I am writing this post to gain some insight into the teaching of “samsara without discoverable beginning.” I have tried searching the forum for a direct discussion on this subject but have not found one. If there is something I have overlooked please point me in the right direction.
What I would like to ask is how have you understood this teaching? And how has it shaped your understanding of the Dhamma? And by extension your understanding of the nature of reality?
Below are two passages from the Samyutta-nikaya translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi to illustrate the teachings of “samsara without discoverable beginning.”
(I especially like the stone mountain simile because of its delicate choice of words. The man is said to “stroke” the mountain with a piece of fine cloth, as if to say that were he to “strike” the mountain the length of time it would take this action to erode the mountain would not be sufficient enough to validate a comparison to the eon.)
The Blessed One said this:
- “Monks, this samsara is without discoverable beginning. A first point is not discerned of beings roaming and wandering on hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving. Suppose, monks, a man would cut up whatever grass, sticks, branches, and foliage there are in this Jambudipa and collect them together into a single heap. Having done so, he would put them down, saying for each one: ‘This is my mother, this my mother’s mother.’ The sequence of that man’s mothers and grandmothers would not come to an end, yet the grass, sticks, branches, and foliage in this Jambudipa would be used up and exhausted. For what reason? Because, monks, this samsara is without discoverable beginning. A first point is not discerned of beings roaming and wandering on hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving. For such a long time, monks, you have experienced suffering, anguish, and disaster, and swelled the cemetery. It is enough to become disenchanted with all formations, enough to become dispassionate toward them, enough to be liberated from them.” (SN 15:1)
“Suppose, monk, there was a great stone mountain a yojana long, a yojana wide, and a yojana high, without holes or crevices, one solid mass of rock. At the end of every hundred years a man would stroke it once with a piece of fine cloth. That great stone mountain might by this effort be worn away and eliminated but the eon would still not have come to an end. So long is an eon, monk. And of eons of such length, we have wandered through so many eons, so many hundreds of eons, so many thousands of eons, so many hundreds of thousands of eons. For what reason? Because, monk, this samsara is without discoverable beginning… It is enough to be liberated from them.” (SN 15:5)