Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby vinasp » Mon Nov 09, 2009 3:32 am

Hi nowheat,

It would appear that the real meaning of the teachings has been lost or is being kept secret. Many discourses contain things which are difficult to understand and for which no explanation is offered. This sutta is one of the most difficult in the entire five nikayas. I will outline some of the problems for you.

1. This is a "late" discourse chronologically and includes earlier material.
2. The opening is in fact an earlier short sutta, so MN 117 is not in fact about noble right concentration.
3. The term "noble right concentration" is strange and rarely found. Right concentration is a factor of the noble eightfold path and so it is already noble, perhaps the intention is just to emphasise this.
4. Most monks were "ordinary men" and so were on the wrong eightfold path, only "noble disciples" were on the noble eightfold path.
5. When the noble eightfold path arises all eight path factors arise together.
6. This is why the other seven factors are said to be needed for, and to support noble right concentration.
7. Right view is the essential path factor, all the other path factors are just by-products of right view.
8. This means that noble right concentration is quite different from the ordinary concentration practice.
9. What MN 117 is really about is the distinction between the "mundane" path and the "supramundane" path.
10. The "mundane" path is the noble eightfold path.

The above draws on my "new interpretation" and is not the "standard" explanation ( if there is one ).

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

Postby nowheat » Mon Nov 09, 2009 1:18 pm

vinasp wrote:It would appear that the real meaning of the teachings has been lost or is being kept secret. Many discourses contain things which are difficult to understand and for which no explanation is offered. . . . The above draws on my "new interpretation" and is not the "standard" explanation ( if there is one ).

This post gives lots of room for discussion but I think the particular direction of that discussion would be best handled in your thread on the new interpretation of the Pali suttas, Vincent. Here, for the most part, it seems to me it would move us further away from understanding, not toward, and since I have already stated in your thread my reason for disagreeing with your premise, I won't restate it here. I would take up some of your points but am afraid if I do, that discussion of your theory will take over this thread, so perhaps I should not? I do understand that this sutta fits in with your theory, and appreciate the amount of effort you've put into finding evidence to support it.

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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby vinasp » Mon Nov 09, 2009 3:09 pm

Hi nowheat,

On the question about noble right concentration. The earlier short sutta can be found in Connected Discourses page 1537 it has the title "Concentration" It begins : "Bhikkhus, I will teach you noble right concentration with its supports and its accessories. Listen to that ...."
This sutta is only seven lines in length. It is a full explanation of noble right concentration in itself. If you are looking for some further explanation in MN117 then you will not find it because it is not there.
What is being said is that any "one-pointedness" of mind which is found with the other seven path factors is, by definition, noble right concentration. The "learner" ( sekha ) is defined by his possesion of the eight path factors, not yet fully developed. Those on the noble eightfold path can be called "learners" or "noble disciples". The path is "one thing" with eight facets ( limbs ) not eight separate things.
The noble eightfold path is a very bad description of the true path to enlightenment. Its purpose is to make the true path look similar to the wrong eightfold path which most monks were on. So that the puthujjana monks would not realise that they were on the wrong path.
This is just my point of view, there is no need to debate any of it.

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

Postby nowheat » Mon Nov 09, 2009 7:07 pm

vinasp wrote:On the question about noble right concentration. The earlier short sutta can be found in Connected Discourses page 1537 it has the title "Concentration"... If you are looking for some further explanation in MN117 then you will not find it because it is not there.

And yet you go on to explain how it is there.

What is being said is that any "one-pointedness" of mind which is found with the other seven path factors is, by definition, noble right concentration.

That right concentration is a part of each other factor of the path, is to be found in each other factor seems a valid way of looking at it.

Is the reverse also true? Take for example right view: Does concentration have anything to do with obtaining right view? If so, how so?

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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby nowheat » Wed Nov 11, 2009 2:23 am

Anyone still left standing? That is, anyone who still has an open mind about the premise? I was kind of hoping for discussion but everyone seems to have drifted away, and I'm not really wanting to Expound to a silent audience.

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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Nov 11, 2009 2:40 am

nowheat wrote:Anyone still left standing? That is, anyone who still has an open mind about the premise? I was kind of hoping for discussion but everyone seems to have drifted away, and I'm not really wanting to Expound to a silent audience.

What was it you wanted further feedback on? The right view without taints or where concentration comes into the Sutta?
If the former, what do you think of this comment?
viewtopic.php?f=25&t=1814#p23845
... the idea of mundane/supermundane right view [in this Sutta] seems to be directly from the Abhidhamma, and is the only Sutta I've read where that sort of exposition is presented. ...

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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby nowheat » Wed Nov 11, 2009 4:18 am

mikenz66 wrote:What was it you wanted further feedback on? The right view without taints or where concentration comes into the Sutta?
If the former, what do you think of this comment?
http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=1814#p23845
... the idea of mundane/supermundane right view [in this Sutta] seems to be directly from the Abhidhamma, and is the only Sutta I've read where that sort of exposition is presented. ...

Mike

Concentration is where I left off, but I'm glad to take up the Abhidamma question. I noticed Bhikkhu Bodhi said the same in the audio talk I've been listening to, and I've seen it in numerous places, the argument in each place is the same "This is the language used in the Abhidhamma" and "This is the only sutta like this" so "it must be a sutta modified by later thinking."

I haven't studied the Abhidhamma but this makes me want to. Just based on what little has been said in defense of this being a corrupt sutta, though, I don't believe the logic holds up. I would hope that the Abhidhamma would draw language from the suttas -- that the two use the same language is not solid evidence, but an interesting theory, which I remain mindful of. And in my reading, having a sutta that preserves unique language or a less ornamented story gives it extra points towards potentially being closer to what was originally taught. The suttas that have huge chunks of language in common with other suttas are the ones I suspect have gotten tangled up, picking up blocks from elsewhere and muddying the thoughts. For example the blocks of description of tenets in the doctrines in this sutta are found in other suttas stuck together with bits from other places in one long chunk, and when the doctrines don't fit well with what's being said in those suttas -- those seem likely to be corrupted. Whereas in this sutta the three doctrines fit with the list of views at the start.

Plus, looking at this sutta through the lens of the Abhidhamma seems to have made it less comprehensible for Bhikkhu Bodhi (and for me) -- which makes it less likely to be what the Buddha taught. The reading I am seeing in it simplifies it and makes it more comprehensible -- though less in line with current thought -- but it seems to me the Buddha was an excellent speaker, clear and straightforward and good at conveying his message. A reading in which all the pieces fit together smoothly should be closer to the original teaching than one that is confusing, unclear, and difficult to understand.

What do you think, Mike?

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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Nov 11, 2009 4:43 am

I didn't say it was a corrupt sutta, I just wanted to point out the connection with the Abhidhamma, because I've seen it quoted by people who seem to dislike the Abhidhamma, but use this Sutta to expound on right view. Of course, I partly got my information from Bhikkhu Bodhi's talk...

I think that the interesting thing is that super-mundane right view here is really not having a "view":
"And what is the right view that is without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path? The discernment, the faculty of discernment, the strength of discernment, analysis of qualities as a factor for Awakening, the path factor of right view of one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is free from effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path. This is the right view that is without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.


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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby BlackBird » Wed Nov 11, 2009 5:28 am

Hi all

Is there 'for dummies' guide to this thread?

:anjali:
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby nowheat » Wed Nov 11, 2009 1:26 pm

BlackBird wrote:Is there 'for dummies' guide to this thread?

Hey BlackBird, I suppose it's about time I do a summary; I'll work on that after I've had a cup of tea.

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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby nowheat » Wed Nov 11, 2009 1:27 pm

I still have a question that does not need to be tied to this sutta, which is "Does concentration have anything to do with obtaining right view? If so, how so?" Think of this is a "real world" question. In your experience, how does the practice of meditation relate to "right view"?
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby nowheat » Wed Nov 11, 2009 3:45 pm

mikenz66 wrote:I didn't say it was a corrupt sutta

Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that you did. "Corrupt" is my word, after listening to the talk I mentioned, and reading about it on various sites. Also, please don't be alarmed by my use of the word. I don't mean "corrupt" like Mafia infiltration "corrupt" I mean it as in "made inferior by errors or alterations, as a text" (from Dictionary.com).
I think that the interesting thing is that super-mundane right view here is really not having a "view":
"And what is the right view that is without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path? The discernment, the faculty of discernment, the strength of discernment, analysis of qualities as a factor for Awakening, the path factor of right view of one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is free from effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path. This is the right view that is without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.


Interesting indeed. Which part of that quote do you see as meaning that super-mundane right view is not having a view?

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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Nov 11, 2009 7:24 pm

Hi NoWheat,
nowheat wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:I didn't say it was a corrupt sutta

Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that you did. "Corrupt" is my word, after listening to the talk I mentioned, and reading about it on various sites. Also, please don't be alarmed by my use of the word. I don't mean "corrupt" like Mafia infiltration "corrupt" I mean it as in "made inferior by errors or alterations, as a text" (from Dictionary.com).

That's what I understood "corrupt" to mean in this context.

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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Nov 11, 2009 7:33 pm

Hi NoWheat,
nowheat wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:I think that the interesting thing is that super-mundane right view here is really not having a "view":
"And what is the right view that is without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path? The discernment, the faculty of discernment, the strength of discernment, analysis of qualities as a factor for Awakening, the path factor of right view of one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is free from effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path. This is the right view that is without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.


Interesting indeed. Which part of that quote do you see as meaning that super-mundane right view is not having a view?

Do you see any "views" expressed there? It just says that if you have supermundane right view you have discernment, analysis of qualities, and so on. As opposed to the mundane right view, which prescribes particular "views".

This passage reminds me of descriptions of Ajahn Chah by his students (for example, Ajahn Tiradhammo, who I've met a few times). Ajahn T. said that for a while he tried to figure out what Ajahn Chah's opinions were, and he came to the conclusion that Ajahn Chah didn't really have any opinions, one could just observe wisdom operating, according to the particular situation. That's the sort of message I read into the above quote.

See also:
MN 72 Aggi-Vacchagotta Sutta: To Vacchagotta on Fire
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"Does Master Gotama have any position at all?"

"A 'position,' Vaccha, is something that a Tathagata has done away with. What a Tathagata sees is this: 'Such is form, such its origin, such its disappearance; such is feeling, such its origin, such its disappearance; such is perception... such are mental fabrications... such is consciousness, such its origin, such its disappearance.' Because of this, I say, a Tathagata — with the ending, fading out, cessation, renunciation, & relinquishment of all construings, all excogitations, all I-making & mine-making & obsession with conceit — is, through lack of clinging/sustenance, released."

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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Nov 11, 2009 7:45 pm

Hello again NoWheat,
nowheat wrote:I still have a question that does not need to be tied to this sutta, which is "Does concentration have anything to do with obtaining right view? If so, how so?" Think of this is a "real world" question. In your experience, how does the practice of meditation relate to "right view"?

Looking at the Sutta again, I don't really see a problem with it.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
The Buddha starts out with:
The Blessed One said, "Monks, I will teach you noble right concentration with its supports and requisite conditions. Listen, and pay close attention. I will speak."

Then describes the path in great detail, emphasising right view at each step and showing how it, and the other factors build up to right concentration:
"Of those, right view is the forerunner. And how is right view the forerunner? In one of right view, wrong view is abolished. The many evil, unskillful qualities that come into play with wrong view as their condition are also abolished, while the many skillful qualities that have right view as their condition go to the culmination of their development. In one of right resolve, wrong resolve is abolished... In one of right speech, wrong speech is abolished... In one of right action, wrong action is abolished... In one of right livelihood, wrong livelihood is abolished... In one of right effort, wrong effort is abolished... In one of right mindfulness, wrong mindfulness is abolished... In one of right concentration, wrong concentration is abolished...

Unfortunately, the use of ellipses tends to de-emphasise the punch line so let's put the words back:
... The many evil, unskillful qualities that come into play with wrong concentration as their condition are also abolished, while the many skillful qualities that have right concentration as their condition go to the culmination of their development.

Having done that, he finishes off by explaining that noble right concentration isn't an end in itself, but a means to right knowledge and release:
In one of right knowledge, wrong knowledge is abolished... In one of right release, wrong release is abolished. The many evil, unskillful qualities that come into play with wrong release as their condition are also abolished, while the many skillful qualities that have right release as their condition go to the culmination of their development.

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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby nowheat » Wed Nov 11, 2009 8:19 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
"And what is the right view that is without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path? The discernment, the faculty of discernment, the strength of discernment, analysis of qualities as a factor for Awakening, the path factor of right view of one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is free from effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path. This is the right view that is without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.

Do you see any "views" expressed there? It just says that if you have supermundane right view you have discernment, analysis of qualities, and so on. As opposed to the mundane right view, which prescribes particular "views".

Interesting reading, that by its absence we know it. I would agree with that.

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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby nowheat » Wed Nov 11, 2009 8:27 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Looking at the Sutta again, I don't really see a problem with it.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
The Buddha starts out with:
The Blessed One said, "Monks, I will teach you noble right concentration with its supports and requisite conditions. Listen, and pay close attention. I will speak."

Then describes the path in great detail, emphasising right view at each step and showing how it, and the other factors build up to right concentration:
"Of those, right view is the forerunner. And how is right view the forerunner? In one of right view, wrong view is abolished. The many evil, unskillful qualities that come into play with wrong view as their condition are also abolished, while the many skillful qualities that have right view as their condition go to the culmination of their development. In one of right resolve, wrong resolve is abolished... In one of right speech, wrong speech is abolished... In one of right action, wrong action is abolished... In one of right livelihood, wrong livelihood is abolished... In one of right effort, wrong effort is abolished... In one of right mindfulness, wrong mindfulness is abolished... In one of right concentration, wrong concentration is abolished...

Unfortunately, the use of ellipses tends to de-emphasise the punch line so let's put the words back:
... The many evil, unskillful qualities that come into play with wrong concentration as their condition are also abolished, while the many skillful qualities that have right concentration as their condition go to the culmination of their development.

Having done that, he finishes off by explaining that noble right concentration isn't an end in itself, but a means to right knowledge and release:
In one of right knowledge, wrong knowledge is abolished... In one of right release, wrong release is abolished. The many evil, unskillful qualities that come into play with wrong release as their condition are also abolished, while the many skillful qualities that have right release as their condition go to the culmination of their development.


Hmmm. It doesn't seem like a “punch line” to me when right concentration is followed by right knowledge and right release (you don't show that in your quote, but it is there in the sutta), and the final portion doesn't mention right concentration, but I agree that right concentration is still being talked about here, that it's being (under-)stated that right concentration is necessary to this whole process.

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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby vinasp » Wed Nov 11, 2009 8:28 pm

Hi everyone,

But the enlightened individual "knows and sees things as they really are" does this not imply having views ?

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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby nowheat » Wed Nov 11, 2009 8:32 pm

At BlackBird's request, the following is a summary "so far"... sorry for its length.

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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Postby nowheat » Wed Nov 11, 2009 8:33 pm

Part I: The Premise

MN 117 “The Great Forty” is a sutta that states it is about concentration and its supports and requisite conditions; it starts with right view and goes on to resolve, speech, action, and livelihood, and in each of these describes right view as the forerunner; it again puts an emphasis on right view when it includes it in a special mix at the end of each section, where it says that the quality it focuses on is at the center of a circle of right view, effort and mindfulness; it ends by explaining the title “The Great Forty” as a score in a sort of point system in debating, and closes with mention of some teachers and three views they held that have now been well refuted, and the usual delight of the monks. In each section there are actually three aspects of the qualities discussed: Wrong, Right with Taints, and Supramundane.

My premise is that in the initial section on Views, which is clearly the most heavily emphasized in the sutta, the views listed in their negative and positives in “Wrong View” and “Right View with Taints” have been misinterpreted in the past. The popular understanding these days is that the list in “Right View with Taints” is the mundane path that the Buddha taught, and that all those items listed are things we who are new to the path should believe. What I see in the list from “Wrong View” is three separate negative views, and in the “Right View with Taints” is a minimum of three views (with the last actually encapsulating a larger list).

The list of negative/positive as drawn from the Wisdom Publications edition of the Majjhima Nikaya is:

(1) (a) There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed / (b) There is what is given, what is offered, what is sacrificed

(2) (a) [There is] no fruit or result of good and bad actions / (b) there is fruit and result of good and bad actions

(3) (a) [There is] no this world, no other world; no mother, no father; no beings who are reborn spontaneously; no good and virtuous recluses and brahmins in the world who have realized for themselves by direct knowledge and declare this world and the other world. / (b) there is this world and the other world; there is mother and father; there are beings who are reborn spontaneously; there are in the world god and virtuous recluses and brahmins who have realized for themselves by direct knowledge and declare this world and the other world.

The problem with these phrases is, of course, that they are not using what we think of as “plain English” but are using the idioms of the day, and much of the context for these lines has been lost along the way, so we need to remember that the Buddha was not talking in our language to our culture and times, but in his language (and this is at minimum a translation of a translation) and was shortcutting in just the way we'd say “24/7” these days and know what that meant, but it might be incomprehensible 2,500 years from now when the 7-day week was no longer in effect, and clocks kept time that matched the rotation of Mars.

Listening to Bhikkhu Bodhi's talk, he translates (1)(a) as stated above, then hesitates and changes “sacrificed” to “no practice of charity” which is a stretch. If the Buddha is using phrasing common in his day, the context for giving could be gifts to ascetics as well as for Brahmins who perform rituals; but what is offered is understood to be what is done in a ritual – offerings of ghee and soma, for example; sacrifice is what is done in rituals with (most notoriously) animals. When regular folk of the day heard “What is given, offered, sacrificed” they will think of Brahmins, they would not equate “sacrifice” with “acts of charity” especially since the word “sacrificed” used here in the Pali is “hutam”, is a form of the word “huta” a past participle of “juhati” which has the primary meaning of “to pour (into the fire), to sacrifice, offer”. (Using Rhys Davids and Stede's Pali English Dictionary aka “PED” as the source here.)

Using Occam's Razor, the simplest explanation of (1) “There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed” is the one that would be known to all listeners in the Buddha's day, which is not a denial that sacrificing through acts of charity to the monks of the sangha has merit, but a denial of the Brahmin's worldview, that their rituals and sacrifices had an effect, and that giving gifts to Brahmins so that they will perform rituals for you will be to your benefit. This was a common view in the day.

Section (2) does seem clearly to be about karma, and is understood that way.

Section (3) is filled with equally vague (to us) references that would have been quite clear in the Buddha's day, each a specific reference. Apparently the first phrase “There is no this world” is still problematic in translation. Because to us the language is vague (though it will have been specific to the Buddha's listeners) it is easy to bend these phrases to suit our particular understanding of what we think the Buddha is saying. To Bhikkhu Bodhi these are references to rebirth (“this world and the next”), duty to parents (“mother, father”), devas and gods (“beings spontaneously reborn”), and enlightened ascetics and Brahmins (“who have realized for themselves by direct knowledge and declare this world and the other world”). Whereas I see quite clear references to nihilistic views denying a wide variety of doctrines, including the Brahmin's view of “this world and the next” (at this point in time the Brahmin view of life after death was pretty simple); denial of the point of ancestor worship (which ran throughout society, concurrently with both Brahmin views and heretical views) in “mother, father”; I haven't got a context yet for “spontaneously reborn beings” but that may be because I haven't studied the folk religions as much as I've concentrated on Brahminism and the heretical views – there were lots of native spirits in trees, rivers, rocks and snakes this could reference; and finally a denial that anyone travels in this life to other worlds and returns from them to teach about them in “who have realized for themselves by direct knowledge and declare this world and the other world”.

Again the simplest explanation of what's being said is that the Buddha is using phrases common in his time to short-hand a wide variety of doctrines common in his time.
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