Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby alan » Sun Mar 14, 2010 2:41 pm

Just back from two months of photography on Bali, where the internet connection is poor. Excuse me if I'm slightly sun-baked, but this thread puts me in mind of Zeno. And Zeno reminds me of why I left college.
:)
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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby rowyourboat » Sun Mar 14, 2010 5:38 pm

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

This is quite a deep sutta quote. I am coming to believe that seeing momentariness (after experiencing revulsion, dispassion) is essential to reaching stream entry. This is also called udaya-vyaya nana or the insight knowledge of arising and passing way. One does not just see change (anyone can see that- nothing there for a Buddha to teach) but that there is ceasing and that reality is fractured into frames. This fracturing process is a sign the mind is breaking away from samsara and with complete cessation there is the glimpse of nibbana during stream entry (magga citta and phala citta). Prior to this is the stage of 'cessation' -nirodha where things are seen to cease- ie-momentary endings come into sharp focus.
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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby Alex123 » Sun Mar 14, 2010 10:02 pm

Hello ryb, all,


As I understand it, DO talks about arising and cessation of stress. It is not an ontological teaching.

Notice DO starts with:
"From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrication"

And ends with:
"...then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair come into play. Such is the origination of this entire mass of stress & suffering."

In cessation mode it starts with
""Now from the remainderless fading & cessation of that very ignorance comes the cessation of fabrications."
and ends with:
"From the cessation of birth, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair all cease. Such is the cessation of this entire mass of stress & suffering.""


To me this point that DO is soteriological and etiological (of suffering), sort of teaching.


Also in AN3.61 , DO in arising mode is correlated with 2nd NT and DO in cessation mode is correlated with 3rd NT.
"And what is the noble truth of the origination of stress?

"From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications. From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness. From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form. From name-&-form as a requisite condition come the six sense media. From the six sense media as a requisite condition comes contact. From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling. From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving. From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging/sustenance. From clinging/sustenance as a requisite condition comes becoming. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth. From birth as a requisite condition, then old age & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair come into play. Such is the origination of this entire mass of stress & suffering.

"This is called the noble truth of the origination of stress.

"And what is the noble truth of the cessation of stress?

"From the remainderless fading & cessation of that very ignorance comes the cessation of fabrications. From the cessation of fabrications comes the cessation of consciousness. From the cessation of consciousness comes the cessation of name-&-form. From the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of the six sense media. From the cessation of the six sense media comes the cessation of contact. From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of feeling. From the cessation of feeling comes the cessation of craving. From the cessation of craving comes the cessation of clinging/sustenance. From the cessation of clinging/sustenance comes the cessation of becoming. From the cessation of becoming comes the cessation of birth. From the cessation of birth, then old age & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair all cease. Such is the cessation of this entire mass of stress & suffering.

"This is called the noble truth of the cessation of stress.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html



IMHO.


With metta,

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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Mar 14, 2010 10:24 pm

pt1 wrote:

When it comes to the issue of speed, I do wonder if a billion cittas per a flash of lightning is an accurate description or perhaps it is overblown.
There are physiological limitations, but how would you actually count a billion in an eye-blink? And if I remember correctly, A billionth of a second is to one second as 1 second is to 35 years. Also, it is not a billion of mind moments in an eye blink; it billions. In other words it is a meaningless number.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Mar 14, 2010 10:30 pm

Greetings,

tiltbillings wrote:There are physiological limitations, but how would you actually count a billion in an eye-blink? And if remember correctly, A billionth of a second is to one second as 1 second is to 35 years. Also, it is not a billion of mind moments in an eye blink; it billions. In other words it is a meaningless number.


Perhaps though that's the point? Perhaps it's intended to suggest simply that momentariness isn't atomistic?

I think a TV broadcast consist of about 22 frames per second (well that's the number I remember anyway, it will do...). You can slow it down and see each discrete frame and the gaps inbetween. Perhaps to say that there are billions per second is akin to say there is an infinite number of frames, which is to say they're not really discrete atomistic frames at all... 1 divided by billions is very close to zero - 1 divided by infinity is zero.

But just say it was atomistic... what use would it be? If we can't even differentiate the 22 "atomistic" frames of a television broadcast, what hope could there be in distinguishing between billions? And of course the question I always ask when something is excessively grandiose... how could anyone actually know it to be so?

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)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Mar 14, 2010 10:33 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

tiltbillings wrote:There are physiological limitations, but how would you actually count a billion in an eye-blink? And if remember correctly, A billionth of a second is to one second as 1 second is to 35 years. Also, it is not a billion of mind moments in an eye blink; it billions. In other words it is a meaningless number.


Perhaps though that's the point? Perhaps it's intended to suggest simply that momentariness isn't atomistic?
But the problem seems to be that along with the later notion of momentariness in the later Abhidhamma is an atomistic notion of dhamma.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby nathan » Mon Mar 15, 2010 2:42 am

rowyourboat wrote: I am coming to believe that seeing momentariness (after experiencing revulsion, dispassion) is essential to reaching stream entry. This is also called udaya-vyaya nana or the insight knowledge of arising and passing way. One does not just see change (anyone can see that- nothing there for a Buddha to teach) but that there is ceasing and that reality is fractured into frames. This fracturing process is a sign the mind is breaking away from samsara and with complete cessation there is the glimpse of nibbana during stream entry (magga citta and phala citta). Prior to this is the stage of 'cessation' -nirodha where things are seen to cease- ie-momentary endings come into sharp focus.


This thread is reflective of one of the kinds of simple but diverse forms of misunderstanding that can potentially become a real obstacle in the path of very clever people. I am going to offer a very simple way free of this but I will attempt to put it into the most complex terms I can accurately find so that clever people who are mislead by this kind of thing might thereby have a potential avenue of escape to consider.

What can become obscured by this kind of discussion is that there is no perceptual trick or cognitive mind game involved in the simple and not infrequently very uninteresting activity of attending to the appearance and disappearance of our own ongoing experiential phenomena. The phenomena in question is the group of processes that continually reoccur within the various aspects of our perception and cognition in numerous forms all of the time.

In the simplest terms, the reason that many clever people either do not understand or do not follow the simple instructions offered by the Buddha is that it is just too boring for most people to consider something as simple as devoting the entirety of the energy of their perceptual and cognitive attention to such a seemingly primitive exercise.

It is simple to advert to such phenomenal qualities as the appearance and disappearance of sensations, thoughts, etc., etc., but it is also very difficult to attend to these with any lasting consistency.

It is easy to see the processes but it is very difficult to stick with this kind of simplicity of attention for the protracted lengths of time adequate for the attention to become increasingly refined in making these same very simple and direct observations.

It is the refinement of these observations, in their simplicity, which leads to this form of attention becoming effective in initiating a process of emergence from the fabrication from them of misleading cognitive appearances (such as the seeming necessity of something as obscure as a metaphysics of momentariness) which are always merely aggregated approximations of the more fundamental qualities of very simple and relatively primitive sensory perceptions and the corresponding mental recognitions.

People like to listen to the radio, day after day. The are not so easily led to become interested in spending day after day taking apart radios, piece by piece.

I hope to liberate anyone interested from the impression that observing momentariness is equatable to knowledge of arising and ceasing. I would concur that knowledge of arising and ceasing is one of the stages in a process of attending to observations of arising, observations of ceasing and observations of both of these qualities of phenomena together. I further would concur that when sufficiently repeated, these kinds of simple observations accumulatively culminate, together with subsequent observations fundamentally based upon these primary observations, in initial and subsequent emergences from samara or, as otherwise understood, in nibbana. I would not agree however that observations of arising, of ceasing and of both are the equivalent of observations of a given temporal interval or of a given frequency of phenomenal experience. That is a misunderstanding of the kind of mental development required for the progressive development of the processes of mental refinement which culminate in the appropriate realizations which will lead to understanding and liberation.

The conflation of attending to a metaphysics of momentariness with a practice of attending to observing the ongoing arising and passing of phenomena is a misdirection of attention. To employ sensory perception and mental cognition in such hair splitting exercises can only divert attention from the truly necessary task of attending entirely and specifically as the Buddha continually suggests. The instructions for directing one's attention as given by the Buddha are very simple, very precise and also very notably not occulted by any accompanying metaphysical propositions.

The discussion underway in this thread is simply one more variety of a periodically recurrent manifestation of metaphysical hairsplitting which can serve no practical purpose. In this case it is not even an approachable purpose and as such it is a self defeating proposition. It is useful to note and beware of how such concerns can and will obscure the understanding of the specific forms of attention and the related observations which are the effective functional precursors to the clear and certain knowledge of arising and ceasing and so on.

In order to arrive at "a knowledge of arising and passing away which conforms to the Buddhadhamma" it is necessary to begin by attending to the ongoing concatenation of the variable phenomena of the body, mind and senses, just as it arises, from moment to moment.

It is as simple as that and it is as precise as that and this is why it is difficult.

It is difficult because it is simple and such strict simplicity demands diligent practice and mental self discipline. It is not difficult because bona fide realization requires any kind of supra-normal perceptual and cognitive capacities.

To begin with one attends and re-attends to the quality of arising until this quality, in it's simplicity, of every phenomena initially appearing becomes readily and consistently clear. In this way it becomes reflexively apparent that phenomena can be immediately observed when and as these arise within one's attention. One can then add to this the attention to the quality of phenomena ceasing within the range of one's immediate attention and then the two phenomenal qualities of arising and ceasing can be observed as they operate in concert together.

Sufficient attention, focused in such a way will produce an unshakeable understanding supported by a consistently replicable observation that 'conforms' to a very real and direct awareness that all phenomena, regardless of it's specific forms, avenues of perception, etc., etc., has both of these two common temporal qualities, qualities which are 'just so' and 'not otherwise'. This very fundamental kind of ongoing awareness and understanding will then go on to support realizations which are more refined but which are likewise replicable and which also conform to universal and consistently perceptible and cognizable phenomenological characteristics.

Many similar metaphysical diversions of attention away from this kind of simple and straightforward employment of attention have also been suggested. One such has been the suggestion; as there is a physiological interval between a phenomenal process occurrence, the corresponding sensation of it and the subsequent cognition of a sensation, that it is functionally impossible to become aware of the present moment. It should be noted that while, like the notion of momentariness, this is a clever notion, it is also a useless observation. The appropriate seminal Theravada classification for useless observations is 'inappropriate attention'.

In order for applied mental attention to the arising and passing within awareness of any and all phenomena to be fruitful in the manner intended by the Buddha it is important to focus very specifically and continually on maintaining attention to the consistent nature of phenomena which is consistently arising. Phenomena appears, as if from nowhere, and it sub-sequentially disappears, again as if to nowhere. This is characteristic of all of the phenomena which arises and passes from the range of mental attention and all of it takes place within the context of the immediate moment. There is nothing to be gained by questioning the qualitative nature of either the present or of a moment. There is nothing to be gained from attempts to measure the duration of temporal intervals between phenomenal appearances and disappearances and this is also why there are no instructions to attend to temporal intervals.

It is the nature of all conscious awareness to exist only in the present and it is characteristic of all of the contents of conscious awareness to both appear and then to also disappear in the present.

The origins of the phenomenal content is irrelevant. The various diverse qualities in the nature of the phenomenal content is irrelevant. The duration of the phenomenal content is irrelevant. The frequency of perceptible changes is irrelevant, etc, etc, etc.

The notion of past and future tenses and therefore also the notion of duration have only an abstract and conceptual relationship to the mind and are always the product of meta processes which are fabrications composed of glossing over the actual content of mind in the present. That is why attending to mental fabrications can not be a basis for understanding mental fabrications. Mental fabrications can only be understood from the basis of understanding the primary components of conscious attention from which these are always derived.

The practice is actually very simple and straightforward. It does not rely on metaphysics or supernormal perceptual and cognitive capabilities. Unfortunately such simplicity can sometimes elude very clever people to the extent that they require very elaborate metaphysical rationale for the inefficacy of their own attempts to engage the process of practical realization.

All phenomena will become imperceptible at some point within a recessive horizon of increasingly refined perceptions and cognitions. There are animals equipped with far more sensory refinement and cognitive efficiency than anything which can be developed by human beings. There are instruments without any cognizance whatsoever which are capable of parsing spatial, temporal and qualitative differences to levels of scale many orders of magnitude beyond that achievable by any mind. Such refinement is very obviously unavailable to us as human beings and it is just as obviously unnecessary for human purposes, even for the purpose of realizing the deeply counterintuitive truths demonstrably revealed to us by the Buddha's Dhamma.

I've done my best to present very simple and testable truth in a very tedious manner and in complex terms in the hope that this will dovetail suitably into the foregoing discussion. I doubt I could compose a more obtuse presentation so anyone's attempt to seek forms of clarification will at best only afford simplifications.

For those of us who do not require complex terms to make sense of very simple things I hope it is sufficient to suggest that we avoid all of the many clever conceptual avenues of misdirection which can be fabricated by our minds and instead to take the Buddha's instructions quite literally and approach the practice of meditation very simply, practically and devotedly.
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}
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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby BlackBird » Mon Mar 15, 2010 5:01 am

If you're strolling through this thread and you see Nathan's post above, it's worth 5 minutes of your time :)

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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Mar 15, 2010 5:07 am

BlackBird wrote:If you're strolling through this thread and you see Nathan's post above, it's worth 5 minutes of your time :)

metta
Jack

I thought it was five mins I was never going to get back.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Mar 15, 2010 5:14 am

Greetings,

I liked it - I thought it was well said.

Thanks Nathan.

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)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby Ben » Mon Mar 15, 2010 5:19 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

I liked it - I thought it was well said.

Thanks Nathan.

Metta,
Retro. :)


I agree with you Retro.
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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Mar 15, 2010 5:24 am

All right. I reread it. (--- reading --- reading --- reading ---) Outside of being over the top
. . .I hope to liberate anyone interested from the impression that observing momentariness . . .I've done my best to present very simple and testable truth . . . .
it is not without merit.

There is nothing to be gained from attempts to measure the duration of temporal intervals between phenomenal appearances and disappearances and this is also why there are no instructions to attend to temporal intervals.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Mar 15, 2010 5:27 am

Greetings Tilt,

I think it was deliberately over-the-top in the hope that it might appeal to and be understandable to those with a proclivity for the grandiose.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby Paññāsikhara » Mon Mar 15, 2010 5:47 am

A good broad understanding of the whole religious-philosophical climate in ancient India at that time is probably essential to see both where all these sorts of ideas come from, why they arose, and in which direction they developed. Merely looking at internal evidence within the Theravada tradition is not going to provide enough insight into the whole situation, I am afraid. This is as applicable to the situation with "momentariness" as it is to "atomism".
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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby Prasadachitta » Mon Mar 15, 2010 3:51 pm

I find joy in mere existence of this thread. It improves my confidence in Tilt's oft stated assertion that the Theravada does not need Nagarjuna.


Sadu


:clap:

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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby Alex123 » Mon Mar 15, 2010 5:16 pm

I agree with Nathan.

As I understand it in simple terms:

a) Buddha's teaching is hard for some people not because it is metaphysically complex but because it is too simple (for complicated Thinkers).
b)It is too hard for complicated people to attend to such simply things as watching the mind (and its reaction) toward a simple object.
c) It is much easier to escape into fantasy or theorizing rather than watch the bare experience happening now and working at removing the craving.


"paralysis by analysis"

Is this correct?

With metta,

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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby rowyourboat » Mon Mar 15, 2010 11:11 pm

Hi Alix123

I came across a sutta in the nidana samyutta where a monk is asked whether he knows and sees the steps of paticcasamuppada -and he replies 'yes'. There are also other suttas whether Buddha asks monks to at least have faith in it. So there seems to be a whole range of levels of understanding/accepting this. There is an element of summarizing in it, which is why it can seem etiological, but I think that most elements of it can be directly experienced, at least by proxy.

Nathan is so funny!

with metta
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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby Alex123 » Tue Mar 16, 2010 12:28 am

Hello RYB, all,

Detailed & Experiential knowledge of DO can come as a result of sotopatti phala.
I know that some people have and may quote again certain passage in Netti about how lots of learning is required. But how much learning is much learning? Does it require PhD in Abhidhamma?

“And how, bhikkhus, is one a knowledge-master? When a bhikkhu understands as they really are the origin, the passing away, the gratification, the danger, and the escape in regard to the six bases for contact, such a bhikkhu is a knowledge-master."
SN 35.103 (10) Uddaka - Bhikkhu Bodhi translation.


Does the above requires 100 pages? Or how about below?

"If a monk understands the meaning and the text of Dhamma- even if it be but a stanza of four lines-and be set on living in accordance with the dhamma, he may be called "one widely learnt, who knows Dhamma by heart.". - AN text ii, iv, xix, 186 Vi (186) Approach


Four lines of Dhamma = "one widely learnt" . And I could find more. Of course, blunt us, may need much more instruction. Maybe 40 lines, not 4... But you get the idea.


"100. Better than a thousand useless words is one useful word, hearing which one attains peace.

101. Better than a thousand useless verses is one useful verse, hearing which one attains peace.

102. Better than reciting a hundred meaningless verses is the reciting of one verse of Dhamma, hearing which one attains peace.

110. Better it is to live one day virtuous and meditative than to live a hundred years immoral and uncontrolled.

111. Better it is to live one day wise and meditative than to live a hundred years foolish and uncontrolled."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .budd.html




With metta,

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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Mar 16, 2010 12:32 am

rowyourboat wrote:Hi Alix123

I came across a sutta in the nidana samyutta where a monk is asked whether he knows and sees the steps of paticcasamuppada -and he replies 'yes'. There are also other suttas whether Buddha asks monks to at least have faith in it. So there seems to be a whole range of levels of understanding/accepting this. There is an element of summarizing in it, which is why it can seem etiological, but I think that most elements of it can be directly experienced, at least by proxy.

Nathan is so funny!

with metta

Could you cite the text, please?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby pt1 » Tue Mar 16, 2010 2:55 am

Thanks tilt, RYB and all for your thoughts on this.

One related thing I'm wondering at the moment - regardless of whether a person is instructed in ultimate terms, or in conventional terms, or both, or he just practices as nathan suggests, etc, regardless, when the actual penetration occurs (i.e. from the time stages of insight start happening) - is it always in the same way? What I mean is - penetration always has to do with gaining insight into the ultimate domain - i.e. being aware of different dhammas arising and ceasing, right?. So, its not like if a person is instructed only in conventional terms, then his insight will also remain in the conventional domain only for example. Thanks.

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