Without discoverable beginning

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
User avatar
superzach
Posts: 14
Joined: Tue Dec 29, 2020 6:52 am

Without discoverable beginning

Post by superzach »

Bhikkhus, this saṃsāra is without discoverable beginning....Suppose, bhikkhus, a man would cut up whatever grass, sticks, branches, and foliage there are in this Jambudı̄pa and collect them together into a single heap. Having done so, he would put them down, saying [for each one]: ‘This is my mother, this my mother’s mother.’ The sequence of that man’s mothers and grandmothers would not come to an end, yet the grass, wood, branches, and foliage in this Jambudı̄pa would be used up and exhausted. (SN 15:1)
I do not understand this (nor indeed the other analogies in the SN about samara having no discoverable beginning). I understand from the analogy that the pile of sticks, etc., is very large, but it does have an end, i.e., when the pile is eventually consumed. How does this passage demonstrate that samara has no beginning?

Thanks.
User avatar
Ceisiwr
Posts: 14126
Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2009 2:36 am

Re: Without discoverable beginning

Post by Ceisiwr »

superzach wrote: Tue Jul 27, 2021 2:49 pm
Bhikkhus, this saṃsāra is without discoverable beginning....Suppose, bhikkhus, a man would cut up whatever grass, sticks, branches, and foliage there are in this Jambudı̄pa and collect them together into a single heap. Having done so, he would put them down, saying [for each one]: ‘This is my mother, this my mother’s mother.’ The sequence of that man’s mothers and grandmothers would not come to an end, yet the grass, wood, branches, and foliage in this Jambudı̄pa would be used up and exhausted. (SN 15:1)
I do not understand this (nor indeed the other analogies in the SN about samara having no discoverable beginning). I understand from the analogy that the pile of sticks, etc., is very large, but it does have an end, i.e., when the pile is eventually consumed. How does this passage demonstrate that samara has no beginning?

Thanks.
He never said it has no beginning, which would be a speculative view. He said a beginning couldn’t be found.
"Monks, all compounded things are as an illusion, a flame, ceasing in an instant; being not real they come (arise) and go (cease)"

All Empty Compounded Things - SA 273
Cause_and_Effect
Posts: 289
Joined: Fri Jul 23, 2021 7:39 am

Re: Without discoverable beginning

Post by Cause_and_Effect »

superzach wrote: Tue Jul 27, 2021 2:49 pm
Bhikkhus, this saṃsāra is without discoverable beginning....Suppose, bhikkhus, a man would cut up whatever grass, sticks, branches, and foliage there are in this Jambudı̄pa and collect them together into a single heap. Having done so, he would put them down, saying [for each one]: ‘This is my mother, this my mother’s mother.’ The sequence of that man’s mothers and grandmothers would not come to an end, yet the grass, wood, branches, and foliage in this Jambudı̄pa would be used up and exhausted. (SN 15:1)
I do not understand this (nor indeed the other analogies in the SN about samara having no discoverable beginning). I understand from the analogy that the pile of sticks, etc., is very large, but it does have an end, i.e., when the pile is eventually consumed. How does this passage demonstrate that samara has no beginning?

Thanks.
The analogies are to give a sense of vastness. As in "imagine all the grains of sand from here to the river Ganges represent an Aeon, the grains of sand could be counted and still there would be more Aeons that have passed"

So it just means that whatever limit you put, the past goes back further because there is no discernable beginning.

Beginningless time without being able to discover the beginning actually makes the most sense;

- If Samsara has a beginning, it would postulate a first cause (something like 'God'). But then the question remains what created or instigated the first cause? Postulating a 'beginning' and first cause is no real answer as one would need to account for what caused the first cause... ad infinitum. We are back to beginningless causes

- If Samsara has no beginning, of course no beginning could ever be found as one could spend ones entire life recalling past lives and would reach the end of ones life without discovering any beginning to Samsara.
So one would only ever be able to say about beginningless time that there is no discoverable beginning, for to say for sure that there is 'no beginning' would imply one has surveyed all of time, indicating a limit and thus not beginningless which is infinite.
Beginningless can only be called undiscoverable beginning.

- The answer is that within Samara there cannot be any answer so will appear only paradoxical. Like the destination of the Tathagata after death there are only paradoxes and undeclared statements. So too understanding Samsara's nature and begininglesness cannot be comprehended and will lead to only befuddlement. The question is to be put aside.

"There are these four unconjecturables that are not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about them. Which four?

"The Buddha-range of the Buddhas is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.

"The jhana-range of a person in jhana...

"The [precise working out of the] results of kamma...

"Conjecture about [the origin, etc., of] the world is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.

"These are the four unconjecturables that are not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about them."

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
Bundokji
Posts: 4141
Joined: Mon Nov 24, 2014 11:57 pm

Re: Without discoverable beginning

Post by Bundokji »

You could approach it through the idea of infinite regress which leads no where. It is the uncertainty of constructions, which assumes a beginning through an abrupt disruption of the logic itself, that things still have a beginning.

In contrast, the counter logic as taught by the Buddha presents the beginning of an end through hearing the words of the wise. Before entering the stream, there is no end in sight for the vicious cycle of birth and death. After stream entry, there is an end in sight.
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.
takso
Posts: 12
Joined: Wed Aug 26, 2020 6:12 am

Re: Without discoverable beginning

Post by takso »

Samsāra literally means continuous flow - referring to a repeating cycle of birth, life, death, and re-birth. In samsāra, there is one thing that is consistently constant, i.e. becoming process due to the orientation of energy. The elements of energy would constantly fluctuate and orientate in translational, rotational, and vibrational motions. Subsequently, the conditions of duality or multiplicity would arise out of the combination of deflective, translational, vibrational, and rotational forces as the becoming processes moved into an advanced level of complexity.

In samsāra, everything is impartial and interconnected ad infinitum (emptiness everywhere). This means everything is a matrix of everything and the circumstances of duality or multiplicity would always exist in all things or matters (with the mind as the forerunner of all states). Just like the rising of one thing would conjure up the falling of another thing elsewhere, without exception. This conclusion brings us to an understanding that samsāra is conducting itself impeccably as a constant (a characteristic of inherent existence). At the end of the day, one could conclude that samsāra is universal because it is a dependent arising system with the characteristics of inherent existence as well (anything inherently exists would not involve change).

However, one must understand that conventional reality (samsāra) does not work in a linear path because all things or matters will co-arise interdependently since the dawn of time in a very comprehensive network of existence. This means there is a devoid of first cause and effect. Instead, there is only a continuum of rising and falling events as depicted in the cycle of Dependent Origination. All causes and effects are inter-changing and inter-weaving with one another in a complicated network of existence known as dependent nature.
User avatar
SDC
Posts: 7363
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:08 pm

Re: Without discoverable beginning

Post by SDC »

This seems to be the key:
SN 22.100 wrote: Bhikkhus, this saṁsara is without discoverable beginning. A first point is not discerned of beings roaming and wandering on hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving….
AN 10.61 wrote: Bhikkhus, this is said: ‘A first point of ignorance, bhikkhus, is not seen such that before this there was no ignorance and afterward it came into being.’ Still, ignorance is seen to have a specific condition.
...
SN 56.17 wrote:What is ignorance, venerable sir, and in what way is one immersed in ignorance?”

“Bhikkhu, not knowing suffering, not knowing the origin of suffering, not knowing the cessation of suffering, not knowing the way leading to the cessation of suffering: this is called ignorance, bhikkhu, and it is in this way that one is immersed in ignorance.
The wandering on of saṁsara would have always been with the presence of that not knowing.
asahi
Posts: 1068
Joined: Wed Oct 07, 2020 4:23 pm

Re: Without discoverable beginning

Post by asahi »

SDC wrote: Wed Jul 28, 2021 11:25 am This seems to be the key:
SN 22.100 wrote: Bhikkhus, this saṁsara is without discoverable beginning. A first point is not discerned of beings roaming and wandering on hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving….
AN 10.61 wrote: Bhikkhus, this is said: ‘A first point of ignorance, bhikkhus, is not seen such that before this there was no ignorance and afterward it came into being.’ Still, ignorance is seen to have a specific condition.
...
SN 56.17 wrote:What is ignorance, venerable sir, and in what way is one immersed in ignorance?”

“Bhikkhu, not knowing suffering, not knowing the origin of suffering, not knowing the cessation of suffering, not knowing the way leading to the cessation of suffering: this is called ignorance, bhikkhu, and it is in this way that one is immersed in ignorance.
Hi SDC

It seems samsara are not synonymous with ignorance .
Peace is more precious than triumph
User avatar
SDC
Posts: 7363
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:08 pm

Re: Without discoverable beginning

Post by SDC »

asahi wrote: Thu Jul 29, 2021 9:12 am
SDC wrote: Wed Jul 28, 2021 11:25 am This seems to be the key:
SN 22.100 wrote: Bhikkhus, this saṁsara is without discoverable beginning. A first point is not discerned of beings roaming and wandering on hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving….
AN 10.61 wrote: Bhikkhus, this is said: ‘A first point of ignorance, bhikkhus, is not seen such that before this there was no ignorance and afterward it came into being.’ Still, ignorance is seen to have a specific condition.
...
SN 56.17 wrote:What is ignorance, venerable sir, and in what way is one immersed in ignorance?”

“Bhikkhu, not knowing suffering, not knowing the origin of suffering, not knowing the cessation of suffering, not knowing the way leading to the cessation of suffering: this is called ignorance, bhikkhu, and it is in this way that one is immersed in ignorance.
Hi SDC

It seems samsara are not synonymous with ignorance .
I never said they were synonymous with each other. The sutta quotes are showing a relationship of support.
asahi
Posts: 1068
Joined: Wed Oct 07, 2020 4:23 pm

Re: Without discoverable beginning

Post by asahi »

SDC wrote: Thu Jul 29, 2021 9:43 am ....
OP question is about samsara not ignorance . Samsara is about starting point of rebirth . Ignorance is about state of mind . Therefore introducing the suttas above appears unrelated .
Last edited by asahi on Thu Jul 29, 2021 11:04 am, edited 1 time in total.
Peace is more precious than triumph
justindesilva
Posts: 1600
Joined: Wed Jul 27, 2016 12:38 pm

Re: Without discoverable beginning

Post by justindesilva »

superzach wrote: Tue Jul 27, 2021 2:49 pm
Bhikkhus, this saṃsāra is without discoverable beginning....Suppose, bhikkhus, a man would cut up whatever grass, sticks, branches, and foliage there are in this Jambudı̄pa and collect them together into a single heap. Having done so, he would put them down, saying [for each one]: ‘This is my mother, this my mother’s mother.’ The sequence of that man’s mothers and grandmothers would not come to an end, yet the grass, wood, branches, and foliage in this Jambudı̄pa would be used up and exhausted. (SN 15:1)
I do not understand this (nor indeed the other analogies in the SN about samara having no discoverable beginning). I understand from the analogy that the pile of sticks, etc., is very large, but it does have an end, i.e., when the pile is eventually consumed. How does this passage demonstrate that samara has no beginning?

Thanks.
If we try to trace our geneolgy from a beginning , for sure we will beeak down somewhere. Beggining of Samsara similarly cannot be seen because it could be beginning of our own citta. But surely it had to start somewhere. Our interest should be ending of this citta.
User avatar
SDC
Posts: 7363
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:08 pm

Re: Without discoverable beginning

Post by SDC »

asahi wrote: Thu Jul 29, 2021 10:13 am OP question is about samsara not ignorance . Samsara is about starting point of rebirth . Ignorance is about state of mind . Therefore introducing the suttas above appears unrelated .
The reason for your objection is one the stranger things I’ve heard. Do I need to post every sutta about dependent origination to show you how ignorance supports this “whole mass of suffering”? What about this one:
Iti 14 wrote: Bhikkhus, I do not perceive any single hindrance other than the hindrance of ignorance by which humankind is so obstructed and for so long a time runs on and wanders in saṁsāra. It is indeed through the hindrance of ignorance that humankind is obstructed and for a long time runs on and wanders in saṁsāra.”
How exactly are they unrelated?

The suttas seem to say that the beginning is undiscoverable because ignorance would have always been the reason for that wandering on, and no past life would contain a point when ignorance was not supporting that being. No matter how far back this would always be what is found. I think it might give the OP a better idea of why that first point is unavailable.
User avatar
DooDoot
Posts: 11957
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:06 pm

Re: Without discoverable beginning

Post by DooDoot »

Cause_and_Effect wrote: Wed Jul 28, 2021 1:15 am If Samsara has a beginning, it would postulate a first cause
The suttas appear to say ignorance is the 1st cause:
Bhikkhus, this is said: ‘A first point of ignorance, bhikkhus, is not seen such that before this there was no ignorance and afterward it came into being

https://suttacentral.net/an10.61/en/bodhi
The Blessed One said, "Monks, ignorance is the leader in the attainment of unskillful qualities...

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
And what is dependent co-arising? From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications. From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness. From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form. From name-&-form as a requisite condition come the six sense media. From the six sense media as a requisite condition comes contact. From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling. From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving. From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging/sustenance. From clinging/sustenance as a requisite condition comes becoming. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth. From birth as a requisite condition, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair come into play. Such is the origination of this entire mass of stress & suffering.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
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.

https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/paticcasamuppada
https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/anapanasati
asahi
Posts: 1068
Joined: Wed Oct 07, 2020 4:23 pm

Re: Without discoverable beginning

Post by asahi »

SDC wrote: Thu Jul 29, 2021 11:06 am Do I need to post every sutta about dependent origination to show you how ignorance supports this “whole mass of suffering”? What about this one:
Iti 14 wrote: Bhikkhus, I do not perceive any single hindrance other than the hindrance of ignorance by which humankind is so obstructed and for so long a time runs on and wanders in saṁsāra. It is indeed through the hindrance of ignorance that humankind is obstructed and for a long time runs on and wanders in saṁsāra.”
How exactly are they unrelated?

The suttas seem to say that the beginning is undiscoverable because ignorance would have always been the reason for that wandering on, and no past life would contain a point when ignorance was not supporting that being. No matter how far back this would always be what is found. I think it might give the OP a better idea of why that first point is unavailable.

If you place ignorance as the reason for samsara continuation , it does not implied samsara do not have a beginning point nor samsara has a beginning point . It just means it is Unknowable to make it plain . Do you aware of the differences .
Peace is more precious than triumph
User avatar
SDC
Posts: 7363
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:08 pm

Re: Without discoverable beginning

Post by SDC »

asahi wrote: Thu Jul 29, 2021 12:03 pm If you place ignorance as the reason for samsara continuation , it does not implied samsara do not have a beginning point nor samsara has a beginning point .
I never said it did.

I said it was unavailable.
Cause_and_Effect
Posts: 289
Joined: Fri Jul 23, 2021 7:39 am

Re: Without discoverable beginning

Post by Cause_and_Effect »

DooDoot wrote: Thu Jul 29, 2021 11:56 am
Cause_and_Effect wrote: Wed Jul 28, 2021 1:15 am If Samsara has a beginning, it would postulate a first cause
The suttas appear to say ignorance is the 1st cause:
Bhikkhus, this is said: ‘A first point of ignorance, bhikkhus, is not seen such that before this there was no ignorance and afterward it came into being

https://suttacentral.net/an10.61/en/bodhi
The Blessed One said, "Monks, ignorance is the leader in the attainment of unskillful qualities...

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
And what is dependent co-arising? From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications. From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness. From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form. From name-&-form as a requisite condition come the six sense media. From the six sense media as a requisite condition comes contact. From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling. From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving. From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging/sustenance. From clinging/sustenance as a requisite condition comes becoming. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth. From birth as a requisite condition, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair come into play. Such is the origination of this entire mass of stress & suffering.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
And there is no beginning to the chains of dependent co-arising in the infinite stream of lives.
The suttas clearly state that a first cause of ignorance cannot be discerned. Thus there is no absolute first cause, since any point of ignorance would be preceded by the other factors of dependent co-arising in previous lives that led to the fruition of ignorance at that particular point.
Post Reply