Ud 6.4: Tittha Sutta — Sectarians (1)

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Ud 6.4: Tittha Sutta — Sectarians (1)

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jan 31, 2013 9:44 am

Ud 6.4 PTS: Ud 66
Tittha Sutta: Sectarians (1)
translated from the Pali by John D. Ireland


The Buddha's famous simile of the blind men and the elephant, illustrating the futility of arguing about one's views and opinions.

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



Thus have I heard. At one time the Lord was staying near Savatthi in the Jeta Wood at Anathapindika's monastery. At that time there were a number of recluses and brahmans, wanderers of various sects, living around Savatthi. And they were of various views, of various beliefs, of various opinions, and they relied for their support on their various views. There were some recluses and brahmans who asserted and held this view: "The world is eternal; only this is true, any other (view) is false." There were some recluses and brahmans who asserted: "The world is not eternal; only this is true, any other (view) is false." There were some who asserted: "The world is finite... The world is infinite... The life-principle and the body are the same... The life-principle and the body are different... The Tathagata exists beyond death... The Tathagata does not exist beyond death... The Tathagata both exists and does not exist beyond death; The Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist beyond death; only this is true, any other (view) is false." And they lived quarrelsome, disputatious, and wrangling, wounding each other with verbal darts, saying: "Dhamma is like this, Dhamma is not like that! Dhamma is not like this, Dhamma is like that!"

Then a number of bhikkhus, having put on their robes in the forenoon and taken their bowls and outer cloaks, entered Savatthi for almsfood. Having walked in Savatthi for almsfood and returned after the meal, they approached the Lord, prostrated themselves, sat down to one side, and said to the Lord: "At present, revered sir, there are a number of recluses and brahmans, wanderers of various sects, living around Savatthi. And they are of various views... saying: 'Dhamma is like this!... Dhamma is like that!'"

"The wanderers of other sects, bhikkhus, are blind, unseeing. They do not know what is beneficial, they do not know what is harmful. They do not know what is Dhamma, they do not know what is not Dhamma. Not knowing what is beneficial and what is harmful, not knowing what is Dhamma and what is not Dhamma, they are quarrelsome... saying: 'Dhamma is like this!... Dhamma is like that!'

"Formerly, bhikkhus, there was a certain king in this very Savatthi. And that king addressed a man: 'Come now, my good man, bring together all those persons in Savatthi who have been blind from birth.'

"'Yes, your majesty,' that man replied, and after detaining all the blind people in Savatthi, he approached the king and said, 'All the blind people in Savatthi have been brought together, your majesty.'

"'Now, my man, show the blind people an elephant.'

"'Very well, your majesty,' the man replied to the king, and he presented an elephant to the blind people, saying, 'This, blind people, is an elephant.'

"To some of the blind people he presented the head of the elephant, saying, 'This is an elephant.' To some he presented an ear of the elephant, saying, 'This is an elephant.' To some he presented a tusk... the trunk... the body... the foot... the hindquarters... the tail... the tuft at the end of the tail, saying, 'This is an elephant.'

"Then, bhikkhus, the man, having shown the elephant to the blind people, went to the king and said, 'The blind people have been shown the elephant, your majesty. Do now what you think is suitable.' Then the king approached those blind people and said, 'Have you been shown the elephant?'

"'Yes, your majesty, we have been shown the elephant.'

"'Tell me, blind people, what is an elephant like?'

"Those blind people who had been shown the head of the elephant replied, 'An elephant, your majesty, is just like a water jar.' Those blind people who had been shown the ear of the elephant replied. "An elephant, your majesty, is just like a winnowing basket.' Those blind people who had been shown the tusk of the elephant replied, 'An elephant, your majesty, is just like a plowshare.' Those blind people who had been shown the trunk replied, 'An elephant, your majesty, is just like a plow pole.' Those blind people who had been shown the body replied, 'An elephant, your majesty, is just like a storeroom.' Those blind people who had been shown the foot replied, 'An elephant, your majesty, is just like a post.' Those blind people who had been shown the hindquarters replied, 'An elephant, your majesty, is just like a mortar.' Those blind people who had been shown the tail replied, 'An elephant, your majesty, is just like a pestle.' Those blind people who had been shown the tuft at the end of the tail replied, 'An elephant, your majesty, is just like a broom.'

"Saying 'An elephant is like this, an elephant is not like that! An elephant is not like this, an elephant is like that!' they fought each other with their fists. And the king was delighted (with the spectacle).

"Even so, bhikkhus, are those wanderers of various sects blind, unseeing... saying, "Dhamma is like this!... Dhamma is like that!'"

Then, on realizing its significance, the Lord uttered on that occasion this inspired utterance:

    Some recluses and brahmans, so called,
    Are deeply attached to their own views;
    People who only see one side of things
    Engage in quarrels and disputes.
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Re: Ud 6.4: Tittha Sutta — Sectarians (1)

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jan 31, 2013 9:47 am

Ud 6.4 PTS: Ud 66
Tittha Sutta: Sectarians (1)
translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Sāvatthī at Jeta's Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika's monastery. And on that occasion there were many contemplatives, brahmans, & wanderers of various sects living around Sāvatthī with differing views, differing opinions, differing beliefs, dependent for support on their differing views. Some of the contemplatives & brahmans held this doctrine, this view: "The cosmos is eternal. Only this is true; anything otherwise is worthless."

Some of the contemplatives & brahmans held this doctrine, this view: "The cosmos is not eternal" ... "The cosmos is finite" ... "The cosmos is infinite" ... "The soul is the same thing as the body" ... "The soul is one thing and the body another" ... "After death a Tathāgata exists" ... "After death a Tathāgata does not exist" ... "After death a Tathāgata both exists & does not exist" ... "After death a Tathāgata neither exists nor does not exist. Only this is true; anything otherwise is worthless."

And they kept on arguing, quarreling, & disputing, wounding one another with weapons of the mouth, saying, "The Dhamma is like this, it's not like that. The Dhamma's not like that, it's like this."

Then in the early morning, a large number of monks adjusted their under robes and — carrying their bowls & robes — went into Sāvatthī for alms. Having gone for alms in Sāvatthī, after the meal, returning from their alms round, they went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As they were sitting there, they said to the Blessed One, "Lord, there are many contemplatives, brahmans, & wanderers of various sects living around Sāvatthī with differing views, differing opinions, differing beliefs, dependent for support on their differing views... And they keep on arguing, quarreling, & disputing, wounding one another with weapons of the mouth, saying, 'The Dhamma is like this, it's not like that. The Dhamma's not like that, it's like this.'"

"Monks, the wanderers of other sects are blind & eyeless. They don't know what is beneficial and what is harmful. They don't know what is the Dhamma and what is non-Dhamma. Not knowing what is beneficial and what is harmful, not knowing what is Dhamma and what is non-Dhamma, they keep on arguing, quarreling, & disputing, wounding one another with weapons of the mouth, saying, 'The Dhamma is like this, it's not like that. The Dhamma's not like that, it's like this.'

"Once, monks, in this same Sāvatthī, there was a certain king, and the king said to a certain man, 'Come, my good man. Gather together all the people in Sāvatthī who have been blind from birth.'"

"Responding, 'As you say, your majesty,' to the king, the man — having rounded up all the people in Sāvatthī who had been blind from birth — went to the king and on arrival said, 'Your majesty, the people in Sāvatthī who have been blind from birth have been gathered together.'

"'Very well then, I say, show the blind people an elephant.'

"Responding, 'As you say, your majesty,' to the king, the man showed the blind people an elephant. To some of the blind people he showed the elephant's head, saying, 'This, blind people, is what an elephant is like.' To some of them he showed the elephant's ear, saying, 'This, blind people, is what an elephant is like.' To some of them he showed the elephant's tusk... the elephant's trunk... the elephant's body... the elephant's foot... the elephant's hindquarters... the elephant's tail... the tuft at the end of the elephant's tail, saying, 'This, blind people, is what an elephant is like.'

"Then, having shown the blind people the elephant, the man went to the king and on arrival said, 'Your majesty, the blind people have seen the elephant. May your majesty do what you think it is now time to do.'

"Then the king went to the blind people and on arrival asked them, 'Blind people, have you seen the elephant?'

"'Yes, your majesty. We have seen the elephant.'

"'Now tell me, blind people, what the elephant is like.'

"The blind people who had been shown the elephant's head said, 'The elephant, your majesty, is just like a jar.'

"Those who had been shown the elephant's ear said, 'The elephant, your majesty, is just like a winnowing basket.'

"Those who had been shown the elephant's tusk said, 'The elephant, your majesty, is just like plowshare.'[1]

"Those who had been shown the elephant's trunk said, 'The elephant, your majesty, is just like the pole of a plow.'

"Those who had been shown the elephant's body said, 'The elephant, your majesty, is just like a granary.'

"Those who had been shown the elephant's foot said, 'The elephant, your majesty, is just like a post.'

"Those who had been shown the elephant's hindquarters said, 'The elephant, your majesty, is just like a mortar.'

"Those who had been shown the elephant's tail said, 'The elephant, your majesty, is just like a pestle.'

"Those who had been shown the tuft at the end of the elephant's tail said, 'The elephant, your majesty, is just like a broom.'

"Saying, 'The elephant is like this, it's not like that. The elephant's not like that, it's like this,' they struck one another with their fists. That gratified the king.

"In the same way, monks, the wanderers of other sects are blind & eyeless. They don't know what is beneficial and what is harmful. They don't know what is the Dhamma and what is non-Dhamma. Not knowing what is beneficial and what is harmful, not knowing what is Dhamma and what is non-Dhamma, they keep on arguing, quarreling, & disputing, wounding one another with weapons of the mouth, saying, 'The Dhamma is like this, it's not like that. The Dhamma's not like that, it's like this.'"

Then, on realizing the significance of that, the Blessed One on that occasion exclaimed:

    With regard to these things
    they're attached —
    some contemplatives & brahmans.
    They quarrel & fight —
    people seeing one side.

Note

1. Reading phālo with the Thai and Sri Lankan editions. According to the PTS dictionary, this word can also mean "iron rod." The Burmese edition reads, khīlo, "post" or "stake." The Thai edition also includes another variant reading: sallo, "arrow."
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Re: Ud 6.4: Tittha Sutta — Sectarians (1)

Postby Sam Vara » Thu Jan 31, 2013 10:37 am

"Monks, the wanderers of other sects are blind & eyeless. They don't know what is beneficial and what is harmful. They don't know what is the Dhamma and what is non-Dhamma. Not knowing what is beneficial and what is harmful, not knowing what is Dhamma and what is non-Dhamma, they keep on arguing, quarreling, & disputing, wounding one another with weapons of the mouth, saying, 'The Dhamma is like this, it's not like that. The Dhamma's not like that, it's like this.'


There are a number of possible reasons as to how the Buddha knew that these sectarians were ignorant. It might be that he already knew of them, and what they knew; which makes the story an amusing illustration of how they get things wrong.

Or it might be that he deduced that they were wrong, from the fact that they were disputatious. This would lead us more in the direction of the idea that whoever argues and gets heated about the Dhamma is ipso facto wrong about it. Knowledge of the Dhamma is such that it cannot be argued about. And if so, then it leads us into an interesting set of questions as to why that might be the case.

It is also interesting that the elephant metaphor relies on the idea of mistaking a part for the whole. The fallacy seems to be mereological. None of the blind men, for example, got it so wrong that they thought that the elephant was like, say, autumn, or death, or kilometres per hour. The blind men are correct, in that an elephant is indeed a bit like a water-jar, or a post. It is significant that they are not saying that the elephant is any of these things: their fallacy does not apparently consist of asserting knowledge when they have belief. Maybe this means that we should not take issue with any conception of the Dhamma whatsoever (even those annoying McMindfulness one-liners....or God-infested woo-woo...or that learned fool who has misconstrued the Pali term for...) until we are cognitively equipped to say that "an elephant is like an elephant".

A lighter note. I love the idea of the blind men coming to blows. And the euphemistic term "hindquarters" when some blind person thinks it is like a mortar. This seems to me to be broad humour worthy of Jackie Chan at his best.

And anyone who disagrees with me has got it plain wrong, and I am prepared to spend the rest of the thread proving it!!!
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Re: Ud 6.4: Tittha Sutta — Sectarians (1)

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jan 31, 2013 6:48 pm

Great thoughts, Sam.

Indeed, some other suttas, such as MN 11 Cula-sihanada Sutta, state that others have almost got it right...
12. "Though certain recluses and brahmans claim to propound the full understanding of all kinds of clinging... they describe the full understanding of clinging to sensual pleasures, clinging to views, and clinging to rules and observances without describing the full understanding of clinging to a doctrine of self. They do not understand one instance... therefore they describe only the full understanding of clinging to sensual pleasures, clinging to views, and clinging to rules and observances without describing the full understanding of clinging to a doctrine of self.


:anjali:
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