Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby SDC » Sun Jun 08, 2014 4:49 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.


Aside from my past concerns with certain modern translations, I think it is important to keep in mind that the atmosphere in which the teachings were delivered may have been drastically different than that of the modern world. The common understanding was likely of a different quality, so such distinctions were probably not necessary. However, in modern times, certain aspects of the teaching seem to point in multiple directions. While the Buddha likely was referring to something very specific, we may have a little more exploring to do in order to figure out what he meant. Just my opinion.

EDIT- Added to last sentence for clarification.
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby Spiny Norman » Sun Jun 08, 2014 1:17 pm

SDC wrote:Aside from my past concerns with certain modern translations, I think it is important to keep in mind that the atmosphere in which the teachings were delivered may have been drastically different than that of the modern world.


I'm not sure what you're basing that view on, given that there was a broad range of philosophical and religious views around at the Buddha's time, including atheism and skepticism. Why is it assumed that people back then were fundamentally different from the way they are now?
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby Spiny Norman » Sun Jun 08, 2014 1:22 pm

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


I would say a fivefold classification of human experience. How would you describe them?
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby Spiny Norman » Sun Jun 08, 2014 1:24 pm

vinasp wrote: 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.


Isn't it clinging to the aggregates which ceases? And if the aggregates cease, then how can there by any experience?
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby SDC » Sun Jun 08, 2014 2:26 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
SDC wrote:Aside from my past concerns with certain modern translations, I think it is important to keep in mind that the atmosphere in which the teachings were delivered may have been drastically different than that of the modern world.


I'm not sure what you're basing that view on, given that there was a broad range of philosophical and religious views around at the Buddha's time, including atheism and skepticism. Why is it assumed that people back then were fundamentally different from the way they are now?


Like I said, it was only an opinion, but let me clarify a bit: of course there were many views during the time, but in some cases the Buddha was speaking only to monks or lay followers and when the discourses were actually being given, perhaps a certain context was already established that made it clear what was being discussed. So there was no need, IN THESE CASES, to make any distinctions. However we do not have that luxury to know what that context was. We are, of course, welcome to take the suttas at face value in the context of our modern culture (like I said earlier, my issues with translation aside), but I think it is worth adjusting the context to explore other options.

EDIT - Spiny, any thoughts on my post on the bottom of the previous page? If not, no worries.
Last edited by SDC on Sun Jun 08, 2014 3:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby vinasp » Sun Jun 08, 2014 2:52 pm

Hi Mike,

Mike said:-"Are the aggregates really things?..."

In one sense yes, in another sense no. They are constructive activities (sankhara). What is constructed from moment to moment may differ, but the process continues.

The begining of the process is called the arising of the aggregates. The end of the process is called the cessation of the aggregates. This way of talking treats the processes as things for simplicity.

Mike said:-"Your whole discussion seems to be based on the assumption that we are "made of aggregates" in some sense."

This is what the teachings (sutta pitaka) say. A 'being' (sato) is the five aggregates subject to clinging. A 'person' Is the five aggregates. A fully enlightened one is neither a 'being' nor a 'person.'

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

Yes, when considered as things. The five aggregates arise first, when they are established then the five aggregates subject to clinging arise.

The deconstruction is in the reverse order, with the five aggregates subject to clinging being removed first, then the five aggregates are removed.

Except in some cases where both sets are removed together simultaneously.

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

Postby chownah » Sun Jun 08, 2014 3:00 pm

SDC,
It sounds like you are saying that important or even perhaps crucial contextual elements have been consistently omitted in conveying the teachings....that we must guess what that context is. To me this seems like it would be a serious flaw in the transmission of the teachings....if that were the case.
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby SDC » Sun Jun 08, 2014 3:21 pm

chownah wrote:SDC,
It sounds like you are saying that important or even perhaps crucial contextual elements have been consistently omitted in conveying the teachings....that we must guess what that context is. To me this seems like it would be a serious flaw in the transmission of the teachings....if that were the case.
chownah


It seems probable when it comes to certain concepts.

We don't have to guess, but we may have to do a little more work to see if an adjustment in context brings out more meaning in the pursuit freedom from suffering.

EDIT - added "in the pursuit of freedom from suffering"

EDIT #2 - It would also seem likely that any contextual omission was unintentional; more and more so as time went on. Early on there was likely no need for any contextual assistance, and later (up until the present) any context was lost and therefore not included.
Last edited by SDC on Sun Jun 08, 2014 3:44 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby vinasp » Sun Jun 08, 2014 3:41 pm

Hi Spiny,

Spiny said:-"I would say a fivefold classification of human experience. How would you describe them?"

I would try to avoid the word 'experience.' But if you insist on using it, then I would say that the aggregates are a fivefold classification of constructed experience.

To take the aggregates as experience, without any qualification, is to deny that the aggregates can cease.

Spiny said:-"Isn't it clinging to the aggregates which ceases?.."

Yes, but clinging requires a constructed 'object' to cling to. It is the cessation of these objects which brings clinging to an end. The five aggregates subject to clinging should be understood as these constructed objects.

Spiny said:-"And if the aggregates cease, then how can there by any experience?"

That is why you should not understand the aggregates as experience.

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

Postby vinasp » Sun Jun 08, 2014 8:34 pm

Hi everyone,

In attempting to imagine how the 'ordinary man', at that time, understood the teachings of the Sutta Pitaka, in particular the four noble truths, we see:

That the 'ordinary man' is said to be 'ignoble' and to have wrong view. It is also said that he does not understand the four truths. But since right view is the understanding of the four truths, it is probable that wrong view is the misunderstanding, rather than no understanding at all.

So how does the 'ordinary man' understand the truths?

1. The suffering of the first truth is in the future.
2. The birth, decay and death are in the future.
3. The five aggregates of clinging are in the future.
4. These all represent the next life, understood in a LITERAL SENSE.
5. The second truth, the origination of suffering is understood in the present.

But this is exactly the same as the noble disciples understanding except for the two words "LITERAL SENSE."

For the noble disciple substitute "FIGURATIVE SENSE."

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

Postby culaavuso » Sun Jun 08, 2014 8:48 pm

AN 4.102: Valahaka Sutta wrote:There is the case where a person has mastered the Dhamma: dialogues... question & answer sessions. He discerns, as it actually is present, that 'This is stress.' ... 'This is the origination of stress.' ... 'This is the cessation of stress.' ... 'This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.' This is the type of person who both thunders and rains. This type of person, I tell you, is like the thunderhead that both thunders and rains.
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby Mkoll » Sun Jun 08, 2014 8:49 pm

I think what SDC is saying is true in some cases. There are suttas where a commentary provides the contextual or background information that wasn't present in the sutta, especially verse suttas. Whether that information is factual or useful is for the reader to decide.
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby vinasp » Sun Jun 08, 2014 11:01 pm

Hi everyone,

There is another aspect to the aggregates that we also need to take into consideration. Each set of aggregates is not just a 'person' or a 'being.'
They are 'a person and his world', and 'a being and its world.'

The five aggregates subject to clinging are 'a being' (an apparent self) and also 'sakkaya' which is all of the three realms except the pure abodes.

So the cessation of the five aggregates subject to clinging is also the cessation of the apparent self and the cessation of 'this world.'

This has been achieved by a non-returner, who is said to 'arise spontaneously' in 'another world' (one of the pure abodes). But this 'person and his world' also ceases in due course.

Now, the stream-winner is said to understand dependent origination and dependent cessation. He must, therefore, understand that the path that he is developing will bring about the cessation of 'this world.' That is, all twenty six planes of existence, (the five pure abodes excluded).

How can the stream-winner continue to have a literal understanding of these planes of existence for beings, while also knowing that they will cease?

Are the teachings saying that the three realms are just cultural conditioning, just habits of imagination?

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

Postby chownah » Mon Jun 09, 2014 2:54 am

SDC wrote:
chownah wrote:SDC,
It sounds like you are saying that important or even perhaps crucial contextual elements have been consistently omitted in conveying the teachings....that we must guess what that context is. To me this seems like it would be a serious flaw in the transmission of the teachings....if that were the case.
chownah


It seems probable when it comes to certain concepts.

We don't have to guess, but we may have to do a little more work to see if an adjustment in context brings out more meaning in the pursuit freedom from suffering.

EDIT - added "in the pursuit of freedom from suffering"

EDIT #2 - It would also seem likely that any contextual omission was unintentional; more and more so as time went on. Early on there was likely no need for any contextual assistance, and later (up until the present) any context was lost and therefore not included.

If there was unintentional contextual omission......omission of context which was important and perhaps crucial to understanding the meaning of a Sutta.......then what other kinds of unintentional omissions might have occurred? It seems that you are arguing for an incompetent method for transmitting the Suttas!.....if it was transmitted incompetently then where does that leave us?
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Jun 09, 2014 3:03 am

Hi Vincent,
vinasp wrote:Mike said:-"Your whole discussion seems to be based on the assumption that we are "made of aggregates" in some sense."

This is what the teachings (sutta pitaka) say. A 'being' (sato) is the five aggregates subject to clinging. A 'person' Is the five aggregates. A fully enlightened one is neither a 'being' nor a 'person.'

I think you'd need to carefully examine the language to be able to argue that this is evidence for the "thingness" of the aggregates. Going back to the example I quoted, we would say that an apple is round, red, crisp, and sweet (or maybe sour...). That doesn't mean that the apple is "made of" roundness, redness, etc.

And, on full awakening, nothing is interpreted as a being or a person. That doesn't mean that form, feeling, etc, disappears. See: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 75#p291038
(Which I know some will disagree with, but that's OK, there are a variety of opinions on many of these topics...).
vinasp wrote:Mike said:-"A counter-question: do you think that the aggregates are like building blocks?"

Yes, when considered as things. The five aggregates arise first, when they are established then the five aggregates subject to clinging arise.

Is there a sutta that says that, or is that your interpretation?

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

Postby SDC » Mon Jun 09, 2014 3:38 am

chownah wrote:If there was unintentional contextual omission......omission of context which was important and perhaps crucial to understanding the meaning of a Sutta.......then what other kinds of unintentional omissions might have occurred? It seems that you are arguing for an incompetent method for transmitting the Suttas!.....if it was transmitted incompetently then where does that leave us?
chownah


It leaves us exactly where the Buddha said we would be in the years after his death - in possession of an ever crumbling exposition of the dhamma.

And I am most definitely not arguing for anything - I am only offering what seems to be a likely scenario based on my own experience, the experience of others and a admitted dash of speculation. People are welcome to do whatever they want with it, but the last thing they should do is trust that I am correct.

I apologize if it seems like I am flagrantly throwing ideas around, I'm not. I've been working with these ideas for some time. This is just where I am, and where I am continuing to go in my own understanding and I'm choosing to share it.
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby Spiny Norman » Mon Jun 09, 2014 8:23 am

vinasp wrote: I would try to avoid the word 'experience.' But if you insist on using it, then I would say that the aggregates are a fivefold classification of constructed experience.


It depends what you mean by "constructed", but isn't it the sankhara aggregate where the constructing goes on, as the name suggests? I say that because in the suttas the functions of consciousness, feeling and perception seem to be described as simple, basic activities, almost automatic. Though I can see there is a sort of feedback loop whereby mental constructions affect these basic functions.
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby Spiny Norman » Mon Jun 09, 2014 8:30 am

vinasp wrote:1. The suffering of the first truth is in the future.
2. The birth, decay and death are in the future.
3. The five aggregates of clinging are in the future.
4. These all represent the next life, understood in a LITERAL SENSE.
5. The second truth, the origination of suffering is understood in the present.


The examples given in descriptions of dukkha can all be applied to one's present life - though as per the OP question, the inclusion of birth is perhaps less obvious.

I still don't think you've provided clear sutta support for the idea that there are 2 sets of aggregates, one clinging and one non-clinging.
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Re: Why is birth included in descriptions of dukkha?

Postby vinasp » Mon Jun 09, 2014 8:26 pm

Hi culaavuso,

AN 4.102 - Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation:

".....and he understands as it really is:'this is suffering', and .......
and 'this is the way leading to the cessation of suffering'....."

These are the earlier, simpler version of the truths. Since they say much less they are open to a wider range of interpretations.

Of course, the description of suffering in the first truth also fits present suffering but that cannot cease because it was caused by previous craving, about which nothing can now be done.

Only present craving can be ended, and this will end future suffering.

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

Postby vinasp » Mon Jun 09, 2014 8:54 pm

Hi mike,

"Bhikkhus, the arising, continuation, production, and manifestation of form is the arising of suffering, the continuation of disease, the manifestation of aging-and-death. The arising of feeling .......
The arising of perception .........The arising of volitional formations .....The arising of consciousness ....
The cessation, subsiding, and passing away of form ...... of consciousness is the cessation of suffering, the subsiding of disease, the passing away of aging-and-death." [BB, TCDB, SN 22.30 - Arising.]

Please explain how you understand this sutta.

Regards, Vincent.
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