Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

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Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby Nyana » Sat Dec 03, 2011 9:44 pm

It's common in teachings and texts on vipassanā to hear that mind (nāma) and matter (rūpa) are actually comprised of discrete, momentary things undergoing incessant dissolution (bhaṅga). For example:

Ledi Sayādaw, A Manual of the Excellent Man:

    In the ultimate sense, however, new psychophysical phenomena arise only after the old phenomena have perished, which is death. This constant perishing of phenomena is also called cessation (nirodha) or dissolution (bhaṅga). It is only when one discerns the ultimate truth of this cessation of phenomena that one gains insight.

Mahāsi Sayādaw, The Great Discourse on the Anattalakkhaṇa Sutta:

    The yogī perceives that all the nāmas, rūpas which manifest themselves at the moment of seeing, hearing etc., are undergoing instant dissolution and are, therefore, transient.... When the yogī comes to the bhaṅga stage, during the interval of one cycle of rising and falling, numerous moments of dissolution will be seen to flit by. The material body of rising and falling, being subjected to incessant dissolution is indeed not permanent.

Sayāgyi U Ba Khin, The Essentials of Buddha-Dhamma in Meditative Practice:

    The Buddha taught his disciples that everything that exists at the material level is composed of kalāpas. Kalāpas are material units very much smaller than atoms, which die out almost immediately after they come into being.... The life-span of a kalāpa is termed a “moment,” and a trillion such moments are said to elapse during the wink of a man’s eye.

S.N. Goenka, Meditation Now:

    Every moment, masses of subatomic particles — kalāpas — within the framework of the body, arise and pass away, arise and pass away. How do they arise? The cause becomes clear as you investigate the reality as it is without influence from any past conditioning of philosophical beliefs. The material input, the food that you have taken, becomes a cause for these kalāpas to arise. You will also find that kalāpas arise and pass away due to the climatic atmosphere around you.

Pa Auk Sayādaw, The Practice Which Leads to Nibbāna:

    The meditator discerns the five khandhas, in the past, present, and future both internally and externally and seeing only the passing away and ceasing of them he applies the three characteristics one at a time. At the time when a meditator takes matter as an object and sees it passing away and knows that it is impermanent; this knowledge of impermanence of an object is called insight knowledge.

Questions:

(i) Is it really true that mind (nāma) and matter (rūpa) are discrete, momentary things undergoing incessant dissolution?

(ii) Is it really true that matter is comprised of momentary kalāpas which undergo incessant dissolution?

(iii) If so, how do you know this to be true?

(iv) If not, can "insight" into conceptual fictions really be considered insight at all?

:candle:
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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby cooran » Sat Dec 03, 2011 9:48 pm

Hello Ñāṇa,

Could you start by telling the members in detail what you think?

with metta
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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby Ben » Sat Dec 03, 2011 10:03 pm

cooran wrote:Hello Ñāṇa,

Could you start by telling the members in detail what you think?

with metta
Chris


I think we already know what Geoff thinks, Chris.
kind regards,

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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Dec 03, 2011 10:23 pm

Greetings Geoff,

I'll have a go at your questions, but bear in mind I'm not overly familiar with the detailed teachings of those you quote above, so I'll answer from my own perspective.

(i) Is it really true that mind (nāma) and matter (rūpa) are discrete, momentary things undergoing incessant dissolution?

There's a lot of things wrapped up in that! By "discrete, momentary things" I assume you're talking about kalapas, at which point I'll move to the next question

(ii) Is it really true that matter is comprised of momentary kalāpas which undergo incessant dissolution?

I don't know. Following the logic of the Simsapa Sutta, the fact the Buddha did not teach it means it is not of relevance to me in a Dhammic context.

(iii) If so, how do you know this to be true?

n/a

(iv) If not, can "insight" into conceptual fictions really be considered insight at all?

Well you take a leap in logic here that they are "conceptual fictions". They may well be, I don't know.... for me it goes in the category along with God - if he ever shows his face, I'll say "hi". Ditto with kalapas. Until then I'm not overly concerned.

What I do know is that I'm not going to be basing a "seeing things as they really are" practice around something that I'm not directly observing or experiencing.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby Prasadachitta » Sat Dec 03, 2011 11:20 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:Questions:

(i) Is it really true that mind (nāma) and matter (rūpa) are discrete, momentary things undergoing incessant dissolution?

(ii) Is it really true that matter is comprised of momentary kalāpas which undergo incessant dissolution?

(iii) If so, how do you know this to be true?

(iv) If not, can "insight" into conceptual fictions really be considered insight at all?

:candle:


Hi Nana,

1) Im inclined not to think so. That being said Ive been looking into it with an open mind for a while. Somehow its been a very helpful practice to not find "discrete, momentary things undergoing incessant dissolution". I continue to enjoy not finding them. I wonder what it would be like if I took it for granted that they are not there.

2) NA

3)Yes. If its insight its insight. Perhaps the conceptual fictions are to be seen for what they are. We need to start with either existence or non existence and I dont think we really get much of a say in where we start (at least not in the proximate unenlightened situation). Of course insight is not just insight because you call it insight. It must begin to bring an end to the fires of Greed, Hate, and Delusion to qualify. I am not interested in Burmese Vipasana style but I would not be surprised if it results in Insight. In fact I would be surprised if it did not. That is not to say that I would recommend it. I don't recommend things I have not tried myself unless people seem excited about it. If thats the case, I think "Well I guess this person better look into that then."


Take care

Prasadachitta
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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Dec 04, 2011 1:50 am

The only question here of any real significance:
Ñāṇa wrote:(iv) If not, can "insight" into conceptual fictions really be considered insight at all?
Considering that, for example, the notion of the khandhas is an arbitrary conceptual fiction used as a way to talk about/understand the process of experience, this is not really a meaningful question. It is not the so-called "conceptual fictions " into which we have insight.
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby alan » Sun Dec 04, 2011 2:18 am

Well...maybe not.
Nana quantified his questions strictly, perhaps as a way of forcing an argument. There is obviously no way to prove or disprove momentary kalapas, therefore anyone assuming their existence is forced into an untenable position. The significant question is "how do you know this to be true?"

The concept of momentary kalapas, agree with it or not, was not mentioned in the suttas, and therefore has much less weight than "the notion of khandas". (Which I would not consider an arbitrary conceptual fiction).
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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Dec 04, 2011 2:26 am

alan wrote:Well...maybe not.
Nana quantified his questions strictly, perhaps as a way of forcing an argument. There is obviously no way to prove or disprove momentary kalapas, therefore anyone assuming their existence is forced into an untenable position. The significant question is "how do you know this to be true?"

The concept of momentary kalapas, agree with it or not, was not mentioned in the suttas, and therefore has much less weight than "the notion of khandas". (Which I would not consider an arbitrary conceptual fiction).
Good response, but " kalāpas" seems not to be a Ledi Sayadaw or Mahasi Sayadaw thing, though kalāpas does seem to indicate (and please note the wording here) a way of talking about meditative experience according to others.

So, are the khandhas real things?
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby ground » Sun Dec 04, 2011 2:29 am

retrofuturist wrote:What I do know is that I'm not going to be basing a "seeing things as they really are" practice around something that I'm not directly observing or experiencing.


Sounds reasonable. Otherwise one may be confusing "insight" with some sort of "autosuggestion"/self-persuasion: If one constantly cultivates a particular thought about how things are one will reach a point where things appear exactly in that way.

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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby Nyana » Sun Dec 04, 2011 2:46 am

retrofuturist wrote:By "discrete, momentary things" I assume you're talking about kalapas, at which point I'll move to the next question

I meant discrete, momentary dhammas, not necessarily kalāpas. Hence, different questions.

retrofuturist wrote:Well you take a leap in logic here that they are "conceptual fictions".

Would "untrue" be preferable? I'm not looking to split hairs. Conventionally speaking, if something is not true it is untrue.

alan wrote:Nana quantified his questions strictly, perhaps as a way of forcing an argument.

Just wondering how people relate to these ideas.

tiltbillings wrote:this is not really a meaningful question.

Feel free to reword the question so that it's meaningful for you.


Thanks everyone who's responded so far. :smile:
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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Dec 04, 2011 2:51 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:this is not really a meaningful question.

Feel free to reword the question so that it's meaningful for you.
The question is not grounded in a meaningful assumption, thus nothing to re-word.
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Dec 04, 2011 2:59 am

Greetings Geoff,

Ñāṇa wrote:I meant discrete, momentary dhammas, not necessarily kalāpas. Hence, different questions.

I regard all dhammas (other than nibbana) as being sankhata dhamma conditioned by avijja, and consciousness of them as being inherently dependent on name-and-form (not mind-and-body, of which I'm ambivalent) like in the simile of the reeds.

On that basis, the question of the objective (i.e. not formed by such things as avijja, name-and-form etc) reality of dhammas, which I think is what you're getting at, is something that cannot be known, as it is outside loka. Any perception of impermanence is perception with respect to sankharas and not with respect to anything 'real'.

If it is fabricated as "perception of impermanence of something real" than it is a perception that is in error.

Is there potential liberative insight possible from erroneous perceptions? I don't know (and don't intend to experiment and find out).

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby Nyana » Sun Dec 04, 2011 3:04 am

tiltbillings wrote:The question is not grounded in a meaningful assumption, thus nothing to re-word.

The OP offers a representative selection of quotations from well known vipassanā teachers on the dissolution of discrete, momentary dhammas, which is a stage of insight meditation as they teach it. Question: How do you relate to these ideas?
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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Dec 04, 2011 3:18 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:The question is not grounded in a meaningful assumption, thus nothing to re-word.

The OP offers a representative selection of quotations from well known vipassanā teachers on the dissolution of discrete, momentary dhammas, which is a stage of insight meditation as they teach it. Question: How do you relate to these ideas?
I do believe I have already indicated how I relate to these ideas in my response to you and Alan.

viewtopic.php?f=16&t=10653#p162171

viewtopic.php?f=16&t=10653#p162181
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby Nyana » Sun Dec 04, 2011 3:20 am

tiltbillings wrote:It is not the so-called "conceptual fictions " into which we have insight.

Then what is the basis for insight?
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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby ground » Sun Dec 04, 2011 3:24 am

tiltbillings wrote:The only question here of any real significance:
Ñāṇa wrote:(iv) If not, can "insight" into conceptual fictions really be considered insight at all?
Considering that, for example, the notion of the khandhas is an arbitrary conceptual fiction used as a way to talk about/understand the process of experience, this is not really a meaningful question. It is not the so-called "conceptual fictions " into which we have insight.


I never came across a teaching of the Buddha about the khandhas that used such philosophically substantialist expressions like the quotes given in the OP.

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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby alan » Sun Dec 04, 2011 3:31 am

Nana,
To answer your question directly: I think it an incorrect understanding, and don't follow these practices.
However, I know and respect people who benefit from it.
So, on this issue I'll go off-character and be nice. Until someone hits absolute awareness and can clear up this mess for us, we'll have to put up with differences in approach and process.
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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby ground » Sun Dec 04, 2011 3:58 am

My perspective:
Beware of teachers that are philosophers. They mislead people into believing that insight is the affirmation of their own speculations. They teach grasping at what they are suggesting to lie "behind" mere appearances.
The purpose of insight however is not replacing one type of fabrication by another but the purpose is abandoning all fabrications.

As to impermanence: Why spend time with constructed methods to get alleged insight about what is common worldly knowledge? "Everything is impermanent" is the common knowledge of the world. In addition to that common knowledge the Buddha just taught to observe impermanence also in the sphere of one's own experiencing to get rid of grasping as "this is mine", "this I am" "this is self". No need for sophisticated methods and fabricated philosophical views. The Buddha taught just to observe and observe one's conditions that foster arising and that foster fading away in order to be able to apply these efficiently.


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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby chownah » Sun Dec 04, 2011 4:13 am

Ñāṇa wrote:Questions:

(i) Is it really true that mind (nāma) and matter (rūpa) are discrete, momentary things undergoing incessant dissolution?

(ii) Is it really true that matter is comprised of momentary kalāpas which undergo incessant dissolution?

(iii) If so, how do you know this to be true?

(iv) If not, can "insight" into conceptual fictions really be considered insight at all?


Answers:
(i) Concerning minds one must find out about one's own mind by one's self and there as there is no guarantee that all minds are the same. Concerning matter it seems that the current wisdom in particle physics is that in fact all matter is so composed.
(ii) I don't know what "kalapas" are but it sounds like you have just repeated the second part of (i).....but just to extend my answer to the second part of (i), one of the latest theories in particle physics is that the vacuum (space which has classically been considered to be empty) is actually teaming with a practically infinite number of particle that go into and out of existence at an astoundingly rapid rate (an it happens in pairs...two opposites at a time)....and they do this spontaneously (which is to say there is no known causative agent or scenario)....so not only is "matter" incessantly arising and dissolving but even the empty space where classically we see no matter is giving rise to stuff spontaneously and instantly dissolving again......
(iii) Knowing things to be true is ignorance...so of course I DON"T know things to be true :tongue:
(iv) Concerning "fictions": There are many fictions and there is one fiction to rule them all....that fiction which rules them all is called "insight". Insight "rules them all" because it is through insight that all the other fictions are vanquished.....and then insight swallows up itself........

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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby Nyana » Sun Dec 04, 2011 11:24 am

chownah wrote:Concerning matter it seems that the current wisdom in particle physics is that in fact all matter is so composed.

Haven't most particles been around since shortly after the big bang?
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