Literal and Figurative.

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Literal and Figurative.

Postby vinasp » Wed Jun 04, 2014 9:14 pm

Hi everyone,

The ordinary man------------------------ The noble disciple.
Understands in a literal way --------- Understands in a figurative way.

Birth ------------------------------------------ Birth.
Decay --------------------------------------- Decay.
Death ---------------------------------------- Death.
The three realms ------------------------ The three realms.
The 31 planes ---------------------------- The 31 planes.
Deva's -------------------------------- ------Deva's.
This world --------------------------------- This world.
Another world ----------------------------- Another world.
Rebirth -------------------------------------- Rebirth.
The aggregates -------------------------- The aggregates.
The six-bases ---------------------------- The six-bases.
Contact ------------------------------------- Contact.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: Literal and Figurative.

Postby SamKR » Wed Jun 04, 2014 9:42 pm

If these words were to be understood (by noble disciples) in mere figurative way, the suttas would have stated that.
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Re: Literal and Figurative.

Postby Spiny Norman » Fri Jun 06, 2014 8:51 am

SamKR wrote:If these words were to be understood (by noble disciples) in mere figurative way, the suttas would have stated that.


I really struggle with the idea that the "true" meanings of the teachings is made very obscure and "hidden away" in the suttas. I don't see why a teacher would take this approach.
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Re: Literal and Figurative.

Postby vinasp » Fri Jun 06, 2014 2:54 pm

Hi SamKR,

SamKR said:-"If these words were to be understood (by noble disciples) in mere figurative way, the suttas would have stated that."

If we re-phrase your remark like this:

If these words were to be understood by noble disciples as psychological events or processes, the suttas would have stated that.

Then would you also make that statement?

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: Literal and Figurative.

Postby SamKR » Fri Jun 06, 2014 3:30 pm

vinasp wrote: If we re-phrase your remark like this:

If these words were to be understood by noble disciples as psychological events or processes, the suttas would have stated that.

Then would you also make that statement?

Regards, Vincent.


Hi Vincent,

If by psychological events or processes you mean direct experience, then I wouldn't make that statement. Because I believe the suttas use those words (mentioned in the OP) in literal sense (whether a disciple is noble or not) but at the same time they are referring to the world of experience. One of the differences between the noble and non-noble disciples is that the noble disciples do not or should not construe anything (out of these experiences) that could entangle them, while non-noble disciples habitually construe things-having-essence and get entangled with or submerged within these things and associated emotions.
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Re: Literal and Figurative.

Postby vinasp » Fri Jun 06, 2014 4:52 pm

Hi Spiny,

Spiny said:-"I really struggle with the idea that the "true" meanings of the teachings is made very obscure and "hidden away" in the suttas. I don't see why a teacher would take this approach."

Buddhism would not have become a major religion due to the 'real teaching' because too few people could understand it. So the real teaching was included in another easy-to-understand teaching.

This outer teaching serves as a vehicle for Buddhism to be spread far and wide. It is a good teaching in itself and meets the needs of most people.

But it does not enable one to attain permanent liberation in this life, for that one needs the 'real teaching.'

"And what is the assembly trained in vain talk, not in interrogation?
Here, in this kind of asembly, when those discourses spoken by the Tathagata are being recited that are deep, deep in meaning, world-transcending, connected with emptyness, the bhikkhus do not want to listen to them, do not lend an ear to them, or apply their minds to understand them: they do not think those teachings should be studied and learned...." [BB, TNDB, page 163, from AN 2.47]

I can imagine these bhikkhus saying:"Deeper meaning! There is no deeper meaning."

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: Literal and Figurative.

Postby acinteyyo » Fri Jun 06, 2014 5:07 pm

vinasp wrote:Hi everyone,

The ordinary man------------------------ The noble disciple.
Understands in a literal way --------- Understands in a figurative way.

Birth ------------------------------------------ Birth.
Decay --------------------------------------- Decay.
Death ---------------------------------------- Death.
The three realms ------------------------ The three realms.
The 31 planes ---------------------------- The 31 planes.
Deva's -------------------------------- ------Deva's.
This world --------------------------------- This world.
Another world ----------------------------- Another world.
Rebirth -------------------------------------- Rebirth.
The aggregates -------------------------- The aggregates.
The six-bases ---------------------------- The six-bases.
Contact ------------------------------------- Contact.

Regards, Vincent.

Hi Vincent,

I don't think the words you posted are to be understood the way you present them and more importantly I consider your presentation as a hindrance.
I believe the suttas make quite clear how these terms have to be understood.
As I see it, it's not a simple literal vs. figurative / puthujjana vs. sekha thing which is a huge oversimplification of the matter.
True understanding of these terms comes through actually seeing the processes for what those terms stand for practically.
The Dhamma is not to be understood through mere thinking!
"Birth", "death", "aggregates" and so on are nothing but labels. Whether one views them in a literal way or a figurative way doesn't make much difference because the real problem arises with the formation of an idea of "birth", "death" and so on.
Any idea of these processes will be imperfect. In german the word I have in mind when I talk about "idea" is "Vorstellung". A "Vorstellung" literally means something like "standing in front". This is exactly what I'm trying to point out.
Any idea of a process "stands in front" of the actual process. Seeing the actual process is impossible or at least hindered by the idea "standing in front" of it.

I'm afraid that a classification of the terms above in literal or figurative rather leads to a tighter thicket of views instead of a disentanglement.

best wishes, acinteyyo
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Api cāhaṃ, āvuso, imasmiṃyeva byāmamatte kaḷevare, sasaññimhi samanake lokañca paññāpemi lokasamudayañca lokanirodhañca lokanirodhagāminiñca paṭipadan. (AN4.45)

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Re: Literal and Figurative.

Postby chownah » Sat Jun 07, 2014 2:34 am

I'm not sure if literal and figurative are the best words to describe the differences in understanding although I do think they make a reasonable distinction. Clearly there is a difference in how ordinary and noble people view things as the Buddha expressed with his teaches on Right View with Effluents and Right View without Effluents.
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Re: Literal and Figurative.

Postby Spiny Norman » Sat Jun 07, 2014 8:44 am

vinasp wrote: Buddhism would not have become a major religion due to the 'real teaching' because too few people could understand it. So the real teaching was included in another easy-to-understand teaching.
This outer teaching serves as a vehicle for Buddhism to be spread far and wide. It is a good teaching in itself and meets the needs of most people.


That sounds like a variation on the "skillful means" idea, ie that the Buddha used a framework that was common currency at the time - but presumably not believing it himself.
But is this idea really credible? It would be rather like a modern-day humanist writer repeatedly using God language to express his ideas, despite being an atheist.

Also this idea seems to assume that the Buddha's contemporaries were philosophically illiterate, but the impression I have is that early Indian thought was in fact quite sophisticated, so people would have been quite capable of understanding the "real" teaching.
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Re: Literal and Figurative.

Postby Spiny Norman » Sat Jun 07, 2014 8:48 am

chownah wrote:I'm not sure if literal and figurative are the best words to describe the differences in understanding although I do think they make a reasonable distinction.


Looked at one way the teachings are fractal, ie patterns repeated at different scales.
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Re: Literal and Figurative.

Postby acinteyyo » Sat Jun 07, 2014 1:28 pm

chownah wrote:I'm not sure if literal and figurative are the best words to describe the differences in understanding although I do think they make a reasonable distinction. Clearly there is a difference in how ordinary and noble people view things as the Buddha expressed with his teaches on Right View with Effluents and Right View without Effluents.
chownah

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Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Api cāhaṃ, āvuso, imasmiṃyeva byāmamatte kaḷevare, sasaññimhi samanake lokañca paññāpemi lokasamudayañca lokanirodhañca lokanirodhagāminiñca paṭipadan. (AN4.45)

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