A Note on Fundamental Structure by Ven. Nanamoli

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A Note on Fundamental Structure by Ven. Nanamoli

Postby nyanasuci » Sat Aug 21, 2010 12:18 pm

A Note on Fundamental Structure :: good guideline how to approach Ven. Nanavira's FS
written by Ven. N. Nanamoli

http://pathpress.wordpress.com/2010/08/ ... structure/

:coffee:
Bhikkhu Hiriko - Ñāṇasuci

The experts do not say that one is a sage in this world because of view, or learning, or knowledge, Nanda.
I call them sages who wander without association, without affliction, without desire.

The Buddha, Sn.V.8.2 (1078)


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Re: A Note on Fundamental Structure by Ven. Nanamoli

Postby BlackBird » Sun Aug 22, 2010 12:00 am

Still fairly obtuse ;)
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: A Note on Fundamental Structure by Ven. Nanamoli

Postby Prasadachitta » Sun Aug 22, 2010 6:30 pm

This seems adequate to me for describing "Fundamental Structure". The complicated proofs are a bit over the top from my perspective.

"The main point is that one has to recognize that a positive thing draws it’s existence from its negative possibilities."

Ven. Nanamoli
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332
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Re: A Note on Fundamental Structure by Ven. Nanamoli

Postby pulga » Wed Mar 30, 2011 4:54 pm

I came across a draft of a letter that Ven. Ñanavira's wrote to Ven. Ñanamoli (http://nanavira.blogspot.com/2008/11/el-142-5i1959.html). I think it gives some insights into Fundamental Structure.


I cannot agree that in oscillation the point (or rather area) that is not "seen" with the eye is "remembered" with the mind. Both are seen, or present to eye-consciousness, but the one that is past is present within the later one (it turns out that to be within the present one—as the centre of what is central—is to be over-determined and therefore past—either it is seen as the central detail of the present, or it is seen as being the same size as the present, but past; this may be incomprehensible to you, but that is how I find it); and furthermore, since the whole of the past is present in this way, the question of remembering or forgetting does not arise. But I am speaking of the most fundamental level—pure immediacy—and your description, so I take it, is on a certain reflexive level, where, of course, remembering and forgetting (and horizons) have their natural habitation. But unless the whole of the past is somehow basically given it cannot be "there" (as it were) "to be either forgotten or remembered", it cannot be available.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_TAfgV5uSQDk/S ... l142-1.gif

...I have just thought of an illustration of the remark I made earlier about the past being a detail of the present. Consider this set of squares: —This can be seen in either of two mutually exclusive ways: (i) as a set of progressively smaller squares each enclosed within a larger one, the whole being a flat figure; or (ii) as a receding 'corridor' of equal sized squares one behind the other, the whole being a solid figure. The relation of each smaller square to the larger one enclosing it is thus either 'smaller, but equally here' or 'equal, but further away'. If you read present for here and past for further away you will perhaps get some idea of what I am trying to say.[b] This illustration, of course, does not prove anything; nor is it the basis of an 'argument by analogy', since I had already worked out the present-past structure before thinking of this illustration.[c] The illustration also serves (not accidentally) to represent Whitehead's definition of a point by enclosure-volumes (or areas), or (or rather and) his definition of a moment by enclosure-durations. (I say and rather than or because the two are inseparable—the figure represents the structure of here-now.[d]

[b] "Smaller but equally present" is the reflexive view, whereas "Equal but past" is the immediate view. These two views are always superposed.

[c] Note, however, that an ambiguous illustration is needed to convey the structure of the ambiguous situation expressed in the words "the past is present". The ambiguity is due to superposition (cf. glass showcase).

[d] Each smaller area is more particularly here and more particularly now than the one that encloses it.


This letter was written in January of 1959, so it is regarded as one of his "early letters", but I don't see how it deviates from any of his later views. (Or is it that at that time he identified pure immediacy with the "past" rather than with the eternal [or atemporal]?)
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Re: A Note on Fundamental Structure by Ven. Nanamoli

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Mar 31, 2011 12:34 am

Greetings,
gabrielbranbury wrote:"The main point is that one has to recognize that a positive thing draws it’s existence from its negative possibilities." -Ven. Nanamoli

Yes, and that this, in itself, is a process of perception and cognition.

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: A Note on Fundamental Structure by Ven. Nanamoli

Postby pulga » Thu Mar 31, 2011 4:21 am

I must admit that the main reason for my reviving this thread is that I think that Ven. Ñanavira has a profound insight to offer those who are willing to grapple with his ideas. Whether or not he was a sotápanna, I really don't know. But that matter, and what some consider to be his arrogance, shouldn't have any bearing on the merits of his ideas. It may be un-Ñanaviran and un-Buddhist of me, but I think his ideas hold up even quite apart from scriptural support. That's not to say that they are without such support, only that their merit can be appreciated from one's own direct experience.

The nature of the pre-reflexive, immediate world is really quite fascinating. It's sort of the seat of our sense of presence or being that always lies beyond our gaze. An understanding of its structure might very well prove liberating.

It's striking that so few Buddhists seem willing or inclined to try to understand it.
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Re: A Note on Fundamental Structure by Ven. Nanamoli

Postby daverupa » Thu Mar 31, 2011 8:50 am

pulga wrote:I think his ideas hold up even quite apart from scriptural support.


The Fundamental Structure he lays out has two Sutta passages as its sole foundation; apart from this scriptural support, there is no Fundamental Structure to be described. Nanavira is, in essence, making a commentary on these two passages and extrapolating from them.

reference

pulga wrote:That's not to say that they are without such support, only that their merit can be appreciated from one's own direct experience.


As can the entirety of the Dhamma. That Nanavira's commentary can be appreciated from one's own experience in the same way is true only to the extent that he is correctly extrapolating from the Dhamma.

pulga wrote:It's striking that so few Buddhists seem willing or inclined to try to understand it.


Well...

Nanavira wrote:The Note on Fundamental Structure perhaps needs a remark. It is offered as an instrument of thought to those who are looking for something on these lines, and such people will probably find it self-explanatory. The fact that it is unfinished is of no great consequence, since anyone who succeeds in following what there is of it will be able to continue it for himself as far as he pleases. Those who are unable to understand what it is all about would be best advised to ignore it altogether: not everybody needs this kind of apparatus in order to think effectively.


So actually, those Buddhists who are unwilling to pursue it or who find it unnecessary can be seen as simply following Nanavira's own advice on the matter.

:heart:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: A Note on Fundamental Structure by Ven. Nanamoli

Postby pulga » Thu Mar 31, 2011 12:50 pm

I didn't mean to provoke antagonism, and I have no intention of getting into a negative dialogue with anyone. If I offended anyone, I apologize.

In Letter 44 the Ven. Ñanavira writes:

"Now the Buddha is concerned with transforming the puthujjana into an arahat, that is to say, with removing the undesirable complications of passionate chess in order to restore the parity of dispassionate chess; and for this purpose an examination of the structure of the chessboard is clearly an irrelevant matter, since it is exactly the same in both kinds of chess. In this way it may perhaps be seen that an understanding of the Dhamma does not depend on an understanding of Fundamental Structure, and takes precedence. A study of Fundamental Structure may, however, be found necessary (at least in times when the Dhamma is no longer properly understood, which rather seems to be the situation today) in order to re-establish this important fact (for, of course, an understanding of what is not the Dhamma may lead to an understanding of what is the Dhamma)."(emphasis mine)

My purpose for posting is to discuss Ven. Ñanavira's ideas and his approach to Dhamma in a thoughtful, profitable manner. If some Buddhists are offended by the claim that their understanding of the Dhamma is lacking in some way -- I'd be the first to admit that mine is -- then I ask that they be patient with those of us who are still trying to ascertain the fundamental insight that the Buddha has to offer.

The reason for my wish to de-emphasize (but not dismiss) the Pali scriptures is that I didn't want the discussion to get bogged down in obscure, enigmatic quotations that may already presuppose a level of ariyan right view that very few, perhaps none, of us have. What I find appealing in Ven. Ñanavira's writings is that they are a convincing approach to understanding a profound aspect of our existence, the nature of our immediate experience, the given world before we reflect upon it.
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Re: A Note on Fundamental Structure by Ven. Nanamoli

Postby daverupa » Thu Mar 31, 2011 8:25 pm

I wasn't trying to be antagonistic, in case my response was taken as such. I'm actually something of a fan of Nanavira, and wish he'd had better health so he might've written a practical, experiential commentary on anapanasati. We might say he was among the first Western Buddhists to adopt the Modern Theravada approach.

Nanavira remarks in the Notes that until sotapanna one oughtn't dare to assume one's understanding of the Dhamma is precisely correct, a warning we could all benefit from internalizing. My main take from his writings is that the Suttas are necessary and sufficient for deriving the Dhamma, which is delightful news in the modern day for the Dhammanusaris among us. This also assists with the 'obscure, enigmatic' parts of the Nikayas you wished to avoid getting bogged down by, so I say take heart - a mind which understands Fundamental Structure is able to parse those Suttas with some applied and sustained thought (a knowledge of Pali helps tremendously, as Nanavira suggests), and ones meditation practice is enriched thereby.

Fundamental Structure is an awesome extrapolation of a naturalized epistemology, and it is the root of why the Dhamma works without any metaphysics at all, but that 'why' is tangential (though it'd probably earn you a Ph.D. in Philosophy, if you built it up). Nanavira committed suicide because his ailments meant he couldn't attain jhana, and wrote what he did as a runner-up contribution. Given that, I remain gratefully convinced that the Suttas are a sufficient gateway to the Dhamma, I take note of Fundamental Structure every time I remark that the Dhamma is void of ontology, and I strive to do what Nanavira desired to do more than writing such things - develop jhana.

:heart:

"Practice jhana, monks. Don't be heedless. Don't later fall into regret. This is our message to you." — SN 35.145
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: A Note on Fundamental Structure by Ven. Nanamoli

Postby pulga » Thu Mar 31, 2011 11:13 pm

daverupa wrote: My main take from his writings is that the Suttas are necessary and sufficient for deriving the Dhamma, which is delightful news in the modern day for the Dhammanusaris among us.



I'm not really sure how you arrived at that conclusion. Didn't Ven. Ñanavira write that in the absence of an enlightened teacher some of the ideas of the existentialists (probably because of their allegiance to phenomenology) had something to offer those who were trying to come to understand the suttas on their own? And that he himself had benefited from his study of their writings? The "static" and "dynamic" in the sub-headings of FS are exactly what Sartre used in his chapter on temporality in Being and Nothingness. In fact FS's explication of time bears a resemblance to Husserl's theory of the hierarchical nature of internal time consciousness, something that Ven. Bodhesako points out in his editorial notes to Clearing the Path. I have personally found that Heidegger's writings have benefited me in trying to understand Ven. Ñanavira's approach to the Dhamma. Of course the marginalia that he inscribed in the books of Sartre and Heidegger while he carefully read them shows how he significantly disagreed with them, but believe me they were an influence on him. (Heidegger more through his influence on Sartre, since the translation of Being & Time wasn't published until 1962.) I regard FS as phenomenological -- as Ven. Ñanavira said it was -- a phenomenological ontology that exhibits the incoherency of anything independent of change, and that includes our awareness of change. I only wish that Ven. Ñanavira had written it in a less cryptic manner, though I suppose he thought he was being "elegant".

I do not mean to underplay the need to develop samádhi, nor to devalue a familiarity with the suttas in the original Pali, but there are countless people proficient in both who fail to inspire me. Perhaps I'm more inclined towards putting a greater emphasis on samma-ditthi, which of course in accordance with the suttas comes first. A greater confidence and clarity in one's understanding of the Dhamma also has a way of inspiring one towards fulfilling all of the other factors of the path.

As for why Ven. Ñanavira committed suicide, I think only he can answer that. His letters probably don't give the full reflection of his heart. He comes across as a private and stoic individual: anomie and the underlying complexity of mood probably played their part.
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Re: A Note on Fundamental Structure by Ven. Nanamoli

Postby daverupa » Sat Apr 02, 2011 6:53 am

pulga wrote:
daverupa wrote: My main take from his writings is that the Suttas are necessary and sufficient for deriving the Dhamma...

I'm not really sure how you arrived at that conclusion. Didn't Ven. Ñanavira write that in the absence of an enlightened teacher some of the ideas of the existentialists (probably because of their allegiance to phenomenology) had something to offer those who were trying to come to understand the suttas on their own? And that he himself had benefited from his study of their writings?


Nanavira writes:

"Let there be no mistake in the matter: the existential philosophies are not a substitute for the Buddha's Teaching -- for which, indeed, there can be no substitute."

"There is no suggestion, of course, that it is necessary to become an existentialist philosopher before one can understand the Buddha: every intelligent man questions himself quite naturally about the nature and significance of his own existence, and provided he refuses to be satisfied with the first ready-made answer that he is offered he is as well placed as anyone to grasp the Buddha's Teaching when he hears it."

pulga wrote:I regard FS as phenomenological -- as Ven. Ñanavira said it was -- a phenomenological ontology...


Phenomenological - but not ontological. He makes this clear in the first footnote to the Static section by writing, "An existing thing is an experience, either present or (in some degree) absent (i.e. either immediately or more or less remotely present)." His use of the term 'existence' is therefore without any metaphysical commitments.

pulga wrote:I do not mean to underplay the need to develop samádhi, nor to devalue a familiarity with the suttas in the original Pali, but there are countless people proficient in both who fail to inspire me. Perhaps I'm more inclined towards putting a greater emphasis on samma-ditthi, which of course in accordance with the suttas comes first. A greater confidence and clarity in one's understanding of the Dhamma also has a way of inspiring one towards fulfilling all of the other factors of the path.


Agreed, as the other path factors "run and circle around Right View", just so long as one recognizes that there comes a time to disembark on the Dhamma raft and not simply admire its construction.

:heart:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: A Note on Fundamental Structure by Ven. Nanamoli

Postby pulga » Sat Apr 02, 2011 2:15 pm

daverupa wrote:Nanavira writes:

"Let there be no mistake in the matter: the existential philosophies are not a substitute for the Buddha's Teaching -- for which, indeed, there can be no substitute."


Further down Ven. Ñanavira writes:

None the less many people, on first coming across the Suttas, are puzzled to know what their relevance is in the elaborate context of modern thought; and for them an indication that the existential philosophies (in their general methods, that is to say, rather than their individual conclusions) afford a way of approach to the Suttas may be helpful.

Given the sheer volume of quotes and references to the existentialists that fill his writings I have to regard that as a colossal understatement. In any case, from my experience it is those who are fully acquainted with the likes of Sartre, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, etc. who seem to have made inroads into undestanding Notes on Dhamma, particularly FS. (I once met someone who was convinced that Notes on Dhamma was a synopsis of the teachings of Krishnamurti; not surprisingly he knew nothing of phenomenology.)


daverupa wrote:Phenomenological - but not ontological. He makes this clear in the first footnote to the Static section by writing, "An existing thing is an experience, either present or (in some degree) absent (i.e. either immediately or more or less remotely present)." His use of the term 'existence' is therefore without any metaphysical commitments.


You've elided his reference to Erlebnis (a technical term in Phenomenology) in defining what he means by "an experience", not to mention his referring his readers to his notes on náma and rúpa. (The note on rúpa itself refers one with approval to an aspect of Heidegger's fundamental ontology which claims that in the absence of Dasein entities cannot be said to exist or not exist -- which is pretty much in the spirit of his view on the relationship between náma, rúpa, and viññána.)

I must admit that I'm woefully ignorant of what ontology is associated with in other schools of philosophy (or why it is such a naughty word amongst some Buddhists), but from what I understand of phenomenology it merely means an inquiry into what it means to be, the logos of being. And since "'to be', and 'to be present' are the same thing" perhaps Ven. Ñanavira's shorter note on viññána might clarify what I mean by ontology:

'To be' and 'to be present' are the same thing. But note that 'being' as bhava, involves the existence of the (illusory) subject, and with cessation of the conceit (concept) '(I) am', asmimāna, there is cessation of being, bhavanirodha. With the arahat, there is just presence of the phenomenon ('This is present'), instead of the presence (or existence) of an apparent 'subject' to whom there is present an 'object' ('I am, and this is present to [or for] me', i.e. [what appears to be] the subject is present ['I am'], the object is present ['this is'], and the object concerns or 'belongs to' the subject [the object is 'for me' or 'mine']

Ñanavira denies the validity of bháva, the being of the subject, but not the being of phenomena, and it is the being of phenomena that FS deals with, i.e how their different levels of being are hierachically structured. And that for me is an ontology.
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Re: A Note on Fundamental Structure by Ven. Nanamoli

Postby daverupa » Sun Apr 03, 2011 6:43 am

pulga wrote:In any case, from my experience it is those who are fully acquainted with the likes of Sartre, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, etc. who seem to have made inroads into undestanding Notes on Dhamma, particularly FS.)


The point is not to understand Nanavira, but the Dhamma. I agree that existentialism can be relevant in approaching an understanding of the purpose of the Dhamma, but only as pertains to enunciating the First Noble Truth, i.e. that there is a problem of angst. However, despite being enunciated by various philosophers, it delivers neither a coherent description of the free individual nor the path to actualising that freedom. The Dhamma is free of these defects, describing angst together with cause, remedy, and application.

As an aside, existentialism thoroughly fails to grasp anatta, which is probably why the solution isn't grasped.

pulga wrote:Ñanavira denies the validity of bháva, the being of the subject, but not the being of phenomena, and it is the being of phenomena that FS deals with, i.e how their different levels of being are hierachically structured. And that for me is an ontology.


Our difference of opinion here is probably merely semantic.

:heart:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: A Note on Fundamental Structure by Ven. Nanamoli

Postby pulga » Sun Apr 03, 2011 5:09 pm

I don't think that it was existentialism that strengthened the Ven Ñanavira's skill in dhammavicaya as much as it was contrasting the Suttas with his own personal experience, then contrasting that with the phenomenologies of Husserl and Sartre. He came to Heidegger late, but was clearly more impressed with his thought than either of the two. (The Ñanavirans have posted his marginalia to Being and Time on the web which I only came across recently. Much thanks to them for doing so.) What is striking about Heidegger is that despite his radical anti-Cartesianism, he still recognized that Dasein always sees itself as "mine". Consequently his writings are from the standpoint of a puthujjana, but in a most profound and impressive way.

Whatever the case, Ven Ñanavira cuts to the heart of the puthujjana's situation. And I find his explanation of the structure of experience and the nature of reflection fundamentally deepens my practice in satisampajañña and samádhi. His insights are radical, but aren't always so hard to understand or to verify (cf. Ven. Bodhesako's writings on the structure of time in Changes).

Thanks for replying to my posts. I was hoping to elicit some explanations of some of the more cryptic passages from FS, but it doesn't appear that there is much interest in the subject. So I'll toil on alone.

Take care,

pulga
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Re: A Note on Fundamental Structure by Ven. Nanamoli

Postby pulga » Thu Apr 07, 2011 7:06 pm

I understand it now, at least as far as the static aspect. I have yet to really study the dynamic aspect.
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