The Dhamma according to Ven. Katukurunde Nanananda

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The Dhamma according to Ven. Katukurunde Nanananda

Postby Travis » Thu Sep 08, 2011 4:06 pm

I wanted to start a topic to discuss Ven. Nanananda's commentaries on the Dhamma out of curiosity as to how the esteemed residents of Dhamma Wheel view his teaching in light of their own knowledge base and experience in the Dhamma. I have not had any "red flag" moments when reading him but plenty of "a-ha!" moments, and I would like to know if anyone has, and what they were. I suppose this is a fairly broad topic the cornerstone of which is probably the lengthy 33 Nibanna Sermons, but also any of his other writings that others may have read.

I have read:
-Towards Calm and Insight
-Seeing Through
-The Nibbanna Sermons 1-33
-From Topsy-turvydom to Wisdom
-Nibbana and the Fire Similie
+ I am currently reading Ideal Solitude along with his Samyutta Nikaya Anthology
But of course I am interested in any impressions others might have of "Concept and Reality" and "The Magic of the Mind"!

How does he stack up in your estimation of the Dhamma according to the Suttas?
Where does he land for those who are familiar with other commentaries (including the big "C")?
What is there to praise? Where is there to lay criticism?

The purpose of this thread is to take a critical look at what the writings of Ven. Nanananda. If you haven't read the Nibbana Sermons I suggest you take the time... then post to this thead! I'm in no hurry and would even prefer a slow, on-going discussion.

ANY AND ALL COMMENTS ARE RELEVANT AND APPRECIATED!
Last edited by Travis on Sun Sep 11, 2011 8:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Dhamma according to Ven. Katukurunde Nanananda

Postby Alex123 » Thu Sep 08, 2011 4:34 pm

I do agree that maybe nāma should be translated as "name" rather than mentality. Because in the suttas it is often viññāṇa + nāmarūpa. It wouldn't make much sense to have two mentalities (viññāṇa and nāma).

Furthermore, I think that it is important how we name (nāma) things. Some words that we use may incite more lust or anger, and some help dispassion. Ex: One can think of rose as "look at all those thorns" and get angry or one can note impermanence and mere elements, for example.

Or: one can pay attention to certain feature of certain young members of opposite gender and develop lustful perceptions due to naming it in such and such fashion. But better is to properly reflect and focus on anicca, asubha, dukkha, and anatta.

Often we are affected how we name things. Proper names (words, thoughts, labels) help, and improper naming just helps more defilements to arise.

IMHO.

Do you have any specific things you would like to discuss?

With best wishes,

Alex
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Re: The Dhamma according to Ven. Katukurunde Nanananda

Postby Travis » Thu Sep 08, 2011 5:35 pm

Alex123 wrote: Do you have any specific things you would like to discuss?


Alex,
Thanks for your reply. In general I am curious about other impressions of his teaching, specifically I'm interested in where he is seen to deviate from the traditional/accepted understanding in regard to the Dhamma (to the degree that he has been considered heretical). I personally don't see any added or dubious elements in his writings, just clarifying explanations in line with the Dhamma. I thought that the more technical discussion would arise out of these general conditions, such as your mentioning his rendering of nama as "name."

Nibbana Sermon 1 http://beyondthenet.net/calm/nibbana01.htm
It is obvious that nāma means `name', and in the suttas also, nāma, when used by itself, means `name'. However when we come to the commentaries we find some kind of hesitation to recognize this obvious meaning. Even in the present context, the commentary, Paramatthajotikā, explains the word `name' so as to mean `bending'. It says that all immaterial states are called nāma, in the sense that they bend towards their respective ob­jects and also because the mind has the nature of incli­nation: ârammaṇābhimukhaṃ namanato, cit­tassa ca natihetuto sab­bam­pi arūpaṃ `nāman'ti vuc­cati.[6]

And this is the standard definition of nāma in Abhidhamma com­pendiums and commentaries. The idea of bending towards an object is brought in to explain the word nāma. It may be that they thought it too simple an interpretation to explain nāma with reference to `name', particularly be­cause it is a term that has to do with deep in­sight. However as far as the teachings in the sut­tas are concerned, nāma still has a great depth even when it is understood in the sense of `name'.

"Name has conquered everything,
There is nothing greater than name,
All have gone un­der the sway
Of this one thing called name."

Also there is another verse of the same type, but unfortunately its original meaning is often ig­nored by the present day com­men­tators:
"Beings are conscious of what can be named,
They are estab­lished on the nameable,
By not comprehending the nameable things,
They come under the yoke of death."


All this shows that the word nāma has a deep significance even when it is taken in the sense of `name'.

But now let us see whether there is something wrong in ren­dering nāma by `name' in the case of the term nāma-rūpa. To begin with, let us turn to the definition of nāma-rūpa as given by the Venerable Sāriputta in the Sammādiṭṭhisutta of the Majjhima Nikāya.

"Feel­ing, perception, inten­tion, contact, attention - this, friend, is called `name'. The four great primaries and form dependent on the four great pri­maries - this, friend, is called `form'. So this is `name' and this is `form' - this, friend, is called `name-and-form'."

Well, this seems lucid enough as a definition but let us see, whether there is any justification for regarding feeling, percep­tion, intention, contact and attention as `name'. Suppose there is a little child, a toddler, who is still unable to speak or understand language. Someone gives him a rubber ball and the child has seen it for the first time. If the child is told that it is a rubber ball, he might not under­stand it. How does he get to know that ob­ject? He smells it, feels it, and tries to eat it, and finally rolls it on the floor. At last he under­stands that it is a plaything. Now the child has recog­nised the rubber ball not by the name that the world has given it, but by those factors included un­der `name' in nāma-rūpa, namely feeling, perception, intention, contact and at­tention.

This shows that the definition of nāma in nāma-rūpa takes us back to the most fundamental no­tion of `name', to something like its prototype. The world gives a name to an object for pur­poses of easy communication. When it gets the sanction of oth­ers, it becomes a convention.
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Re: The Dhamma according to Ven. Katukurunde Nanananda

Postby Pondera » Thu Sep 08, 2011 6:35 pm

You can exist in a state of uninterrupted, non-fabricated, unadulterated, creative amalgamy; and you will surely lose sight of "name and form". And when you fall out of such a state into a lower state of the percipient-perceptible-perception there arises the onset of name and form.

In the amalgamy of the uninterrupted; the non-fabricated; the unadulterated; and the creative; -form and name have no meaning, no form within. It is only when one descends out from that amalgamation of the uninterrupted; the non-fabricated; the unadulterated; and the creative; that the world is viewed as something other than what is allowed for in the amalgamation of the uninterrupted, the non-fabricated, the unadulterated, and the creative.

Hence, from outside the amalgamation, but still within it, though grossly deceived, there is form and perception. Whereas previously, there was only creative distention within the fermentation, perception surely arises as a "thing"; being distinct from the world around it. Thus a false apprehension of an outside world and the perception of it allow for name and form.

-Pondera
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Re: The Dhamma according to Ven. Katukurunde Nanananda

Postby Travis » Thu Sep 08, 2011 7:00 pm

Pondera, I see this as a general comment in regards to name-and-form, but would you like to directly relate it to the overall topic ("The Dhamma according to Ven. Katukurunde Nanananda")?
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Re: The Dhamma according to Ven. Katukurunde Nanananda

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Sep 08, 2011 7:04 pm

I think he is a brilliant thinker and a far better writer than some. Also, for someone who seriously questions the commentarial tradition, it is refreshing to see that he is not a rebirth denier.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: The Dhamma according to Ven. Katukurunde Nanananda

Postby Alex123 » Thu Sep 08, 2011 7:10 pm

In one of his Nibbāna sermons the Venerable has said an interesting thing:

"Knowledge and understanding are very often associated with words and concepts, so much so that if one knows the name of a thing, one is supposed to know it. Because of this misconception the world is in a tangle. Names and concepts, particularly the nouns, perpetuate the ignorance in the world.
Therefore insight is the only path of release. And that is why a meditator practically comes down to the level of a child in order to understand name and form. He may even have to pretend to be a patient in slowing down his movements for the sake of developing mindfulness and full awareness.
"- Nibbāna sermon #1 .

I agree very much with that statement. Words at best are only pointers, they are never 100% the exact same thing that they point to. But, I believe that they are not 100% meaningless either. If they were meaningless, then we could not learn or communicate anything.

I've read a lot of different views about the nature of wholes & parts, universals & particulars, words and reality, and I believe in pragmatic usage rather than dogmatic adherence to one or the other extreme. This is why practice is so important, we need to make actual use of the instructions and see rather than accumulate more words, no matter how "ultimate" those words are. IMHO.

With best wishes,

Alex
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Re: The Dhamma according to Ven. Katukurunde Nanananda

Postby Travis » Thu Sep 08, 2011 7:13 pm

Thanks Tilt.
Here is an instance (I posted in another topic) where Nanananda refers to rebirth.
From Sermon 3 http://www.nibbanam.com/nibbana_sermon3e.htm:

...in the case of the saṃsāric individual, even if he does not entertain an intention or thought construct, if he has at least the latency, anusaya, that is enough for him to be reborn in some form of existence or other.

That is why the Buddha has preached such an important discourse as the Cetanāsutta of the Nidāna Saṃyutta in the Saṃyutta Nikāya. It runs:

"Monks, whatever one intends, whatever one mentally constructs, whatever lies latent, that becomes an object for the stationing of consciousness. There being an object, there comes to be an establishment of consciousness. When that consciousness is established and grown, there is the descent of name-and-form. Dependent on name-and-form the six sense-bases come to be; ...the six sense-bases, contact; ...contact, feeling; ...feeling, craving; ... craving, grasping; ...grasping, becoming; ...becoming, birth; ...birth, decay-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair come to be. Such is the arising of this entire mass of suffering." Then comes the second instance:

"Monks, even if one does not intend or construct mentally, but has a latency, that becomes an object for the stationing of consciousness. There being an object, there comes to be the establishment of consciousness. When that consciousness is established and grown, there is the descent of name-and-form. Dependent on name-and-form the six sense-bases come to be; ...the six sense-bases, contact; ...contact, feeling; ...feeling, craving; ... craving, grasping; ...grasping, becoming; ...becoming, birth; ...birth, decay-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair come to be. Such is the arising of this entire mass of suffering."

The significance of this second paragraph is that it speaks of a person who, at the time of death, has no intentions or thought constructs as such. But he has the latency. This itself is sufficient as an object for the stationing of consciousness. It is as if he has turned his back to the camera, but got photographed all the same, due to his very presence there. Now comes the third instance:

"But, monks, when one neither intends, nor constructs mentally, and has no latency either, then there is not that object for the stationing of consciousness. There being no object, there is no establishment of consciousness. When consciousness is not established and not grown up, there is no descent of name-and-form, and with the cessation of name-and-form, there comes to be the cessation of the six sense-bases; ...the six sense-bases, contact; ...contact, feeling; ...feeling, craving; ... craving, grasping; ...grasping, becoming; ...becoming, birth; ...birth, decay-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair. Thus is the cessation of this entire mass of suffering."

This third instance is the most significant. In the first instance, there were the intentions, thought constructs and latency. In the second instance, that person had no intentions or thought constructs, but only latency was there. In this third instances, there is neither an intention, nor a thought construct, and not even a latency.

It is then that there comes to be no object for the stationing of consciousness. There being no object, there is no establishment of consciousness, and when consciousness is unestablished and not grown, there is no descent of name-and-form. Where there is no descent of name-and-form, there at last comes to be that cessation of name-and-form with which the six sense-bases, and all the rest of it, down to the entire mass of saṃsāric suffering, cease altogether then and there.


He elaborates a little more in Sermon 4 http://www.nibbanam.com/nibbana_sermon4e.htm :

On the one hand, for the sustenance and growth of name-and-form in a mother's womb, consciousness is necessary. On the other hand, consciousness necessarily requires an object for its stability. It could be some times an intention, or else a thought construct. In the least, it needs a trace of latency, or anusaya."

"Anusaya, or latency, is a word of special significance. What is responsible for rebirth, or punabbhava, is craving, which very often has the epithet ponobhavikā attached to it. The latency to craving is particularly instrumental in giving one yet another birth to fare on in saṃsāra. There is also a tendency to ignorance, which forms the basis of the latency to craving. It is the tendency to get attached to worldly concepts, without understanding them for what they are. That tendency is a result of ignorance in the worldlings and it is in itself a latency. In the sutta terminology the word nissaya is often used to denote it. The cognate word nissita is also used alongside. It means `one who associates something', while nissaya means `association'."

"The person who is attached is quite unlike the released person. Because he is not released, he always has a forward bent or inclination. In fact, this is the nature of craving. It bends one forward. In some suttas dealing with the question of rebirth, such as the Kutūhalasālāsutta, craving itself is sometimes called the grasping, upādāna.
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Re: The Dhamma according to Ven. Katukurunde Nanananda

Postby Travis » Thu Sep 08, 2011 7:20 pm

Alex123 wrote:I agree very much with that statement. Words at best are only pointers, they are never 100% the exact same thing that they point to. But, I believe that they are not 100% meaningless either. If they were meaningless, then we could not learn or communicate anything.

I've read a lot of different views about the nature of wholes & parts, universals & particulars, words and reality, and I believe in pragmatic usage rather than dogmatic adherence to one or the other extreme. This is why practice is so important, we need to make actual use of the instructions and see rather than accumulate more words, no matter how "ultimate" those words are. IMHO.


I agree. It's often difficult because of the pragmatic necessity of words to slow down enough to place attention on what they signify. I think we become accustomed to "short hand" experience and writing the fiction of our lives, that much of what is actually happening passes by unnoticed.
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Re: The Dhamma according to Ven. Katukurunde Nanananda

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Sep 08, 2011 7:22 pm

Hi Travis,

I find Ven Nanandada very interesting. We have a had many discussions in the past, so you might find it useful to consult:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=2042
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=6440
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=288
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=5060
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=29&t=7464
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=4700
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... start=2460
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 20#p146270
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=7338

Many of Ven Nanananda's SN translations have been discussed in the Study Group:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewforum.php?f=25

:anjali:
Mike

and I quoted extensively from the Nibbana Sermons in our discussions of the last chapter of the Sutta Nipata.

Many links here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katukurund ... anda_Thera

Sorry for not responding in a more focussed way, but in the above there are many comparisons.

:anjali:
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Re: The Dhamma according to Ven. Katukurunde Nanananda

Postby Travis » Thu Sep 08, 2011 7:35 pm

Thanks, Mike. I have all the topics where he has been mentioned set up to look through, so your suggestions will be helpful! I was almost going to just read the search results, but thought it might be helpful for some interactive discussion (fishing vs being given a fish :smile: )
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Re: The Dhamma according to Ven. Katukurunde Nanananda

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Sep 08, 2011 8:19 pm

Hi Travis,

I've made an effort to point out threads containing issues that I think are interesting. That Ven N's interpretation of nama-rupa has some similarities to the Brahmin use of the term, as it should, since that's where the Buddha probably derived it from; How Ven N argues for a relatively momentary interpretation of DO, but doesn't use that as an argument for rejecting rebirth teachings in the suttas; and so on.

:anjali:
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Re: The Dhamma according to Ven. Katukurunde Nanananda

Postby Pondera » Thu Sep 08, 2011 8:32 pm

Travis wrote:Pondera, I see this as a general comment in regards to name-and-form, but would you like to directly relate it to the overall topic ("The Dhamma according to Ven. Katukurunde Nanananda")?


In regards to name and form, from what I can see, the Ven. Katukurunde Nanananda is well informed.

The Ven. Katukurunde Nanananda is, for all I know, completely qualified to teach the Dhamma.
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Re: The Dhamma according to Ven. Katukurunde Nanananda

Postby robertk » Fri Sep 09, 2011 5:16 am

Just another person who thinks he knows better than the ancients.
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Re: The Dhamma according to Ven. Katukurunde Nanananda

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Sep 09, 2011 7:36 am

robertk wrote:Just another person who thinks he knows better than the ancients.
Have you read any of his stuff? Maybe his extensive footnotes in his small Samyutta Nikaya anthology? While he disagrees with the commentarians on some points, he is respectful of them, which a lot anti-commentarial type certainly are not.

He is also deeply respectful of the suttas in that he takes the utmost care in listening to what they say. While he may not always be correct about everything he says, he, above others who might disagree with the commentaries, is worth listening to for his depth of knowledge of the suttas and Pali.


Here, Robert, read through this, then tell us what you think:
Samyutta Nikaya
An Anthology by Bhikkhu Ñanananda
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: The Dhamma according to Ven. Katukurunde Nanananda

Postby Travis » Fri Sep 09, 2011 1:09 pm

Pondera wrote:In regards to name and form, from what I can see, the Ven. Katukurunde Nanananda is well informed.
The Ven. Katukurunde Nanananda is, for all I know, completely qualified to teach the Dhamma.


Pondera, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

mikenz66 wrote:How Ven N argues for a relatively momentary interpretation of DO, but doesn't use that as an argument for rejecting rebirth teachings in the suttas; and so on.


Mike, I don't know that I haven see the use of momentary dependent origination outside of attempts to refute rebirth, since that is clearly not the case for Nanananda can you see how it could serve any other purpose (an alterior/negative motive) other than a respectful correction, as it seems to be to me? By "respectful correction" I mean does it seem like he is honestly trying to put forth what he finds to be true.

robertk wrote:Just another person who thinks he knows better than the ancients.


Hello robertk, thanks for posting!

I'm very interested in this view point in particular. Would you care to explain any thoughts that you have on this, either in regards to what you have found reading some of Nanananda's writings, or any general thoughts/feelings you have about the notion of contradicting the ancients (I read as regarding the Commentaries)?

My reaction to this notion of "knowing better than the ancients" is that the commentaries (in my limited experience) often seem to putting forth suggestions as well as clarifications, and if this is case then does it not leave it open in some ways for others to attempt to similarly make suggestions as additions to the commentaries? It is not as if Nanananda is suggesting that the Suttas themselves are wrong, only acting on the assumption that there may have been conditions that resulted in the Commentaries making an erroneous suggested interpretation. I personally do not think that he ultimately undermines the authority of the ancients, because I do believe that these errors were possible and they are open to addition.

tiltbillings wrote:
He is also deeply respectful of the suttas in that he takes the utmost care in listening to what they say. While he may not always be correct about everything he says, he, above others who might disagree with the commentaries, is worth listening to for his depth of knowledge of the suttas and Pali.


Tilt, I find this to be true, as well.

"...he may not always be correct..." Can be read in two ways. One is that you hold a reasonable amount of skepticism towards Nanananda, which is what I think you are saying. The other case is that you have some sense of where he might be incorrect. If it is the second, please share your thoughts, even if it is only some notion of "might be" and not a fully formed argument that you are certain is correct.
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Re: The Dhamma according to Ven. Katukurunde Nanananda

Postby Alex123 » Fri Sep 09, 2011 1:18 pm

robertk wrote:Just another person who thinks he knows better than the ancients.


So living in ancient time is an unquestionable proof of validity? And which ancients are you talking about? Devadatta, Sāti, Ariṭṭha? They lived in the Buddha's order, they seen him face to face. They studied under the Buddha. Did that make them totally correct?
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Re: The Dhamma according to Ven. Katukurunde Nanananda

Postby pulga » Fri Sep 09, 2011 1:29 pm

His familiarity with the Suttas is amazing. And his enthusiasm in bringing to light some of the more obscure, enigmatic and thought-provoking passages from the Sutta Pitaka -- too often ignored, or avoided by other writers -- makes him well worth reading.
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Re: The Dhamma according to Ven. Katukurunde Nanananda

Postby Travis » Fri Sep 09, 2011 4:37 pm

Mike,
I have been reading from some of the past discussions that you posted and found something that begins to take my line of questioning a little deeper. This is something you said in a particularly good topic called Reincarnation viewtopic.php?f=16&t=9494&start=60#p146339

mikenz66 wrote:Now I'm completely confused. I thought we were discussing how the buddhist concept of "rebirth" differers from "reincarnation". So seems relevant to me to look at what Ven Nananda has to say about such things. He's an excellent scholar, and, as you say, has some very interesting analysis of possible interpretations of bhava, and a nice interpretation of dependent origination that differ from orthodox Theravada doctrine. So it seems highly relevant to the discussion that, judging from the passages that I quoted here: http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=9494&start=40#p146297, he also discusses the "standard rebirth" where beings physically die and beings are physically born. It's relevant because his "sophisticated exposition of "bhava"" is not used to construct an argument that such an interpretation of rebirth is mistaken, whereas he does argue that the standard interpretation of dependent origination is mistaken. Or, at least, that's how I understand his writings.


In Nibbana Sermons he seems to downplay DO as the twelve links (which he characterizes as an illustration of the principle of DO) and emphasizes this/that (or this/this) conditionality.

From Nibbana Sermon #2 http://beyondthenet.net/calm/nibbana02.htm
"But with the complete fading away and cessation of ignorance, comes the cessation of preparations; with the cessation of preparations, the cessation of consciousness; with the cessation of consciousness, the cessation of name-and-form; with the cessation of name-and-form, the cessation of the six sense-bases; with the cessation of the six sense-bases, the cessation of contact; with the cessation of contact, the cessation of feeling; with the cessation of feeling, the cessation of craving; with the cessation of craving, the cessation of grasping; with the cessation of grasping, the cessation of becoming; with the cessation of be­coming, the cessation of birth; with the cessation of birth, the cessation of decay-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair cease to be. Thus is the cessation of this entire mass of suffering."

This is the thematic statement of the law of pañicca samuppàda. It is set out here in the form of a fundamental principle. Imasmiü sati idaü hoti, "this being, this comes to be." Imassuppàdà idaü uppajjati, "with the arising of this, this arises." Imasmiü asati idaü na hoti, "this not being, this does not come to be". Imassa nirodhà idaü nirujjhati, "with the cessation of this, this ceases." It resembles an algebraical formula.

And then we have the conjunctive yadidaü, which means "namely this" or "that is to say". This shows that the foregoing statement is axiomatic and implies that what follows is an illustration. So the twelve linked formula beginning with the words avijjàpaccayà saïkhàrà is that illustration. No doubt the twelve-linked formula is impressive enough. But the important thing here is the basic principle involved, and that is the fourfold statement beginning with imasmiü sati.


What do you make of this shift of emphasis? Any implications, other than "breaking the link :jumping: " between DO and rebirth?
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Re: The Dhamma according to Ven. Katukurunde Nanananda

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Sep 09, 2011 5:34 pm

Travis wrote:What do you make of this shift of emphasis? Any implications, other than "breaking the link :jumping: " between DO and rebirth?
Certainly the first quote you give here does tie paticcasamuppada to literal rebirth:


viewtopic.php?f=13&t=9614#p147838
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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