Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby vinasp » Sat Oct 31, 2009 11:07 am

Hi everyone,

I think it is part of the view of Ajita Kesakambali as given in DN. 2.23

"When this was said, Ajita Kesakambalin said to me, 'Great king, there is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed. There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions. There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings; no priests or contemplatives who, faring rightly and practicing rightly, proclaim this world and the next after having directly known and realized it for themselves. A person is a composite of four primary elements. At death, the earth (in the body) returns to and merges with the (external) earth-substance. The fire returns to and merges with the external fire-substance. The liquid returns to and merges with the external liquid-substance. The wind returns to and merges with the external wind-substance. The sense-faculties scatter into space. Four men, with the bier as the fifth, carry the corpse. Its eulogies are sounded only as far as the charnel ground. The bones turn pigeon-colored. The offerings end in ashes. Generosity is taught by idiots. The words of those who speak of existence after death are false, empty chatter. With the break-up of the body, the wise and the foolish alike are annihilated, destroyed. They do not exist after death.'

"Thus, when asked about a fruit of the contemplative life, visible here and now, Ajita Kesakambalin answered with annihilation."

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

Postby Jechbi » Sat Oct 31, 2009 3:50 pm

Hi nowheat,

Since you're asking for our thoughts ...

It seems to me that this description of wrong view in the passage you quote is talking about an absence of mundane right view. It's contasted a few paragraphs later in the sutta with a description of mundane right view that includes the same wording: "There is what is given and what is offered and what is sacrified ..." etc.

These two descriptions of mundane wrong view and mundane right view appear to be a contrast between a person who has no values, and a person who has values. The mundane wrong views described don't appear to me to be views that a person necessarily would defend in debate, or think about very much at all. Rather, the person holding such views would act as if they have no values: Whatever I do, it doesn't matter, there's no long-term consequence.

The view "no mother, no father" doesn't seem to me to necessarily mean a person who thinks he doesn't have a biological mother or a father, but rather a person who doesn't put value on honoring one's mother and father. (Of course there may also be actual philosophies that deny the existence of biological parents, but I think it's possible that there might be a simpler application for this sutta teaching.)

So step one is to recognize this wrong view that previously was not recognized. "My goodness, what nonsense have I been living? Look at the harm I've caused myself and others." This is how right view comes first: One understands wrong view as wrong view and right view as right view. And when one does so, the mundane right view of values comes into play. We treat ourselves and others with respect, not because in some ultimate sense there is self and others, but rather because this common sense of values is mundane right view.

A few paragraphs later in the sutta, supramundane right view is discussed as wisdom, and all this language about values drops away.

Anyway, that's how I read it. I realize it's not the only way to read it.

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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby nowheat » Sat Oct 31, 2009 4:14 pm

vinasp wrote:Hi everyone,

I think it is part of the view of Ajita Kesakambali as given in DN. 2.23

"When this was said, Ajita Kesakambalin said to me, 'Great king, there is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed. There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions. There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings; no priests or contemplatives who, faring rightly and practicing rightly, proclaim this world and the next after having directly known and realized it for themselves. A person is a composite of four primary elements. At death, the earth (in the body) returns to and merges with the (external) earth-substance. The fire returns to and merges with the external fire-substance. The liquid returns to and merges with the external liquid-substance. The wind returns to and merges with the external wind-substance. The sense-faculties scatter into space. Four men, with the bier as the fifth, carry the corpse. Its eulogies are sounded only as far as the charnel ground. The bones turn pigeon-colored. The offerings end in ashes. Generosity is taught by idiots. The words of those who speak of existence after death are false, empty chatter. With the break-up of the body, the wise and the foolish alike are annihilated, destroyed. They do not exist after death.'

"Thus, when asked about a fruit of the contemplative life, visible here and now, Ajita Kesakambalin answered with annihilation."


Thanks for that reference, Vincent, but I think what we have here in this Digha Nikaya sutta is the borrowing of phrasing from the original sutta (which is the one we're studying) and sticking it into another sutta (the DN). I think you'll see that this is the original, not the DN-Ajita Kesakambalin reference, shortly.
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby nowheat » Sat Oct 31, 2009 4:17 pm

Jechbi wrote:Hi nowheat,

Since you're asking for our thoughts ...

It seems to me that this description of wrong view in the passage you quote is talking about an absence of mundane right view. It's contasted a few paragraphs later in the sutta with a description of mundane right view that includes the same wording: "There is what is given and what is offered and what is sacrified ..." etc.

These two descriptions of mundane wrong view and mundane right view appear to be a contrast between a person who has no values, and a person who has values. The mundane wrong views described don't appear to me to be views that a person necessarily would defend in debate, or think about very much at all. Rather, the person holding such views would act as if they have no values: Whatever I do, it doesn't matter, there's no long-term consequence.

The view "no mother, no father" doesn't seem to me to necessarily mean a person who thinks he doesn't have a biological mother or a father, but rather a person who doesn't put value on honoring one's mother and father. (Of course there may also be actual philosophies that deny the existence of biological parents, but I think it's possible that there might be a simpler application for this sutta teaching.)

So step one is to recognize this wrong view that previously was not recognized. "My goodness, what nonsense have I been living? Look at the harm I've caused myself and others." This is how right view comes first: One understands wrong view as wrong view and right view as right view. And when one does so, the mundane right view of values comes into play. We treat ourselves and others with respect, not because in some ultimate sense there is self and others, but rather because this common sense of values is mundane right view.

A few paragraphs later in the sutta, supramundane right view is discussed as wisdom, and all this language about values drops away.

Anyway, that's how I read it. I realize it's not the only way to read it.

:smile:

I quite agree with you, Jechbi, though it doesn't address the question of what sorts of people hold these wrong views -- which is fine, since we have a few working theories.

I am curious though as to where you draw the word "mundane" from (as in "mundane view") -- what source do you use for that? Also, what it means to you (not to the author of the translation that used "mundane", but to you)?

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

Postby vinasp » Sat Oct 31, 2009 4:33 pm

Hi everyone,

It seems clear that the view of Ajita Kesakambali is a materialist one, this is usually called "the doctrine of annihilation" (see DN 1. 3.9 - 3.17).
It is therefore condemned as "wrong view", the opposite view is praised as "right view" see, for example, MN 41.10 - 14 and also MN 60.
There are two things which are difficult to understand in the passage which we are looking at. The first is the phrase "beings of spontaneous birth". The second is the denial of both "this world and the other world".

Spontaneous birth.

This is mentioned in MN 12. 32 as follows :

Four Kinds of Generation

32. "Sariputta, there are these four kinds of generation. What are the four? Egg-born generation, womb-born generation, moisture-born generation and spontaneous generation.

33. "What is egg-born generation? There are these beings born by breaking out of the shell of an egg; this is called egg-born generation. What is womb-born generation? There are these beings born by breaking out from the caul; this is called womb-born generation. What is moisture-born generation? There are these beings born in a rotten fish, in a rotten corpse, in rotten dough, in a cesspit, or in a sewer; this is called moisture-born generation. What is spontaneous generation? There are gods and denizens of hell and certain human beings and some beings in the lower worlds; this is called spontaneous generation. These are the four kinds of generation."

In Pali the term is "opapaatika" and means a special kind of birth which does not require parents. We see from the above that it applies to all (?) devas. So the denial that there are "beings of spontaneous birth" is a denial of the existence of devas, which would be expected from a materialist. The human beings mentioned are "non-returners" ( anaagaami ).

This world and the other world.

"...n' atthi ayam loko n' atthi paro loko ..." PTS D. ii. 23

These eight words have been examined by many academics, there are deep and difficult questions here which we shall not enquire into. One problem, briefly, is that no known materialist school denied the existence of "this world". The "next world" (or other world) was denied, but not this one.

The literal meaning of the phrase is : this world does not exist, the next world does not exist. I will put aside the denial of this world and consider only the problems of translating "loka". While "world" is the usual translation one also finds "cosmos". In English, "world" has many meanings. A few hundred years ago Christians would talk about this world and the next. Meaning this life on earth and the next life in heaven. In the five nikaya's one version of right view includes "... this world exists, the next world exists ..." this can be understood in the same way - this life and the next.
But there are other passages where the word "loka" is used which can not be understood in this sense, for example :

"That end of the world wherein one is not born, does not grow old or die, pass away or reappear, that I declare, is impossible to be known, seen or reached by travelling. But, friend, I do not declare that one can make an end of suffering without reaching the end of the world. Friend, I do proclaim that in this very fathom-long body, with its perceptions and consciousness, is the world, the world's arising, the world's cessation and the path leading to the world's cessation." A.N. II. 48

So there would appear to be at least two senses in which the word "loka" is used, and this second meaning is much more difficult to understand than the first.

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

Postby Jechbi » Sat Oct 31, 2009 4:50 pm

nowheat wrote:I am curious though as to where you draw the word "mundane" from (as in "mundane view") -- what source do you use for that? Also, what it means to you (not to the author of the translation that used "mundane", but to you)?

I drew the word from the notes in the MN translation by Ven. Bodhi that has been discussed. What it means to me, in my own words, is that "mundane" involves recognizing the nutriment that fuels progress on the path, including which views are helpful, but more important, turning away from the nutriment that hinders the path. That's pretty clumsy wording, I know. But there you have it.

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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Oct 31, 2009 5:29 pm

Hi nowheat,

See also various previous discussions:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 341#p16848
viewtopic.php?f=16&t=1255

Mike
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby nowheat » Sat Oct 31, 2009 11:21 pm

Let me see if I can summarize what we have so far in the comments above.

We have perhaps three views inside of wrong view (if we use the full sentences in the Access To Insight version as breaks between views). These are:

(1) There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed.
(2) There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions.
(3) There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings; no priests or contemplatives who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.

Theory-wise we have:

(A) That (1) and (2) are the views of Purana Kassapa, possibly addressing both the Brahminical view of kamma and the heretical view.
(B) That all three are nihilist views
(C ) That all three are Ajita Kesakambali's materialist views (though I think the phrasing was borrowed)

And notes on possible meanings include:

(1) There is no (gain from making) gifts, offerings, sacrifice
(2) There is no fruition, no ripening of good and bad deeds
(3) 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 practicing rightly, proclaim (the existence of) both this world and the next, having personally experienced them by superior knowledge.
(3) That the mother/father phrase is about the value of honoring mother and father (not a flat denial that they exist).
(0) That taken as a whole, it is simply the reverse of mundane right view, contrasting a person with morals with one who does not.
(3) That “spontaneously born beings” refers to devas
(3) That “this world and next” has to do with “this life and the next” (but I'd say that that is stretching the point).
(3) That “this world and the next” is literal but no materialist schools denied this world (I think that's more evidence that Ajita's block of text in the DN was borrowed from this sutta without good understanding of the differences in the schools).

Next up, I will attempt to pull a rabbit out of a hat.

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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby nowheat » Sat Oct 31, 2009 11:25 pm

Though I admit you may want to give me moose horns by the time I'm done.
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby nowheat » Sat Oct 31, 2009 11:41 pm

Now we need to take a look at the end of this sutta, where the Buddha names those he was responding to with this teaching, a set of philosophers – and he very kindly lists their philosophies, providing us with the key needed to understand those wrong views. It says:

"Even Vassa & Bhañña — those teachers from Okkala* who were proponents of no-causality, no-action, & no-existence — would not think that this Dhamma discourse on the Great Forty should be censured & rejected..."

So here we have three philosophies (the Wisdom Pubs edition's translation in parens):
(1) no causality (non-causality)
(2) no action (non-doing)
(3) no existence (nihilism)

We've already discussed the nihilistic philosophers (3); as you can see, the Buddha was addressing them. We've also mentioned that the schools of “non-action” philosophers were karma-deniers (2); the Buddha tells us he was also speaking to them. And we almost had (1) tied up but just missed it – we wrapped it up with the karma-deniers when it was actually a more purely Vedic issue than that, because “non-causality” refers to the Brahmin belief in correspondence: “As above, so below; as below, so above” – their secret rituals were based on the correspondence between us down here and the other world beyond – this is, for example, the relationship between our little “atman” and the all-encompassing “Brahman”. The non-causality folks denied that the Brahmin's rituals caused any effect at all – “There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed” turns out to have a direct correspondence to Brahminical ritual alms, offerings, and sacrifices.

Do you agree that this is a very neat fit, listed philosophers matching up to the “Wrong Views”?



*The only difficulty I have with the Access to Insight translation is that it doesn't make clear how easy it is to misread the three schools as belonging to two teachers. In Bhikkhus Bodhi and Nanamoli's translation it reads “...even those teachers from Okkala, Vassa and Bhanna...” which makes equal sense as three: The teachers from Okkala, and also Vassa, and also Bhanna.
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby Jechbi » Sun Nov 01, 2009 4:15 am

I like it.
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby nowheat » Sun Nov 01, 2009 11:56 am

Jechbi wrote:I like it.

Glad you do. However, this is only Part I: "The Obscured Made Clear"

Part II will come next, but I would like to first hear the voices of those who've been participating or lurking as to whether they see how clear it is that the Buddha gave us specific information about whose Wrong Views he was dealing with and what philosophies they represent. Now is the time for doubters to speak up, questions to be asked, holes to be punched in the theory thus-far, please?

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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby vinasp » Sun Nov 01, 2009 12:51 pm

Hi nowheat,

Are you aware that there is another sutta with a very similar ending in the Samyutta Nikaya ?
It is in part III The Book of the Aggregates, number 62 Pathways of Language.
In the Bhikkhu Bodhi translation : Connected Discourses, it is on page 905.

"Bhikkhus, even Vassa and Banna of Ukkala, proponents of noncausality, of the inefficacy of action, and of nihilism, did not think that these three pathways of language, pathways of designation, pathways of description should be criticized or scorned. For what reason ? Because they fear blame, attack, and condemnation".

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

Postby nowheat » Sun Nov 01, 2009 1:57 pm

vinasp wrote: Are you aware that there is another sutta with a very similar ending in the Samyutta Nikaya ?
It is in part III The Book of the Aggregates, number 62 Pathways of Language.
In the Bhikkhu Bodhi translation : Connected Discourses, it is on page 905.

"Bhikkhus, even Vassa and Banna of Ukkala, proponents of noncausality, of the inefficacy of action, and of nihilism, did not think that these three pathways of language, pathways of designation, pathways of description should be criticized or scorned. For what reason ? Because they fear blame, attack, and condemnation".

I haven't gotten that far through the SN, so thanks for the specific reference. I do have the book at hand but don't have a Pali version of this sutta.

Do you find this relevant to the current discussion? If so, in what way?

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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby vinasp » Sun Nov 01, 2009 3:04 pm

Hi nowheat,

The samyutta passage is translated differently by F.L. Woodward in the PTS Kindred Sayings III.

"Moreover, the folk of Ukkali, preachers in the retreat, deniers of the cause, deniers of the deed, deniers of reality ..."

Woodward is reading "vassa" as the rains retreat, and "banna" as preacher. So there may be some doubt over the correct translation. However, this only affects the question of the named teachers and their number, which is not, I think, central to your argument. There are three doctrines mentioned in all cases, so far. (ahetuvadins, akiriyavadins and natthikavadins).

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

Postby nowheat » Sun Nov 01, 2009 4:00 pm

vinasp wrote: The samyutta passage is translated differently by F.L. Woodward in the PTS Kindred Sayings III.

"Moreover, the folk of Ukkali, preachers in the retreat, deniers of the cause, deniers of the deed, deniers of reality ..."

Woodward is reading "vassa" as the rains retreat, and "banna" as preacher. So there may be some doubt over the correct translation. However, this only affects the question of the named teachers and their number, which is not, I think, central to your argument. There are three doctrines mentioned in all cases, so far. (ahetuvadins, akiriyavadins and natthikavadins).

Yes, thanks, VIncent. I would still like to have this one in Pali so I can see if the phrasing is the same in both. :namaste:
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby vinasp » Sun Nov 01, 2009 5:36 pm

Hi nowheat,

Yepi te bhikkhave, ahesuṃ ukkalā vassabhaññā1 ahetuvādā akiriyavādā natthivādā, tepi mahācattārīsakaṃ dhammapariyāyaṃ na garahitabbaṃ, na paṭikkositabbaṃ2 maññiṃsu.3 Taṃ kissa hetu: nindābyārosaupārambhabhayāti.

The above is the Pali of the MN 117 ending, from http://awake.kiev.ua/dhamma/tipitaka/index.html
Based on the Sri Lanka Buddha Jayanti Tipitaka Series. Below is the ending of the Samyutta version.

Yepi te bhikkhave, ahesuṃ ukkalā vassabhaññā, ahetukavādā akiriyavādā natthikavādā, tepime tayo niruttipathe adhivacanapathe paññattipathe na garahitabbaṃ na paṭikkositabbaṃ maññiṃsu. Taṃ kissa hetu: nindākhyārosaupāramhabhayā'ti.

The numbers 1,2 and 3 in the first refer to notes which may be about variations in different versions, I am not sure.

Best wishes, Vincent.
Last edited by vinasp on Sun Nov 01, 2009 5:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby nowheat » Sun Nov 01, 2009 5:51 pm

vinasp wrote: Yepi te bhikkhave, ahesuṃ ukkalā vassabhaññā1 ahetuvādā akiriyavādā natthivādā, tepi mahācattārīsakaṃ dhammapariyāyaṃ na garahitabbaṃ, na paṭikkositabbaṃ2 maññiṃsu.3 Taṃ kissa hetu: nindābyārosaupārambhabhayāti.

This is the Pali of MN 117 from http://awake.kiev.ua/dhamma/tipitaka/index.html

I will look for the other text and add it ...

Oh I have MN 117 in Pali, thanks Vincent. I meant the SN sutta that ends with the same three schools of thought?
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby nowheat » Sun Nov 01, 2009 6:19 pm

So then, do we all agree that:

(1) is about denying the efficacy Brahmin rituals ("There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed")
(2) is about denying the efficacy of karma ("There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions.") and
(3) is about denying the validity of a whole bunch of ideas then current in the Buddha's world, that is, the nihilism of the day? ("There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings; no priests or contemplatives who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.")

I guess I'll give this thread till tomorrow morning for further debate on these points, before going on.

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

Postby vinasp » Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:30 pm

Hi nowheat,

I am not convinced by your arguments so far, but the reasons are complex and difficult to explain. However, I am interested to see how you develop your ideas further. It may turn out that I agree with your conclusion even though I do not agree with your reasons. Here are some of my thoughts :

In DN 23 we find this view attributed to Prince Payasi :

"There is no other world, there are no spontaneously born beings, there is no fruit or result of good or evil deeds".

Now, Payasi was a typical materialist and these are just the views one would expect. No next world - no post mortem existence. No devas. No result of deeds. I think that this is the original and refers to a particular person. My guess would be that this was expanded by adding more views to give a general list of wrong views. This then caused a problem because the views are not compatible. The view "this world does not exist" is of a completely different type to the view "the next world does not exist". No ordinary person would think "this world does not exist" it is a philosophers view. It needs to be understood correctly. Those philosophers who said "the world exists" meant that the cosmos was eternal, those who said "the world does not exist" meant that the cosmos was not eternal. The non-existence view is not a nihilist view, it does not deny the reality of the things we see.

On the analysis of MN 117.

I think the best method would be to break down the expanded list of views and identify each one correctly. I think that your division into three is an error, although coincidentally (1) and (2) fit the first and second doctrines. In most good translations (and in the romanised Pali) all the views are included in one complete sentence.

It may also be the case that right view for puthujjanas was worked out first, and then the opposite set of views naturally became wrong view, which led to logical contradictions. So a Buddhist lay follower is supposed to believe that
"this world exists" what does that mean ? Just some thoughts.

Best wishes, Vincent.
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