What does anicca really mean?

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

What does anicca really mean?

Postby vinasp » Wed Feb 10, 2010 1:36 am

Hi everyone,

It seems that my understanding of impermanent (anicca) is different from some others on this forum. I thought it might be worth exploring these alternative ways of understanding impermanence.

So, what is my understanding? For me, impermanent means "capable of ceasing completely" or "vanishing". When applied to something like feelings which are continuously changing - it means the "complete ending of the process".

What are your thoughts?

Best wishes, Vincent.
vinasp
 
Posts: 1182
Joined: Tue Aug 18, 2009 7:49 pm
Location: Bristol. United Kingdom.

Re: What does anicca really mean?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Feb 10, 2010 3:01 am

Greetings Vincent,

I think that's a start, but I don't think it's the full story.

In your example, there is some "thing" inferred which is "capable of ceasing completely" or "vanishing". However, at a very deep level, because all things are devoid of inherent existence, this "thing" is but an abstraction.

SN 12.15: Kaccayanagotta Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

"By & large, Kaccayana, this world is supported by (takes as its object) a polarity, that of existence & non-existence. But when one sees the origination of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'non-existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one. When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one.

"By & large, Kaccayana, this world is in bondage to attachments, clingings (sustenances), & biases. But one such as this does not get involved with or cling to these attachments, clingings, fixations of awareness, biases, or obsessions; nor is he resolved on 'my self.' He has no uncertainty or doubt that just stress, when arising, is arising; stress, when passing away, is passing away. In this, his knowledge is independent of others. It's to this extent, Kaccayana, that there is right view.

"'Everything exists': That is one extreme. 'Everything doesn't exist': That is a second extreme. Avoiding these two extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma via the middle: From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications......... (dependent origination sequence)"


So in reality there never was a "thing" to arise or vanish completely. What there is, is just a ceaseless process of transformation and change. It only comes to be seen as "arising" and "ceasing" when you objectify a "thing". That's touching on sunnata (emptiness)... but if you are going to observe in terms of dhammas, then knowing that the all dhammas are annica in the sense you detail is sufficient.

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


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
 
Posts: 14613
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: What does anicca really mean?

Postby seanpdx » Wed Feb 10, 2010 4:10 am

vinasp wrote:Hi everyone,

It seems that my understanding of impermanent (anicca) is different from some others on this forum. I thought it might be worth exploring these alternative ways of understanding impermanence.

So, what is my understanding? For me, impermanent means "capable of ceasing completely" or "vanishing". When applied to something like feelings which are continuously changing - it means the "complete ending of the process".

What are your thoughts?

Best wishes, Vincent.


That isn't what anicca means. It can mean "impermanent", as in something that will cease, but it also means being subject to change (not necessarily continuous change, lest one gets into the mental gymnastics of momentariness and what-not).
seanpdx
 
Posts: 281
Joined: Thu Dec 03, 2009 12:56 am

Re: What does anicca really mean?

Postby vinasp » Wed Feb 10, 2010 6:54 pm

Hi retrofuturist,

I am struggling to understand your position. You appear to be saying that nothing ceases completely. What, then, is enlightenment - and how does it differ from the state of mind of an 'ordinary person'?

Do views cease? Does craving cease? Does ignorance cease?

What do you understand by cessation (nirodha)?

Best wishes, Vincent.
vinasp
 
Posts: 1182
Joined: Tue Aug 18, 2009 7:49 pm
Location: Bristol. United Kingdom.

Re: What does anicca really mean?

Postby cooran » Wed Feb 10, 2010 8:09 pm

Hello all,

This definition, which the Tradition has always accepted, might be of assistance:

anicca
'impermanent' (or, as abstract noun, aniccatā, 'impermanence') is the first of the three characteristics of existence (tilakkhana, q.v.). It is from the fact of impermanence that, in most texts, the other two characteristics, suffering (dukkha) and not-self (anattā), are derived (S.22. 15; Ud.IV. I)

"Impermanence of things is the rising, passing and changing of things, or the disappearance of things that have become or arisen. The meaning is that these things never persist in the same way, but that they are vanishing dissolving from moment to moment" (Vis.M. VII, 3).

Impermanence is a basic feature of all conditioned phenomena, be they material or mental, coarse or subtle, one's own or external: All formations are impermanent" (sabbe sankhārā aniccā; M. 35, Dhp. 277). That the totality of existence is impermanent is also often stated in terms of the five aggregates (khandha, q.v.), the twelve personal and external sense bases (āyatana q.v.), etc. Only Nibbāna (q.v.), which is unconditioned and not a formation (asankhata), is permanent (nicca, dhuva).

The insight leading to the first stage of deliverance, Stream-entry (sotāpatti; s. ariya-puggala), is often expressed in terms of impermanence: "Whatever is subject to origination, is subject to cessation" (s. Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, S.46. 11). In his last exhortation, before his Parinibbāna, the Buddha reminded his monks of the impermanence of existence as a spur to earnest effort: "Behold now, Bhikkhus, I exhort you: Formations are bound to vanish. Strive earnestly!" (vayadhammā sankhārā, appamādena sampādetha; D. 16).

Without the deep insight into the impermanence and insubstantiality of all phenomena of existence there is no attainment of deliverance. Hence comprehension of impermanence gained by direct meditative experience heads two lists of insight knowledge:
(a) contemplation of impermanence (aniccānupassanā) is the first of the 18 chief kinds of insight (q.v.);
(b) the contemplation of arising and vanishing (udayabbayānupassanā-ñāna) is the first of 9 kinds of knowledge which lead to the 'purification by knowledge and vision of the path-progress' (s. visuddhi, VI). -
Contemplation of impermanence leads to the conditionless deliverance (animitta-vimokkha; s. vimokkha). As herein the faculty of confidence (saddhindriya) is outstanding, he who attains in that way the path of Stream-entry is called a faith-devotee (saddhānusārī; s. ariya-puggala) and at the seven higher stages he is called faith-liberated (saddhā-vimutta), - See also anicca-saññā.

See The Three Basic Facts of Existence I: Impermanence (WHEEL 186/187)
http://www.palikanon.com/english/wtb/a/anicca.htm

with metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
User avatar
cooran
 
Posts: 7363
Joined: Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:32 pm
Location: Queensland, Australia

Re: What does anicca really mean?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Feb 10, 2010 9:59 pm

Greetings Vincent,

vinasp wrote:I am struggling to understand your position.


Well read what Cooran provided then.

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


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
 
Posts: 14613
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: What does anicca really mean?

Postby seanpdx » Wed Feb 10, 2010 10:09 pm

http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philologic/getobject.pl?c.2:1:108.pali

Nicca (adj.) [Vedic nitya, adj. -- formation fr. ni, meaning "downward"=onward, on and on; according to Grassmann (Wtb. z. Rig Veda) originally "inwardly, homely"] constant, continuous, permanent D iii.31; S i.142; ii.109, 198; iv.24 sq., 45, 63; A ii.33, 52; v.210; Ps ii.80; Vbh 335, 426. In chain of synonyms: nicca dhuva sassata avipariṇāmadhamma D i.21; S iii.144, 147; see below anicca, -- nt. adv. niccaŋ perpetually, constantly, always (syn. sadā) M i.326; iii.271; Sn 69, 220, 336; Dh 23, 109, 206, 293; J i.290; iii.26, 190; Nd2 345 (=dhuvakālaŋ); PvA 32, 55, 134. <-> Far more freq. as anicca (adj.; aniccaŋ nt. n.) unstable, impermanent, inconstant; (nt.) evanescence, inconstancy, impermanence. -- The emphatic assertion of impermanence (continuous change of condition) is a prominent axiom of the Dhamma, & the realization of the evanescent character of all things mental or material is one of the primary conditions of attaining right knowledge (: anicca -- saññaŋ manasikaroti to ponder over the idea of impermanence S ii.47; iii.155; v.132; Ps ii.48 sq., 100; PvA 62 etc. -- kāye anicc' ânupassin realizing the impermanence of the body (together with vayânupassin & nirodha˚) S iv.211; v.324, 345; Ps ii.37, 45 sq., 241 sq. See anupassanā). In this import anicca occurs in many combinations of similar terms, all characterising change, its consequences & its meaning, esp. in the famous triad "aniccaŋ dukkhaŋ anattā" (see dukkha ii.2), e. g. S iii.41, 67, 180; iv.28 (sabbaŋ), 85 sq., 106 sq.; 133 sq. Thus anicca addhuva appāyuka cavanadhamma D i.21. anicca+dukkha S ii.53 (yad aniccaŋ taŋ dukkhaŋ); iv.28, 31, v.345; A iv.52 (anicce dukkhasaññā); M i.500 (+roga etc.); Nd2 214 (id. cp. roga). anicca dukkha vipariṇāmadhamma (of kāmā) D i.36. aniccasaññī anattasaññī A iv.353; etc. <-> Opposed to this ever -- fluctuating impermanence is Nibbāna (q. v.), which is therefore marked with the attributes of constancy & stableness (cp. dhuva, sassata amata, vipariṇāma). -- See further for ref. S ii.244 sq. (saḷāyatanaŋ a.), 248 (dhātuyo); iii.102 (rūpa etc.); iv.131, 151; A ii.33, 52; v.187 sq., 343 sq.; Sn 805; Ps i.191; ii.28 sq., 80, 106; Vbh 12 (rūpa etc.), 70 (dvādasâyatanāni), 319 (viññāṇā), 324 (khandhā), 373; PvA 60 (=ittara).
-- kālaŋ (adv.) constantly Nd2 345; -- dāna a perpetual gift D i.144 (cp. DA i.302); -- bhatta a continuous food-supply (for the bhikkhus) J i.178; VvA 92; PvA 54; -- bhattika one who enjoys a continuous supply of food (as charity) Vin ii.78; iii.237 (=dhuva -- bhattika); iv.271; -- saññā (& adj. saññin) the consciousness or idea of permanence (adj. having etc.) A ii.52; iii.79, 334; iv.13, 145 sq.; Nett 27; -- sīla the uninterrupted observance of good conduct VvA 72; PvA 256.
seanpdx
 
Posts: 281
Joined: Thu Dec 03, 2009 12:56 am

Re: What does anicca really mean?

Postby vinasp » Wed Feb 10, 2010 10:10 pm

Hi retrofuturist,

I would rather base my understanding on the suttas not something written a thousand years later.

For me, anicca means 'capable of ceasing completely'. It is seeing that nirodha (cessation) applies to a particular mental construction (formation, sankhara).

"By knowing the destruction of formations be thou O Brahmin, one who knows the unmade" Dhp. 383.

"Monks, there is a not-born, a not-become, a not-made, a not-compounded. Monks, if that not-born ... were not, there would be no escape here from what is born, become, made, compounded. But since, monks, there is a not-born ... therefore there is an escape from what is born, become, made, compounded".
Itiv. 43. Translated by Nanananda, Concept and Reality, pages 71-72.

Everything that has been 'made' by the mind must vanish. But first you have to see what has been constructed and that it can disappear.

Best wishes, Vincent.
vinasp
 
Posts: 1182
Joined: Tue Aug 18, 2009 7:49 pm
Location: Bristol. United Kingdom.

Re: What does anicca really mean?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Feb 10, 2010 10:18 pm

Greetings Vincent,

vinasp wrote:I would rather base my understanding on the suttas not something written a thousand years later.


The above definitions are very transparent with regards to their origins, as to what is based on sutta, versus vinaya or commentary. Anything you or I write will be written about 2,500 years later!

vinasp wrote:For me, anicca means 'capable of ceasing completely'. It is seeing that nirodha (cessation) applies to a particular mental construction (formation, sankhara).


Again, that's just part of the story.

If you don't like the common one-word definition of "impermanent", try "evanescent" or "transient" as these are apt too.

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


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
 
Posts: 14613
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: What does anicca really mean?

Postby seanpdx » Wed Feb 10, 2010 10:22 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Vincent,

vinasp wrote:I would rather base my understanding on the suttas not something written a thousand years later.


The above definitions are very transparent with regards to their origins, as to what is based on sutta, versus vinaya or commentary. Anything you or I write will be written about 2,500 years later!


As well as anything anyone writes these days... like, say, english translations upon which one is basing one's understanding. *grin*

If you don't like the common one-word definition of "impermanent", try "evanescent" or "transient" as these are apt too.


For one-word definitions, other than "impermanent", I'm a big fan of "inconstant".
seanpdx
 
Posts: 281
Joined: Thu Dec 03, 2009 12:56 am

Re: What does anicca really mean?

Postby vinasp » Wed Feb 10, 2010 10:30 pm

Hi everyone,

Answer one simple question. Does craving completely disappear or not?

Best wishes, Vincent.
vinasp
 
Posts: 1182
Joined: Tue Aug 18, 2009 7:49 pm
Location: Bristol. United Kingdom.

Re: What does anicca really mean?

Postby seanpdx » Wed Feb 10, 2010 10:32 pm

vinasp wrote:Hi everyone,

Answer one simple question. Does craving completely disappear or not?

Best wishes, Vincent.


Yes, with/upon liberation.

I love these simple questions! =D
seanpdx
 
Posts: 281
Joined: Thu Dec 03, 2009 12:56 am

Re: What does anicca really mean?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Feb 10, 2010 10:44 pm

Greetings,

But if we were to speak in a momentary (or dare I say Abhidhammic?) sense, craving ceases with the arising of wholesome mindstates. The "next craving" is a brand new craving. Even each moment of that objectified "craving" is different... as is arises, changes, varies in intensity and passes away.

Each moment is a whole new moment, never repeated - even moments are inconstant.

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


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
 
Posts: 14613
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: What does anicca really mean?

Postby seanpdx » Wed Feb 10, 2010 10:49 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

But if we were to speak in a momentary (or dare I say Abhidhammic?) sense, craving ceases with the arising of wholesome mindstates. The "next craving" is a brand new craving. Each moment is a whole new moment, never repeated - even moments are inconstant.

Metta,
Retro. :)


Which is why abhidhammic systematisation, and its concept of momentariness, is such a load of poo-poo.

Look! I'm enlightened!
Woops -- now I'm not.
Look! I'm enlightened!
Woops -- now I'm not.
Look! I'm... oh, nevermind. =p
seanpdx
 
Posts: 281
Joined: Thu Dec 03, 2009 12:56 am

Re: What does anicca really mean?

Postby vinasp » Wed Feb 10, 2010 10:53 pm

Hi retrofuturist,

So does the process of generating ever-new cravings end completely at some point?

Best wishes, Vincent.
vinasp
 
Posts: 1182
Joined: Tue Aug 18, 2009 7:49 pm
Location: Bristol. United Kingdom.

Re: What does anicca really mean?

Postby rowyourboat » Wed Feb 10, 2010 11:06 pm

Funny, we can write a book on the different understandings of anicca- all of it would be valid as long as it leads to even an iota of letting go- giving up craving. But sometimes we can cling to our understanding of anicca and become defensive when another proposes his. More clinging.

the point of understanding anicca is to feel the change as it is happening and this sense that there is no point in all/any of it. :shrug: no point trying to cling to anything, as all things are impermanant- unsatisfactory. this is the vipassana perspective. This leads to true letting go.
With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha
rowyourboat
 
Posts: 1949
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 5:29 pm
Location: London, UK

Re: What does anicca really mean?

Postby Dan74 » Wed Feb 10, 2010 11:08 pm

seanpdx wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

But if we were to speak in a momentary (or dare I say Abhidhammic?) sense, craving ceases with the arising of wholesome mindstates. The "next craving" is a brand new craving. Each moment is a whole new moment, never repeated - even moments are inconstant.

Metta,
Retro. :)


Which is why abhidhammic systematisation, and its concept of momentariness, is such a load of poo-poo.

Look! I'm enlightened!
Woops -- now I'm not.
Look! I'm enlightened!
Woops -- now I'm not.
Look! I'm... oh, nevermind. =p


This is how some people read Dogen (the great Soto Zen master). I read it as saying pay attention to this moment and don't worry about permanent anything. In any case, craving is karmically conditioned, so the complete absence of craving (and roots of craving) in this moment cannot give rise to craving in the next moment. In other words, if this moment is completely enlightened (free of all defilements/attachments - present and latent) then so will the next one be.

Otherwise it really doesn't make sense. It's easy to be free of manifest defilements (say in meditation) this is not enlightenment and not what Dogen taught from what I understand.

_/|\_
_/|\_
User avatar
Dan74
 
Posts: 2617
Joined: Sun Mar 01, 2009 11:12 pm

Re: What does anicca really mean?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Feb 10, 2010 11:53 pm

Greetings Vincent,

vinasp wrote:So does the process of generating ever-new cravings end completely at some point?


Yes, upon attaining arahanthood, through the permanent destruction of ignorance.

Think here of the twelve-nidanas of dependent arising. If you don't get past ignorance, you don't get to craving.

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


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
 
Posts: 14613
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: What does anicca really mean?

Postby seanpdx » Thu Feb 11, 2010 12:17 am

Dan74 wrote:
seanpdx wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

But if we were to speak in a momentary (or dare I say Abhidhammic?) sense, craving ceases with the arising of wholesome mindstates. The "next craving" is a brand new craving. Each moment is a whole new moment, never repeated - even moments are inconstant.

Metta,
Retro. :)


Which is why abhidhammic systematisation, and its concept of momentariness, is such a load of poo-poo.

Look! I'm enlightened!
Woops -- now I'm not.
Look! I'm enlightened!
Woops -- now I'm not.
Look! I'm... oh, nevermind. =p


This is how some people read Dogen (the great Soto Zen master). I read it as saying pay attention to this moment and don't worry about permanent anything. In any case, craving is karmically conditioned, so the complete absence of craving (and roots of craving) in this moment cannot give rise to craving in the next moment. In other words, if this moment is completely enlightened (free of all defilements/attachments - present and latent) then so will the next one be.

Otherwise it really doesn't make sense. It's easy to be free of manifest defilements (say in meditation) this is not enlightenment and not what Dogen taught from what I understand.

_/|\_


The problem I have with "momentariness" (I can say nothing about Dogen, sorry) is that it seems to be taken too far, and people start losing sight of the forest for the trees. Not that there is anything inherently wrong in it per se.
seanpdx
 
Posts: 281
Joined: Thu Dec 03, 2009 12:56 am

Re: What does anicca really mean?

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Feb 11, 2010 12:22 am

Greetings Sean,

seanpdx wrote:The problem I have with "momentariness" (I can say nothing about Dogen, sorry) is that it seems to be taken too far, and people start losing sight of the forest for the trees. Not that there is anything inherently wrong in it per se.


I think it's important to be able to see things both in a conventional and momentary sense, and to be able to distinguish between the two. I think it is difficult to overstate this point.

The truth of reality is that it is momentary, so ignoring momentariness is a risk too.

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


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
 
Posts: 14613
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Next

Return to Open Dhamma

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: robdog and 8 guests