SN 35.205(246): Vina Sutta - The Lute

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SN 35.205(246): Vina Sutta - The Lute

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Sep 20, 2011 9:48 am

SN 35.205 PTS: S iv 195 CDB ii 1253 (corresponds to CDB SN 35.246)
Vina Sutta: The Lute
translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu


The heart of insight (vipassana): When you take apart a lute in search of its music, what do you find? When you take apart the five aggregates in search of "self," what do you find?

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


"Monks, in whatever monk or nun there arises desire, passion, aversion, delusion, or mental resistance with regard to forms cognizable via the eye, he/she should hold the mind in check. [Thinking,] 'It's dangerous & dubious, that path, thorny & overgrown, a miserable path, a devious path, impenetrable. It's a path followed by people of no integrity, not a path followed by people of integrity. It's not worthy of you,' he/she should hold the mind in check with regard to forms cognizable via the eye.

"In whatever monk or nun there arises desire, passion, aversion, delusion, or mental resistance with regard to sounds cognizable via the ear... aromas cognizable via the nose... flavors cognizable via the tongue... tactile sensations cognizable via the body... ideas cognizable via the intellect, he/she should hold the mind in check. [Thinking,] 'It's dangerous & dubious, that path, thorny & overgrown, a miserable path, a devious path, impenetrable. It's a path followed by people of no integrity, not a path followed by people of integrity. It's not worthy of you,' he/she should hold the mind in check with regard to ideas cognizable via the intellect.

"Suppose that corn had ripened and the watchman was heedless. A corn-eating ox, invading the corn to eat it, would intoxicate itself as much as it liked. In the same way, an uninstructed run-of-the-mill person, not exercising restraint with regard to the six media of sensual contact, intoxicates himself with the five strings of sensuality as much as he likes.

"Now suppose that corn had ripened and the watchman was heedful. The corn-eating ox would invade the corn to eat it, but then the watchman would grab it firmly by the muzzle. Having grabbed it firmly by the muzzle, he would pin it down by the forehead. Having pinned it down by the forehead, he would give it a sound thrashing with a stick. Having given it a sound thrashing with a stick, he would let it go.

"A second time... A third time, the corn-eating ox would invade the corn to eat it, but then the watchman would grab it firmly by the muzzle. Having grabbed it firmly by the muzzle, he would pin it down by the forehead. Having pinned it down by the forehead, he would give it a sound thrashing with a stick. Having given it a sound thrashing with a stick, he would let it go.

"As a result, the corn-eating ox — regardless of whether it went to the village or to the wilds, was standing still or lying down — wouldn't invade the corn again, because it would recall the earlier taste it got of the stick.

"In the same way, when a monk's mind is held back, thoroughly held back, from the six media of sensory contact, his mind settles inwardly, grows steady, unified, & concentrated.

"Suppose there were a king or king's minister who had never heard the sound of a lute before. He might hear the sound of a lute and say, 'What, my good men, is that sound — so delightful, so tantalizing, so intoxicating, so ravishing, so enthralling?' They would say, 'That, sire, is called a lute, whose sound is so delightful, so tantalizing, so intoxicating, so ravishing, so enthralling.' Then he would say, 'Go & fetch me that lute.' They would fetch the lute and say, 'Here, sire, is the lute whose sound is so delightful, so tantalizing, so intoxicating, so ravishing, so enthralling.' He would say, 'Enough of your lute. Fetch me just the sound.' Then they would say, 'This lute, sire, is made of numerous components, a great many components. It's through the activity of numerous components that it sounds: that is, in dependence on the body, the skin, the neck, the frame, the strings, the bridge, and the appropriate human effort. Thus it is that this lute — made of numerous components, a great many components — sounds through the activity of numerous components.'

"Then the king would split the lute into ten pieces, a hundred pieces. Having split the lute into ten pieces, a hundred pieces, he would shave it to splinters. Having shaved it to splinters, he would burn it in a fire. Having burned it in a fire, he would reduce it to ashes. Having reduced it to ashes, he would winnow it before a high wind or let it be washed away by a swift-flowing stream. He would then say, 'A sorry thing, this lute — whatever a lute may be — by which people have been so thoroughly tricked & deceived.'

"In the same way, a monk investigates form, however far form may go. He investigates feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness, however far consciousness may go. As he is investigating form... feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness, however far consciousness may go, any thoughts of 'me' or 'mine' or 'I am' do not occur to him."
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Re: SN 35.205(246): Vina Sutta - The Lute

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Sep 20, 2011 9:59 am

SN 35.205(246): Vina Sutta - The Lute
translated from the Pali by Maurice O'Connell Walshe


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

...

"Suppose, monks, there is some ripe corn, and a lazy guardian. And an ox,[1] fond of corn, gets into the field and eats his fill with ravenous delight. In the same way, monks, the ignorant worldling, being uncontrolled in the six sense-spheres, eats his fill with ravenous delight among the five kinds of sense-pleasure.[2]

"But suppose, monks, there is some ripe corn, and a vigilant guardian. And an ox, fond of corn, gets into the field. The guardian seizes him firmly by the muzzle. Holding him by the muzzle, he gets a firm grip on his forehead and holds him fast. He then gives him a sound thrashing with a stick, and then lets him go [a second and a third time he does this.] So it comes about monks, that that ox, fond of corn, though he wanders about in the village or the forest, whether he stands still or lies down, will not go into that field again because he remember the beating he got there before. In the same way, monks, when a monk's mind is strongly stirred by the six sense-spheres, nevertheless he stands firm inwardly, becomes calm, one-pointed and concentrated."[3]

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... passage-61

"Let us suppose, bhikkhus, that there is a king or a king's chief minister who has never heard the sound of a lute (vii.naa). Then, on hearing the sound for the first time, he says: 'Good man, what is that sound, so exciting, so beautiful, so intoxicating, so entrancing, so captivating?'

"And they say to him: 'It is the sound, Sire, of what is called a lute...'

"Thereupon he says: 'Go and bring me that lute.'

"They bring it to him, saying: 'This, Sire, is that lute, the sound of which is so exciting... so captivating.'

"But he rejoins: 'Away with the lute, my man! Just bring me that sound.'

"Then they say to him: 'This which is called a lute, Sire, is made of various parts, a great number of parts. It is because of its various parts, that it makes a sound; that is to say, owing to the belly, sounding board, arm, head, strings, plectrum and the effort of a man's fingers...'

"The king or the king's chief minister then breaks up the lute into ten or a hundred pieces. Having broken it up he splinters it further, burns it in a fire and reduces it to ashes. Having reduced it to ashes he winnows the ashes in a strong wind or lets them be borne away on the swift current of a river. And he says: 'A poor thing is this that you call a lute, my man, whatever the so-called lute may be. People have been infatuated and led astray by it for too long.'

"Just in this way, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu investigates body as far as body goes; he investigates feeling... perception... mental activities... consciousness as far as consciousness goes. So investigating whatever there may be, there is for him no 'I' or 'mine' or 'I am' in it."


Notes

1. Go.na: definitely an ox and not, as Woodward translates, a cow. It is very odd how much confusion exists in English versions of Buddhist scriptures in regard to these well-known bovine creatures: thus we hear of Zen "ox-herding" pictures, whereas it is obvious that the creature to be tamed is no ox but a ferocious bull! See Ven. W. Rahula, Zen and the Taming of the Bull, Bedford 1978, pp. 15ff.

2. Kaama-gu.naa: sense-pleasures associated with the five external sense objects: visual forms, sounds, scents, tastes and tangibles.

3. According to SA [SN commentary], these adjectives refer to the four jhaanas (see SN 40.9, n. 2).
There are the four "lower" jhaanas ("absorptions") associated with the World of Form (ruupaloka), and the four "higher" jhaanas associated with the Formless World (aruupaloka). They are referred to in similar terms in the first eight sections of Samyutta 40 (not included in this Anthology) thus: 1. "With Thought-Conception" (savitakka); 2. "Without Thought-Conception" (avitakka); 3. "By Happiness" (sukhena); 4. "Balanced" (upekkhako); 5. "[Infinity of] Space" (aakaasa); 6. "[Infinity of] Consciousness" (viññaana); 7. "Nothingness" (akiñcañña); 8. "Neither-perception [nor-non-perception]" (nevasaññii). For further details of these absorptions, which are pre-Buddhist and not essential to the attainment of enlightenment, see BD.
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Re: SN 35.205(246): Vina Sutta - The Lute

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Sep 26, 2011 9:35 am

"Bhikkhus, if in any bhikku or bhikkhuni desire or lust or hatred or delusion or aversion of mind should arise in regard to forms cognizable by the eye, such a one should rein in the mind from them thus:"

BB: Apart from SN 5, references to bhikkhunis are rare in SN, but see:

The five defilements are also at MN 151 http://www.metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pit ... dhi-e.html
It's good Sàriputta, you abide mostly in the abiding of Great Beings. Sàriputta, a bhikkhu who desires to abide in voidance most of the time should reflect. When going for alms along a certain path, or in a certain region, or returning along a certain path, does interest, or greed, or anger, or delusion, or aversion, arise in my mind on account of forms cognizable by eye consciousness?


Spk: Desire (chanda) is freshly arisen weak craving (tanha), lust (raga) is repeatedly arisen strong craving. Similarly hatred (dosa) is freshly arisen weak anger (kodha), aversion (patigha) is repeatedly arisen strong anger. The fiver terms incorporate the three unwholesome roots, and when these are included, all the subsidiary defilements are included. The five terms also imply the twelve unwholesome citta (of the Abhidhamma).


"This path is fearful, dangerous, strewn with thorns, covered by jungle, a deviant path, an evil path, a way beset by scarcity."

Duhitika. Spk anlysise this word as du-ihiti-ka, ihiti being synnonymous with iriyana, "moving, faring". Along whatever path there is no food or refreshments such as roots and fruits, the faring there is difficult; one cannot fare on to reach one's destination. Similarly one cannot reach success by faring along the path of defilements, thus the path of defilements is duhitika.

The correct derivation of duhitika, apparently lost by the time of the commentators, is from du-hita.
See also: http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philol ... :2532.pali


"Suppose bhikkhus, that the barley has ripened and the watchman is negligent. If a bull fond of barley enters the barley field he might indulge himself as much as he likes. So to, bhikkhus, the uninstructed worldling who does not exercise restraint over the six bases for contact indulges himself as much as he likes in the five cords of sense pleasure."

Spk: Just as the owner of the crops fails to gain the fruits of the harvest when, due to the watchman's negligence, the bull eats the barley, so when the mind is separated from mindfulness that guards the six sense doors, it enjoys the five cords of sensual pleasure; then, because his wholesome qualities are destroyed, the bhikkhu fails to attain the fruits of asceticism.


"So, too, bhikkhus, when a bhikkhu's mind has been subdued, well subdued, regarding the six sense bases for contact, it then becomes inwardly steady, settled, unified, and concentrated."

Spk glosses "well subdued" as "well conquered".
Spk says that at this point the Buddha has discussed the guarding of the senses and the virtue of restraint of the sense faculties.

Presumably that restraint, leading to a mind "settled, unified, and concentrated" is a preamble to the development of vipassana in the second half of the Sutta.
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Re: SN 35.205(246): Vina Sutta - The Lute

Postby Nori » Tue Sep 27, 2011 4:37 am

I am imagining the actuality of the practice of guarding the senses. That is, that every time one is confronted with a contact that is "so delightful, so tantalizing, so intoxicating, so ravishing, so enthralling" that it can lead to "desire, passion, aversion", one would mentally give oneself a "sound thrashing with a stick" so as to ward off one's attention from going there and making contact.

I've tried it before for a part of the day. It is difficult and painful, and I felt like I was going to die. It makes you realize how almost every second, you are delighting in one sensual experience or another (very often created in the mind as ideas). Cutting oneself off from these delightful feelings (and eventually feeling ill), you often wonder - 'will this do any good?' These feelings are in fact, what everyone lives for..

I am wondering if anyone out there has abstained from these contacts and feelings, long enough to the point they no longer felt like they were going to die? To the point where they started to feel good. I would appreciate hearing anyone's experiences.
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Re: SN 35.205(246): Vina Sutta - The Lute

Postby alan » Tue Sep 27, 2011 4:54 am

Nori,
What the hell are you talking about?
"Thrashing of the stick"?
I think you just made that up.
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Re: SN 35.205(246): Vina Sutta - The Lute

Postby alan » Tue Sep 27, 2011 5:04 am

Bad kamma to disrespect a good forum, Nori. And it makes me more inclined to make fun of you. Either way, you lose.
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Re: SN 35.205(246): Vina Sutta - The Lute

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Sep 27, 2011 5:04 am

Hi Nori,

I don't think the idea is to give oneself a "sound thrashing". The idea is to observe how one gets carried away by the senses, and "see through" the attractiveness.

I can't think of a good sutta quote right now, but meanwhile here is a nice essay by Ayya Khema on the subject:
http://www.vipassana.com/meditation/khe ... he_way.php

:anjali:
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Re: SN 35.205(246): Vina Sutta - The Lute

Postby Nori » Tue Sep 27, 2011 5:28 am

You both obviously do not understand the Sutta (no disrespect).

"Now suppose that corn had ripened and the watchman was heedful. The corn-eating ox would invade the corn to eat it, but then the watchman would grab it firmly by the muzzle. Having grabbed it firmly by the muzzle, he would pin it down by the forehead. Having pinned it down by the forehead, he would give it a sound thrashing with a stick. Having given it a sound thrashing with a stick, he would let it go.

"A second time... A third time, the corn-eating ox would invade the corn to eat it, but then the watchman would grab it firmly by the muzzle. Having grabbed it firmly by the muzzle, he would pin it down by the forehead. Having pinned it down by the forehead, he would give it a sound thrashing with a stick. Having given it a sound thrashing with a stick, he would let it go.

"As a result, the corn-eating ox — regardless of whether it went to the village or to the wilds, was standing still or lying down — wouldn't invade the corn again, because it would recall the earlier taste it got of the stick.

"In the same way, when a monk's mind is held back, thoroughly held back, from the six media of sensory contact, his mind settles inwardly, grows steady, unified, & concentrated."
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Re: SN 35.205(246): Vina Sutta - The Lute

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Sep 27, 2011 5:39 am

Hi Nori,

There are various ways to read this, and I tend to read the description of thrashing the ox as a dramatic simile rather than as an instruction to thrash oneself in order to restrain the senses. However, it does indicate that vigilance and effort are required:
"In the same way, when a monk's mind is held back, thoroughly held back, from the six media of sensory contact, his mind settles inwardly, grows steady, unified, & concentrated."

:anjali:
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Re: SN 35.205(246): Vina Sutta - The Lute

Postby Nori » Tue Sep 27, 2011 5:51 am

Hi Mike,

Of course it is a simile. It is not saying to literally thrash oneself with a stick, nor have I implied that. You need to read a bit more carefully.

*This sutta*, however, *is* implying/suggesting a forceful manner in which the mind should be restrained to guard the senses.

(I agree, there are other suttas which convey gentler means of handling oneself, though not specifically to guarding the senses.)

---

My actual question to the forum, however, had nothing to do with this issue, even though I made reference to the "thrashing".


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Re: SN 35.205(246): Vina Sutta - The Lute

Postby Nori » Tue Sep 27, 2011 5:57 am

Lol...

I just read my post again, and see how it was interpreted.

That's very funny. (Actually, it's pretty ridiculous that you both would even think that.)

You both probably imagined some crazed Christian whipping himself and bleeding.

Yes, you both need to read more carefully and understand a post before you reply.
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Re: SN 35.205(246): Vina Sutta - The Lute

Postby cooran » Tue Sep 27, 2011 6:04 am

Hello Nori,

Nori said: It is difficult and painful, and I felt like I was going to die.


Interesting! How do you go when practising this way on a 10 day silent Retreat? I can't say that I've felt ill.

with metta
Chris
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Re: SN 35.205(246): Vina Sutta - The Lute

Postby Nori » Tue Sep 27, 2011 6:30 am

cooran wrote:Hello Nori,

Nori said: It is difficult and painful, and I felt like I was going to die.


Interesting! How do you go when practising this way on a 10 day silent Retreat? I can't say that I've felt ill.

with metta
Chris


Hi Cooran,

(I am not sure if you understand me either but..)

Because, you go to a retreat does not mean you practice guarding the senses all day. If one is in meditation, he *is* guarding the senses, but is not necessarily when *not* in meditation.

If one is guarding the senses, he does not delight in sensual pleasure, including that of the mind (mind sense door).

"Guarding the senses" = that every time one is confronted with a contact that is "so delightful, so tantalizing, so intoxicating, so ravishing, so enthralling" (from the Sutta above) that it can lead to "desire, passion, aversion", one does not make contact with the sensation with his awareness; he wards off one's attention from going there and making contact.

Most people do not understand the practice, or is aware enough to practice it. Every moment, one is delighting in one thing or another in regard to the senses (including the mind-sense-door).

Imagine going through even a single day without experiencing (that is, abstaining from any) delight with regards to the world.

With Metta,
Nori
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Re: SN 35.205(246): Vina Sutta - The Lute

Postby cooran » Tue Sep 27, 2011 6:56 am

Dear Nori,

On a 10 day Retreat, everyone rises at 4 or 5 a.m. and goes to bed at 9.30 p.m. or later. One meditates intensively for the entire day (and occasionally all night) except for meals, a scheduled dhamma talk, and a scheduled practice talk, and a brief interview with the teacher 3 times during this period. This 10 day period is in total silence with eyes lowered (no gazing at the scenery), and the other sense doors guarded at all times. The purpose of the Retreat is to Guard the Sense Doors while intensively practising meditation.

I’ve just returned from such a retreat, and always take two days off work after this to ensure a gentle return to the flood of sense impressions in the day to day world.

With metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
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Re: SN 35.205(246): Vina Sutta - The Lute

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Sep 27, 2011 8:48 am

Hi Nori,

Sorry, I should have been clearer.

When I said it was "a dramatic simile rather than as an instruction to thrash oneself..." I wasn't referring to physically hitting oneself, but to applying restraint in an obsessive and unproductive manner.

From your description of "feeling ill" it does sound as if you were "mentally thrashing" yourself, which does not sound very helpful.

:anjali:
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Re: SN 35.205(246): Vina Sutta - The Lute

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Sep 27, 2011 9:16 am

"The men would reply: "This lute, sire, consists of numerous components, of a great many components, and it gives off a sound when it is played with its numerous components' that is, in dependence on the parchment sounding board, the belly, the arm, the head, the strings, the plectrum, and the appropriate effort of the musician."

BB: The Pali terms for parts of the lute (vina) are camma, doni danda, upavina, tanti, kona. The simile occurs at Milinda's Questions 5, inclusive of the list of terms (preceded by patta, sling).


"The King would split the lute into ten or a hundred pieces ... Then he would say: 'A poor thing, indeed sir, is this so-called lute, as well as anything else called a lute. How the multitude are utterly heedless about it, utterly taken in by it!"

BB: The meaning is obscure. Spk paraphrasess: "It is not only the lute that is a poor thing, but like this so-called lute, whatever else is bound with strings---all that is just a poor thing."


So, too, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu investigates form to the extent that there is a range for form, feeling... perception... volitional formations... conciousness... As he investigates ... whatever notions of 'I' or 'mine' or 'I am' had occurred to him before no longer occur to him."

Spk: The five aggregates are like the lute, the meditator is like the king. As the king did not find any sound in the lute even after splitting it up and searching, and therefore lost interest in the lute, so the meditator, exploring the five aggregates, does not see any graspable "I" or "mind" and therefore loses interest in the aggregates. By the term "I" or "mine" or "I am" in regard to form, etc, the three "grips" of views, craving, and conciet are respectively described. These do not exist in the Arahant.

BB: There is an important difference between the king that the meditator, not conveyed either by sutta or commentary: In the parable the king, looking for the sound of the lute by taking the instrument apart, seems foolish, while the meditator, dissecting the aggregates to dispel the delusion of a self, becomes wise.

Spk ends the commentary of the sutta with a quotation from the Great Commentary (no longer extant):
"In the beginning virtue is discussed,
In the middle, development of concentration,
And at the end, Nibbana:
The Simile of the Lute is thus composed."
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Re: SN 35.205(246): Vina Sutta - The Lute

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Sep 27, 2011 9:20 am

See also:

SN 5.10 Vajira Sutta: Sister Vajira
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
What? Do you assume a 'living being,' Mara?
Do you take a position?
This is purely a pile of fabrications.
Here no living being
can be pinned down.

Just as when, with an assemblage of parts,
there's the word,
chariot,
even so when aggregates are present,
there's the convention of
living being.

For only stress is what comes to be;
stress, what remains & falls away.
Nothing but stress comes to be.
Nothing ceases but stress.
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Re: SN 35.205(246): Vina Sutta - The Lute

Postby Nori » Tue Sep 27, 2011 5:44 pm

cooran wrote:Dear Nori,

On a 10 day Retreat, everyone rises at 4 or 5 a.m. and goes to bed at 9.30 p.m. or later. One meditates intensively for the entire day (and occasionally all night) except for meals, a scheduled dhamma talk, and a scheduled practice talk, and a brief interview with the teacher 3 times during this period. This 10 day period is in total silence with eyes lowered (no gazing at the scenery), and the other sense doors guarded at all times. The purpose of the Retreat is to Guard the Sense Doors while intensively practising meditation.

I’ve just returned from such a retreat, and always take two days off work after this to ensure a gentle return to the flood of sense impressions in the day to day world.

With metta
Chris


Hi Cooran,

I have been to several 10 day retreats, I know what they are like.

Whether you are, or are not guarding the senses, I cannot say, but there are different degrees of practicing it.

Many can believe they are practicing it, when they are actually not. The partaking of delight in the sensations of the world, body and mind (6 sense doors) can be very subtle. Like I said it is happening almost every moment. It can happen with just the sensation of air flowing over your body. Or even as you take a breath, or lie down to go to bed. It is anything that results in a pleasant (or unpleasant) feeling due to a cause that is related to a sense contact. It is that familiar feeling, "ahhh, that feels good". Taking delight, is actually, a voluntary action that one has some sort of control over.

If you can abstain from these sort of feelings for a long length of time and still be Ok, then I find that remarkable.

With Metta,
Nori
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