On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby vinasp » Thu Jan 26, 2012 2:40 am

Hi everyone,

OK, lets take a close look at SN 44.10 - Ananda.

I will use the Bhikkhu Bodhi translation, page 1393.
My comments will be in brackets [ .... ]

"Then the wanderer Vacchagotta approached the Blessed One ...
and said to him:
"How is it now, Master Gotama, is there a self?"
When this was said, the Blessed One was silent.
"Then, Master Gotama, is there no self?"
A second time the Blessed One was silent.
Then the wanderer Vacchagotta rose from his seat and
departed. Then, not long after the wanderer Vacchagotta
had left, the Venerable Ananda said to the Blessed One:
" Why is it, venerable sir, that when the Blessed One
was questioned by the wanderer Vacchagotta, he did not
answer?"

"If, Ananda, when I was asked by the wanderer Vacchagotta
"Is there a self?" I had answered, "There is a self", this
would have been siding with those ascetics and brahmins
who are eternalists. And if, when I was asked by him
"Is there no self?" I had answered, "There is no self", this
would have been siding with those ascetics and brahmins who
are annihilationists."

[ The Buddha's explanation of his silence is in two parts and
this is the first part. It assumes that Vacchagotta believes
that there is a real, unchanging self. And that he is asking
whether this self is eternal, or is destroyed when the body
dies, in accordance with the two main theories of the time.
Both of these are theories of a real, unchanging self, and
these theories are always rejected by the Buddha. So if
Vacchagotta was asking his questions from the standpoint of
these two theories, then the Buddha will not wish to confirm
either of them.]

My comments on the second part of the Buddha's explanation will
follow shortly.

Regards, vincent.
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Jan 26, 2012 3:02 am

vinasp wrote:The Buddha's explanation of his silence is in two parts and
this is the first part. It assumes that Vacchagotta believes
that there is a real, unchanging self. And that he is asking
whether this self is eternal, or is destroyed when the body
dies, in accordance with the two main theories of the time.
Both of these are theories of a real, unchanging self, and
these theories are always rejected by the Buddha. So if
Vacchagotta was asking his questions from the standpoint of
these two theories, then the Buddha will not wish to confirm
either of them.


Interesting Thanissaros translation has extra info in brackets "annihilationism [the view that death is the annihilation of consciousness]". I'm not sure whether this is his commentary or whether he has captured shades of meaning the Bhikkhu Bodhi missed.

Annihilation of consciousness is not the same as annihilation of self I'd have thought.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby vinasp » Thu Jan 26, 2012 3:16 am

Hi Goofaholix,

The main explanations and descriptions of eternalist and annihilationist
views is found in DN.1 The Brahmajala Sutta.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby vinasp » Thu Jan 26, 2012 4:27 am

Hi everyone,

To continue with SN 44.10

"If, Ananda, when I was asked by the wanderer Vacchagotta,
"Is there a self?" I had answered, "There is a self", would
this have been consistent on my part with the arising of the
knowledge that "all phenomena are nonself?"
"No, venerable sir."

[ This is the start of the second part of the Buddha's explanation
and seems to assume that Vacchagotta's questions may have been
about a real, present self and whether it exists or not. The
Buddha seems to me to be saying that had he said "There is a self"
this would not be consistent with the knowledge which arose at the
time of his enlightenment.]

"And if, when I was asked by him, "Is there no self?" I had answered
"There is no self", the wanderer Vacchagotta, already confused,
would have fallen into even greater confusion, thinking, "It seems
that the self I formerly had does not exist now." { End of Sutta}

[ The only reason given for not saying, "There is no self", is that
Vacchagotta is confused and such an answer would not be helpful for
him at that time. One should not conclude from this that the view
"There is no self" is a wrong view.]

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby vinasp » Thu Jan 26, 2012 5:03 am

Hi everyone,

Here are the descriptions of eternalism and annihilationism from DN.1
The Brahmajala Sutta, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi.

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

1. Eternalism (Sassatavāda): Views 1–4

30. "There are, bhikkhus, some recluses and brahmins who are eternalists, and who on four grounds proclaim the self and the world to be eternal. And owing to what, with reference to what, do these honorable recluses and brahmins proclaim their views?

4. Annihilationism (Ucchedavāda): Views 51–57

84. "There are, bhikkhus, some recluses and brahmins who are annihilationists and who on seven grounds proclaim the annihilation, destruction, and extermination of an existent being. And owing to what, with reference to what, do these honorable recluses and brahmins proclaim their views?

85. "Herein, bhikkhus, a certain recluse or a brahmin asserts the following doctrine and view: 'The self, good sir, has material form; it is composed of the four primary elements and originates from father and mother. Since this self, good sir, is annihilated and destroyed with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death, at this point the self is completely annihilated.' In this way some proclaim the annihilation, destruction, and extermination of an existent being.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby Zom » Thu Jan 26, 2012 9:34 am

Both Ucchedavāda and Sassatavāda posit "a self". In the first case it is annihilated, in the second - it lives forever.
Buddha's apporach is less complex ,) - since there is no self at all ,)
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Jan 26, 2012 11:17 am

Hi Vinasp

vinasp wrote:[ The Buddha's explanation of his silence is in two parts and
this is the first part. It assumes that Vacchagotta believes
that there is a real, unchanging self. And that he is asking
whether this self is eternal, or is destroyed when the body
dies, in accordance with the two main theories of the time.
Both of these are theories of a real, unchanging self, and
these theories are always rejected by the Buddha. So if
Vacchagotta was asking his questions from the standpoint of
these two theories, then the Buddha will not wish to confirm
either of them.]

I see no evidence that it is assumed that Vacchagotta believes that there is a real, unchanging self! the evidence suggests to me more that he was confused as to the theories being expounded at the time.
but...
only 2 theories???
DN15 wrote:"To what extent, Ānanda, does one delineate when delineating a self? Either delineating a self possessed of form and finite, one delineates that 'My self is possessed of form and finite.' Or, delineating a self possessed of form and infinite, one delineates that 'My self is possessed of form and infinite.' Or, delineating a self formless and finite, one delineates that 'My self is formless and finite.' Or, delineating a self formless and infinite, one delineates that 'My self is formless and infinite.'

firstly there were more than two theories which fell within the two extremes.
and calling the two extremes 'theories' is inaccurate to the thicket of views regarding self or lack thereof, and their spectrum.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby ancientbuddhism » Thu Jan 26, 2012 1:17 pm

Bodhi’s footnote to the Ānanda Sutta (SN.44.10):

    "Probably this means that Vacchagotta would have interpreted the Buddha’s denial as a rejection of his empirical personality, which (on account of his inclination towards views of self) he would have been identifying as a self. We should carefully heed the two reasons the Buddha does not declare, “There is no self”: not because he recognizes a transcendent self of some kind (as some interpreters allege), or because he is concerned only with delineating “a strategy of perception” devoid of ontological implications (as others hold), but (i) because such a mode of expression was used by the annihilationists, and the Buddha wanted to avoid aligning his teaching with theirs; and (ii) because he wished to avoid causing confusion in those already attached to the idea of self. The Buddha declares that “all phenomena are nonself” (sabbe dhammā anattā), which means that if one seeks a self anywhere one will not find one. Since “all phenomena” includes both the conditioned and the unconditioned, this precludes an utterly transcendent, ineffable self."

This suggests the obvious, that silence to these questions was provisional to Vacchagotta’s inclinations.
Katamo ca bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo: samatho ca vipassanā ca. Ayaṃ vuccati bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo.

“And what, bhikkhus, is the path leading to the unconditioned? Calm and insight. This, bhikkhus, is called the path leading to the unconditioned.” SN. 43.2 – Samathavipassanāsuttaṃ

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby ancientbuddhism » Thu Jan 26, 2012 8:39 pm

Although we know that the Buddha did not ‘teach with a closed fist’ (ācariyamuṭṭhi), he did express concern for Vacchagotta’s state of mind:

    “And if, when I was asked by him, ‘Is there no self?’ I had answered ‘There is no self,’ the wanderer Vacchagotta, already confused, would have fallen into even greater confusion, thinking, ‘It seems that the self I formerly had does not exist now.” (SN.44.10, Bodhi translation)

With reference to this, consider the section on Agitation in MN.22 (Bodhi):

    “Venerable sir, can there be agitation about what is nonexistent internally?”

    “There can be, bhikkhu,” the Blessed One said. “Here, bhikkhu, someone has the view: ‘That which is the self is the world; after death I shall be permanent, everlasting, eternal, not subject to change; I shall endure as long as eternity.’ He hears the Tathāgata or a disciple of the Tathāgata teaching the Dhamma for the elimination of all standpoints, decisions, obsessions, adherences, and underlying tendencies, for the stilling of formations, for the relinquishing of all attachments, for the destruction of craving, for dispassion, for cessation, for Nibbāna. He thinks thus: ‘So I shall be annihilated! So I shall perish! I shall be no more!’ Then he sorrows, grieves, and laments, he weeps beating his breast and becomes distraught. That is how there is agitation about what is non-existent internally.”

This indicates an individual who is not fit to hear the hard-line teachings of anattā, causal processes and release. Whereas a suitable audience is the noble adherent who is mature in the teachings and practice:

    “Venerable sir, can there be no agitation about what is non-existent internally?”

    “There can be, bhikkhu,” the Blessed One said. “Here, bhikkhu, someone does not have the view: ‘That which is the self is the world … I shall endure as long as eternity.’ He hears the Tathāgata or a disciple of the Tathāgata teaching the Dhamma for the elimination of all standpoints, decisions, obsessions, adherences, and underlying tendencies, for the stilling of all formations, for the relinquishing of all attachments, for the destruction of craving, for dispassion, for cessation, for Nibbāna. He does not think thus: ‘So I shall be annihilated! So I shall perish! So I shall be no more!’ Then he does not sorrow, grieve, and lament, he does not weep beating his breast and become distraught. That is how there is no agitation about what is non-existent internally."

Vacchagotta had approached the Buddha and senior disciples before with questions of existence and non-existence, and for this underlying confusion the Buddha is silent. However, this does not preclude teaching anattā where a through examination of it can be made for the suitable audience.
Katamo ca bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo: samatho ca vipassanā ca. Ayaṃ vuccati bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo.

“And what, bhikkhus, is the path leading to the unconditioned? Calm and insight. This, bhikkhus, is called the path leading to the unconditioned.” SN. 43.2 – Samathavipassanāsuttaṃ

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby vinasp » Fri Jan 27, 2012 2:08 pm

Hi everyone,

The passage about the "six wrong views" in MN 2 the Sabbasava Sutta
has also contributed to these misunderstandings.

"As he attends inappropriately in this way, one of six kinds of view arises in him: The view I have a self arises in him as true & established, or the view I have no self... or the view It is precisely by means of self that I perceive self...
[ Thanissaro Bhikkhu ]

19. "In a person who thus considers improperly there arises one of the six [wrong] views. The view 'I have self'[16] arises in him really and firmly. Or, the view 'I have no self' arises in him really and firmly...
[ Burma Pitaka Association ]

"When he attends unwisely in this way, one of six views arises in him.
The view "self exists for me" arises in him as true and established;
or the view "no self exists for me" arises in him as true and
established; ... [ Bhikkhu Bodhi MN.2 ]

I will focus here on the first two of these six views. It is the second
view which causes the confusion.

The whole section is about an "untaught ordinary person". But the view
"I have no self" is very easy to misunderstand.

Those on the higher stages of the path, such as non-returners, may no
longer see any self, but still have the conceit "I am". See, for example
SN 22.89 Khemaka Sutta. So they might say something like; "I have no self".
But this should not be confused with the passage in MN. 2.

How then should the MN 2 passage be understood? The problem arises from
the translation of "atta" as self. For most of us, the word "self" has no
implication of something which is eternal. We did believe in an immortal
soul in the past, but our word for this eternal thing was "soul" and not
"self".

At the time of the Buddha many people believed that "atman" was eternal,
In Pali "atman" is "atta". But "atta" is also employed just like "self"
in English. So it has a wide range of meanings including something like
an eternal self/soul.

Now see what happens if we substitute soul for self in these first two
views. We get the view "I have an (eternal) soul" or the view "I have
no (eternal) soul". This is why the commentators often identify views
such as these, as being the "eternalist" or "annihilationist" views.

But these are views about the future state of the self, not views
about a present self, they both accept the existence of a present
self.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby danieLion » Fri Jan 27, 2012 11:20 pm

robertk wrote:
danieLion wrote:
robertk wrote:Citing the relevant suttas is unlikely to be persuasive to those who have fallen for Thanissaro's mystical drivel....

What do you mean by "mystical"?
good-will
Daniel

It was from ven. Dhammanando .
I think what he meant by "MYSTCAL DRIVEL"(and although I have met the ven. several times, we never discussed Thanissara) was that the ven. Thanissaro's writings on nibbana, anatta, self strategy, the consciousness without whateer.. etc are all eel wiggling ideas based on his deep belief in an eternal self that resides somewhere free of the 5 khandas.
But i could be wrong.

In light of Thanissaro's public record, the idea that he would believe "in an internal self that resides somewhere free of the 5 khandas" is completely ABSURD!!! And how is it not gossip and idle chatter? I suspect Ven. Dhammanando, or whoever the source claim derives from, is confused.
And why call it mystical drivel? Thanissaro's PUBLIC RECORD is clearly anti-mysticism (where mysticism is the process of becoming one with God).
One extreme would be Thanissaro says one thing in public and another in private. Another extreme would be Ven. Dhammanando is slandering Thanissaro. I hope the truth is not in the extremities.
good-will
Daniel
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby Alex123 » Sat Jan 28, 2012 3:40 am

daverupa wrote:
Zom wrote:Btw, Right / Wrong ditthis have nothing to do with conventional "self". They deal with ultimate-reality self.


Anattā deals with the Self of the Upaniṣads (attā, Skt. ātman), not with the individual (puggala). There's no need to tangle with this "ultimate" baggage.



You are right in the regard that Buddha denied metaphysical Upaniṣadic idea of ātman. But Buddha never denied the existence of conventional, ordinary self


    “So, brahmin, when there is the element of endeavoring, endeavoring beings are clearly discerned; of such beings, this is the self-doer, this, the other-doer. I have not, brahmin, seen or heard such a doctrine, such a view as yours. How, indeed, could one — moving forward by himself, moving back by himself — say ‘There is no self-doer (attakāro), there is no other-doer’?” http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .niza.html

And

    160. One (Attā) truly is the protector of oneself (attano); who else could the protector be? With oneself fully controlled, one gains a mastery that is hard to gain.
    161. The evil a witless man does by himself, born of himself and produced by himself, grinds him as a diamond grinds a hard gem.
    165. By oneself is evil done; by oneself is one defiled. By oneself is evil left undone; by oneself is one made pure. Purity and impurity depended on oneself; no one can purify another. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .budd.html

Buddha did teach about: Attanā, attajaṃ, attasambhavaṃ and puggalo.



The Attā which Buddha denied was the metaphysical Attā that is nicca and sukha.
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby cooran » Sat Jan 28, 2012 4:30 am

It was from ven. Dhammanando .
I think what he meant by "MYSTCAL DRIVEL"(and although I have met the ven. several times, we never discussed Thanissara) was that the ven. Thanissaro's writings on nibbana, anatta, self strategy, the consciousness without whateer.. etc are all eel wiggling ideas based on his deep belief in an eternal self that resides somewhere free of the 5 khandas.
But i could be wrong.

In light of Thanissaro's public record, the idea that he would believe "in an internal self that resides somewhere free of the 5 khandas" is completely ABSURD!!! And how is it not gossip and idle chatter? I suspect Ven. Dhammanando, or whoever the source claim derives from, is confused.
And why call it mystical drivel? Thanissaro's PUBLIC RECORD is clearly anti-mysticism (where mysticism is the process of becoming one with God).
One extreme would be Thanissaro says one thing in public and another in private. Another extreme would be Ven. Dhammanando is slandering Thanissaro. I hope the truth is not in the extremities.
good-will
Daniel


Hello Daniel,

Dhammanando Bhikkhu is well-known to many on this board and is a founding member.

He is held in deep respect for his scholarly knowledge and for his committed and deep practice.

We look forward to his posts on this board whenever he emerges from his practice in the forests of Thailand and is able to be in internet contact.

I personally would take his understanding and knowledge over and above that of Thanissaro’s anytime.

Bhante Dhammanando studied at University of Iceland. He lives in Phrao, Chiang Mai, Thailand. He knows Icelandic, Pali, English, and the S'gaw Karen language

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 1&p=66#p66

with metta
Chris
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Jan 28, 2012 5:41 am

Greetings,

cooran wrote:I personally would take his understanding and knowledge over and above that of Thanissaro’s anytime.

On matters relating to the official Mahavihara interpretation of the Dhamma, perhaps.

As to what Thanissaro Bhikkhu believes, on the other hand, I suspect Thanissaro Bhikkhu knows this better than Dhammanando Bhikkhu.

Unless perhaps venerable Dhammanando has, unbeknownst to us, developed the ability to penetrate the minds of others!

:spy:

:D

I'm not a fan of putting words into the mouths of others, so if Thanissaro Bhikkhu doesn't state he believes in some kind of atman, independent of the aggregates, I see no reason to thrust that accusation upon him. People falsely accused the Buddha of being an annihilationist too - che sera sera. I find Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teaching very appropriate, compatible with the suttas, and if they leave people dissatisfied or uncomfortable because he doesn't proclaim from the mountaintop that "THERE IS NO ATMAN" at the top of his lungs (note: neither did the Buddha), well, that's for other people to deal with. People are welcome to opt for whatever interpretations accord with their beliefs, studies and experience.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby danieLion » Sat Jan 28, 2012 7:41 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

cooran wrote:I personally would take his understanding and knowledge over and above that of Thanissaro’s anytime.

On matters relating to the official Mahavihara interpretation of the Dhamma, perhaps.

As to what Thanissaro Bhikkhu believes, on the other hand, I suspect Thanissaro Bhikkhu knows this better than Dhammanando Bhikkhu.

Unless perhaps venerable Dhammanando has, unbeknownst to us, developed the ability to penetrate the minds of others!

:spy:

:D

I'm not a fan of putting words into the mouths of others, so if Thanissaro Bhikkhu doesn't state he believes in some kind of atman, independent of the aggregates, I see no reason to thrust that accusation upon him. People falsely accused the Buddha of being an annihilationist too - che sera sera. I find Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teaching very appropriate, compatible with the suttas, and if they leave people dissatisfied or uncomfortable because he doesn't proclaim from the mountaintop that "THERE IS NO ATMAN" at the top of his lungs (note: neither did the Buddha), well, that's for other people to deal with. People are welcome to opt for whatever interpretations accord with their beliefs, studies and experience.

Metta,
Retro. :)

Dear Retro,
Thank you for saying it a calm way. I got carried away.
good-will
Daniel
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby Buckwheat » Tue Jan 31, 2012 3:27 pm

Retro,
Good post.

Metta,
Scott
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby Ariya Suriya » Sun Feb 12, 2012 1:10 pm

Some people are scared at the fact that in parinibbana there is no conciousness... ;)
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Feb 12, 2012 1:58 pm

Ariya Suriya wrote:Some people are scared at the fact that in parinibbana there is no conciousness... ;)


proof please
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby Ariya Suriya » Sun Feb 12, 2012 2:29 pm

You want proof that in parinibbana there is no conciusness or proof that some people are scared at this fact? or proof of both?
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Feb 12, 2012 3:40 pm

Ariya Suriya wrote:You want proof that in parinibbana there is no conciusness or proof that some people are scared at this fact? or proof of both?

that in parinibbana there is no consciousness.

this seams very close to things the Buddha put aside, and I have not seen such a statement within the canon to my memory.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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