Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jun 30, 2010 8:00 am

Hi Geoff,

You certainly do have a clever way with words...

But it's hardly an existential tizzy. As I understand it, it's just part of the path to awakening.

As you say, we'll come to our own conclusions.

Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10130
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby Nyana » Wed Jun 30, 2010 8:05 am

mikenz66 wrote:But it's hardly an existential tizzy. As I understand it, it's just part of the path to awakening.

Would you not agree that bhangānupassanāñāṇa and bhayatupaṭṭhāñāṇa can induce existential anxiety, distress, agitation, angst, fear, dread, terror, confusion, helplessness, etc.?
Nyana
 
Posts: 2229
Joined: Tue Apr 27, 2010 11:56 am

Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby robertk » Wed Jun 30, 2010 8:42 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
And so I would draw out the phrase to mean: existential anxiety, distress, agitation, angst, fear, dread, terror, confusion, helplessness, etc., all of which I would characterize as emotionally exited states.

The commentarial view as it pertains to the stages of vipassanāñāṇa is intended to induce such affective/emotional responses in the practitioner at the stages of bhangānupassanāñāṇa and bhayatupaṭṭhāñāṇa. Summarizing bhayatupaṭṭhāñāṇa, Mahāsi Sayādaw says in his Visuddhiñāṇakathā:

    At that time, his mind itself is gripped by fear and seems helpless.


,

Geoff

That is not the Commentarial view and seems to be an idea very much at odd with the Commentaries.
User avatar
robertk
 
Posts: 1208
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:08 am

Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jun 30, 2010 8:44 am

Hi Geoff,
Ñāṇa wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:But it's hardly an existential tizzy. As I understand it, it's just part of the path to awakening.

Would you not agree that bhangānupassanāñāṇa and bhayatupaṭṭhāñāṇa can induce existential anxiety, distress, agitation, angst, fear, dread, terror, confusion, helplessness, etc.?


I'm interested to hear what your opinion is. I've no interest in pointless debate that attempts to prove that one particular interpretation is "correct".

Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10130
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby Nyana » Wed Jun 30, 2010 9:03 am

robertk wrote:That is not the Commentarial view and seems to be an idea very much at odd with the Commentaries.

Hi Robert,

That may very well be the case. Could you elaborate on what you see as the differences between the commentaries and Mahāsi Sayādaw's Visuddhiñāṇakathā?

Thanks,

Geoff
Nyana
 
Posts: 2229
Joined: Tue Apr 27, 2010 11:56 am

Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby Nyana » Wed Jun 30, 2010 9:12 am

mikenz66 wrote:I'm interested to hear what your opinion is. I've no interest in pointless debate that attempts to prove that one particular interpretation is "correct".

Hi Mike,

I'm not interested in pointless debate either. And I've already offered my opinion as well as the basis for that opinion (i.e. the Visuddhiñāṇakathā). From what I can gather, you practice the Burmese vipassanā method, and so I'm interested in hearing what your opinion is. I personally see no need to attempt to establish a "correct" interpretation in regard to this question. But I'm quite interested in what others have to say, especially those practicing Burmese vipassanā. It's an opportunity for me to further my own understanding of the tradition.

Thanks,

Geoff
Nyana
 
Posts: 2229
Joined: Tue Apr 27, 2010 11:56 am

Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby robertk » Wed Jun 30, 2010 9:32 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
robertk wrote:That is not the Commentarial view and seems to be an idea very much at odd with the Commentaries.

Hi Robert,

That may very well be the case. Could you elaborate on what you see as the differences between the commentaries and Mahāsi Sayādaw's Visuddhiñāṇakathā?

Thanks,

Geoff

dear Geoff
I can give some direct quotes if you like but dont have time right now.
The Visuddimagga specifically says that at stages of insight like bhaya (terror) there is no fear as such.

Rather there is understanding with wisdom that the continual rearising of the khandas is fearful. At that time there is mahakusala citta with tranquility- ...(Not to say fear may not arise later or before but if there is actual fear than there cannot be any wisdom at those moments..
User avatar
robertk
 
Posts: 1208
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:08 am

Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jul 01, 2010 10:10 am

Thanks for the input Robert,
robertk wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote:
robertk wrote:That is not the Commentarial view and seems to be an idea very much at odd with the Commentaries.

Hi Robert,

That may very well be the case. Could you elaborate on what you see as the differences between the commentaries and Mahāsi Sayādaw's Visuddhiñāṇakathā?

Thanks,

Geoff

dear Geoff
I can give some direct quotes if you like but dont have time right now.
The Visuddimagga specifically says that at stages of insight like bhaya (terror) there is no fear as such.

Rather there is understanding with wisdom that the continual rearising of the khandas is fearful. At that time there is mahakusala citta with tranquility- ...(Not to say fear may not arise later or before but if there is actual fear than there cannot be any wisdom at those moments..

Here is the relevant passage:
VISM XXI.32 But does the knowledge of appearance of terror [itself] fear or does it not fear? It does not fear. For it is simply the mre judgement that past formations have cease, present ones are ceasing, and future ones will cease. Just as a man with eyes looking at three charcoal pits at a city gate is not himself afraid, since he only forms the mere judgement that all who fall into them will feel no little pain; ...
Ñāṇa wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:I'm interested to hear what your opinion is. I've no interest in pointless debate that attempts to prove that one particular interpretation is "correct".




Ñāṇa wrote:Hi Mike,

I'm not interested in pointless debate either. And I've already offered my opinion as well as the basis for that opinion (i.e. the Visuddhiñāṇakathā). From what I can gather, you practice the Burmese vipassanā method, and so I'm interested in hearing what your opinion is. I personally see no need to attempt to establish a "correct" interpretation in regard to this question. But I'm quite interested in what others have to say, especially those practicing Burmese vipassanā. It's an opportunity for me to further my own understanding of the tradition.

Thanks,

Geoff

I'm not sure I can add much. The sort of analysis that you seem to find useful appears to me to be just dragging in philosophical baggage. I see writings such as the Visuddhimagga extract I quoted above as practical advice, based on experience, not philosophical positions. Attempts to demonstrate that they make some sort of logical/philosophical error appear to me to be simply irrelevant.

As for me, my primary teachers base their instructions on Mahasi Sayadaw's approach. There are plenty of writings by Mahasi Sayadaw, U Pandita, etc. E.g. here: http://aimwell.org/

Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10130
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby Nyana » Thu Jul 01, 2010 12:59 pm

robertk wrote:At that time there is mahakusala citta with tranquility- ...(Not to say fear may not arise later or before but if there is actual fear than there cannot be any wisdom at those moments.

Thanks Robert. It certainly makes good sense that for there to be genuine wisdom there should also be tranquility.

mikenz66 wrote:The sort of analysis that you seem to find useful appears to me to be just dragging in philosophical baggage. I see writings such as the Visuddhimagga extract I quoted above as practical advice, based on experience, not philosophical positions.

Hi Mike,

To the contrary, the Visuddhimagga and the rest of the Mahāvihāra commentaries are steeped in philosophical baggage which has nothing whatsoever to do with practical advice and serves no useful soteriological purpose. I personally wish this weren't the case, but it is. How could this have happened? In The Mind Stilled: Nibbāna Sermon 01, Ven. Ñāṇananda offers some historical developments pertaining to this question:

    There is a popular belief that the commentaries are finally traceable to a miscellany of the Buddha word scattered here and there, as pakiṇṇakadesanā. But the true state of affairs seems to be rather different. Very often the commentaries are unable to say something conclusive regarding the meaning of deep suttas. So they simply give some possible interpretations and the reader finds himself at a loss to choose the correct one. Sometimes the commentaries go at a tangent and miss the correct interpretation. Why the commentaries are silent on some deep suttas is also a problem to modern day scholars. There are some historical reasons leading to this state of affairs in the commentaries.

    In the Āṇisutta of the Nidānavagga in the Saṃyutta Nikāya we find the Buddha making certain prophetic utterances regarding the dangers that will befall the Sāsana in the future. It is said that in times to come, monks will lose interest in those deep suttas which deal with matters transcendental, that they would not listen to those suttas that have to do with the idea of emptiness, suññatā. They would not think it even worthwhile learning or pondering over the meanings of those suttas.

    There is also another historical reason that can be adduced. An idea got deeply rooted at a certain stage in the Sāsana history that what is contained in the Sutta Piṭaka is simply the conventional teaching and so it came to imply that there is nothing so deep in these suttas. This notion also had its share in the present lack of interest in these suttas. According to Manorathapūraṇī, the Aṅguttara commentary, already at an early stage in the Sāsana history of Sri Lanka, there had been a debate between those who upheld the precept and those who stood for realization. And it is said that those who upheld the precept won the day. The final conclusion was that, for the continuity of the Sāsana, precept itself is enough, not so much the realization.

    Of course the efforts of the reciter monks of old for the preservation of the precept in the midst of droughts and famines and other calamitous situations are certainly praiseworthy. But the unfortunate thing about it was this: the basket of the Buddha word came to be passed on from hand to hand in the dark, so much so that there was the risk of some valuable things slipping
    out in the process.

    Also there have been certain semantic developments in the commentarial period, and this will be obvious to anyone searching for the genuine Dhamma. It seems that there had been a tendency in the commentarial period to elaborate even on some lucid words in the suttas, simply as a commentarial requirement, and this led to the inclusion of many complicated ideas. By too much overdrawing in the commentaries, the deeper meanings of the Dhamma got obscured.

The sutta-s, on the other hand, display an elegance and internal consistency which is sadly lacking in the commentaries.

mikenz66 wrote:Attempts to demonstrate that they make some sort of logical/philosophical error appear to me to be simply irrelevant.

It's your life. Nevertheless, some people are interested in a dhamma which is both cogent and practical. In fact, incoherence simply cannot be practical. Speaking on the very practical matter of how the Visuddhimagga jhāna-s bear no resemblance to how this very essential component of practice is integrated into the sutta presentation of the noble eightfold path, Ven. Ṭhānissaro adds:

    Some Theravadins insist that questioning the commentaries is a sign of disrespect for the tradition, but it seems to be a sign of greater disrespect for the Buddha – or the compilers of the Canon – to assume that he or they would have left out something absolutely essential to the practice.

Being cynical and dismissive of the usefulness of well-considered demonstrations regarding where the commentaries have veered away from experience and pragmatic soteriology seems to me to be a rather rigid approach. You can ignore it if you so choose, but there is an elephant in the living room.

Best wishes,

Geoff
Nyana
 
Posts: 2229
Joined: Tue Apr 27, 2010 11:56 am

Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby beeblebrox » Thu Jul 01, 2010 2:45 pm

Thanks for that informative post, Ñāṇa. I wish I could get these Nibbana Sermons in book form... it's hard reading these online or in pdf.
Last edited by beeblebrox on Fri Jul 02, 2010 2:11 am, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
beeblebrox
 
Posts: 939
Joined: Thu Dec 31, 2009 10:41 pm

Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby Alex123 » Thu Jul 01, 2010 6:29 pm

Hello all,

Some people question the commentaries written by Elders (Theras). But the suttas were written and codified by Elders.

One of the people who personally heard from the Buddha didn't want to learn that kind of suttas.
“Friend Purāna,” the elders said to him, “the Teaching and Discipline have been recited together by the elder monks. Please submit yourself to this recitation.”

“Friends,” he replied, “the Teaching and Discipline are well-recited by the elders. But in the way I have heard them in the Exalted One’s presence, in the way that I have received them in his presence, thus will I bear it in mind.” — Cūlavagga XI,l,11 (ii,288-9)


This is not surprising since the suttas are more like "short-notes". Unfortunately a lot of detail may and has been missing. This is why it may be important for commentaries to fill in all the missing details.

For example in MN35 sutta gives it strait-away that suttas omit perhaps most of what was said by the Buddha.
Saccaka, the son of Nigantha, a clever disputant, considered wise by many lived in Vesàli. He would go about Vesàli saying. I do not see a recluse, a brahmin, a leader of a crowd, a teacher of a crowd, or one acknowledging he is perfect and rightfully enlightened not shivering, trembling and sweating when invited to a dispute by me. Even a lifeless pillar drawn to a dispute by me would shiver and tremble, so what of a human being.

...Like a strong man taking a sheep by its long fleece, would pull it and drag it about. Or like a strong brewer of liqueur submerging a huge crater in a deep pond, would shake it about, and holding it by the ears would shake it about. In the same manner we would pull and drag about the recluse Gotama in a dispute. Like an elephant of sixty cubits, descending a deep pond, would enjoy the game of washing hemp. We would enjoy the game of washing hemp with the recluse Gotama.
http://metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pitaka/ ... ta-e1.html


And yet Saccaka, such a great debater, was easily refuted by the few sentences (of "arguments") written in the sutta. I think that there was a lot more said than written in the sutta.

Basically the Buddha said: "Does a king, a ruler, has power over his kingdom?" Yes. Do you, Aggivessana (Saccaka), have power over your 5 aggregates? No.
And then Buddha has said the standart block of
is this aggregate permanent or impermanent? Impermanent. Is what impermanent happiness or suffering? Suffering. Is what impermanent and suffering fit to be regarded as Self? No.


Again, neither does this block would convince all smart Indians (some held ideas that Self was impermanent and some held it was suffering.)

So obviously there was a lot said between the Buddha and Saccaka than written in the sutta.

Thus of course the later detailed commentaries may contain a lot of "new" information , not because it is "new", but because it wasn't written down in the suttas by the Elders.


With best wishes,

Alex
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
User avatar
Alex123
 
Posts: 2808
Joined: Wed Mar 10, 2010 11:32 pm

Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jul 02, 2010 1:23 am

Hi Geoff,

I think you misunderstand my intention.
Ñāṇa wrote:Being cynical and dismissive of the usefulness of well-considered demonstrations regarding where the commentaries have veered away from experience and pragmatic soteriology seems to me to be a rather rigid approach. You can ignore it if you so choose, but there is an elephant in the living room.

I don't think anyone is claiming that the commentaries are perfect. You seem to want to polarise people into camps, which I think is pointless.There's no reason to assume that your arguments are superior to the arguments of all other ancient or modern commentators, and that those of us who therefore don't find your particular slant compelling are being dismissive.

I feel that expressing my opinion that you are reading too much philosophy into the texts is a valid point to raise, especially in the light of your "existential angst" comments that seemed to be based on a mis-reading of the Visuddhimagga.

Best Wishes,
Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10130
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby Dmytro » Fri Jul 02, 2010 1:48 am

Hi,

Ñāṇa wrote:In The Dhamma Theory: Philosophical Cornerstone of the Abhidhamma, (BPS, 1996), Dr. Y. Karunadasa, an authoritative Sri Lankan Abhidhamma scholar, tells us that:

    All the different modes of analysis and classification found in the Abhidhamma stem from a single philosophical principle, which gave direction and shape to the entire project of systematization. This principle is the notion that all the phenomena of empirical existence are made up of a number of elementary constituents, the ultimate realities behind the manifest phenomena. These elementary constituents, the building blocks of experience, are called dhammas. The dhamma theory is not merely one principle among others in the body of Abhidhamma philosophy but the base upon which the entire system rests.

It might be worth discussing to what degree the Mahāvihāra commentarial tenets are reliable and accurate references regarding the teaching of the Buddha (Buddhasāsana), particularly as it pertains to right view (sammādiṭṭhi), as right view is essential for right meditation (sammāsamādhi).

Specifically, it seems that there are three interrelated principles that are central to the Mahāvihāra commentarial view:

    1.the dhamma theory (dhammavāda)
    2.the theory of radical momentariness (khaṇavāda)
    3.the theory of two truths (sammutisacca & paramatthasacca)

Again, I would suggest that referencing and citing contemporary abhidhammika authorities is one way of avoiding misrepresenting the commentarial tradition as it is presently understood and taught.


There seems to be a major confusion from the very beginning.

The main Commentary, Atthakatha, sounds like this:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... wayof.html

It's almost totally devoted to the clarification of the Sutta-Vinaya, and there's very little theory.
Attthakatha is largely based on the old commentaries that have been accumulating from the times of the first Councils.

Abhidhammika is quite another matter. The first description of mind-moments I know is given in Vimuttimagga (1st century CE). And the major Abhidhammika works are medieval.

So it's important to clearly distinguish the Abhidhammika works, especially in their modern rendition, from the Commentaries, which very few people actually read, and so many talk about.

It would be even better to distinguish specific detailed strata of texts, according to their chronology. For example, Atthakatha and Tika are quite different in character.

Metta, Dmytro
User avatar
Dmytro
 
Posts: 1161
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 7:24 pm
Location: Kyiv, Ukraine

Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby Nyana » Fri Jul 02, 2010 6:50 am

mikenz66 wrote: You seem to want to polarise people into camps

Hi Mike,

Nah.

mikenz66 wrote:I feel that expressing my opinion that you are reading too much philosophy into the texts is a valid point to raise, especially in the light of your "existential angst" comments that seemed to be based on a mis-reading of the Visuddhimagga.

I think it's a good idea to try to keep things objective as possible by referring to the texts and other citations. This can hopefully avoid any appeals to personal experience. But I have a few friends who either used to practice Burmese vipassanā or who still do. And I specifically based that "existential tizzy" phrase on the memory of a few discussions I had in the past on the subject. I do appreciate you bringing it to my attention. It was a poor choice of words and I should have recognized it at the time.

All the best,

Geoff
Nyana
 
Posts: 2229
Joined: Tue Apr 27, 2010 11:56 am

Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jul 02, 2010 10:11 am

Hi Geoff,

I appreciated your descriptions of how you see some practical aspects of experience over here: viewtopic.php?f=17&t=4700&p=74607#p74533
Much more positive than getting in a tizzy... :anjali:

Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10130
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby Virgo » Fri Jul 02, 2010 1:54 pm

Dmytro wrote:
Abhidhammika is quite another matter. The first description of mind-moments I know is given in Vimuttimagga (1st century CE). And the major Abhidhammika works are medieval.

The Abhidhamma was actually taught by the Buddha. It was codified first by Sariputta the way he wanted to arrange it. So we see from the very beginning that there was important influence from the Elders. The way we have it today was the way it was codified and presented at the Third Buddhist Council.

There is a story in a Commentary that I heard (haven't read it first hand) of a monk under a past Buddha who rejected the Abhidhamma and told people that it was not the teaching of the Buddha. He burned in hell because of it, since abhidhamma is the epitome of dhamma. That should be a warning for all you naysayers. Keep in mind, the men compiling the Commentaries were not allowed to lie, and certainly would not make these things up for fear of extremely negative unwholesome kamma.

Kevin
Virgo
 
Posts: 1209
Joined: Sun Feb 14, 2010 10:52 pm

Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Jul 02, 2010 2:07 pm

Virgo wrote:The Abhidhamma was actually taught by the Buddha.
According to the Theravadin tradition, but traditions are not necessarily historically accurate, though they do speak to how traditions see and understand things.
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
User avatar
tiltbillings
 
Posts: 19209
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby Virgo » Fri Jul 02, 2010 2:13 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Virgo wrote:The Abhidhamma was actually taught by the Buddha.
According to the Theravadin tradition, but traditions are not necessarily historically accurate, though they do speak to how traditions see and understand things.

Since I know that it leads to fruit, I accept it all.

Kevin
Virgo
 
Posts: 1209
Joined: Sun Feb 14, 2010 10:52 pm

Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Jul 02, 2010 2:21 pm

Virgo wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Virgo wrote:The Abhidhamma was actually taught by the Buddha.
According to the Theravadin tradition, but traditions are not necessarily historically accurate, though they do speak to how traditions see and understand things.

Since I know that it leads to fruit, I accept it all.
Your choice. While I believe (and know) that the Abhidhamma (Pitaka) texts can be efficacious, I see no reason to uncritically buy into the mythic (and sectarian) stories that go along with them. They are not necessary for the efficacy of the Abhidhamma.
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
User avatar
tiltbillings
 
Posts: 19209
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby Nyana » Fri Jul 02, 2010 2:44 pm

mikenz66 wrote:I feel that expressing my opinion that you are reading too much philosophy into the texts is a valid point to raise, especially in the light of your "existential angst" comments that seemed to be based on a mis-reading of the Visuddhimagga.

BTW, if it's a misreading (and I'm not saying that it is or isn't) it's Mahāsi Sayādaw's misreading. Visuddhiñāṇakathā, section on bhayatupaṭṭhāñāṇa:

    At that time, his mind itself is gripped by fear and seems helpless.

And from the endnotes of this section (written by Ven. Ñāṇapoṇika Thera, but carefully scrutinized by Mahāsi Sayādaw):

    The word bhaya has the subjective aspect of fear and the objective aspect of fearfulness, danger. Both are included in the significance of the term in this context.

All the best,

Geoff
Nyana
 
Posts: 2229
Joined: Tue Apr 27, 2010 11:56 am

PreviousNext

Return to Open Dhamma

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot], Nicolas, Sam Vara and 11 guests