Alex123 wrote:How can different elements in Dependent Origination be indistinguishable? Of course they have different referents and are different elements with different natures.
Ven. Ñāṇananda, Concept and Reality In Early Buddhist Thought (p. 87):
- The primary significance of the formula of Dependent Arising lies here. Lists of phenomena, both mental and material, are linked together with the term "paccayā" or any of its equivalents, and the fact of their conditionality and non-substantiality is emphasized with the help of analysis and synthesis. Apart from serving the immediate purpose of their specific application, these formulas help us to attune our minds in order to gain paññā. Neither the words in these formulas, nor the formulas as such, are to be regarded as ultimate categories. We have to look not so much at them as through them. We must not miss the wood for the trees by dogmatically clinging to the words in the formulas as being ultimate categories. As concepts, they are merely the modes in which the flux of material and mental life has been arrested and split up in the realm of ideation....
Concept and Reality (pp. 55–56):
- Concepts – be they material or spiritual, worldly or transcendental – are not worthy of being grasped dogmatically. They are not to be treated as ultimate categories and are to be discarded in the course of the spiritual endeavour.... That the emancipated sage (muni) no longer clings even to such concepts as "nibbāna" or "detachment" (virāga) is clearly indicated in the following verse of the Sutta Nipāta:
"For the Brahmin (the Muni) who has transcended all bounds, there is nothing that is grasped by knowing or by seeing. He is neither attached to attachment nor is he attached to detachment. In this world, he has grasped nothing as the highest." [Sn 795]
Alex123 wrote:Here we have dhamma-s being born acquiring individuation, then aging, and finally ceasing. All in light-speed succession. The entire formulation of what is supposedly ultimately real has no reality other than mere conceptual designation (paññatti). It references no ultimate location or basis of designation. This proposition of radical momentary individuation is no more “real” than a unicorn. Sn 3.12: Dvayatānupassanā Sutta:
Entrenched in name and form,
They conceive that “This is true.”
In whatever way (worldlings) conceive it,
It turns out other than that.
For that is what is false about it.
Whatever is transitory certainly has a false nature.
But nibbāna does not have a false nature.
That the noble ones truly know.
Through fully comprehending the truth,
They are without hunger, quenched.
The conceiving is either about philosophical theories, self view or jhanas
The excerpt from that discourse has much broader implications. Ud 3.10 (Ud 32) Loka Sutta:
- This anguished world,
Afflicted by contact,
Speaks of a disease as self.
By whatever terms it conceives of (anything),
It turns out other than that.
Although becoming otherwise, the world is held by existence,
Afflicted by existence, yet delights in that very existence.
Where there is delight, there is fear.
What it fears is unsatisfactory.
This holy life is lived for the abandoning of that existence.
Whatever ascetics or brahmans say that emancipation from existence is by means of existence, all of them are not liberated from existence, I say.
And whatever ascetics or brahmans say that escape from existence is by means of non-existence, all of them have not escaped from existence, I say.
When one relinquishes infatuation with all apperceptions and conceptual designations regarding both existence and non-existence then it is possible to find peace.
Alex123 wrote:These examples have nothing to do with the theory of radical momentariness.
They do. Mind doesn't need to remain in "frozen" state for a long time. It is the fastest thing that changes with no simile as to how fast it can change.
The present moment ceases every moment and with more attention and the closer you look, the shorter it really is.
“Present moment” is another completely conceptual designation with no locatable referent whatsoever. When you look close enough it vanishes.
Ven. Sujato, The Mystique of the Abhidhamma:
- In the later abhidhamma, the treatment of time is dominated by a radical new theory, totally unlike anything in the suttas or even the canonical abhidhamma, the theory of moments (khaṇavāda). This postulates that time is constituted of a series of discrete, indivisible units, rather like a series of billiard balls lined up on a table. Each unit, or ‘moment’, is infinitesimally small, such that billions pass by in a lightning-flash. So while the suttas emphasize the length of time, the abhidhamma emphasizes the shortness. This theory shapes the abhidhamma conception of a whole range of central doctrines. Thus impermanence becomes, not simply being subject to birth and death, rise and fall, but the momentary dissolution of phenomena – one dhamma rises and ceases in an instant, leaving no trace of residue in the next. Samadhi becomes, not an exalted, stable coalescence of mind, but a ‘momentary samadhi’ running after the fluctuations of phenomena. The path becomes, not a gradual program of spiritual development, but a ‘path-moment’, gone in a flash. And the mind itself becomes just a series of ‘mind-moments’.
Now it is quite possible to take this theory, compare it with the suttas, and refute it point by point. But here I would simply like to point out what an implausible and useless idea it is. Quite obviously, time may be analyzed as finely as we wish, its divisibility determined only by the sharpness of our analytical razor. Any unit of time has a beginning, a middle, and an end. That beginning, too, has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and so on ad infinitum. There is simply no good reason to postulate an ultimate substratum of time to which other strata can be reduced. This idea seems to derive some of its impressiveness from its air of acrid, pessimistic, reductionist severity, which is often mistaken as a sign of really uncompromising wisdom.
The guiding objective for the formulation of the mind-moment theory would seem to be for exactitude of definition. So while the Buddha spoke of the mind ‘changing while it stands’, the abhidhamma just speaks of ‘standing’. It is much easier to define a static entity than a process evolving over time. This is why a butterfly collector wants to have his butterflies dead, with a pin stuck through their heart and a little label underneath, not madly meandering about in the woods. The dead mind. But the Buddha was not a butterfly collector, he was an observer of nature. He wanted us to watch the flight and flitter of the butterfly, to understand how it behaves in its natural environment, and to follow it gently, delicately, quietly until it settles down to rest and be still according to its nature – which he called ‘samadhi’....
Just what is going on here? Why postulate such an odd theory, raising so many pseudo-problems, and so contrary to the suttas, to common sense, and to experience? What is occurring, I suggest, is that the domain of discourse has been shifted from the empirical to the metaphysical. The suttas treat time in a straightforward, pragmatic, empirical terms – birth, ageing, and death, the changing states of the mind, the progressive development of spiritual qualities. The purpose, the sole purpose, is to empower the practitioner to get a handle on this stuff of life, directing attention to the seat of the problem – how our attachments cause suffering, and how to find peace by letting go. But the abhidhamma aims to describe, not just the spiritual problem and its solution, but the totality of existence. Inevitably, the subjective stance of the suttas becomes objectified, and as the focus moves from meditation to study, the concepts in the books become imposed on reality; in fact, they become reality itself. The quest for truth becomes a quest for definition, and reality becomes as neatly departmentalized as a mathematical table. ‘Ultimate reality’ becomes, not what you are experiencing now, but what you read about in abhidhamma books.
Find this hard to swallow? You might be interested to know that in contemporary abhidhamma circles it is, apparently, the orthodox position that the series of ‘mind-moments’ can only be directly seen by Buddhas, and perhaps chief disciples. This is, admittedly, challenged by some, who claim it can be seen in meditation. In just the same way, a Christian meditator will claim to see God, or a Hindu to see the universal Self. Seek and ye shall find. The very fact that such a controversy could possibly arise is a sign how far we have drifted from the Buddha’s pragmatic empiricism. This is bad enough; but even worse when we realize that the theory in question made its appearance a millennium after the Buddha’s time. This, for me, is as good as an admission that the whole thing is mere metaphysical speculation. No wonder the abhidhammikas have been so keen to father the canonical abhidhamma (and sometimes even the commentaries!) on the Buddha himself, despite massive evidence to the contrary.
All the best,