The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.

Re: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby Dan74 » Sat Mar 17, 2012 10:52 am

fig tree wrote:The idea that an "awake one" would in any meaningful sense be reluctant to help out has always seemed very out of place to me.

I have no way of knowing, but my gut reaction has been to suspect that what really happened is that the Buddha described to some of his followers how upon awakening he had reflected on the comfort of awakening, the challenges of leading anybody else to it, and the benefits to the many of deciding to do so in spite of those challenges (with or without a friendly deva to serve as a sounding board), and that the story that has come down to us is a kind of dramatization.

It provides an opportunity to highlight the merits of the gradual path, that benefits people of all levels of nearness to awakening.

Fig Tree


For what it's worth, my reaction to these words was very similar.
_/|\_
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Re: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Mar 18, 2012 2:50 am

As some further clarification, in case it sounds like I am making light of intellectual analysis of the suttas, I'd like to mention the example of Tiltbillings' discussion of translations of "the deathless", etc.
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 69#p160907
viewtopic.php?f=13&t=10378&p=159172&#p159172

The usual translations of Udana 8.3 go something like:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .irel.html
There is, bhikkhus, a not-born, a not-brought-to-being, a not-made, a not-conditioned. If, bhikkhus, there were no not-born, not-brought-to-being, not-made, not-conditioned, no escape would be discerned from what is born, brought-to-being, made, conditioned. But since there is a not-born, a not-brought-to-being, a not-made, a not-conditioned, therefore an escape is discerned from what is born, brought-to-being, made, conditioned.

or
"Verily, there is an Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed. If there were not this Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed, escape from the world of the born, the originated, the created, the formed, would not be possible"

This sounds awefully mysterious, whereas Tilt's translation:
"Monks, there is freedom from birth, freedom from
becoming, freedom from making, freedom from conditioning.
For, monks if there were not this freedom from birth, freedom from
becoming, freedom from making, freedom from conditioning,
then escape from that which is birth, becoming, making,
conditioning, would not be known here. But, monks, because there
is freedom from birth, freedom from becoming, freedom from
making, freedom from conditioning, therefore the escape from that
which is birth, becoming, making, conditioning is known."

is a reasonably straightforward statement that says, rather forcefully, that the goal is attainable.

Now, the intellectual rigor needed to be able to make that translation accurately is considerable, and certainly not a waste of time. Similarly with Ven. Nananada's many such analyses and clarifications in his seminars on Nibbana.

However, I don't think that the challenges in making correct translations are Dhamma challenges. They are translation and interpretation challenges. If we were as fluent in Pali and related languages as the Buddha's contemporaries there would be no such issues as poor translations sending the meaning in the wrong direction. Since we're not in that happy situation, someone has to make some intellectual effort to unravel the translations, so that (with the benefit of those translations) we can face the Dhamma challenges.

The real Dhamma challenges are, as I see it, to do with implementing the instructions. It's all very well to know intellectually that the problem is craving (or a more elaborate dependent origination version), but actually accepting ("understanding") that fully and experientially is a huge challenge, as the Buddha stated in the Sutta quoted in the OP:
“This Dhamma that I have discovered is deep, hard to see, hard to understand, peaceful and sublime, not within the sphere of reasoning, subtle, to be experienced by the wise. But this generation delights in adhesion, takes delight in adhesion, rejoices in adhesion. For such a generation this state is hard to see, that is, specific conditionality, dependent origination. And this state too is hard to see, that is, the stilling of all formations, the relinquishment of all acquisitions, the destruction of craving, dispassion, cessation, Nibbāna"

This is Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation. He comments that the commentary explains ālaya objectively as the five cords of sensual pleasure, called “adhesions” because it is these to which beings adhere.

:anjali:
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Re: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby Nyana » Sun Mar 18, 2012 4:04 am

mikenz66 wrote:Now, the intellectual rigor needed to be able to make that translation accurately is considerable, and certainly not a waste of time. Similarly with Ven. Nananada's many such analyses and clarifications in his seminars on Nibbana.

Yes, it is. And what I find unfortunate is the numbers of Theravāda teachers -- ordained and lay, Asian and Western -- who either don't know these issues, or don't understand their significance, and choose to advance novel views.

mikenz66 wrote:However, I don't think that the challenges in making correct translations are Dhamma challenges. They are translation and interpretation challenges.

I get your point, but insofar as understanding and interpretation lead to right view, they are also dhamma challenges. Practice becomes much more straightforward when the practitioner understands the elements of Theravāda theory which inform ethical conduct, meditation, and discernment.
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Re: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Mar 18, 2012 5:23 am

Hi Geoff,
Ñāṇa wrote:I get your point, but insofar as understanding and interpretation lead to right view, they are also dhamma challenges. Practice becomes much more straightforward when the practitioner understands the elements of Theravāda theory which inform ethical conduct, meditation, and discernment.

I certainly agree that there is not a clear distinction. And, of course, translations and interpretations are informed by practical experience: one of the reasons that English translations have improved immensely over the last 100 years is that many have now made by monastic or lay practitioners.

One of the key issues that this discussion raises is how one should prioritize one's time. How much theory is enough? Certainly knowing some of the theory could be helpful in avoiding pitfalls with:
Ñāṇa wrote:... Theravāda teachers -- ordained and lay, Asian and Western -- who either don't know these issues, or don't understand their significance, and choose to advance novel views.

so this would inform the decision to place confidence in particular teachers:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"There is the case, Bharadvaja, where a monk lives in dependence on a certain village or town. Then a householder or householder's son goes to him and observes him with regard to three mental qualities — qualities based on greed, qualities based on aversion, qualities based on delusion:...

:anjali:
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Re: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby nowheat » Sun Mar 18, 2012 5:25 pm

mikenz66 wrote:The real Dhamma challenges are, as I see it, to do with implementing the instructions. It's all very well to know intellectually that the problem is craving (or a more elaborate dependent origination version), but actually accepting ("understanding") that fully and experientially is a huge challenge...


This seems to be your central point and it seems to me to be the Buddha's point. The underlying tendency we all have to cling to a sense of self is, for many, difficult to accept as being the source of a problem in any way in the first place: What's wrong with feeling like there is a me? Am I not supposed to care about myself at all? So at the start it can be difficult to see what the issue is.

When we are past that point, then comes the effort of seeing how it plays out in our lives, and as we find more and more ways and put an end to each of them, the ones that remain go even deeper and are more entrenched.

In both cases -- the inability to quite understand why that sense of self is a problem in the first place, and the inability to notice how it plays out as we go deeper and deeper -- the problem is, at base, caused by that underlying tendency blocking us from seeing accurately.

This would be why the Buddha points out that the people he knew were going to have a hard time understanding what he taught, because all our instincts at self preservation go against us seeing it.

:namaste:
from a non-Theravādin of novel views
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Re: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Mar 18, 2012 11:19 pm

Greetings,

nowheat wrote:the inability to quite understand why that sense of self is a problem in the first place, and the inability to notice how it plays out as we go deeper and deeper -- the problem is, at base, caused by that underlying tendency blocking us from seeing accurately.

This would be why the Buddha points out that the people he knew were going to have a hard time understanding what he taught, because all our instincts at self preservation go against us seeing it.

:goodpost:

I like that. It explains the depth of the Dhamma without recourse to "complications" like intellectual analysis, philosophical inquiry, conceptual proliferation etc.

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: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby ground » Mon Mar 26, 2012 6:44 am

nowheat wrote:the inability to quite understand why that sense of self is a problem in the first place, and the inability to notice how it plays out as we go deeper and deeper -- the problem is, at base, caused by that underlying tendency blocking us from seeing accurately.

That is why right view is the forerunner.
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Re: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby robertk » Mon Mar 26, 2012 9:28 am

mikenz66 wrote:As some further clarification, in case it sounds like I am making light of intellectual analysis of the suttas, I'd like to mention the example of Tiltbillings' discussion of translations of "the deathless", etc.
viewtopic.php?f=13&t=10569#p160907
http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f= ... 2&#p159172

The usual translations of Udana 8.3 go something like:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .irel.html
There is, bhikkhus, a not-born, a not-brought-to-being, a not-made, a not-conditioned. If, bhikkhus, there were no not-born, not-brought-to-being, not-made, not-conditioned, no escape would be discerned from what is born, brought-to-being, made, conditioned. But since there is a not-born, a not-brought-to-being, a not-made, a not-conditioned, therefore an escape is discerned from what is born, brought-to-being, made, conditioned.

or
"Verily, there is an Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed. If there were not this Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed, escape from the world of the born, the originated, the created, the formed, would not be possible"

This sounds awefully mysterious, whereas Tilt's translation:
"Monks, there is freedom from birth, freedom from
becoming, freedom from making, freedom from conditioning.
For, monks if there were not this freedom from birth, freedom from
becoming, freedom from making, freedom from conditioning,
then escape from that which is birth, becoming, making,
conditioning, would not be known here. But, monks, because there
is freedom from birth, freedom from becoming, freedom from
making, freedom from conditioning, therefore the escape from that
which is birth, becoming, making, conditioning is known."

is a reasonably straightforward statement that says, rather forcefully, that the goal is attainable.

Now, the intellectual rigor needed to be able to make that translation accurately is considerable, and certainly not a waste of time. Similarly with Ven. Nananada's many such analyses and clarifications in his seminars on Nibbana.





I am curious why you think tilts trnslation is correct.
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Re: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:08 pm

Hi Robert,
robertk wrote:I am curious why you think tilts trnslation is correct.

I'm not a Pali expert, so I rely on translators. Tilt's translation sounds plausible and my comment was on the basis of taking it seriously as a possibility. If you have an objection to his translation it would be interesting to explain it.

:anjali:
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Re: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby robertk » Tue Mar 27, 2012 2:49 am

Please see my topic in the Classical section
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Re: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby Alex123 » Thu Mar 29, 2012 7:15 pm

mikenz66 wrote:You mean, in English, the Dhamma is straightforward, not complicated?
:anjali:
Mike


My understanding is that Dhamma is simple, but not easy. It is very hard to realize.
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
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Re: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby Alex123 » Thu Mar 29, 2012 8:09 pm

Hello Retro,

Few interesting points:
The Dhamma is:
1) deep, hard to see, hard to realize, peaceful, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to-be-experienced by the wise.
The reason for not understanding it is:
2) For a generation delighting in attachment, excited by attachment, enjoying attachment, this/that conditionality and dependent co-arising are hard to see.

Please note that the reason for difficulty of Dhamma is not because of some abstruse metaphysics but because we are attached to things. Also this/that conditionality and dependent origination is hard to see because of it.

Is dependent origination abstruse metaphysics? It starts with ignorance and ends with suffering. It seems to be more of pragmatic and soteriological rather than "In ultimate truth, things don't have any inherent existence and are fully empty".

Ignorance is defined as not knowing 4NT (dukkha, craving being origin of dukkha, cessation of craving is cessation of dukkha, and the path leading to it).

Dhamma is about letting go off all attachment which brings the cessation of suffering, and the drawbacks of attachment is hard to see.
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
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Re: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Mar 29, 2012 8:42 pm

Hi Alex,
Alex123 wrote:Please note that the reason for difficulty of Dhamma is not because of some abstruse metaphysics but because we are attached to things. Also this/that conditionality and dependent origination is hard to see because of it.

Agree...
Alex123 wrote:Is dependent origination abstruse metaphysics? It starts with ignorance and ends with suffering. It seems to be more of pragmatic and soteriological rather than "In ultimate truth, things don't have any inherent existence and are fully empty".

Agree, and, based on my, admittedly limited, reading, discussion, and experience, I don't think that awakening is dependent on mastering obscure philosophical distinctions to do with whether or not there is a "reality" "out there", etc, etc.

:anjali:
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