Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby retrofuturist » Sat May 22, 2010 7:09 am

Greetings Ben,

Ben wrote:Retro, a message to you from Bhikkhu Nanamoli...


Thanks - I'll go have a look at those chapters now.

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: 14674
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby mikenz66 » Sat May 22, 2010 7:37 am

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Mike,
mikenz66 wrote:Why would anyone who has a well-established practise based on one or other paradigm be disheartened?

Only to the extent that it makes it difficult to have meaningful Dhamma discussions with others on it. Different views on "what's it about?" make subsequent discussions fruitless to impossible... see some of my recent correspondence with pannapetar for an example of this. Or to use another example, if everyone you encountered was a Mahayana Buddhist who thought of Theravada as hinayana, you (plural) would be very hamstrung in terms of having meaningful conversation on concepts and passages from the Pali Canon. Someone with a "well-established practise" may not need quality Dhamma discussion, but I have no doubt they would benefit from it.

I don't see the problem. Isn't the sensible strategy to have those quality discussions with people with sufficiently compatible views and just be polite to the rest of the world?

Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10383
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby retrofuturist » Sat May 22, 2010 8:10 am

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:Isn't the sensible strategy to have those quality discussions with people with sufficiently compatible views and just be polite to the rest of the world?

Sure, I'm not suggesting otherwise.

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: 14674
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby retrofuturist » Sat May 22, 2010 10:49 am

Greetings Ben,

Ben wrote:Retro, a message to you from Bhikkhu Nanamoli

Thank you Ben and Bhikkhu Nanamoli.

On reading, it would seem the following sections in that range are pertinent to the subject of how dependent origination is to be experienced or put into practical use by way of the Mahavihara mode of instruction.

XIX - 11,12
XX - 7,8,101,104

Interestingly (and I'm happy for someone to give reason as to why they think it is otherwise), the instruction in those sections would appear to be more aligned to a simplified suttanta description of dependent origination, that the complex paccaya-infused Visuddimagga model with its temporal partitioning and reliance on Abhidhammic principles. In essence, there's nothing in those sections that seems to necessitate one particular mode of dependent origination interpretation over another, so long as the links are understood to be structured in the correct order, as taught by the Buddha. As indicated above, I'd be more than happy to hear from someone who wishes to suggest otherwise, or who thinks there is further utilisation of dependent origination in the XVII-XXI range that I may have missed through my unfamiliarity with the schema.

:reading:

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: 14674
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby pt1 » Sat May 22, 2010 11:45 am

Anicca wrote:Sorry but the link does not work.

Hm, not sure what's happening, I tried it again, it worked for me, when you click on it - it should try to download the .doc file rather than go to a specific web-page. Either way, thanks to Cooran for an alternative link. I tried attaching it here, but it seems .doc files are not allowed as attachments.

You can also get to that file in the Files section on http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dhammastudygroup/
You'd need to be a member of the group to access it that way though.

retrofuturist wrote:It would be best to read Nanavira's original, then Bhikkhu Bodhi's critique, and then the critique on Bhikkhu Bodhi's critique that's available on the Nanavira website.

Yeah, that would be a good way to research the topic. I also wish more of the Mahavihara commentary was available in English, especially the commentaries to the suttas that deal with D.O. specifically.

Best wishes
pt1
 
Posts: 415
Joined: Thu Jan 22, 2009 2:30 am

Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby Anicca » Sat May 22, 2010 1:24 pm

pt1 wrote:Hm, not sure what's happening, I tried it again, it worked for me, when you click on it - it should try to download the .doc file rather than go to a specific web-page. Either way, thanks to Cooran for an alternative link.

Must be my connection - still only get "The webpage cannot be found HTTP 404".

pt1 wrote:You can also get to that file in the Files section on http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dhammastudygroup/
You'd need to be a member of the group to access it that way though.

- will join to download.

Thanks

Metta
Anicca
 
Posts: 393
Joined: Thu Apr 29, 2010 4:11 am
Location: Edmond, Oklahoma

Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby Shonin » Sat May 22, 2010 9:41 pm

Thanks for the links and recommendations. I'm just responding from a superficial understanding right now. Here is one fundamental initial question:

Each of these twelve nidanas are said to condition the next, does this mean that the latter nidana does not exist until caused by the former? Or does it mean that both already exist but that conditionality 'flows' only in the direction described? Or does it mean something else?
Last edited by Shonin on Sat May 22, 2010 10:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Shonin
 
Posts: 583
Joined: Wed Apr 28, 2010 5:11 am

Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby mikenz66 » Sat May 22, 2010 9:54 pm

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote:
Ben wrote:Retro, a message to you from Bhikkhu Nanamoli

Thank you Ben and Bhikkhu Nanamoli.

On reading, it would seem the following sections in that range are pertinent to the subject of how dependent origination is to be experienced or put into practical use by way of the Mahavihara mode of instruction.

XIX - 11,12
XX - 7,8,101,104

Interestingly (and I'm happy for someone to give reason as to why they think it is otherwise), the instruction in those sections would appear to be more aligned to a simplified suttanta description of dependent origination, that the complex paccaya-infused Visuddimagga model with its temporal partitioning and reliance on Abhidhammic principles. In essence, there's nothing in those sections that seems to necessitate one particular mode of dependent origination interpretation over another, so long as the links are understood to be structured in the correct order, as taught by the Buddha. As indicated above, I'd be more than happy to hear from someone who wishes to suggest otherwise, or who thinks there is further utilisation of dependent origination in the XVII-XXI range that I may have missed through my unfamiliarity with the schema.

Since I don't find the approach of Ven Nanavira convincing, I don't find the standard interpretation of the Visuddhimagga any more complex. To me, an obvious reading of the Suttas is that some things in the past, some in the future, reading birth and death as having their usual meanings. The stuff in the middle is, on the other hand, very dynamic.

I'm not inclined to go through all of those arguments again. Let's look at the passages Retro mentioned.

As I said in a previous post:
mikenz66 wrote:... the contact-feeling-craving-clinging sequence is a present-moment thing no matter what interpretation of DO you subscribe to.

As for the rest of the sequence, I guess it's "applied" in the same way as other teachings, as a basis for reflection and understanding.

So, in Vism chapter XX the mediator is
XIX 1. Knowledge established by overcoming doubt about the three divisions of time by means of discerning the conditions of that same mentality-materiality is called 'purification by overcoming doubt'.

2. The Bikkhu who wants to accomplish this sets about seeking the cause and condition of that materiality-mentality; just as when a skilled physician encounters a disease he seeks its origin, or just as when a compassionate man sees a tender little child lying on its back on the road he wonders who its parents are.

Then there are several different scenarios that a meditator may follow to achieve this. It seems to me that these involve a combination of reflection and direct knowledge of the presently arising objects to lead to the final conclusion, e.g.:
XIX 10. When he has seen that the occurrence of materiality-mentality is due to conditions in this way, he sees also that, as now, so too in the past its occurrence was due to conditions., and in the future its occurrence will be due to conditions. When he sees it in this way, his uncertainty about the three periods of time is abandoned in the way already stated.

XIX 11, 12 are then reports on alternative ways that other mediators found useful, described in less detail, but with the same conclusion that "... uncertainty is abandoned in the way already stated."

At this point the meditator seems to be clear about kamma and dependent origination. That what arises is due to causes and conditions, and in XIX 26 he sees "by inference from that, all formations are clearly seen as impermanent, ... painful .... not-self..."

XX 7,8 continues in the same sort of way. Everything "past, present, future, is impermanent, formed, dependently arisen, subject to destruction, subject to fall, subject to fading away, subject to cessation."

Now at XX 93-104 we are into the insight sections. In particular, "Knowledge of Rise and Fall". It seems to me that here the focus is much more on the actual experience. Just seeing formations rising an falling. This is said to be a , key step, often misinterpreted as awakening, hence the discussion starting at XX 105 on "The Ten Imperfections of Insight".

XX 93-104 involve a combination of seeing rise and fall in terms of the various analyses, including dependent origination. The meditator understands in terms of all the methods of analyses.

As Mahasi Sayadaw's discussion of this stage says: http://aimwell.org/Books/Mahasi/Progres ... ml#Arising
Therefore the meditator then believes: "There is no body-and-mind process that cannot be noticed." When examining the characteristics of impermanence, etc., or other aspects of reality, he understands everything quite clearly and at once, and he believes it to be the knowledge derived from direct experience.


If you like the Nanavira interpretation you can certainly read the Visuddhimagga passages using that paradigm. But, as I said above, no version of DO is static, so I don't find it necessary to read it that way.

Thank you for bringing these sections to our attention. The point I would like to end with is that the Visuddhimagga seems to be summarising the experiential knowledge of many people. Far from a dry treatise, it's exactly the sort of thing that a real-life teacher might tell you:
"This meditator found this approach fruitful, another found this useful, ..."

Metta
Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10383
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby mikenz66 » Sat May 22, 2010 10:01 pm

Hi Shonin,
Shonin wrote:Thanks for the links and recommendations. I'm just responding from a superficial understanding right now. Here is one findamental initial question:

Each of these twelve nidanas are said to condition the next, does this mean that the latter nidana does not exist until caused by the former? Or does it mean that both already exist but that conditionality 'flows' only in the direction described? Or something else?

I don't think cause is the right word. These are some of the conditions required. Also note that there are several different expositions of DO in the Suttas, some leaving out some steps, and so on. I would think of the 12-step thing as a kind of standard template, useful for understanding the basic pattern, but not all the details.

Sorry, out of time here. Various Suttas are listed here: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/index-subject.html#ps

Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10383
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby Shonin » Sat May 22, 2010 10:07 pm

OK, my mistake - switch the word 'cause' there for 'condition'.
Shonin
 
Posts: 583
Joined: Wed Apr 28, 2010 5:11 am

Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby retrofuturist » Sat May 22, 2010 10:49 pm

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:Now at XX 93-104 we are into the insight sections. In particular, "Knowledge of Rise and Fall". It seems to me that here the focus is much more on the actual experience. Just seeing formations rising an falling. This is said to be a , key step, often misinterpreted as awakening, hence the discussion starting at XX 105 on "The Ten Imperfections of Insight".

Just to follow up on the bolded bit briefly, the earlier Section XIX-27 sees the attainment of stream-entry, so...

- Is the Visuddhimagga intended to show a chronological/sequential path to purification, chapter by chapter?
- If so, would the teaching in Chapter XX (and beyond) pertain then only to a sekha?

Also, in the sections mentioned above, did you get the impression that for those time periods which were deemed future or past, they were known through inference and extrapolation, as opposed to direct observation, facilitated by recollection of past lives, omniscience or mental time-travel? That is how it seemed, to me. It seemed as if the impermanence of x was observed and this impermanence was extrapolated to the past and future.

mikenz66 wrote:Since I don't find the approach of Ven Nanavira convincing, I don't find the standard interpretation of the Visuddhimagga any more complex.

I know you're reticent to proceed too far along this path, but I have a question that I think is relevant to the topic, and I promise to tread carefully...

In Bhikkhu Bodhi's critique of Nanavira he says the following...

Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote:I am not saying that the detailed exposition of pa.ticca-samuppaada (PS) as found in the Pali Commentaries can in all particulars be traced back to the Suttas. The aim of the Commentaries, in their treatment of PS, is to correlate the Suttanta teaching of PS with the systematic analysis of phenomena and their conditional relations as found in the Abhidhamma. This results in an explanation of PS that is far more complex and technical than anything that can be drawn out from the Sutta texts themselves. I do not think that acceptance of the basic dynamics of the "three-life" approach entails acceptance of all the details of the commentarial explanation, and I also believe that the Commentaries take unnecessary risks when they try to read back into the Suttas ideas deriving from tools of interpretation that appeared perhaps centuries after the Suttas were compiled. All that I wish to maintain is that the essential vision underlying the commentarial interpretation is correct: namely, that the twelvefold formula of PS extends over three lives and as such describes the generative structure of sa.msaara, the round of repeated births.

Obviously, I find it confusing personally because I'm not au fait with the "the systematic analysis of phenomena and their conditional relations as found in the Abhidhamma" and like Bhikkhu Bodhi, "I also believe that the Commentaries take unnecessary risks when they try to read back into the Suttas ideas deriving from tools of interpretation that appeared perhaps centuries after the Suttas were compiled" - risks I'm reticent to take (and you already know my reasons why, so I won't elaborate further here).

So when you say "I don't find the standard interpretation of the Visuddhimagga any more complex" are you simply suggesting, like Bhikkhu Bodhi that "the essential vision underlying the commentarial interpretation is correct: namely, that the twelvefold formula of PS extends over three lives" or are you actually explicitly saying you find that "correlat[ion of] the Suttanta teaching of PS with the systematic analysis of phenomena and their conditional relations as found in the Abhidhamma" isn't particularly complex even though Bhikkhu Bodhi says it is "far more complex and technical than anything that can be drawn out from the Sutta texts themselves"?

The relevance of this line of questioning?... I want to ascertain whether adhering to the Mahavihara account necessitates embracing "the whole box and dice", or whether adoption of simply the three-life version of dependent origination (devoid of the complexities Bhihhu Bodhi refers to) is sufficient in order to claim full compliance with the Mahavihara position. Are there shades of grey in what constitutes the "Mahavihara account" that Shonin is inquiring about?

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: 14674
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby Ben » Sat May 22, 2010 11:16 pm

The Visuddhimagga is probably best regarded as a detailed manual for meditation masters, and as a work of reference.
-- p xliii
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Hereclitus


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
 
Posts: 16138
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: Land of the sleeping gods

Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby retrofuturist » Sun May 23, 2010 1:43 am

Greetings Ben,

Ben wrote:
The Visuddhimagga is probably best regarded as a detailed manual for meditation masters, and as a work of reference.
-- p xliii

Accepting that as so, that doesn't mean though that the "Mahavihara account" is best suited to "meditation masters, and as a work of reference", does it?

What about the average run-of-the-mill Theravadin - is the Mahavihara account presently beyond the scope of their cognition and understanding?

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: 14674
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby mikenz66 » Sun May 23, 2010 2:50 am

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:Now at XX 93-104 we are into the insight sections. In particular, "Knowledge of Rise and Fall". It seems to me that here the focus is much more on the actual experience. Just seeing formations rising an falling. This is said to be a , key step, often misinterpreted as awakening, hence the discussion starting at XX 105 on "The Ten Imperfections of Insight".

Just to follow up on the bolded bit briefly, the earlier Section XIX-27 sees the attainment of stream-entry, so...

- Is the Visuddhimagga intended to show a chronological/sequential path to purification, chapter by chapter?
- If so, would the teaching in Chapter XX (and beyond) pertain then only to a sekha?

I think that the terminology is confusing. XIX-27 talks about a "lesser stream enterer", not a stream enterer.

The rise and fall stage discussed in XX93-104 is the fourth vipassana nana (where 15 and 16 are path and fruition). Reading the contents page of Mahasi Sayadaw's Progress of Insight is helpful.
http://aimwell.org/Books/Mahasi/Progress/progress.html
Or Ven Nyanatiloka's Vipassana entry: http://what-buddha-said.net/library/Bud ... ssan%C4%81
And page 345 of Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma
http://books.google.co.nz/books?id=hxop ... &q&f=false
(Note that the numberings are different in different summaries. Also note that one has to go through the same process for each path. I.e. after stream entry you go back to observing rise and fall etc, but with better insight.)

retrofuturist wrote:Also, in the sections mentioned above, did you get the impression that for those time periods which were deemed future or past, they were known through inference and extrapolation, as opposed to direct observation, facilitated by recollection of past lives, omniscience or mental time-travel? That is how it seemed, to me. It seemed as if the impermanence of x was observed and this impermanence was extrapolated to the past and future.

Yes. I think it's clear that some things we find out through observing them and some by extrapolation. Besides, things that happened in the past are known from observation, just not observation at this precise moment. In fact, if you want to observe the coming and going of anything that implies comparison over some finite period of time.

retrofuturist wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:Since I don't find the approach of Ven Nanavira convincing, I don't find the standard interpretation of the Visuddhimagga any more complex.

I know you're reticent to proceed too far along this path, but I have a question that I think is relevant to the topic, and I promise to tread carefully...

In Bhikkhu Bodhi's critique of Nanavira he says the following...

Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote:I am not saying that the detailed exposition of pa.ticca-samuppaada (PS) as found in the Pali Commentaries can in all particulars be traced back to the Suttas. The aim of the Commentaries, in their treatment of PS, is to correlate the Suttanta teaching of PS with the systematic analysis of phenomena and their conditional relations as found in the Abhidhamma. This results in an explanation of PS that is far more complex and technical than anything that can be drawn out from the Sutta texts themselves. I do not think that acceptance of the basic dynamics of the "three-life" approach entails acceptance of all the details of the commentarial explanation, and I also believe that the Commentaries take unnecessary risks when they try to read back into the Suttas ideas deriving from tools of interpretation that appeared perhaps centuries after the Suttas were compiled. All that I wish to maintain is that the essential vision underlying the commentarial interpretation is correct: namely, that the twelvefold formula of PS extends over three lives and as such describes the generative structure of sa.msaara, the round of repeated births.

Obviously, I find it confusing personally because I'm not au fait with the "the systematic analysis of phenomena and their conditional relations as found in the Abhidhamma" and like Bhikkhu Bodhi, "I also believe that the Commentaries take unnecessary risks when they try to read back into the Suttas ideas deriving from tools of interpretation that appeared perhaps centuries after the Suttas were compiled" - risks I'm reticent to take (and you already know my reasons why, so I won't elaborate further here).

So when you say "I don't find the standard interpretation of the Visuddhimagga any more complex" are you simply suggesting, like Bhikkhu Bodhi that "the essential vision underlying the commentarial interpretation is correct: namely, that the twelvefold formula of PS extends over three lives" or are you actually explicitly saying you find that "correlat[ion of] the Suttanta teaching of PS with the systematic analysis of phenomena and their conditional relations as found in the Abhidhamma" isn't particularly complex even though Bhikkhu Bodhi says it is "far more complex and technical than anything that can be drawn out from the Sutta texts themselves"?

The relevance of this line of questioning?... I want to ascertain whether adhering to the Mahavihara account necessitates embracing "the whole box and dice", or whether adoption of simply the three-life version of dependent origination (devoid of the complexities Bhihhu Bodhi refers to) is sufficient in order to claim full compliance with the Mahavihara position. Are there shades of grey in what constitutes the "Mahavihara account" that Shonin is inquiring about?

I'm not really qualified to answer this, since I'm not inclined to do a systematic analysis of all this stuff, and completely disinclined to study two versions in sufficient depth for the purposes of determining which is, in fact, the most complicated! I'm more interested in putting it into practise.

I'm sure Bhikkhu Bodhi is right. If one does want to study the whole of the Abhidhamma and commentarial explanations, it's going to be complicated.
But I don't find Chapter VIII, Compendium of Conditionality, in Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma
http://books.google.co.nz/books?id=hxop ... &q&f=false
particularly difficult to follow. Or the similar description in Ven Nyanatiloka's entry on Paticcasamuppāda
http://what-buddha-said.net/library/Bud ... pp%C4%81da
[Defining difficult In a purely intellectual-analytical sense. Like anatta, a simply logical understanding is not too hard. Realising it properly is another issue...]

Remember that there are a number of Suttas that use various versions of DO, and have various "feedback loops" in them, so any kind of comprehensive explanation beyond: "Here's the most common 12 steps, there are other variations" is going to have to be complicated.

It's up to you whether you want to embrace the whole thing. Personally, I approach the Dhamma with the attitude that if I find something difficult I'll put it aside and think about it later. That's not to say that I think that the commentaries are perfect, but one only has a finite amount of time to deal with this stuff.

Since the teachers I trust use the Mahasi approach, and seem to have a few clues about it, I have some confidence in the Dhamma. Since Mahasi Sayadaw's exposition is based on the commentaries, and I don't have any serious issues with the commentarial explanation, I have no particular reason to pay a lot of attention to other expositions, except as a matter of some intellectual interest to see what others are up to. I make no apologies that this is the way I approach the Dhamma. Others may find analysing the alternatives useful, and good luck to them.

As I said, it seems clear to me from the Visuddhimagga passages we've been discussing that those commentaries are based on the experience of many people who have gone through the process, and analysed it in that way. So I take it more seriously than the pronouncements of any one modern commentator. And, of course, many modern commentators such as Mahasi Sayadaw, U Pandita, Joseph Goldstein, Steve Armstrong, describe those same insight steps from their own point of view. And my guess is that that others who use different interpretations, such as Ajahn Buddhadasa or Ven Nanavira, are describing the same things using a different language.

Hmm, this is getting rather long...

Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10383
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby mikenz66 » Sun May 23, 2010 3:09 am

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote:
Ben wrote:
The Visuddhimagga is probably best regarded as a detailed manual for meditation masters, and as a work of reference.
-- p xliii

Accepting that as so, that doesn't mean though that the "Mahavihara account" is best suited to "meditation masters, and as a work of reference", does it?

Yes, that is probably what it sets out to do, and why it includes so many alternative ways of approaching various meditation subjects and insights. Just as you wouldn't expect any one person to use all 40 samatha objects, a particular person would not use all of the several alternatives presented in the insight chapters.

In my experience a real-life teacher will try to just tell the meditator the minimum necessary to not to get stuck, and certainly not all the alternatives...
retrofuturist wrote:What about the average run-of-the-mill Theravadin - is the Mahavihara account presently beyond the scope of their cognition and understanding?

This seems like a slightly pointless question that could just as easily be applied to Ven Nanavira's explanations. And it depends what you mean by "the Mahavihara account". Do you mean reading the entire Visuddhimagga, and vast tracts of Abhidhamma and commentaries? Or do you mean skimming through the CMA and Ven Nyanatiloka's dictionary entries?

One answer (that has been expressed on this board) that it is pointless to read stuff you are not ready for, including most of the Suttas, and better to wait for your teacher to give you material depending on your progress. I'm sure that you would not find that answer useful.

Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10383
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby Ben » Sun May 23, 2010 3:37 am

mikenz66 wrote:As I said, it seems clear to me from the Visuddhimagga passages we've been discussing that those commentaries are based on the experience of many people who have gone through the process, and analysed it in that way. So I take it more seriously than the pronouncements of any one modern commentator. And, of course, many modern commentators such as Mahasi Sayadaw, U Pandita, Joseph Goldstein, Steve Armstrong, describe those same insight steps from their own point of view. And my guess is that that others who use different interpretations, such as Ajahn Buddhadasa or Ven Nanavira, are describing the same things using a different language.


What I want to say is that I share Mike's assessment for exactly the same reasons. And Mike's point above cannot be stated too firmly. The Visuddhimagga, sadly, is vastly under-rated and I think that is because of its formality. In reality it is a treasure chest for those who are only willing to put in the effort to read it, understand it and put it into practice.
kind regards

Ben
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Hereclitus


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
 
Posts: 16138
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: Land of the sleeping gods

Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby Ben » Sun May 23, 2010 3:46 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Ben,

Ben wrote:
The Visuddhimagga is probably best regarded as a detailed manual for meditation masters, and as a work of reference.
-- p xliii

Accepting that as so, that doesn't mean though that the "Mahavihara account" is best suited to "meditation masters, and as a work of reference", does it?

Then it begs the question: why is it (probably) the most cited Theravadin text besides the Nikayas?

retrofuturist wrote:What about the average run-of-the-mill Theravadin - is the Mahavihara account presently beyond the scope of their cognition and understanding?


For this run-of-the-mill theravadin, and I can assure you that there is no-one more run-of-the-mill, the Vism is of profound practical value. My recommendation to you Retro (and to anyone) is to spend some time getting acquianted with it and getting reacquainted with it, and on its own terms.
kind regards

Ben
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Hereclitus


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
 
Posts: 16138
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: Land of the sleeping gods

Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby mikenz66 » Sun May 23, 2010 4:09 am

Hi Ben,
Ben wrote:Then it begs the question: why is it (probably) the most cited Theravadin text besides the Nikayas?

This is certainly true in English language literature. Perhaps harder to say if we were reading in Burmese, Thai, or Sinhalese...

However, one might ask why the commentaries themselves are not more widely quoted, when the Visuddhimagga is a kind of summary and selection from the commentaries. In the English literature clearly that's because most of the commentaries are inaccessible unless one can read commentarial Pali, which I understand is much more difficult than reading Suttas. Luckily Bhikkhu Bodhi, Thanissaro Bhikku, and others, do include selections from the commentaries with their translations.

I think it is a pity that more commentary is not available in English, since reading the commentary of a single Sutta (such as the Satipatthana Sutta, which is available in print and on-line) is much easier than coming to grips with a huge meta-summary-commentary like the Visuddhimagga... This is going a little off topic. See this thread: viewtopic.php?f=19&t=4340#p65535

Getting a little more on-topic, I would urge people to see the commentaries and Vism as collections of various observations and advice gleaned from experience since the time of the Buddha, rather than as some sort of unified position paper from the Theravada bureaucracy. If the statements sometimes seem somewhat random, contradictory, or even useless, I think that's because their nature is like a summary of a number of Dhamma talks from various teachers...

Due to this nature, I find statements and questions about "Ven Buddhaghosa's opinion" or "the Mahavihara position" rather miss the point. There are places where Ven Buddhaghosa actually makes statements like: "On this point the Majjhima reciters say X and the Samyutta reciters say Y...". A commentary is a conversation, not a "last word".

Mike
Last edited by mikenz66 on Sun May 23, 2010 4:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10383
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby Ben » Sun May 23, 2010 4:22 am

Hi Mike

Yes, I understand what you are saying. Unfortunately, there isn't a great amount of material translated into English. Even still, the Vism is cited by scholars and authors who are familiar with Pali, and it would be reasonable to assume that they have access to other commentarial literature.
I don't think its a good idea to dismiss it (Vism).
kind regards

Ben
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Hereclitus


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
 
Posts: 16138
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: Land of the sleeping gods

Re: Dependent Origination: Mahavihara account

Postby retrofuturist » Sun May 23, 2010 6:07 am

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:What about the average run-of-the-mill Theravadin - is the Mahavihara account presently beyond the scope of their cognition and understanding?

This seems like a slightly pointless question that could just as easily be applied to Ven Nanavira's explanations. And it depends what you mean by "the Mahavihara account". Do you mean reading the entire Visuddhimagga, and vast tracts of Abhidhamma and commentaries? Or do you mean skimming through the CMA and Ven Nyanatiloka's dictionary entries?

I don't know, because I don't know at what level of depth people approach these things. For many, Theravada Buddhism extends barely beyond sila, a few Jataka Tales and the Dhammapada, so to them these things would seem very alien, yet they may claim to support or endorse the classical Mahavihara account. Others may have them filtered through their teachers (which sounds like what happens to you), some may approach the Visuddhimagga on their own to complement their own teacher's instruction (which sounds like what happens to Ben)... so I don't know. I'm sure even I know more about it than most Theravadins, having actually read Visuddhimagga, A Manual of Abhidhamma and other writings pertaining to the Mahavihara period. The level of complexity involved in the "whole box and dice" Mahavihara account (which I've seen, but not necessarily grasped in toto) seems prohibitive for most people. I assume I "could" understand it better conceptually if I tried harder but once it reaches a certain point of complexity it becomes either so far divorced from the suttas, or (from my perspective) speculative or pedantic, that I hear the echoes of the Simsapa Sutta calling me back to the suttas. I guess that's just a threshold tolerance I have for some Dhamma writings which I don't pass through. In the absence of a teacher, I use suttas like the Simsapa Sutta and the Mahaparinibbana Sutta to keep the from going off-track.

mikenz66 wrote:Getting a little more on-topic, I would urge people to see the commentaries and Vism as collections of various observations and advice gleaned from experience since the time of the Buddha, rather than as some sort of unified position paper from the Theravada bureaucracy. If the statements sometimes seem somewhat random, contradictory, or even useless, I think that's because their nature is like a summary of a number of Dhamma talks from various teachers...

Which raises the question of whether there's even a "Mahavihara account" at all... or is it just an omnibus of "various observations and advice"?

mikenz66 wrote:One answer (that has been expressed on this board) that it is pointless to read stuff you are not ready for, including most of the Suttas, and better to wait for your teacher to give you material depending on your progress. I'm sure that you would not find that answer useful.

Not having a teacher, no... though I don't find I have problems with anything in the suttas... only that over time, one may gain a deeper and more subtle appreciation of them compared to one's earlier encounters with the same text.

I'm not sure how much of this helps Shonin, but I appreciate it nonetheless.

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: 14674
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

PreviousNext

Return to General Theravāda discussion

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Kasina and 6 guests