Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

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Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby Nyana » Sun Jun 27, 2010 9:34 am

Hi pt1 & all,

pt1 wrote:I'll reply to this separately as it's not so much about practice but more about our interpretation of the texts, so here I don't mind a bit of an argument.
Ñāṇa wrote:
pt1 wrote:E.g. if he is really saying what you think he’s saying, then to me that goes directly against that SN sutta where the Buddha quite clearly says that aggregates which are anicca, dukkha and anatta, are said to exist by the wise, which imo is the same thing that the commentaries are saying on their own terms.

The sutta is SN 22.94 (S iii 138) Puppha Sutta. And the term translated as "it exists" is atthi, which doesn't have any realist connotations whatsoever. It could well be translated as "it is."

Thanks, that's the sutta. Yes, I think it's open to interpretation what "it exists" means. To me, when it's contrasted with non-existence of aggregates that are permanent, self, etc, it means that an aggregate (which is anicca, dukkha and anatta) is something that can be practically experienced in insight. I mean, if such an aggregate was just a concepts equivalent to that unicorn that Alex recently mentioned, then I don't think the Buddha would have the need to say that it exist, or even that "it is", as you say, because the unicorn obviously "is not" even though we can think it.

Ñāṇa wrote:It is very far from the ontological and realist implications of the commentarial "sabhāva."

Of course, different things can be read into the commentaries by different people. I personally feel that ascribing to commentaries various "realist, atomisitic, etc" interpretations are not correct. One particular quote I remember in this regard is from the MN tika that I saved from one of robertk's posts:
the majjhimanikaya tika (mulapariyaya sutta) has the following
to say. I use bhikkhu bodhi's translation p39.
It comments on the atthakatha which says "they bear their own
characteristics, thus they are dhammas."
The tika(subcommentary ) notes. "although there are no dhammas
devoid of their own characteristics this is said fro the purpose
of showing that mere dhammas endowed with their specific natures
devoid of such attributes as being etc... whereas such entities
as self, permanence or nature, soul, body etc are mere
misconstructions due to craving and views...and cannot be
discovered as ultinately real actualities, these dhammas
(ie.those endowed with a specific sabhava) can. these dhammas
are discovered as actually real actualties. And although there
IS NO REAL DISTINCTION between these dhammas and their
characteristics, still, in order to facilitate understanding,
the exposition makes a distinction as a mere metaphorical
device.
Also they are borne, or they are discerned, known ,
acccording to their specific nature, thus they are dhammas"

To me this says at least two things:
1. sabhava is equivalent to the characteristics of a dhamma - individual and general characteristics.
2. practical experience of a dhamma is NO DIFFERENT to the experience of these characteristics.

So in my mind, this is absolutely identical to when the suttas say:
Form is impermanent, feeling is impermanent, etc for the rest of the aggregates, as well as anatta and dukha combinations.

which in commentarial speak equals to:
form = individual characteristic, impermanent = general characteristic, etc.

So, if considering both the suttas and commentaries in terms of describing a practical experience of insight, rather than engaging in some sort of philosophying, then imo they are speaking about the same practical experience.


I would propose that we discuss this issue by referencing relevant citations from the commentaries, as you have done here. In addition, it would also be useful to include references and citations from contemporary authorities on the Abhidhamma and the Mahāvihāra commentarial literature. This would include both scholars and meditation teachers such as the Burmese teachers who rely strictly on Mahāvihāra abhidhammika tenets ("scholar" and "meditation teacher" are not necessarily mutually exclusive categories).

In The Dhamma Theory: Philosophical Cornerstone of the Abhidhamma, (BPS, 1996), Dr. Y. Karunadasa, an authoritative Sri Lankan Abhidhamma scholar, tells us that:

    All the different modes of analysis and classification found in the Abhidhamma stem from a single philosophical principle, which gave direction and shape to the entire project of systematization. This principle is the notion that all the phenomena of empirical existence are made up of a number of elementary constituents, the ultimate realities behind the manifest phenomena. These elementary constituents, the building blocks of experience, are called dhammas. The dhamma theory is not merely one principle among others in the body of Abhidhamma philosophy but the base upon which the entire system rests.

It might be worth discussing to what degree the Mahāvihāra commentarial tenets are reliable and accurate references regarding the teaching of the Buddha (Buddhasāsana), particularly as it pertains to right view (sammādiṭṭhi), as right view is essential for right meditation (sammāsamādhi).

Specifically, it seems that there are three interrelated principles that are central to the Mahāvihāra commentarial view:

    1.the dhamma theory (dhammavāda)
    2.the theory of radical momentariness (khaṇavāda)
    3.the theory of two truths (sammutisacca & paramatthasacca)

Again, I would suggest that referencing and citing contemporary abhidhammika authorities is one way of avoiding misrepresenting the commentarial tradition as it is presently understood and taught.

Anything that you or any other member may wish to add is welcome. :)

Geoff
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Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Jun 27, 2010 10:05 am

Greetings Geoff,

Ñāṇa wrote:Specifically, it seems that there are three interrelated principles that are central to the Mahāvihāra commentarial view:

    1.the dhamma theory (dhammavāda)
    2.the theory of radical momentariness (khaṇavāda)
    3.the theory of two truths (sammutisacca & paramatthasacca)

Again, I would suggest that referencing and citing contemporary abhidhammika authorities is one way of avoiding misrepresenting the commentarial tradition as it is presently understood and taught.

You set tough criteria here... tough criteria that I suspect will at some point throughout the topic probably waltz out the window. In the meantime though, here's the following comments from Bhikkhu Bodhi, a contemporary Abhidhammika authority, which relate to all three of the above.

Bhikkhu Bodhi, in response to thhe writings of Nanavira Thera wrote:Like Ven. ~Naa.naviira, I take as the sole ultimate authority for interpretation of the Dhamma the Buddha's discourses as found in the four main Nikaayas and in the older strata of the Khuddaka Nikaaya. I share with Ven. ~Naa.naviira the view that these books can be considered the most trustworthy record of the Buddha's teachings, and hence should be turned to as the final court of appeal for resolving questions about the correct interpretation of the Dhamma.
...

We must certainly accept the findings of scientific scholarship regarding the dating of the canonical and post-canonical texts, and should recognize that Theravaada doctrine has evolved in several strata through the Abhidhamma, the Commentaries, and the later exegetical works.
...

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 three of these notions you list above make no appearance in the Suttas, and thereby fall into the "ideas deriving from tools of interpretation" category.

Ñāṇa wrote:It might be worth discussing to what degree the Mahāvihāra commentarial tenets are reliable and accurate references regarding the teaching of the Buddha (Buddhasāsana), particularly as it pertains to right view (sammādiṭṭhi), as right view is essential for right meditation (sammāsamādhi).

Indeed. Thank you for clearly enunciating how this is not a case of "pointless posturing that proves nothing and simply derails communication".

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: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jun 27, 2010 10:25 am

retrofuturist wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote:It might be worth discussing to what degree the Mahāvihāra commentarial tenets are reliable and accurate references regarding the teaching of the Buddha (Buddhasāsana), particularly as it pertains to right view (sammādiṭṭhi), as right view is essential for right meditation (sammāsamādhi).

Indeed. Thank you for clearly enunciating how this is not a case of "pointless posturing that proves nothing and simply derails communication".

Yes, I'd be interested in seeing a coherent exposition on some of these issues and how they might actually make a difference to practical matters.

Mike
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Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Jun 27, 2010 10:33 am

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:Yes, I'd be interested in seeing a coherent exposition on some of these issues and how they might actually make a difference to practical matters.

I might have some things to share later on, regarding matters which (to quote Geoff) "pertains to right view (sammādiṭṭhi), as right view is essential for right meditation (sammāsamādhi)"... thereby evidently falling into the category of (to quote you) "practical matters" (i.e. pertaining to the Noble Eightfold Path). If you disagree that Right View is a "practical matter", please speak now (or forever hold your peace?)

MN 117: Maha-cattarisaka Sutta' wrote:Right view is the forerunner. And how is right view the forerunner? In one of right view, right resolve comes into being. In one of right resolve, right speech comes into being. In one of right speech, right action... In one of right action, right livelihood... In one of right livelihood, right effort... In one of right effort, right mindfulness... In one of right mindfulness, right concentration... In one of right concentration, right knowledge... In one of right knowledge, right release comes into being. Thus the learner is endowed with eight factors, and the arahant with ten.

MN 117: Maha-cattarisaka Sutta' wrote:"One tries to abandon wrong view & to enter into right view: This is one's right effort. One is mindful to abandon wrong view & to enter & remain in right view: This is one's right mindfulness. Thus these three qualities — right view, right effort, & right mindfulness — run & circle around right view."


However, I shan't be "referencing and citing contemporary abhidhammika authorities", so I shall refrain from making such contributions until such time as others have extended the scope of inquiry beyond this limited range.

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: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby Nyana » Sun Jun 27, 2010 10:36 am

pt1 wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote:It is very far from the ontological and realist implications of the commentarial "sabhāva."

Of course, different things can be read into the commentaries by different people. I personally feel that ascribing to commentaries various "realist, atomisitic, etc" interpretations are not correct.


In The Dhamma Theory: Philosophical Cornerstone of the Abhidhamma (p. 20), Dr. Karunadasa states:

    What emerges from this Abhidhammic doctrine of dhammas is a critical realism, one which recognizes the distinctness of the world from the experiencing subject yet also distinguishes between those types of entities that truly exist independently of the cognitive act and those that owe their being to the act of cognition itself.

And on page 22 he tells us that:

    [A] dhamma is a truly existent thing (sabhavasiddha)

And on page 14:

    The description of dhammas as paramattha means ... objective existence.... [T]he ultimate irreducible data of cognition are the subjective counterparts of the ultimate irreducible data of objective existence.

And so according to Dr. Karunadasa, the dhamma theory, which is the basis for the entire abhidhammika project: (1) is realist, and this is because (2) dhamma-s have ontological primacy as truly existent objective things independent of cognition.

Later I will offer some commentarial citations which may hopefully support Dr. Karunadasa's analysis of the dhamma theory.... But that's all I have time for at present.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby Paññāsikhara » Sun Jun 27, 2010 3:21 pm

Prof Y Karunadasa's new book should be published soon, within a couple of months. He has polished his understanding of the Abhidhamma and Mahavihara commentaries over the years, and the newest version will include more context for their teachings, ie. with respect to the teachings of other Buddhist systems, and the Abhidhamma / Abhidharma movement as a whole (not just that found presently in Pali).
My recently moved Blog, containing some of my writings on the Buddha Dhamma, as well as a number of translations from classical Buddhist texts and modern authors, liturgy, etc.: Huifeng's Prajnacara Blog.
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Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby Nyana » Sun Jun 27, 2010 3:46 pm

Paññāsikhara wrote:Prof Y Karunadasa's new book should be published soon, within a couple of months. He has polished his understanding of the Abhidhamma and Mahavihara commentaries over the years, and the newest version will include more context for their teachings, ie. with respect to the teachings of other Buddhist systems, and the Abhidhamma / Abhidharma movement as a whole (not just that found presently in Pali).

Hello Ven. Huifeng,

The BPS Wheel publication of The Dhamma Theory was published in 1996, thirty years after the publication of his doctoral thesis. Are you suggesting that it isn't representative of his current understanding?

Best wishes,

Geoff
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Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Jun 27, 2010 4:46 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:Are you suggesting that it isn't representative of his current understanding?
It happens that scholars can radically change their how they see things. David Kaluphana's ideas about Nagarjuna is a nice example. Any way, it will be interesting to see if that is the case with Karunadasa.
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Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby Alex123 » Sun Jun 27, 2010 5:20 pm

Hello Geoff, and all,

Ñāṇa wrote:Hi Alex,

It's quite simple. The criteria is explicitly stated in the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta. The four great references (mahāpadesā) clearly explain that concerning issues regarding the clarification or authenticity of Dhammavinaya, the dhamma of the sutta-s and the rules of the vinaya are the sole authority. Any commentary or interpretation of dhamma needs to be verified by tracing it back to the sutta-s.

The Mahāvihāra claim that the dhamma referred to in the mahāpadesā includes the Abhidhamma Piṭaka, and that the Abhidhamma Piṭaka was spoken by the Buddha (excepting the Kathāvatthu), cannot be sustained because the Abhidhamma Piṭaka, as well as the abhiddhamika exegeses now found in the Khuddakanikāya, are all post-schismatic sectarian compositions which couldn't have existed at the time of the Buddha's parinibbāna.


The composition of 5 Nikayas was also "post historical Buddha" done by the Theras...

Also we need to know what exactly was meant by the "suttas". Material found in Sutta-Pitaka? Or suttas as opposed to veyykarana, jataka, and so on.
And if we include veyykarana, then why can't Abhidhamma be part of it?


As for comparing a" certain interpretation " of the suttas with the suttas, what I have found is that sometimes a sutta can be interpreted in different ways. And who knows which interpretation is right.


With metta,

Alex
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Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby Alex123 » Sun Jun 27, 2010 5:29 pm

On sabhāva:

This is my understanding of it: Different phenomena have different induvidial characteristics. Otherwise how can you distinguish lets say (lobha) vs dislike (dosa)? They each have their own unique characteristic, unique nature (sa bhāva). While an idea of "a unicorn" has different level of truth, than idea of "this horse", they both have one thing in common. They depend on mind to express the idea. Recognition of "unicorn, horse, etc" is sanna, a trully existing momentary reality.


The issue of lets say momentariness is implied in the suttas:
Ex: The Bahiya going from good worldling to an Arahant within seconds. To me this implies that 4 paths and 4 fruits can be momentary.

The case of suicide monks (Channa, Vakkali, Godhika). If it is true that an aryan cannot commit suicide, then they would have to go through 4 paths and 4 fruits in a matter of seconds (or even a split second) after they cut their juggular vein.

In AN book of 1s there are many quotes that factors of N8P and 37 factors of awakening can last as long as a fingersnap.



IMHO,


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Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby Nyana » Sun Jun 27, 2010 9:00 pm

Hi Alex,

Alex123 wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote:It's quite simple. The criteria is explicitly stated in the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta. The four great references (mahāpadesā) clearly explain that concerning issues regarding the clarification or authenticity of Dhammavinaya, the dhamma of the sutta-s and the rules of the vinaya are the sole authority. Any commentary or interpretation of dhamma needs to be verified by tracing it back to the sutta-s.

The Mahāvihāra claim that the dhamma referred to in the mahāpadesā includes the Abhidhamma Piṭaka, and that the Abhidhamma Piṭaka was spoken by the Buddha (excepting the Kathāvatthu), cannot be sustained because the Abhidhamma Piṭaka, as well as the abhiddhamika exegeses now found in the Khuddakanikāya, are all post-schismatic sectarian compositions which couldn't have existed at the time of the Buddha's parinibbāna.

why can't Abhidhamma be part of it?


Because of the two reasons already supplied:

Ñāṇa wrote:If the compositions of the Abhidhamma Piṭaka, etc., were extant at that time, and were considered to have been spoken by the Buddha, then (1) all of the early Nikāya sects would have very similar abhidhamma compositions (just as they have very similar sutta compositions); and (2) all of the early Nikāya sects would have unquestionably considered their own abhidhamma collections to have been spoken by the Buddha. Neither of these are the case. Therefore, it can safely be concluded that the Abhidhamma Piṭaka and the abhiddhamika exegeses now found in the Khuddakanikāya are all post-schismatic sectarian compositions.


Alex123 wrote:As for comparing a" certain interpretation " of the suttas with the suttas, what I have found is that sometimes a sutta can be interpreted in different ways. And who knows which interpretation is right.

Any interpretation should be supported by what the sutta-s actually state on the matter in question.

Alex123 wrote:On sabhāva:

This is my understanding of it: Different phenomena have different induvidial characteristics. Otherwise how can you distinguish lets say (lobha) vs dislike (dosa)? They each have their own unique characteristic, unique nature (sa bhāva). While an idea of "a unicorn" has different level of truth, than idea of "this horse", they both have one thing in common. They depend on mind to express the idea. Recognition of "unicorn, horse, etc" is sanna, a trully existing momentary reality.


In Early Buddhist Metaphysics: The Making of a Philosophical Tradition (p. 122), Noa Ronkin says:

    The early Abhidhamma dhamma analysis also intends to ascertain that every psychophysical event is knowable and nameable, and that the words and concepts employed in the systematic discourse that is thus developed uniquely define their corresponding referents. In this respect the dhamma analysis … paves the way for conceptual realism – a worldview that is based on the notion of truth as constituted by a correspondence between our concepts and statements, on the one hand, and the features of an independent, determinate reality, on the other hand.

But reified individuation is part of the problem, not the solution. It doesn’t matter if that individuation is the view of self-identity (sakkāyadiṭṭhi) or the reified individuation of truly existing things (sabhāvasiddhā). In either case, such individuation is rooted in ignorance of dependent arising. Visuddhimaggamahāṭīkā (Be CSCD 1 343):

    [Conditioned dhammas] individual essences (sabhāva) have rise and fall and change. Herein, conditioned dhammas' arising owing to causes and conditions, their coming to be after non-existence, their acquisition of an individual self (attalābha), is 'rise'. Their momentary cessation when arisen is 'fall'. Their changedness due to aging is 'change'.

Here we have dhamma-s being born acquiring individuation, then aging, and finally ceasing. All in light-speed succession. The entire formulation of what is supposedly ultimately real has no reality other than mere conceptual designation (paññatti). It references no ultimate location or basis of designation. This proposition of radical momentary individuation is no more “real” than a unicorn. Sn 3.12: Dvayatānupassanā Sutta:

    Entrenched in name and form,
    They conceive that “This is true.”

    In whatever way (worldlings) conceive it,
    It turns out other than that.
    For that is what is false about it.
    Whatever is transitory certainly has a false nature.

    But nibbāna does not have a false nature.
    That the noble ones truly know.
    Through fully comprehending the truth,
    They are without hunger, quenched.

In short, no dhamma can be individuated without two key links of dependent arising: consciousness, and name (i.e. intention, attention, contact, feeling, apperception) & form. And these two links are what enable one to fabricate a “world” of ongoing dissatisfaction. SN 35.116: Lokantagamana Sutta:

    Monks, I say that the end of the world cannot be known, seen, or reached by traveling. Yet, I also say that without reaching the end of the world there is no making an end to suffering....

    That in the world by which one is a perceiver of the world (lokasaññī hoti), a conceiver of the world (lokamānī) – this is called the world in the Noble One’s Discipline. And what, friends, is that in the world by which one is a perceiver of the world, a conceiver of the world?

    The eye is that in the world by which one is a perceiver of the world, a conceiver of the world.

    The ear… The nose… The tongue… The body…

    The mind is that in the world by which one is a perceiver of the world, a conceiver of the world.

Alex123 wrote:The issue of lets say momentariness is implied in the suttas:
Ex: The Bahiya going from good worldling to an Arahant within seconds. To me this implies that 4 paths and 4 fruits can be momentary.

The case of suicide monks (Channa, Vakkali, Godhika). If it is true that an aryan cannot commit suicide, then they would have to go through 4 paths and 4 fruits in a matter of seconds (or even a split second) after they cut their juggular vein.

In AN book of 1s there are many quotes that factors of N8P and 37 factors of awakening can last as long as a fingersnap.

These examples have nothing to do with the theory of radical momentariness.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby Alex123 » Mon Jun 28, 2010 3:12 am

Ñāṇa wrote:Hi Alex,

In Early Buddhist Metaphysics: The Making of a Philosophical Tradition (p. 122), Noa Ronkin says:

    The early Abhidhamma dhamma analysis also intends to ascertain that every psychophysical event is knowable and nameable, and that the words and concepts employed in the systematic discourse that is thus developed uniquely define their corresponding referents. In this respect the dhamma analysis … paves the way for conceptual realism – a worldview that is based on the notion of truth as constituted by a correspondence between our concepts and statements, on the one hand, and the features of an independent, determinate reality, on the other hand.


What is the problem with that? How can mental event be unknowable? Didn't the Buddha in the sutta define 5 aggregates, 12 bases, 18 elements, 108 feelings and so on? If 108 feelings are indistinguishable, then why did the Buddha bother to tell them? How can different elements in Dependent Origination be indistinguishable? Of course they have different referents and are different elements with different natures.


As to "conceptual realism" it depends what is meant. Maybe it is misinterpretation of Abh, Comy?

Mental states exist and are real, otherwise you wouldn't KNOW anything that you are reading right now.

Also the mental states can be distinguished from each other. Like is different from dislike. Merit is different from demerit. One of them always beneficial and another is always wrong. Is that so unbelievable? I find it harder to believe in some sort of nothingness without any distinction between A and not-A, A and B, etc.

But reified individuation is part of the problem, not the solution. It doesn’t matter if that individuation is the view of self-identity (sakkāyadiṭṭhi) or the reified individuation of truly existing things (sabhāvasiddhā). In either case, such individuation is rooted in ignorance of dependent arising. Visuddhimaggamahāṭīkā (Be CSCD 1 343):


A moment of greed is different from a moment of non-greed. I personally can't believe that greed and non-greed cannot be distinquished.


Here we have dhamma-s being born acquiring individuation, then aging, and finally ceasing.


Right. There are differences. We aren't existing in some undifferentiated whole.


All in light-speed succession. The entire formulation of what is supposedly ultimately real has no reality other than mere conceptual designation (paññatti). It references no ultimate location or basis of designation. This proposition of radical momentary individuation is no more “real” than a unicorn. Sn 3.12: Dvayatānupassanā Sutta:
    Entrenched in name and form,
    They conceive that “This is true.”

    In whatever way (worldlings) conceive it,
    It turns out other than that.
    For that is what is false about it.
    Whatever is transitory certainly has a false nature.

    But nibbāna does not have a false nature.
    That the noble ones truly know.
    Through fully comprehending the truth,
    They are without hunger, quenched.


The conceiving is either about philosophical theories, self view or jhanas (see MN113)
http://metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pitaka/ ... isa-e.html



In short, no dhamma can be individuated without two key links of dependent arising: consciousness, and name (i.e. intention, attention, contact, feeling, apperception) & form. And these two links are what enable one to fabricate a “world” of ongoing dissatisfaction. SN 35.116: Lokantagamana Sutta:


Right, these are 3 ultimate categories of (citta, cetasika and rupa).


These examples have nothing to do with the theory of radical momentariness.

All the best,

Geoff


They do. Mind doesn't need to remain in "frozen" state for a long time. It is the fastest thing that changes with no simile as to how fast it can change.


"I don't envision a single thing that is as quick to reverse itself as the mind — so much so that there is no feasible simile for how quick to reverse itself it is."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


Also please don't say that you believe in Sarvastivadin idea of unchanging dhammas. Past does not exist anymore, future does not yet exist, only present moment is. What has just happened does not exist NOW. The present moment ceases every moment and with more attention and the closer you look, the shorter it really is.


With metta,

Alex
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Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Jun 28, 2010 3:26 am

Greetings Alex,

Alex123 wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote:In Early Buddhist Metaphysics: The Making of a Philosophical Tradition (p. 122), Noa Ronkin says:

    The early Abhidhamma dhamma analysis also intends to ascertain that every psychophysical event is knowable and nameable, and that the words and concepts employed in the systematic discourse that is thus developed uniquely define their corresponding referents. In this respect the dhamma analysis … paves the way for conceptual realism – a worldview that is based on the notion of truth as constituted by a correspondence between our concepts and statements, on the one hand, and the features of an independent, determinate reality, on the other hand.


What is the problem with that?

The incompatibility of the section I've bolded above and the opening line from the Dhammapada.

Mind precedes all dhammas. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. (Dhp 1)

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: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jun 28, 2010 3:47 am

retrofuturist wrote:The incompatibility of the section I've bolded above and the opening line from the Dhammapada.
Ona technical note: bold does not show up too well with the color scheme used here, particularly in a "quote" section.

Mind precedes all dhammas. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. (Dhp 1)
All depends upon what dhamma means here.
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: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby alan » Mon Jun 28, 2010 4:21 am

Dhammapada is a beautiful work of poetry. But there are so many translations; it is hard to get a hold of a solid meaning.
The book I have here by Thanissaro says "Phenomena are preceded by the heart, ruled by the heart, made of the heart."

What is your take?
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Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Jun 28, 2010 4:25 am

Greetings Alan,

alan wrote:The book I have here by Thanissaro says "Phenomena are preceded by the heart, ruled by the heart, made of the heart."

What is your take?

My take is that that's a shabby translation. The translation I used was from Buddharakkhita, just with dhamma returned to its untranslated form. Those translations which are a "beautiful work of poetry" are invariably those that aren't very accurate.

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: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby EricJ » Mon Jun 28, 2010 4:37 am

I am definitely not in the league of other posters here [as far as familiarity with the Tipitaka and the intricacies of Buddhist thought go] but I would like to comment anyway.

I am a beginner and I don't have an extensive background in the Abhidhamma or the commentaries, but I was under the impression that the Abhidhamma (not necessarily the commentaries and subcommentaries) is not formulated with ontological claims in mind and that words like "sabhava" aren't even present within the Abhidhamma itself. I have always understood Abhidhamma to be a practical and meditative tool which can be used to explore the characteristics of interdependent, conditioned "phenomena" (I put that in quotation marks because dhammas aren't truly isolated, discrete entities) as these phenomena relate to each other within our range of experience. My [possibly arbitrary] interpretation of the word "paramattha" with relation to dhammas is that it means that nothing within the limitations of our experience (nama-rupa) can be simplified into anything beyond citta, cetasika, rupa and nibbana. This seems like a phenomenological idea to me, as opposed to an ontological reification.

I don't really know anything about the Mahavihara commentaries/subcommentaries, but if they claim that things are ontologically real in some way, it seems to be wavering from the middle path. As to whether the Abhidhamma is effective as a practical tool, I don't know because I have never used it. I suppose it could be dangerous and lead to wrong view (atomism), as seems to be the case in claiming that our range of experience is made up of ontologically real, momentarily existent, discrete entities which arise independently of our minds. I have also read suttas which seem to suggest that we shouldn't conceptualize dhammas as if they are real, discrete entities. I think of these suttas:

Kalaka Sutta wrote:"When cognizing what is to be cognized, he doesn't construe an [object as] cognized. He doesn't construe an uncognized. He doesn't construe an [object] to-be-cognized. He doesn't construe a cognizer.


Mulapariyaya Sutta wrote:The Blessed One said: "There is the case, monks, where an uninstructed run-of-the-mill person — who has no regard for noble ones, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma; who has no regard for men of integrity, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma — perceives earth as earth. Perceiving earth as earth, he conceives [things] about earth, he conceives [things] in earth, he conceives [things] coming out of earth, he conceives earth as 'mine,' he delights in earth. Why is that? Because he has not comprehended it, I tell you.


Can we even know the ontological status of our experience without becoming enlightened first? It seems that the only way to truly know is to step outside of samsaric limitations and directly penetrate existence through nibbana. :buddha1:

Regards,
Eric
I do not want my house to be walled in on sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.- Gandhi

With persistence aroused for the highest goal's attainment, with mind unsmeared, not lazy in action, firm in effort, with steadfastness & strength arisen, wander alone like a rhinoceros.

Not neglecting seclusion, absorption, constantly living the Dhamma in line with the Dhamma, comprehending the danger in states of becoming, wander alone like a rhinoceros.
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Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby alan » Mon Jun 28, 2010 5:02 am

Thanks Retro. I've read a few translations and none have seemed to live up to the high regard so many hold of Dhammapada.

I agree it is useful to just keep some key words untranslated. But "dhamma" has so many meanings, relative to the context.

I'd like to enjoy Dhammapada as a teaching. It has struck me as poetic in the fact that so much of it seems to lean toward creating an emotional response. Not that there is anything wrong with that--I'm just wondering if it carries the same weight of authority as the Suttas.
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Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Jun 28, 2010 5:19 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Alan,

alan wrote:The book I have here by Thanissaro says "Phenomena are preceded by the heart, ruled by the heart, made of the heart."

What is your take?

My take is that that's a shabby translation. The translation I used was from Buddharakkhita, just with dhamma returned to its untranslated form. Those translations which are a "beautiful work of poetry" are invariably those that aren't very accurate.

However, as Tilt says, if one is going to leave dhamma untranslated then it at least needs to be footnoted what it might mean in this context...
http://what-buddha-said.net/library/Bud ... htm#dhamma
Dhamma: lit. the 'bearer', constitution or nature of a thing, norm, law jus doctrine; justice, righteousness; quality; thing, object of mind see: āyatana phenomenon'. In all these meanings the word dhamma is to be met with in the texts. The Com. to D. instances 4 applications of this term guna quality, virtue, desanā instruction, pariyatti text, nijjīvatā soullessness, e.g.;all dhammā phenomena, are impersonal,; etc.. The Com. to Dhsee: has hetu condition instead of desanā Thus, the analytical knowledge of the law see: patisambhidā is explained in Vis.M XIV. and in Vibh. as hetumhi-ñāna knowledge of the conditions.

The Dhamma, as the liberating law discovered and proclaimed by the Buddha, is summed up in the 4 Noble Truths see: sacca It forms one of the 3 Gems ti-ratana and one of the 10 recollections anussati.

Dhamma, as object of mind dhammāyatana see: āyatana may be anything past, present or future, material or mental, conditioned or not cf. sankhāra 4, real or imaginary.

Tranlating mano as "heart/mind" and dhamma as "phenomena" would seem to be fairly common.
http://what-buddha-said.net/library/Bud ... .htm#citta
Citta: 'mind', 'consciousness', 'state of consciousness', is a synonym of mano and viññāna see: khandha and Tab. 1. Dhs divides all phenomena into consciousness citta mental properties cetasika and materiality rūpa.

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Re: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View

Postby Nyana » Mon Jun 28, 2010 9:30 am

Alex123 wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote:
    The early Abhidhamma dhamma analysis also intends to ascertain that every psychophysical event is knowable and nameable, and that the words and concepts employed in the systematic discourse that is thus developed uniquely define their corresponding referents. In this respect the dhamma analysis … paves the way for conceptual realism – a worldview that is based on the notion of truth as constituted by a correspondence between our concepts and statements, on the one hand, and the features of an independent, determinate reality, on the other hand.

What is the problem with that? How can mental event be unknowable?...

Also the mental states can be distinguished from each other. Like is different from dislike. Merit is different from demerit. One of them always beneficial and another is always wrong. Is that so unbelievable? I find it harder to believe in some sort of nothingness without any distinction between A and not-A, A and B, etc.

Hi Alex,

This is precisely the point. The individuation of phenomena requires apperceptive memory recognition (saññā) and conceptual designation (paññatti) for differentiation. All such individuation is relational and conventional and therefore phenomena cannot be ultimately established as “truly existing things” (sabhāvasiddhā), or “the ultimate irreducible data of objective existence” independent of the cognitive process.

Ven. Ñāṇananda, The Magic of the Mind (pp. 62-63):

    According to the phenomenalistic approach of the Buddha, not only the different types of feelings and mental states but the entire range of doctrinal categories summed up under the last section [of the Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta] i.e. ‘contemplation of mind-objects,’ has nothing in it that is worth ‘clinging to.’ All of them can be subsumed under the term ‘concept’ and that is to recognize their conditioned nature – the nature of arising and ceasing.

    “Friends, when there is the eye and there are forms and there is eye-consciousness, it is possible that one will point out a designation of contact (phassapaññatti). When there is a designation of contact, it is possible that one will point out a designation of feeling (vedanāpaññatti). When there is a designation of feeling, it is possible that one will point out a designation of perception (saññāpaññatti). When there is a designation of perception, it is possible that one will point out a designation of thought (vitakkapaññatti). When there is a designation of thought, it is possible that one will point out a designation of obsession due to reckonings born of prolific perception (papañcasaññāsaṅkhāsamudācaraṇapaññatti).

    “When there is the ear... When there is the nose... When there is the tongue... When there is the body...

    “When there is the mind and there are mental phenomena and there is mental-consciousness, it is possible that one will point out a designation of contact. When there is a designation of contact, it is possible that one will point out a designation of feeling. When there is a designation of feeling, it is possible that one will point out a designation of perception. When there is a designation of perception, it is possible that one will point out a designation of thought. When there is a designation of thought, it is possible that one will point out a designation of obsession due to reckonings born of prolific perception.” – M I 112 Madhupiṇḍika Sutta

    It would indeed appear strange to us that in Buddhist psychology even contact and feeling – with which we are so intimate – are treated as ‘designations’ (paññatti). We might feel that this is an intrusion of the ‘designation’ into the jealously guarded recesses of the psyche. Yet this is not the case, for, in the very act of apperception contacts and feelings are reckoned, evaluated, defined, and designated on the basis of one’s latencies (i.e. the aggregates). Thus there is hardly any justification for regarding them as ‘the given’, though we are accustomed to take them for granted. In other words, what we are wont to treat as ‘the given,’ turns out to be ‘synthetic’ and ‘composite’ (saṅkhata).

Noa Ronkin, Early Buddhist Metaphysics: The Making of a Philosophical Tradition (pp. 245-247):

    The Buddha’s insight reveals that the causal foundation for one’s samsaric experience is the operation of one’s cognitive apparatus. One’s experience in its entirety arises from the cognitive process of making sense of the incoming sensory data. Basic to this process is the khandha of conceptualization and apperception, namely, sañña, the activity of which results in the identification and differentiation of the incoming data. This identification process necessarily involves naming. As Hamilton points out, in describing the way identification is part of sorting out incoming experiential data the early Buddhist texts emphasize that naming is equivalent to what is called ‘making manifold’ of those data. ‘One might say’, Hamilton suggests, ‘that the process of making manifold in order to identify is the process of making nameable the aspects of one’s experience’. Indeed the Pali term for making manifold, papañceti, also means ‘verbal differentiation’, or ‘verbal proliferation’. All this verbal differentiation adds up to language, for, as the apperceptive process develops, one is imposing on the sensory influx categories and references that can be indicated by means of language. Language, then, is intrinsic to our experience: it provides the conceptual criteria and framework by which we make sense of our experience, or rather, by which we construct our world.

    The Buddha, however, unveils not only the dominance of language and conceptual thought, but also their inherent insufficiency and inadequacy. Although language is a constant feature of our experience, we are normally unaware of the paradox in the cognitive process: to become knowable all the incoming sensory data must be verbally differentiated, but as such they are mere constructions, mental formations; nothing justifies their reliability because they could equally have been constructed otherwise, in accordance with other conventional guidelines. What the Buddha rejects is realism, conceptual and ontological alike: the notion that the encountered world is made up of distinguishable substances, and the linguistic theory that words refer to these substances which they represent; the conviction that our language corresponds to or mirrors a mind-independent reality. He points towards conventionalism in language and undermines the misleading character of nouns as substance-words. Whatever we can know is part of the activity of language, but language, by its very nature, undermines certified knowledge. The Buddha shows that language is, in principle, faulty: having the power to make manifold and endlessly to proliferate, it makes things appear and disappear; it can construct anything and hence cannot be representational of reality. There can be no innocence of relations between word and world....

    Stated otherwise, samsaric experience is rooted in our cognitive apparatus: to rely on our conceptual scheme and language the way we normally do amounts to emotionally and intellectually grasping at and fixing our experience. Having recognized the fiction and imaginative creation inherent in conceptual thought and language, the awakened mind breaks up the apparently solid world that we construct for ourselves. To realize that words and concepts do not name anything, do not represent anything – what could be closer to silence and the eschewal of all views?

    Noticeable in this context is the Atthakavagga of the Suttanipata, which promulgates an ascetic discipline of silence and repudiation of our very cognitive apparatus as based on linguistic and conceptual delineation:

    “Neither conceptualizing, nor conceptualizing wrongly, nor lacking conceptualization, nor conceptualizing nothing – in one who has achieved this state sensory recognizable experience (rupa) ceases, for what is called ‘verbal proliferation’ (papañca) has its origin in conceptualization.”

    What comes to a halt according to this description is but namarupa: nama referring to all that is conceived of, thus providing an abstract, conceptual identity for the person, rupa designating the physically (though not necessarily visibly) recognizable data, that is, all that lends itself to apperception and that is given shape by means of sensory impression. Covering the range of whatever is either conceived or apperceived, namarupa therefore signifies the entirety of what is cognizable. That namarupa is related to papañca is attested by another Suttanipata passage located in the Mahavagga:

    “Having understood namarupa as verbal proliferation ( papañca) that is the root of inward and outward disease, one is released from bondage to the root of all disease. Such a one is called in truth ‘one who knows well’.”

[Edit: typo]
Last edited by Nyana on Mon Jun 28, 2010 4:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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