Sylvester wrote:But it looks as if this bifurcation into paññattimatta and paramattha (implied from the former) seems only necessary if one approaches from a certain Abhidhammic angle. Your treatment of phassa echoes the Sautrantika thesis, whereas the Sarvastivadins and the Pali Dhammasangani accords phassa "dhamma" status : Karunadasa p.102.
Following Ven. Ñāṇananda, there is no need and no soteriological purpose in trying to establish any dhammas as anything more than nominal designations. The teachings are prescriptive and descriptive, and this is all that one needs in order to develop the path. From his The Magic of the Mind, pp. 62-63:
- According to the phenomenalistic approach of the Buddha, not only the different types of feelings and mental states but the entire range of doctrinal categories summed up under the last section [of the Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta] i.e. ‘contemplation of mind-objects,’ has nothing in it that is worth ‘clinging to.’ All of them can be subsumed under the term ‘concept’ and that is to recognize their conditioned nature – the nature of arising and ceasing.
“Friends, when there is the eye and there are forms and there is eye-consciousness, it is possible that one will point out a designation of contact (phassapaññatti). When there is a designation of contact, it is possible that one will point out a designation of feeling (vedanāpaññatti). When there is a designation of feeling, it is possible that one will point out a designation of perception (saññāpaññatti). When there is a designation of perception, it is possible that one will point out a designation of thought (vitakkapaññatti). When there is a designation of thought, it is possible that one will point out a designation of obsession due to reckonings born of prolific perception (papañcasaññāsaṅkhāsamudācaraṇapaññatti).
“When there is the ear... When there is the nose... When there is the tongue... When there is the body...
“When there is the mind and there are mental phenomena and there is mental-consciousness, it is possible that one will point out a designation of contact. When there is a designation of contact, it is possible that one will point out a designation of feeling. When there is a designation of feeling, it is possible that one will point out a designation of perception. When there is a designation of perception, it is possible that one will point out a designation of thought. When there is a designation of thought, it is possible that one will point out a designation of obsession due to reckonings born of prolific perception.” – M I 112 Madhupiṇḍika Sutta
It would indeed appear strange to us that in Buddhist psychology even contact and feeling – with which we are so intimate – are treated as ‘designations’ (paññatti). We might feel that this is an intrusion of the ‘designation’ into the jealously guarded recesses of the psyche. Yet this is not the case, for, in the very act of apperception contacts and feelings are reckoned, evaluated, defined, and designated on the basis of one’s latencies (i.e. the aggregates). Thus there is hardly any justification for regarding them as ‘the given’, though we are accustomed to take them for granted. In other words, what we are wont to treat as ‘the given,’ turns out to be ‘synthetic’ and ‘composite’ (saṅkhata).
And from his Concept and Reality In Early Buddhist Thought, p. 87:
- The primary significance of the formula of Dependent Arising lies here. Lists of phenomena, both mental and material, are linked together with the term "paccayā" or any of its equivalents, and the fact of their conditionality and non-substantiality is emphasized with the help of analysis and synthesis. Apart from serving the immediate purpose of their specific application, these formulas help us to attune our minds in order to gain paññā. Neither the words in these formulas, nor the formulas as such, are to be regarded as ultimate categories. We have to look not so much at them as through them. We must not miss the wood for the trees by dogmatically clinging to the words in the formulas as being ultimate categories. As concepts, they are merely the modes in which the flux of material and mental life has been arrested and split up in the realm of ideation....
Concept and Reality, pp. 55 - 56:
- Concepts – be they material or spiritual, worldly or transcendental – are not worthy of being grasped dogmatically. They are not to be treated as ultimate categories and are to be discarded in the course of the spiritual endeavour.... That the emancipated sage (muni) no longer clings even to such concepts as "nibbāna" or "detachment" (virāga) is clearly indicated in the following verse of the Sutta Nipāta:
"For the Brahmin (the Muni) who has transcended all bounds, there is nothing that is grasped by knowing or by seeing. He is neither attached to attachment nor is he attached to detachment. In this world, he has grasped nothing as the highest." [Sn 795]
And there is no need for a two truth theory either. Concept and Reality In Early Buddhist Thought, pp. 44-45:
- [T]he word ‘paramattha’ in its earlier and non-technical usage, actually meant the Highest Goal as the object of realization, and any words tending towards that goal were called ‘paramatthasaṃhita’ (connected with the Highest Goal), irrespective of their precision or technicality. However, the Buddha, for his part, was content to treat all of them as ‘sammuti’. For him, they were ‘merely worldly conventions in common use, which he made use of, without clinging to them’ (DN I 202, Poṭṭhapāda Sutta).
One wonders whether this simple though profound attitude of the Buddha towards concepts, has been properly handed down in tradition, when for instance one comes across the following verse quoted approvingly by Buddhaghosa (source unknown) in his commentary to the Anaṅgaṇa Sutta of the Majjhima Nikāya:
Duve saccāni akkhāsi, sambuddho vadataṃ varo;
sammutiṃ paramatthañca, tatiyaṃ nūpalabbhati.
Saṅketavacanaṃ saccaṃ, lokasammutikāraṇā;
paramatthavacanaṃ saccaṃ, dhammānaṃ bhūtakāraṇā.
Tasmā vohārakusalassa, lokanāthassa satthuno;
sammutiṃ voharantassa, musāvādo na jāyati.
[Translation:] "The Fully Enlightened One, the best of those who speak, declared two truths, the conventional and the absolute; there can be no third. Words of symbolic nature are true by reason of their existence in worldly parlance. Words of absolute significance, are true by reason of the existence of the elements. Hence, even though the Lord of the World, the Teacher versed in worldly parlance, makes use of such conventional speech, there arises no offense of falsehood for him."
If one can appreciate the significance of the term ‘nippapañca,’ one might realize that the Buddha could magnanimously afford to dispense with such naïve defenses as the above, against any charges of his having violated the fourth precept.
And also, in his The Mind Stilled, Nibbāna Sermon 13:
- [Nibbāna] is not a paramattha in the sense of an absolute. It is a paramattha only in the sense that it is the highest good, parama attha. This is the sense in which the word was used in the discourses, though it has different connotations now. As exemplified by such quotations as āraddhaviriyo paramatthapattiyā, "with steadfast energy for the attainment of the highest good," the suttas speak of Nibbāna as the highest good to be attained.
In later Buddhist thought, however, the word paramattha came to acquire absolutist connotations, due to which some important discourses of the Buddha on the question of worldly appellations, worldly expressions and worldly designations fell into disuse. This led to an attitude of dwelling in the scaffolding, improvised just for the purpose of constructing a building....
[i]t is not proper to relegate some sermons as discursive or conventional in style. Always it is a case of using concepts in worldly parlance. In the laboratory one uses a particular set of symbols, but on returning home he uses another. In the same way, it is not possible to earmark a particular bundle of concepts as absolute and unchangeable. As stated in the Poṭṭhapādasutta, already discussed, all these concepts are worldly appellations, worldly expressions, worldly usages, worldly designations, which the Tathāgata makes use of without tenacious grasping. However philosophical or technical the terminology may be, the arahants make use of it without grasping it tenaciously. What is of importance is the function it fulfills. We should make use of the conceptual scaffolding only for the purpose of putting up the building. As the building comes up, the scaffolding has to leave. It has to be dismantled. If one simply clings onto the scaffolding, the building would never come up.
Sylvester wrote:Might you happen to have at hand a sutta that expresses or implies the bifurcation of mindfulness and jhana into mundane and supramundane?
The basic distinction is given in MN 117, and developed in the Abhidhammapiṭaka such as the Vibhaṅga, etc.
Sylvester wrote:What do you or your textual source mean by "supramundane"?
It's a translation of lokuttara, which is defined in the Paṭisambhidāmagga Treatise on the Supramundane as follows:
- What dhammas are supramundane?
The four applications of mindfulness, the four right endeavors, the four pathways of achievement, the five faculties, the five strengths, the seven factors of awakening, the eightfold path, and the four noble paths, the four ascetic fruitions, and nibbāna.
In what sense are they supramundane?
They cross from the world, thus they are supramundane. They cross over from the world, thus they are supramundane.
All the best,