The Two Truths

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Ceisiwr
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The Two Truths

Post by Ceisiwr »

In his book "The Mystique of the Abhidhamma" Sujato makes the following comment regarding the doctrine of the two truths, in relation to the Mahanidana Sutta:
But I have omitted the most important aspect of this passage for understanding early Buddhist ontology. Normally in dependent origination, existence is simply described in terms of the existence of the factor itself, as in the famous formula: ‘This being, that is…this not being, that is not’. But our present passage speaks, not of the existence of, say, ‘name’, but of the existence of ‘the features, properties, signs, and summaries by which there is a concept of name’. If these ‘properties’ are absent, no ‘labeling contact’ regarding ‘form’ can be ‘found’. Conversely, if the ‘properties’ by which there is a ‘concept’ of ‘form’ are absent, no ‘impact contact’ regarding ‘name’ can be ‘found’. This demonstrates in a most emphatic and explicit way that the ‘properties’ by which phenomena are known are, for all Dhamma purposes, equivalent to the phenomena themselves, since they perform the identical function in dependent origination. We cannot distinguish between a thing’s properties and the thing itself, since the label we give a ‘thing’ is just a concept denoting the exercise of certain functions. To say a thing ‘exists’ is to say it is ‘found’. And the very workings of experience, the fundamental structure of information processing, is necessarily dependent on this conceptual apparatus. Without ‘labelling’, without the properties by which a thing is ‘conceptualized’, stimulus, and hence the entire perceptual process cannot work. Thus this passage thoroughly demolishes any attempt to wedge a division between ‘ultimate reality’ and ‘conventional reality’. Wisdom does not consist in going past convention to the ultimate substratum, but in understanding how conceptualizing is inherent in the cognitive process itself. Hence the Buddha said that the extent of concepts, language, and labelling is precisely the domain of wisdom; that is, birth, ageing, and death, cognition together with name & form...

Understanding the difference between ‘ultimate’ and ‘conventional’ truth was upheld by later Buddhists as a sign of profound wisdom, a key to penetrating the inner mysteries of the Dhamma. But any specialized field of endeavor – from mechanics to mathematics, from fishing to physics – will develop a technical vocabulary of terms used in narrowly defined and sometimes eccentric ways – a jargon. Dhamma is no different. We just take our jargon a tad too seriously. Tracing the arbitrary and inconsistent usage of this ontological apartheid in its checkered career through Buddhist history, I can discern only one constant factor – to exalt one’s own teachings as ‘ultimate’ and denigrate others’ as ‘conventional’. Thus the abhidhamma is ‘ultimate’ while the suttas are ‘conventional’; or the Mahayana suttas are ‘ultimate’ while the abhidhamma is ‘conventional’. It is a standard piece of abhidhamma rhetoric to claim that the entire abhidhamma is phrased in terms of ‘ultimate truth’. But this is transparent bluster...

Let’s compare analytic treatment in the suttas and abhidhamma. Consider the famous chariot simile. Just as when the parts come together the word ‘chariot’ is used, so too when the five aggregates are present the word ‘self’ is used. There’s no implication that the parts are in any way more ‘ultimate’ than the chariot as a whole. The parts are themselves just constructs that may be further analyzed. Nor is there any implication that there would be any benefit in reducing the chariot to ‘ultimate’ parts and defining every element, even if this was possible. The purpose of the analysis is simply to show that the word ‘chariot’ is a convention, not to prove that there is something else which is not a convention. By postulating an ontologically privileged ultimate strata of being, one is committing the very error the original simile was designed to dispel.
http://kusala.online-dhamma.net/%E6%96% ... dhamma.pdf

The sutta passage from the Mahanidana Sutta that Sujato is referring to is this:
"'From name-&-form as a requisite condition comes contact. Thus it has been said. And this is the way to understand how, from name-&-form as a requisite condition comes contact. If the qualities, traits, themes, & indicators by which there is a description of name-group (mental activity) were all absent, would designation-contact with regard to the form-group (the physical properties) be discerned?"

"No, lord."

"If the permutations, signs, themes, and indicators by which there is a description of form-group were all absent, would resistance-contact with regard to the name-group be discerned?"

"No, lord."

"If the permutations, signs, themes, and indicators by which there is a description of name-group and form-group were all absent, would designation-contact or resistance-contact be discerned?"

"No, lord."

"Thus this is a cause, this is a reason, this is an origination, this is a requisite condition for contact, i.e., name-and-form.
I could be misreading him, but Sujato seems to be saying something similar (not identical) to the Prajñaptivādins in that dhammas are mere concepts only. However, instead of trying to guess which brand of heretical thought Sujato is subscribing to here I instead would like to use this passage as a talking point regarding the teaching of the two truths. Do the suttas support the idea that there is a conventional truth and an ultimate truth in your view? Has Sujato demolished such an idea here, or not?
Saññāvirattassa na santi ganthā,
Paññāvimuttassa na santi mohā;
Saññañca diṭṭhiñca ye aggahesuṃ,
Te ghaṭṭayantā vicaranti loke”ti.


“For one detached from perception, there exist no ties,
for one by wisdom freed, no delusions are there,
but those who have grasped perceptions and views,
they wander the world stirring up strife."


Māgaṇḍiya Sutta
Pulsar
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Re: The Two Truths

Post by Pulsar »

Dearest Ceisiwr;
Thanks for posting this, I have a tendency to stay away from Abhidhamma topics, simply because I understand the suttas with a greater clarity which serves my purpose. Abhidhamma confuses my understanding of suttas.
Perhaps this is due to the fact that, over time I have made the effort to understand the suttas through the lens of 4 buddhist jhanas, and Samma Sati. And this is important for anyone, for most of the time one then discovers Buddha's words, without a filter.
I loved how Sujatho explains the difference between the conventional and ultimate truths.... for instance
Thus the abhidhamma is ‘ultimate’ while the suttas are ‘conventional’; or the Mahayana suttas are ‘ultimate’ while the abhidhamma is ‘conventional’. It is a standard piece of abhidhamma rhetoric to claim that the entire abhidhamma is phrased in terms of ‘ultimate truth’. But this is transparent bluster...
As usual Sujatho is brilliant when it comes to the analysis of these matters.
I neither have the broad knowledge nor experience to approach a topic like this.
That Sujatho did, and had the boldness... what can I say? Aren't we ultimately fortunate to have him
amidst us? and of course other great monks like Thanissaro, Sona and Brahmali, that simplify the teachings, a simplicity gained through their engagement in four buddhist Jhanas.
Sadhu Sadhu sadhu!!!
With love :candle
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SDC
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Re: The Two Truths

Post by SDC »

Ajahn Nyanamoli's essay on DN 15: https://www.hillsidehermitage.org/resis ... -on-dn-15/

I'd love to join the discussion, but have some busy days at the moment. Perhaps later this afternoon.
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Ceisiwr
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Re: The Two Truths

Post by Ceisiwr »

I've put together a table looking at how some of the main traditions defined conventional reality and ultimate reality, which I've taken from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. A lot of it I have just copied and pasted, and obviously I have left quite a bit out. Information taken from here: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/twotruths-india/
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Saññāvirattassa na santi ganthā,
Paññāvimuttassa na santi mohā;
Saññañca diṭṭhiñca ye aggahesuṃ,
Te ghaṭṭayantā vicaranti loke”ti.


“For one detached from perception, there exist no ties,
for one by wisdom freed, no delusions are there,
but those who have grasped perceptions and views,
they wander the world stirring up strife."


Māgaṇḍiya Sutta
Srilankaputra
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Re: The Two Truths

Post by Srilankaputra »

For myself this is a very important distinction. Yes, conceptual understanding can bring peace, but this is like pulling out grass by the leaves. Its only when it is grabbed by the crown it can be pulled out root and all.

Tañhi, bhikkhu, musā yaṃ mosadhammaṃ, taṃ saccaṃ yaṃ amosadhammaṃ nibbānaṃ.

Tasmā evaṃ samannāgato bhikkhu iminā 
paramena saccādhiṭṭhānena samannāgato hoti.

Etañhi, bhikkhu, paramaṃ ariyasaccaṃ yadidaṃ

amosadhammaṃ nibbānaṃ
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Ceisiwr
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Re: The Two Truths

Post by Ceisiwr »

SDC wrote: Thu Sep 17, 2020 1:43 pm Ajahn Nyanamoli's essay on DN 15: https://www.hillsidehermitage.org/resis ... -on-dn-15/

I'd love to join the discussion, but have some busy days at the moment. Perhaps later this afternoon.
From your link:
1. ‘Matter’ is required for ‘name’ to be present. If there would not be that which is ‘named’, ‘name’ would not be able to arise. If on the other hand, ‘name’ is absent, ‘matter’ would simply be inconceivable. Thus, there is no ‘name’ without ‘matter’ and there is no ‘matter’ without ‘name’, hence-name-&-matter. In this way ‘name’ designates the resistance, and ‘matter’ resists the designation. Without ‘name'(-body), there would not be any designation manifested in ‘matter'(-body), but without ‘matter'(-body), there would not be any resistance manifested in the ‘name'(-body). It is these respective manifestations of ‘designation’ and ‘resistance’ that are puthujjana’s problem.
This is wrong. You can have nāma without rūpa, otherwise what are the immaterial realms? The sutta itself even implicitly says this. Notice what is missing here. The sutta does not say:

"If those qualities, traits, signs, and indicators through which there is a description of the form-group were all absent, would designation-contact be discerned in the name-group?"

If it had said that then there could be no designation-contact, no nāma, without rūpa. The fact that this sutta omits it shows that we can have designation contact, that is nāma, without rūpa. This is what allows for the immaterial realms.

Also, a minor thing but this:
What a puthujjana has to realise is that regardless of what he perceives, it is always his perception that is perceived. Whether it is ‘earth’, ‘water’, ‘fire’, ‘air’ or any other thing that MN 1 mentions, all one will ever perceive (puthujjana and arahant alike) is one’s own perception of that ‘matter’.
sounds awfully similar to the Yogācāra doctrine of Vijñapti-mātra.

As to the rest, I'm unsure how this relates to the two truths so I will wait until you can reply in detail.
Saññāvirattassa na santi ganthā,
Paññāvimuttassa na santi mohā;
Saññañca diṭṭhiñca ye aggahesuṃ,
Te ghaṭṭayantā vicaranti loke”ti.


“For one detached from perception, there exist no ties,
for one by wisdom freed, no delusions are there,
but those who have grasped perceptions and views,
they wander the world stirring up strife."


Māgaṇḍiya Sutta
Pulsar
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Re: The Two Truths

Post by Pulsar »

Hello Ceisiwr: Thank you infinitely for posting this. I am drowning in the brilliance of Sujatho, many
questions I had regarding abhidhamma teachings are quietly getting resolved...There is a wealth of information here.
I am puzzled by your comment however.
You wrote
From your link:
1. ‘Matter’ is required for ‘name’ to be present. If there would not be that which is ‘named’, ‘name’ would not be able to arise. If on the other hand, ‘name’ is absent, ‘matter’ would simply be inconceivable. Thus, there is no ‘name’ without ‘matter’ and there is no ‘matter’ without ‘name’, hence-name-&-matter. In this way ‘name’ designates the resistance, and ‘matter’ resists the designation. Without ‘name'(-body), there would not be any designation manifested in ‘matter'(-body), but without ‘matter'(-body), there would not be any resistance manifested in the ‘name'(-body). It is these respective manifestations of ‘designation’ and ‘resistance’ that are puthujjana’s problem.
You replied to SDC..
This is wrong. You can have nāma without rūpa, otherwise what are the immaterial realms? The sutta itself even implicitly says this.
Why do you say it is wrong? How can there be Nama without rupa?
If there was, it would make a falsity of Buddha's teaching of Paticca samuppada. Are you familiar with the 12 links of the sequence? Of course you are...

Can you pl. explain? In the doctrine of Buddha, which I think of as the Four Noble truths and Paticca samuppada, there is no reference to formless realms.
Paticca samuppada obviously does not support a formless realm, according to my understanding.
Am I missing something?
With love and respect :candle:
Last edited by Pulsar on Thu Sep 17, 2020 8:17 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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SDC
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Re: The Two Truths

Post by SDC »

Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Sep 17, 2020 2:21 pm As to the rest, I'm unsure how this relates to the two truths so I will wait until you can reply in detail.
I thought a different perspective on the relevant portion of DN 15 you posted would be pertinent to the discussion.

I need some time to review Ven. Sujato's comments before I respond in full. Unfortunately time is not on my side today.
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Re: The Two Truths

Post by DooDoot »

Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Sep 17, 2020 12:30 pm In his book "The Mystique of the Abhidhamma" Sujato makes the following comment regarding the doctrine of the two truths, in relation to the Mahanidana Sutta:
Let’s compare analytic treatment in the suttas and abhidhamma. Consider the famous chariot simile. Just as when the parts come together the word ‘chariot’ is used, so too when the five aggregates are present the word ‘self’ is used. There’s no implication that the parts are in any way more ‘ultimate’ than the chariot as a whole. The parts are themselves just constructs that may be further analyzed. Nor is there any implication that there would be any benefit in reducing the chariot to ‘ultimate’ parts and defining every element, even if this was possible. The purpose of the analysis is simply to show that the word ‘chariot’ is a convention, not to prove that there is something else which is not a convention. By postulating an ontologically privileged ultimate strata of being, one is committing the very error the original simile was designed to dispel.
I could be misreading him, but Sujato seems to be saying something similar (not identical) to the Prajñaptivādins in that dhammas are mere concepts only. However, instead of trying to guess which brand of heretical thought Sujato is subscribing to here I instead would like to use this passage as a talking point regarding the teaching of the two truths. Do the suttas support the idea that there is a conventional truth and an ultimate truth in your view? Has Sujato demolished such an idea here, or not?
While I found the above text both difficult & uninspiring to read, the text I highlighted in red appears wrong to me.

My interpretation of the sutta (SN 5.10) is the purpose of the analysis is to show that the word ‘a being’ ('satta') is a convention and the aggregates are not a convention.

Therefore, the sutta (SN 5.10) is not about "two truths". There appears no doctrine of "two truths" in the suttas because the Mara view of "a being" or "self" described in SN 5.10 is a falsehood rather than a "truth". "Convention" is ignorance rather than truth.
Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Sep 17, 2020 12:30 pm Sujato seems to be saying something similar (not identical) to the Prajñaptivādins in that dhammas are mere concepts only.
Non-conceptuality is not any form of "truth". For example, not labeling a cloud does not represent the truth of a cloud. Also, the text in DN 15 about nama-rupa & contact do not represent any forum of "liberating truth". It is the opposite. To believe non-labeling is liberation will only bring bondage; similar to the daily papanca read on this forum between SteRo & ConfusedLayMan. Your questions derived from apparent Mahayana brainwashing appear non-sequitur.
Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Sep 17, 2020 12:30 pm In his book "The Mystique of the Abhidhamma" Sujato makes the following comment regarding the doctrine of the two truths, in relation to the Mahanidana Sutta:
Sujato also proposed the DN was also composed for propagation to Brahmins. Therefore, to remain consistent, Sujato should probably treat the suttas in the DN with caution (unless proved otherwise). The text in DN 15 about nama-rupa & contact appears non-Buddhist and Brahministic in its nature; designed to attract/swindle Brahmins to Buddhism. The definitions of nama-rupa in DN 15 vs SN 12.2 are different and I imagine a realized Buddhist would adhere to SN 12.2. In short, there appears nothing "Great" ("Maha") about DN 15 and its title appears to be a misnomer. :mrgreen:
There is always an official executioner. If you try to take his place, It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood. If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.

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SDC
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Re: The Two Truths

Post by SDC »

Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Sep 17, 2020 2:21 pm The fact that this sutta omits it shows that we can have designation contact, that is nāma, without rūpa.
Just to clarify, are you saying that there can be designation without that which has been designated? Name without form?

I'm not sure how I feel about your reference to the immaterial yet, but I'll wait on that.
Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Sep 17, 2020 2:21 pm Also, a minor thing but this:
What a puthujjana has to realise is that regardless of what he perceives, it is always his perception that is perceived. Whether it is ‘earth’, ‘water’, ‘fire’, ‘air’ or any other thing that MN 1 mentions, all one will ever perceive (puthujjana and arahant alike) is one’s own perception of that ‘matter’.
sounds awfully similar to the Yogācāra doctrine of Vijñapti-mātra.
SN 22.79 wrote:And why, bhikkhus, do you call it perception? ‘It perceives,’ bhikkhus, therefore it is called perception. And what does it perceive? It perceives blue, it perceives yellow, it perceives red, it perceives white. ‘It perceives,’ bhikkhus, therefore it is called perception.
Sorry if this is a bit off topic for you, but if we aren't all generally on the same page about the meaning behind the DN 15 passage, we may not all be talking about the same things.
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Re: The Two Truths

Post by Bundokji »

I think the word "truth" itself is a convention to begin with. The interdependence between nama and rupa constructed a consciousness of which fabrications/conditions appear to meet and create a whole dependent on a vantage point. The ultimate is an act of reduction that assumes a beginning hence no less dependent on ignorance than the convention it came to deconstruct.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.
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Re: The Two Truths

Post by Srilankaputra »

Just some thoughts,

An intellectual understanding is sooner forgotten than leading to any great transformation. Some problems has to be tackled by living and working in to a solution. Now, that is a real solution. For me it is strange to think that, the Four Noble Truths can be understood by concepts already known.

Tañhi, bhikkhu, musā yaṃ mosadhammaṃ, taṃ saccaṃ yaṃ amosadhammaṃ nibbānaṃ.

Tasmā evaṃ samannāgato bhikkhu iminā 
paramena saccādhiṭṭhānena samannāgato hoti.

Etañhi, bhikkhu, paramaṃ ariyasaccaṃ yadidaṃ

amosadhammaṃ nibbānaṃ
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Re: The Two Truths

Post by pegembara »

A well written book on the subject by the late Venerable.

https://ahandfulofleaves.files.wordpres ... a_1971.pdf
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Re: The Two Truths

Post by Sabbe_Dhamma_Anatta »

Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Sep 17, 2020 2:00 pm I've put together a table looking at how some of the main traditions defined conventional reality and ultimate reality, which I've taken from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. A lot of it I have just copied and pasted, and obviously I have left quite a bit out. Information taken from here: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/twotruths-india/


The table is awesome.

Strangely, I seem to like them all, through some different respective perspectives, except from funnily awkward ones like: "emptiness as ultimate object", "mere consciousness" and "all are groundless" things.

Pleasantly found that theravada approach is the most down-to-earth and clearest one for me, needing the least conceptual fabrications to digest.

:thanks:
.


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Ceisiwr
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Re: The Two Truths

Post by Ceisiwr »

Sabbe_Dhamma_Anatta
Pleasantly found that theravada approach is the most down-to-earth and clearest one for me, needing the least conceptual fabrications to digest.
:thumbsup:
Saññāvirattassa na santi ganthā,
Paññāvimuttassa na santi mohā;
Saññañca diṭṭhiñca ye aggahesuṃ,
Te ghaṭṭayantā vicaranti loke”ti.


“For one detached from perception, there exist no ties,
for one by wisdom freed, no delusions are there,
but those who have grasped perceptions and views,
they wander the world stirring up strife."


Māgaṇḍiya Sutta
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