Idealism Revisited

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Ceisiwr
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Idealism Revisited

Post by Ceisiwr »

I've been having some thoughts lately, born out from an in depth study of the Abhidhamma and some non Theravādin Buddhist material and some secular ideas. I was going to post a long and drawn out near essay, but as that usually loses people i'll try and make it pithy and elaborate in the further discussion. My current thinking, which I'm not wedded to but considering, is that the Abhidhamma and so the Buddha actually taught Idealism as opposed to Dualism or Realism.

The Abhidhamma teaches that whole objects such as houses, beings or cars do not really exist. These are conceptual constructs born out of the synthesising nature of the mind. When I eat an apple the "apple" is not really there. All that I really experience, from an ultimate reality perspective, are a collection of dhammas; green, hardness, coolness, sweet and so on. In Western philosophical terms we would call these "sense datum". From the Abhidhamma and from the Suttas there can be no underlying substance either within and enduring in these qualities nor some primary quality or noumenon substance behind them. The Buddha is an empiricist and so rejects substance metaphysics, for if there were a substance then conditioned phenomena would be permanent and so could potentially be a Self. Given that the Buddha rejects substance in any form, all we can say of the dhammas is that they are mere phenomena. So when I eat the apple there is only green, hardness, coolness, sweet etc. There is only sense data. This in turn places the Dhamma within the empiricist theory of "phenomenalism" (not to be confused with phenomenology). Given then that all I am aware of are mental phenomena and that these phenomena comprise the All, it stands to reason that all that exists is Mind, Idea and phenomena. In other words, Idealism.

Now, it can be objected that yes, all we are aware of are phenomena in mind but that does not mean that the external material world does not exist. In reply I would say that all we are aware of are phenomena in mind and that this comprises the All. Given that the All is all that can be known then we cannot say that there is anything outside of the mind, just like how we cannot say that there is a self outside of the All. Now the Buddha alludes to and the Abhidhamma explicitly teaches about mind and matter. Does this then mean that idealism is ruled out? I wouldn’t say so. The Abhidhamma itself identifies nama with “bending” and rupa with “being molested”. These are merely ways of distinguishing two groups of phenomena and say nothing in themselves regarding if matter actually exists, independent of mind. If matter is to exist independent of mind then it requires substance, but substance is a substantial core which the Buddha denies.

Thoughts?
"Because of attachment to doctrines one approaches and refutes,
For those unattached, how can they dispute?
Not because self or no-self are said to be true,
He has only shaken off all harmful views."


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Re: Idealism Revisited

Post by DooDoot »

Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 4:10 am The Abhidhamma teaches that whole objects such as houses, beings or cars do not really exist. These are conceptual constructs...
So when a house keeps me dry in the rain and cool in the heat, is that function is merely a construct?
Reflecting properly, they make use of lodgings: ‘Only for the sake of warding off cold and heat; for warding off the touch of flies, mosquitoes, wind, sun, and reptiles; to shelter from harsh weather and to enjoy retreat.’

https://suttacentral.net/an6.58/en/sujato
:alien:
Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 4:10 amfrom the Suttas there can be no underlying substance
:thinking:
Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 4:10 amNow, it can be objected that yes, all we are aware of are phenomena in mind but that does not mean that the external material world does not exist. In reply I would say that all we are aware of are phenomena in mind and that this comprises the All.
:thinking:
Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 4:10 amGiven that the All is all that can be known then we cannot say that there is anything outside of the mind,
:thinking:
Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 4:10 amjust like how we cannot say that there is a self outside of the All.
Non-sequitur analogy.
Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 4:10 am Now the Buddha alludes to and the Abhidhamma explicitly teaches about mind and matter.
Yes.
Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 4:10 amDoes this then mean that idealism is ruled out? I wouldn’t say so. The Abhidhamma itself identifies nama with “bending” and rupa with “being molested”. These are merely ways of distinguishing two groups of phenomena and say nothing in themselves regarding if matter actually exists, independent of mind. If matter is to exist independent of mind then it requires substance, but substance is a substantial core which the Buddha denies.
I think Covid-19 functions independent of mind. If it did not, we could cure Covid-19 merely by changing our thoughts rather than hysterically searching for 1st time in history "vaccine".
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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Ceisiwr
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Re: Idealism Revisited

Post by Ceisiwr »

DooDoot wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 4:36 am
So when a house keeps me dry in the rain and cool in the heat, that function is merely a construct?
Its not the house that keeps you dry but dhammas, in Abhidhamma terms. The house is merely a synthesised whole out of the dhammas. In other words, out of sense data. This is a phenomenalist position that you find in the likes of Berkley, Mill or Kant.
:alien:
Not an argument.
:thinking:
x3 not an argument.
Non-sequitur analogy.
How?
I think Covid-19 functions independent of mind. If it did not, we could cure Covid-19 merely by changing our thoughts rather than hysterically searching for 1st time in history "vaccine".
You have access to reality beyond mind, ignoring your claims to stream-entry and so cognition of Nibbana for a moment?
"Because of attachment to doctrines one approaches and refutes,
For those unattached, how can they dispute?
Not because self or no-self are said to be true,
He has only shaken off all harmful views."


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Re: Idealism Revisited

Post by DooDoot »

Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 4:40 am You have access to reality beyond mind
"access" appears unrelated to "reality".

My mind has no conscious access to my liver function yet obviously my life needs my liver function to operate properly.

if i drink too much alcohol, it may harm my liver function.

An attachment to an improper idiosyncratic interpretation of the Sabba Sutta appears misplaced
Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 4:40 am stream-entry and so cognition of Nibbana for a moment?
:shock:
Devaduta Sutta wrote:these beings — who were endowed with bad conduct of body, speech & mind, who reviled noble ones :shock: , held wrong views and undertook actions under the influence of wrong views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the realm of the hungry ghosts. Or how these beings — who were endowed with bad conduct of body, speech & mind, who reviled noble ones, held wrong views and undertook actions under the influence of wrong views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the animal womb. Or how these beings — who were endowed with bad conduct of body, speech & mind, who reviled noble ones, held wrong views and undertook actions under the influence of wrong views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in a plane of deprivation, a bad destination, a lower realm, hell.'

https://accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn ... .than.html


:jawdrop:
:strawman:
Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 4:40 am How?
It seems an external object is not necessarily a self. For example, a rock or drop of rain appears not to be a self or ego. It appears the suttas correlate 'self' with 'I making' and 'my making', possessiveness, selfishness & conceit. It appears a rock or drop of rain does not have the self-view that generates sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, despair & suffering.
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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Re: Idealism Revisited

Post by Ceisiwr »

DooDoot wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 4:56 am

"access" appears unrelated to "reality".
Reality is that which cannot be reduced further under analysis and is directly cognised. The dhammas are what are directly known. They are the irreducible facts of existence. All of them are either mind, idea or that which exists in mind.
My mind has no conscious access to my liver function yet obviously my life needs my liver function to operate properly.
Even in the Abhidhamma mind creates and sustains the "matter" of the body.
It seems an external object is not necessarily a self. For example, a rock or drop of rain appears not to be a self or ego. It appears the suttas correlate 'self' with 'I making' and 'my making', possessiveness, selfishness & conceit.
Who is talking about a self? :shrug:
"Because of attachment to doctrines one approaches and refutes,
For those unattached, how can they dispute?
Not because self or no-self are said to be true,
He has only shaken off all harmful views."


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Re: Idealism Revisited

Post by Ceisiwr »

“Mendicants, suppose this Ganges river was carrying along a big lump of foam. And a person with good eyesight would see it and contemplate it, examining it carefully. And it would appear to them as completely void, hollow, and insubstantial. For what substance could there be in a lump of foam?

In the same way, a mendicant sees and contemplates any kind of form at all—past, future, or present; internal or external; coarse or fine; inferior or superior; near or far—examining it carefully. And it appears to them as completely void, hollow, and insubstantial. For what substance could there be in form?

Suppose it was the time of autumn, when the rain was falling heavily, and a bubble on the water forms and pops right away. And a person with good eyesight would see it and contemplate it, examining it carefully. And it would appear to them as completely void, hollow, and insubstantial. For what substance could there be in a water bubble?

In the same way, a mendicant sees and contemplates any kind of feeling at all … examining it carefully. And it appears to them as completely void, hollow, and insubstantial. For what substance could there be in feeling?

Suppose that in the last month of summer, at noon, a shimmering mirage appears. And a person with good eyesight would see it and contemplate it, examining it carefully. And it would appear to them as completely void, hollow, and insubstantial. For what substance could there be in a mirage?

In the same way, a mendicant sees and contemplates any kind of perception at all … examining it carefully. And it appears to them as completely void, hollow, and insubstantial. For what substance could there be in perception?

Suppose there was a person in need of heartwood. Wandering in search of heartwood, they’d take a sharp axe and enter a forest. There they’d see a big banana tree, straight and young and grown free of defects. They’d cut it down at the base, cut off the top, and unroll the coiled sheaths. But they wouldn’t even find sapwood, much less heartwood. And a person with good eyesight would see it and contemplate it, examining it carefully. And it would appear to them as completely void, hollow, and insubstantial. For what substance could there be in a banana tree?

In the same way, a mendicant sees and contemplates any kind of choices at all … examining them carefully. And they appear to them as completely void, hollow, and insubstantial. For what substance could there be in choices?

Suppose a magician or their apprentice was to perform a magic trick at the crossroads. And a person with good eyesight would see it and contemplate it, examining it carefully. And it would appear to them as completely void, hollow, and insubstantial. For what substance could there be in a magic trick?

In the same way, a mendicant sees and contemplates any kind of consciousness at all—past, future, or present; internal or external; coarse or fine; inferior or superior; near or far—examining it carefully. And it appears to them as completely void, hollow, and insubstantial. For what substance could there be in consciousness?

Seeing this, a learned noble disciple grows disillusioned with form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness. Being disillusioned, desire fades away. When desire fades away they’re freed. When they’re freed, they know they’re freed. They understand: ‘… there is no return to any state of existence.’”

That is what the Buddha said. Then the Holy One, the Teacher, went on to say:

“Form is like a lump of foam;
feeling is like a bubble;
perception seems like a mirage;
choices like a banana tree;
and consciousness like a magic trick:
so taught the Kinsman of the Sun.

However you contemplate them,
examining them carefully,
they’re void and hollow
when you look at them closely.

Concerning this body,
he of vast wisdom has taught
that when three things are given up,
you’ll see this form discarded.

Vitality, warmth, and consciousness:
when they leave the body,
it lies there tossed aside,
food for others, mindless.

Such is this process,
this illusion, cooed over by fools.
It’s said to be a killer,
for no substance is found here.

An energetic mendicant
should examine the aggregates like this,
with situational awareness and mindfulness
whether by day or by night.

They should give up all fetters,
and make a refuge for themselves.
They should live as though their head was on fire,
aspiring to the imperishable state.”
Pheṇapiṇḍūpama Sutta

Probably one of the most important suttas in the records, which is also found in the Agamas as a perfect parallel. What is being taught here? Dhammas are impermanent and so are “completely void, hollow, and insubstantial”. The use of insubstantial is interesting, and the sutta and agama continues with “For what substance could there be in x dhamma”. The sutta interestingly makes use of the pali word “sāro”, which is translated here as “substance”. Other translations are:

Sāro:Essence,substance,choicest part,pithmarrow; main point,real truth; strength,vigour; wealth

1) Sāra (p. 705) Sāra Sāra [Vedic sāra nt.] 1. essential, most excellent, strong A ii.110; Vin iv.214; J iii.368; Pug 53. -- 2. (m.) the innermost, hardest part of anything, the heart or pith of a tree (see also pheggu) M i.111; J i.331; Miln 413; most excellent kind of wood Vin ii.110; D ii.182, 187; sattasārā the elect, the salt of the earth M iii.69. <-> 3. substance, essence, choicest part (generally at the end of comp.) Vin i.184; A ii.141; S iii.83, 140; Sn 5, 330, 364; Dh 11 sq.; PvA 132, 211 (candana˚). sāre patiṭṭhito established, based, on what is essential M i.31; A ii.183. -- 4. value Miln 10; appasāra of small value D ii.346. -- asāra worthless Sn 937; nissāra the same J ii.163 (pithless); mahāsāra of high value J i.384, 463.

So the dhammas are insubstantial, void and hollow because they lack an intrinsic central substance. They have no substantial core, no permanent being. Dhammas are without substance, or substantial existence. Dhammas then exist but only insubstantially, like ghosts. There is no enduring form, feeling, perception etc. They are empty of substance, be that a self or an enduring permanent substance of “form” or “feeling”. Form, feeling, perception etc have no substance to them. No permanent core out of which they emanate. If there is no substance to dhammas then there are no primary and secondary qualities, no noumenon that we can speak off behind the phenomenon. There is then only the experience of the phenomenon. When then I experience rupa, be it hardness or temperature, I am only aware of phenomenon and cannot see nor say anything regarding a substance behind it. There is only "hardness" or "cold" or "colour" without any reality behind the phenomenon. It then follows that all I am aware of are mental events, within mind.

In other words, from an Abhidhamma point of view if we are to say there is an external material reality we have to say there is a substance, but substance is rejected by the Buddha.
"Because of attachment to doctrines one approaches and refutes,
For those unattached, how can they dispute?
Not because self or no-self are said to be true,
He has only shaken off all harmful views."


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Re: Idealism Revisited

Post by skandha »

Sounds like an interesting topic with well thought out ideas presented in the OP.

Certainly external phenomena like rupa (form), sadda (sound), gandha (odour), rasa (taste), photthaba (pressure from physical contact) are real and not just ideals, even though we can only experience it internally through contact (phassa), that is the stimulation of the physical cells in the particular sense base. Wouldn't these external phenomena be considered to within the fourfold ultimate realities mentioned in the Abhidhammattha-sangaha? Thus are considered external phenomenal that is real.

(additional editing after reading other post by OP)
So we are saying here this notion of reality of the Abhidhammattha-sangaha seems not to be in line with the Buddha.
Form is like a lump of foam, Feeling like a water bubble; Perception is like a mirage, Volitions like a plantain trunk, and consciousness like an illusion
- SN 22.95
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Re: Idealism Revisited

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skandha wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 5:35 am Sounds like an interesting topic with well thought out ideas presented in the OP.
Why thank you.
Certainly external phenomena like rupa (form), sadda (sound), gandha (odour), rasa (taste), photthaba (pressure from physical contact) are real and not just ideals, even though we can only experience it internally through contact (phassa), that is the stimulation of the physical cells in the particular sense base. Wouldn't these external phenomena be considered to within the fourfold ultimate realities mentioned in the Abhidhammattha-sangaha? Thus are considered external phenomenal that is real.
The Abhidhamma teaches that when I eat an apple the "apple" itself is a construct. What I actually experience are the dhammas. I experience hardness, softness, colour (say green for a green apple), sweet, sour and so on. Apart from these dhammas there is no "apple", for that is conventional reality. The mind constructs the concept of "the apple" out of these raw sense data. So, going by the analysis of the Abhidhamma that there can be no substance or noumenon behind these dhammas, which is also a strong sutta position, when I eat an apple all I really know is taste, colour, hardness etc. These are sense data. Phenomena in the mind. Given then that the irreducible aspect of reality is sense data, and given that these sense data constitute the All, it stands to reason that the All is Mind, Idea and phenomena.
(additional editing after reading other post by OP)
So we are saying here this notion of reality of the Abhidhammattha-sangaha seems not to be in line with the Buddha.
No. I'm musing that the Abhidhamma is best understood as an Idealist system and that this system best represents the suttas.
"Because of attachment to doctrines one approaches and refutes,
For those unattached, how can they dispute?
Not because self or no-self are said to be true,
He has only shaken off all harmful views."


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Re: Idealism Revisited

Post by Coëmgenu »

Haven't you been rather critical of interpretations of dependent origination which place the meeting of the dhammas with the mind as intrinsically bound up in the processes of that mind, that they are mind-created as much as they may or may not be external object in addition to this? This seems like a very significant shift.
Then, the monks sang this gāthā:

These bodies are like foam.
Them being frail, who can rejoice in them?
The Buddha attained the vajra-body.
Still, it becomes inconstant and rots.
The many Buddhas are vajra-entities.
All are also subject to inconstancy.
Quickly ended, like melting snow --
how could things be different?

The Buddha passed into parinirvāṇa afterward.

(T1.27b10 Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra DĀ 2)
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Re: Idealism Revisited

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Coëmgenu wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 6:48 am Haven't you been rather critical of interpretations of dependent origination which place the meeting of the dhammas with the mind as intrinsically bound up in the processes of that mind, that they are mind-created as much as they may or may not be external object in addition to this? This seems like a very significant shift.
It is a shift, yet so far I feel its within the bounds of the Abhidhamma. That is to say, I'm in no way taking on Yogācāra or Mahāyāna here.
"Because of attachment to doctrines one approaches and refutes,
For those unattached, how can they dispute?
Not because self or no-self are said to be true,
He has only shaken off all harmful views."


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Re: Idealism Revisited

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Coëmgenu wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 6:48 am Haven't you been rather critical of interpretations of dependent origination which place the meeting of the dhammas with the mind as intrinsically bound up in the processes of that mind, that they are mind-created as much as they may or may not be external object in addition to this? This seems like a very significant shift.
Not in terms of my central thesis regarding substance and essence though. Its actually an outgrowth of that.
"Because of attachment to doctrines one approaches and refutes,
For those unattached, how can they dispute?
Not because self or no-self are said to be true,
He has only shaken off all harmful views."


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Re: Idealism Revisited

Post by Coëmgenu »

Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 7:05 am
Coëmgenu wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 6:48 am Haven't you been rather critical of interpretations of dependent origination which place the meeting of the dhammas with the mind as intrinsically bound up in the processes of that mind, that they are mind-created as much as they may or may not be external object in addition to this? This seems like a very significant shift.
Not in terms of my central thesis regarding substance and essence though. Its actually an outgrowth of that.
Here it is: https://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f ... ly#p577293

How do you differentiate your new idealism from that in which the land (the perception of the land) is determined by the deeds (the karma, seed and fruit) of the perceiver of the land?
Then, the monks sang this gāthā:

These bodies are like foam.
Them being frail, who can rejoice in them?
The Buddha attained the vajra-body.
Still, it becomes inconstant and rots.
The many Buddhas are vajra-entities.
All are also subject to inconstancy.
Quickly ended, like melting snow --
how could things be different?

The Buddha passed into parinirvāṇa afterward.

(T1.27b10 Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra DĀ 2)
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Re: Idealism Revisited

Post by Ceisiwr »

Coëmgenu wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 7:27 am
Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 7:05 am
Coëmgenu wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 6:48 am Haven't you been rather critical of interpretations of dependent origination which place the meeting of the dhammas with the mind as intrinsically bound up in the processes of that mind, that they are mind-created as much as they may or may not be external object in addition to this? This seems like a very significant shift.
Not in terms of my central thesis regarding substance and essence though. Its actually an outgrowth of that.
Here it is: https://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f ... ly#p577293

How do you differentiate your new idealism from that in which the land (the perception of the land) is determined by the deeds (the karma, seed and fruit) of the perceiver of the land?
I find myself deferring to Vasubandhu if I’m honest. Shocking I know, yet at the same time we do both take the Abhidhamma seriously.
Last edited by Ceisiwr on Thu Oct 22, 2020 8:22 am, edited 2 times in total.
"Because of attachment to doctrines one approaches and refutes,
For those unattached, how can they dispute?
Not because self or no-self are said to be true,
He has only shaken off all harmful views."


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Re: Idealism Revisited

Post by bridif1 »

Hi Ceisiwr!

If you don't mind, can I ask you a few questions about your opinion on certain matters?

1) If I didn't misunderstand what you wrote, I think you imply that whatever 'substance' is, it should be permanent. Is that the only way to understand 'substance'?

2) Is substance synonym to 'noumenon'?

3) How does the noumenon interact with our senses?
If the noumenon is completely out of reach, how does the interaction between it and our senses take place?

4) What is the source of the raw sense data?

5) Why do all of this matter?

By this last question, I'm not stating that it doesn't matter. This, in fact, is a question I ask to myself often, because of my tendencies to philosophical speculation.
Sometimes, I just have to remind myself of the main focus of the Dhamma: soteriology. Everything else (which could be classified as psychology, religion, cosmology, epistemology, ethics, axiology, philosophy of mind, ontology, phenenology, and so on) seems to be at disposal for that bigger goal. By keeping that in mind, I think I make clear the purpose of my inquiry: philosophical entertainment or Dhamma training.
By the nature of both paths, they seem to overlap in a lot of questions, methodology and conclusions, making the separation between them blurry; but I think their purpose is clearly different.

Thanks for your question and your time.

Kind regards!
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Re: Idealism Revisited

Post by skandha »

Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 5:28 am Dhammas then exist but only insubstantially, like ghosts. There is no enduring form, feeling, perception etc. They are empty of substance, be that a self or an enduring permanent substance of “form” or “feeling”. Form, feeling, perception etc have no substance to them. No permanent core out of which they emanate.
I agree, there is no enduring permanent substance. There is only a changing endurance for all conditioned dhammas, unlike the single unconditioned dhamma which has permanent endurance. Conditioned dhammas do really exist and is like an illusion, is like a ghost. It is not an illusion, or a ghost.
Last edited by skandha on Thu Oct 22, 2020 8:24 am, edited 1 time in total.
Form is like a lump of foam, Feeling like a water bubble; Perception is like a mirage, Volitions like a plantain trunk, and consciousness like an illusion
- SN 22.95
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