How to reconcile Intention with Nonself?

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How to reconcile Intention with Nonself?

Postby Sati1 » Wed Jan 22, 2014 10:16 pm

Hello,

I was wondering if somebody could explain to me the role that intention plays in nonself and the 5 skhandas. I am beginning to understand how our physical features (form), perceptions, feelings, consciousness and mental formations arise and cease on their own accord, and that even our "observing awareness" is nonself. So if all that "we" are arises and ceases from causes and conditions, then where does intention fit in? Are our intentions also the result of causes and conditions, are they part of the five skhandas (mental formations?), or do "we" create them through free will? I understand that Buddha emphasized free will as necessary for the formation of present kamma, but just can't see how that idea can be reconciled with the idea of nonself.

Many thanks,
Sati1
London, UK

----
"I do not perceive even one other thing, o monks, that when developed and cultivated entails such great happiness as the mind" (AN 1.10, transl. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
"So this spiritual life, monks, does not have gain, honor, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of moral discipline for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakable liberation of mind that is the goal of this spiritual life, its heartwood, and its end," (MN 29, transl. Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi)
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Re: How to reconcile Intention with Nonself?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Wed Jan 22, 2014 10:30 pm

See Four Aspects of Dependent Origination to Bear in Mind

Absence of Striving

The third aspect of Dependent Origination is the absence of striving (avyāpāra). Ignorance causes mental formations without striving, and mental formations do not strive to create rebirth. Knowledge of this fact means insight into the absence of any being or agent (kāraka-puggala) who sees, hears, etc., and as such it frees us from ego-belief. However, as the Visuddhimagga says, the misinterpretation of this principle may turn one into a moral sceptic who accepts determinism and denies moral responsibility.

The non-volitional nature of phenomena is apparent to one who contemplates their ceaseless arising and dissolution, for one realises clearly that since they are conditioned, they do not act according to one’s wishes.


It is intention that the Buddha calls kamma. This functions in the posterior cycle of dependent origination — from attachment (upādāna), becoming (bhava) arises, and from becoming, birth (or rebirth) arises.

Conditioned by ignorance and craving, we perform volitional activities (kamma), which keeps the cycle of dependent origination spinning. The kamma that we do arises from conditions, it is not without causes. We are creatures of habit, but it is by cultivating wholesome habits that we can change our habits and character. The most wholesome habit is the practice of insight meditation, which contemplates the whole process and realises how it functions, driven by craving and ignorance.
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Re: How to reconcile Intention with Nonself?

Postby SarathW » Wed Jan 22, 2014 11:31 pm

Further evidence to support Ven. Pesala:

See Volition is showing under universal mental faculties. (Sankahara)

5.Volition (cetanaa), the act of willing. From a psychological standpoint, volition determines the activities of the associated states; from an ethical standpoint it determines its inevitable consequences. Volition leads to action by body, speech and mind and thus becomes the principal factor behind kamma. Therefore the Buddha said: "cetanaaha.m bhikkhave kamma.m vadaami" — "Volition, O monks, is kamma, I declare." Thus wholesome or unwholesome acts, willfully done, are followed at some time by their appropriate consequences. But if one unintentionally steps on an insect and kills it, such an act has no moral or kammic significance as volition is absent. The Buddha's position here contrasts with that of his contemporary, Niga.n.tha Naataputta, the founder of Jainism. Naataputta taught that even involuntary actions constitute kamma, thus release from sa.msaara (the round of rebirths) can be achieved only by abstaining from all activities.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el322.html
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Re: How to reconcile Intention with Nonself?

Postby Sati1 » Thu Jan 23, 2014 2:23 am

Dear Ven. Pesala and SarathW,

Thank you very much for your answers. It is very helpful to (1) learn that intention (volition, kamma) is clearly a sankhara according to Abhidhamma, and (2) be reminded of the presence of sankhara in dependent origination. I will study the idea further and explore it by insight meditation,

Thank you,
Sati1
London, UK

----
"I do not perceive even one other thing, o monks, that when developed and cultivated entails such great happiness as the mind" (AN 1.10, transl. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
"So this spiritual life, monks, does not have gain, honor, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of moral discipline for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakable liberation of mind that is the goal of this spiritual life, its heartwood, and its end," (MN 29, transl. Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi)
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Re: How to reconcile Intention with Nonself?

Postby pegembara » Thu Jan 23, 2014 5:35 am

Intention comes from prior causes and conditions. It is not causeless and therefore not self.

Eg. You came into Buddhism because you have previously come across the teachings somewhere. Buddhism came about because the Buddha taught what he discovered. In this way the "intention" to walk the path was not yours to begin with although at first glance it would seem to be so. It is all causes and conditions. It's all anatta.

Do you see what I am getting at?
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
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Re: How to reconcile Intention with Nonself?

Postby Sati1 » Thu Jan 23, 2014 7:33 am

Hi Pegembara,

Yes, your argument makes sense. I will continue to ponder how free will would fit into the picture (i.e. why not fall into the determinism trap). This seems to be a subtle point that feels almost paradoxical.

Thank you,
Sati1
London, UK

----
"I do not perceive even one other thing, o monks, that when developed and cultivated entails such great happiness as the mind" (AN 1.10, transl. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
"So this spiritual life, monks, does not have gain, honor, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of moral discipline for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakable liberation of mind that is the goal of this spiritual life, its heartwood, and its end," (MN 29, transl. Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi)
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Re: How to reconcile Intention with Nonself?

Postby pegembara » Thu Jan 23, 2014 7:45 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:See Four Aspects of Dependent Origination to Bear in Mind

Absence of Striving

The third aspect of Dependent Origination is the absence of striving (avyāpāra). Ignorance causes mental formations without striving, and mental formations do not strive to create rebirth. Knowledge of this fact means insight into the absence of any being or agent (kāraka-puggala) who sees, hears, etc., and as such it frees us from ego-belief. However, as the Visuddhimagga says, the misinterpretation of this principle may turn one into a moral sceptic who accepts determinism and denies moral responsibility.

The non-volitional nature of phenomena is apparent to one who contemplates their ceaseless arising and dissolution, for one realises clearly that since they are conditioned, they do not act according to one’s wishes.


It is intention that the Buddha calls kamma. This functions in the posterior cycle of dependent origination — from attachment (upādāna), becoming (bhava) arises, and from becoming, birth (or rebirth) arises.

Conditioned by ignorance and craving, we perform volitional activities (kamma), which keeps the cycle of dependent origination spinning. The kamma that we do arises from conditions, it is not without causes. We are creatures of habit, but it is by cultivating wholesome habits that we can change our habits and character. The most wholesome habit is the practice of insight meditation, which contemplates the whole process and realises how it functions, driven by craving and ignorance.


Without the Buddhasasana, there would be no path to walk! Even in the midst, if the conditions are not right - nothing happens.


"Form, monks, is not self. If form were the self, this form would not lend itself to dis-ease. It would be possible [to say] with regard to form, 'Let this form be thus. Let this form not be thus.' But precisely because form is not self, form lends itself to dis-ease. And it is not possible [to say] with regard to form, 'Let this form be thus. Let this form not be thus.'

"Feeling is not self...

"Perception is not self...

"[Mental] fabrications are not self...

"Consciousness is not self. If consciousness were the self, this consciousness would not lend itself to dis-ease. It would be possible [to say] with regard to consciousness, 'Let my consciousness be thus. Let my consciousness not be thus.' But precisely because consciousness is not self, consciousness lends itself to dis-ease. And it is not possible [to say] with regard to consciousness, 'Let my consciousness be thus. Let my consciousness not be thus.'


"Thus, monks, any form whatsoever that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near: every form is to be seen as it actually is with right discernment as: 'This is not mine. This is not my self. This is not what I am.'

"Any feeling whatsoever...

"Any perception whatsoever...

"Any fabrications whatsoever...

"Any consciousness whatsoever that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near: every consciousness is to be seen as it actually is with right discernment as: 'This is not mine. This is not my self. This is not what I am.'

"Seeing thus, the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones grows disenchanted with form, disenchanted with feeling, disenchanted with perception, disenchanted with fabrications, disenchanted with consciousness. Disenchanted, he becomes dispassionate. Through dispassion, he is fully released. With full release, there is the knowledge, 'Fully released.' He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'"

Anattalakkhana Sutta
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
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Re: How to reconcile Intention with Nonself?

Postby chownah » Thu Jan 23, 2014 8:21 am

pegembara wrote:

Without the Buddhasasana, there would be no path to walk! Even in the midst, if the conditions are not right - nothing happens.

I believe you are mistaken...don't forget the pachekabuddha.
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Re: How to reconcile Intention with Nonself?

Postby cooran » Thu Jan 23, 2014 8:36 am

chownah wrote:
pegembara wrote:

Without the Buddhasasana, there would be no path to walk! Even in the midst, if the conditions are not right - nothing happens.

I believe you are mistaken...don't forget the pachekabuddha.
chownah


Thanks chownah!

This may be of interest:
The Paccekabuddha : A Buddhist Ascetic
http://www.bps.lk/olib/wh/wh305.pdf

With metta,
Chris

With metta,
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: How to reconcile Intention with Nonself?

Postby pegembara » Thu Jan 23, 2014 2:32 pm

chownah wrote:
pegembara wrote:

Without the Buddhasasana, there would be no path to walk! Even in the midst, if the conditions are not right - nothing happens.

I believe you are mistaken...don't forget the pachekabuddha.
chownah


The pachekabuddha walked without a path since by definition the path has become hidden by that time. So yes, there are some still capable of finding their way through the jungle. And no, they won't be showing you the way. Or else they would be Samma sambuddha.

"In the same way I saw an ancient path, an ancient road, traveled by the Rightly Self-awakened Ones of former times. And what is that ancient path, that ancient road, traveled by the Rightly Self-awakened Ones of former times? Just this noble eightfold path: right view, right aspiration, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. That is the ancient path, the ancient road, traveled by the Rightly Self-awakened Ones of former times. I followed that path. Following it, I came to direct knowledge of aging & death, direct knowledge of the origination of aging & death, direct knowledge of the cessation of aging & death, direct knowledge of the path leading to the cessation of aging & death. I followed that path. Following it, I came to direct knowledge of birth... becoming... clinging... craving... feeling... contact... the six sense media... name-&-form... consciousness, direct knowledge of the origination of consciousness, direct knowledge of the cessation of consciousness, direct knowledge of the path leading to the cessation of consciousness. I followed that path.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
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Re: How to reconcile Intention with Nonself?

Postby kirk5a » Thu Jan 23, 2014 3:07 pm

Sati1 wrote: I will continue to ponder how free will would fit into the picture (i.e. why not fall into the determinism trap). This seems to be a subtle point that feels almost paradoxical.

I have not seen anywhere that the Buddha advanced a view concerning "free will." But we know that he strongly criticized determinism. Given the ways people have become bogged down in this philosophical question, that suggests it's probably one of those "thickets of views" to be avoided.

But what we do know is the Buddha described himself as one who teaches what ought to be done and what ought not to be done. And in that regard, those who make what happened in the past as being essential, are confused about what to do and not to do.

So there is what one does in the present. And while the Buddha didn't come out and say "here there is free will" - I think it's enough to notice that the present is the critical juncture, and we CAN train ourselves in skillful decision making, skillful action, skillful kamma - regardless of the endless, fruitless, and confusion-inducing philosophical debates about the matter.
"Having approached the brahmans & contemplatives who hold that... whatever a person experiences... is all caused by what was done in the past,' I said to them: 'Is it true that you hold that... whatever a person experiences... is all caused by what was done in the past?' Thus asked by me, they admitted, 'Yes.' Then I said to them, 'Then in that case, a person is a killer of living beings because of what was done in the past. A person is a thief... unchaste... a liar... a divisive speaker... an abusive speaker... an idle chatterer... covetous... malevolent... a holder of wrong views because of what was done in the past.' When one falls back on what was done in the past as being essential, monks, there is no desire, no effort [at the thought], 'This should be done. This shouldn't be done.' When one can't pin down as a truth or reality what should & shouldn't be done, one dwells bewildered & unprotected. One cannot righteously refer to oneself as a contemplative...

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/stud ... illfulness
"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 to reconcile Intention with Nonself?

Postby Sati1 » Thu Jan 23, 2014 10:30 pm

This is extremely helpful, thank you. Perhaps the question of determinism vs free will really is just fuel for dangerous views (such as the question of rebirth vs nonself that Buddha refused to answer). Both views are refuted in Tittha Sutta as "whatever a person experiences is all caused by what was in the past" (determinism) and "whatever a person experiences is all without cause, without condition" (free will). Instead, Buddha teaches about stress and the cessation of stress (The 4 Noble Truths)., which is what is actually useful.

Thanks again for your answers.

:anjali:
Sati1
London, UK

----
"I do not perceive even one other thing, o monks, that when developed and cultivated entails such great happiness as the mind" (AN 1.10, transl. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
"So this spiritual life, monks, does not have gain, honor, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of moral discipline for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakable liberation of mind that is the goal of this spiritual life, its heartwood, and its end," (MN 29, transl. Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi)
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Re: How to reconcile Intention with Nonself?

Postby purple planet » Thu Jan 23, 2014 11:37 pm

What about my thought :

that we act by past kamma = make decisions by past kamma ... if we are not mindful and when we are mindful we can make decisions in the present - which are not determined or not fully determined by past kamma
?
Please send merit to my dog named Mika who has passed away - thanks in advance
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