AN 7.51: Avyakata Sutta — Undeclared

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AN 7.51: Avyakata Sutta — Undeclared

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jun 26, 2013 10:19 am

AN 7.51 PTS: A iv 67
Avyakata Sutta: Undeclared
translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu


Why does doubt not arise in the mind of a stream-enterer?

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Then a certain monk went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there, he said to the Blessed One, "Lord, what is the cause, what is the reason, why uncertainty doesn't arise in an instructed disciple of the noble ones over the undeclared issues?"

"Because of the cessation of views, monk, uncertainty doesn't arise in an instructed disciple of the noble ones over the undeclared issues. The view-standpoint, 'The Tathagata exists after death,' the view-standpoint, 'The Tathagata doesn't exist after death,' the view-standpoint, 'The Tathagata both does and doesn't exist after death,' the view-standpoint, 'The Tathagata neither does nor doesn't exist after death': The uninstructed run-of-the-mill person doesn't discern view, doesn't discern the origination of view, doesn't discern the cessation of view, doesn't discern the path of practice leading to the cessation of view, and so for him that view grows. He is not freed from birth, aging, & death; from sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, and despairs. He is not freed, I tell you, from suffering & stress. But the instructed disciple of the noble ones discerns view, discerns the origination of view, discerns the cessation of view, discerns the path of practice leading to the cessation of view, and so for him that view ceases. He is freed from birth, aging, & death; from sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, and despairs. He is freed, I tell you, from suffering & stress.

"Thus knowing, thus seeing, the instructed disciple of the noble ones doesn't declare that 'The Tathagata exists after death,' doesn't declare that 'The Tathagata doesn't exist after death,' doesn't declare that 'The Tathagata both does and doesn't exist after death,' doesn't declare that 'The Tathagata neither does nor doesn't exist after death.' Thus knowing, thus seeing, he is thus of a nature not to declare the undeclared issues. Thus knowing, thus seeing, he isn't paralyzed, doesn't quake, doesn't shiver or shake over the undeclared issues.

"'The Tathagata exists after death' — this craving-standpoint, this perception-standpoint, this product of conceiving, this product of elaboration, this clinging-standpoint: That's anguish.[1] 'The Tathagata doesn't exist after death': That's anguish. 'The Tathagata both does and doesn't exist after death': That's anguish. 'The Tathagata neither does nor doesn't exist after death': That's anguish.[2]

The uninstructed run-of-the-mill person doesn't discern anguish, doesn't discern the origination of anguish, doesn't discern the cessation of anguish, doesn't discern the path of practice leading to the cessation of anguish, and so for him that anguish grows. He is not freed from birth, aging, & death; from sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, and despairs. He is not freed, I tell you, from suffering & stress. But the instructed disciple of the noble ones discerns anguish, discerns the origination of anguish, discerns the cessation of anguish, discerns the path of practice leading to the cessation of anguish, and so for him that anguish ceases. He is freed from birth, aging, & death; from sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, and despairs. He is freed, I tell you, from suffering & stress.

"Thus knowing, thus seeing, the instructed disciple of the noble ones doesn't declare that 'The Tathagata exists after death,' doesn't declare that 'The Tathagata doesn't exist after death,' doesn't declare that 'The Tathagata both does and doesn't after death,' doesn't declare that 'The Tathagata neither does nor doesn't exist after death.' Thus knowing, thus seeing, he is thus of a nature not to declare the undeclared issues. Thus knowing, thus seeing, he isn't paralyzed, doesn't quake, doesn't shiver or shake over the undeclared issues."

Notes

1. "Anguish" here translates vippatisara, which is usually rendered into English as "remorse" or "regret." Here, however, the feeling of vippatisara relates to concerns about the future, rather than the past, and so neither remorse nor regret are appropriate to the context. The anguish alluded to in this passage is based either on the fear that Awakening would entail an end to existence or on the contrary fear that it wouldn't.

2. In some manuscripts, this paragraph runs as follows: "'The Tathagata exists after death' — this craving-standpoint, this perception-standpoint, this product of conceiving, this product of elaboration, this clinging-standpoint: That's anguish. 'The Tathagata doesn't exist after death'... 'The Tathagata both does and doesn't exist after death'... 'The Tathagata neither does nor doesn't exist after death' — this craving-standpoint, this perception-standpoint, this product of conceiving, this product of elaboration, this clinging-standpoint: That's anguish.

See also:
MN 63: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
MN 72: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

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Re: AN 7.51: Avyakata Sutta — Undeclared

Postby Sam Vara » Wed Jun 26, 2013 11:47 am

Many thanks for this one, Mike. It is new to me, although I have read the MN suttas on views which you provide the links to.

It is interesting that the issue raised is initially about the "undeclared issues", but it is not completely clear from the context whether the lack of views that the Buddha refers to is a lack of views relating to these undeclared issues, or a lack of views per se. The former would mean that the stream-enterer simply takes no "view-standpoint" regarding the undeclared issues; the latter would mean that the stream-enterer has a different relationship to all views, and is thereby freed from the anguish arising from the undeclared issues as part of his or her general liberation.

I find this issue of views fascinating, not just as an intellectual puzzle, but also because it has a direct bearing on the practice. Is it worth doing anything about one's existing views, or does one just do one's best according to the teachings and the release from views is one of the eventual fruits? Can one train one's mind so as to deliberately not take a standpoint? Lots of modern commentators talk as if one should do this, but it is easier said than done. Dodging the horns of the tetralemma regarding the Tathagata after death is hard to do, and the only way to avoid a standpoint seems to be to set the question aside - to not think it, to think of something else instead, just like (say) avoiding lustful thoughts. And presumably we are encouraged to take a view on other things, as per Right View in MN 117 (The Maha-cattarisaka Sutta) http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.117.than.html

It is also interesting how views are treated as being very close to suffering itself. The four discernments in the second paragraph are essentially the four noble truths. In addition,
the instructed disciple of the noble ones discerns view, discerns the origination of view, discerns the cessation of view, discerns the path of practice leading to the cessation of view, and so for him that view ceases. He is freed from birth, aging, & death; from sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, and despairs. He is freed, I tell you, from suffering & stress

the cessation of view is liberation from suffering. Which brings us back, I think, to the primary importance of Right View as a path factor as outlined in MN 117 and elsewhere.

It is tempting to think that we don't really "get" the concept of view as talked about by the Buddha. For us, in everyday life, "uncertainty" arises because we don't have a definite fixed "view" on a topic. (I'm uncertain who to vote for, because I have yet to make up my mind about the candidates - I don't have a view.) In this sutta, the uncertainty arises because the views have not yet ceased. So maybe the uncertainty does only arise with regard to these "undeclared issues". Or maybe all views are to be treated conditionally, with due acknowledgement of our ignorance, and these undeclared issues are good examples of where our ignorance really shows itself. (I believe I have heard them referred to as "imponderables", which makes this point well....) This would fit with the Buddha's explanation of supra-mundane right view as being discernment, as per MN 117. The discerning stream-entrant sees these views for what they are; the rest of us had best leave them alone!

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Re: AN 7.51: Avyakata Sutta — Undeclared

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jun 28, 2013 9:38 am

Hi Sam,

Thanks for the useful analysis. Presumably the "undeclared issues" are just examples of views, not the only views that are problematical.

Sam Vara wrote:It is also interesting how views are treated as being very close to suffering itself. The four discernments in the second paragraph are essentially the four noble truths.

Another example of the four noble truth pattern is MN9 Sammaditthi Sutta: The Discourse on Right View http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .ntbb.html
10. "When, friends, a noble disciple understands nutriment, the origin of nutriment, the cessation of nutriment, and the way leading to the cessation of nutriment, in that way he is one of right view... and has arrived at this true Dhamma.

[And so on for the four noble truths, aging and death, birth, being, clinging, craving, feeling, contact, the sixfold base, mentality-materiality, consciousness, formations, ignorance, taints.]
:anjali:
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Re: AN 7.51: Avyakata Sutta — Undeclared

Postby Sam Vara » Fri Jun 28, 2013 2:05 pm

Many thanks for this link, Mike. In particular because I know this sutta quite well, but had not seen the significance of the 4NT to that extent - so you have revealed it in a new light!

The Nanamoli/Bodhi translation shgows this 4NT aspect very clearly, but the Thanissaro one does not pick up on it as much. Nor do his (otherwise excellent) notes particularly address it. I think it is something to do with Nanamoli/Bodhi favouring "wholesome" over "skillful", which makes the parallel easier to see.

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Re: AN 7.51: Avyakata Sutta — Undeclared

Postby alan » Fri Jun 28, 2013 2:23 pm

It's about appropriate attention, not "lack of views".

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Re: AN 7.51: Avyakata Sutta — Undeclared

Postby Sam Vara » Fri Jun 28, 2013 7:09 pm

alan wrote:It's about appropriate attention, not "lack of views".


That's an interesting point, alan, please could you explain in more detail?

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Re: AN 7.51: Avyakata Sutta — Undeclared

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jun 29, 2013 10:10 am

One of the nice things about Bhikkhu Bodhi's new translation of the Anguttara Nikaya http://wisdompubs.org/Pages/display.las ... n=&image=1 is that he clearly indicates where the number (seven in this case) comes from. The number of the sutta in his translation is 7.54:
(1) “‘The Tathāgata exists after death’: this is an involvement with views; ...
(2) “‘The Tathāgata exists after death’: this is an involvement with craving …
(3) … this is an involvement with perception …
(4) … something conceived …
(5) … a proliferation …
(6) … an involvement with clinging …
(7) … a [ground for] remorse; ...

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Re: AN 7.51: Avyakata Sutta — Undeclared

Postby binocular » Sat Jun 29, 2013 5:45 pm

mikenz66 wrote:AN 7.51 PTS: A iv 67
Avyakata Sutta: Undeclared
translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu


Why does doubt not arise in the mind of a stream-enterer?


"Thus knowing, thus seeing, the instructed disciple of the noble ones doesn't declare that 'The Tathagata exists after death,' doesn't declare that 'The Tathagata doesn't exist after death,' doesn't declare that 'The Tathagata both does and doesn't exist after death,' doesn't declare that 'The Tathagata neither does nor doesn't exist after death.' Thus knowing, thus seeing, he is thus of a nature not to declare the undeclared issues. Thus knowing, thus seeing, he isn't paralyzed, doesn't quake, doesn't shiver or shake over the undeclared issues.


This can be explained with the dichotomy faith vs. realization.
As long as there is faith, there is doubt; a person with realization is beyond that.

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Re: AN 7.51: Avyakata Sutta — Undeclared

Postby seaturtle » Sun Jun 30, 2013 12:04 pm

I try to approach the suttas from the angle of, how do I apply this to my life. When I first read this post the the connection to right view was clear, but sometimes it feels like changing views is kind of like changing taste preferences. It can't just be done at will.  Going through my collection of suttas I found this: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html, which is very similar to the one posted. The way I read AN 10.93 is that right attention leads to right discernment which allows us to see the truth of Dhukkha, and together these ingredients allow us to develop right view.

Anyway, I like to stick with simple, so what I get from this sutta is that I don't have to cling to my views. Sometimes views about things beyond my experience arise in my mind, and when this happens I can notice, forgive my mind, admit that I don't know, and come back to what the Buddha did teach. I don't need to forcefully get rid of views, I just need to remember what right view means and keep following the right fold path.
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Re: AN 7.51: Avyakata Sutta — Undeclared

Postby ricebowl » Fri Oct 04, 2013 3:23 pm

What is undeclared in the Avyakata Sutta ain't just a bunch of theories that the world would hope that Shakyamuni Buddha may teach.

What is undeclared is also the name of the monk that asked the Blessed One that very question in the Avyakata Sutta.

The question is very important, yet at that certain juncture, that certain time, with that certain monk, the Blessed One gave such and such a discourse in addressing the need of that certain monk at that time.

To be honest and frank I'm annoyed by Shakyamuni Buddha's response it's like a very important question that received an answer that is comparable to my asking of whether did the chicken come first or the egg come first.

Yet just like the chicken and egg question, I would unfortunately suggest that it is also the same sort of question that ought to remain undeclared.

Even had the Buddha declared the answers in specific fashion, how can the answers be proven, it's still annoying yet leave what is undeclared as undeclared, that's the best way!


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