Thanissaro's 'Unprovoked' in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta

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Thanissaro's 'Unprovoked' in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta

Postby Viscid » Sun Jan 06, 2013 5:18 pm

Was reading Thanissaro's translation of the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, and there's the verse:

"And, monks, as long as this — my three-round, twelve-permutation knowledge & vision concerning these four noble truths as they have come to be — was not pure, I did not claim to have directly awakened to the right self-awakening unexcelled in the cosmos with its deities, Maras, & Brahmas, with its contemplatives & brahmans, its royalty & commonfolk. But as soon as this — my three-round, twelve-permutation knowledge & vision concerning these four noble truths as they have come to be — was truly pure, then I did claim to have directly awakened to the right self-awakening unexcelled in the cosmos with its deities, Maras & Brahmas, with its contemplatives & brahmans, its royalty & commonfolk. Knowledge & vision arose in me: 'Unprovoked is my release. This is the last birth. There is now no further becoming.'"


What does he mean by 'Unprovoked'? Others have translated the last sentence as:

Knowing and seeing arose in me thus: 'My heart's deliverance is unassailable. This is the last birth. Now there is no renewal of being.'

or
Indeed, knowledge and seeing arose in me: 'Unshakeable is the liberation of my mind; this is my last birth: now there is no more renewed existence.'


Anyone know what exactly is being translated into 'Unprovoked'?
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Re: Thanissaro's 'Unprovoked' in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta

Postby piotr » Sun Jan 06, 2013 5:39 pm

Hi,

The word is akuppa:

    Akuppa (adj.) [a + kuppa, grd. of kup, cp. BSk. akopya M Vastu iii.200] not to be shaken, immovable; sure, steadfast safe Vin i.11 (akuppā me ceto -- vimutti) = S ii.239 Vin ii.69; iv.214; D iii.273; M i.205, 298; S ii.171 A iii.119, 198; Miln 361.

    — PTS Pāli Dictionary

    a-kuppa, mfn. [Buddh. sa. akopya] 'free from anger', immovable, imperturbable, firm, cool (of mind): ~ā cetovimutti, MN I 197,32 (Ps = arahatta-phala-vimutti), 298,24; DN III 273,13 (Sv — do.); SN II 172,11; 239,6; AN I 259,11; IV 305,4; Vin I 11,30; It 53,12*; ~ā vimutti, MN I 167,28 (Ps — akuppâram-maṇatāya ~ā, etc.); III 162,24; 245,16; ~aṁ ñāṇaṁ, DN III 273,9 (Sv); ~o vimokkho, Paṭis II 40,28; dhammikena kammena ~ena (not subvertible), Vin II 68,33; guṇā ekarasā arogā ~ā, Mil 157,20. — a-kuppa n. subst., ~aṁ paṭivijjhati, AN III 119,27 (Mp = arahattaṁ); 198,15 (patitthātabbaṁ sacce ca ~e ca) = Vin II 251,4; = khanti, Ja VI 260,23' (~saṁ-khātā); ~aṁ avipariṇāmadhammaṁ (= asaṁ-kuppaṁ', i.e. Nibbāna) Pj II 607,13. — Ifc. paṭi-viddhâ-°.

    — Critical Pāli Dictionary
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Re: Thanissaro's 'Unprovoked' in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta

Postby piotr » Sun Jan 06, 2013 5:50 pm

Hi,

As for bhante Ṭhānissaro take on this, here is a quote you'll find useful:

    Akuppa. This term is sometimes translated as "unshakable," but it literally means, "unprovoked." The reference is apparently to the theory of dhātu, or properties underlying physical or psychological events in nature. The physical properties according to this theory are four: earth [solidity], liquid, heat, and wind [motion]. Three of them — liquid, heat, & wind — are potentially active. When they are aggravated, agitated, or provoked — the Pali term here, 'pakuppati', is used also on the psychological level, where it means angered or upset — they act as the underlying cause for natural activity. When the provocation ends, the corresponding activity subsides.

      "Now there comes a time, friends, when the external liquid property is provoked, and at that time the external earth property vanishes...

      "There comes a time, friends, when the external liquid property is provoked and washes away village, town, city, district, & country. There comes a time when the water in the great ocean drops down one hundred leagues, two hundred... three hundred... four hundred... five hundred... six hundred... seven hundred leagues. There comes a time when the water in the great ocean stands seven palm-trees deep, six... five... four... three... two palm-trees deep, one palm-tree deep. There comes a time when the water in the great ocean stands seven fathoms deep, six... five... four... three... two fathoms deep, one fathom deep. There comes a time when the water in the great ocean stands half a fathom deep, hip-deep, knee-deep, ankle deep. There comes a time when the water in the great ocean is not even the depth of the first joint of a finger...

      "There comes a time, friends, when the external fire property is provoked and consumes village, town, city, district, & country; and then, coming to the edge of a green district, the edge of a road, the edge of a rocky district, to the water's edge, or to a lush, well-watered area, goes out from lack of sustenance. There comes a time when people try to make fire using a wing-bone & tendon parings...

      "There comes a time, friends, when the external wind property is provoked and blows away village, town, city, district, & country. There comes a time when, in the last month of the hot season, people try to start a breeze with a fan or bellows, and even the grass at the fringe of a thatch roof doesn't stir."

      — MN 28

    A similar theory attributes the irruption of mental states to the provocation of the properties of sensuality, form, or formlessness.

      "In dependence on the property of sensuality there occurs the perception of sensuality. In dependence on the perception of sensuality there occurs the resolve for sensuality... the desire for sensuality... the fever for sensuality... the quest for sensuality. Questing for sensuality, monks, an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person conducts himself wrongly through three means: through body, through speech, & through mind."

      — SN 14.12

    Even unbinding is described as a property (Iti 44). However, there is a crucial difference in how unbinding is attained, in that the unbinding property is not provoked. Any events that depend on the provocation of a property are inherently unstable and inconstant, subject to change when the provocation ends. But because true release is not caused by the provocation of anything, it is not subject to change.

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .html#fn-2
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Re: Thanissaro's 'Unprovoked' in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta

Postby Viscid » Mon Jan 07, 2013 6:37 pm

Thanks piotr, the dhatu etymology is actually quite fascinating.

So am I wrong in thinking Thanissaro uses 'Unprovoked' to mean Nibbana is thus an 'Unconditioned'? It looks like a very deliberate change in translation to further a view that Nibbana is a sort of eternal reality. Not that I mind.
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Re: Thanissaro's 'Unprovoked' in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta

Postby piotr » Mon Jan 07, 2013 8:41 pm

Hi,

I can't speak for bhante Ṭhānissaro, since I haven't heard more on this from him.

As for Commentary it says in one place (MN-a 26) — if I understand it correctly — that liberation is not disturbed by lust, aversion and delusion. (Sā hi rāgādīhi na kuppatīti akuppatāyapi akuppā.)
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Re: Thanissaro's 'Unprovoked' in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta

Postby Viscid » Mon Jan 07, 2013 9:12 pm

Right, but if Thanissaro believed that akuppa meant that release is not disturbable by greed, hatred and delusion, he would've stuck with 'unshakable.' But he changed the meaning of the utterance from 'The Buddha's liberation was fixed' to 'The Buddha's liberation was uncaused.' The commentaries, too, seem to interpret liberation as 'unshakable.'
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Re: Thanissaro's 'Unprovoked' in the Dhammacakkappavattana S

Postby mal4mac » Wed Jul 31, 2013 8:25 am

Viscid wrote:Was reading Thanissaro's translation of the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, and there's the verse:

paraphrase - "as soon as my knowledge & vision concerning these four noble truths as they have come to be then I directly awakened: 'Unprovoked is my release. This is the last birth. There is now no further becoming.'"


What does he mean by 'Unprovoked'? Others have translated the last sentence as:

Indeed, knowledge and seeing arose in me: 'Unshakeable is the liberation of my mind; this is my last birth: now there is no more renewed existence.'



'Unprovoked' seems to me to imply that if you are pursuing insight meditation then full 'release' will "just happen"... you don't have to do anything extra to provoke it. This seems an important truth to me, just as is the truth that liberation is 'unshakeable'.

I take from this that I need to read Thanissaro's translations (and at least one other!) I also quite like Thanissaro's use of 'stress' instead of 'suffering', but wouldn't like to drop the usual 'suffering' (use of the word that is :).)

Are there other examples of alternate translations that are 'must reads'?
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Re: Thanissaro's 'Unprovoked' in the Dhammacakkappavattana S

Postby Viscid » Wed Jul 31, 2013 6:27 pm

Viscid wrote:Thanks piotr, the dhatu etymology is actually quite fascinating.

So am I wrong in thinking Thanissaro uses 'Unprovoked' to mean Nibbana is thus an 'Unconditioned'? It looks like a very deliberate change in translation to further a view that Nibbana is a sort of eternal reality. Not that I mind.


Viscid, I don't see how something being 'unprovoked' necessarily means that it is 'eternal..' this is clearly an interpretation of some sort of eternalist bias in your own thought. It could very well mean as mal4mac says-- that it arose not caused by one's own deliberate 'provocation', but because the conditions suitable for it to arise were present.
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Re: Thanissaro's 'Unprovoked' in the Dhammacakkappavattana S

Postby Kumara » Thu Aug 01, 2013 3:01 am

I wonder if the choice might be partly a respond/reaction to the Christian claim that it is by the grace of God that one is enlightened.
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Re: Thanissaro's 'Unprovoked' in the Dhammacakkappavattana S

Postby gavesako » Fri Aug 02, 2013 5:30 pm

See Thanissaro's latest article here:

As for the actual heartwood of the Dhamma, MN 29 and 30 define it in two ways: as “non-occasional release” and “unprovoked awareness-release.”

These two ways of describing release basically make the same point: that the release that counts as the essence of Dhamma isn’t subject to change. The first description emphasizes that this release, once attained, is independent of specific occasions. It stands outside of time, so none of the changes of time can reach it.

The second description draws on a theory used in the Buddha’s time to explain changes in nature: both in the physical world and within the mind. The theory is that physical and mental events occur when an underlying property (dhātu) is “provoked.” Fires happen, for instance, when the fire property is provoked; wind storms, when the wind property is provoked. Within the mind, sensual desires flare up when the mental property of sensuality is provoked. In every case, an event caused by provocation ends when the provocation stops. This means that anything caused by provocation is destined, at some point, to cease. To say, however, that the release that comes with awakening is unprovoked means that it’s not caused by provocation at all. It’s not subject to conditions. Standing outside of time, it stands outside the possibility of ever ending.

This is why the way to release from suffering and stress is called, not the cause of release, but the path to release. The path is not a condition underlying the existence of release, but it does lead there. The Buddha himself made this point implicitly when he compared the path to an overgrown road through the jungle, and release to an ancient, abandoned city at the end of the road (SN 12:65). The road doesn’t cause the city to be, but when cleared it enables people to enter and repopulate the city.


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Re: Thanissaro's 'Unprovoked' in the Dhammacakkappavattana S

Postby pulga » Fri Aug 02, 2013 5:51 pm

The second description draws on a theory used in the Buddha’s time to explain changes in nature: both in the physical world and within the mind. The theory is that physical and mental events occur when an underlying property (dhātu) is “provoked.” Fires happen, for instance, when the fire property is provoked; wind storms, when the wind property is provoked. Within the mind, sensual desires flare up when the mental property of sensuality is provoked. In every case, an event caused by provocation ends when the provocation stops. This means that anything caused by provocation is destined, at some point, to cease. To say, however, that the release that comes with awakening is unprovoked means that it’s not caused by provocation at all. It’s not subject to conditions. Standing outside of time, it stands outside the possibility of ever ending.


That's very insightful. I think it brings to light the need to understand the structure of experience as opposed to its content. It also is relevant to the role the "negative" plays -to use a bit of Ñanaviran terminology - in determining what we experience: "The world is led by mind." S. 1:72.
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Re: Thanissaro's 'Unprovoked' in the Dhammacakkappavattana S

Postby Viscid » Fri Aug 02, 2013 10:14 pm

Thanissaro wrote:Standing outside of time, it stands outside the possibility of ever ending.


Alright, so my initial assertion was correct.. but I'm sure the view of Nibbana as a transcendent, independent object is a controversial one.
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Re: Thanissaro's 'Unprovoked' in the Dhammacakkappavattana S

Postby pulga » Fri Aug 02, 2013 10:47 pm

Viscid wrote:Alright, so my initial assertion was correct.. but I'm sure the view of Nibbana as a transcendent, independent object is a controversial one.


That's where I believe Ven. Thanissaro goes astray: there is no outside of time. Experience needn't come to an end for an arahat to be liberated.
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Re: Thanissaro's 'Unprovoked' in the Dhammacakkappavattana S

Postby Viscid » Fri Aug 02, 2013 11:18 pm

pulga wrote:
Viscid wrote:Alright, so my initial assertion was correct.. but I'm sure the view of Nibbana as a transcendent, independent object is a controversial one.


That's where I believe Ven. Thanissaro goes astray: there is no outside of time. Experience needn't come to an end for an arahat to be liberated.


Well there are many abstract entities which can be thought of as existing 'outside of time,' such as numbers or 'redness,' which do not require one's experience to have come to an end to have 'contact' with them..

I disagree with Thanissaro because the Suttas generally describe Nibbana's ontological status negatively, not positively: The Buddha does not seem to assert that Nibbana exists as some sort of external, self-contained object-- to do so would probably mislead monks into attaching to whatever transcendent states they encounter in practice... and Thanissaro seems to stretch the etymological roots of 'Akuppa' quite a bit to support his view of Nibbana as an 'Absolute.'
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Re: Thanissaro's 'Unprovoked' in the Dhammacakkappavattana S

Postby reflection » Sat Aug 03, 2013 12:17 am

Although there are people that say nibbana is temporal, almost everybody agrees it is not. So I don't think with "outside of time" he is addressing the minority who do think it is temporal.

Instead I suspect the abstract "outside of time" is to try and defend that his view of nibbana as "objectless consciousness" is not eternalism - his reasoning: as it is not subject to time it can not be eternal. But, a consciousness that is not subject to change is exactly what is eternalism:

[Wrong view 8] ‘And what is the fourth way? Here, a certain ascetic or Brahmin is a logician, a reasoner. Hammering it out by reason, following his own line of thought, he argues: “Whatever is called eye or ear or nose or tongue or body, that is impermanent, unstable, non-eternal, liable to change. But what is called thought,55 or mind or consciousness, that is a self that is permanent, stable, eternal, not subject to change, the same for ever and ever!” This is the fourth case.

2.14. ‘These are the four ways in which these ascetics and Brahmins are partly Eternalists and partly Non-Eternalists

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Re: Thanissaro's 'Unprovoked' in the Dhammacakkappavattana S

Postby pulga » Sat Aug 03, 2013 2:01 am

Viscid wrote:Well there are many abstract entities which can be thought of as existing 'outside of time,' such as numbers or 'redness,' ...


Abstract entities are always founded upon concrete sensual experience, the mind being the resort, the patisarana of the other five senses (cf. Mahavedallasutta) : that's why our experience of transcendence - whether it be taken as self or as nibbana - is undermined by the impermanence of the six pairs of sensual experience, the salayatanani.
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Re: Thanissaro's 'Unprovoked' in the Dhammacakkappavattana S

Postby Viscid » Sat Aug 03, 2013 2:20 am

pulga wrote:
Viscid wrote:Well there are many abstract entities which can be thought of as existing 'outside of time,' such as numbers or 'redness,' ...

Abstract entities are always founded upon concrete sensual experience, the mind being the resort, the patisarana of the other five senses (cf. Mahavedallasutta) : that's why our experience of transcendence - whether it be taken as self or as nibbana - is undermined by the impermanence of the six pairs of sensual experience, the salayatanani.

Agree completely. I didn't mean to convey that I was convinced such abstract entities were independently real and eternal like Plato's forms, just that they can be thought of as being atemporal.
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