How do you contemplate anatta?

Discussion of Satipatthana bhavanā and Vipassana bhavana.

Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby binocular » Tue Jun 04, 2013 12:20 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:Sure, but some people do manage to lose weight. ;)

Sure, but probably not on their terms.
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Jun 04, 2013 12:30 pm

binocular wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:Sure, but some people do manage to lose weight. ;)

Sure, but probably not on their terms.


Agreed. But I don't find the "lack of control over the aggregates" argument for anatta entirely convincing, because we do have some control - and if we didn't, then Buddhist practice would be impossible.
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jun 04, 2013 2:13 pm

daverupa wrote:
rowyourboat wrote:"Anatta is not an object of insight. Phenomena are objects of insight (meditation) ie vipassana. Anatta is an insight which arises as a consequence of this practice."


This is well put, indeed, though samatha has a role in "this practice" as well,
Of course
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.
"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby IanAnd » Tue Jun 04, 2013 3:57 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:By 6 elements I mean earth, wind, fire, water, space and consciousness - this set is effectively equivalent to the 5 aggregates though much heavier on the materiality end.


See MN112.7, MN115.5, MN140.8 and MN143.10. At MN140.8 it says "This person consists of the 6 elements".

I do also work with the 6 sense bases, specifically in terms of anicca, rise and fall. I don't find the aggregates very "user-friendly", but maybe that's just me.

Thank you for your explanation of the six element. I never would have made that connection had you not pointed it out. However, it remains somewhat of a backasswards approach (IMHO) to insight study in this matter, as it neglects going in from the front door in favor of approaching the problem from the back door. I personally find such indirect approaches time-consuming, time-wasting, and generally inefficient.

It is unfortunate that you find effort at insight into the five aggregates to be not "user-friendly," as this is the most direct route to take. But each to his own. Have fun trying to figure this out with your present approach. I wish you much good fortune.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby binocular » Tue Jun 04, 2013 7:26 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:But I don't find the "lack of control over the aggregates" argument for anatta entirely convincing, because we do have some control

Us having some control over form does not mean that form is self, though.

That said, us having some control over form seems to be indirect: there are many other things we have to do first before we get to exercise some control over form. Similar goes for the other aggregates.

For example, if one is to change the shape of one's body, this cannot be done directly, in one instantly effective act, but requires a great number of mental, verbal and physical actions over a period of time, along with a number of external factors being suitable toward that purpose.
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby reflection » Tue Jun 04, 2013 7:50 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
binocular wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:Sure, but some people do manage to lose weight. ;)

Sure, but probably not on their terms.


Agreed. But I don't find the "lack of control over the aggregates" argument for anatta entirely convincing, because we do have some control - and if we didn't, then Buddhist practice would be impossible.

Investigating what this idea is based on may be a good starting point for contemplating anatta.
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby kirk5a » Tue Jun 04, 2013 8:55 pm

reflection wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:Agreed. But I don't find the "lack of control over the aggregates" argument for anatta entirely convincing, because we do have some control - and if we didn't, then Buddhist practice would be impossible.

Investigating what this idea is based on may be a good starting point for contemplating anatta.

It's the idea that some things are a result of volition. Those are subject to "control." Like typing. Or keeping attention on one's meditation object.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby SDC » Tue Jun 04, 2013 11:40 pm

I take anything that is part life - job, car, money, friends, family, co-workers, practice of Buddhism, attitude, the body, the thoughts, the emotions - and look at the fact that, despite seeing these things as mine, or in the very least, firmly (absolutely?) in an intimate realm of my influence, there are conditions which can cause these things to become a discomfort for me; a change in status that is no my choice. Having no choice in the matter shows that "under this condition" it is beyond the ability to control.

So then I ask, "How can something that is able to get out of my control be seen as mine?"
Through many of samsara’s births I hasten seeking, finding not the builder of this house - pain is birth again, again. O builder of this house you’re seen, you shall not build a house again, all your beams have given away, rafters of the ridge decayed, mind to the unconditioned gone, exhaustion of craving has it reached.(Dhp - 153, 154)
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby reflection » Tue Jun 04, 2013 11:54 pm

kirk5a wrote:
reflection wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:Agreed. But I don't find the "lack of control over the aggregates" argument for anatta entirely convincing, because we do have some control - and if we didn't, then Buddhist practice would be impossible.

Investigating what this idea is based on may be a good starting point for contemplating anatta.

It's the idea that some things are a result of volition. Those are subject to "control." Like typing. Or keeping attention on one's meditation object.

With respect, unless you and Spiny Norman are the same person, I don't think you can say what his idea is. And it doesn't really matter because what I think is that whatever we take as "mine" should be subject to investigation. Here, "we do have some control" seems to me something that is part of this.
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby kirk5a » Wed Jun 05, 2013 12:41 am

reflection wrote:With respect, unless you and Spiny Norman are the same person, I don't think you can say what his idea is. And it doesn't really matter because what I think is that whatever we take as "mine" should be subject to investigation. Here, "we do have some control" seems to me something that is part of this.

I agree with the principle that Buddhist practice would be impossible if there was utterly no control. The notion doesn't belong to Spiny Norman, I was just giving my take on it. Obviously Spiny can also say whatever he/she likes. The basic fact of volitional activity isn't inherently a matter of holding onto "mine."
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby reflection » Wed Jun 05, 2013 12:50 am

Ok. Sorry for jumping in as if you were speaking for Spiny Norman. It's food for another discussion that's probably been done before, so I'll leave it at what I've said: I think it's worth investigating the idea behind this control, which will be different for most people. Since the topic asked for personal input, how I would approach it is as I've suggested before.

:anjali:
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby SDC » Wed Jun 05, 2013 1:10 am

reflection wrote:I think it's worth investigating the idea behind this control, which will be different for most people.


We have "control" when we have the ability to keep things in an acceptable condition or at least the ability to return something to an acceptable condition were something to be altered from its "normal" state. It's only when things go beyond these perimeters that the lack of control becomes evident. Of course it is going to take time to see that this potential for lack of control is present with ALL things.
Through many of samsara’s births I hasten seeking, finding not the builder of this house - pain is birth again, again. O builder of this house you’re seen, you shall not build a house again, all your beams have given away, rafters of the ridge decayed, mind to the unconditioned gone, exhaustion of craving has it reached.(Dhp - 153, 154)
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby reflection » Wed Jun 05, 2013 3:41 am

IanAnd wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:By 6 elements I mean earth, wind, fire, water, space and consciousness - this set is effectively equivalent to the 5 aggregates though much heavier on the materiality end.


See MN112.7, MN115.5, MN140.8 and MN143.10. At MN140.8 it says "This person consists of the 6 elements".

I do also work with the 6 sense bases, specifically in terms of anicca, rise and fall. I don't find the aggregates very "user-friendly", but maybe that's just me.

Thank you for your explanation of the six element. I never would have made that connection had you not pointed it out. However, it remains somewhat of a backasswards approach (IMHO) to insight study in this matter, as it neglects going in from the front door in favor of approaching the problem from the back door. I personally find such indirect approaches time-consuming, time-wasting, and generally inefficient.

It is unfortunate that you find effort at insight into the five aggregates to be not "user-friendly," as this is the most direct route to take. But each to his own. Have fun trying to figure this out with your present approach. I wish you much good fortune.

I'm happy you recognize it's all personal, that's why the Buddha gave different ways to reflect on things. I often use the six senses instead of the aggregates.

Six elements or five aggregates, or six senses, in my view they serve the same purpose. I don't see anything backdoor about one or the other because they are just another way of categorizing things. There is no real thing as an aggregate, they are just descriptions. So there is no reason why this reflectoin would be more direct. Perhaps for individuals, but not in general.

Perhaps also it's useful to say that 'consciousness' (vinnana) is not just the awareness capability, it is sometimes also used to refer to the mind in general, as is the case in the six elements, and as is the case below:
"But as for what's called 'mind,' 'intellect,' or 'consciousness,'
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


Anyway, main advice here for OP: Perhaps six senses is a useful way of contemplating for you. You said you aren't looking for suttas, but here you go anyway:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby pegembara » Wed Jun 05, 2013 8:14 am

Spiny Norman wrote:
Sure, but some people do manage to lose weight. ;)


If form were self, one could eat as much as one likes and not get fat but since it is not so ........ One could command the body not to get sick or grow old.

Agreed. But I don't find the "lack of control over the aggregates" argument for anatta entirely convincing, because we do have some control - and if we didn't, then Buddhist practice would be impossible.


We can't will our bodies not to grow old, get sick or die (form). We can't will ourselves to be happy and not feel sad or scared (feeling). We can't will ourselves from thinking bad thoughts (formations). If we see red we can't will what we see to become blue (perceptions). We can't will ourselves to fall asleep. We can't not be there (consciousness).

If we can do all those things, there would be no dukkha and the 4 NT would be rendered invalid. It is because these things are not ours that it is necessary to practice the N8FP. Even the intention to practice is not ours. It is dukkha that drives the intention and coming into contact with the Buddha's teachings that lead to one practising. Everything is just cause and effect.

Whatever phenomena arise from cause:
their cause
& their cessation.
Such is the teaching of the Tathagata,
the Great Contemplative.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed Jun 05, 2013 8:55 am

IanAnd wrote:It is unfortunate that you find effort at insight into the five aggregates to be not "user-friendly," as this is the most direct route to take.


I haven't written off the aggregates, it's probably a case of finding an approach that works. In the meantime I find the 6 sense-base approach to be quite productive. I find the 6-element approach gives a good feel for the transient nature of human existence.
Last edited by Spiny Norman on Wed Jun 05, 2013 9:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed Jun 05, 2013 9:00 am

reflection wrote:Six elements or five aggregates, or six senses, in my view they serve the same purpose.


Yes, there are different ways of analysing experience.
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed Jun 05, 2013 9:05 am

kirk5a wrote:It's the idea that some things are a result of volition. Those are subject to "control." Like typing. Or keeping attention on one's meditation object.


Yes, that's what I was pointing to, the way in which volition/intention shapes our behaviour.
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed Jun 05, 2013 9:12 am

pegembara wrote:We can't will our bodies not to grow old, get sick or die (form). We can't will ourselves to be happy and not feel sad or scared (feeling). We can't will ourselves from thinking bad thoughts (formations). If we see red we can't will what we see to become blue (perceptions). We can't will ourselves to fall asleep. We can't not be there (consciousness).


Sure. But why does the idea of a self depend upon control?
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby floating_abu » Wed Jun 05, 2013 9:54 am

pegembara wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:
Sure, but some people do manage to lose weight. ;)


If form were self, one could eat as much as one likes and not get fat but since it is not so ........ One could command the body not to get sick or grow old.

Agreed. But I don't find the "lack of control over the aggregates" argument for anatta entirely convincing, because we do have some control - and if we didn't, then Buddhist practice would be impossible.


We can't will our bodies not to grow old, get sick or die (form). We can't will ourselves to be happy and not feel sad or scared (feeling). We can't will ourselves from thinking bad thoughts (formations). If we see red we can't will what we see to become blue (perceptions). We can't will ourselves to fall asleep. We can't not be there (consciousness).

If we can do all those things, there would be no dukkha and the 4 NT would be rendered invalid. It is because these things are not ours that it is necessary to practice the N8FP. Even the intention to practice is not ours. It is dukkha that drives the intention and coming into contact with the Buddha's teachings that lead to one practising. Everything is just cause and effect.

Whatever phenomena arise from cause:
their cause
& their cessation.
Such is the teaching of the Tathagata,
the Great Contemplative.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


Anatta is not inconsistent with karma and will IMO. For example, people have different metabolisms, physical forms (karma). We control how much food we ingest using our hands and mouth to ingest said food (will, control over the physical) etc.

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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby binocular » Wed Jun 05, 2013 12:35 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:Sure. But why does the idea of a self depend upon control?

The characteristic of control is inherent to the concept of "self."
An idea of an inert, helpless self generally seems defunct, absurd.

How do we know that, what is the source for these notions?
I can't give any references to the Pali Canon. There are many doctrines on the nature of the self in other religions/philosophies. There also seems to be a natural tendency of people in general to conceive the self in a particular way, notably as being something which has a will, is permanent, and seeks pleasure and knowledge.
It does seem though that the Pali Canon manages to get around the many problems that emerge as we conemplate the various doctrines about the self.
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