SN 49.1 Four Right Exertions

Each week we study and discuss a different sutta or Dhamma text

Moderator: mikenz66

SN 49.1 Four Right Exertions

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Mar 19, 2013 9:13 am

From "The Four Right Exertions" in The Wings to Awakening, Thanissaro
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ml#part2-c

There are these four right exertions. Which four? There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, arouses persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen... for the sake of the abandoning of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen... for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen... (and) for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, & culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen. These are the four right exertions.

Just as the River Ganges flows to the east, slopes to the east, inclines to the east, in the same way when a monk develops & pursues the four right exertions, he flows to Unbinding, slopes to Unbinding, inclines to Unbinding.
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10136
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: SN 49.1 Four Right Exertions

Postby Sam Vara » Tue Mar 19, 2013 12:03 pm

mikenz66 wrote:From "The Four Right Exertions" in The Wings to Awakening, Thanissaro
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ml#part2-c

There are these four right exertions. Which four? There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, arouses persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen... for the sake of the abandoning of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen... for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen... (and) for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, & culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen. These are the four right exertions.

Just as the River Ganges flows to the east, slopes to the east, inclines to the east, in the same way when a monk develops & pursues the four right exertions, he flows to Unbinding, slopes to Unbinding, inclines to Unbinding.


Many thanks Mike. The Four Right Exertions are interesting, because they seem to formally encapsulate the entire teaching; we just need to supply the content (i.e. what constitute evil and unskillful qualities, and what constitute skillful qualities) and that is all we need to do.

The how we do it is where things can get interesting. Where qualities do not yet exist for us, we are still called upon to act; we ought to prevent the evil unskillful ones from arising, and to encourage the skillful ones. Can we have certain and direct knowledge that a particular quality is skillful or unskillful if it does not exist for us? Presumably we must here rely on induction (in the past, this type of activity led to a bad result...) or faith (the Buddha or another spiritual teacher recommends that we leave this one alone...) Take, for example, pornography. I am old enough to have grown up in a time when it was not virtually ubiquitous. It would be easy to access it, but I don't do so. This seems to be because of my inductive reasoning (I know where habitual sexual fantasies take me, and this seems like something similar...) and because of the advice of others that I respect. But unless I actually do access pornography, I never really know its unwholesome qualities, do I? Which leads, of course, to the bigger question: to the extent that we are skillful, are we only ever really learning from our own mistakes and the mistakes of others?

I am also interested in bit where the sutta talks about the development of the good qualities. Sometimes, these are presented in terms of the Factors of Enlightenment. What do you think in about the phrase "non-confusion"? Presumably, it is essential to make these qualities/factors as pure and good as we can get them. (e.g. tranquillity should be free from drowsiness and sensuality, etc - not con-fused with less skillful qualities). But do you think it also means that we should strive to keep them separate from one another?

Final point. Thanissaro often uses the phrases "evil, unskillful qualities" and "skillful qualities". No "good, skillful qualities". Is there any reason why the unskillful has this extra verbal emphasis?
User avatar
Sam Vara
 
Posts: 915
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm

Re: SN 49.1 Four Right Exertions

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Mar 20, 2013 6:25 pm

See also this discussion in the Pali forum:
viewtopic.php?f=23&t=16600&start=0

:anjali:
Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10136
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: SN 49.1 Four Right Exertions

Postby Ron-The-Elder » Thu Mar 21, 2013 1:39 pm

First, let me acknowledge mikenz66's efforts and the contributions of others in this thread. It is one that I hope to participate in frequently for want of greater understanding of the suttas reflecting Buddha's teachings.

Here are some thoughts and questions which arose subsequent to reading this sutta:

There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, arouses persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of:


I find this phasing very interesting in that "desire" usually has a negative connotation with regard to Buddhist Studies. Desire in this all too rare case holds the promise of unbinding and release, or at least trending towards it in this very lifetime if the final passage is valid.

the non-arising of evil,


I have never been exactly sure what is meant by evil in Buddhist terms aside from those behaviors mentioned in The Five Precepts and in The Noble Eight Fold Path. What about all those human behaviors, which do not meet the non-beneficial qualities of The Five Precepts?: "Causing harm to sentient beings or living beings", "Taking what is not freely given", "Sexual Misconduct", "lying, harsh speech, idle speech, and slander [ouch -- how about that gossip?", "taking intoxicants that cloud the mind and cause heedlessness".....??? What about all the fetters, taints, all manner of clinging to aspects of all those agglomerations of samasaric reality? What about the foundation of Dependent Origination: "ignorance", sloth, over-consumption, a lack of compassion, an unwillingness to share what we have with others? Are these and many many more aspects of our behavior all not evil in that they prevent unbinding and release? As Satan is the embodiment of evil in the Abrahemic religions, is Mara the embodiment of evil as well as an embodiment of temptation. If so, are all forms of temptation evil?

unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen... for the sake of the abandoning of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen... for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen... (and) for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, & culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen.


Is a lack of skill, or even insufficient skill due to a lack of will to develop same also "evil". If so
should we be paying ourselves to develop skill, or requiring our children to go to school to learn such skills? Is failure to do so also evil?


These are the four right exertions.

Just as the River Ganges flows to the east, slopes to the east, inclines to the east, in the same way when a monk develops & pursues the four right exertions, he flows to Unbinding, slopes to Unbinding, inclines to Unbinding.


:anjali: Ron
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
User avatar
Ron-The-Elder
 
Posts: 913
Joined: Mon Jan 10, 2011 4:42 pm
Location: Concord, New Hampshire, U.S.A.

Re: SN 49.1 Four Right Exertions

Postby appicchato » Thu Mar 21, 2013 8:59 pm


the non-arising of evil,


I have never been exactly sure what is meant by evil in Buddhist terms aside from those behaviors mentioned in The Five Precepts and in The Noble Eight Fold Path.


I equate (more or less) the term evil with the term unskillful (thought and behavior)...as I interpret it, part of the end game, part of the 'prize', is to go beyond the good, and the evil...and (maybe not unsurprisingly) the word itself sounds (to me) so...
User avatar
appicchato
 
Posts: 1561
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:47 am
Location: Bridge on the River Kwae

Re: SN 49.1 Four Right Exertions

Postby polarbuddha101 » Thu Mar 21, 2013 10:08 pm

Ron-The-Elder wrote:
There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, arouses persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of:


I find this phasing very interesting in that "desire" usually has a negative connotation with regard to Buddhist Studies. Desire in this all too rare case holds the promise of unbinding and release, or at least trending towards it in this very lifetime if the final passage is valid.



I think it may the difference between chanda and tanha here, chanda being translated as desire and tanha as craving although I could be mistaken as I don't have the pali version of this sutta. Anyway though, there is a great sutta on the role of desire in following and fulfilling the path:



Anyways, given that this is a discourse to bhikkhu's, I would gander that evil, unskillful qualities refers to any quality that isn't directly helpful to realizing nibbana. In this case, desire to play the sitar would be an "evil", unskillful quality whereas for a lay person it would be perfectly acceptable to desire to play the sitar.
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
User avatar
polarbuddha101
 
Posts: 814
Joined: Mon Apr 16, 2012 7:39 am
Location: California

Re: SN 49.1 Four Right Exertions

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Mar 22, 2013 1:22 am

polarbuddha101 wrote:I think it may the difference between chanda and tanha here, chanda being translated as desire and tanha as craving although I could be mistaken as I don't have the pali version of this sutta.


Here's Bhikkhu Bodhis footnote:
Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote:The terms of the formula are explained according to the sutta method at Vibh 208-10, commented on at Vibh-a 289-96; see too Vism 679 (Ppn 22:35). Briefly: The evil unwholesome states are greed, hatred, delusion, and the defilements associated with them; desire (chanda) is wholesome wish-to-do, wholesome righteous desire; effort, energy, and striving are all terms for energy (viriya); mind is defined by the standard register of terms for citta. The wholesome states are nongreed, nonhatred, nondelusion, and their concomitants. The Abhidhamma analysis, at Vibh 211-14, treats right striving as the energy factor in the supramundane paths, which accomplishes all four functions simultaneously.


Here's the extract from the Visuddhimagga that Bhikkhu Bodhi is referring to:

35. By it they endeavour (padahanti), thus it is endeavour (padhána); a good
endeavour is a right (sammá) endeavour. Or alternatively: by its means people
endeavour rightly (sammá padahanti), thus it is right endeavour (sammappa-
dhána). Or alternatively: it is good because of abandoning the unseemliness
of defilement, and it is endeavour because of bringing about improvement
and giving precedence (padhána-bháva-káraóa) in the sense of producing
well-being and bliss, thus it is right endeavour. It is a name for energy. It
accomplishes the functions of abandoning arisen unprofitable things,
preventing the arising of those not yet arisen, arousing unarisen profitable
things, and maintaining those already arisen; thus it is fourfold. That is why
“four right endeavours” is said.


:anjali:
Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10136
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: SN 49.1 Four Right Exertions

Postby Sylvester » Fri Mar 22, 2013 9:07 am

Sam Vara wrote:Final point. Thanissaro often uses the phrases "evil, unskillful qualities" and "skillful qualities". No "good, skillful qualities". Is there any reason why the unskillful has this extra verbal emphasis?


Interesting observation. It's definitely in the Pali formula eg -

Sāvatthinidānaṃ . Tatra kho bhagavā etadavoca – ‘‘cattārome, bhikkhave, sammappadhānā. Katame cattāro? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu anuppannānaṃ pāpakānaṃ akusalānaṃ dhammānaṃ anuppādāya chandaṃ janeti vāyamati vīriyaṃ ārabhati cittaṃ paggaṇhāti padahati. Uppannānaṃ pāpakānaṃ akusalānaṃ dhammānaṃ pahānāya chandaṃ janeti vāyamati vīriyaṃ ārabhati cittaṃ paggaṇhāti padahati. Anuppannānaṃ kusalānaṃ dhammānaṃ uppādāya chandaṃ janeti vāyamati vīriyaṃ ārabhati cittaṃ paggaṇhāti padahati. Uppannānaṃ kusalānaṃ dhammānaṃ ṭhitiyā asammosāya bhiyyobhāvāya vepullāya bhāvanāya pāripūriyā chandaṃ janeti vāyamati vīriyaṃ ārabhati cittaṃ paggaṇhāti padahati. Ime kho, bhikkhave, cattāro sammappadhānāti’’.

There are these four right exertions. Which four? There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, arouses persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen... for the sake of the abandoning of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen... for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen... (and) for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, & culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen. These are the four right exertions.


No foil to evil/pāpaka is found in the final 2 efforts.

As per Mike's suggestion to refer to the Pali discussion at - viewtopic.php?f=23&t=16600&start=0

see AN 4.14 cited therein.

cattārimāni, bhikkhave, padhānāni. katamāni cattāri? saṃvarappadhānaṃ, pahānappadhānaṃ, bhāvanāppadhānaṃ, anurakkhaṇāppadhānaṃ.

katamañca, bhikkhave, saṃvarappadhānaṃ? idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu cakkhunā rūpaṃ disvā na nimittaggāhī hoti nānubyañjanaggāhī. yatvādhikaraṇamenaṃ cakkhundriyaṃ asaṃvutaṃ viharantaṃ abhijjhādomanassā pāpakā akusalā dhammā anvāssaveyyuṃ, tassa saṃvarāya paṭipajjati, rakkhati cakkhundriyaṃ, cakkhundriye saṃvaraṃ āpajjati. sotena saddaṃ sutvā... ghānena gandhaṃ ghāyitvā... jivhāya rasaṃ sāyitvā... kāyena phoṭṭhabbaṃ phusitvā... manasā dhammaṃ viññāya na nimittaggāhī hoti nānubyañjanaggāhī, yatvādhikaraṇamenaṃ manindriyaṃ asaṃvutaṃ viharantaṃ abhijjhādomanassā pāpakā akusalā dhammā anvāssaveyyuṃ, tassa saṃvarāya paṭipajjati, rakkhati manindriyaṃ, manindriye saṃvaraṃ āpajjati. idaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, saṃvarappadhānaṃ.

There are these four exertions. Which four? The exertion to guard, the exertion to abandon, the exertion to develop, & the exertion to maintain.

And what is the exertion to guard? There is the case where a monk, on seeing a form with the eye, does not grasp at any theme or variations by which — if he were to dwell without restraint over the faculty of the eye — evil, unskillful qualities such as greed or distress might assail him. He practices with restraint. He guards the faculty of the eye. He achieves restraint with regard to the faculty of the eye. [Similarly with the ear, nose, tongue, body, & intellect.] This is called the exertion to guard.
(I've used Ven T's translation, which is better than the MettaNet one)


Strangely enough, while SN 49.1 does not have "good" as a foil to "evil", AN 4.14 does -

katamañca, bhikkhave, anurakkhaṇāppadhānaṃ? idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu uppannaṃ bhaddakaṃ samādhinimittaṃ anurakkhati aṭṭhikasaññaṃ puḷavakasaññaṃ vinīlakasaññaṃ vicchiddakasaññaṃ uddhumātakasaññaṃ. idaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, anurakkhaṇāppadhānaṃ.

And what is the exertion to maintain? There is the case where a monk maintains a favorable theme of concentration — the skeleton perception, the worm-eaten perception, the livid perception, the festering perception, the falling-apart perception, the bloated perception. This is called the exertion to maintain.


If I had to venture a guess why evil/pāpaka found its way into SN 49.1, I would attribute it to the "waxing syllables principle". Count the syllables in pāpakānaṃ akusalānaṃ, and the waxing structure suggests that pāpaka was probably thrown in as a synonym to reinforce the disapproval of such states. It's a very common feature of the suttas.
Sylvester
 
Posts: 1501
Joined: Tue Mar 10, 2009 9:57 am

Re: SN 49.1 Four Right Exertions

Postby Sam Vara » Fri Mar 22, 2013 4:17 pm

Good detective work, sylvester. Than you for your efforts.
User avatar
Sam Vara
 
Posts: 915
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm


Return to Study Group

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google Feedfetcher and 4 guests