becoming:
"And what, monks, is becoming? There are these three types of becoming: sense-sphere becoming; fine-material-sphere becoming; immaterial-sphere becoming."
This definition refers to the three planes of existence in the Buddhist cosmos, and the term 'bhava' thus would signify concrete individual existence in one or another of these three planes. For illumination as to how bhava functions in the PS series, our most helpful resource is the Bhava Sutta, a short exchange between the Buddha and the Venerable Aananda (AN 3:76/i, 223-24):
"It is said, lord, 'becoming, becoming.' In what way, lord, is there becoming?"
"if, Aananda, there were no kamma ripening in the sense realm, would sense-sphere becoming be discerned?"
"No, lord."
"Thus, Aananda, kamma is the field, consciousness is the seed, craving the moisture; for beings obstructed by ignorance and fettered to craving, consciousness becomes grounded in a low realm. Thus, Aananda, there is the production of re-becoming in the future. It is thus, Aananda, that there is becoming.
"If, Aananda, there were no kamma ripening in the fine-material realm, would fine-material becoming be discerned?"
"No, lord."
"Thus, Aananda, kamma is the field, consciousness is the seed, craving the moisture; for beings obstructed by ignorance and fettered to craving, consciousness becomes grounded in a middling realm. Thus, Aananda, there is the production of re-becoming in the future. It is thus, Aananda, that there is becoming.
"If, Aananda, there were no kamma ripening in the immaterial realm, would immaterial becoming be discerned?"
"No, lord."
"Thus, Aananda, kamma is the field, consciousness is the seed, craving the moisture; for beings obstructed by ignorance and fettered to craving, consciousness becomes grounded in a superior realm. Thus, Aananda, there is the production of re-becoming in the future. It is thus, Aananda, that there is becoming."

Clearly, this sutta is offering a succinct statement of the same basic process described more extensively in the usual twelve-factored formula of pa.ticca-samuppaada: When there is avijjaa and ta.nhaa, ignorance and craving, then kamma -- the volitional action of a being -- effects the production of a new existence or 're-becoming in the future' (aayati.m punabbhava) in a realm that corresponds to the qualitative potential of that kamma. It is for this reason that the Commentaries interpret bhava in the usual PS formula as having two aspects that pertain to two different lives: one aspect called kammabhava, 'kammically active existence', which refers to the kamma with the potential of generating rebirth in one or another of the three realms; the other aspect called upapattibhava, 'rebirth existence', which refers to existence produced in one or another of the three realms. Although such a distinction is not explicitly drawn in the old Suttas, it seems to be implied by such passages as the one just quoted above.

9. Ven. ~Naa.naviira claims that jaati does not mean rebirth (#9), and he is correct in so far as the word 'jaati' does not by itself convey the sense of 're-birth'. Nevertheless, within the context of PS (and elsewhere in the Buddha's Teaching), jaati must be understood as implying rebirth. In so far as jaati, "the manifestation of the aggregates," etc., results from the formation of a new bhava "in the future" by the avijjaa, ta.nhaa, and kamma of the preceding existence, any instance of jaati is invariably a rebirth of the same continuum of consciousness: the stream of consciousness of the preceding life, "grounded" in a particular realm by reason of its kamma, springs up in that realm and comes to growth and full manifestation there.

Contrary to Ven. ~Naa.naviira, throughout the suttas we often find the word 'jaati' used in conjunction with the terms 'sa.msaara' and 'punabbhava' to underscore the fact that rebirth is intended. Take for instance the Buddha's famous "Hymn of Victory" from the Dhammapada (v.153):
"I wandered on pointlessly in this cycle (sa.msaara) of many births
Seeking the house-builder. Painful is birth again and again."
Anekajaatisa.msaara.m sandhaavissa.m anibbisa.m
Gahakaaraka.m gavesanto dukkhaa jaati punappuna.m.
Or: "A bhikkhu has abandoned the cycle of births with its re-becoming" (bhikkhuno ponobhaviko jaatisa.msaaro pahiino; MN 22/i,139). Or the verse of Udaana 4:9:
"For the monk with a peaceful mind,
When he has cut off craving for becoming,
The wandering on in births is destroyed:
For him there is no re-becoming."
Ucchinnabhavata.nhassa santacittassa bhikkhuno
Vikkhii.no jaatisa.msaaro natthi tassa punabbhavo.

Again, consider the declaration of final knowledge uttered by the arahants: "This is my last birth; now there is no re-becoming" (ayam antimaa jaati, natthi daani punabbhavo; MN 26/i,167, 173).
The above passages will show us, moreover, that the wedge that Ven. ~Naa.naviira tries to drive between jaati and punabbhavaabhinibbatti (in #10) is a spurious one. While in some passages the two are set in a conditional relationship to one another (the latter being a condition for the former -- see SN ii,65), they are so closely connected that their meanings almost overlap. In fact, the word 'abhinibbatti' is used as one of the synonyms of jaati in the standard definition of the latter. Apparently, when abhinibbatti is included in jaati we should understand jaati as comprising both conception and physical birth, while when they are differentiated, abhinibbatti means conception and jaati is restricted to full emergence from the womb.

10. Now that we have adduced textual definitions of the terms 'aging and death', 'birth', and 'becoming', let us see how they link up in the formula of pa.ticca-samuppaada, as explained by the Buddha himself. The text which elucidates this matter most succinctly is the Mahaanidaana Sutta (DN 15/ii,57-58). To bring out the meaning I quote the relevant passage slightly simplified, without the catechistic format, and with the sequence of conditions stated in direct order rather than in reverse order:
"If there were absolutely no clinging of any kind -- no clinging to sense pleasures, clinging to views, clinging to rules and observances, clinging to a doctrine of self -- then, in the complete absence of clinging, becoming would not be discerned: thus clinging is the condition for becoming.
"If there were absolutely no becoming of any kind -- no sense-sphere becoming, fine-material becoming, immaterial becoming -- then, in the complete absence of becoming, birth would not be discerned: thus becoming is the condition for birth.
"If there were absolutely no birth of any kind -- that is, of gods into the state of gods, of celestials into the state of celestials, of spirits, demons, humans, animals, birds, and reptiles each into their own state -- then, in the complete absence of birth, aging and death would not be discerned: thus birth is the condition for aging and death."
Ven. ~Naa.naviira would read this passage to mean: Because the puthujjana clings to a belief in self, he goes on being a self (of one or another of the three types); and because he assumes that he is such a self, he thinks "my self was born" and "my self will grow old and die" (see Note, #10). If, however, we read this passage in the light of the definitions of birth, aging, and death found in the Suttas, and in the light of the Bhava Sutta (AN 3:76), a very different meaning would emerge, which might be formulated thus: Because of clinging of any kind (not only clinging to a doctrine of self), one engages in actions that have the potential to ripen in one or another of the three realms of becoming. These actions dispose consciousness towards these realms. At death, if clinging persists, the predominant kamma steers consciousness towards the appropriate realm, i.e. it grounds the "seed" of consciousness in that realm, and thereby generates a new existence. This "production of re-becoming" comes to fulfilment in birth -- that is, birth into one of the numerous classes of beings distributed among the three realms of becoming -- and once birth occurs, it is inevitably followed by aging and death.

Three Types of Sa"nkhaaraa
11. Now let us turn to the other major "plank" in Ven. ~Naa.naviira's Note on Pa.ticcasamuppaada, his treatment of the interconnections between avijjaa, sa"nkhaaraa, and vi~n~naa.na (##5-6, 11-16). In #5 Ven. ~Naa.naviira cites the threefold enumeration of sa"nkhaaraa commonly employed by the Suttas when they analyze the individual factors of the PS formula:
"And what, monks, are the sa"nkhaaraa? There are these three sa"nkhaaraa: body-sa"nkhaara, speech-sa"nkhaara, mind-sa"nkhaara. These are called the sa"nkhaaraa."
I will leave the word 'sa"nkhaaraa' untranslated here in order not to prejudice the discussion. Immediately after citing this passage, in order to supply definitions of the three types of sa"nkhaaraa, Ven. ~Naa.naviira quotes the Cuu.lavedalla Sutta (MN 44/i,301). This sutta -- a discussion between the lay devotee Visaakha and his former wife, the arahant bhikkhuni Dhammadinnaa -- defines three types of sa"nkhaaraa bearing exactly the same names as those mentioned in the texts on pa.ticca-samuppaada:
And which, lady, is body-sa"nkhaara, which is speech-sa"nkhaara, which is mind-sa"nkhaara?"
"The in-&-out breaths are body-sa"nkhaara, thinking-&-pondering are speech-sa"nkhaara, perception and feeling are mind-sa"nkhaara."

Having juxtaposed the two quotations, Ven. ~Naa.naviira then criticizes the traditional interpretation for maintaining that sa"nkhaaraa in the PS formula must always be understood as cetanaa or volition. To make this claim, he asserts, is to wind up holding that the in-&-out breaths, thinking-&-pondering, and perception and feeling, are respectively bodily, verbal, and mental volition -- a position that is clearly untenable.
Now both quotations cited above, taken in isolation, are perfectly legitimate. This, however, does not establish that the latter quotation is providing a definition of the same terms intended by the former quotation. While the two triads are expressed in Pali by the same three compounds -- kaayasa"nkhaara, vaciisa"nkhaara, cittasa"nkhaara -- Ven. ~Naa.naviira overlooks a fact of prime importance for determining their meaning: namely, that in the Suttas the contexts in which the two triads appear are always kept rigorously separate. The definition of the three sa"nkhaaraa found in the Cuu.lavedalla Sutta, and elsewhere in the Canon (at SN iv,293), does not occur in the context of PS nor in a context that even touches on PS. This particular definition of the three types of sa"nkhaaraa -- kaayasa"nkhaara, vaciisa"nkhaara, cittasa"nkhaara -- always occurs in the course of a discussion on the attainment of the cessation of perception and feeling (sa~n~naavedayita-nirodha). It is intended to prepare the way for an explanation of the order in which the three types of sa"nkhaaraa cease when a monk enters the attainment of cessation.

But that is not all. Not only are the three sa"nkhaaraa of the Cuu.lavedalla Sutta always rigorously excluded from discussions of pa.ticca-samuppaada, but among all the suttas in which the Buddha exemplifies the expressions 'avijjaapaccayaa sa"nkhaaraa' ("with ignorance as condition, formations") and 'sa"nkhaarapaccayaa vi~n~naa.na.m' ("with formations as condition, consciousness"), there is not a single text in which he explains sa"nkhaaraa in a way that has any relevance to the three kinds of sa"nkhaaraa of the Cuu.lavedalla Sutta. The two types of discussions of sa"nkhaaraa -- the threefold enumeration of the Cuu.lavedalla Sutta and the threefold enumeration in the PS context -- though employing the same terms, are assigned to completely separate compartments. Nowhere in the Sutta Pi.taka does the one triad extend beyond its own context and bear any explicit relationship to the other context. If the Buddha had intended the sa"nkhaaraa that are conditioned by ignorance and that condition consciousness to signify the in-&-out breaths, thinking-&-pondering, and perception and feeling, then one could reasonably expect to find at least one sutta on pa.ticca-samuppaada where he exemplifies sa"nkhaaraa by way of the Cuu.lavedalla triad. But not a single sutta of such a nature can be found anywhere in the entire Pali Canon.

Lack of textual corroboration is only one problem with Ven. ~Naa.naviira's proposal to read the Cuu.lavedalla triad of sa"nkhaaraa into the interpretation of the PS formula. Another objection, even more formidable, can be brought against this suggestion, namely, that it leads to incoherence. For the sa"nkhaaraa of the PS formula must be dependent upon ignorance as their necessary condition and must cease with the cessation of ignorance, but the three sa"nkhaaraa of the Cuu.lavedalla Sutta do not meet this requirement. These sa"nkhaaraa are not necessarily dependent upon ignorance and do not cease with the ceasing of ignorance. Though the arahant has completely eradicated ignorance, he continues to breathe in and out (except when in the fourth jhaana and higher attainments), to think and ponder (except when in the second and higher jhaanas), and to perceive and feel (except when in the cessation of perception and feeling). But what does cease for the arahant with the cessation of ignorance are volitional formations -- sa"nkhaaraa understood as sa~ncetanaa. Whereas the non-arahant's bodily, verbal, and mental activities are constructive forces conditioned by ignorance that sustain the round of rebirths, the arahant's activities are kammically extinct. They no longer sustain the continuation of the round, no longer project consciousness into any new mode of becoming.

12. In analyzing the teaching of pa.ticca-samuppaada, the texts use the two terms cittasa"nkhaaraa and manosa"nkhaaraa as though they were interchangeable. This is not typical of the Suttas, which usually reserve citta and mano for separate contexts. When the texts define sa"nkhaaraa in the PS formula, they do so by enumerating the three types of sa"nkhaaraa: kaayasa"nkhaara, vaciisa"nkhaara, cittasa"nkhaara; yet they do not take the further step of defining these terms as such. Then, when they exemplify the function of sa"nkhaaraa in PS, they employ the triad of kaayasa"nkhaara, vaciisa"nkhaara, manosa"nkhaara. The Pali Commentaries identify the two triads, taking them as alternative expressions for the same thing; both are understood to refer to bodily volition, verbal volition, and mental volition (kaayasa~ncetanaa, vaciisa~ncetanaa, manosa~ncetanaa). Ven. ~Naa.naviira takes issue with this identification, holding that the two triads must be distinguished. He admits that the second triad is to be identified with cetanaa, but he insists that the terms used in the first triad have to be understood by way of the explanation given in the Cuu.lavedalla Sutta.

This assertion, as we have seen, does not receive confirmation from the Suttas. The original source on which the Pali Commentaries base their identification of the two triads is the Vibha"nga of the Abhidhamma Pi.taka. In that work, in the Suttanta Bhaajaniiya (Sutta Analysis) section of its Pa.ticca-samuppaada Vibha"nga, we read:
What are the sa"nkhaaraa that are conditioned by ignorance? Meritorious sa"nkhaara, demeritorious sa"nkhaara, imperturbable sa"nkhaara; body-sa"nkhaara, speech-sa"nkhaara, mind-sa"nkhaara....
Therein, bodily volition is body-sa"nkhaara; verbal volition is speech-sa"nkhaara, mental volition is mind-sa"nkhaara (cittasa"nkhaara). These are called the sa"nkhaaraa conditioned by ignorance.
Ven. ~Naa.naviira may refuse to acknowledge the authority of the Vibha"nga and insist that he will not relinquish his view unless a sutta can be brought forward confirming this definition. This attitude, however, would appear to be an unreasonable one. Even though the more elaborate conceptions of Abhidhamma thought may be products of a later age than the Suttas, the Suttanta Bhaajaniiya sections of the Vibha"nga can make a cogent claim to antiquity. Evidence suggests that this portion of the Vibha"nga is extremely old, dating from perhaps the third century BC, and thus represents the understanding of the Buddhist community from a period not long after the Buddha's Parinibbaana. It would even be plausible to maintain that this body of material was originally an old commentary on basic Suttanta terminology going back to the very first generation of the Buddha's disciples; it is not specifically Abhidhammic in character and may have been absorbed into the Abhidhamma Pi.taka owing to the lack of any other suitable repository for it.

In any case, in the absence of direct clarification of the issue in the Suttas themselves, the Vibha"nga becomes the most ancient source to which we can turn for help in clarifying PS terminology. There we find the triad of kaayasa"nkhaara, vaciisa"nkhaara, and cittasa"nkhaara explained in a way that confirms the exclusive identification of the sa"nkhaaraa factor in the PS formula with cetanaa. This lends weight to the view that this second link should be taken as kamma and its relation to vi~n~naa.na as that of the kammic cause from the preceding existence.

The Meaning of 'Sa"nkhaaraa'
13. I intend to examine very briefly all the suttas that help shed light on the sa"nkhaaraa factor in PS formulation, as found in the Nidaana Sa.myutta, the Buddha's collected short discourses on dependent arising. But first a few words should be said about Ven. ~Naa.naviira's general understanding of the word 'sa"nkhaaraa'. Ven. ~Naa.naviira maintains that this word has a univocal meaning relevant to all the contexts in which it occurs. The meaning he assigns to it is that of "something upon which something else depends" (#11); hence his rendering 'determinations'. The Suttas themselves do not offer a single etymological derivation of the word with unrestricted application. The well-known derivation -- sa"nkhata.m abhisa"nkharontii ti tasmaa sa"nkhaaraa ti vuccanti (in Ven. ~Naa.naviira's terminology, "They determine the determined, therefore they are called determinations") -- applies specifically to sa"nkhaaraa as the fourth of the five aggregates, not to sa"nkhaaraa in all usages. In this context they obviously signify cetanaa, volition, understood as a constructive force, and thus an active derivation is appropriate.

The Pali Commentaries offer two derivations of the word 'sa"nkhaaraa'. One is active (as given above), the other passive (sa"nkhariiyantii ti sa"nkhaaraa). Thus the Commentaries hold that the word can signify either things that actively produce other things, or things that are produced by other things. Which meaning is relevant depends on the context. In the two contexts of pa.ticca-samuppaada and the fourth aggregate, the active sense is relevant, as in both cases the sa"nkhaaraa are volitions. But in such statements as 'sabbe sa"nkhaaraa aniccaa', etc., the Commentaries explain that sa"nkhaaraa should be understood as sa"nkhata-sa"nkhaaraa, that is, as conditioned things.

According to the Majjhima Nikaaya Commentary, the passive sense also pertains to two of the three sa"nkhaaraa of the Cuu.lavedalla Sutta: (i) the in-&-out breaths are body-sa"nkhaara because they are determined by the body, made by the body, produced by the body; (iii) perception and feeling are mind-sa"nkhaara because they are determined by the mind, made by the mind, produced by the mind. In contrast, (ii) thinking-&-pondering, as speech-sa"nkhaara, play an active role: they are determinants of speech.
The commentarial recognition of a twofold derivation of the term 'sa"nkhaaraa' seems to be confirmed by the texts. For instance, the Cuu.lavedalla Sutta explains:
"In-&-out breaths, friend Visaakha, are bodily, these things are dependent upon the body; that is why the in-&-out breaths are the body-sa"nkhaara.... Perception and feeling are mental, these things are dependent upon the mind; that is why perception and feeling are mind-sa"nkhaara."

In contrast, Ven. ~Naa.naviira's insistence on assigning an exclusively active sense to sa"nkhaaraa compels him to apply the old Procrustean bed of exegesis to several passages that do not easily submit to his interpretation. For example, in his separate note on Sa"nkhaara, he attempts to explain how the reference to sa"nkhaaraa in the Mahaasudassana Suttanta (DN 17/ii,169ff.) can be interpreted in line with his view of sa"nkhaaraa as active determinations. In this sutta the Buddha, after describing all the rich endowments and possessions of King Mahaasudassana, a king of the distant past, concludes with a homily on impermanence: "See, Aananda, how all those sa"nkhaaraa have passed, ceased, altered. So impermanent, Aananda, are sa"nkhaaraa ... this is enough for weariness with all sa"nkhaaraa, enough for dispassion, enough for release." Ven. ~Naa.naviira discerns a cryptic message concealed in this passage thus: "Those things [the possessions, etc.] were sa"nkhaaraa; they were things on which King Mahaasudassana depended for his very identity; they determined his person as 'King Mahaasudassana', and with their cessation the thought 'I am King Mahaasudassana' came to an end." There is nothing in the sutta itself to support this interpretation, and the text (as well as others of a similar character) reads so much more naturally if we take sa"nkhaaraa simply to mean the conditioned things of the world. Moreover, other suttas can be found which include the same final exhortation on dispassion, yet which provide absolutely no ground for seeing the term sa"nkhaaraa there as determinants of anyone's personal identity (see e.g. the Anamatagga Sa.myutta, SN 15/ii,178ff.).

Sa"nkhaaraa in the PS Formula
14. Let us now turn directly to the Nidaana Sa.myutta to see how the suttas on pa.ticca-samuppaada treat the term 'sa"nkhaaraa' in relation to avijjaa and vi~n~naa.na. As the suttas in this collection that expand upon the stock formula are conveniently few in number, we can take a brief look at each in turn. Of these texts, two establish the two major paradigms for the interpretation of sa"nkhaaraa, namely, that formulated in terms of the three doors of volitional action and that formulated in terms of three kammically graded types of volition. Besides these, three additional texts can be found that shed light on the problem. I should stress at once that the Nidaana Sa.myutta incorporates virtually all the shorter discourses of the Buddha dealing with pa.ticca-samuppaada, and hence should be taken as definitive in its presentation of the meaning and function of the constituent items in the formula.

We will begin with the Bhuumija Sutta, the paradigmatic text for distinguishing sa"nkhaaraa by way of the doors of action:
"When there is the body, Aananda, because of bodily volition there arises internally pleasure and pain. When there is speech, because of verbal volition there arises internally pleasure and pain. When there is the mind, because of mental volition there arises internally pleasure and pain.
"With ignorance as condition, either by oneself, Aananda, one forms that body-sa"nkhaara (speech-sa"nkhaara, mind-sa"nkhaara) on account of which that pleasure and pain arises internally; or because of others one forms that body-sa"nkhaara (speech-sa"nkhaara, mind-sa"nkhaara) on account of which that pleasure and pain arises internally...
"Ignorance is included among these things. But with the remainderless fading away and cessation of ignorance that body does not exist (that speech does not exist, that mind does not exist) on account of which that pleasure and pain arises internally."
Here the three sa"nkhaaraa that are said to be conditioned by ignorance are explicitly identified with the three types of volition. The sutta employs the term 'manosa"nkhaara' rather than 'cittasa"nkhaara', but in the absence of any other exemplification of cittasa"nkhaara in the PS context, we can take the terms as interchangeable; though such usage is not common, it is not totally foreign to the Nikaayas and other instances can be cited of the synonymous use of citta and mano.
According to the commentary, this volition is to be understood as kamma, and the pleasure and pain that arise internally as vipaakavedanaa, as feelings resulting from that kamma. A temporal separation between the volition and the resulting pleasure and pain may not be explicitly mentioned in the text, but if we read the above passage against the broader background of the Suttas, we can readily infer that an implicit temporal gap is intended. One sutta in the Anguttara Nikaaya, on the correlations between kamma and its fruit, helps us to understand the process by which sa"nkhaaraa function as conditions for the arising of pleasant and painful feeling:
Here, monks, someone forms an afflictive body-sa"nkhaara, speech-sa"nkhaara, mind-sa"nkhaara. Having done so, he is reborn into an afflictive world. When he is reborn there afflictive contacts contact him, and he experiences feelings that are extremely painful.... Someone forms a non-afflictive body-sa"nkhaara, (etc.) ... he is reborn into a non-afflictive world.... Non-afflictive contacts contact him, and he experiences feelings that are extremely pleasant.... Someone forms both an afflictive and a non-afflictive body-sa"nkhaara, (etc.) ... he is reborn into a world that is both afflictive and non-afflictive. Afflictive and non-afflictive contacts contact him, and he experiences feelings that are both painful and pleasant."

Here the term used is again 'manosa"nkhaara', and it is clear that the three sa"nkhaaraa are primarily of interest because they determine a person's plane of rebirth and the quality of affective experience prevailing in his life. The sutta is not manifestly concerned with PS, but if we examine the sequence of events being described we would find, embedded in it, a segment of the standard PS formula. These events can be represented thus: sa"nkhaaraa --> rebirth into a world --> contact --> feeling. From the Mahaanidaana Sutta (DN 15/ii,63) we know that rebirth into any world involves the co-arising of consciousness and name-and-form, and from the latter we can elicit the six sense bases as the condition for contact. This suffices to establish that the above text and the PS formula are defining the same situation, and here it is evident that the sa"nkhaaraa serve as condition for the arising of pleasure and pain across the gap of lifetimes.

The last paragraph of the above quotation from the Bhuumija Sutta expresses obliquely the converse side of the relationship. Here, when the Buddha states that with the cessation of ignorance, body, speech, and mind no longer serve as conditions for pleasure and pain to arise internally, what is meant is that these doors of action cease to be instruments for generating sa"nkhaaraa, actions with the power to produce re-becoming. When ignorance is eliminated, volition no longer functions as sa"nkhaaraa, as a constructive power that builds up new edifices of personal existence in future lives. The actions of the arahant, whether performed by body, speech, or mind, are khii.nabiija, "with seed destroyed" (Ratana Sutta, Snp. 235); they are incapable of ripening in the future, and hence no longer serve as conditions for pleasure and pain to arise."
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Re: Nanavira.

Postby cooran » Sun Jun 27, 2010 11:55 pm

Part 2 of Bhikkhu Bodhi's article:

15. The second major paradigm for understanding the sa"nkhaaraa factor in PS, and its relations to avijjaa and vi~n~naa.na, grades the sa"nkhaaraa according to their ethical quality, which in turn indicates the type of rebirth they produce. This paradigm is delineated in the following passage:
"Bhikkhus, if a person immersed in ignorance forms a meritorious sa"nkhaara, consciousness goes on towards merit. If he forms a demeritorious sa"nkhaara, consciousness goes on towards demerit. If he forms an imperturbable sa"nkhaara, consciousness goes on towards the imperturbable."
Once again it is obvious that we must understand sa"nkhaaraa as volition (cetanaa). And once again it is not so obvious that the relationship between sa"nkhaaraa and consciousness may be a causal one operating across different lives. The commentary to the sutta explains that the phrase "consciousness goes on towards merit" can be understood in two complementary ways: (i) the kammically active consciousness associated with the volition "goes on towards" meritorious kamma, i.e. it accumulates merit; and (ii) the consciousness resulting from the merit "goes on towards" the result of merit, i.e. it reaps the fruits of that merit. The same principle of interpretation applies to the other two cases -- the demeritorious and the imperturbable. Thus the point of the passage, as understood from the traditional perspective, may be paraphrased thus: A meritorious volition infuses consciousness with a meritorious quality and thereby steers consciousness towards rebirth in a realm resulting from merit; a demeritorious volition infuses consciousness with a demeritorious quality and thereby steers consciousnes stowards rebirth in a realm resulting from demerit; an imperturbable volition infuses consciousness with an imperturbable quality (aane~nja) and thereby steers consciousness towards rebirth in an imperturbable realm, i.e. a realm corresponding to the fourth jhaana or the formless meditative attainments.

Ven. ~Naa.naviira himself rejects this interpretation of the passage. He writes (#15):
... Nothing in the Sutta suggests that pu~n~nuupagavi~n~naa.na is anything other than the meritorious consciousness of one who is determining or intending merit. (When merit is intended by an individual he is conscious of his world as 'world-for-doing-merit-in', and consciousness has thus 'arrived at merit'.)
My reading of the passage disagrees with that of Ven. ~Naa.naviira. Even if we disregard the commentarial explanation sketched above and focus solely on the text, we would find that the structure of the sutta itself suggests that a kamma-vipaaka relationship is intended by the link between sa"nkhaaraa and vi~n~naa.na. For the sutta continues: When a bhikkhu has abandoned ignorance and aroused knowledge, he does not form any of the three types of sa"nkhaaraa. Thereby he reaches arahantship, and when his body breaks up with the ending of his life, he attains Parinibbaana. Thus "all that is felt, not being delighted in, will become cool right here, and bodily elements only will remain." Hence, in its structure, the sutta establishes a contrast between the ignorant worldling and the arahant. The worldling, by fashioning meritorious, demeritorious, and imperturbable volitions, projects his consciousness into a new existence, setting in motion once again the entire cycle of birth and death. The arahant cuts off ignorance and stops forming sa"nkhaaraa, thus ending the grounding of consciousness and the consequent renewal of the cycle.

This conclusion can draw further support from a study of how the word 'upaga' is used in the Suttas. Ven. ~Naa.naviira's rendering "has arrived at" is actually an error: the word functions not as a past participle (that would be upagata) but as a suffix signifying present action. Hence I render it "goes on towards." In contexts similar to the one cited above (though perhaps not in all contexts) 'upaga' most commonly denotes movement towards the fruition of one's past kamma -- movement fulfilled by the process of rebirth. Consider the stock passage on the exercise of the divine eye:
"With the divine eye, which is purified and superhuman, he sees beings passing away and being reborn, inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate, and he understands how beings go on in accordance with their kamma."

Then consider the Aane~njasappaaya Sutta, on a bhikkhu who practises the "imperturbable meditations" without reaching arahantship: "With the breakup of the body, after death, it is possible that his consciousness, evolving on, may go on towards the imperturbable." Note that the last expression (vi~n~naa.na.m aane~njuupaga.m), in the Pali, is identical with the expression found in the Nidaana Sa.myutta sutta cited above, and here, clearly, a transition from one life to another is involved.

We thus see that in the two main models for the sa"nkhaaraa factor of PS presented by the Nidaana Sa.myutta, the term signifies volitional activity, and its bearing on consciousness and feeling is that of kammic cause for a fruit generally maturing in a subsequent life. We should further stress that these two models are neither mutually exclusive nor do they concern different material. Rather, they structure the same material -- kammically potent volitions -- along different lines, depending on the perspective adopted, whether the perspective of door of action or that of ethical quality.
16. Besides these two major models, the Nidaana Sa.myutta contains two short suttas that help illuminate the role of sa"nkhaaraa in the PS formula. We may begin with the following:
"Bhikkhus, if there is lust, delight, craving for solid food (or any of the other three types of nutriment), consciousness becomes grounded in that and comes to growth. When consciousness is grounded and comes to growth, there is a descent of name-and-form. When there is a descent of name-and-form, there is the growth of sa"nkhaaraa. When there is the growth of sa"nkhaaraa, there is the production of re-becoming in the future. When there is the production of re-becoming in the future, there is future birth, aging and death."

Here we can see that sa"nkhaaraa are responsible for bringing about "re-becoming in the future," that is, for generating rebirth. The structure of the sutta is similar to that of the Bhava Sutta quoted above (AN 3:76), but here three existences are implied. The first is the existence in which there is craving for food. This craving, accompanied by ignorance, grounds consciousness in its attachment to nutriment. Consciousness -- here the kammically active consciousness -- is the seed arisen in the old existence that sprouts forth as a new existence, causing a "descent" of name-and-form into the womb. Within that second existence the new being, on reaching maturity, engages in volitional activity, which brings on "the growth of sa"nkhaaraa." These sa"nkhaaraa in turn, enveloped by ignorance and craving, initiate the production of still another existence, the third of the series. This existence (like all others) commences with birth and terminates in aging and death
.
17. Next, let us look at one short sutta in the Nidaana Sa.myutta which explicitly mentions neither avijjaa nor sa"nkhaaraa but refers to them obliquely:
"What one wills, and what one plans, and what lies latent within -- this is a support for the continuance of consciousness. When there is a support, there is a grounding of consciousness. When consciousness is grounded and comes to growth, there is the production of re-becoming in the future. When there is the production of re-becoming in the future, future birth, aging and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair arise. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering."

In this sutta, sa"nkhaaraa are referred to elliptically by the expressions 'ya.m ceteti', "what one wills," and 'ya.m pakappeti', "what one plans" ('pakappeti' is a rare term, apparently synonymous with 'ceteti'). The expression 'ya.m anuseti', "what lies latent within," points to the anusaya, the latent tendencies, which other texts tell us include the latent tendency of ignorance (avijjaanusaya) and the latent tendency of lust or craving (raagaanusaya). Thus the sutta is stating that when one forms volitions on the basis of ignorance and craving, these volitions become a support which grounds consciousness and establishes it in a new existence. Once consciousness becomes so established, it sets in motion the entire production of the new existence, beginning with birth and ending with death, accompanied by all its attendant suffering.
The text which immediately follows the afore mentioned sutta in the Nidaana Sa.myutta (SN 12:39), begins identically as far as "and comes to growth," then it continues with "there is a descent of name-and-form" and the rest of the standard series. This shows that in the PS context "the descent of name-and-form" (naamaruupassa avakkanti) is effectively synonymous with "the production of re-becoming in the future" (aayati.m punabbhavaabhinibbatti). Both signify the unfolding of the rebirth process once consciousness has gained a foothold in the new existence.

18. The above analysis should be sufficient to establish with reasonable certainty that the term 'sa"nkhaaraa' in the PS formula denotes nothing other than volition (cetanaa), and that volition enters into the formula because it is the factor primarily responsible for "grounding" consciousness in the round of repeated becoming and for driving it into a new form of existence in the future. When this much is recognized, it becomes unnecessary for me to say anything about the continuation of Ven. ~Naa.naviira's Note on PS from #18 to the end. This convoluted discussion rests upon Ven. ~Naa.naviira's assumption that the term 'sa"nkhaaraa' in the PS formula comprises all the varieties of sa"nkhaaraa spoken of in the Suttas, that is, all things that other things depend on. By adopting this thesis Ven. ~Naa.naviira finds himself obliged to explain how such things as the in-&-out breaths, etc., can be said to be conditioned by ignorance and to be conditions for consciousness. The explanation he devises may be ingenious, but as it receives no confirmation from the Suttas themselves, we can conclude that his account does not correctly represent the Buddha's intention in expounding the teaching of pa.ticca-samuppaada.

19. At this point we can pull together the main threads of our discussion. We have seen that the alternative, "more satisfactory approach" to pa.ticca-samuppaada that Ven. ~Naa.naviira proposes rests on two planks: one is his interpretation of the nexus of bhava, jaati, and jaraamara.na, the other his interpretation of the nexus of avijjaa, sa"nkhaaraa, and vi~n~naa.na. The first hinges on ascribing to all three terms meanings that cannot be substantiated by the texts. The second involves a merging of two contexts that the texts rigorously keep separate, namely, the PS context and the definition of the three sa"nkhaaraa stated in connection with the attainment of the cessation of perception and feeling (found in the Cuu.lavedalla Sutta). This error leads Ven. ~Naa.naviira to assign to the term 'sa"nkhaaraa' in the PS context a much wider meaning than the texts allow. It also induces him to overlook the various passages from the Suttas that clearly show that sa"nkhaaraa in the PS formula must always be understood as volitional activities, considered principally by way of their role in projecting consciousness into a new existence in the future.

20. To round off this portion of my critique, I would like to take a quick look at a short sutta in the Nidaana Sa.myutta -- a terse and syntactically tricky text -- that confirms the three-life interpretation of PS almost as explicitly as one might wish. Our text -- the Baalapa.n.dita Sutta (SN 12:19/ii,23-24) -- opens thus:
"Bhikkhus, for the fool, hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving, this body has thereby been obtained. Hence there is this body and external name-and-form: thus this dyad. Dependent on the dyad there is contact. There are just six sense bases, contacted through which -- or through a certain one of them -- the fool experiences pleasure and pain."
Exactly the same thing is said regarding the wise man. The Buddha then asks the monks to state the difference between the two, and when the monks defer, the Master continues:
"For the fool, hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving, this body has been obtained. But for the fool that ignorance has not been abandoned and that craving has not been eliminated. Why not? Because the fool has not lived the holy life for the complete destruction of suffering. Therefore, with the breakup of the body, the fool is one who goes on to (another) body. Being one who goes onto (another) body, he is not freed from birth, from aging and death, not freed from sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, despair; he is not freed from suffering, I say."
The wise man, in contrast, having lived the holy life to the full, has abandoned ignorance and eliminated craving. Thus with the breakup of the body, he is not one who goes on to another body, and thus he is freed from birth, aging, death, etc.; he is freed from all kinds of suffering.

Having been included in the Nidaana Sa.myutta, this sutta must be an exemplification of PS; otherwise it would have no place in that collection. And we can detect, with minor variants and elisions, the main factors of the classical formula. Yet not only are three lifetimes explicitly depicted, but we also find two other basic exegetical tools of the Commentaries already well adumbrated: the three links (tisandhi) and the four groups (catusankhepa). The first group -- the causal factors of the past life -- are the ignorance and craving that brought both the fool and the wise man into the present existence; though sa"nkhaaraa are not mentioned, they are implied by the mention of ignorance. The first link -- that between past causes and present results -- connects past ignorance and craving with "this body." This, obviously, is a conscious body (savi~n~naa.naka kaaya), implying vi~n~naa.na. The text mentions the remaining factors of the present resultant group: naamaruupa, sa.laayatana, phassa, vedanaa. Then, in the case of the fool, a link takes place between the present resultant group -- epitomized by the experience of pleasure and pain -- and the present causal group productive of a future life. This group is represented by the present avijjaa and ta.nhaa that the fool has not discarded. We also know, despite the elision, that ta.nhaa will lead to upaadaana and a fresh surge of volitional activity motivated by clinging (the kammabhava of the Commentaries).
Because of his avijjaa and ta.nhaa the fool "goes on to another body" (kaayuupago hoti) -- note that here we meet once again the word upaga which I discussed above (#15), again in connection with the rebirth process. The "going on to (another) body" can be seen as loosely corresponding to punabbhavaabhinibbatti, which is followed by birth, aging, and death, etc. These last factors are the fourth group, future effects, linked to the third group, the present-life causes. Thus in this short sutta, which fills out the bare-bones standard formula with some strips of flesh, however lean, we can discern the exegetical tools of the Commentaries already starting to take shape.

In Defense of Tradition
21. Now we can return to the opening sections of Ven. ~Naa.naviira's Note on Pa.ticcasamuppaada and examine his criticisms of the traditional interpretation.
In #3 Ven. ~Naa.naviira argues against the commentarial view that vedanaa in the standard PS formula must be restricted to kammavipaaka. For proof to the contrary he appeals to the Siivaka Sutta (SN 36:21/iv,230-31), in which the Buddha mentions eight causes of bodily pain, of which only the last is kammavipaaka. On the traditional interpretation, Ven. ~Naa.naviira says, this would limit the application of pa.ticca-samuppaada to certain bodily feelings but would exclude other types of feeling. Such a view, he holds, is contradicted by the Buddha's unrestricted declaration that pleasure and pain are dependently arisen (pa.ticca-samuppanna.m kho aavuso sukhadukkha.m vutta.m bhagavataa; SN ii,38).

This objection in no way overturns the traditional view of dependent arising. It should first be pointed out that the notion of pa.ticca-samuppaada has a twofold significance, as Ven. ~Naa.naviira himself recognizes in his Note (#18). The notion refers both to a structural principle, i.e. the principle that things arise in dependence on conditions, and it refers to various exemplifications of that structural principle, the most common being the twelvefold formula. Once we call attention to this distinction, the traditional interpretation is easily vindicated: All feelings are dependently arisen in so far as they arise from conditions, principally from contact along with such conditions as sense faculty, object, consciousness, etc. This, however, does not require that all feelings be included in the vedanaa factor of the standard PS formula. Without violating the structural principle that all feeling is dependently arisen, the Commentaries can consistently confine this factor to the feelings that result from previous kamma.

While recognizing that the Pali Commentaries do restrict vedanaa in the standard PS formula to vipaakavedanaa, we might suggest another line of interpretation different from the commentarial one, a line which is less narrow yet still respects the view that the PS formula describes a process extending over successive lives. On this view, rather than insist that the vedanaa link be understood literally and exclusively as specific resultant feelings born of specific past kamma, we might instead hold that the vedanaa link should be understood as the result of past kamma only in the more general sense that the capacity for experiencing feeling is a consequence of obtaining a sentient organism through the force of past kamma. That is, it is past kamma, accompanied by ignorance and craving, that brought into being the present sentient organism equipped with its six sense bases through which feeling is experienced. If this view is adopted, we can hold that the capacity for experiencing feeling -- the obtaining of a psycho-physical organism (naamaruupa) with its six sense bases (sa.laayatana) -- is the product of past kamma, but we need not hold that every feeling comprised in the vedanaa link is the fruit of a particular past kamma. The predominant feeling-tone of a given existence will be a direct result of specific kamma, but it would not necessarily follow that every passively experienced feeling is actual vipaaka. This would allow us to include all feeling within the standard PS formula without deviating from the governing principle of the traditional interpretation that the five links, from consciousness through feeling, are fruits of past kamma. Although the Commentaries do take the hard line that feeling in the PS formula is kammavipaaka in the strict sense, this "softer" interpretation is in no way contradicted by the Suttas. Both approaches, however, concur in holding that the five above-mentioned factors in any given life result from the ignorance, craving, and volitional activity of the preceding life.

22. In the next section (#4) Ven. ~Naa.naviira warns us that "there is a more serious difficulty regarding feeling" posed by the traditional interpretation. He refers to a sutta (AN 3:61/i,176) in which, he says, three types of feeling -- somanassa (joy), domanassa (sadness), and upekkhaa (equanimity) -- "are included in vedanaa, in the specific context of the PS formulation." These three feelings, he continues, necessarily involve cetanaa, intention or volition, as intrinsic to their structure, and therefore the Commentary must either exclude them from vedanaa in the PS formulation or else must regard them as vipaaka. Both horns of this dilemma, Ven. ~Naa.naviira contends, are untenable: the former, because it contradicts the sutta (which, he says, includes them under vedanaa in the PS context); the latter, because reflection establishes that these feelings involve cetanaa and thus cannot be vipaaka.

The Pali Commentaries, which adopt the Abhidhamma classification of feeling, hold that somanassa, domanassa, and upekkhaa -- in the present context -- are kammically active rather than resultant feelings. This would exclude them from the vedanaa factor of the PS formulation, which Ven. ~Naa.naviira claims contradicts the sutta under discussion. But if we turn to the sutta itself, as Ven. ~Naa.naviira himself urges, we will find that the section dealing with these three types of feeling does not have any discoverable connection with pa.ticca-samuppaada, and it is perplexing why Ven. ~Naa.naviira should assert that it does. Pa.ticca-samuppaada is introduced later in the sutta, but the section where these three types of feeling are mentioned is not related to any formulation of pa.ticca-samuppaada at all. The entire passage reads as follows:
"'These eighteen mental examinations, monks, are the Dhamma taught by me ... not to be denied by wise recluses and brahmins.' Such has been said. And with reference to what was this said? Having seen a form with the eye, one examines a form that is a basis for joy, one examines a form that is a basis for sadness, one examines a form that is a basis for equanimity. (The same is repeated for the other five senses.) It was with reference to this that it was said: 'These eighteen mental examinations, monks, are the Dhamma taught by me ... not to be denied by wise recluses and brahmins.'"
And that is it. Thus "the more serious difficulty regarding feeling" that Ven.~Naa.naviira sees in the commentarial interpretation turns out to be no difficulty at all, but only his own strangely careless misreading of the passage.

23. In the same paragraph Ven. ~Naa.naviira derides the commentarial notion that naamaruupa in the PS formulation is vipaaka. He points out that naama includes cetanaa, volition or intention, and this leads the Commentary to speak of vipaakacetanaa: "But the Buddha has said (AN 6:63/iii,415) that kamma is cetanaa (action is intention), and the notion of vipaakacetanaa, consequently, is a plain self-contradiction."
Here again the commentarial position can easily be defended. The Buddha's full statement should be considered first:
"It is volition, monks, that I call kamma. Having willed (or intended), one does kamma by body, speech, or mind."
The Buddha's utterance does not establish a mathematical equivalence between cetanaa and kamma, such that every instance of volition must be considered kamma. As the second part of his statement shows, his words mean that cetanaa is the decisive factor in action, that which motivates action and confers upon action the ethical significance intrinsic to the idea of kamma. This implies that the ethical evaluation of a deed is to be based on the cetanaa from which it springs, so that a deed has no kammic efficacy apart from the cetanaa to which it gives expression. The statement does not imply that cetanaa (in the non-arahant) is always and invariably kamma.

In order to see that the notion of vipaakacetanaa is not self-contradictory nor even unintelligible, we need only consider the statements occasionally found in the Suttas about naamaruupa descending into the womb or taking shape in the womb (e.g. DN 15/ii,63; also #17 above). It is undeniable that the naamaruupa that "descends" into the womb is the result of past kamma, hence vipaaka. Yet this naama includes cetanaa, and hence that cetanaa too must be vipaaka. Further, the Suttas establish that cetanaa, as the chief factor in the fourth aggregate (the sa"nkhaarakkhandha), is present on every occasion of experience. A significant portion of experience is vipaaka, and thus the cetanaa intrinsic to this experience must be vipaaka. When one experiences feeling as the result of past kamma, the cetanaa coexisting with that feeling must be vipaaka too. The Commentaries squarely confront the problem of cetanaa in resultant states of consciousness and explain how this cetanaa can perform the distinct function of cetanaa without constituting kamma in the common sense of that word. (See Atthasaalinii, pp. 87-88; The Expositor (PTS trans.), pp. 116-17.)

The Problem of Time
24. The main reason for Ven. ~Naa.naviira's dissatisfaction with the traditional interpretation of pa.ticca-samuppaada emerges in #7 of his Note. The traditional view regards the PS formula as describing a sequence spread out over three lives, hence as involving succession in time. For Ven. ~Naa.naviira this view closes off the prospect of an immediate ascertainment that one has reached the end of suffering. He argues that since I cannot see my past life or my future life, the three-life interpretation of PS removes a significant part of the formula from my immediate sphere of vision. Thus pa.ticca-samuppaada becomes "something that, in part at least, must be taken on trust." But because PS is designed to show the prospect for a present solution to the present problem of existential anxiety, it must describe a situation that pertains entirely to the present. Hence Ven. ~Naa.naviira rejects the view of PS as a description of the rebirth process and instead takes it to define an ever-present existential structure of the unenlightened consciousness.

The examination of the suttas on pa.ticca-samuppaada that we have undertaken above has confirmed that the usual twelve-term formula applies to a succession of lives. This conclusion must take priority over all deductive arguments against temporal succession in pa.ticca-samuppaada. The Buddha's Teaching certainly does show us the way to release from existential anxiety. Since such anxiety, or agitation (paritassanaa), depends upon clinging, and clinging involves the taking of things to be 'mine', 'what I am', and 'my self', the elimination of clinging will bring the eradication of anxiety. The Buddha offers a method of contemplation that focuses on things as anattaa, as 'not mine', 'not I', 'not my self'. Realization of the characteristic of anattaa removes clinging, and with the elimination of clinging anxiety is removed, including existential anxiety over our inevitable aging and death. This, however, is not the situation being described by the PS formula, and to read the one in terms of the other is to engage in an unjustifiable confounding of distinct frames of reference.

25. From his criticism of the three-life interpretation of pa.ticca-samuppaada, it appears that Ven. ~Naa.naviira entertains a mistaken conception of what it would mean to see PS within the framework of three lives. He writes (#7):

Now it is evident that the twelve items, avijjaa to jaraamara.na, cannot, if the traditional interpretation is correct, all be seen at once; for they are spread over three successive existences. I may, for example, see present vi~n~naa.na to vedanaa, but I cannot now see the kamma of the past existence -- avijjaa and sa"nkhaara -- that (according to the traditional interpretation) was the cause of these present things. Or I may see ta.nhaa and so on, but I cannot now see the jaati and jaraamara.na that will result from these things in the next existence.
In Ven. ~Naa.naviira's view, on the traditional interpretation, in order to see PS properly, I would have to be able to see the avijjaa and sa"nkhaara of my past life that brought about this present existence, and I would also have to be able to see the birth, aging, and death I will undergo in a future existence as a result of my present craving. Since such direct perception of the past and future is not, according to the Suttas, an integral part of every noble disciple's range of knowledge, he concludes that the traditional interpretation is unacceptable.

Reflection would show that the consequences that Ven. ~Naa.naviira draws do not necessarily follow from the three-life interpretation. To meet Ven. ~Naa.naviira's argument, let us first remember that the Commentaries do not treat the twelvefold formula of PS as a rigid series whose factors are assigned to tightly segregated time-frames. The formula is regarded, rather, as an expository device spread out over three lives in order to demonstrate the self-sustaining internal dynamics of sa.msaaric becoming. The situation defined by the formula is in actuality not a simple linear sequence, but a more complex process by which ignorance, craving, and clinging in unison generate renewed becoming in a direction determined by the sa"nkhaara, the kammically potent volitional activity. Any new existence begins with the simultaneous arising of vi~n~naa.na and naamaruupa, culminating in birth, the full manifestation of the five aggregates. With these aggregates as the basis, ignorance, craving, and clinging, again working in unison, generate a fresh store of kamma productive of still another becoming, and so the process goes on until ignorance and craving are eliminated.

Hence to see and understand PS within the framework of the three-life interpretation is not a matter of running back mentally into the past to recollect the specific causes in the past life that brought about present existence, nor of running ahead mentally into the next life to see the future effects of the present causal factors. To see PS effectively is, rather, to see that ignorance, craving, and clinging have the inherent power to generate renewed becoming, and then to understand, on this basis, that present existence must have been brought to pass through the ignorance, craving, and clinging of the past existence, while any uneradicated ignorance, craving, and clinging will bring to pass a new existence in the future. Although the application of the PS formula involves temporal extension over a succession of lives, what one sees with immediate vision is not the connection between particular events in the past, present, and future, but conditional relationships obtaining between types of phenomena: that phenomena of a given type B arise in necessary dependence on phenomena of type A, that phenomena of a given type C arise in necessary dependence on phenomena of type B.

Of these relationships, the most important is the connection between craving and re-becoming. Craving, underlaid by ignorance and fortified by clinging, is the force that originates new existence and thereby keeps the wheel of sa.msaara in motion. This is already implied by the stock formula of the second noble truth: "And what, monks, is the origin of suffering? It is craving, which produces re-becoming (ta.nhaa ponobhavikaa)...." The essential insight disclosed by the PS formula is that any given state of existence has come to be through prior craving, and that uneradicated craving has the inherent power to generate new becoming. Once this single principle is penetrated, the entire twelvefold series follows as a matter of course.

26. Ven. ~Naa.naviira implicitly attempts to marshal support for his non-temporal interpretation of PS by quoting as the epigraph to his Note on Pa.ticcasamuppaada the following excerpt from the Cuu.lasakuludaayi Sutta:
"But, Udaayi, let be the past, let be the future, I shall set you forth the Teaching: 'When there is this, that is; with arising of this, that arises; when there is not this, that is not; with cessation of this, that ceases.'"
Here, apparently, the Buddha proposes the abstract principle of conditionality as an alternative to teachings about temporal matters relating to the past and future. Since in other suttas the statement of the abstract principle is immediately followed by the entire twelve-term formula, the conclusion seems to follow that any application of temporal distinctions to PS, particularly the attempt to see it as extending to the past and future, would be a violation of the Buddha's intention.

This conclusion, however, would be premature, and if we turn to the sutta from which the quotation has been extracted we would see that the conclusion is actually unwarranted. In the sutta the non-Buddhist wanderer Sakuludaayi tells the Buddha that recently one famous teacher had been claiming omniscience, but when he approached this teacher -- who turns out to have been the Jain leader Niga.n.tha Naataputta -- and asked him a question about the past, the teacher had tried to evade the question, to turn the discussion aside, and became angry and resentful. He expresses the trust that the Buddha is skilled in such matters. The Buddha then says: "One who can recollect his previous births back for many aeons might engage with me in a fruitful discussion about matters pertaining to the past, while one who has the knowledge of the passing away and rebirth of beings might engage with me in a fruitful discussion about matters pertaining to the future." Then, since Udaayi has neither such knowledge, at this point the Buddha states: "But, Udaayi, let be the past, let be the future," and he cites the abstract principle of conditionality. Thus the purport of the Buddha's statement, read as a whole, is that without such super-knowledges of the past and the future, there is no point discussing specific empirical factual matters concerning the past and the future. The Buddha's dismissal of these issues by no means implies that the twelvefold formula of PS should not be understood as defining the conditional structure of sa.msaara throughout successive lives. It must also be remembered that this discussion takes place with a non-Buddhist ascetic who has not yet gained confidence in the Buddha. It would thus not have been appropriate for the Buddha to reveal to him profound matters that could be penetrated only by one of mature wisdom.

Ven. ~Naa.naviira tries to buttress his non-temporal interpretation of PS with a brief quotation from the Mahaata.nhaasa"nkhaya Sutta. In that sutta, at the end of a long catechism that explores the twelvefold series of PS in both the order of origination and the order of cessation, the Buddha says to the monks:
"I have presented you, monks, with this Dhamma that is visible (sandi.t.thika), immediate (akaalika), inviting one to come and see, accessible, to be personally realized by the wise."
Ven. ~Naa.naviira supposes that "this Dhamma" refers to pa.ticca-samuppaada, and that the description of it as akaalika must mean that the entire formula defines a non-temporal configuration of factors.
If we turn to the sutta from which the quotation comes, we would find that Ven. ~Naa.naviira's supposition is directly contradicted by the sequel to the statement on which he bases his thesis. In that sequel (MN i,265-70), the Buddha proceeds to illustrate the abstract terms of the PS formula, first with an account of the life process of the blind worldling who is swept up in the forward cycle of origination, and then with an account of the noble disciple, who brings the cycle to a stop. Here temporal succession is in evidence throughout the exposition. The life process begins with conception in the womb (elsewhere expressed as "the descent of consciousness" into the womb and the "taking shape of name-and-form" in the womb -- DN 15/ii,63). After the period of gestation comes birth, emergence from the mother's womb, followed in turn by: the gradual maturation of the sense faculties (=the six sense bases), exposure to the five cords of sensual pleasure (=contact), intoxication with pleasant feelings (=feeling), seeking delight in feelings (=craving). Then come clinging, becoming, birth, and aging and death. Here a sequence of two lives is explicitly defined, while the past life is implied by the gandhabba, cited as one of the conditions for conception of the embryo to occur. The gandhabba or "spirit," other texts indicate (see MN ii,157), is the stream of consciousness of a deceased person coming from the preceding life, and this factor is just as essential to conception as the sexual union of the parents, which it must utilize as its vehicle for entering the womb.

In the contrasting passage on the wise disciple, we see how an individual who has taken birth through the same past causes goes forth as a monk inthe Buddha's dispensation, undertakes the training, and breaks the link between feeling and craving. Thereby he puts an end to the future renewal of the cycle of becoming. By extinguishing "delight in feelings," a manifestation of craving, he terminates clinging, becoming, birth, aging, and death, and thereby arrives at the cessation of the entire mass of suffering. Thus here, in the very sutta from which the description of PS as "timeless" is drawn, we see the sequence of PS factors illustrated in a way that indubitably involves temporal succession.

27. In order to determine what the word akaalika means in relation to PS, we must carefully examine its contextual usage in the suttas on PS. Such suttas are rare, but in the Nidaana Sa.myutta we find one text that can help resolve this problem. In this sutta (SN 12:33/ii,56-59), the Buddha enumerates forty-four "cases of knowledge" (~naa.navatthu) arranged into eleven tetrads. There is knowledge of each factor of PS from jaraamara.na back to sa"nkhaaraa, each defined according to the standard definitions; then there is knowledge of its origination through its condition, of its cessation through the cessation of its condition, and of the Noble Eightfold Path as the way to cessation. With respect to each tetrad, the Buddha says (taking the first as an example):
"When the noble disciple understands thus aging and death, its origin, its cessation, and the way leading to its cessation, this is his knowledge of the principle (or law: dhamme ~naa.na). By means of this principle which is seen, understood, akaalika, attained, fathomed, he applies the method to the past and the future. When he does so, he knows: 'Whatever recluses and brahmins in the past understood aging and death (etc.), all understood them as I do now; whatever recluses and brahmins in the future will understand aging and death (etc.), all will understand them as I do now.' This is his knowledge of the consequence (anvaye ~naa.na)."

If we consider the word akaalika as employed here, the meaning cannot be "non-temporal" in the sense either that the items conjoined by the conditioning relationship occur simultaneously or that they altogether transcend temporal differentiation. For the same sutta defines birth and death with the stock formulas -- 'birth' as birth into any of the orders of beings, etc., 'death' as the passing away from any of the orders of beings, etc. (see #7 above). Surely these events, birth and death, cannot be either simultaneous or extra-temporal. But the word akaalika is here set in correlation with a series of words signifying knowledge, and this gives us the key to its meaning. Taken in context, the word qualifies, not the factors such as birth and death themselves, but the principle (dhamma) that is seen and understood. The point made by calling the principle akaalika is that this principle is known and seen immediately, that is, that the conditional relationship between any two terms is known directly with perceptual certainty. Such immediate knowledge is contrasted with knowledge of the consequence, or inferential knowledge (anvaye ~naa.na), by which the disciple does not grasp a principle by immediate insight but by reflection on what the principle entails.
Exactly the same conclusion regarding the meaning of akaalika would follow if we return to the passage from MN i,265 quoted above (#25) and examine it more closely in context. We would then see that the Buddha does not link the statement that the Dhamma is sandi.t.thiko akaaliko to the formulation of PS in any way that suggests the factors or their relationships are non-temporal. The statement does not even follow immediately upon the catechism on PS. Rather, after questioning the monks in detail about the PS formula, the Buddha asks them whether they would speak as they do (i.e. affirming the connections established by the formula) merely out of respect for him as their Teacher; the monks answer in the negative. He then asks, "Isn't it the case that you speak only of what you have known for yourselves, seen for yourselves, understood for yourselves?" To this the monks reply, "Yes, venerable sir." At this point the Buddha says: "I have presented you, monks, with this Dhamma that is visible, immediate..." Each of the terms in this stock formula conveys, from a slightly different angle, the same essential point: that the Dhamma is something that can be seen (sandi.t.thiko); that it is to be known immediately (akaaliko); that it calls out for personal verification (ehipassiko); that it is accessible (opanayiko); that it is to be personally realized by the wise (paccatta.m veditabbo vi~n~nuuhi). The terms all highlight, not the intrinsic nature of the Dhamma, but its relation to human knowledge and understanding. They are all epistemological in import, not ontological; they are concerned with how the Dhamma is to be known, not with the temporal status of the known.

Again, the conclusion is established: The Dhamma (inclusive of pa.ticca-samuppaada) is akaalika because it is to be known immediately by direct inspection, not by inference or by faith in the word of another. Thus, although birth and death may be separated by 70 or 80 years, one ascertains immediately that death occurs in dependence on birth and cannot occur if there is no birth. Similarly, although the ignorance and sa"nkhaaraa that bring about the descent of consciousness into the womb are separated from consciousness by a gap of lifetimes, one ascertains immediately that the descent of consciousness into the womb has come about through ignorance and sa"nkhaaraa. And again, although future becoming, birth, and aging and death are separated from present craving and clinging by a gap of lifetimes, one ascertains immediately that if craving and clinging persist until the end of the lifespan, they will bring about reconception, and hence engender a future cycle of becoming. It is in this sense that the Buddha declares pa.ticca-samuppaada to be sandi.t.thika, akaalika -- "directly visible, immediate" -- not in the sense that the terms of the formula have nothing to do with time or temporal succession.

The Knowledge of Final Deliverance
28. I will conclude this critique by highlighting one particularly disquieting consequence entailed by Ven. ~Naa.naviira's assertion that pa.ticca-samuppaada has nothing to do with rebirth, with temporal succession, or with kamma and its fruit. Now the Suttas indicate that the arahants know that they have terminated the succession of births; this is their knowledge and vision of final deliverance (vimutti~naa.nadassana). Everywhere in the texts we see that when they attain liberation, they exclaim: "Destroyed is birth, the holy life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more (coming back) to this world," or: "This is my last birth; now there is no more re-becoming." These statements, found throughout the Canon, indicate that the arahants know for themselves that they are liberated from the round of rebirths.
Investigation of the texts will also show that the ground for the arahant's assurance regarding his liberation is his knowledge of pa.ticca-samuppaada, particularly in the sequence of cessation. By seeing in himself the destruction of the aasavas, the "cankers" of sensual craving, craving for becoming, and ignorance, the arahant knows that the entire series of factors mentioned in PS has come to an end: ignorance, craving, clinging, and kammically potent volitional activities have ended in this present life, and no more compound of the five aggregates, subject to birth and death, will arise in the future. Perhaps the clearest example of this is the Ka.laara Sutta (SN 12:32/ii,51-53). When the Buddha asks Venerable Saariputta how he can declare "Destroyed is birth," he replies in terms of the destruction of its cause, bhava, and the Buddha's questioning leads him back along the chain of conditions to vedanaa, for which he no longer has any craving.

Since knowledge of pa.ticca-samuppaada in its aspect of cessation is the basis for the arahant's knowledge that he has destroyed birth and faces no more re-becoming in the future, if this formula does not describe the conditional structure of sa.msaara it is difficult to see how the arahant could have definite knowledge that he has reached the end of sa.msaara. If arahants have to accept it on trust from the Buddha that sa.msaara exists and can be terminated (as Ven. ~Naa.naviira would hold of those arahants who lack direct knowledge of past births), then those arahants would also have to accept it on trust from the Buddha that they have attained release from sa.msaara. Such a denouement to the entire quest for the Deathless would be far from satisfactory indeed.

It seems that Ven. ~Naa.naviira, in his eagerness to guarantee an immediate solution to the present problem of existential anxiety, has arrived at that solution by closing off the door to a direct ascertainment that one has solved the existential problem that the Suttas regard as paramount, namely, the beginningless problem of our beginningless bondage to sa.msaara. Fortunately, however, the Suttas confirm that the noble disciple does have direct knowledge that all beings bound by ignorance and craving dwell within beginningless sa.msaara, and that the destruction of ignorance brings cessation of becoming, Nibbaana. Consider how Venerable Saariputta explains the faculty of understanding (and I stress that this is the faculty of understanding (pa~n~nindriya), not the faculty of faith):
"When, lord, a noble disciple has faith, is energetic, has set up mindfulness, and has a concentrated mind, it can be expected that he will understand thus: 'This sa.msaara is without discoverable beginning; no first point can be discerned of beings roaming and wandering on, obstructed by ignorance and fettered by craving. But with the remainderless fading away and ceasing of ignorance, a mass of darkness, this is the peaceful state, this is the sublime state: the stilling of all formations, the relinquishing of all acquisitions, the destruction of craving, dispassion, cessation, Nibbaana.' That understanding, lord, is his faculty of understanding."
The Buddha not only applauds this statement with the words "Saadhu, saadhu!" but to certify its truth he repeats Ven. Saariputta's words in full.
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Chris
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