Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

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Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby nowheat » Fri Oct 30, 2009 12:25 pm

I have a different way of reading a particular sutta than is the standard. I'd like the opportunity to present it and have the kind and scholarly folks here have a look at it so that I can have a go at defending it, and maybe you can convince me I'm wrong. I never took debate class and I dislike arguing, so I'm not asking in order to Score Points. Also, I'm not sure how many regular Sutta Readers visit the Dhammic free-for-all category or if anyone would be interested in helping me out, so I thought I'd ask before I go writing anything up. My plan would be to take it slowly, one piece of the sutta at a time.

What say ye?

:namaste:
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby vinasp » Fri Oct 30, 2009 1:12 pm

Hi nowheat,

If your interpretation is non-standard then this is probably the right section. Yes, go ahead.

Best wishes, Vincent.
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby jcsuperstar » Fri Oct 30, 2009 6:32 pm

why dont you just have a go in our sutta study section, then your ideas about the sutta of the week are right there along everyone eles who desides to join in?
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby Prasadachitta » Fri Oct 30, 2009 6:51 pm

If you have a comment or interpretation then take the time to put it in writing. We will then either respond or not. I think that someone will respond.

Take care

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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby Individual » Fri Oct 30, 2009 10:56 pm

gabrielbranbury wrote:If you have a comment or interpretation then take the time to put it in writing. We will then either respond or not. I think that someone will respond.

Take care

Gabe

I agree. Until he does, I don't know what he wants us to say.

Which sutta is it? And how does he interpret it differently?

He issues a vague challenge, but then says he doesn't want to argue. Hrm.
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby nowheat » Sat Oct 31, 2009 12:27 am

jcsuperstar wrote:why dont you just have a go in our sutta study section, then your ideas about the sutta of the week are right there along everyone eles who desides to join in?

Because it's a specific sutta, jc, and y'all have already covered it, and locked the topic. But it was kind of you to offer.
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby nowheat » Sat Oct 31, 2009 12:30 am

Individual wrote:
gabrielbranbury wrote:If you have a comment or interpretation then take the time to put it in writing. We will then either respond or not. I think that someone will respond.

Take care

Gabe

I agree. Until he does, I don't know what he wants us to say.

Which sutta is it? And how does he interpret it differently?

He issues a vague challenge, but then says he doesn't want to argue. Hrm.

I didn't mean to issue a challenge so much as a request for help (though admittedly the title sounds like a challenge, that was just a "hook").

All I was hoping would be said in response to the first post has been said, basically "We're listening, go ahead and talk."

It's MN 117 and I'll post the first piece shortly. Thanks!
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby nowheat » Sat Oct 31, 2009 1:43 am

[I apologize in advance for the length of these posts. Brevity is not my strength. I am going to post this in two pieces, a sort of "Position Statement" first, followed by the first portion of the sutta that I'd like help examining.]

It's my thought that it's not reasonable to expect that human beings could perfectly transmit the teachings of one man across 2,500 years; errors surely have crept in; maybe just small ones, maybe large ones. We can't know until we, first, look for them, and second, test them through our own insight – just as the Buddha would have taught us to do. What I felt was most necessary to being able to get a fresh interpretation of the Pali suttas was to have a deeper understanding of the times in which the Buddha gained his insight, and walked and taught. The context for particular reasoned arguments would be critical to understanding the subtleties of the points made, as well as the choices of words. This context would also be among the first things to grow muddled and vague in the understanding of those passing on the Buddha's Dhamma, which would make it easy for an early shift in meaning to be passed on and codified within the traditions. In order to gain this context I've been reading a lot about the times in which the Buddha lived, including what is known about competing philosophies, both Brahminical (“orthodox”) and heretical (“heterodox”). What I've seen since is that though the context may not have been considered when interpreting the suttas, it has often been carried forward nonetheless, as background. It has been faithfully transmitted with little change because it was considered part of the canon and as such rather “holy”. It seems to have been thought unnecessary to understand the context itself – so it did not get interpreted and reinterpreted, which means that change to descriptions of context will have had no easy way to creep in.

:namaste:
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby nowheat » Sat Oct 31, 2009 1:59 am

I have been looking for any corroboration one way or another as to where any changes in Pali suttas have occurred, and felt I could see patterns but had no strong case to make one way or another until a recent discussion in E-Sangha directed me toward MN 117 “The Great Forty” as the best evidence that the Buddha taught karma as a necessary part of his path. What I read said that it was included as part of “Right View” and a quick skim of that sutta supported that reading. The sutta is about the requisites for concentration and though methods of meditation are not directly addressed, the structure of the sutta indicates that Right View is the primary support. It further states that Right View, Right Effort, and Right Mindfulness work particularly well together (-“run a circle round right view”-) and then goes on to outline other supports: right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood.

[I will be using the Access to Insight translation here – though it is somewhat shortened – you are of course welcome to use any version you like, you should be able to follow along just as well and perhaps even provide different wording of translations, which could help.]

The part we will be most concerned with comes early in the sutta, and is, in fact, the beginnings of the heart of the teaching, since “Right View is the forerunner” throughout the sutta, and here we begin by dealing with Right View, which is discussed in three varieties: (1) Wrong View, (2) Right View with effluents, and (3) the Right View without effluents.

I would like to start looking for context in this sutta in the section on “Wrong View” and get your thoughts on it. We have a series of things apparently spoken by those who hold wrong views. The first phrase quoted shows that they say, “There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed.” What would someone mean when they say this? Surely not that they believe no one ever gives anything, never offers anything, never sacrifices anything; I feel sure it's not a face-value statement though if you think it is, I'd be glad to hear your reasoning. If not face value, what exactly do you think the wrong view is that involves a negation of what is given, offered, sacrificed?

The same question needs to be asked of “There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions.” Who holds this view and why?

And who would hold the view that “There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings”? Who would say there are “no priests or contemplatives who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves”? Are each of these separate items in a list of views that different individuals hold? In other words, does one person hold the wrong view that “There is no this world, no next world” and another holds the wrong view that “There is no mother, no father”? Or is this one long set of negative views that represent one philosophy?

These are the questions I began by asking myself, and I'd like your views, also.

:namaste: and thanks in advance for looking at this with me
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby Paññāsikhara » Sat Oct 31, 2009 3:43 am

nowheat wrote:
I would like to start looking for context in this sutta in the section on “Wrong View” and get your thoughts on it. We have a series of things apparently spoken by those who hold wrong views. The first phrase quoted shows that they say, “There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed.” What would someone mean when they say this?


This is the view of Purana Kassapa.

Surely not that they believe no one ever gives anything, never offers anything, never sacrifices anything; I feel sure it's not a face-value statement though if you think it is, I'd be glad to hear your reasoning. If not face value, what exactly do you think the wrong view is that involves a negation of what is given, offered, sacrificed?




The same question needs to be asked of “There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions.” Who holds this view and why?


This is also the view of Purana Kassapa.

And who would hold the view that “There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings”? Who would say there are “no priests or contemplatives who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves”? Are each of these separate items in a list of views that different individuals hold? In other words, does one person hold the wrong view that “There is no this world, no next world” and another holds the wrong view that “There is no mother, no father”? Or is this one long set of negative views that represent one philosophy?


These are the questions I began by asking myself, and I'd like your views, also.

:namaste: and thanks in advance for looking at this with me


Context. The Buddha teaches in a context. The religious context of his time included the Brahmanic teachings, and also those of the six heterodox teachers. Often, the Buddha is teaching specifically wrt to what these others say.

Rather than type out all the details here, I'll just say, if you can get a copy of Bodhi's translation of the Samanaphala Sutta and it's commentaries, then a great amount of the details can be found therein.
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby Ben » Sat Oct 31, 2009 3:49 am

Hi Nowheat
Doyou have access to Bhikkhu Bodhi and Bhikkhu Nanamoli's translation of the Majjhima Nikaya? Bhikkhu Bodhi's notes to the suttas make his translations invaluable. If I get time later on, I'll transcribe some of the notes to MN117.
kind regards

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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby nowheat » Sat Oct 31, 2009 3:58 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:This is the view of Purana Kassapa.

Thanks, Pannasikhara, but for the sake of opening up the discussion here, do you think you could summarize your understanding of Purana Kassapa's view? I have my own understanding of it, but am trying to make this discussion accessible to a wide audience.

Thanks and :namaste:
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby Dan74 » Sat Oct 31, 2009 4:08 am

In the meantime here's a quote from Wapedia:

Pūraṇa Kassapa was an Indian ascetic teacher who lived around the 5th or 4th c. BCE, contemporaneous with Mahavira and the Buddha.

Purana taught a theory of "non-action" (Pāli, Skt.: akiriyavada) whereby the body acts independent of the soul, merit or demerit. [1] In the Pali Canon, Purana (along with the ascetic Makkhali Gosala) is identified as an ahetuvadin, "denier of a cause" (of merit). [2]

As an example of Purana's beliefs, in the Samannaphala Sutta (DN 2) it is reported that Purana said:

"...[I]n acting or getting others to act, in mutilating or getting others to mutilate, in torturing or getting others to torture, in inflicting sorrow or in getting others to inflict sorrow, in tormenting or getting others to torment, in intimidating or getting others to intimidate, in taking life, taking what is not given, breaking into houses, plundering wealth, committing burglary, ambushing highways, committing adultery, speaking falsehood — one does no evil. If with a razor-edged disk one were to turn all the living beings on this earth to a single heap of flesh, a single pile of flesh, there would be no evil from that cause, no coming of evil. Even if one were to go along the right bank of the Ganges, killing and getting others to kill, mutilating and getting others to mutilate, torturing and getting others to torture, there would be no evil from that cause, no coming of evil. Even if one were to go along the left bank of the Ganges, giving and getting others to give, making sacrifices and getting others to make sacrifices, there would be no merit from that cause, no coming of merit. Through generosity, self-control, restraint, and truthful speech there is no merit from that cause, no coming of merit.' [3]
The Anguttara Nikaya also reports that Purana claimed to be omniscient. The Dhammapada commentary claims that Purana committed suicide by drowning. [4]


The original quote in MN117 bears some superficial resemblance to the Prajnaparamita teaching like in the Heart Sutra, but as the material above shows it's not the same at all.

_/|\_
_/|\_
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby nowheat » Sat Oct 31, 2009 4:18 am

Ben wrote:Hi Nowheat
Do you have access to Bhikkhu Bodhi and Bhikkhu Nanamoli's translation of the Majjhima Nikaya? Bhikkhu Bodhi's notes to the suttas make his translations invaluable. If I get time later on, I'll transcribe some of the notes to MN117.
kind regards

Ben

Yes, thanks, I do have their edition, Ben, and have studied their translation and the notes for it. Their notes (#1101 falls before, and #1102 falls after this section) do not address the question I am asking, I'm afraid. I appreciate your offer of typing up notes, and if you see one that applies to the portion currently being discussed, it would be great if you typed it up for all to see and share in, however I am hoping to not get ahead of the questions I am asking in this thread and just work on this one little bit about understanding what exactly these wrong views are before heading onward.

:namaste:
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby nowheat » Sat Oct 31, 2009 4:28 am

Dan74 wrote:
Pūraṇa Kassapa was an Indian ascetic teacher who lived around the 5th or 4th c. BCE, contemporaneous with Mahavira and the Buddha.

Purana taught a theory of "non-action" (Pāli, Skt.: akiriyavada) whereby the body acts independent of the soul, merit or demerit. [1] In the Pali Canon, Purana (along with the ascetic Makkhali Gosala) is identified as an ahetuvadin, "denier of a cause" (of merit). [2]


The original quote in MN117 bears some superficial resemblance to the Prajnaparamita teaching like in the Heart Sutra, but as the material above shows it's not the same at all.

_/|\_

Thanks, Dan74. Do you think that covers all three? That is, is Purana's view somehow tied to the "no mother, no father" bits, and the "nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed"? Or just to the parts about karma? I am thinking his "non-action" is an answer to the theories of "karma" of the day since "karma" in the common view was "action"? It seems like Purana's views are a good fit for the part about “There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions" but I don't see how they'd cover the other parts.

:namaste:
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby Paññāsikhara » Sat Oct 31, 2009 4:54 am

nowheat wrote:
Thanks, Dan74. Do you think that covers all three? That is, is Purana's view somehow tied to the "no mother, no father" bits, and the "nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed"? Or just to the parts about karma? I am thinking his "non-action" is an answer to the theories of "karma" of the day since "karma" in the common view was "action"? It seems like Purana's views are a good fit for the part about “There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions" but I don't see how they'd cover the other parts.



I believe that the common view of "karma" was efficacy of the (Vedic / Brahmanic) sacrifice.
You could maybe check out Gombrich on this sort of thing, and how the Buddha turns the meaning of "karma" into one involving ethical values, rather than strict ritualistic efficacy.
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby catmoon » Sat Oct 31, 2009 5:47 am

nowheat wrote:

We have a series of things apparently spoken by those who hold wrong views. The first phrase quoted shows that they say, “There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed.” What would someone mean when they say this? The same question needs to be asked of “There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions.” Who holds this view and why?

And who would hold the view that “There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings”? Who would say there are “no priests or contemplatives who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves”?


The nihilist would hold all these views, that not one of these things has any real existence at all. Perhaps the whole section is a negation of the nihilist position.
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby nowheat » Sat Oct 31, 2009 9:37 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:I believe that the common view of "karma" was efficacy of the (Vedic / Brahmanic) sacrifice.
You could maybe check out Gombrich on this sort of thing, and how the Buddha turns the meaning of "karma" into one involving ethical values, rather than strict ritualistic efficacy.

That's a good point, Panna, and it is quite true that to the Brahmins, karmic action was all about ritual action – which seems a good fit for “offered, given, sacrificed” since these were the things that Brahminical rituals were all about.

I've recently read in the book “Greater Magadha” that there were two views of karma during that period, the Brahmin's view and the view of the residents of the area before the Brahmins came, the Magadhans. The Magadhan karmic action originally had to do with all forms of action – it's out of that view that the Jains drew their understanding that to end karmic action one had to be completely and totally still (to the point of death); a little later it was more generally accepted that karmic action had more to do with moral choices (I am willing to bet that was the Buddha's influence on the concept – intention being his interpretation).

So for the moment we can put on our list the possibility that “'There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed” deals with Brahminical karma, as well as “There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions.” Or possibly these were responses to the two different kinds of karma I've just mentioned? Anyway, we'll hold that as one working theory.
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby nowheat » Sat Oct 31, 2009 9:38 am

catmoon wrote:The nihilist would hold all these views, that not one of these things has any real existence at all. Perhaps the whole section is a negation of the nihilist position.

Very well put, catmoon. There were several varieties of nihilists on the loose in the Buddha's day, some of a materialist slant, more in the vein of “what you see is what there is; all the stuff you imagine is mind-created” – which is clearly not this kind of nihilism, as you can't deny mom and dad if you can see them. Then there were the nihilists who claimed everything we see is mind-created, we cannot see through to reality at all, kind of the “everything you know is wrong” sorts of people – they had a reputation as being hedonistic because they did not believe in an eternal soul, so you might as well enjoy life now. Their denial of everything would be consistent with the whole list as given in this sutta, wouldn't it? So we can add to our list of theories that the whole “wrong view” is addressed to nihilists.

Anyone else have a theory to add? Or a refutation of what we've got so far?
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby vinasp » Sat Oct 31, 2009 10:54 am

Hi everyone,

Here is a version with explanatory insertions in brackets from :
Selfless Persons : Imagery and thought in Theravada Buddhism. By Steven Collins. Cambridge University Press 1982.

"There is no (gain from making) gifts, offerings, sacrifice ; there is no fruition, no ripening of good and bad deeds ; this world and the other world do not exist ; there is no (benefit from duties towards) mother and father ; there are not beings of spontaneous birth ; there are not to be found in the world ascetics and brahmins who, living and practising rightly, proclaim
(the existence of) both this world and the next, having personally experienced them by superior knowledge".

Best wishes, Vincent.
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