The Paradox of Becoming - Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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The Paradox of Becoming - Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Jan 20, 2009 12:06 am

Greetings,

I've noticed there's been a bit of contention about becoming, birth and so on in the context of the Dhamma, and specifically dependent origination.

Therefore, here's a text specifically addressing "becoming"...

The Paradox of Becoming - Thanissaro Bhikkhu
http://dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writings ... coming.pdf

Unfortunately I can't verify the URL (because for some odd reason the site is blocked on this computer) so if someone tries to download it can you please advise if you were successful. Thanks.

Feel free to discuss, critique, ask questions about the text etc.

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: The Paradox of Becoming - Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby Dhammanando » Tue Jan 20, 2009 12:32 am

The link works.
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
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Re: The Paradox of Becoming - Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby Jason » Tue Jan 20, 2009 2:23 am

I suggest listening to these two related audio talks as well: Becoming, Part 1 and Becoming, Part 2.
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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Re: The Paradox of Becoming - Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby kowtaaia » Tue Jan 20, 2009 2:56 am

Is it really necessary to read the linked text and listen to the audio talks? Any chance that someone can just say what the supposed paradox is supposed to be? :popcorn:
Where thought arises and where it dissolves,
There you should abide, O my son.



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Re: The Paradox of Becoming - Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Jan 20, 2009 3:02 am

Greetings kow,

The preface answers your question well.

The topic of becoming, although it features one major paradox, contains other
paradoxes as well. Not the least of these is the fact that, although becoming is
one of the most important concepts in the Buddha’s teachings, there is no fullscale
treatment of it in the English language. This book is an attempt to fill that
lack.
The importance of becoming is evident from the role it plays in the four noble
truths, particularly in the second: Suffering and stress are caused by any form of
craving that leads to becoming. Thus the end of suffering must involve the end of
becoming. The central paradox of becoming is also evident in the second noble
truth, where one of the three forms of craving leading to becoming is craving for
non‐becoming—the ending of what has come to be. This poses a practical
challenge for any attempt to put an end to becoming. Many writers have tried to
resolve this paradox by defining non‐becoming in such a way that the desire for
Unbinding (nibbana) would not fall into that category. However, the Buddha
himself taught a strategic resolution to this paradox, in which the four noble
truth—the path to the end of suffering—involves creating a type of becoming
where the mind is so steady and alert that it can simply allow what has come
into being to pass away of its own accord, thus avoiding the twin dangers of
craving for becoming or for non‐becoming.
My first inkling that the resolution of the paradox of becoming was
strategic—and paradoxical itself—rather than simply linguistic came from
reading the following passage in The Autobiography of Phra Ajaan Lee. In this
passage, Ajaan Lee is teaching meditation to a senior scholarly monk in Bangkok.
One day the Somdet said, ... “There’s one thing I’m still doubtful about. To
make the mind still and bring it down to its basic resting level (bhavanga): Isn’t
this the essence of becoming and birth?“
“That’s what concentration is,“ I told him, “becoming and birth.”
“But the Dhamma we’re taught to practice is for the sake of doing away with
becoming and birth. So what are we doing giving rise to more becoming and
birth?“
“If you don’t make the mind take on becoming, it won’t give rise to
knowledge, because knowledge has to come from becoming if it’s going to do
away with becoming.”
7
This book is essentially an attempt to explore in detail the ways in which the
Buddha’s own resolution of the paradox of becoming employs the very same
strategy.
In the course of writing this book, I found it necessary to revisit themes
treated in some of my earlier writings. For instance, the topics of clinging and
Unbinding, treated in The Mind Like Fire Unbound, and kamma and causality,
treated in The Wings to Awakening, had to be covered again to give a full picture
of the causes of becoming along with a sense of the rewards that come when
becoming is overcome. But even though there is some overlap between this book
and those—in terms of points made and passages cited—I am treating these
topics from a different angle, posing different questions and arriving at a
different range of answers. Thus the discussion here, instead of being redundant,
adds new dimensions to what was written in those earlier works.
Many people have read earlier incarnations of the manuscript for this book
and offered valuable suggestions for improving its substance and style. In
addition to the monks here at the monastery, I would like to thank the following
people for their help: Ven. Pasanno Bhikkhu, Ven. Amaro Bhikkhu, Michael
Barber, Peter Clothier, Peter Doobinin, Bok‐Lim Kim, Nate Osgood, Xiao‐Quan
Osgood, Rose St. John, Mary Talbot, Ginger Vathanasombat, Barbara Wright,
and Michael Zoll. Any mistakes, of course, are my own responsibility.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu


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: The Paradox of Becoming - Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby Element » Tue Jan 20, 2009 3:48 am

We have had this dance many times before. :popcorn:

Not knowing the paradox is white-darkness. The predominant Buddhist practice is that of non-becoming. The suttas state the arahant has ended becoming. Becoming arises from craving & attachment. The paradox is when the arahant has seen through the illusion of 'self' and ended craving & attachment, there is still forms of becoming or mental manifestion. However, these becomings are not dukkha because they are free from craving & free from attachment. They are pure undefiled aggregates functioning. The arahant or practitioner (one does not need to be an arahant) understands any thoughts of the mind are merely mental formations, they are sankhara, they are not self.

Those stuck in white-darkness hold thought is dukkha. They are violently frightened of thought. This is attachment to non-becoming. Worse, some stuck in white darkness believe being consciousness is dukkha.

Bhikkhu Buddhadasa used to teach: "You are a self that is not a real self. If you do not understand this, you do not understand Buddhism".

[Deva:]
He who's an Arahant, his work achieved,
Free from taints, in final body clad,
That monk still might use such words as "I."
Still perchance might say: "They call this mine."
Would such a monk be prone to vain conceits?


[The Blessed One:]
Bonds are gone for him without conceits,
All delusion's chains are cast aside:
Truly wise, he's gone beyond such thoughts.
That monk still might use such words as "I,"
Still perchance might say: "They call this mine."
Well aware of common worldly speech,
He would speak conforming to such use.

or better translation

"No knots exist for one with conceit cast off;
For him all knots of conceit are consumed.
When the wise one has transcended the conceived
He might still say 'I speak,'
And he might say 'They speak to me.'
Skillful, knowing the world's parlance,
He uses such terms as mere expressions."

Araham Sutta
Last edited by Element on Tue Jan 20, 2009 12:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Paradox of Becoming - Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby Element » Tue Jan 20, 2009 3:53 am

One neither fabricates nor mentally fashions for the sake of becoming or un-becoming. This being the case, one is not sustained by anything in the world (does not cling to anything in the world). Unsustained, one is not agitated. Unagitated, one is totally unbound right within. One discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'

MN 140
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Re: The Paradox of Becoming - Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby kowtaaia » Tue Jan 20, 2009 4:00 am

Greetings Retro,

Is there really such a thing as 'desire for unbinding'? Surely, longing is in relation to the idea of it.
Where thought arises and where it dissolves,
There you should abide, O my son.



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Re: The Paradox of Becoming - Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Jan 20, 2009 4:04 am

Greetings Kow,
kowtaaia wrote:Is there really such a thing as 'desire for unbinding'? Surely, longing is in relation to the idea of it.

To use Element's quotation above as a backdrop, 'desire for unbinding' is a mental fabrication.

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: a mundane view

Postby Will » Tue Jan 20, 2009 4:21 am

Cannot craving for "becoming" or existence be also thought of as craving for repeated literal rebirths or extension of a lifetime? If so, could not craving for non-becoming be thought of as wishing for early death, suicide or any thing that obliterates normal consciousness - such as drugs or alcohol?
This noble eightfold path is the ancient path traveled by all the Buddhas of eons past. Nagara Sutta
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Re: The Paradox of Becoming - Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Jan 20, 2009 4:27 am

Greetings Will,

Yes and yes.

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: The Paradox of Becoming - Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby kowtaaia » Tue Jan 20, 2009 1:55 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Kow,
kowtaaia wrote:Is there really such a thing as 'desire for unbinding'? Surely, longing is in relation to the idea of it.

To use Element's quotation above as a backdrop, 'desire for unbinding' is a mental fabrication.

Metta,
Retro. :)

Of course, the becoming that we're talking about is psychological. The point is that 'desire for unbinding' has nothing to do with the actuality of unbinding, only with the idea of it. The mind of desire has no relationship with unbinding.
Where thought arises and where it dissolves,
There you should abide, O my son.



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Re: The Paradox of Becoming - Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby Element » Tue Jan 20, 2009 6:02 pm

kowtaaia wrote:The point is that 'desire for unbinding' has nothing to do with the actuality of unbinding, only with the idea of it. The mind of desire has no relationship with unbinding.

kowtaaia

The desire for unbinding is another paradox. For example, when Buddha used terms such as 'Right Intention' or 'all dhamma practices are rooted in zeal (chanda) and culminate in Nibbana', these are paradoxes also.

To start & maintain the path we must have a desire to start. But that desire cannot be craving (tanha). The right desire manifests as 'letting go', 'abandoning' and subtle mental skills like being able, at will, with intention, to liberate & manage the mind.

For example, in the anapanasati sutta, the twelve stage of practise results in the practitioner acquiring the capacity to liberate the mind at will.

In other words, these thing that appears as paradoxes are not an issue. There is little to discuss here let alone play games with words.

An incapacity to unravel or see the two kinds of desire that are actually functioning is the same as the other white-darkness.

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Re: The Paradox of Becoming - Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby Element » Tue Jan 20, 2009 7:29 pm

kowtaaia wrote:The mind of desire has no relationship with unbinding.

Dhamma friend Kowtaaia,

I personally would not get stuck on the words or translation below. The essense is there is a desire without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.

"Of those, right view is the forerunner. And how is right view the forerunner? One discerns wrong resolve as wrong resolve, and right resolve as right resolve. And what is wrong resolve? Being resolved on sensuality, on ill will, on harmfulness. This is wrong resolve.

"And what is right resolve? Right resolve, I tell you, is of two sorts: There is right resolve with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in the acquisitions [of becoming]; and there is noble right resolve, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.

"And what is the right resolve that has effluents, sides with merit, & results in acquisitions? Being resolved on renunciation, on freedom from ill will, on harmlessness. This is the right resolve that has effluents, sides with merit, & results in acquisitions.

And what is the right resolve that is without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path? The thinking, thought, resolve, mental absorption, mental fixity, directing of awareness & vaca sankhara of one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is without effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path. This is the right resolve that is without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.

"One tries to abandon wrong resolve & to enter into right resolve: This is one's right effort. One is mindful to abandon wrong resolve & to enter & remain in right resolve: This is one's right mindfulness. Thus these three qualities — right view, right effort & right mindfulness — run & circle around right resolve.


MN 117


Kind regards,

Element
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Re: The Paradox of Becoming - Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Tue Jan 27, 2009 5:33 am

The paradox is when the arahant has seen through the illusion of 'self' and ended craving & attachment, there is still forms of becoming or mental manifestion. However, these becomings are not dukkha because they are free from craving & free from attachment. They are pure undefiled aggregates functioning. The arahant or practitioner (one does not need to be an arahant) understands any thoughts of the mind are merely mental formations, they are sankhara, they are not self.


Dear Element,

What are undefiled aggregates? I thought that by definition aggregates manifest via ignorance.

Thanks,
Drolma :namaste:
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Re: The Paradox of Becoming - Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby Element » Tue Jan 27, 2009 7:51 am

Drolma wrote:What are undefiled aggregates? I thought that by definition aggregates manifest via ignorance.

Drolma

Undefiled aggregates are aggregates that are free from defilement. Defilement is greed, hatred & ignorance. For example, the Buddha had a body, mind and consciousness, the Buddha used thought (sankhara kandha), but the Buddha's body, mind, consciousness and thoughts were free from defilement.

Some Mahayanas hold there are no aggregates because one does not 'label' them as 'aggregates'. Buddha did not teach like this in the suttas.

With metta

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Re: The Paradox of Becoming - Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Feb 06, 2009 10:54 am

Greetings,

A good sutta on becoming and non-becoming...

Ud 3.10 - Loka Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

I have heard that on one occasion, when the Blessed One was newly Awakened — staying at Uruvela by the banks of the Nerañjara River in the shade of the Bodhi tree, the tree of Awakening — he sat in the shade of the Bodhi tree for seven days in one session, sensitive to the bliss of release. At the end of seven days, after emerging from that concentration, he surveyed the world with the eye of an Awakened One. As he did so, he saw living beings burning with the many fevers and aflame with the many fires born of passion, aversion, and delusion. Then, on realizing the significance of that, he on that occasion exclaimed:

This world is burning.
Afflicted by contact,
it calls disease a "self,"
for by whatever means it construes [anything],
that becomes otherwise from that.
Becoming otherwise,
the world is
held by becoming
afflicted by becoming
and yet delights
in that very becoming.
Where there's delight,
there is fear.
What one fears
is stressful.
This holy life is lived
for the abandoning of becoming.
"Whatever priests or contemplatives say that liberation from becoming is by means of becoming, all of them are not released from becoming, I say.

"And whatever priests or contemplatives say that escape from becoming is by means of non-becoming, all of them have not escaped from becoming, I say.

This stress comes into play
in dependence on all acquisitions.
With the ending of all clinging/sustenance,
there's no stress coming into play.
Look at this world:
Beings, afflicted with thick ignorance,
are unreleased
from delight in what has come to be.
All levels of becoming,
anywhere,
in any way,
are inconstant, stressful, subject to change.
Seeing this — as it has come to be —
with right discernment,
one abandons craving for becoming,
without delighting in non-becoming.
From the total ending of craving
comes fading & cessation without remainder:
Unbinding.
For the monk unbound,
through lack of clinging/sustenance,
there's no further becoming.
He has conquered Mara,
won the battle,
gone beyond all becomings —
Such.

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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