SN 22.95: Phena Sutta — Foam

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Re: SN 22.95: Phena Sutta — Foam

Postby pt1 » Thu Jan 20, 2011 11:21 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Ñāṇa wrote:Ven. Ñāṇananda, Seeing Through: A Guide to Insight Meditation:

    The Buddha has compared the aggregate of perception to a mirage. Now if perception is mirage, what is 'rūpa saññā' or a visual percept? That also must be a mirage. What about 'sadda saññā'? What about the auditory percept or what strikes the ear? That too must be a mirage. Though it is not something that one sees with the eye, it has the nature of a mirage. To take as real what is of a mirage-nature, is a delusion. It is something that leads to a delusion. It is an illusion that leads to a delusion. In order to understand deeply this mirage-nature in sensory perception, there is a need for a more refined way of mental attending.


This bolded section seems strongly opposed to the Abhidhamma world-view, where not only are paramattha-dhammas not an illusion, they're deemed to be ultimate realities. Note, it's not their illusory nature that is deemed the ultimate-reality in the Abhidhamma schema, but it is the view of the very existence and reality of the dhammas themselves which is regarded as panna (wisdom) rather than delusion.

Not sure that's quite right when representing the abhidhamma (and commentarial in particular) manner of approaching this issue. Perhaps if you said - "it is the view of the very reality of the conditioned dhammas themselves which is regarded as panna (wisdom) rather than delusion" - that might be a little closer to what abdhidhamma (and commentaries in particular) are saying. Anyway, the point is I guess that afaik there's no place in the abhi/comm that says that dhammas are in fact not conditioned. So, if they're in fact conditioned, then such words as "exist, reality, mirage" etc need to be considered in the context of conditionality.

So, sometimes more positive statements like "reality" seem useful, and sometimes more negative statements like "mirage" seem useful, but none of that defies conditionality and therefore shouldn't be considered in the context of eternalism/nihilism. My own conjecture is that in the commentarial approach more positive statements are used for describing the initial stages of insight, whereas more negative statements are used to describe more advanced stages of insights. In the case of Ven.Nananada, I'm guessing he's on the more advanced stages, hence his preference for more negative statements, but then again his "mirage" statements shouldn't be considered in the context of nihilism, but in the context of conditionality, just like abhi/comm. Otherwise, neither makes much sense.

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Re: SN 22.95: Phena Sutta — Foam

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jan 20, 2011 2:11 pm

Hi Geoff,
Ñāṇa wrote:There is no need and no value in constructing an "objective reality" or proving "valid cognitions." The practitioner simply needs to set aside such speculations and return to the practice of the four applications of mindfulness.

Sure, I completely agree with that. I'm not talking about constructing an objective reality, I'm talking about keeping an open mind on the issue. Any arguments that involve negating objective reality seem to me to have exactly the same problem as those that argue for objective realities And, as PT points out, interpreting the Abhidhamma as a realist position is not necessarily accurate, so labelling it as "realist" and thereby dismissing it seems to be somewhat of a straw-man argument. It all depends on how one interprets "paramattha dhamma"

:anjali:
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Re: SN 22.95: Phena Sutta — Foam

Postby kirk5a » Thu Jan 20, 2011 2:14 pm

mikenz66 wrote:But don't forget the other extreme view "nothing exists", which, as Kirk points out, is just as much an ontology (a negative one). In my view these suttas (and what I get from Ven Nananada's analyses) suggest that what we perceive is deceptive, but it's not just an invention of our mind. Just as the magic show or the mirage are deceptive but not imaginary.

:anjali:
Mike

Yes that is the angle I was pursuing. It is going much too far, and veers off towards "nothing really exists," to start reducing everything to nothing more than deluded conception. Which seemed to be Geoff's statement, but it looks like it only seemed that way.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: SN 22.95: Phena Sutta — Foam

Postby Nyana » Thu Jan 20, 2011 11:25 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote:There is no need and no value in constructing an "objective reality" or proving "valid cognitions." The practitioner simply needs to set aside such speculations and return to the practice of the four applications of mindfulness.

Sure, I completely agree with that. I'm not talking about constructing an objective reality, I'm talking about keeping an open mind on the issue. Any arguments that involve negating objective reality seem to me to have exactly the same problem as those that argue for objective realities And, as PT points out, interpreting the Abhidhamma as a realist position is not necessarily accurate, so labelling it as "realist" and thereby dismissing it seems to be somewhat of a straw-man argument. It all depends on how one interprets "paramattha dhamma"

The Abhidhammapiṭaka doesn't define conditioned phenomena as paramattha dhammā or paramattha sabhāva. The former does occur once in the Kathāvatthu but it's hardly a ringing endorsement for how this notion of paramattha dhamma later came to be applied and interpreted. Moreover, even someone like Karunadasa admits that the later ābhidhammika treatises present a realist view. As Ven. Ñāṇananda has repeatedly pointed out, this view isn't supported by the suttas or earliest strata of abhidhamma.

All the best,

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Re: SN 22.95: Phena Sutta — Foam

Postby pulga » Fri Jan 21, 2011 4:49 am

retrofuturist wrote:...

The assumption underpinning your line of inquiry is that rúpa, in the context of nama-rupa, is an ontological proposition, i.e. it is physical matter. Or in other words, it is a "body" that complements a "mind".


Hello Retro,

Sorry about the delayed response: I've been away from the computer for the past couple days.

The facticity that is an inherent aspect of our experience is hardly an ontological proposition -- it might very well be that aspect of our experience that determines for us what is real . The idea that I find questionable is the dependency of rúpa upon náma.

Any understanding of námarúpa needs to take into account the Anattalakkhanasutta. As I see it, the intractable nature of our experience is attributable to rúpa. That's not to say that rúpa is permanent, that it doesn't change, only that it is quite independent of our experience of it, and prior to its contact with náma.

Rúpa is only experienced, its resistence (patigha) only manifest through vedaná, saññá, cetaná, phassa, and manasikára, i.e. through náma (cf. M9), i.e. through our designation (adhivacaná) of it together with its presence (viññána). In and of itself it can't be said to exist, so I can imagine how someoned might liken it to a lump of insubstantial foam.

For an example, let's say that I learn of a new word. In order for the word to exist it has to be present (viññána) in some form (náma) -- even if its presence is in some far off corner of the recesses of my vocabularly. But the facticity of the word preceded my knowlege of it, preceded my experience of it. Its inertia (rúpa) is quite independent of my experience of it as námarúpa. (The clock doesn't stop when I leave the room." as the Ven. Ñanavira put it.)

And this is the case with anything we experience, even all those things mentioned in the Múlapariyáyasutta (ones vocabulary being the semantic counterpart to ones world). The experience of the arahant is námarúpa saha viññána just as it is for the puthujjana, but the puthujjana perverts his concept of reality through his belief in a self, his personalizing it (sakkáyaditthi). For the arahant all experience is utterly impersonal, but none the less real and that includes the concepts he draws from his own lived experience.

This is my take on the Ven. Ñanavira -- and I'm inclined to accept it --, so if there are any Ñanavirans out there, please correct me if I've strayed anywhere.

pulga


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Re: SN 22.95: Phena Sutta — Foam

Postby Nyana » Fri Jan 21, 2011 6:35 am

pulga wrote:the puthujjana perverts his concept of reality through his belief in a self, his personalizing it (sakkáyaditthi). For the arahant all experience is utterly impersonal, but none the less real and that includes the concepts he draws from his own lived experience.

Either you have failed to understand Ven. Ñāṇananda's commentaries already posted on this thread, or you disagree with them. At any rate, the problem with your assertions are this: deluded cognitions are deluded and are therefore of no value in ascertaining what is or isn't objectively real. An arahants cognitions are measureless and therefore there are no worldly criteria for establishing an objective basis for such cognitions. A learner's cognitions are also designated as measureless when engaged in practice. Thus there are no objective means for establishing what you are trying to propose. It's a fruitless line of investigation. It would be far more beneficial to practice the applications of mindfulness.

All the best,

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Re: SN 22.95: Phena Sutta — Foam

Postby pt1 » Fri Jan 21, 2011 10:12 am

Ñāṇa wrote:The Abhidhammapiṭaka doesn't define conditioned phenomena as paramattha dhammā or paramattha sabhāva. The former does occur once in the Kathāvatthu but it's hardly a ringing endorsement for how this notion of paramattha dhamma later came to be applied and interpreted. Moreover, even someone like Karunadasa admits that the later ābhidhammika treatises present a realist view.

Didn't we discuss this same issue recently and Ven.Pannasikhara suggested that reading the above conclusion into the writings of Prof.Karunadasa might not be quite right?

Further, despite all the discussions, I still can't quite understand your contention that "later ābhidhammika treatises present a realist view" - I mean, if they are not denying that dhammas are conditioned, then how could they be talking realism? Realism can only apply to something that's not conditioned, no? Or am I wrong in that basic assumption? I mean, at the moment your interpretation to me seems just like interpreting Ven.Nananada as advocating nihilism...

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Re: SN 22.95: Phena Sutta — Foam

Postby Nyana » Fri Jan 21, 2011 11:00 am

pt1 wrote: Didn't we discuss this same issue recently and Ven.Pannasikhara suggested that reading the above conclusion into the writings of Prof.Karunadasa might not be quite right?

Further, despite all the discussions, I still can't quite understand your contention that "later ābhidhammika treatises present a realist view" - I mean, if they are not denying that dhammas are conditioned, then how could they be talking realism?

I was just paraphrasing the professor's own words. Karunadasa's The Dhamma Theory: Philosophical Cornerstone of the Abhidhamma:

    What emerges from this Abhidhammic doctrine of dhammas is a critical realism, one which recognizes the distinctness of the world from the experiencing subject yet also distinguishes between those types of entities that truly exist independently of the cognitive act and those that owe their being to the act of cognition itself.

He goes on to say that "a dhamma is a truly existent thing (sabhāvasiddha)." This is a completely realist view. And the inevitable consequence entailed by this realist view, wherein all conditioned dhammas are "truly existing things," is that path cognitions and fruition cognitions of each of the four paths and fruits must occur within an utterly void vacuum state cessation, which is considered to be the ultimately existent "unconditioned." This is described by Jack Kornfield:

    In Mahasi’s model, enlightenment—or at least stream-entry, the first taste of nirvana—comes in the form of a cessation of experience, arising out of the deepest state of concentration and attention, when the body and mind are dissolved, the experience of the ordinary senses ceases, and we rest in perfect equanimity. We open into that which is unconditioned, timeless, and liberating: nirvana.... But there are a lot of questions around this kind of moment. Sometimes it seems to have enormously transformative effects on people. Other times people have this moment of experience and aren’t really changed by it at all. Sometimes they’re not even sure what happened.

This notion of path and fruition cognitions is not supported by the Pāli canon. Moreover, there are now numerous people who've had such experiences sanctioned by "insight meditation" teachers, and who have gone on to proclaim to the world that arahants can still experience lust and the other defiled mental phenomena. Taking all of this into account there is no good reason whatsoever to accept this interpretation of path and fruition cognitions. Void vacuum state cessations are not an adequate nor reliable indication of stream entry or any of the other paths and fruitions.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: SN 22.95: Phena Sutta — Foam

Postby pulga » Fri Jan 21, 2011 10:42 pm

... deluded cognitions are deluded and are therefore of no value in ascertaining what is or isn't objectively real. An arahants cognitions are measureless and therefore there are no worldly criteria for establishing an objective basis for such cognitions. A learner's cognitions are also designated as measureless when engaged in practice. Thus there are no objective means for establishing what you are trying to propose. Geoff


"Objectively real" is a loaded term: it implies a world common to all, which is certainly not what I was asserting with regards to rúpa.

The Ven. Ñanananda and the Ven. Ñanavira have similar ideas, but whereas the Ven. Ñanavira envisions a real world -- i.e. real from within the point of view of the individual -- devoid of self, yet with all the inherent vicissitudes that arise due to its factical nature, the Ven. Ñanananda offers us a world where everything is a mirage: the conflicting, problematic nature of the very idea of a self is de-emphasized, swept away with the world's illusion.

I do hope to read more of the Ven. Ñanananda in the coming weeks: I recently ordered his Nibbána -- the Mind Stilled. Perhaps I'll come to appreciate his ideas more as time goes by.

Take care,
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Re: SN 22.95: Phena Sutta — Foam

Postby Nyana » Sat Jan 22, 2011 5:23 am

pulga wrote:I do hope to read more of the Ven. Ñanananda in the coming weeks: I recently ordered his Nibbána -- the Mind Stilled. Perhaps I'll come to appreciate his ideas more as time goes by.

There are numerous people who appreciate Ven. Ñāṇananda's teachings who were initially inspired by the writings of Ven. Ñāṇavira. Ven. Yogā­nanda is one such person. His meetings with Ven. Ñāṇananda can be read in his Heretic Sage Series.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: SN 22.95: Phena Sutta — Foam

Postby pt1 » Sun Jan 23, 2011 4:54 am

Thanks for your reply.
Ñāṇa wrote:I was just paraphrasing the professor's own words. Karunadasa's The Dhamma Theory: Philosophical Cornerstone of the Abhidhamma:

As I remember, the way professor's work is structured is that he presents one bit of material and then draws a conclusion, then presents another bit of material and modifies the conclusion accordingly, etc, so the entire work needs to be considered, not just bits and pieces. As I remember from previous discussions, different people interpret differently what the professor says overall, and then there's the new edition which is supposedly even less in favor of realism... In terms of more bits and pieces though - tilt collects some interesting ones in this thread that seems relevant to some extent, though I suspect you're probably familiar with most of the quotes there: viewtopic.php?f=16&t=6999#p111695

Ñāṇa wrote:He goes on to say that "a dhamma is a truly existent thing (sabhāvasiddha)." This is a completely realist view.
Of course, I can say here - "No, it isn't." - but that won't get us far in terms of a constructive discussion, so I am kind of hoping that you can give a bit more, er, substantial (sorry couldn't find a better word here) explanation regarding realism in the face of conditionality. You do mention the consequence below, but I'm really interested in your reasoning that describes the actual cause that leads to the consequence I guess.

Ñāṇa wrote:And the inevitable consequence entailed by this realist view, wherein all conditioned dhammas are "truly existing things," is that path cognitions and fruition cognitions of each of the four paths and fruits must occur within an utterly void vacuum state cessation, which is considered to be the ultimately existent "unconditioned."

Hm, not sure what you mean by the "vacuum" thing. As I remember, during stream-entry, nibbana is said to be the object of consciousness and accompanying mental factors such as mindfulness, wisdom, etc. I don't quite understand how does that relate to a "vacuum state cessation"? Perhaps you could elaborate a bit? Thanks.

Ñāṇa wrote:This is described by Jack Kornfield:

In Mahasi’s model, enlightenment—or at least stream-entry, the first taste of nirvana—comes in the form of a cessation of experience, arising out of the deepest state of concentration and attention, when the body and mind are dissolved, the experience of the ordinary senses ceases, and we rest in perfect equanimity. We open into that which is unconditioned, timeless, and liberating: nirvana.... But there are a lot of questions around this kind of moment. Sometimes it seems to have enormously transformative effects on people. Other times people have this moment of experience and aren’t really changed by it at all. Sometimes they’re not even sure what happened.


This notion of path and fruition cognitions is not supported by the Pāli canon. Moreover, there are now numerous people who've had such experiences sanctioned by "insight meditation" teachers, and who have gone on to proclaim to the world that arahants can still experience lust and the other defiled mental phenomena. Taking all of this into account there is no good reason whatsoever to accept this interpretation of path and fruition cognitions. Void vacuum state cessations are not an adequate nor reliable indication of stream entry or any of the other paths and fruitions.
Well, this is sounding like "my teacher is better than yours", and even though I'm not a Mahasi student, there are some here who are, so I'd propose not to take the discussion in this direction, there's plenty already that we can discuss above.

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Re: SN 22.95: Phena Sutta — Foam

Postby Nyana » Sun Jan 23, 2011 8:42 am

pt1 wrote:As I remember, the way professor's work is structured is that he presents one bit of material and then draws a conclusion, then presents another bit of material and modifies the conclusion accordingly, etc, so the entire work needs to be considered, not just bits and pieces.

I am taking the entire paper into consideration, as well as an extensive survey of the relevant Pāli texts. Which is why I've already said: The Abhidhammapiṭaka doesn't define conditioned phenomena as paramattha dhammā or paramattha sabhāva. The former does occur once in the Kathāvatthu but it's hardly a ringing endorsement for how this notion of paramattha dhamma later came to be applied and interpreted. Moreover, even someone like Karunadasa admits that the later ābhidhammika treatises present a realist view. As Ven. Ñāṇananda has repeatedly pointed out, this view isn't supported by the suttas or earliest strata of abhidhamma.

pt1 wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote:He goes on to say that "a dhamma is a truly existent thing (sabhāvasiddha)." This is a completely realist view.
Of course, I can say here - "No, it isn't." - but that won't get us far in terms of a constructive discussion, so I am kind of hoping that you can give a bit more, er, substantial (sorry couldn't find a better word here) explanation regarding realism in the face of conditionality.

Realism has nothing to do with rejecting conditionality/causality. It has to do with the objective status one proposes with regard to form and formless phenomena. By the criteria Karunadasa presents he is quite correct in his assessment that the later ābhidhammika interpretation of the dhamma theory is a realist view.

pt1 wrote:Hm, not sure what you mean by the "vacuum" thing. As I remember, during stream-entry, nibbana is said to be the object of consciousness and accompanying mental factors such as mindfulness, wisdom, etc. I don't quite understand how does that relate to a "vacuum state cessation"? Perhaps you could elaborate a bit?

Already described quite well by Kornfield: "[T]he first taste of nirvana—comes in the form of a cessation of experience, arising out of the deepest state of concentration and attention, when the body and mind are dissolved, the experience of the ordinary senses ceases, and we rest in perfect equanimity. We open into that which is unconditioned, timeless, and liberating: nirvana."

This is a consequence of a realist view: If all conditioned phenomena are truly existent impermanent things, and nibbāna is a truly existent permanent thing, then nibbāna can only be cognized as an utter void completely independent of these so-called truly existent impermanent things.

All the best,

Geoff
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