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Dhamma Wheel • View topic - In simple Terms

In simple Terms

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In simple Terms

Postby Beautiful Breath » Mon Apr 15, 2013 8:58 am

Hi,

I am not very well versed in many Pali terms and whilst in the middle of a debate recently the phrase 'Dhammas' was being used to describe what seemed to be something that doesn't fit into my understanding (Prasangika) of 'realities'.

Can someone clarify what my friends are describing when using 'Dhammas'? The implication seems to be that they're describing an inherently existent phenomena. Is that correct?

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Re: In simple Terms

Postby Ben » Mon Apr 15, 2013 9:03 am

I don't know because the context of the discussion is not present.

Here is a dictionary entry you might find interesting and hopefully shed some light on the topic.

http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philol ... :2654.pali
kind regards,

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: In simple Terms

Postby Beautiful Breath » Mon Apr 15, 2013 9:24 am

Ben wrote:I don't know because the context of the discussion is not present.


Thanks Ben,

The context was me debating with Sujin Boriharnwanaket whilst in Thailand earlier this year. Effectively I was taking the Prasnagika stance that ALL phenomena as being Empty of any essence or inherent reality/existence and her understanding of dhammas or as she described them the 'realities' of the present moment. I can't help but feel tht I have a misunderstanding of 'Dhammas'.

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Re: In simple Terms

Postby Ben » Mon Apr 15, 2013 9:32 am

Hi BB,
If you have the inclination - check out Bhikkhu Bodhi's "A comprehensive manual of the Abhidhamma: the Abhidhammathasangaha of Acariya Anurrudha". It will be a worthwhile investment in time (and also money). Bhikkhu Bodhi's notes on the medieval treatise makes the work an excellent introduction to the Abhidhamma literature.
kind regards,

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: In simple Terms

Postby Beautiful Breath » Mon Apr 15, 2013 9:34 am

Ben wrote:check out Bhikkhu Bodhi's "A comprehensive manual of the Abhidhamma


Thanks again...its been on my shelf for a while....I'll crack it open!
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Re: In simple Terms

Postby cooran » Mon Apr 15, 2013 9:38 am

Hello BB,

This might be a simple start:

http://www.mahindaramatemple.com/e-tipi ... dhamma.htm

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Re: In simple Terms

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Apr 15, 2013 9:53 am

As there are layers of development in Madhyamaka thought, there are layers in the development of the idea of dhamma in Theravada thought. Sujin represents a late development, but here are some presentations of the dhamma notion in earlier levels of Theravadin thought:

    But when they are seen after resolving them by means of knowledge into these elements, they disintegrate like froth subjected to compression by the hand. They are mere states (dhamma) occurring due to conditions and void. In this way the characteristic of not-self becomes more evident” (Vism-mhþ 824). PoP pg 668.
    Which comes from a commentary to the PoP.

    It is important to understand that Buddhism (here meaning Theravada) is not doing science. It is not commenting on the nature of the “external” world. It is dealing with what is experienced. A “fundamental particle” of experience is hardly an unchanging, unconditioned thing. It is a way of talking about the flow of experience that our senses can give us which we can call this or that.

    Ven Nyanamoli in a footnote in his PATH OF PURIFICATION, pages 317-8, states: "In the Pitakas the word sabhaava seems to appear only once...," it appears several times in Milindapanha, and it is used quite a bit in the PoP and it commentaries. He states it often roughly corresponds to dhaatu, element and to lakkhana, characteristic. An interesting passage from the PoP reads:

    "On the contrary, before their rise [the bases, aayatana] they had no individual essence [sabhaava], and after their fall their individual essence are completely dissolved. And they occur without mastery [being exercisable over them] since they exist in dependence on conditions and in between the past and the future." Page 551 XV 15.

    Piatigorsky (In his study of the Pitaka Abhidhamma texts, THE BUDDHIST PHILOSOPHY OF THOUGHT, p 182) puts it: “From the point of view of consciousness, it can be said that, when consciousness is conscious of one’s mind, thought, or consciousness directed to their objects, then it is ‘being conscious of’ that may be named ‘a state of consciousness’ or a dharma.”

    Piatigorsky (THE BUDDHIST PHILOSOPHY OF THOUGHT, p 146) explains: “the meaning of each abhidhammic term [dhamma] consists (or is the sum) of all its positional meanings and of all positional meanings of its connotations.”

    Nyanaponika quotes a sub-commentary to an Abhidhamma text: "There is no other thing than the quality borne by it." (na ca dhaariyamma-sabhaavaa an~n~o dhammo naama atthi). Abhidhamma Studies, page 40. Which is to say: We simpy cannot say that 'a dharma is... (a predicate follows)', because a dharma, in fact, 'is' no thing, yet [it is] a term denoting (not being) a certain relation or type of relation to thought, consciousness or mind. That is, dharma is not a concept in the accepted terminological sense of the latter, but a purely relational notion. -- Piatigorsky, THE BUDDHIST PHILOSOPHY OF THOUGHT, page 181.

    Nyanaponika ABHIDHAMMA STUDIES, page 41 BPS; page 42 Wisdom wrote:By arranging the mental factors in relational groups a subordinate synthetical element has been introduced into the mainly analytical Dhammasangani. By so doing, the danger inherent in purely analytical methods is avoided. This danger consists in erroneously taking for genuine separate entities the “parts” resulting from analysis, instead of restricting their use to sound practical method with the purpose of classifying and dissolving composite events wrongly conceived as unities. Up to the present time it has been a regular occurrence in the history of physics, metaphysics, and psychology that when the “whole” has been successfully dissolved by analysis, the resultant “parts” themselves come in turn to be regarded as little “wholes.”


    Prof. Dr. Y. Karunadasa, THE DHAMMA THEORY, page 9 http://www.zeh-verlag.de/download/dhammatheory.pdf wrote:In the Pali tradition it is only for the sake of definition and description that each dhamma is postulated as if it were a separate entity; but in reality it is by no means a solitary phenomenon having an existence of its own. . . . If this Abhidhammic view of existence, as seen from its doctrine of dhammas, cannot be interpreted as a radical pluralism, neither can it be interpreted as an out-and-out monism. For what are called dhammas -- the component factors of the universe, both within us and outside us -- are not fractions of an absolute unity but a multiplicity of co-ordinate factors. They are not reducible to, nor do they emerge from, a single reality, the fundamental postulate of monistic metaphysics. If they are to be interpreted as phenomena, this should be done with the proviso that they are phenomena with no corresponding noumena, no hidden underlying ground. For they are not manifestations of some mysterious metaphysical substratum, but processes taking place due to the interplay of a multitude of conditions.


    Harvey, in his excellent INTRODUCTION TO BUDDHISM, characterizes the Theravadin position, page 87: wrote: "'They are dhammas because they uphold their own nature [sabhaava]. They are dhammas because they are upheld by conditions or they are upheld according to their own nature' (Asl.39). Here 'own-nature' would mean characteristic nature, which is not something inherent in a dhamma as a separate ultimate reality, but arise due to the supporting conditions both of other dhammas and previous occurrences of that dhamma. This is of significance as it makes the Mahayana critique of the Sarvastivadin's notion of own-nature largely irrelevant to the Theravada."


    A.K. Warder, in INDIAN BUDDHISM, page 323, discussing the Pali Abhidhamma commentarial literature wrote: "The most significant new idea in the commentaries is the definition of a 'principle' or element (dharma): dharmas are what have (or 'hold', 'maintain', dhr. is the nearest equivalent in the language to the English 'have') their own own-nature (svabhaava). It is added that they naturally have this through conditions."
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

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Re: In simple Terms

Postby Ben » Mon Apr 15, 2013 10:01 am

Thank you Tilt - that is excellent!
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: In simple Terms

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Apr 15, 2013 10:19 am

Ben wrote:Thank you Tilt - that is excellent!
And thank you. Recycled excellence. The first version was used on gray forum.
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: In simple Terms

Postby Beautiful Breath » Mon Apr 15, 2013 10:57 am

And thank you. Recycled excellence. The first version was used on gray forum.


Was reading it this morning actually - I think you had posted it on another thread I started re Emptiness and The Abbidhamma.

So, thanks 'again'....again! :clap:

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Re: In simple Terms

Postby Sylvester » Wed Apr 17, 2013 7:36 am

From the paper by Karunadasa cited by Tilt-

Now this commentarial definition of dhamma as sabhava poses an important
problem, for it seems to go against an earlier Theravada tradition recorded in the
Patisambhidamagga. This canonical text specifically states that the five aggregates
are devoid of own-nature (sabhavena-sunnat).46 Since the dhammas are the
elementary constituents of the five aggregates, this should mean that the dhammas,
too, are devoid of own-nature. What is more, does not the very use of the term
sabhava, despite all the qualifications under which it is used, give the impression
that a given dhamma exists in its own right? And does this not amount to the
admission that a dhamma is some kind of substance?

The commentators were not unaware of these implications and they therefore took
the necessary steps to forestall such a conclusion. This they sought to do by
supplementing the former definition with another which actually nullifies the
conclusion that the dhammas might be quasi-substances. This additional definition
states that a dhamma is not that which bears its own-nature, but that which is borne
by its own conditions (paccayehi dhariyanti ti dhamma).47 Whereas the earlier
definition is agent-denotation (kattusadhana) because it attributes an active role to
the dhamma, elevating it to the position of an agent, the new definition is object denotation
(kamma-sadhana) because it attributes a passive role to the dhamma and
thereby downgrades it to the position of an object. What is radical about this new
definition is that it reverses the whole process which otherwise might culminate in
the conception of dhammas as substances or bearers of their own-nature. What it
seeks to show is that, far from being a bearer, a dhamma is being borne by its own
conditions.


Consonant with this situation, it is also maintained that there is no other thing
called a dhamma than the "quality" of being borne by conditions.48 The same idea
is expressed in the oft-recurrent statement that what is called a dhamma is the mere
fact of occurrence due to appropriate conditions.49 In point of fact, in commenting
upon the Patisambhidamagga statement that the five aggregates -- and, by
implication, the dhammas -- are devoid of sabhava, the commentator observes that
since the aggregates have no self-nature, they are devoid of own-nature.50 It will
thus be seen that although the term sabhava is used as a synonym for dhamma, it is
interpreted in such a way that it means the very absence of sabhava in any sense
that implies a substantial mode of being.

pp 11- 12


If memory does not fail me, Ven Hui Feng recalls from his class with Prof Karunadasa that the Theravadin Comy exegesis on sabhava arose because of and in reaction to the Sarvastivadin's tri-temporal version of "essence"/svabhāva.

Hee, hee. Does this make the Theravadins quasi-Madhyamakas? Or worse, might that be why Karunadasa has suggested elsewhere that the Theravadins "flirted" with Idealism?
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Re: In simple Terms

Postby Nyana » Wed Apr 17, 2013 3:34 pm

Sylvester wrote:Does this make the Theravadins quasi-Madhyamakas?

What's a quasi-mādhyamika?... Whatever it is, for a mādhyamika it would ultimately be niḥsvabhāvatā.

Mādhyamikas don't limit their criticism just to the Sarvāstivāda theory of tri-temporal existence. They're also critical of Sautrāntika and Yogācāra tenets (and those of the non-Buddhist Indian philosophical traditions as well).
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Re: In simple Terms

Postby Beautiful Breath » Mon Apr 22, 2013 11:17 am

Thanks for your replies everyone - I tend to dive in here when I get the chance...so not being rude if I don't reply immediately!

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Re: In simple Terms

Postby 5heaps » Fri Apr 26, 2013 10:18 pm

Sylvester wrote:Hee, hee. Does this make the Theravadins quasi-Madhyamakas? Or worse, might that be why Karunadasa has suggested elsewhere that the Theravadins "flirted" with Idealism?

not even slightly. the wrong appearance of 'own-nature' being denied here is something extremely coarse. for example chairs appear to exist as wholes (ie. singularly), seemingly independent of their parts, and seemingly unchangingly (was here yesterday, is here today).

contrary to appearing to exist in this way, they actually exist imputedly, meaning that they depend on causes and conditions, and more importantly, that it is an essential condition of the object that in order for it to be validly cognized the parts of the object must appear to the mind

what makes this nonmadhyamika is that the chair already contains its own validly findable characteristics prior to cognition, due to its causes and conditions.
what makes madhyamika madhyamika is that there is no such thing as a findable characteristic outside of the context of there being a cognition of a characteristic. this doesnt mean for example that there are no physical objects that arise due to causes and conditions; what it means is that physical objects lack an own-nature, meaning a findable separation from other events in the world, most importantly the minds cognizing them.
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Re: In simple Terms

Postby Myotai » Wed Oct 30, 2013 3:06 pm

5heaps wrote:
Sylvester wrote:Hee, hee. Does this make the Theravadins quasi-Madhyamakas? Or worse, might that be why Karunadasa has suggested elsewhere that the Theravadins "flirted" with Idealism?

not even slightly. the wrong appearance of 'own-nature' being denied here is something extremely coarse. for example chairs appear to exist as wholes (ie. singularly), seemingly independent of their parts, and seemingly unchangingly (was here yesterday, is here today).

contrary to appearing to exist in this way, they actually exist imputedly, meaning that they depend on causes and conditions, and more importantly, that it is an essential condition of the object that in order for it to be validly cognized the parts of the object must appear to the mind

what makes this nonmadhyamika is that the chair already contains its own validly findable characteristics prior to cognition, due to its causes and conditions.
what makes madhyamika madhyamika is that there is no such thing as a findable characteristic outside of the context of there being a cognition of a characteristic. this doesnt mean for example that there are no physical objects that arise due to causes and conditions; what it means is that physical objects lack an own-nature, meaning a findable separation from other events in the world, most importantly the minds cognizing them.


So in the light of this how can Non-Madhyamika stand up against the Madhyamikas? The latter seems to me to involve conjecture, as opposed to the Madhyamika that involves logic and a demonstrable one at that.

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