Ud 8.8: Visākhā Sutta

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Ud 8.8: Visākhā Sutta

Postby mikenz66 » Thu May 09, 2013 8:45 am

Ud 8.8 PTS: Ud 91
Visākhā Sutta: Visākhā
translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

The laywoman Visakha, grieving over the death of a grandchild, receives a powerful teaching concerning clinging and death.

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

I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Sāvatthī at the Eastern Monastery, the palace of Migāra's mother. And on that occasion a dear and beloved grandson of Visākhā, Migāra's mother, had died. So Visākhā, Migāra's mother — her clothes wet, her hair wet — went to the Blessed One in the middle of the day and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As she was sitting there the Blessed One said to her: "Why have you come here, Visākhā — your clothes wet, your hair wet — in the middle of the day?"

When this was said, she said to the Blessed One, "My dear and beloved grandson has died. This is why I have come here — my clothes wet, my hair wet — in the middle of the day."

"Visākhā, would you like to have as many children & grandchildren as there are people in Sāvatthī?"

"Yes, lord, I would like to have as many children & grandchildren as there are people in Sāvatthī."

"But how many people in Sāvatthī die in the course of a day?"

"Sometimes ten people die in Sāvatthī in the course of a day, sometimes nine... eight... seven... six... five... four... three... two... Sometimes one person dies in Sāvatthī in the course of a day. Sāvatthī is never free from people dying."

"So what do you think, Visākhā? Would you ever be free of wet clothes & wet hair?"

"No, lord. Enough of my having so many children & grandchildren."

"Visākhā, those who have a hundred dear ones have a hundred sufferings. Those who have ninety dear ones have ninety sufferings. Those who have eighty... seventy... sixty... fifty... forty... thirty... twenty... ten... nine... eight... seven... six... five... four... three... two... Those who have one dear one have one suffering. Those who have no dear ones have no sufferings. They are free from sorrow, free from stain, free from lamentation, I tell you."

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

    The sorrows, lamentations,
    the many kinds of suffering in the world,
    exist dependent on something dear.
    They don't exist
    when there's nothing dear.
    And thus blissful & sorrowless
    are those for whom nothing
    in the world is anywhere dear.
    So one who aspires
    to the stainless & sorrowless
    shouldn't make anything
    dear
    in the world
    anywhere.

See also:
MN 87; http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Thig 3.5; http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Thig 6.1. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
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Re: Ud 8.8: Visākhā Sutta

Postby Coyote » Sat May 11, 2013 9:25 am

Hi Mike,

Indecently a buddhist story of a similar theme came up in my studies, not as a part of my dhamma study but as part of my studies on Alexander the Great. The story of kisagotami has parallels to legends concerning Alexander's death, so I will share it with you all.

The story of kisagotami http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/btg/btg85.htm

And Kisa Gotami had an only son, and he died. In her grief she carried the dead child to all her neighbors, asking them for medicine, and the people said: "She has lost her senses. The boy is dead. At length Kisa Gotami met a man who replied to her request: "I cannot give thee medicine for thy child, but I know a physician who can." The girl said: "Pray tell me, sir; who is it?" And the man replied: "Go to Sakyamuni, the Buddha."

Kisa Gotami repaired to the Buddha and cried: "Lord and Master, give me the medicine that will cure my boy." The Buddha answered: "I want a handful of mustard-seed." And when the girl in her joy promised to procure it, the Buddha added: "The mustard-seed must be taken from a house where no one has lost a child, husband, parent, or friend." Poor Kisa Gotami now went from house to house, and the people pitied her and said: "Here is mustard-seed; take it!" But when she asked Did a son or daughter, a father or mother, die in your family?" They answered her: "Alas the living are few, but the dead are many. Do not remind us of our deepest grief." And there was no house but some beloved one had died in it.

Kisa Gotami became weary and hopeless, and sat down at the wayside, watching the lights of the city, as they flickered up and were extinguished again. At last the darkness of the night reigned everywhere. And she considered the fate of men, that their lives flicker up and are extinguished. And she thought to herself: "How selfish am I in my grief! Death is common to all; yet in this valley of desolation there is a path that leads him to immortality who has surrendered all selfishness."


Both are powerful reminders of clinging and impermanence, and I find they are just as relevant today despite medical advancements.

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"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
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Re: Ud 8.8: Visākhā Sutta

Postby mikenz66 » Sat May 11, 2013 9:40 am

Thanks Coyote,

More about Kisa Gotami here: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

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Re: Ud 8.8: Visākhā Sutta

Postby Spiny Norman » Sat May 11, 2013 1:31 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Those who have no dear ones have no sufferings. They are free from sorrow, free from stain, free from lamentation, I tell you."


Thanks for posting this sutta, it's something I've been reflecting on recently.

"Dear ones" here seems to refer specifically to family members, but do you think it's also intended in a more general way, for example applying to close friendships? And what about attachment to spiritual friends, members of a sangha?
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Re: Ud 8.8: Visākhā Sutta

Postby mikenz66 » Sat May 11, 2013 9:30 pm

Hi Porpoise,

I took it to be talking about any attachment. It seems to me this is a very challenging Sutta that goes directly against common wisdom:
Those who have no dear ones have no sufferings.

On the other hand:
... with a boundless heart Should one cherish all living beings; Radiating kindness over the entire world...
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .amar.html

It is certainly a challenge to "cherish" and "radiate kindness" yet "have no dear ones"...

:anjali:
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Re: Ud 8.8: Visākhā Sutta

Postby Sam Vara » Sat May 11, 2013 10:02 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Porpoise,

I took it to be talking about any attachment. It seems to me this is a very challenging Sutta that goes directly against common wisdom:
Those who have no dear ones have no sufferings.

On the other hand:
... with a boundless heart Should one cherish all living beings; Radiating kindness over the entire world...
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .amar.html

It is certainly a challenge to "cherish" and "radiate kindness" yet "have no dear ones"...

:anjali:
Mike


I agree - this is a tough one to understand on an emotional level. Those with few attachments, or who feel ambivalent about their attachments - might profitably take this teaching to be a warning against becoming too emotionally close to others. Look at what it leads to...

On the other hand, what of poor old Visakha herself? Should she work towards the dissolution of what seems one of the most blameless attachments? And are there any practical hints as to how she might do this?

Sometimes I debate on-line with a Catholic ex-monastic, a person who I have come to have a lot of respect for. His view on such matters is that the attachment and love is necessary, and the suffering that inevitably ensues is a blessing rather than something to be avoided.
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Re: Ud 8.8: Visākhā Sutta

Postby Coyote » Sat May 11, 2013 10:26 pm

This is definatly one area of the teaching that is hard to swallow. I think the attachment to "dear ones" is so strong because it lies at the heart of what makes us human - it's what bonds our communities and families together and to abandon that is to reject something seems intimately connected with being a human. It's something we've known (if we are lucky) from the day we are born and it has helped keep us alive and well. It's a scary thought, at least for me, that we must give this attachment up.

But to awaken is to go beyond being "human" - "remember me as awakened".

I think part of the problem for many is in a lack of seeing this attachment as a clinging that leads to suffering, we'd rather gloss over either the suffering part or the attachment part, as your Catholic friend seems to have done, Sam. That should be fixed by contemplation of the first and second (third?) truths, I would think.

Metta
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
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Re: Ud 8.8: Visākhā Sutta

Postby santa100 » Sun May 12, 2013 12:37 am

While "Those who have no dear ones have no sufferings" and "one cherish all living beings; Radiating kindness over the entire world" seems to be contradictory at first, it's kind of make sense if we take a closer look at the implication of "dear ones". Obviously if someone has "dear ones", s/he must've have some other "not so dear" ones. Else there'd be no frame of reference for the former group to establish. While Kisa Gotami certainly went door to door asking neighbors for medicine to help her own child, would she do the exact same thing if the child was some other people's son? So, for one who still has "dear ones", that implies there's still a "not so dear" group out there to be referenced against. This differentiating notion not only binds one to suffering but also is the big hindrance that prevents the actual implementation of "cherishing all living beings; radiating kindness over the entire world". For if one truely cherishes all living beings, the notion of "dear ones" automatically dissolves. Just like white color is only relevant if there's black color. If there's no black color and everything is white, then "whiteness" itself no longer applies..
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Re: Ud 8.8: Visākhā Sutta

Postby mikenz66 » Sun May 12, 2013 2:21 am

Thanks for those thought, Santa.

Here's a quote from Sutta Nipata 4.11 (an early, truncated, Dependent Arising):
"From what arise contentions and disputes, lamentations and sorrows, along with selfishness and conceit, and arrogance along with slander? From where do these various things arise? Come tell me this."
"From being too endeared (to objects and persons) arise contentions and disputes, lamentations and sorrows along with avarice, selfishness and conceit, arrogance and slander. Contentions and disputes are linked with selfishness, and slander is born of contention."

"What are the sources of becoming endeared in the world? What are the sources of whatever passions prevail in the world, of longings and fulfillments that are man's goal (in life)?"

"Desires are the source of becoming endeared (to objects and persons) in the world, also of whatever passions prevail. These are the sources of longings and fulfillments that are man's goal (in life)."
...

See also: viewtopic.php?f=25&t=5044

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Re: Ud 8.8: Visākhā Sutta

Postby Spiny Norman » Sun May 12, 2013 9:36 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Porpoise,

I took it to be talking about any attachment. It seems to me this is a very challenging Sutta that goes directly against common wisdom:
Those who have no dear ones have no sufferings.



Yes, it is quite challenging. I wonder if it's an encouragement to lead a solitary or monastic life, pointing out the benefits of devoting oneself to practice without the usual commitments and complications of family life.
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Re: Ud 8.8: Visākhā Sutta

Postby Coyote » Mon May 13, 2013 10:20 am

I think one thing to bear in mind, while this teaching clearly pertains to all "dear ones", the example being given is of a grandmother who has lost their grandchild. Perhaps the Buddha gave this teaching to a layperson where it would ordinarily have been reserved for monks because it is a skillful way of dealing with grief. Perhaps that is the context in which this teaching is fully realised, for a layperson.
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
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Re: Ud 8.8: Visākhā Sutta

Postby binocular » Mon May 13, 2013 7:04 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
... with a boundless heart Should one cherish all living beings; Radiating kindness over the entire world...
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .amar.html

It is certainly a challenge to "cherish" and "radiate kindness" yet "have no dear ones"...

Let's keep in mind that some other translations of this sutta have more plain terms.
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Re: Ud 8.8: Visākhā Sutta

Postby binocular » Mon May 13, 2013 7:11 pm

porpoise wrote:"Dear ones" here seems to refer specifically to family members, but do you think it's also intended in a more general way, for example applying to close friendships? And what about attachment to spiritual friends, members of a sangha?

There's the story of a monk who felt desperate after the Buddha passed away; the monk thought that now, everything was over, that there would be no more holy life, no more efforts for making an end to suffering.
Another monk consoled him and instructed him that even though the Buddha himself might have passed away, they still have his teachings, and that this is what really matters.


Coyote wrote:This is definatly one area of the teaching that is hard to swallow. I think the attachment to "dear ones" is so strong because it lies at the heart of what makes us human - it's what bonds our communities and families together and to abandon that is to reject something seems intimately connected with being a human. It's something we've known (if we are lucky) from the day we are born and it has helped keep us alive and well. It's a scary thought, at least for me, that we must give this attachment up.
But to awaken is to go beyond being "human" - "remember me as awakened".
I think part of the problem for many is in a lack of seeing this attachment as a clinging that leads to suffering, we'd rather gloss over either the suffering part or the attachment part, as your Catholic friend seems to have done, Sam. That should be fixed by contemplation of the first and second (third?) truths, I would think.

We cling to others because we get some kind of nourishment from them. We aren't self-sufficient. For example, parents or other people support us financially; a lover may make it possible for us to temporarily escape the troubles of our minds through sensual pleasures; a good friend serves us as the voice of our conscience and as a reminder to keep to the practice.

Arguably, if we are to make an end to suffering, we will sooner or later have to become self-sufficient. Sooner or later, other people will either pass away, or leave, or we will become old and sick, blind and deaf - and then we will be left alone with our own mind, however trained or untrained it may be. Sooner or later, we will have to become our own best friend.
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Re: Ud 8.8: Visākhā Sutta

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue May 14, 2013 10:13 am

Coyote wrote:Perhaps the Buddha gave this teaching to a layperson where it would ordinarily have been reserved for monks because it is a skillful way of dealing with grief.


Yes, good point. It seems similar to the parable of the mustard seed in that sense.
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Re: Ud 8.8: Visākhā Sutta

Postby pegembara » Tue May 14, 2013 3:50 pm

Sometimes I debate on-line with a Catholic ex-monastic, a person who I have come to have a lot of respect for. His view on such matters is that the attachment and love is necessary, and the suffering that inevitably ensues is a blessing rather than something to be avoided.


Such pain is a "blessing" because it make us human. To be human is to experience happiness (lobha) and pain (dosa). Human experience is rooted in the cycle of dependent origination. To break free makes one almost "non-human".

“Sir,” he said, “there are people stuck midstream in the
terror and the fear of the rush of the river of being, and death
and decay overwhelm them. For their sakes, Sir, tell me where
to find an island, tell me where there is solid ground beyond
the reach of all this pain.”

“Kappa,” said the Master, “for the sake of those people
stuck in the middle of the river of being, overwhelmed by
death and decay, I will tell you where to find solid ground.
“There is an island, an island which you cannot go beyond.
It is a place of no-thingness, a place of non-possession and of
non-attachment. It is the total end of death and decay, and this
is why I call it Nibbana [the extinguished, the cool].

“There are people who, in mindfulness, have realized this
and are completely cooled here and now. They do not become
slaves working for Mara, for Death; they cannot fall into his
power.”

~ SuttaNipata 1092–5
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
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Re: Ud 8.8: Visākhā Sutta

Postby chargingbull » Tue May 14, 2013 6:27 pm

It would seem to me that the Buddha is simply using the example of human relationship to provide another teaching on attachment. What we hold dear has great potential to cause attachment and, eventually, suffering through impermanence.

The very idea of 'dear ones' implies something that is seperate to us, as it cannot be held by something that is the same as it. The more we fragment our understanding of totality, it would seem to me that we have more opportunities to be hurt by it.

But at the same time, in my short time reading on Buddhism, it would seem the Buddha often speaks in hyperbole, to allow the truth to be registered by our frequently dull minds. Like the ego/self, just because we realise that we have it, and that it causes suffering, it doesn't them imply that all beings at all times should aim to cut it off. One takes the principle, and uses it as a foundation for organic growth. Extremes to me seem to merely be another form of resistance, another form of grasping.
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