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Dhamma Wheel • View topic - Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby chownah » Sat Jun 07, 2014 2:48 am

lyndon taylor wrote:Taken in the literal sense of birth, a Bhikkhu that has attained enlightenment has eliminated rebirth but not death, so this can not be used as any argument for a psychological interpretation of birth, as it makes perfect sense when birth is taken literally.

I don't understand why if something makes sense literally that it can not be taken figuratively also.......or, maybe a better way of putting it is if one wants to express something figuratively must one take great pains to be sure it does not make sense literally?......or another way of putting it, is it impossible for something to have both a literal and figurative meaning?
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby chownah » Sat Jun 07, 2014 2:53 am

daverupa wrote:Hmm...

SN 12.51 wrote:“And what may be said to be subject to birth? Wife and children are subject to birth, men and women slaves, goats and sheep, fowl and pigs, elephants, cattle, horses, and mares, gold and silver are subject to birth. These acquisitions are subject to birth; and one who is tied to these things, infatuated with them, and utterly committed to them, being himself subject to birth, seeks what it also subject to birth.


Gold and silver subject to birth? There must be something subtle going on here with this term 'birth'... perhaps it simply means 'coagulation of existent variables'? The coagulations would be intended, and these would be sankhara, basically:

I think you have linked to the wrong reference here. Should it be mn26?

The accesstoinsight site has mn 26 with the following note:
----------
"The Burmese, Sri Lankan, and PTS editions of the Canon exclude gold and silver from the list of objects subject to illness, death, and sorrow, apparently on the grounds that they themselves do not grow ill, die, or feel sorrow. The Thai edition of the Canon includes gold and silver in the list of objects subject to illness, death, and sorrow in the sense that any happiness based on them is subject to change because of one's own illness, death, and sorrow."
----------
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby daverupa » Sat Jun 07, 2014 3:14 am

I'm sure you're correct, yes MN 26. It gets quoted later in that post, and things must have gotten crossed. Things should be fixed now.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby lyndon taylor » Sat Jun 07, 2014 4:30 am

chownah wrote:
lyndon taylor wrote:Taken in the literal sense of birth, a Bhikkhu that has attained enlightenment has eliminated rebirth but not death, so this can not be used as any argument for a psychological interpretation of birth, as it makes perfect sense when birth is taken literally.

I don't understand why if something makes sense literally that it can not be taken figuratively also.......or, maybe a better way of putting it is if one wants to express something figuratively must one take great pains to be sure it does not make sense literally?......or another way of putting it, is it impossible for something to have both a literal and figurative meaning?
chownah


What you say makes sense, I'm not saying that it can't be taken figuratively as well, Im just saying its a very poor argument to try to say it should be taken only figuratively, as some of our posters seem to have been doing. Posters were saying that because there's no more birth it must be figurative, which doesn't follow IMHO
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby chownah » Sat Jun 07, 2014 8:30 am

lyndon taylor,
I agree. It seems to me to be quite obvious that in most of the mentionings of birth in the Suttas it is written so that it can be taken literally.
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby Spiny Norman » Sat Jun 07, 2014 8:33 am

SDC wrote:Neither the idealistic (purely psychological) nor the materialistic (actual physical event) interpretations are holding much water.


OK, but doesn't that point to a psycho-physical interpretation being correct?
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby Spiny Norman » Sat Jun 07, 2014 8:35 am

chownah wrote:...or another way of putting it, is it impossible for something to have both a literal and figurative meaning?
chownah


It is possible, but I think what we're debating here is the intended meaning. And of course muddling up literal and figurative meanings gets very confusing.
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby chownah » Sat Jun 07, 2014 8:55 am

Spiny Norman wrote:
chownah wrote:...or another way of putting it, is it impossible for something to have both a literal and figurative meaning?
chownah


It is possible, but I think what we're debating here is the intended meaning. And of course muddling up literal and figurative meanings gets very confusing.

Or is it the intended meaningS.....perhaps more than one meaning was intended. If muddling up literal and figurative meanings gets confusing then don't do it.....just use one way or the other based on your own experience if that seems clearer.......I guess.....it is up to you to find what works best for you.
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby Spiny Norman » Sat Jun 07, 2014 10:10 am

chownah wrote:.....perhaps more than one meaning was intended.


That's possible, but then wouldn't the Buddha have made these alternative meanings clear?

If he meant psychological (re)birth rather than physical (re)birth, then why didn't he just say that, clearly and unambiguously? If we can understand the distinction then I'm sure the Buddha's contemporaries would have understood it too.
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby Ron-The-Elder » Sat Jun 07, 2014 11:00 am

Spiny Norman wrote:
chownah wrote:.....perhaps more than one meaning was intended.


That's possible, but then wouldn't the Buddha have made these alternative meanings clear?

If he meant psychological (re)birth rather than physical (re)birth, then why didn't he just say that, clearly and unambiguously? If we can understand the distinction then I'm sure the Buddha's contemporaries would have understood it too.


Perhaps Buddha didn't foresee discussion groups arising on the internet.

His all-seeing eye could have tuned to a shorter wave-length at the time. Or, he might have been focusing on China invading Tibet,...

http://www.historytoday.com/richard-cav ... vade-tibet

https://www.google.com/search?q=Chinese ... 67&bih=542

or the Monastic Uprising in Burma. :thinking: ....

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/8888_Uprising

Perhaps Buddha was (as a result) thinking instead of what he was going to teach to us in The Simile of The Saw:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

....and, due to these and other distractions, forgot that we on DhammaWheel needed his teachings to be less ambiguous. :console:

With all this suffering in samsara, Spiny, Buddha can't be expected to do (for us) what we can do for ourselves with just a little more work on our parts.

Back to my nap: :zzz:
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-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby chownah » Sat Jun 07, 2014 3:47 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
chownah wrote:.....perhaps more than one meaning was intended.


That's possible, but then wouldn't the Buddha have made these alternative meanings clear?

If he meant psychological (re)birth rather than physical (re)birth, then why didn't he just say that, clearly and unambiguously? If we can understand the distinction then I'm sure the Buddha's contemporaries would have understood it too.

I think that those people able to benefit from the alternative meaning are able to discern it clearly with some effort. I also think that there is probably not just two alternative meanings but an entire spectrum of meanings and the ambiguous way the material is presented allows each person to enter the lesson at a place which resonates with their experience. You could consider this to be pedagogic technique.......I guess......don't know for sure.....
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby lyndon taylor » Sat Jun 07, 2014 4:02 pm

Are you in the habit of making clear concise statements, which have multiple meanings, some totally different, of which all are true?? I think people are reading way to much of there own prejudices into Buddhist scripture and trying to interpret them from what they want to believe rather than what's plainly stated.
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby chownah » Sat Jun 07, 2014 4:21 pm

lyndon taylor wrote:Are you in the habit of making clear concise statements, which have multiple meanings, some totally different, of which all are true?? I think people are reading way to much of there own prejudices into Buddhist scripture and trying to interpret them from what they want to believe rather than what's plainly stated.

I would not say that I am in the habit of doing this but indeed I do it sometimes. A simple example of this is a double entendre.......or a well crafted metaphor.

One reason why the Buddha might have not pinned down so many key concepts is that the ambiguity allows for a wide range of interpretations for people to latch onto. If the Buddha was intent on presenting a clear, concise, and unambiguous teaching then he certainly has failed.....as evidenced by the multiplicity of interpretations evident here and elsewhere.
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby vinasp » Sat Jun 07, 2014 4:31 pm

Hi everyone,

There is another issue which may be complicating things here. Birth, old-age and death are mentioned as suffering in the first truth, but suffering is also summarized as 'these five aggregates subject to clinging.'

So how one understands the aggregates will determine how one understands suffering, and the birth, decay and death included in it.

I think that the ordinary man has a literal understanding of the aggregates.
He regards this body and mind as the aggregates for this life. A new set of aggregates will be taken up for the next life.

In his understanding these present aggregates will not cease until death, so the suffering of this life cannot cease until death.

For most people a new set of aggregates will be taken up at the end of this life. But for an Arahant this does not happen because he has no more craving for existence, so he is liberated from the 'round of existence.'

So the first noble truth makes no sense to the ordinary man, except with the assumption that it refers to the next life, the next set of aggregates and the birth, decay and death of that life. The suffering of the next life will not now happen in the case of the Arahant.

But how many of us would want to understand the teachings in this way?

I think the noble disciple is able to understand the teachings in a different way because he does not have this literal understanding of the aggregates.
For him, the aggregates can cease, and so suffering can cease, in this life.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jun 07, 2014 9:47 pm

vinasp wrote: I think that the ordinary man has a literal understanding of the aggregates.
He regards this body and mind as the aggregates for this life. A new set of aggregates will be taken up for the next life.

Are the aggregates really things? Your whole discussion seems to be based on the assumption that we are "made of aggregates" in some sense.

If one takes the more obvious (to me) interpretation that the aggregates, like the sense bases, are merely a way of classifying experience under certain headings, then I think one can cut through much of the confusion.
Some writers on Buddhism who have not understood that the five khandha are just classificatory groupings, have conceived them as compact entities 'heaps', 'bundles', while actually, as stated above, the groups never exist as such, i.e. they never occur in a simultaneous totality of all their constituents. Also those single constituents of a group which are present in any given body-and-mind process, are of an evanescent nature, and so also their varying combinations. Feeling, perception and mental constructions are only different aspects and functions of a single unit of consciousness. They are to consciousness what redness, softness, sweetness, etc. are to an apple and have as little separate existence as those qualities.
http://what-buddha-said.net/library/Bud ... tm#khandha

Would you say an apple is "made of" redness, softness, and sweetness?

:anjali:
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby vinasp » Sat Jun 07, 2014 11:33 pm

Hi Mike,

MN 9.26 explains birth in this way:

"And what is birth .....?
The birth of beings in the various orders of beings, their coming to birth, precipitation [in a womb], generation, manifestation of the aggregates, obtaining the bases for contact - this is called birth ......" [BB, MLDB]

What does 'manifestation of the aggregates' mean in your interpretation?

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jun 08, 2014 12:28 am

Hi Vincent:

Perhaps:
    "The manifestation of [experiences/things] that can be classified by the aggregates."

I don't think this is a particularly novel interpretation. Reading the link I gave above, it seems quite common.

:anjali:
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby vinasp » Sun Jun 08, 2014 2:40 am

Hi Mike,

So, for you, the aggregates are 'experiences/things' which are classified in a fivefold way.

But, when there are no longer any such 'experiences/things', what do you say then?

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jun 08, 2014 2:45 am

Nothing to classify...

According to this theory...

A counter-question: do you think that the aggregates are like building blocks?

:anjali:
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby SDC » Sun Jun 08, 2014 4:28 am

Spiny Norman wrote:
SDC wrote:Neither the idealistic (purely psychological) nor the materialistic (actual physical event) interpretations are holding much water.


OK, but doesn't that point to a psycho-physical interpretation being correct?


Well, it would seem so, however such an approach tends to be made up of the most accessible parts of the two extremes creating a hybrid which will certainly succumb to the same pitfalls as either of the former. I would go as far to say, that a psycho-physical interpretation is an accurate description of the putthujana's experience as he/she deals in so-called tangible aspects of both the subjective and objective. The experience is known as an interplay between the self and world, and while it is certainly within this psycho-physical relationship that the practice of the commoner begins, it is only when a broader, external perspective is taken that it can be understood.
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