Consciousness without surface, without end

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Consciousness without surface, without end

Postby clw_uk » Fri Feb 06, 2009 10:27 pm

“‘Consciousness without surface,
without end,
luminous all around:
Here water, earth, fire, & wind
have no footing.
Here long & short
coarse & fine
fair & foul
name & form
are all brought to an end.
With the cessation of consciousness
each is here brought to an end.’”


I have come accross this passage which I would like to discuss.

In this extract it appears the buddha is stating that there is a Consciousness that is seperate from the elements, name and form etc but Consciousness as i understand depends on six sense bases etc for exsistence so how can there be consciousness seperate from this?

Also it says "With the cessation of consciousness each is here brought to an end" but at the begining the buddha states "Consciousness, without surface, without end" which appears to describe a consciousness after cesstation, but how can there be consciousness when consciousness has come to cesstation?


Hope that made sense.

Any thoughts on this passage?

:namaste:
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Re: Consciousness without surface, without end

Postby Element » Fri Feb 06, 2009 11:09 pm

‘Kattha āpo ca pathavī, tejo vāyo na gādhati;
Kattha dīghañca rassañca, aṇuṃ thūlaṃ subhāsubhaṃ;
Kattha nāmañca rūpañca, asesaṃ uparujjhatī’ti.

‘‘Tatra veyyākaraṇaṃ bhavati –

‘Viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ, anantaṃ sabbatopabhaṃ;
Ettha āpo ca pathavī, tejo vāyo na gādhati.
Ettha dīghañca rassañca, aṇuṃ thūlaṃ subhāsubhaṃ;
Ettha nāmañca rūpañca, asesaṃ uparujjhati;
Viññāṇassa nirodhena, etthetaṃ uparujjhatī’ti.

Where do water, earth, fire, & wind have no footing?
Where are long & short, coarse & fine, fair & foul,
Name & form brought to an end?

"'And the answer to that is:

Consciousness without feature, without end, luminous all around:
Here water, earth, fire, & wind have no footing.
Here long & short coarse & fine fair & foul
Name & form are all brought to an end.
With the quenching of consciousness, each is here brought to an end.'"

DN 11
Last edited by Element on Fri Feb 06, 2009 11:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Consciousness without surface, without end

Postby Element » Fri Feb 06, 2009 11:19 pm

clw_uk wrote:Also it says "With the cessation of consciousness each is here brought to an end" but at the begining the buddha states "Consciousness, without surface, without end" which appears to describe a consciousness after cesstation, but how can there be consciousness when consciousness has come to cesstation?

Hi Craig

This is simply a translation problem and a salient, if not the most serious, translation problem in the Western scholarly tradition.

The word that does not make sense is 'cessation', coming from the Pali 'nirodha'.

The word nirodha means 'quenching' or 'extinguishing', like thirst quenches or a fire extinguishes. Here the 'heat' or 'fire' is removed. The Buddha often said the mental defilements of greed, hatred and delusion are 'fires' (such as in The Fire Sermon and the Upadana Sutta).

'Cessation' or 'disappearance' is not a correct translation of the Pali word 'nirodha'. This mistranslation leads to an incapacity to understand the Buddha's teaching.

In the Buddha's words, in accordance to the Third Noble Truth, the word nirodha always implies the cessation or quenching of dukkha. For example, if consciousness experiences nirodha, this means the suffering and its causes are removed from that consciousness.

For example, in SN 22.53 , there is the following paragraph:
When that consciousness is unestablished, not coming to growth, nongenerative, it is liberated. By being liberated, it is steady; by being steady, it is content; by being content, he is not agitated. Being not agitated, he personally attains Nibbana. He understands: 'Destroyed is birth, the holy life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more for this state of being'.

In brief, when consciousness experiences dukkha nirodha, it becomes luminous without feature.

With metta

Element
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Re: Consciousness without surface, without end

Postby clw_uk » Fri Feb 06, 2009 11:34 pm

Thank you Element, kind makes more sense now with that alternative translation.

So what it means is that dukkha goes out, not the ending of counsciousness itself?
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Re: Consciousness without surface, without end

Postby Element » Fri Feb 06, 2009 11:42 pm

clw_uk wrote:So what it means is that dukkha goes out, not the ending of counsciousness itself?

Yes.

I strongly recommend the following lecture: 5. Noble Truth of Dukkha's Quenching (part 1 | part 2).

I listened to this lecture live in 1989. The translator is Santikaro Bhikkhu. The Thai had been removed but occassionally one can hear Buddhadasa talk.

Kind regards,

Element

It appears Part 1 is not playing correctly. It cuts out after 1 minute. If interested, contact the webmaster.
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Re: Consciousness without surface, without end

Postby Element » Sat Feb 07, 2009 12:10 am

clw_uk wrote:In this extract it appears the buddha is stating that there is a Consciousness that is seperate from the elements, name and form etc but Consciousness as i understand depends on six sense bases etc for exsistence so how can there be consciousness seperate from this?

For me, having 'no footing' means consciousness does not absorb or become fixated (attached) to earth, wind, fire and water. We must recall the bhikkhu asked the Buddha the invalid question: "Where do the four great elements cease without remainder?"

However, regarding the nama-rupa, I am unsure of the meaning and the related Pali 'asesaṃ uparujjhati'.

With metta

Element
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Re: Consciousness without surface, without end

Postby Jason » Sat Feb 07, 2009 2:07 am

clw_uk,

clw_uk wrote:I have come accross this passage which I would like to discuss.

In this extract it appears the buddha is stating that there is a Consciousness that is seperate from the elements, name and form etc but Consciousness as i understand depends on six sense bases etc for exsistence so how can there be consciousness seperate from this?

Also it says "With the cessation of consciousness each is here brought to an end" but at the begining the buddha states "Consciousness, without surface, without end" which appears to describe a consciousness after cesstation, but how can there be consciousness when consciousness has come to cesstation?


Hope that made sense.

Any thoughts on this passage?


Well, for starters, in his An Introduction to Buddhism, Peter Harvey writes (63-4):

    Nevertheless, certain passages in the Suttas hint that Nibbana may be a radically transformed state of consciousness (vinnana):

      The consciousness in which nothing can be made manifest (like space), endless, accessible from all sides (or: wholly radiant):
      Here it is that solidity, cohesion, heat and motion have no footing,
      Here long and short, coarse and fine, foul and lovely (have no footing),
      Here it is that mind (nama) and body (rupa) stop without remainder:
      By the stopping of consciousness, (all) this stops here. (D.I.223)

    Like Ud.80, above, this describes a state beyond the four physical elements, where mind-and-body are transcended. As the heart of Conditioned Arising is the mutual conditioning of consciousness and mind-and-body, this state is where this interaction ceases: from the stopping of consciousness, mind-and-body stops. Consciousness is not non-existent when it stops, however; for it is said to be non-manifestive and endless. One passage on the stopping (nirodha) of the nidana of consciousness (S.III.54-5) says that there is no longer any object (arammana) or support (patittha) for consciousness; consciousness is thus 'unsupported' (apatitthita) and free of constructing activities, so that it is released, steadfast, content, undisturbed, and attains Nibbana. This desription, of a 'stopped' consciousness which is unsupported by any mental object, where mind-and-body are transcended, seems to accord well with the Ud.80 description of Nibbana itself.

    To say that Nibbana is unconditioned, objectless consciousness indicates something of its nature, but it does not penetrate far into its mystery. For it seems impossible to imagine what awareness devoid of any object would be like. As regards the 'stopping' of mind-and-body, as a state occurring during life, this is perhaps to be understood as one where all mental processes (including ordinary consciousness) temporarily cease, and the matter of the body is seen as so ephemeral as not to signify a 'body'. A passage at M. I.329-30 which parallels D.I.223 says that the non-manifestive consciousness 'is not reached by the solidness of solidity, by the cohesiveness of cohesion...'. The analysis of Nibbana as objectless consciousness, though, is the author's own interpretation. Theravadin tradition sees Nibbana as 'objectless' (Dhs.I408), but regards 'consciousness' as always having an object. D.I.223 is thus interpreted as concerning NIbbana as to-be-known-by-consciousness: Nibbana is itself the object of the Arahat's consciousness (Pati.II.I43-5).

But this term has engendered a fair bit of controversy. As I have posted elsewhere:

    In terms of the aggregate of consciousness (vinnana-khandha), it is clear that consciousness is a dependently existing phenomena ... However, there are a couple of sutta passages which could seem to suggest that there is a form of consciousness that does not come under the aggregate of consciousness. For example, Thanissaro Bhikkhu states in a note to his translation of MN 109: "One form of consciousness apparently does not come under the aggregate of consciousness. This type of consciousness is termed vinnanam anidassanam — consciousness without a surface, or consciousness without feature. MN 49 says specifically that this consciousness does not partake of the "allness of the all," the "all" being conterminous with the five aggregates. The standard definition of the aggregate of consciousness states that this aggregate includes all consciousness, "past, present, or future... near or far." However, because vinnanam anidassanam stands outside of space and time it would not be covered by these terms. Similarly, where SN 22.97 says that no consciousness is eternal, "eternal" is a concept that applies only within the dimension of time, and thus would not apply to this form of consciousness." While this view that there is a type of consciousness that lies outside of space and time, and therefore, outside the consciousness-aggregate altogether is not a view that is supported by the "classical" Theravada Tradition in which the entire Tipitaka and its commentaries are considered authoritative, the imagery of consciousness that "does not land or increase" mentioned in SN 12.64 does seem to support such a possibilty, even if some might say that comparing this imagery of consciousness that "does not land or grow" to the consciousness of Nibbana is taking it out of context. At least I think so.

    But the commentaries gloss the term "vinnanam anidassanam" in a way that denies such a possibilty. Using the Kevatta Sutta (DN 11), for example, Suan Lu Zaw, a Burmese lay-teacher of Pali and Abhidhamma, explains that according the the Kevatta Sutta Atthakatha [DN 11 commentary], vinnanam does not refer to the usual meaning of "consciousness" here, but instead defines it as, "There, to be known specifically, so (it is) "vinnanam." This is the name of Nibbana." He also explains that the following line of DN 11, "Here (in Nibbana), nama as well as rupa cease without remainder. By ceasing of conscousness, nama as well as rupa ceases here" illustrates this point. He states that, "Nibbana does not become a sort of consciousness just because one of the Pali names happens to be vinnanam." And finally, he concludes by using a quote from a section of the Dhammapada Attakatha [Dhammapada commentary], which apparently states that there is no consciousness component in parinibbana after the death of an arahant. This, of course, is in direct contrast to Thanissaro Bhikkhu's note to this particular sutta which suggests that this term refers to a consciousness that lies outside of space and time, and therefore, outside the consciousness-aggregate altogether. Basically, what this controversy boils down to is the experience of Nibbana and the nature of that experience. The general tendency is to either describe Nibbana as the ending of all consciousness, all awareness, or in other words, to stress the cessation aspect of Nibbana, or to describe Nibbana as a state of purified awareness, "consciousness without feature," or in other words, to stress the transcendent aspect of Nibbana. The classical Theravada Tradition favors the former view of Nibbana while others, like the Thai Forest Tradition, favor the latter.

Jason
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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Re: Consciousness without surface, without end

Postby nathan » Sun Feb 08, 2009 12:52 am

Another alternative consideration may be suggested. Consider the noble ones described as touching, contacting or witnessing the deathless with the body. It might be suggested that consciousness is only present as in contact with conditional objects. In the absence of such contact there being no consciousness. Thus in the absence of any consciousness owning to clinging the body can only be in contact with the arising of the deathless or cessation. So the relationship between consciousness and nibbana would be the absence of consciousness but the presence of the unconditioned which might in some ways be described as 'consciousness-like' but not as consciousness per se as it is not perceptible or 'active' by means of clinging and therefore timeless, deathless or 'untraceable'.

Consider the parallel difficulty with describing where fire comes from or goes to. We can describe the observable functions but we cannot really fashion an ultimately satisfying scientific or functional description of what fire is or whence it comes and goes. We have the same difficulties with conceptions of and literal descriptions of consciousness and nibbana.

So understanding via direct knowing cannot by nature of both nature and non-nature be confined to nama or expressed fully and adequately in any such limited manner. Understanding these limits of conception, language and communication can save us a lot of misspent effort in attempts to overcome them and get us back on the mat with some added peace of mind in an effort to arrive at the direct understanding we seek.

I for one do not anticipate a satisfying and final unified theory of anything, including Dhamma.
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: Consciousness without surface, without end

Postby Jechbi » Sun Feb 08, 2009 2:07 am

The sutta also surfaced in this thread.
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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