Closed Fist passage

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Closed Fist passage

Postby Will » Sat Jan 07, 2012 6:43 pm

From Walshe's translation of the Mahaparinibbana Sutta:

Ananda: "The Lord will not attain final Nibbāna until he has made some statement about the order of monks."

2.25. 'But, Ānanda, what does the order of monks expect of me? I have taught the Dhamma, Ānanda, making no "inner" and "outer": the Tathāgata has no "teacher's fist" in respect of doctrines. If there is anyone who thinks: "I shall take charge of the order", or "The order should refer to me", let him make some statement about the order, but the Tathāgata does not think in such terms. So why should the Tathāgata make a statement about the order?


Having difficultly understanding this.

Ananda seems to be asking about the Sangha's future organization or leader after Buddha's death. So why is the "inner and outer" sentence interpreted as meaning the Dhamma in general? Seems like a non sequitur. In context, would it not make more sense to mean that the doctrine-based rules, set up for the Sangha by Buddha are clear as is; that nothing is lacking, that there are no special rules for some "inner" group?

The next sentence, is even more opaque to me. Buddha "does not think in such terms" - what terms? He does not care what happens to his Sangha after his death; or does not wish to appoint a leader or... just what does it mean??
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Re: Closed Fist passage

Postby cooran » Sat Jan 07, 2012 8:42 pm

Hello Will,

Is this translantion any clearer?:

2.24. Then the Lord, having recovered from his sickness, as soon as he felt better, went outside and sat on a prepared seat in front of his dwelling. Then the Venerable Ānanda came to him, saluted him, sat down to one side and said: 'Lord, I have seen the Lord in comfort, and I have seen the Lord's patient enduring. And, Lord, my body was like a drunkard's. I lost my bearings and things were unclear to me because of the Lord's sickness. The only thing that was some comfort to me was the thought: "The Lord will not attain final Nibbāna until he has made some statement about the order of monks."'

2.25. 'But, Ānanda, what does the order of monks expect of me? I have taught the Dhamma, Ānanda, making no "inner" and "outer"26: the Tathāgata has no "teacher's fist" in respect of doctrines. If there is anyone who thinks: "I shall take charge of the order"27, or "The order should refer to me", let him make some statement about the order, but the Tathāgata does not think in such terms. So why should the Tathāgata make a statement about the order?
'Ānanda, I am now old, worn out, venerable, one who has traversed life's path, I have reached the term of life, which is eighty 28. Just as an old cart is made to go by being held together with straps 29, so the Tathāgata's body is kept going by being strapped up. It is only when the Tathāgata with¬draws his attention from outward signs 30, and by the cessa¬tion of certain feelings 31, enters into the signless concentra¬tion of mind 32, that his body knows comfort.

2.26. "Therefore, Ānanda, you should live as islands unto yourselves, being your own refuge, with no one else as your refuge, with the Dhamma as an island 33, with the Dhamma as your refuge, with no other refuge. And how does a monk live as an island unto himself,... with no other refuge? Here, Ānan-da, a monk abides contemplating the body as body, earnestly, clearly aware, mindful and having put away all hankering and fretting for the world, and likewise with regard to feelings, mind and mind-objects. That, Ānanda, is how a monk lives as an island unto himself,... with no other refuge. And those who now in my time or afterwards live thus, they will become the highest 34, if they are desirous of learning.'

26. A famous statement, implying that there is no 'esoteric' teaching in Buddhism, at least as originally taught by the Founder. There is no contradiction with the parable of the simsapā leaves at SN 56.31. [back]
27. Pariharissāmi: 'I will take care of'. [back]
28. The idea that the Buddha died at the age of eighty has, for some reason, been considered implausible. We might as well query the fact that Wordsworth died shortly after his eightieth birthday, the year of his death, too, bearing the suspiciously 'round' figure of 1850! See n.400. [back]
29. Vegha-missakena. The precise meaning of the expression seems to be unknown, but it remains a vivid image! [back]
30. Sabba-nimittānam amanasikārā: 'not attending to any signs', i.e. ideas. [back]
31. I.e. mundane feelings (DA). [back]
32. The concentration attained during intensive insight-meditation' (AA, quoted in LDB). [back]
33. Dīpa = Skt. dvīpa 'island' rather than Skt. dīpa 'lamp'. But we do not really know whether the Buddha pronounced the two words alike or not! In the absence of such knowledge, it is perhaps best not to be too dogmatic about the meaning. In any case, it is just 'oneself' that one has to have as one's 'island' (or lamp), not some 'great self' which the Buddha did not teach (cf. n.363, end). [back]
34. Tamatagge. The meaning of this is rather obscure, to say the least. It seems to mean something like 'the highest', even if scholars cannot agree as to how this meaning is reached. See the long note (28) in LDB. [back]
http://www.palicanon.org/en/sutta-pitak ... -days.html

with metta
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Re: Closed Fist passage

Postby cooran » Sat Jan 07, 2012 9:11 pm

Hello Will, all,

Additionally – the Buddha’s teaching is referred to as the Dhamma-Vinaya. Both the Suttas and the Vinaya are to be followed by Bhikkhus in conjunction.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/vin/index.html

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---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: Closed Fist passage

Postby Will » Sun Jan 08, 2012 4:16 am

cooran wrote:Hello Will, all,

Additionally – the Buddha’s teaching is referred to as the Dhamma-Vinaya. Both the Suttas and the Vinaya are to be followed by Bhikkhus in conjunction.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/vin/index.html

with metta
Chris


No, the translation you post does not help, because it is the same Walshe translation I quoted.

But I was thinking of the Dhamma-Vinaya notion as you point out. So that seems to support the idea that the Buddha is only referring to the Dhamma-Vinaya, not the Dhamma in general. Thus Walshe's note #26 is wrong and the use of the "no esoteric general Dhamma" does not apply here.
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Re: Closed Fist passage

Postby Otsom » Sun Jan 08, 2012 2:09 pm

.
Last edited by Otsom on Thu Feb 09, 2012 11:55 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Closed Fist passage

Postby Will » Sun Jan 08, 2012 7:24 pm

Thanks for this quote Otsom:

Surely if there is someone who thinks that it is he who should be in charge of the Community of monks or that the Community of monks is his particular concern, then it is he who should say something about the Community of monks. But the Tathāgata does not think that it is he who should be in charge of the Community of monks or that the Community of monks is his particular concern, so why should he say something about the Community of monks?

R. Gethin, Sayings of the Buddha, p. 57-58


Gethin renders this sentence in a worrisome way, since all the Sangha thought the opposite from what Buddha appeared to think about his function. But it should not be surprising that even Arhats do not fully understand a Tathagata.

Perhaps I can explain it (to myself anyway) as Buddha being primarily a "teacher of devas and men" not an organizer of the Sangha. He responded to problems with his group of disciples as they arose and thus the Vinaya was born. But his main purpose was higher (to teach those with a little dust in their eyes) and he truly was indifferent to Sangha rules, organization or leadership - especially after his death.
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Re: Closed Fist passage

Postby chownah » Mon Jan 09, 2012 3:29 am

Will,
I have a view concerning your question: "The next sentence, is even more opaque to me. Buddha "does not think in such terms" - what terms? He does not care what happens to his Sangha after his death; or does not wish to appoint a leader or... just what does it mean??"

As far as I have been able to find out, the Buddha never mentioned a "lineage" of monks....it seems that he never spoke of the Sangha as being a lineage. The Buddha did describe himself as being of the lineage of Noble Ones and the term "Noble Ones" does not refer specifically to the Sangha.....so it seems that the Buddha used the term "lineage" but he never used the term for the Sangha and he did use the term relative to himself but not in relation to the Sangha.
Also, does the Buddha ever refer to himself as being the leader of the Sangha? I can not think of ever having heard of him speaking this way. It could be that everyone saw him as the leader but he himself did not have that view.....perhaps the Buddha saw the Sangha as being an association of individuals (friends) and not so much as an organisation.

These are my views and they are not well substantiated so they should be viewed sceptically...but I do think they indicate things that are fairly consistent with the Buddha's statements which you are wondering about.....I guess....
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Re: Closed Fist passage

Postby Will » Mon Jan 09, 2012 3:46 am

Yes Chownah, that is like I see it. Matter of fact, I wonder how often Buddha used "sangha" for his group or community of disciples? He did use "sasana" or dispensation of his presence & teaching.
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Re: Closed Fist passage

Postby Kim OHara » Mon Jan 09, 2012 4:20 am

chownah wrote: It could be that everyone saw [the Buddha] as the leader but he himself did not have that view.....perhaps the Buddha saw the Sangha as being an association of individuals (friends) and not so much as an organisation.

Yes. Perhaps even more likely is that he knew he was regarded as the leader but really preferred his monks to think for themselves, so he did not institute any formal structure with himself at the top. That would be entirely in keeping with his refusal to appoint a successor, too. The *ideal* sangha would not be ruled by authority but by brotherhood, reason and consensus.
In the end, the sangha didn't live up to the ideal for long in spite of these broad hints; and then it split as some monks followed one leader and others followed another. Sigh.

But I have no more certain knowledge than anyone else :juggling: so feel free to take my opinion on board or leave it drifting idly around cyberspace.

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