Agganna Sutta

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Re: Agganna Sutta

Postby son of dhamma » Thu Dec 23, 2010 9:23 am

Yes, he was the supreme wordsmith.
The Buddhadhamma is not to be taken literally in all respects.
Tilt, I don't see why you're saying that the Buddha was, "turning the Brahmanical stories into Buddhist stories that really are critiques of the basis of the Brahmanical claims." I can understand how you think that, and your points, but I think that it isn't necessarily true and so I don't think that "my argument" verses "your argument" has any basis. I don't think it can lead to anything. I'm not stuck on the security of the literal point-of-view, I enjoy the security of the Dhamma on practical experience, not because of the Agganna Sutta or Abhidhamma cosmology. If the Buddha explained the cosmos, fine. If he didn't, that's fine too. I'm not stuck on anything. But I am inclined to think that it is literal in the subtle sense of the Buddha.

clw_uk wrote:
And you might say that his teaching of awakening doesn't concern these things, but you can't read the teaching of awakening without standing neck-deep in devas and brahmas and hell, and rebirth.


Depends on interpretation of those terms and what the Buddha meant by them


I agree. I interpret them one way on my practical experience, and other Buddhists interpret them in another. I don't think there is a basis for us to argue it on, to any real point.
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Sometimes no Buddhas arise in the world. Sometimes they do. When it happens, it is for the welfare and happiness of men, out of compassion for all creatures. For a long, long time he has been working to become a Buddha. He met other Buddhas along the way. And after his long striving he attains his final life, yet not without showing everyone else how to get there.
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Re: Agganna Sutta

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Dec 23, 2010 9:38 am

son of dhamma wrote:Yes, he was the supreme wordsmith.
The Buddhadhamma is not to be taken literally in all respects.
Tilt, I don't see why you're saying that the Buddha was, "turning the Brahmanical stories into Buddhist stories that really are critiques of the basis of the Brahmanical claims." I can understand how you think that,
I do not think you have a clue why I think that. Maybe you might try studying some of the pre-Buddhist "Hindu"/Brahmanical literature, such as the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upanishad, which is very directly used as a basis in DN 1/24 and read some of the better histories of that time.

. . . but I think that it isn't necessarily true and so I don't think that "my argument" verses "your argument" has any basis I don't think it can lead to anything.
If you are not willing to inform yourself about the milieu of the Buddha's time, you are absolutely correct about the hopelessness of any such discussion. The thing is, these discourses did not appear in a vacuum.

But I am inclined to think that it is literal in the subtle sense of the Buddha.[/b]
Whatever that might mean.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Agganna Sutta

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Dec 23, 2010 9:44 am

son of dhamma wrote: Tilt, I don't see why you're saying that the Buddha was, "turning the Brahmanical stories into Buddhist stories that really are critiques of the basis of the Brahmanical claims."

Have you read any of Richard Gombrich's books?

How Buddhism Began
http://books.google.com/books?id=aIOY5g ... &q&f=false

What the Buddha Thought
http://www.equinoxpub.com/equinox/books ... p?bkid=385

See also this thread: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=5599

:anjali:
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Re: Agganna Sutta

Postby son of dhamma » Thu Dec 23, 2010 9:52 am

tiltbillings wrote:
But I am inclined to think that it is literal in the subtle sense of the Buddha.[/b]
Whatever that might mean.


I meant that the Buddha spoke subtly, regardless of literacy or non-literacy, his words were always imbued with a subtle meaning, that meaning which is of the Dhamma which is "subtle and difficult to understand". I think that it is subtle, and when I read the Buddha's words I find there to be the subtle meaning of the Dhamma in them, a subtle meaning that speaks to the practice. A knowledge of the Buddha, in some sense.
I am familiar with the Upanishads, the Vedas, and I study Brahmanistic tradions such as Hinduism and especially the Bhagavad-gita and related texts.
I never implied that I thought they appeared out of a vacuum, I stated my position:

son of dhamma wrote:The Buddha was using the current representation of the world to explain the reality of the cosmological structure. The people would not have understand that the world was a sphere, they would not have understand galaxies, or galactic clusters, or the universe. So, he told them about their world, about how the solar system with its sun, moon, and earth forms, and how beings come to arise on earth. And he explained how the planes of existence rise to the top of all existence, above a thousand worlds, a thousand of those systems, a thousand of those systems.
Just because the Brahmanistic ideas were so similar to the real cosmos, doesn't mean that the Buddha was just fabricating something to convince them of their fallacy. What if the Buddha arose in such a time of those ideas to correct them?...


That is what I am inclined to think on my practical experience of the Eightfold Path and experiences with meditation. I do NOT think that we don't have a basis for argument because you are familiar with the milieu of the Buddha's time and I am not. I think that we don't have a basis because our practical experience is not the same, and that according to the scripture I think "the Brahmanistic ideas were so similar to the real cosmos... and the Buddha effectively arose in such a time of those ideas to correct them. I don't have a basis to argue this point with you, do you find one, without presuming things about me?
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Sometimes no Buddhas arise in the world. Sometimes they do. When it happens, it is for the welfare and happiness of men, out of compassion for all creatures. For a long, long time he has been working to become a Buddha. He met other Buddhas along the way. And after his long striving he attains his final life, yet not without showing everyone else how to get there.
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Re: Agganna Sutta

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Dec 23, 2010 10:17 am

son of dhamma wrote: I am familiar with the Upanishads, the Vedas, and I study Brahmanistic tradions such as Hinduism and especially the Bhagavad-gita and related texts.
I do not find you at all convincing in what you just said in light of what you said above: 'I don't see why you're saying that the Buddha was, "turning the Brahmanical stories into Buddhist stories that really are critiques of the basis of the Brahmanical claims.' If you really had studied the earliest Upanishads this statement would not have been made.

That is what I am inclined to think on my practical experience of the Eightfold Path and experiences with meditation. I do NOT think that we don't have a basis for argument because you are familiar with the milieu of the Buddha's time and I am not. I think that we don't have a basis because our practical experience is not the same, and that according to the scripture I think "the Brahmanistic ideas were so similar to the real cosmos... and the Buddha effectively arose in such a time of those ideas to correct them. I don't have a basis to argue this point with you, do you find one, without presuming things about me?
Ah, the reformist notion of the Buddha. And on the basis of over 40+ years of "practical experience" with the path the Buddha taught and with experiences of bhavana, working with excellent teachhers, studying the Pali texts, I see that there is no reason to take some of this cosmological stuff literally. The Buddha was far more subtle than that.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Agganna Sutta

Postby son of dhamma » Thu Dec 23, 2010 10:29 am

I see. As I said our practical experience is not the same--I didn't say that mine was 40+, I have only 3+ in this lifetime.
So, you say that the Buddha did not explain a cosmological system?
with metta
Sometimes no Buddhas arise in the world. Sometimes they do. When it happens, it is for the welfare and happiness of men, out of compassion for all creatures. For a long, long time he has been working to become a Buddha. He met other Buddhas along the way. And after his long striving he attains his final life, yet not without showing everyone else how to get there.
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Re: Agganna Sutta

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Dec 23, 2010 10:57 am

son of dhamma wrote:I see. As I said our practical experience is not the same--I didn't say that mine was 40+, I have only 3+ in this lifetime.
So, you say that the Buddha did not explain a cosmological system?
Appealling to personal experience does not make an objective argument.

The Buddha used the cosmology that was there, but was he committed to it? What would be the purpose. It is not an ehipassiko thing. His use of the cosmology in the Aggañña Sutta was certainly used to make a point about how things don't work, turning the Brahmanical structure upside down, but the Buddha's teaching do not require a cosmology. Do you really think he was really committed to the varna system which plays a big role in the Aggañña Sutta (which is part and parcel of the Brahmanical cosmology) as the real way things are, even his changed version of it?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Agganna Sutta

Postby son of dhamma » Thu Dec 23, 2010 11:10 am

tiltbillings wrote:Appealling to personal experience does not make an objective argument...
...Do you really think he was really committed to the varna system which plays a big role in the Aggañña Sutta (which is part and parcel of the Brahmanical cosmology) as the real way things are, even his changed version of it?


My point was indeed that it doesn't make an objective argument. Make sense?
I think that the Buddha was not committed to the varna system, on the basis that he explained how all four castes are subject to the same kammic law, which he explains in detail with examples of each caste-membership being reborn in different states. I think he was explaining the reality of their varna system from his Fully Enlightened perspective (it is only a perspective as far as we're concerned). Similarly, I think that the Buddha was explaining their cosmological system from his Fully Enlightened perspective. I don't think that the cosmos are really Brahmanistic, but I think that if certain states of being didn't exist then the Buddha would have said "these things, Vasettha, are not true. Having done [this], these beings are not reborn into [this state] in [this plane]." I think that these things should not be taken literally, or that they should be completely discredited as explanations of cosmological existence. I think that there is to be found a correspondence between what is "point-blank obvious" (forgive me for the crude language) about the Buddha's teachings, and what--such as this topic and Abhidhamma topics--is not "point-blank obvious" at all, and that this correspondence has its basis completely on individual, practical experience. Yes, this means that I don't have objective argument. My point is that I can't justify a objective argument. My argument here is just that. I hope I'm making sense.
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Sometimes no Buddhas arise in the world. Sometimes they do. When it happens, it is for the welfare and happiness of men, out of compassion for all creatures. For a long, long time he has been working to become a Buddha. He met other Buddhas along the way. And after his long striving he attains his final life, yet not without showing everyone else how to get there.
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Re: Agganna Sutta

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Dec 23, 2010 11:27 am

son of dhamma wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:Appealling to personal experience does not make an objective argument...
...Do you really think he was really committed to the varna system which plays a big role in the Aggañña Sutta (which is part and parcel of the Brahmanical cosmology) as the real way things are, even his changed version of it?


My point was indeed that it doesn't make an objective argument. Make sense?
Okay.

I think that the Buddha was not committed to the varna system, on the basis that he explained how all four castes are subject to the same kammic law, which he explains in detail with examples of each caste-membership being reborn in different states. I think he was explaining the reality of their varna system from his Fully Enlightened perspective (it is only a perspective as far as we're concerned). Similarly, I think that the Buddha was explaining their cosmological system from his Fully Enlightened perspective.
Sure, just like he put the idea of a creator god into his perspective. He did not have to deny it to deprive it of significance, and that pretty much what he did in the Aggañña Sutta. If you want to want to believe something like that is literal truth, fine, but once you trot it out there and try to bump it up against science, you are making claims you cannot support via objective arguments and you are putting yourself on the same plane as the Xtian fundamenalists/literalists creationists.

And try as you might, there is no objective basis for insisting something such as the Aggañña Sutta must be taken literally when taking it as a fable or a reworking of a Brahmanical point of view in order to undermine that point of view does not incapacitate the Buddha's teachings of awakening.

And what do you mean by the Abhidhamma?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Agganna Sutta

Postby son of dhamma » Thu Dec 23, 2010 11:42 am

tiltbillings wrote:Sure, just like he put the idea of a creator god into his perspective. He did not have to deny it to deprive it of significance, and that pretty much what he did in the Aggañña Sutta. If you want to want to believe something like that is literal truth, fine, but once you trot it out there and try to bump it up against science, you are making claims you cannot support via objective arguments and you are putting yourself on the same plane as the Xtian fundamenalists/literalists creationists.

I don't see why consistently compare me to other groups of thought. There's no need to say that I'm on the same plane as anyone in this argument. I haven't put you on a plane of anything. I'm attempting to do talking in terms of one individual to one individual, without name-calling.
I do not believe nor want to believe that something like that is the literal truth. I don't think that Brahma created the world or that Buddha said he did. (I think that its a reasonable inference to make that a Form-being on a higher plane thinks that he created the world due to arising in solitude whilst the material world has yet to form.) I said that it isn't to be taken literally, I think. And what is this "bumping"? At what point does scientific evidence refute that Form-beings do not exist as a result of the kamma of their meditative attainments? At what point does scientific evidence even remotely suggest that a being of Form and not matter, on a higher plane of existence, absolutely cannot possibly exist? If I heard a scientific source say that, then I would laugh and think to myself, "science has finally fallen in on its own superiority-complex". At what point, evidently?
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Re: Agganna Sutta

Postby Lazy_eye » Thu Dec 23, 2010 12:00 pm

yuttadhammo wrote:As for the process of evolution, it's important to distinguish between the evolution of a single being and the evolution of a species. Science says species on Earth are evolving; this is in no way contradictory to the idea that individual beings have been devolving - in fact, it's pretty clear that it is the devolution of higher beings that is leading to the population increase on Earth (along, one might presume, with the evolution of hell beings).


But have we established that the Agganna sutta is about the devolution of individual beings, rather than that of a species?

The version I've read looks more like a tale about a species, though of course this may be a result of poor translation. One would have to understand the original Pali to be sure.

Still, the sutta says very clearly that there were towns and villages on earth prior to humans taking up the practice of sexual intercourse:

Those who saw them indulging threw dust, ashes, or cowdung at them, crying: "Die, you filthy beast! How can one being do such things to
another!" Just as today, in some districts, when a daughter-in-law is led out, some people throw dirt at her, some ashes, and some cow dung, without realizing that they are
repeating an ancient observance. What was considered bad form in those days is now considered good form. And those beings who in those days indulged in sex were not allowed into a village or town for one or two months.


Which means that apparently there was some sort of asexual proto-human species on earth which was advanced enough to possess language, ideas about "good form", and the ability to make regulations, and which lived in towns and villages.

But according to evolutionary theory none of that could be true. Sexuality is as old as the human species, and indeed a great deal of the behavior discussed in the sutta is common to primate species in general. Other apes even have caste systems, thus contradicting the sutta's suggestion that castes were invented by corrupted humans.
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Re: Agganna Sutta

Postby son of dhamma » Thu Dec 23, 2010 12:09 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:Which means that apparently there was some sort of asexual proto-human species on earth which was advanced enough to possess language, ideas about "good form", and the ability to make regulations, and which lived in towns and villages.

But according to evolutionary theory none of that could be true. Sexuality is as old as the human species, and indeed a great deal of the behavior discussed in the sutta is common to primate species in general. Other apes even have caste systems, thus contradicting the sutta's suggestion that castes were invented by corrupted humans.




I think that the sutta should be interpreted as that human beings have existed for as long as animal beings have existed. Although I don't think that "human being" should be considered to be the present biological human species. I think that they were still in the process of devolving into gross biological creatures, as "molds" were evolving into "fungi", then to basic "plant-life", then "rice-like plant-life", then hardy grasses "like bamboo". I think that the evidence we see from the planet and study scientifically is accurate (science is science), but I think that the evolution phase of the world-cycle involves some evidences that we have yet been able to recognize according to the scientific method.
This is my grounds for interpretation, in part.
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Re: Agganna Sutta

Postby Lazy_eye » Thu Dec 23, 2010 12:44 pm

son of dhamma wrote:I think that the sutta should be interpreted as that human beings have existed for as long as animal beings have existed.


But in that case, the sutta and evolutionary theory are in conflict. According to the latter, human beings have not existed "for as long as animal beings have existed". Other animal species were there first, and we are a relatively late development.

Evolution also presents what seems like a paradox, from a dhammic point of view: how is it that the comparatively fortunate human species came about as a result of natural selection, a process which is anything but wholesome in Buddhist terms? Our human attributes are the direct result of competition for resources and mates, sexual desire, the differentiation of attractive and unattractive traits, and rampant omnivorism...the whole kit and caboodle of "evil things". According to kammic law, we would expect such behavior to result in a devolution from higher to lower being, just as the sutta describes.

So whatever we may say about its accuracy compared to evolution, the account given in the Agganna is certainly more in line with Buddhist morality.
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Re: Agganna Sutta

Postby clw_uk » Thu Dec 23, 2010 12:50 pm

I think that the sutta should be interpreted as that human beings have existed for as long as animal beings have existed. Although I don't think that "human being" should be considered to be the present biological human species. I think that they were still in the process of devolving into gross biological creatures, as "molds" were evolving into "fungi", then to basic "plant-life", then "rice-like plant-life", then hardy grasses "like bamboo".



Then what is a "Human being"
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Re: Agganna Sutta

Postby son of dhamma » Thu Dec 23, 2010 1:10 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:
But in that case, the sutta and evolutionary theory are in conflict. According to the latter, human beings have not existed "for as long as animal beings have existed".


I said, "Although I don't think that 'human being' should be considered to be the present biological human species. I think that they were still in the process of devolving into gross biological creatures, as 'molds' were evolving into 'fungi', then to basic 'plant-life', then 'rice-like plant-life', then hardy grasses 'like bamboo'."
I think that while these processes were going on at the 1/4 period of the world-cycle, human beings as mentioned in the Agganna Sutta were not as they are biologically now.

clw_uk wrote:Then what is a "Human being"


A being of a certain merit of intelligence that is subject a certain material ratio of suffering and happiness, that of less comfort than higher beings and more comfort than of lower beings (of lower beings, generally). What I was saying, however, is that higher beings of subtler matter who are undergoing a devolutionary transition into what we now observe as gross biological humans, over an incalculably long period of time, makes scientific reasoning of evidence impossible as of now.
Make sense?
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Sometimes no Buddhas arise in the world. Sometimes they do. When it happens, it is for the welfare and happiness of men, out of compassion for all creatures. For a long, long time he has been working to become a Buddha. He met other Buddhas along the way. And after his long striving he attains his final life, yet not without showing everyone else how to get there.
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Re: Agganna Sutta

Postby clw_uk » Thu Dec 23, 2010 1:19 pm

A being of a certain merit of intelligence that is subject a certain material ratio of suffering and happiness, that of less comfort than higher beings and more comfort than of lower beings (of lower beings, generally). What I was saying, however, is that higher beings of subtler matter who are undergoing a devolutionary transition into what we now observe as gross biological humans, over an incalculably long period of time, makes scientific reasoning of evidence impossible as of now.
Make sense?
with metta



Ok so coupled with what you said earlier are you saying that intelligent sentient beings like us arose before in earths past?
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Re: Agganna Sutta

Postby son of dhamma » Thu Dec 23, 2010 1:51 pm

Human beings, in this plane of existence, have always been the humans on this world. When they devolved from higher states and gross living matter (mold, fungi, r. plants, complex plants) evolved to generate a stable biological ecosystem into the continued evolution phase (where we are now), what human beings were was not biologically similar to what we are now, in the evolved phase. The world was evolving, higher beings were becoming what we are now. I am not claiming that there was a separate human species in the past, but that the human species was quite differently physiologically during the evolving phase. Make sense?
Thank you for at least listening to my explanation.
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Re: Agganna Sutta

Postby clw_uk » Thu Dec 23, 2010 2:20 pm

son of dhamma wrote:Human beings, in this plane of existence, have always been the humans on this world. When they devolved from higher states and gross living matter (mold, fungi, r. plants, complex plants) evolved to generate a stable biological ecosystem into the continued evolution phase (where we are now), what human beings were was not biologically similar to what we are now, in the evolved phase. The world was evolving, higher beings were becoming what we are now. I am not claiming that there was a separate human species in the past, but that the human species was quite differently physiologically during the evolving phase. Make sense?
Thank you for at least listening to my explanation.
with metta



Not really sounds a lot like new age white noise, no offence
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Re: Agganna Sutta

Postby clw_uk » Thu Dec 23, 2010 2:22 pm

Evolution also presents what seems like a paradox, from a dhammic point of view: how is it that the comparatively fortunate human species came about as a result of natural selection, a process which is anything but wholesome in Buddhist terms? Our human attributes are the direct result of competition for resources and mates, sexual desire, the differentiation of attractive and unattractive traits, and rampant omnivorism...the whole kit and caboodle of "evil things". According to kammic law, we would expect such behavior to result in a devolution from higher to lower being, just as the sutta describes.



A human being, in Dhammic terms, is a being who does not have to much suffering and not to much pleasure
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Re: Agganna Sutta

Postby son of dhamma » Thu Dec 23, 2010 2:41 pm

I think that's what I said a human being is.
I think that the theory of evolution as explained by spontaneous generation is "new age white-noise". I don't think that what I'm positing is correct, it's just an inference. The Buddha knew how humans appeared on earth, but he didn't explain it explicitly for a modern scientific context, did he? Therefore I don't know how human beings appear on a world during the evolving phase. I don't refute scientific evidence throw the Agganna Sutta on the top of the book-pile. I'm just reasoning. If that's not how humans arise, then fine. We can't ask the Buddha to explain it to us in our context, he is gone.
I didn't take any offense, but I don't want to mislead anyone.
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Sometimes no Buddhas arise in the world. Sometimes they do. When it happens, it is for the welfare and happiness of men, out of compassion for all creatures. For a long, long time he has been working to become a Buddha. He met other Buddhas along the way. And after his long striving he attains his final life, yet not without showing everyone else how to get there.
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