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The Buddha's approach to nibbana? - Dhamma Wheel

The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.
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The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Postby starter » Sat Mar 12, 2011 12:29 am

Hello Teachers/Friends,

Considering the relevance, I moved my following discussion from the meditation subforum to this one, and revised it accordingly.

As I understand, the Buddha adopted the middle-road approach not to even "get involved with or cling to these attachments, clingings, fixations of awareness, biases, or obsessions [of the two extremes: "the soul is the same as the body" vs. "the soul is one thing and the body another"; or "there is "self" vs "there is no "self"]", but only to teach the four Noble truths to get out of suffering. He pointed out that " And when there is the view that the soul is one thing and the body another, there isn't the leading of the holy life. "

But as I understand from his other teachings (e.g. SN 22.59), the actual "how" he taught us to get out of suffering is by realization of the five aggregates as "ANATTA", which leads to disenchantment/dispassion of the five aggregates.

Were the "middle-way" teachings like SN12.35 & SN12.15 given much later than the ANATTA teachings like SN22.59 (which I believe was given at the very early period) or not? Toward the later period of his teaching career, did he still teach the ANATTA method or did he change to the ANICCA/Dukkha approach instead?

Metta to all,

Starter

PS -- SN 12.35:

"... If one were to ask, 'Which aging & death? And whose is this aging & death?' and if one were to ask, 'Is aging & death one thing, and is this the aging & death of someone/something else?' both of them would have the same meaning, even though their words would differ. When there is the view that the soul is the same as the body, there isn't the leading of the holy life. And when there is the view that the soul is one thing and the body another, there isn't the leading of the holy life. Avoiding these two extremes, the Tathagata points out the Dhamma in between: From birth as a requisite condition comes aging & death." [The same applies to birth / becoming / clinging / craving / feeling / contact / six sense media / name & form / consciousness / fabrications]

SN 12.15

"By & large, Kaccayana, this world is in bondage to attachments, clingings (sustenances), & biases. But one such as this does not get involved with or cling to these attachments, clingings, fixations of awareness, biases, or obsessions; nor is he resolved on 'my self.' He has no uncertainty or doubt that just stress [dukkha], when arising, is arising; stress, when passing away, is passing away. In this, his knowledge is independent of others. It's to this extent, Kaccayana, that there is right view.

"'Everything exists': That is one extreme. 'Everything doesn't exist': That is a second extreme. Avoiding these two extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma via the middle: From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications. From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness. ...

"Now from the remainderless fading & cessation of that very ignorance [-- but how?? Through ANATTA of the five aggregates taught in SN22.59?] comes the cessation of fabrications. From the cessation of fabrications comes the cessation of consciousness. From the cessation of consciousness comes the cessation of name-&-form. From the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of the six sense media. From the cessation of the six sense media comes the cessation of contact. From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of feeling. From the cessation of feeling comes the cessation of craving. From the cessation of craving comes the cessation of clinging/sustenance. From the cessation of clinging/sustenance comes the cessation of becoming. From the cessation of becoming comes the cessation of birth. From the cessation of birth, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair all cease. Such is the cessation of this entire mass of stress & suffering."

SN 22.59:

"Any form [feeling, perception, (mental) fabrications, consciousness] whatsoever that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near: every consciousness is to be seen as it actually is with right discernment as: 'This is not mine. This is not my self. This is not what I am.'

"Seeing thus, the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones grows disenchanted with form, disenchanted with feeling, disenchanted with perception, disenchanted with fabrications, disenchanted with consciousness. Disenchanted, he becomes dispassionate. Through dispassion, he is fully released. With full release, there is the knowledge, 'Fully released.' He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'"
Last edited by starter on Sun Mar 13, 2011 6:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Mar 12, 2011 12:41 am


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Re: The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Mar 12, 2011 12:48 am

Greetings starter,

It's quite difficult to chronologise the individual suttas.

Validating your hypothesis would require a lot of scholastic investigation and presumably, a great deal of assumption.

Not to say you're right or wrong, or that it's not an interesting question... but it's going to be hard to prove one way or the other.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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Re: The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Mar 12, 2011 4:57 am


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Re: The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Postby Vossaga (Element) » Sat Mar 12, 2011 4:58 am


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Re: The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Postby starter » Sat Mar 12, 2011 7:42 pm

Hello Vossaga,

Many thanks for your very kind and helpful post. I don't have time now to do more research and reading on this subject, but have come to the following understanding after reading your post:

It seems to me that the Buddha's three approaches to end suffering (of course all the three fit in the four noble truths) could suit three types of practitioners:

1) The very beginners:
Understand the four noble truths that "clinging to the five aggregates is suffering and this suffering originates from craving, liking & disliking ... that leads to new becoming", and that ending of craving is the way to end suffering.

2) Those who have understood the four noble truths, but still have a strong sense of self:
Understand anicca/dukkha/anatta of the five aggregates at a logic/inference level -- "Now, that which is impermanent, unsatisfactory, subject to change [and not under one's control], is it proper to regard that as: 'This is mine, this I am, this is my self'?"

But this approach only led to the inference of the five aggregates as Not-self. There might leave a kind of assumption/implication that there's a "self" that would be permanent/not subject to change, satisfactory, and under one's control. The question/notion "what's then the 'self'" could still remain.

3) Those who have comprehended anicca/dukkha/anatta of the five aggregates at the above-stated inference level, but still have strong underline tendency of "I"/"Mine" -making towards the five aggregates due to the fundamental ignorance -- ignorance of the pure mind as it originally is and delusion of the conditioned phenomena caused by incoming defilements as "self":
Comprehend dependent origination (DO) to truly understand anatta -- the emptiness of all conditioned phenomena, the chain of DO starting from ignorance and ending with birth/death and all dukkha. Through truly realizing such emptiness of the whole DO chain, one can become disenchanted / detached / let-go of "self", "likes" and "dislikes".

My appreciation and metta to all!

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Re: The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Postby starter » Sun Mar 13, 2011 7:18 pm

Hm, just realized that the Buddha has actually taught us HOW to end the entire mass of dukkha very explicitly:

"Now from the remainderless fading & cessation of that very ignorance comes the cessation of fabrications. From the cessation of fabrications comes the cessation of consciousness. From the cessation of consciousness comes the cessation of name-&-form. From the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of the six sense media. From the cessation of the six sense media comes the cessation of contact. From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of feeling. From the cessation of feeling comes the cessation of craving. From the cessation of craving comes the cessation of clinging/sustenance. From the cessation of clinging/sustenance comes the cessation of becoming. From the cessation of becoming comes the cessation of birth. From the cessation of birth, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair all cease. Such is the cessation of this entire mass of stress & suffering." -- SN 12.15

To my understanding, the most efficacious and most important step is "the remainderless fading & cessation of that very ignorance" -- the ignorance of the pure mind as it originally is (which has none of the DO chain) and delusion of the conditioned phenomena (the DO chain) caused by incoming defilements as "self". When this ignorance ceases, all the rest of DO chain ceases. All conditioned phenomena in the entire DO chain are all empty because they are all ANATTA.

Metta to all,

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Re: The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Postby ancientbuddhism » Fri Apr 01, 2011 3:44 pm

The 4-NT and chronology of first and essential discourses of the Buddha have been presented. And from all of our reading of the suttas we could surmise that the essential pathway toward liberation is the three-marks of the 5 aggregates, and various schedules of dependant origination analysis to delineate exactly where the pathway of ignorance – notion of ‘I am’ – and disquietude, begins and ends.

That the schedules of the three-marks and dependant origination would be ‘essentials’ may be found in the Susīma Sutta (SN. 2.1.7.10), where we meet with the term released through wisdom (paññāvimutta). The Buddha clarifies this paññāvimutta by stating “…first there is knowledge of the structure of phenomena , afterwards knowledge of Nibbāna.” (“…pubbe kho, susima, dhammaṭṭhitiñāṇaṃ, pacchā nibbāne ñāṇa”nti.”). Needing further clarification, the Buddha continues instructing Susīma with the three-marks and dependant origination in the classic interrogative style.

The instructions which develop contemplative knowledge leading directly to wisdom and release are these. And these seem to point mainly to contemplation of impermanence (anicca) and rise and fall (udayabbayānupassī, samudayo - atthaṅgamo etc.)
Last edited by ancientbuddhism on Tue May 31, 2011 7:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Postby seanpdx » Fri Apr 01, 2011 6:14 pm

Retro gave the best response, imo. Your question is in the realm of academic buddhist studies.

Random food for thought (a pdf copy is floating around the internet):
"Inducing a Chronology of the Pali Canon", by Paul Kingsbury

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Re: The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Postby starter » Fri Apr 01, 2011 6:59 pm

Hello Khanti,

Many thanks for your very helpful info.Is the Susīma Sutta (SN. 2.1.7.10) you referred to the same as the following?
SN 12.70
PTS: S ii 119
CDB i 612
Susima Sutta: About Susima

Metta

Starter

PS: Thanks other friends for the helpful input as well. By the way, I'm trying to do a scholarly research into the chronology of the Pali Canon, but only would like to know those most important teachings of the Buddha which were given at his later teaching career, considering the development of his teachings.
Last edited by starter on Fri Apr 01, 2011 8:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Postby seanpdx » Fri Apr 01, 2011 7:58 pm

English translation of the susima sutta: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Pali in various transliterations can be found at tipitaka.org

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Re: The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Postby seanpdx » Fri Apr 01, 2011 8:02 pm

By the way, if you wish to further investigate the susima sutta, I recommend reading what Richard Gombrich has written on the subject. You can find some of his thoughts in How Buddhism Began.

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Re: The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Postby starter » Sat Apr 02, 2011 4:12 pm

Hi seanpdx,

Thanks for the link. I read the susima sutta and happened to find a Chinese commentary related to this sutta in which two different Chinese versions of this sutta were compared with the Pali version. It might be interesting to know that this commentary pointed out the mistakes Dr. Richard Gombrich made concerning the comparison of Chinese and Pali suttas. One Chinese version (one of the Agamas) has clearly indicated that the arahants liberated by insights didn't obtain any jhana (several other suttas in the same Agama have the same statements), but another version (from another branch of the early Buddhism) doesn't have such statement. Both Chinese versions don't have the three characteristics of the 5 aggregates, but only the 12 links of DO.

Metta to all,

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Re: The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Apr 03, 2011 7:30 am


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Re: The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Apr 03, 2011 8:22 am


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Re: The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Postby ancientbuddhism » Sun Apr 03, 2011 3:22 pm

Another interesting sutta along this topic is the Khemaka Sutta (SN. 3.1.9.7). With reference to the three-marks analysis of the 5 aggregates, this discourse discusses the particular utility of A & P toward release (dependant origination – paṭiccasamuppāda lit. ‘cause of arising’ – is built-in anytime analysis of presence or absence, rise and fall of atta, ‘I am’ or dukkha is discussed).

The essentials of the story are that Ven. Khemaka is an anāgāmin, who referred to a peculiar dilemma he had: “…as for the five aggregates, I do not regard these as self or belonging to self, although I am not an Arahant. Of these five aggregates subject to taking up this ‘I am’ (even still) comes up, although I do not consider ‘I am this’” (‘…pañcasu upādānakkhandhesu `asmī'ti adhigataṃ, `ayamahamasmī'ti na ca samanupassāmī"ti.”). He likened this ‘I am’ that he was beset with to the scent of a lotus blossom, that although the scent cannot be ascribed to any one part of the flower, the scent still is identified with the flower.

His explanation concludes with: ‘So it is, friends, that when a noble disciple has abandoned the five lower fetters, that of the five aggregates subject to taking-up; the residual notion ‘I am’, intention of ‘I am’ and tendency of ‘I am’ is not uprooted. But at a later time if he abides contemplating the rise and fall (udayabbayānupassī) of the five bases subject to taking-up; ‘this is material-form, this is the coming into being (samudayo) of material-form, this is the decline (atthaṅgamo) of material-form. This is sensation of feeling … sense-perception … thought processes … this is consciousness, this is the coming into being of consciousness, this is the decline of consciousness; the residual notion ‘I am’, intention of ‘I am’ and tendency of ‘I am’ is uprooted.’

What is significant in Ven. Khemaka’s remarks is his clarity about the exact nuance of his own dilemma, and its remedy of detailed contemplation of rise and fall. The discourse concludes that at the end of Ven. Khemaka’s explanation, sixty elder bhikkhus were released of the unwholesome-outflows (āsava), including Ven. Khemaka who was released through his own desana.
Last edited by ancientbuddhism on Tue May 31, 2011 7:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Postby starter » Sun Apr 03, 2011 4:15 pm


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Re: The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Postby starter » Sun Apr 03, 2011 8:08 pm

Hello Khanti,

Many thanks for kindly recommending the Khemaka Sutta [SN 22.89 http://dharmafarer.org/wordpress/wp-con ... 9-piya.pdf]. After reading this sutta, I understand more why the Buddha seemed to have changed his focus from the early teaching of anicca/dukkha/anatta (focused on anatta based upon logical inference) to the seemingly later focus on direct contemplation of anicca (e.g. also in Anapanassati sutta and etc.), to remain the middle way.

As Ven. Khemaka explained:

"I do not say ‘I am’ form, nor do I say ‘I am’ apart from form.
I do not say ‘I am’ feelings, nor do I say ‘I am’ apart from feelings.
I do not say ‘I am’ perception, nor do I say ‘I am’ apart from perception.
I do not say ‘I am’ formations, nor do I say ‘I am’ apart from formations.
I do not say ‘I am’ consciousness, nor do I say ‘I am’ apart from consciousness.

However, avuso, although the notion ‘I am’ in regards to the five aggregates of clinging has come to me, I do not regard any of them as ‘This I am’ (which is different from "No Self") [and neither do I regard any of them as "This 'I am' apart from" -- this is probably the difficult/complicated issue associated with the approach of anatta, which can easily lead to confusions and extremes unless one really comprehends it and can stay in the middle way]]".

"Avuso, even though a noble disciple has abandoned the five lower fetters, yet in regards to the five aggregates of clinging, there still lingers in him a residual[subtle] conceit ‘I am,’ a desire ‘I am,’ a latent tendency ‘I am’ that has not yet been uprooted. ... As he dwells contemplating arising and passing away in the five aggregates of clinging, this residual conceit ‘I am,’ this desire ‘I am,’ this latent tendency ‘I am,’ that has not yet been uprooted become uprooted."

-- To me, it doesn't seem to require jhanas to contemplate arising and passing away in the five aggregates, but good concentration certainly helps dramatically (strong samadhi can tranquilize both mind and body, which can remain peaceful also in the daily life). Since it's difficult for the busy lay practitioners to achieve and stabilize jhanas, it might work better to use wisdom/vipassana to remove/supress the major hindrances first which will help both concentration and insight. Your input would be appreciated.

Thanks and metta,

Starter


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