Not-self in the Samyukta Agama

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

Not-self in the Samyukta Agama

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Oct 21, 2013 8:39 am

Ven Dhammanando has recently posted on Facebook about Ven Analayo's Translation of the Samyukta Agama:
Dhammanando Bhikkhu wrote:The second part of Ven. Anālayo’s translation of the Saṃyukta-āgama is now available:
http://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg. ... o/SA02.pdf


Hansi Zhai wrote: Yay! Finally another explicit denial of the existence of the Self - sutra #264. The Chinese says 我, while the Pali parallel has attabhāva. Take that, all you Not-Self strategists.


Dhammanando Bhikkhu wrote: Apparently in the Sanskrit too, where the slightly ambiguous Pali “na upalabbhati” is replaced with an unequivocal “n’asti”.

“The self, the self (atma atmeti), monks, [thinks] the foolish common person who follows speech (prajñaptim anupatito). But *there is no self and what belongs to self there* (na catrasty atma natmiyam va). This suffering, arising, arises, this suffering, ceasing, ceases. Formations, arising, arise, ceasing, cease (samskara utpadyamana utpadyante, nirudhyamana nirudhyante).” MA, 62, 498b, Sanghabhedavastu, I, 158, Waldschmidt, Catusparisatsutra, 354-356, Zitate, 210, Harivarman, Tattvasiddhi, T, 32, 1646, 259b1-3, 312c5-6. Trans. Tang Huyen.


Hansi Zhai wrote: Bhante, re the slightly ambiguous Pali "paṭilābha", I was just wondering if this word is a throwback to the Vedic concept of āpnoti, where knowledge of the Atman guarantees that sarvāṃs lokān āpnoti (one obtains all worlds). Soothill suggests that the Chinese 得 would have denoted prāpta, and the associated verbs include āpnoti and upalabhate.


I presume that Hansi Zhai is referring to this passage:
SA264 wrote:"Blessed One, while meditating and reflecting, I had the thought:
'Is there a bodily form that is permanent, lasting and unchanging,
that firmly remains? In the same way, is there a feeling ... perception
... formations ... consciousness that is permanent, lasting and
unchanging, that firmly remains?' I now ask the Blessed One: 'Is
there a bodily form that is permanent, lasting and unchanging, that
firmly remains? Is there a feeling ... perception ... formations ...
consciousness that is permanent, lasting and unchanging, that firmly
remains?'"

At that time the Blessed One took in his hand a small ball of earth and
said to the monk: "Do you see the ball of earth in my hand?"
The monk said to the Buddha: "I have seen it, Blessed One."
[The Buddha said]: "Monk, [even] a self as much as this small [ball]
of earth cannot be obtained, supposing one could obtain a self which
is of a nature to be permanent, lasting and unchanging, that firmly
remains."


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Re: Not-self in the Samyukta Agama

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Oct 21, 2013 9:50 am

The parallel in Samyutta Nikaya is here: http://suttacentral.net/sn22.96/en/

SN 22.96 wrote:Then the Blessed One took up a little lump of cowdung in his hand and said to that bhikkhu: “Bhikkhu, there is not even this much individual existence that is permanent, stable, eternal, not subject to change, and that will remain the same just like eternity itself. If there was this much individual existence that was permanent, stable, eternal, not subject to change, this living of the holy life for the complete destruction of suffering could not be discerned. But because there is not even this much individual existence that is permanent, stable, eternal, not subject to change, this living of the holy life for the complete destruction of suffering is discerned.


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Re: Not-self in the Samyukta Agama

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Oct 21, 2013 11:46 am

Greetings Mike,

Interesting to compare the two... the Pali seems careful to reference "is discerned", whereas (as appears to often be the case with the Agamas) the Chinese interpolations are a bit more severe and less subtle.

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: Not-self in the Samyukta Agama

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Oct 21, 2013 6:20 pm

Yes, the tone does seem to be rather different.

I'd be interested to hear from someone fluent in Pali and Chinese (and Sanskrit) whether that's due to the choice of words of the translators, of if it's really implied by the respective texts.

Here's Thanissaro Bhikkhu's translation of a similar passage:
Then the Blessed One, picking up a tiny bit of dust with the tip of his fingernail, said to the monk, "There isn't even this much form that is constant, lasting, eternal, not subject to change, that will stay just as it is as long as eternity. If there were even this much form that was constant, lasting, eternal, not subject to change, that would stay just as it is as long as eternity, then this living of the holy life for the right ending of suffering & stress would not be discerned. But because there isn't even this much form that is constant, lasting, eternal, not subject to change, that will stay just as it is as long as eternity, this living of the holy life for the right ending of suffering & stress is discerned.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


And Sister Uppalavanna's translation of SN 22.96:
Monk, if a gain of self, that is as big as this bit of cow dung, will be permanent, stable, stand forever without change and destruction, the holy life would not have been pointed out for the rightful destruction of unpleasantness. Since a gain of self, even as big as this bit of cow dung, will not be permanent, stable, stand forever without change and destruction, the holy life is pointed out for the rightful destruction of unpleasantness.
http://www.metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pit ... ggo-e.html


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Re: Not-self in the Samyukta Agama

Postby SarathW » Mon Oct 21, 2013 10:42 pm

Hi Mike
You wrote:
Here's Thanissaro Bhikkhu's translation of a similar passage:
Then the Blessed One, picking up a tiny bit of dust with the tip of his fingernail, said to the monk, "There isn't even this much form that is constant, lasting, eternal, not subject to change, that will stay just as it is as long as eternity. If there were even this much form that was constant, lasting, eternal, not subject to change, that would stay just as it is as long as eternity, then this living of the holy life for the right ending of suffering & stress would not be discerned. But because there isn't even this much form that is constant, lasting, eternal, not subject to change, that will stay just as it is as long as eternity, this living of the holy life for the right ending of suffering & stress is discerned.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
=========================================

The above praise had a such impact on me. Once I wrote an articled titled “Happiness without a reason”
So I gave the following example to explain Anatta without even remembering that Buddha used a similar example.
=================================


Look at a rock. Can you tell me what it is made of? This rock is made of many minerals such as iron and it also contains various other substances such as water and air, all combined. Now I am going to grind this rock. What happens to the rock? I have only a handful of sand in my hand. According to Buddhism there is nothing called a ‘rock’. We have given a name to an aggregate of matter. In an empirical sense there is a rock. However, in an absolute sense, there is nothing called a rock. In other words, it is ephemeral.
Let us examine the water particles in this sand. According to modern science, we know that water molecules are an aggregate of oxygen and hydrogen atoms. Atoms are an aggregate of neutrons, electrons and protons. It has been suggested that electrons may be an aggregate of various strings or forms of energy, etc. According to Buddhist doctrine, we cannot drill down to the last form of matter. Buddhism also teaches us that seventeen thought moments will form the smallest particle conceived by human (Kalapa). According to Buddhism, there are millions of thought moments in the space of time within a flash of lightning. Everything around us has a dependent point of origin; hence, they form inter- related aggregates.
===============
If anyone interested reading my full article please send me a message.
:)
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Re: Not-self in the Samyukta Agama

Postby Sylvester » Tue Oct 22, 2013 1:47 am

Looking at the relevant passage, it appears that the Chinese translator(s) of SA 264 were actually quite faithful to the Indic, which resembles the Pali. Taking Ven Analayo's translation of the passage -

比丘。如是。少土。我不可得。若我可得者。則
是常.恒.不變易.正住法。


比丘 (monk)。如是 (as much as this)。少土 (small [ball of] earth)。我不可得 (self cannot be obtained)。若我可得者 (supposing one could obtain a self)。則
是常 (that is of a nature to be permanent).恒 (lasting).不變易 (unchanging).正住法 (that firmly remains)

The Pali of SN 22.96 with BB's translation has -

ettakopi kho, bhikkhu, attabhāvapaṭilābho natthi nicco dhuvo sassato avipariṇāmadhammo sassatisamaṃ tatheva ṭhassati.

Bhikkhu, there is not even this much individual existence that is permanent, stable, eternal, not subject to change, and that will remain the same just like eternity itself


The Chinese has obviously suffered a loss in the text, as the contra-hypothetical is truncated and leads immediately to the Buddha's recollection of His past lives. In the Pali, the contra-hypothetical continues to point out the consequence of the contra-hypothetical being correct. The underlined text seem to have been dropped out of the Chinese -

Ettako cepi, bhikkhu, attabhāvapaṭilābho abhavissa nicco dhuvo sassato avipariṇāmadhammo, nayidaṃ brahmacariyavāso paññāyetha sammā dukkhakkhayāya. Yasmā ca kho, bhikkhu, ettakopi attabhāvapaṭilābho natthi nicco dhuvo sassato avipariṇāmadhammo, tasmā brahmacariyavāso paññāyati sammā dukkhakkhayāya.

If there was this much individual existence that was permanent, stable, eternal, not subject to change, this living of the holy life for the complete destruction of suffering could not be discerned. But because there is not even this much individual existence that is permanent, stable, eternal, not subject to change, this living of the holy life for the complete destruction of suffering is discerned.


The linkage between the Indic original of SA 264, with the Pali SN 22.96 can be seen in attabhāvapaṭilābho, translated by BB as "individual existence". The Comy defines this term as paṭiladdhaattabhāvo (having obtained/obtaining attabhāvo?), which is quite close to the Chinese 我可得 (Self can be obtained). It appears that the Pali's paṭilabhati (obtains/attains) is mirrored in the Chinese 得 .

As for the "discerned", it is paññāyati in the Pali, the passive of pajānāti. Another example where it is used in it colloquial sense, without its technical "insight" meaning.

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Re: Not-self in the Samyukta Agama

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Oct 22, 2013 3:35 am

Thanks for the comments Sylvester,

Interesting about the missing parts, but am I right that you are saying that the Chinese really isn't different from the Pali regarding that not-self passage you quoted?

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Re: Not-self in the Samyukta Agama

Postby Sylvester » Tue Oct 22, 2013 4:51 am

Hi Mike

There is a slight difference. The Chinese uses 我 (Atman, Self), while the Pali uses attabhāva. The Pali term attabhāva appears quite frequently, but I've not studied its usages and contexts of appearance. DN 33 gives a listing of 4 "acquisitions of attabhāva" (following the PTS translation as a genitive tappurisa), but I've not figured out how that ties to SN 22.96. So far, the sense I get from the Pali dictionaries is that the atta in attabhāva refers to the reflexive pronoun as in 'myself', 'himself', and it does not refer to the mystical "Self".

What makes the correspondence between SA 264 and SN 22.96 interesting is that the Pali Comy decided not to read attabhāvapaṭilābha as a genitive tappurisa (= acquisition of attabhāva), where the predicates 'permanent, stable, eternal' etc would then qualify the substantive noun paṭilābho/acquisition, since they are in the same case as paṭilābho. Instead, it opted to parse the compound differently, so that paṭilābha is explained through the verb, much like the Chinese uses the verb 得.

Interestingly, the other parallel in MA 61 makes the standard Not-self statement 非我 regarding the 5 Aggregates, without making any explicit denial of the Self.

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