AN 4.173 - Kotthita.

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AN 4.173 - Kotthita.

Postby vinasp » Fri May 23, 2014 4:41 am

Hi everyone,

AN 4.173 - Kotthita.

This sutta is talking about the cessation of "a world." But it does not use
those words, instead it speaks of the cessation of the six bases for contact.

Mahakotthita is, in effect, asking: What is there after the world ends?

But the "world" here is a product of mental fabrication. Do you see the problem?

Kotthita is trying to know that which is beyond everything presently known.

If the present mental world is fabricated by a particular mode of knowing, then that mode of knowing cannot know what there would be if it ceased.

So, of course, he is told: You can't do that!

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: AN 4.173 - Kotthita.

Postby Mkoll » Fri May 23, 2014 4:44 am

Hi Vincent,

Can you quote the sutta here, please?
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Re: AN 4.173 - Kotthita.

Postby vinasp » Fri May 23, 2014 5:06 am

Hi Mkoll,

It is numbered 173 in Bodhi's Numerical Discourses.

On Access to Insight it is listed as AN 4.174 - link:

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

I prefer the new Bodhi translation.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: AN 4.173 - Kotthita.

Postby vinasp » Fri May 23, 2014 5:58 am

Hi everyone,

Then the Venerable Mahakotthita approached the Venerable Sariputta and exchanged greetings with him. When they had concluded their greetings and cordial talk, he sat down to one side and asked the Venerable Sariputta:

(1)"Friend, with the remainderless fading away and cessation of the six bases for contact, is there anything else?" [879]
"Do not say so, friend."

(2) [same question with:] ...is there nothing else?"
"Do not say so, friend."

(3) [same question with:] ...is there both something else and nothing else?"
"Do not say so, friend."

(4) [same question with:] ...is there neither something else nor nothing else?"
"Do not say so, friend." [880]

"Friend, when you are asked: [these 4 questions] you say 'do not say so, friend.' In what way should the meaning of this statement be understood?"

(1) "Friend, if one says:'With the remainderless fading away and cessation of the six bases for contact, there is something else,' one proliferates that which is not to be proliferated. [881]

(2) (3) (4) [Repeat for the other statements.]

"Friend, as far as the range of the six bases for contact extends, just so far extends the range of proliferation.[882]
As far as the range of proliferation extends, just so far extends the range of the six bases for contact.
With the remainderless fading away and cessation of the six bases for contact there is the cessation of proliferation, the subsiding of proliferation."

Slightly compressed by me, BB's notes to follow later.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: AN 4.173 - Kotthita.

Postby vinasp » Fri May 23, 2014 8:31 am

Hi everyone,

BB's notes:

879. The dialogue here seems to be concerned with the "ontological status" of the arahant who has attained the nibbana element without residue remaining, that is, the question whether the liberated person exists or does not exist after death.

My Comments: Those who understand the "eye", "ear"...."mind" as the actual things have no choice but to assume that physical death is being spoken of here.
Those who understand "eye" as a fabricated mental-object may see an alternative interpretation.

880. Mp glosses ma h'evam with evam ma bhani,"Do not speak thus," and explains that the four questions are asked by way of eternalism, annihilationism, patial eternalism, and 'eel-wriggling'[Pali]. Thus Sariputta rejects each question.
"Eel-wriggling" is agnosticism, skepticism, or intellectual evasiveness.

My Comments: This makes sense on the assumption that actual physical death is being spoken of.

881.Appapancam papanceti. Mp:"He creates proliferation [or speculations] in relation to something that should not be proliferated [or speculated] about.
He travels along a path that one should not travel on."
The Pali word papanca suggests mental fabrication, obsessive mental construction, and deluded conceptualization, which the commentaries say arise from craving, conceit, and wrong views [Pali].
It seems to me that Mp understands appapancam as a contraction of appapanciyam.

A Chinese parallel, SA 249, says at T II 60a 16-20:"If one [makes any of these assertions about the six bases for contact], these are just empty words [Chinese characters].With the vanishing, fading away, cessation, and stilling of the six bases for contact, one relinquishes empty falsehood [Chinese] and attains nibbana."

882. Tavata papancassa gati. Mp:"As far as the range of the six bases extends, just so far extends the range of proliferation, distinguished by way of craving, views, and concceit."

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: AN 4.173 - Kotthita.

Postby Spiny Norman » Fri May 23, 2014 9:01 am

vinasp wrote: This sutta is talking about the cessation of "a world." But it does not use
those words, instead it speaks of the cessation of the six bases for contact.
Mahakotthita is, in effect, asking: What is there after the world ends?
But the "world" here is a product of mental fabrication. Do you see the problem?


I'm not sure, since the sutta is describing the cessation of the six contact-media, ie vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch, & intellection. So no seeing, hearing etc?
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Re: AN 4.173 - Kotthita.

Postby vinasp » Fri May 23, 2014 12:42 pm

Hi everyone,

From a short paper by Robert Sharfe:

"The sudden/gradual moiety emerges from a tension or paradox that lies at the very heart of Buddhist soteriology, namely: how is it possible that conditioned dharmas - that intentional action or religious practice of ANY kind - could ever give rise to unconditioned liberation?
..........

Luis summarizes the sudden/gradual issue this way:

The fundamental rift as seen in Indian Buddhism can be defined as an ideal
polarity between those who understand enlightenment as a leap into a state
or realm of experience which is simple (integral, whole), ineffable, and
innate (that is, not acquired), and those who see enlightenment as a gradual
process of growth in which one can recognize degrees, steps, or parts - a
process, that is, which is amenable to description and conceptual
understanding, and which requires personal cultivation, growth, and
development. [3]

----------------------------End Quotes -----------------------------

I think that AN 4.173 is saying that "what comes next", after the cessation of the six bases of contact, cannot be explained in advance. It can only be
experienced.

It is therefore a leap into an ineffable realm.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: AN 4.173 - Kotthita.

Postby vinasp » Sat May 24, 2014 7:49 am

Hi everyone,

There do seem to be passages where papanca means something like "conceptual proliferation", or even "excessive verbosity."

But in other places, and in this discourse, I think that something deeper is meant.

Something like "mental fabrication" by which I mean both the "world" that one has fabricated for oneself, and the ongoing activity of such fabricating.

Let us take the end of AN 4.173 first - and substitute mental fabrication:

"With the remainderless fading away and cessation of the six bases for contact there is the cessation of mental fabrication, the subsiding of mental fabrication."

If we take the six bases for contact as being the same as the six sense bases, then their cessation would entail the cessation of: contact, feeling, craving, clinging, self-existence, birth, old-age-and-death.

Altogether, eight links of D.O. would have ceased, this whole mass of suffering would have ceased. These links are sometimes called "the world", and their cessation called the "cessation of the world."

The six sense bases are also called the "all", which is also said to cease.

If the discourse is about what happens after death, how does Ven. Sariputta know? Is he already dead?

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: AN 4.173 - Kotthita.

Postby vinasp » Sat May 24, 2014 8:04 am

Hi Spiny,

Quote:"I'm not sure, since the sutta is describing the cessation of the six contact-media, ie vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch, & intellection. So no seeing, hearing etc?"

So you understand "eye" as the actual physical eye, "ear" as the actual physical ear and so forth?

Are you satisfied with that understanding?

Are you open to the possibility of another interpretation?

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: AN 4.173 - Kotthita.

Postby Spiny Norman » Sat May 24, 2014 12:22 pm

vinasp wrote: So you understand "eye" as the actual physical eye, "ear" as the actual physical ear and so forth?
Are you satisfied with that understanding?


Well yes, this is what the suttas seem to say - the usual formula is sense organ, sense object and sense consciousness. What alternative are you suggesting, and on what basis?

At face value the OP sutta looks to me like another example of "don't speculate about whether there is a continuity after death". I'm currently trying to understand the alternative interpretation you're suggesting.
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Re: AN 4.173 - Kotthita.

Postby vinasp » Sat May 24, 2014 3:02 pm

Hi Spiny,

You must be overlooking passages such as these:

"If, through revulsion towards the eye, through its fading away and cessation,
one is liberated by nonclinging, one can be called a bhikkhu who has attained
Nibbana in this very life." [Part of SN 35.155]

"Venerable sir, what do the arahants maintain must exist for there to be
pleasure and pain? And what is it that the arahants maintain must cease
to exist for there to be no pleasure and pain?
"Sister, the arahants maintain that when the eye exists there is pleasure
and pain, and when the eye does not exist there is no pleasure and pain."
[Repeat for ear, nose, tongue, body and mind.- Part of SN 35.133]

The alternative that I am suggesting is that "eye" is not the physical organ.
I think that it is a fabricated mental-object, but I admit that I have not
explained this in a clear way - yet.

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Re: AN 4.173 - Kotthita.

Postby Spiny Norman » Sun May 25, 2014 9:55 am

vinasp wrote:Hi Spiny,

"If, through revulsion towards the eye, through its fading away and cessation,
one is liberated by nonclinging, one can be called a bhikkhu who has attained
Nibbana in this very life." [Part of SN 35.155]

"Sister, the arahants maintain that when the eye exists there is pleasure
and pain, and when the eye does not exist there is no pleasure and pain."
[Repeat for ear, nose, tongue, body and mind.- Part of SN 35.133]



Hi Vincent. I think the first passage can be viewed straightforwardly as the eye being an example of form.

The second passage does seem quite ambiguous - the translation I looked at has "where the eye exists" rather than "when the eye exists", which might be significant - see here: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .wlsh.html
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Re: AN 4.173 - Kotthita.

Postby Ron-The-Elder » Sun May 25, 2014 11:01 am

The following footnote is straight to the point of the sutta:

See MN 18. As Sn 4.14 points out, the root of the classifications and perceptions of objectification is the thought, "I am the thinker." This thought forms the motivation for the questions that Ven. Maha Kotthita is presenting here: the sense of "I am the thinker" can either fear or desire annihilation in the course of Unbinding. Both concerns get in the way of the abandoning of clinging, which is essential for the attainment of Unbinding, which is why the questions should not be asked.


Nothing more remains to be said. All of the questions raised by Kotthita were improper, and that is the reason the questions were rejected by Sariputta out of hand. Any response would have led to a form of clinging to a delusional view of self, which in turn would have increased dukkha, :jawdrop: not to unbinding and release. :buddha1:

source: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
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Re: AN 4.173 - Kotthita.

Postby vinasp » Mon May 26, 2014 2:46 pm

Hi everyone,

Another way to translate papanca might be "imagination."

"With the remainderless fading away and cessation of the six bases for contact there is the cessation of imagination, the subsiding of imagination."

The entire "self" and it's "world" (everything which is clung to ) is just
imagination.

(1) "Friend, if one says:'With the remainderless fading away and cessation of the six bases for contact, there is something else,' one imagines that which is not to be imagined."

The goal is to stop imagining and to "see things as they really are."

The foundation of this imaginary world is the imaginary relation between eye and self, visible object and self, seeing and self.

Which is why the Buddha instructs us endlessly to see that eye is not self.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: AN 4.173 - Kotthita.

Postby vinasp » Tue May 27, 2014 8:36 am

Hi everyone,

In my last post I suggested "imagination" as a translation of "papanca."

I have concluded that there is no word in English for what was meant by
papanca in this sutta. There was probably no word in Pali either, they are
attempting to give it a new meaning here.

The trouble with "imagination" is that in normal English usage it means
visualising or conceiving something at will. It is under our control and we
can stop doing it whenever we wish.

But papanca is not under our control, it operates autonomously creating an
apparent objective world.

That we form a conceptual model of the external world is beyond any doubt. But
papanca and it's products are just a distorted model within the natural model.

Since papanca is almost beyond control the "world" that it creates is a sort
of "mental prison" in which we are caught.

This is why enlightenment is so difficult - finding the key that unlocks the
prison door. The door to the deathless.

Regards, Vincent.
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