SN 45.8: Magga-vibhanga Sutta — An Analysis of the Path

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SN 45.8: Magga-vibhanga Sutta — An Analysis of the Path

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Jul 23, 2012 7:42 am

SN 45.8 PTS: S v 2 CDB ii 1524
Magga-vibhanga Sutta: An Analysis of the Path
translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu


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



I have heard that at one time the Blessed One was staying in Savatthi at Jeta's Grove, Anathapindika's monastery.

There he addressed the monks, saying, "Monks."

"Yes, lord," the monks responded to him.

The Blessed One said, "I will teach & analyze for you the Noble Eightfold Path. Listen & pay close attention. I will speak."

"As you say, lord," the monks responded to him.

The Blessed One said, "Now what, monks, is the Noble Eightfold Path? Right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

"And what, monks, is right view? Knowledge with regard to stress, knowledge with regard to the origination of stress, knowledge with regard to the stopping of stress, knowledge with regard to the way of practice leading to the stopping of stress: This, monks, is called right view.

"And what is right resolve? Being resolved on renunciation, on freedom from ill will, on harmlessness: This is called right resolve.

"And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, abstaining from divisive speech, abstaining from abusive speech, abstaining from idle chatter: This, monks, is called right speech.

"And what, monks, is right action? Abstaining from taking life, abstaining from stealing, abstaining from unchastity: This, monks, is called right action.

"And what, monks, is right livelihood? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones, having abandoned dishonest livelihood, keeps his life going with right livelihood: This, monks, is called right livelihood.

"And what, monks, is right effort? (i) There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen. (ii) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the abandonment of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen. (iii) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen. (iv) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, & culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen: This, monks, is called right effort.

"And what, monks, is right mindfulness? (i) There is the case where a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, aware, & mindful — putting away greed & distress with reference to the world. (ii) He remains focused on feelings in & of themselves — ardent, aware, & mindful — putting away greed & distress with reference to the world. (iii) He remains focused on the mind in & of itself — ardent, aware, & mindful — putting away greed & distress with reference to the world. (iv) He remains focused on mental qualities in & of themselves — ardent, aware, & mindful — putting away greed & distress with reference to the world. This, monks, is called right mindfulness.

"And what, monks, is right concentration? (i) There is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful (mental) qualities — enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. (ii) With the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters & remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation — internal assurance. (iii) With the fading of rapture, he remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and senses pleasure with the body. He enters & remains in the third jhana, of which the Noble Ones declare, 'Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.' (iv) With the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — he enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. This, monks, is called right concentration."

That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, the monks delighted at his words.
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Re: SN 45.8: Magga-vibhanga Sutta — An Analysis of the Path

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Jul 23, 2012 7:43 am

SN 45.8: Magga-vibhanga Sutta
Translated by John Ireland


Saavatthi was the place [where this discourse was given].

"I will teach you, bhikkhus, the Noble Eightfold Path and analyze it. Listen, attend carefully and I will speak."

"Yes, Sir," those bhikkhus replied to the Lord.

The Lord said: "What, bhikkhus, is the Noble Eightfold Path? It is right view and so forth...

"Now what, bhikkhus, is right view? Whatever is knowledge of suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering and the way leading to cessation of suffering. This, bhikkhus, is called right view.

"Now what, bhikkhus, is right thought? Whatever is a thought of renunciation, a thought of friendliness, a thought of harmlessness. This, bhikkhus, is called right thought.

"Now what, bhikkhus, is right speech? Whatever is abstention from lying speech, abstention from malicious speech, abstention from harsh speech, abstention from idle speech. This, bhikkhus, is called right speech.

"Now what, bhikkhus, is right action? Whatever is abstention from harming living creatures, abstention from unchastity (abrahmacariyaa). This, bhikkhus, is called right action.

"Now what, bhikkhus, is right livelihood? Herein, bhikkhus, the noble disciple having given up a wrong livelihood lives his life by means of a right livelihood. This, bhikkhus, is called right livelihood.

"Now what, bhikkhus, is right effort? Herein, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu generates desire, strives, stirs up energy, exerts his mind and struggles to prevent the arising of evil, unskilled states that have not arisen. He generates desire and strives... to be rid of evil, unskilled states that have arisen. He generates desire and strives... to establish and not lose, for the further cultivation, abundance, development and perfection of skilled states that have arisen. This, bhikkhus, is called right effort.

"Now what, bhikkhus, is right mindfulness? Herein, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu lives practicing body-contemplation on the body, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, having overcome covetousness and grief concerning the world. He lives practicing feeling-contemplation on feelings... mind-contemplation on [the states of] mind... mind-object-contemplation on the objects of mind, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, having overcome covetousness and grief concerning the world. This, bhikkhus, is called right mindfulness. Now what, bhikkhus, is right concentration? Herein, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu, secluded from unskilled things, dwells having entered the first absorption (jhaana), accompanied by thinking and investigation, born of detachment and [filled with] joy and bliss.

"After the subsiding of thinking and investigation and by gaining inner serenity and unification of mind, he dwells having entered the second absorption, which is without thinking and investigation, is born of concentration and [filled with] joy and bliss.

"After the fading away of joy he dwells in equanimity, mindful and clearly comprehending, and experiences in his person a bliss of which the Noble Ones say, 'He who has equanimity and is mindful lives blissfully,' and he dwells having entered the third absorption.

"After the abandoning of pleasure and pain and the disappearance of former happiness and grief, he dwells having entered the fourth absorption which is without pleasure and pain and is purified by equanimity and mindfulness. This, bhikkhus, is called right concentration."
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Re: SN 45.8: Magga-vibhanga Sutta — An Analysis of the Path

Postby vinasp » Wed Jul 25, 2012 4:09 pm

Hi mike,

This is really puzzling. How is one supposed to explain it?

Perhaps the teachings are meant to be given just as they are, without any
explanation.

So much depends on the distinction between the puthujjana and the noble disciple.

But should this distinction be made clear from the start, or left to each
individual to realise for himself?

Perhaps what they do not say is as important to note as what they do say.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: SN 45.8: Magga-vibhanga Sutta — An Analysis of the Path

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jul 25, 2012 8:32 pm

Hi Vincent,
vinasp wrote: This is really puzzling. How is one supposed to explain it?

As I understand it, it's a description of the factors of the path. A summary of the key aspects of practice to be developed.

:anjali:
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Re: SN 45.8: Magga-vibhanga Sutta — An Analysis of the Path

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jul 25, 2012 8:41 pm

“And what, bhikkhus, is the Noble Eightfold Path? Right view, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration."
BB: The definitions of the path factors to follow are also at
DN II 311-13, DN 22: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
MN III 251-52, MN 141: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

In the Abhidhamma Piṭaka, they are incorporated into the formal treatment of the path according to the sutta method in the Suttantabhājaniya at Vibh 235-36. In the Abhidhamma-bhājaniya the path factors are considered as exclusively supramundane.
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Re: SN 45.8: Magga-vibhanga Sutta — An Analysis of the Path

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Jul 25, 2012 10:53 pm

Greetings,

mikenz66 wrote:As I understand it, it's a description of the factors of the path. A summary of the key aspects of practice to be developed.

Agreed.

vinasp wrote:Perhaps the teachings are meant to be given just as they are, without any explanation.

I believe they can and should be explored further so as to deepen one's understanding and application of these factors, but they don't necessarily need to be interpreted according to any external exegesis/eisegesis.

I believe Mike posted these sutta translations and accompanying resources for our common exploration, rather than to suggest that any one translation or explanation has an intellectual monopoly in depicting how SN 45.8 must be understood by all people.

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: SN 45.8: Magga-vibhanga Sutta — An Analysis of the Path

Postby vinasp » Thu Jul 26, 2012 4:14 am

Hi Mike, Retro,

On the distinction between a noble disciple and a puthujjana.

"Again, a noble disciple considers thus: 'When I pursue, develop, and cultivate
this view, do I obtain internal serenity, do I personally obtain stillness?'
..........
This is the second knowledge attained by him that is noble, supramundane, not
shared by ordinary people." [BB, MLDB, from MN 48.9]

Not shared by puthujjana's.

damassa dutiyaṃ ñāṇaṃ adhigataṃ hoti ariyaṃ lokuttaraṃ asādhāraṇaṃ puthujjanehi.

This is not a matter of "interpretation", it is explicit in the texts.

Since only noble disciples possess the path factor "right livelihood", it follows
that no "ordinary man" is practising the noble eightfold path.

And since puthujjana's do not have "knowledge of suffering, the origin of
suffering ..." and so forth, they do not have the path factor of right view.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: SN 45.8: Magga-vibhanga Sutta — An Analysis of the Path

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jul 26, 2012 4:23 am

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote:I believe they can and should be explored further so as to deepen one's understanding and application of these factors, but they don't necessarily need to be interpreted according to any external exegesis/eisegesis.

I agree. I think it's good to start by just reading and reflecting on a sutta, and, in particular, thinking about whether the text is giving some clue about things you have already observed yourself.
retrofuturist wrote:I believe Mike posted these sutta translations and accompanying resources for our common exploration, rather than to suggest that any one translation or explanation has an intellectual monopoly in depicting how SN 45.8 must be understood by all people.

Yes, there are certainly various ways of interpreting the Path statements. In particular, whether their development is sequential, parallel, or circular... And, of course, the statement of Right View varies across the Suttas. In this case we have what I believe is the most common statement about understanding the Noble Truths, whereas the mundane/supermundane version in MN 117 for example http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html may well be influenced by Abhidhamma/Commentary interpretations: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 814#p23845

:anjali:
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Re: SN 45.8: Magga-vibhanga Sutta — An Analysis of the Path

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Jul 26, 2012 4:48 am

Greetings Vincent,

vinasp wrote:On the distinction between a noble disciple and a puthujjana.

"Again, a noble disciple considers thus: 'When I pursue, develop, and cultivate
this view, do I obtain internal serenity, do I personally obtain stillness?'

I think I see what you're getting at... to rephrase, "Is the Eightfold Noble Path something you're only on if you're a sekha?"

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: SN 45.8: Magga-vibhanga Sutta — An Analysis of the Path

Postby vinasp » Thu Jul 26, 2012 7:05 am

Hi Retro,

Quote:"I think I see what you're getting at... to rephrase, "Is the Eightfold Noble Path something you're only on if you're a sekha?"

Yes, that was my question.

My answer, based on the four main Nikaya's, would be "Yes", only noble disciples
or sekha's can be practising the noble eightfold path.

It would seem that the puthujjana's practice is called "the wrong eightfold path."

This would not be a problem if this wrong path leads to the right path, but I can
find no passage which states that it does, and many which say that it does not.

So it would appear that the noble eightfold path was originally entirely
supramundane. But with the Abhidhamma teachings the path became divided into a
mundane path, and four momentary supramundane paths - have I got this right?

If so, then this new "mundane" eightfold path is the same as the old wrong path.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: SN 45.8: Magga-vibhanga Sutta — An Analysis of the Path

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jul 26, 2012 7:15 am

Hi Vincent,
vinasp wrote: If so, then this new "mundane" eightfold path is the same as the old wrong path.

So which path are you saying is in this particular Sutta?

:anjali:
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Re: SN 45.8: Magga-vibhanga Sutta — An Analysis of the Path

Postby vinasp » Thu Jul 26, 2012 8:02 am

Hi Mike,

Quote: "So which path are you saying is in this particular Sutta?"

I would say that SN 45.8 is describing the "entirely supramundane" noble
eightfold path.

This would be true of most descriptions in the Nikaya's, there are just a few
suttas which are difficult to interpret, such as MN 117.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: SN 45.8: Magga-vibhanga Sutta — An Analysis of the Path

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jul 27, 2012 8:23 am

“And what, bhikkhus, is right action? Abstinence from the destruction of life, abstinence from taking what is not given, abstinence from sexual misconduct:[*] this is called right action.
BB: All eds. of SN have here abrahmacariyā veramaṇī, but elsewhere the reading is kāmesu micchācārā veramaṇī, “abstinence from sexual misconduct”
(see DN II 312, 12-13; http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
MN III 74, 22, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
MN III 251, 24-25; http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .piya.html
Vibh 235, 18-19).
The former phrase is found in the precept observed by monks and nuns, the latter in the precept undertaken by the laity. Spk does not comment, which suggests that the SN reading is the result of a scribal error, probably introduced after the age of the commentary; otherwise Spk surely would have explained the variant. I have therefore translated on the assumption that the correct reading should be kāmesu micchācārā veramaṇī.
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Re: SN 45.8: Magga-vibhanga Sutta — An Analysis of the Path

Postby starter » Tue Jul 31, 2012 2:13 am

Hello Mike,

Many thanks for posting this important sutta. To my understanding, the Noble Eightfold Path is for the noble disciples who have obtained or obtaining the right understanding of 4NT -- thus possessed or are to possess the 1st path factor Right View. They already know or are knowing the 4th NT, the way leading to cessation of suffering -- the path of practice. The rest of the 7 factors are what they should aim for, practice, develop, perfect and possess. I understand now why the 2nd path factor is "Non-sensual desire, Non-ill will and Non-harming", not "non-greed, non-aversion and non-delusion", and the 2nd factor should better be translated into Right Thoughts (Agama translation) instead of Right Intention (it's easy to think we possess right intention of "non-greed, non-aversion and non-delusion" but actually we don't possess such right thoughts at all). As the second stage of the cultivation, it's impossible for most (even noble) disciples to perfect and possess "non-greed, non-aversion and non-delusion". So we should first aim for right thoughts of "Non-sensual desire, Non-ill will and Non-harming".

I tend to consider the 8 path factors we should aim for and eventually possess is sequential -- we perfect one after another. But it's a bit puzzling that Right Effort is explained as the 4 exertions, which would be better practiced and culminated much earlier. Probably it's because this factor is more aimed at the suppression of 5 hindrances, and it's impossible to perfect this factor earlier without the perfection of Right Thoughts, Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood.

Metta to all,

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Re: SN 45.8: Magga-vibhanga Sutta — An Analysis of the Path

Postby drifting cloud » Tue Jul 31, 2012 3:24 am

Hello Vincent,

I think I see what you're getting at, but in this case perhaps it is better to take this particular sutta "just as it is". I don't really know Pali, aside from some basic vocabulary, and I am not familiar with the other Sutta that you've cited, but in this case I think the Buddha is doing exactly what he says he is - teaching and analyzing the path that leads to liberation. As Freud famously said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

In the Christian tradition, there is a ambiguity or tension running throughout all of Jesus' teachings on being a righteous person, etc; namely, are we actually expected to be able to follow the teachings of Jesus, or the point that since we are all Fallen and sinful, we cannot follow them, and are thus only able to be saved via faith in the Jesus as the Redeemer (who alone can actually follow his teachings)?

To the best of my knowledge and experience, such a tension does not really exist in Buddhist practice, at least, not among the Theravada (it does, however, come up to some extent in certain schools of Mahayana Pure Land Buddhism). My understanding is that the Buddha taught we can all become Buddhas ourselves, i.e. become liberated/awakened beings, and that the teachings are meant to be practiced. To the extent that we do so, we are 'noble disciples'; to the extent that we fail to do so, we are worldlings or puthujjanas. Easier said than done, of course, but it can still be done, and that is, in fact the point (as I understand it). I find Starter's comments are helpful in this regard.

I would like to add that something I found quite interesting in this reading is that the Buddha specifically tells us to generate desire - for a specific end. This flies in the face of much popular characterization of the path as having to do with 'transcending desires' and all of the attendent (and in my opinion, unhelpful) consideration of the paradox that we can't transcend desire without desiring transcendence.

I would also like to add that re: Starter's comments on whether the Path factors are sequential - it seems to me that while all of the Path factors are mutually reinforcing, and perhaps advancing along any one of them creates a sort of positive feedback loop that helps us advance along the others - they don't necessarily have to be thought of as sequential. For example, we could argue that without Right View, one won't understand enough of the Path to walk it properly - but surely it's the case that our view of the path can only develop further by walking it! We don't have to wait until we have a perfect grasp of Right View to begin practicing Right Action or any of the other path factors. I suppose what I'm getting at here is that I see the Path as a dynamic, evolving sort of praxis (if I can introduce a Greek word here amongst the Pali ;) ), with all factors supporting all factors, and with multiple possible 'starting points'.

Admittedly these interpretations and opinions are solely my own, and as I said before, not informed by Pali scholarship, so please correct me if I am missing something obvious here or otherwise misunderstanding or misrepresenting anyone's position :anjali:
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Re: SN 45.8: Magga-vibhanga Sutta — An Analysis of the Path

Postby drifting cloud » Tue Jul 31, 2012 5:41 pm

Also, I have a question.

In the passages about 'right concentration', I notice that the Buddha lists four jhanas. I have been taught that there are a total of eight jhanas. Is there a particular reason only four are listed in this Sutta?

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