"The Deathless" (amata)

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Re: "The Deathless" (amata)

Postby nowheat » Thu Mar 29, 2012 11:40 am

nowheat wrote:Death (and even aging-and-death) is equated with dukkha throughout the suttas. This makes amata freedom from dukkha.

Spiny O'Norman wrote:But if aging and death are dukkha, then to be completely free from dukkha we need to free from aging and death. So...?

Funny how fast we get back onto rebirth, isn't it? I guess I could have been clearer.

What I should have said (when trying to be brief) was:

The words "death" and even "aging and death" are being substituted for the word "dukkha". This makes amata freedom from dukkha.


But that would have been an oversimplification, because, really, I'm not meaning that "the words" are being substituted for "the word" dukkha, though that is one way of putting what I am saying.

This is what I'm saying: In most situations, when the Buddha talks about "aging and death" he doesn't really mean "aging and death", he means "dukkha" -- or "impermanence" (the two being the same thing, really).

It is an oversimplification of what's being said in the suttas to take as one's understanding that freedom from dukkha = freedom from literal death. Just as it's an oversimplification to see freedom from dukkha as freedom from literal birth, literal feeling, and literal consciousness. Or even that to end dukkha one has to be free from all the forms of ignorance ("literal ignorance") first. All of the terms used in dependent origination, if confined just to their plainest, most-literal interpretations, are going to confuse the issue.

The Buddha *does* make the point that if there were no birth at all we would not experience dukkha. This is quite obviously true to anyone with half a brain. It's equally true that if there were no sickness or death -- if things were not impermanent and changeable -- there would be no dukkha, because dukkha feeds off of impermanence. It is also true that if we felt nothing there would be no dukkha. If we had no consciousness at all, there would be no dukkha. These things are so obvious that we don't need a Buddha to discover them or point them out to us.

What he is saying is much, much subtler than this. I have detailed the subtleties before, so I won't do it again here.

But he is not saying that death is the exact equivalent of dukkha in every way. He is using a sort of short-hand. Having explained (to the people in his day to whom the argument he was making in dependent arising would have been much clearer than it is to us, since they had the context to understand it) what "death" represents in his core lesson (as outlined in the post linked in the paragraph above) he would expect that when he mentions "death" the listener would understand it not as literal death, but as (1) a base condition for dukkha to happen (2) the nutriment required for dukkha to happen (3) a euphemism for dukkha in that it is "not going to heaven and bliss but just more of the same old same old".

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Re: "The Deathless" (amata)

Postby nowheat » Thu Mar 29, 2012 11:54 am

kirk5a wrote:Ok that's great and all. But what does this "freedom from dukkha, which is the end of greed, hatred and delusion" actually amount to, as an experienced reality?

Is it just sitting down and breathing in and out and when it doesn't seem like there is any greed, hatred, or delusion going on... nibbana? Amata? Freedom from birth and death?


Given that the Buddha tends to talk on many levels at once, I'm pretty sure the word "just" isn't going to apply.

Though I know sometimes I make it seem like that's what I think ("It's just that moment in meditation when your mind is still...") I am usually doing that to balance the tendency to see what we're discussing as some Super-Hard-To-Achieve, Comes-In-One-Big-Blast-And-Then-You're-Done Thing.

I expect that what the Buddha means is a range, from those fleeting moments of equanimity we experience in meditation when we have stilled thoughts and nothing is going on centered around our sense of self; to the wonderful moment when all that practice first fruits in us being able to not blurt the first thing that comes to mind when someone pushes one of our buttons (and we realize we have subverted the whole path of events that would have happened had we just reacted the way we usually do); to greater and greater lengths of time able to stay mindful and watching what arises and not letting the "this is me" stuff run through its programming; to (ideally) finally getting to where we've found every instance we can of our holding onto that unnecessary sense of self that causes our problems, when our aversion to it has gotten so powerful from practice that it just no longer arises to result in dukkha.

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Re: "The Deathless" (amata)

Postby nowheat » Thu Mar 29, 2012 12:04 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Anyway, if I were to have my turn to venture forth my personal perspective on "what it is referring to", I would say it pertains to the quality of non-dissolution in that which is not-formed. i.e. the not-deathness, or deathlessness of asankhata dhammas.


I like this very much, and had not thought of it that way. Thank you for posting your interpretation here.

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Re: "The Deathless" (amata)

Postby squarepeg » Thu Mar 29, 2012 12:51 pm

I cant explain fully now cause i have to work, but if your caught between infered phenomonology and literal experience i recommend reasearching what Antonio Damasio has termed the "as if body loop" with refrence to the reason there are 5 clinging aggregates and 5 normal aggregates. Freedom from metaphysical assertion is worth it!
"Yadisam vapate bijam tadisam harate phalam" — as we sow, so shall we reap
Maranam Bhavissati - "death will take place"
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Re: "The Deathless" (amata)

Postby Nyana » Thu Mar 29, 2012 12:57 pm

Spiny O'Norman wrote:But if aging and death are dukkha, then to be completely free from dukkha we need to free from aging and death. So...?

A living arahant who has realized the nibbāna component with fuel remaining (saupādisesa nibbānadhātu) still isn't entirely free from the appropriated aggregates of that life insofar as s/he still has a body. The Nettippakaraṇa:

    Herein, the world is, at one time or another, somewhat free from to the unsatisfactoriness of pain (dukkhadukkhatā) as well as the unsatisfactoriness of change (vipariṇāmadukkhatā). Why is that? Because there are those in the world who have little sickness and are long-lived. But only the nibbāna component with no fuel remaining (anupādisesa nibbānadhātu) liberates from the unsatisfactoriness of fabrications (saṅkhāradukkhatā).
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Re: "The Deathless" (amata)

Postby kirk5a » Thu Mar 29, 2012 2:33 pm

nowheat wrote: when our aversion to it has gotten so powerful from practice that it just no longer arises to result in dukkha.

The sense of self no long arises though the power of aversion?
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: "The Deathless" (amata)

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Mar 29, 2012 3:05 pm

kirk5a wrote:
nowheat wrote: when our aversion to it has gotten so powerful from practice that it just no longer arises to result in dukkha.

The sense of self no long arises though the power of aversion?
While "aversion" can ba useful tool when carefully used, I'd like to see the textual evidence for nowheat's claim.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

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Re: "The Deathless" (amata)

Postby Sarva » Thu Mar 29, 2012 3:33 pm

"The Deathless", used alone seems to imply a state or a being i.e. a deathless self, which if taken as such is opposed to anatta.

However when used in respect to the process of birth (coming) and death (going) then it is closer to a pointer beyond impermanence and suffering (anicca and dukkha).

Nibanna is not subject to coming or going and hence could be described as free from birth and death (or birthless and deathless) but to describe it as "The Deathless" risks conceptualising it into something (a self). But it is just a stumbling block of language limitation which can be overcome. I don't consider it to be too troublesome.

E.g. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .irel.html

Then, on realizing its significance, the Lord uttered on that occasion this inspired utterance:
For the supported there is instability, for the unsupported there is no instability; when there is no instability there is serenity; when there is serenity there is no inclination: when there is no inclination there is no coming-and-going; when there is no coming-and-going there is no decease-and-uprising; when there is no decease-and-uprising there is neither "here" nor "beyond" nor "in between the two." Just this is the end of suffering.
“Both formerly & now, it is only stress that I describe, and the cessation of stress.” — SN 22:86
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Re: "The Deathless" (amata)

Postby nowheat » Thu Mar 29, 2012 6:40 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
kirk5a wrote:
nowheat wrote: when our aversion to it has gotten so powerful from practice that it just no longer arises to result in dukkha.

The sense of self no long arises though the power of aversion?
While "aversion" can ba useful tool when carefully used, I'd like to see the textual evidence for nowheat's claim.


I wasn't using "aversion" in its Theravadin context, I was using it in its common English context. But here's what I mean:

Where I used aversion loosely, Thanissaro Bhikkhu uses "disenchantment":

AN 11.2 wrote:"For a person who knows & sees things as they actually are, there is no need for an act of will, 'May I feel disenchantment.' It is in the nature of things that a person who knows & sees things as they actually are feels disenchantment.


and here too, from Bhikkhu Bodhi:

SN 12.23 wrote:"Dispassion, monks, also has a supporting condition, I say, it does not lack a supporting condition. And what is the supporting condition for dispassion? 'Disenchantment' should be the reply.

"Disenchantment, monks, also has a supporting condition, I say, it does not lack a supporting condition. And what is the supporting condition for disenchantment? 'The knowledge and vision of things as they really are' should be the reply.


The word they are translating as "disenchantment" is nibbindati:

Nibbindati [nis+vindati, vid2] to get wearied of (c. loc.); to have enough of, be satiated, turn away from, to be disgusted with.


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Re: "The Deathless" (amata)

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Mar 29, 2012 6:57 pm

Certainly nibbida is an important step in the progress towards nibbana:
See: viewtopic.php?f=25&t=11701
... for the Release has its prerequisite, I tell you. It is not without a prerequisite. And what is its prerequisite? Dispassion... Disenchantment... Knowledge & vision of things as they actually are present ...

and the Theravada commentaries, where it is framed in terms of disenchantment (sometimes more strongly translated as "disgust") with the aggregates. See, for example:
http://aimwell.org/Books/Mahasi/Progres ... ml#Disgust
8. Knowledge of Disgust (nibbidā-ñāna)

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Re: "The Deathless" (amata)

Postby squarepeg » Thu Mar 29, 2012 8:32 pm

aversion=emotion, dispassion=reason
"Yadisam vapate bijam tadisam harate phalam" — as we sow, so shall we reap
Maranam Bhavissati - "death will take place"
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Re: "The Deathless" (amata)

Postby Viscid » Thu Mar 29, 2012 8:34 pm

Seems like there is a conventional/unconventional dichotomy in the use of the word 'aversion.' The conventional leads to further conditioning/attachment, while the unconventional (aversion to mental fabrications or further conditioning) leads to deconditioning/dispassion/release.
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Re: "The Deathless" (amata)

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Mar 29, 2012 8:43 pm

squarepeg wrote:aversion=emotion, dispassion=reason

I don't think one can develop dispassion by just reasoning. The suttas, commentaries, and modern teachers seem to be in agreement that it is something that has come from experiential knowledge.

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Re: "The Deathless" (amata)

Postby squarepeg » Thu Mar 29, 2012 8:47 pm

Viscid wrote:Seems like there is a conventional/unconventional dichotomy in the use of the word 'aversion.' The conventional leads to further conditioning/attachment, while the unconventional (aversion to mental fabrications or further conditioning) leads to deconditioning/dispassion/release.


Its not that its conventional and unconventional. Averion implys that there is a object of the senses, ie something you can turn away from or act aversly to, ie "verses" (what is known as an emotional reaction). Dispassion (or unconventional aversion to put it in your words) implys that there is no action towards any object of the senses, ie mental reasoning
"Yadisam vapate bijam tadisam harate phalam" — as we sow, so shall we reap
Maranam Bhavissati - "death will take place"
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Re: "The Deathless" (amata)

Postby squarepeg » Thu Mar 29, 2012 8:51 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
squarepeg wrote:aversion=emotion, dispassion=reason

I don't think one can develop dispassion by just reasoning. The suttas, commentaries, and modern teachers seem to be in agreement that it is something that has come from experiential knowledge.

:anjali:
Mike


Its experiential in the way that there is dispassion "about", the product of narritive reasoning, litterally (reason is) because humans have the ability to reorient our goals with out it affecting our emotional state.

while in the case of aversion it is a "towards"
"Yadisam vapate bijam tadisam harate phalam" — as we sow, so shall we reap
Maranam Bhavissati - "death will take place"
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Re: "The Deathless" (amata)

Postby Viscid » Thu Mar 29, 2012 8:51 pm

squarepeg wrote:
Viscid wrote:Seems like there is a conventional/unconventional dichotomy in the use of the word 'aversion.' The conventional leads to further conditioning/attachment, while the unconventional (aversion to mental fabrications or further conditioning) leads to deconditioning/dispassion/release.


Its not that its conventional and unconventional. Averion implys that there is a object of the senses, ie something you can turn away from or act aversly to, ie "verses" (what is known as an emotional reaction). Dispassion (or unconventional aversion to put it in your words) implys that there is no action towards any object of the senses, ie mental reasoning


I didn't really know how to word it, so substitute 'conventional' and 'unconventional' with whatever you want. The important idea is to distinguish two types of aversion, one skillful and one not.
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Re: "The Deathless" (amata)

Postby squarepeg » Thu Mar 29, 2012 8:54 pm

Viscid wrote:
squarepeg wrote:
Viscid wrote:Seems like there is a conventional/unconventional dichotomy in the use of the word 'aversion.' The conventional leads to further conditioning/attachment, while the unconventional (aversion to mental fabrications or further conditioning) leads to deconditioning/dispassion/release.


Its not that its conventional and unconventional. Averion implys that there is a object of the senses, ie something you can turn away from or act aversly to, ie "verses" (what is known as an emotional reaction). Dispassion (or unconventional aversion to put it in your words) implys that there is no action towards any object of the senses, ie mental reasoning


I didn't really know how to word it, so substitute 'conventional' and 'unconventional' with whatever you want. The important idea is to distinguish two types of aversion, one skillful and one not.


No no no, there is no skillful aversion!
imagine your the buddha right now and you have to compose a doctrine with out a written language, would you still put too obviously diffrent definitions under the word aversion? the dhamma wouldnt last a decade!
"Yadisam vapate bijam tadisam harate phalam" — as we sow, so shall we reap
Maranam Bhavissati - "death will take place"
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Re: "The Deathless" (amata)

Postby squarepeg » Thu Mar 29, 2012 9:02 pm

squarepeg wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:
squarepeg wrote:aversion=emotion, dispassion=reason

I don't think one can develop dispassion by just reasoning. The suttas, commentaries, and modern teachers seem to be in agreement that it is something that has come from experiential knowledge.

:anjali:
Mike


Its experiential in the way that there is dispassion "about", the product of narritive reasoning, litterally (reason is) because humans have the ability to reorient our goals with out it affecting our emotional state.

while in the case of aversion it is a "towards"



What i mean is, we have the ability to think about a tiger with out feeling fear. but just becasue we have this ability dosent mean that we are always using it, many times thoughts about things trigger the same emotional response (physicological change) then if it were fresh off the press, or the optic nerve in this case. If humans could not reflect like this with out physicological change then we would not be able to reason and there would be no enlightenment either.
"Yadisam vapate bijam tadisam harate phalam" — as we sow, so shall we reap
Maranam Bhavissati - "death will take place"
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Re: "The Deathless" (amata)

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Mar 30, 2012 4:05 am

nowheat wrote:I wasn't using "aversion" in its Theravadin context, I was using it in its common English context. But here's what I mean:
Okay. Thanks. I appreciate the textual quotes, especially AN 11.2. I do not think I would use the word aversion, nor would I make quite the same statement as you did, but no biggie. Like most everything, opinions are going to vary.
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.

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Re: "The Deathless" (amata)

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Mar 30, 2012 4:29 am

Sarva wrote:Nibanna is not subject to coming or going and hence could be described as free from birth and death (or birthless and deathless) but to describe it as "The Deathless" risks conceptualising it into something (a self). But it is just a stumbling block of language limitation which can be overcome. I don't consider it to be too troublesome.

E.g. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .irel.html

Then, on realizing its significance, the Lord uttered on that occasion this inspired utterance:
For the supported there is instability, for the unsupported there is no instability; when there is no instability there is serenity; when there is serenity there is no inclination: when there is no inclination there is no coming-and-going; when there is no coming-and-going there is no decease-and-uprising; when there is no decease-and-uprising there is neither "here" nor "beyond" nor "in between the two." Just this is the end of suffering.
These Udana texts are really interesting, and language becomes one of the difficult hurdles in trying to make sense of what is being talked about here.

Where I would differ from what you said is this: Rather than saying "Nibanna is not subject to coming or going," I would say: "Not subject to coming and going is nibbana." What this passage is describing, of course (at least in my opinion), is not nibbana as being something. It is, rather, describing the interior landscape of the person who has brought an end to dukkha which is nibbana (unbinding), bodhi (awakening), asankhata (freedopm from the conditioning of greed, hatred, and delusion).
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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