MN Session 2 - MN 60. Apannaka Sutta

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MN Session 2 - MN 60. Apannaka Sutta

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Jan 27, 2009 9:45 pm

Greetings,

Our second Study Group session, focusing on the Majjhima Nikaya this week looks at...

MN 60 - Apannaka Sutta (A Safe Bet)
Thanissaro Bhikkhu translation: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Translator's Introduction

The Buddha often likened himself to a doctor, offering a treatment for the sufferings of the heart. Unlike ordinary doctors, however, he could not show newcomers the state of health — nibbana — that his teaching was supposed to produce. If they followed his teaching, they would see it for themselves. But until they followed his teaching, he could offer them no empirical that nibbana was a genuine possibility. As he stated in MN 27, the proof that he was awakened — and that awakening was a good thing — came with one's first taste of the Deathless, at the first level of awakening, called stream-entry. However, stream-entry could be attained only through a serious commitment to the practice. Thus he had to provide other, non-empirical, means of persuasion to induce his listeners to give his teachings a serious try.

One of these means was the pragmatic argument, which differs from an empirical argument as follows. An empirical argument presents facts that logically imply that A must be true or false. A pragmatic argument focuses not on the facts related to A, but on the behavior that can be expected from a person who believes or rejects A. The Buddha's main pragmatic argument is that if one accepted his teachings, one would be likely to pay careful attention to one's actions, so as to do no harm. This in and of itself is a worthy activity regardless of whether the rest of the path was true. When applying this argument to the issue of rebirth and karmic results, the Buddha sometimes coupled it with a second pragmatic argument that resembles Pascal's wager: If one practices the Dhamma, one leads a blameless life in the here-and-now. Even if the afterlife and karmic results do not exist, one has not lost the wager, for the blamelessness of one's life is a reward in and of itself. If there is an afterlife with karmic results, then one has won a double reward: the blamelessness of one's life here and now, and the good rewards of one's actions in the afterlife. These two pragmatic arguments form the central message of this sutta.

The Pali title of this sutta is an adjective that has no exact equivalent in English. It is used in two different contexts. In the context of gambling, it describes a die that has not been loaded to favor one side or the other. In the context of an argument, it describes a position that is true regardless of which side of the argument is right. In other words, if there is an argument as to whether A or not-A is true, if C is true regardless of whether A is true or not, C is an apannaka position.

Although this sutta is primarily concerned with the second context, the Buddha implicitly makes the connection between this context and the first in stating that a person who rightly grasps the apannaka position has made a lucky throw, whereas a person who has wrongly grasped it has made an unlucky throw. Thus, to preserve this double context, I have translated apannaka as "safe-bet." "Cover-your-bets" might have been a more accurate translation, but it would have been unwieldy.

The sutta falls into two parts, the first part covering his "safe-bet" arguments, and the second part extolling the person who practices the Dhamma for tormenting neither himself nor others. The two parts are connected in that they both present pragmatic arguments for accepting the Buddha's teaching.

The safe-bet arguments in the first part of the sutta follow two patterns. The first pattern covers controversies over whether there is a life after death, whether actions bear results, and whether there is a causal connection between one's actions and one's experience of pleasure and pain. The pattern here is as follows:

A: a statement of the anti-Dhamma position;
B: a rejection of the anti-Dhamma position;
A1: a pragmatic argument against holding to A — a person who does so is likely to act, speak, and think in unskillful ways;
A2: further unfortunate consequences that follow from holding to A, given that A is wrong;
A3: further unfortunate consequences that come from holding to A whether or not it is right;
B1: a pragmatic argument for holding to B — a person who does so is likely to act, speak, and think in skillful ways;
B2: further fortunate consequences that follow from holding to B, given that B is right;
B3: further fortunate consequences that come from holding to B whether or not it is right.
It is noteworthy that the arguments in A2 and B2 are not safe-bet arguments, for they assume that A is wrong and B is right. Whether these arguments date from the Buddha or were added at a later date, no one knows.

The second pattern in the first part covers two controversies: whether or not a person can attain a total state of formlessness, and whether or not a person can attain total cessation of becoming. In the context of the first controversy, the safe-bet position is that even if there is no total attainment of formlessness, that still opens the possibility that one could become a deva on the level of form. In the context of the second, the safe-bet position is that even if there is no total cessation of becoming, that still leaves open the possibility that one could become a deva on the formless level. One further reflects that total formlessness would open the way to greater peace than the level of form; and that the cessation of becoming would open the way to greater freedom than formlessness. These last observations in no way prove that there is total formlessness or total cessation of becoming, but they do incline the mind to view those possibilities favorably.

The second part of the sutta divides people into four sorts: (1) those who torment themselves, (2) those who torment others, (3) those who torment themselves and others, and (4) those who torment neither themselves nor others. The first and third alternatives describe styles of religious practice that were common in the Buddha's time: practices of self-torture and self-affliction, and the offering of sacrifices. The second alternative covers any and all bloody occupations. In opposition to these alternatives, the Buddha presents the fourth alternative as ideal: the practice of his teachings all the way to full liberation.

For other pragmatic arguments for accepting and practicing the Dhamma, see AN 3.61, AN 3.65, and SN 42.8. AN 3.65 also contains a variant on the wager argument given in this sutta.


Sutta

I have heard that on one occasion, when the Blessed One was on a wandering tour among the Kosalans with a large community of monks, he arrived at the brahman village called Sala. The brahman householders heard, "Master Gotama the contemplative — the son of the Sakyans, having gone forth from the Sakyan clan — on a wandering tour among the Kosalans with a large community of monks — has arrived at Sala. And of that master Gotama this fine reputation has spread: 'He is indeed a Blessed One, an arahant, rightly self-awakened: consummate in knowledge & conduct, well-gone, a knower of the cosmos, an unexcelled trainer of those persons ready to be tamed, teacher of human & divine beings, awakened, blessed. He has made known — having realized it through direct knowledge — this world with its devas, maras, & brahmas, its generations with their contemplatives & priests, their rulers & common people. He has explained the Dhamma admirable in the beginning, admirable in the middle, admirable in the end; has expounded the holy life both in its particulars & in its essence, entirely perfect, surpassingly pure. It is good to see such a worthy one.'"

So the brahman householders of Sala went to the Blessed One. On arrival, some of them bowed down to the Blessed One and sat to one side. Some of them exchanged courteous greetings with him and, after an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, sat to one side. Some of them sat to one side having saluted him with their hands palm-to-palm over their hearts. Some of them sat to one side having announced their name & clan. Some of them sat to one side in silence.

As they were sitting there, the Blessed One asked them, "Householders, is there any teacher agreeable to you, in whom you have found grounded conviction?"

"No, lord, there is no teacher agreeable to us, in whom we have found grounded conviction."

"As you have not found an agreeable teacher, you should adopt and practice this safe-bet teaching, for this safe-bet teaching — when accepted and adopted — will be to your long-term welfare & happiness.

"And what is the safe-bet teaching?

Existence & non-existence
A. "There are some brahmans & contemplatives who hold this doctrine, hold this view: 'There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed. There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions. There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings; no priests or contemplatives who, faring rightly and practicing rightly, proclaim this world and the next after having directly known and realized it for themselves.'1

B. "Some brahmans & contemplatives, speaking in direct opposition to those brahmans & contemplatives, say this: 'There is what is given, what is offered, what is sacrificed. There are fruits & results of good & bad actions. There is this world & the next world. There is mother & father. There are spontaneously reborn beings; there are priests & contemplatives who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.'

"What do you think, householders? Don't these brahmans & contemplatives speak in direct opposition to each other?"

"Yes, lord."

A1. "Now, householders, of those brahmans & contemplatives who hold this doctrine, hold this view — 'There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed. There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions. There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings; no priests or contemplatives who, faring rightly and practicing rightly, proclaim this world and the next after having directly known and realized it for themselves' — it can be expected that, shunning these three skillful activities — good bodily conduct, good verbal conduct, good mental conduct — they will adopt & practice these three unskillful activities: bad bodily conduct, bad verbal conduct, bad mental conduct. Why is that? Because those venerable brahmans & contemplatives do not see, in unskillful activities, the drawbacks, the degradation, and the defilement; nor in skillful activities the rewards of renunciation, resembling cleansing.

A2. "Because there actually is the next world, the view of one who thinks, 'There is no next world' is his wrong view. Because there actually is the next world, when he is resolved that 'There is no next world,' that is his wrong resolve. Because there actually is the next world, when he speaks the statement, 'There is no next world,' that is his wrong speech. Because there actually is the next world, when he is says that 'There is no next world,' he makes himself an opponent to those arahants who know the next world. Because there actually is the next world, when he persuades another that 'There is no next world,' that is persuasion in what is not true Dhamma. And in that persuasion in what is not true Dhamma, he exalts himself and disparages others. Whatever good habituation he previously had is abandoned, while bad habituation is manifested. And this wrong view, wrong resolve, wrong speech, opposition to the arahants, persuasion in what is not true Dhamma, exaltation of self, & disparagement of others: These many evil, unskillful activities come into play, in dependence on wrong view.

A3. "With regard to this, a wise person considers thus: 'If there is no next world, then — at the break-up of the body, after death — this venerable person has made himself safe. But if there is the next world, then this venerable person — on the break-up of the body, after death — will reappear in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell. Even if we didn't speak of the next world, and there weren't the true statement of those venerable brahmans & contemplatives, this venerable person is still criticized in the here-&-now by the wise as a person of bad habits & wrong view: 2 one who holds to a doctrine of non-existence. If there really is a next world, then this venerable person has made a bad throw twice: in that he is criticized by the wise here-&-now, and in that — with the break-up of the body, after death — he will reappear in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell. Thus this safe-bet teaching, when poorly grasped & poorly adopted by him, covers (only) one side, and leaves behind the possibility of the skillful.

B1. "Now, householders, of those brahmans & contemplatives who hold this doctrine, hold this view — 'There is what is given, what is offered, what is sacrificed. There are fruits & results of good & bad actions. There is this world & the next world. There is mother & father. There are spontaneously reborn beings; there are priests & contemplatives who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves' — it can be expected that, shunning these three unskillful activities — bad bodily conduct, bad verbal conduct, bad mental conduct — they will adopt & practice these three skillful activities: good bodily conduct, good verbal conduct, good mental conduct. Why is that? Because those venerable brahmans & contemplatives see in unskillful activities the drawbacks, the degradation, and the defilement; and in skillful activities the rewards of renunciation, resembling cleansing.

B2. "Because there actually is the next world, the view of one who thinks, 'There is a next world' is his right view. Because there actually is the next world, when he is resolved that 'There is a next world,' that is his right resolve. Because there actually is the next world, when he speaks the statement, 'There is a next world,' that is his right speech. Because there actually is the next world, when he is says that 'There is a next world,' he doesn't make himself an opponent to those arahants who know the next world. Because there actually is the next world, when he persuades another that 'There is a next world,' that is persuasion in what is true Dhamma. And in that persuasion in what is true Dhamma, he doesn't exalt himself or disparage others. Whatever bad habituation he previously had is abandoned, while good habituation is manifested. And this right view, right resolve, right speech, non-opposition to the arahants, persuasion in what is true Dhamma, non-exaltation of self, & non-disparagement of others: These many skillful activities come into play, in dependence on right view.

B3. "With regard to this, a wise person considers thus: 'If there is the next world, then this venerable person — on the break-up of the body, after death — will reappear in the good destination, the heavenly world. Even if we didn't speak of the next world, and there weren't the true statement of those venerable brahmans & contemplatives, this venerable person is still praised in the here-&-now by the wise as a person of good habits & right view: one who holds to a doctrine of existence. If there really is a next world, then this venerable person has made a good throw twice, in that he is praised by the wise here-&-now; and in that — with the break-up of the body, after death — he will reappear in the good destination, the heavenly world. Thus this safe-bet teaching, when well grasped & adopted by him, covers both sides, and leaves behind the possibility of the unskillful.

Action & non-action
A. "There are some brahmans & contemplatives who hold this doctrine, hold this view: 'In acting or getting others to act, in mutilating or getting others to mutilate, in torturing or getting others to torture, in inflicting sorrow or in getting others to inflict sorrow, in tormenting or getting others to torment, in intimidating or getting others to intimidate, in taking life, taking what is not given, breaking into houses, plundering wealth, committing burglary, ambushing highways, committing adultery, speaking falsehood — one does no evil. If with a razor-edged disk one were to turn all the living beings on this earth to a single heap of flesh, a single pile of flesh, there would be no evil from that cause, no coming of evil. Even if one were to go along the right bank of the Ganges, killing and getting others to kill, mutilating and getting others to mutilate, torturing and getting others to torture, there would be no evil from that cause, no coming of evil. Even if one were to go along the left bank of the Ganges, giving and getting others to give, making sacrifices and getting others to make sacrifices, there would be no merit from that cause, no coming of merit. Through generosity, self-control, restraint, and truthful speech there is no merit from that cause, no coming of merit.'3

B. "Some brahmans & contemplatives, speaking in direct opposition to those brahmans & contemplatives, say this: 'In acting or getting others to act, in mutilating or getting others to mutilate, in torturing or getting others to torture, in inflicting sorrow or in getting others to inflict sorrow, in tormenting or getting others to torment, in intimidating or getting others to intimidate, in taking life, taking what is not given, breaking into houses, plundering wealth, committing burglary, ambushing highways, committing adultery, speaking falsehood — one does evil. If with a razor-edged disk one were to turn all the living beings on this earth to a single heap of flesh, a single pile of flesh, there would be evil from that cause, there would be a coming of evil. If one were to go along the right bank of the Ganges, killing and getting others to kill, mutilating and getting others to mutilate, torturing and getting others to torture, there would be evil from that cause, there would be a coming of evil. If one were to go along the left bank of the Ganges, giving and getting others to give, making sacrifices and getting others to make sacrifices, there would be merit from that cause, there would be a coming of merit. Through generosity, self-control, restraint, and truthful speech there is merit from that cause, there is a coming of merit.'

"What do you think, householders? Don't these brahmans & contemplatives speak in direct opposition to each other?"

"Yes, lord."

A1. "Now, householders, of those brahmans & contemplatives who hold this doctrine, hold this view — 'In acting or getting others to act, in mutilating or getting others to mutilate, in torturing or getting others to torture... one does no evil... Through generosity, self-control, restraint, and truthful speech there is no merit from that cause, no coming of merit' — it can be expected that, shunning these three skillful activities — good bodily conduct, good verbal conduct, good mental conduct — they will adopt & practice these three unskillful activities: bad bodily conduct, bad verbal conduct, bad mental conduct. Why is that? Because those venerable brahmans & contemplatives do not see, in unskillful activities, the drawbacks, the degradation, and the defilement; nor in skillful activities the rewards of renunciation, resembling cleansing.

A2. "Because there actually is action, the view of one who thinks, 'There is no next action' is his wrong view. Because there actually is action, when he is resolved that 'There is no action,' that is his wrong resolve. Because there actually is action, when he speaks the statement, 'There is no action,' that is his wrong speech. Because there actually is action, when he is says that 'There is no action,' he makes himself an opponent to those arahants who teach action. Because there actually is action, when he persuades another that 'There is no action,' that is persuasion in what is not true Dhamma. And in that persuasion in what is not true Dhamma, he exalts himself and disparages others. Whatever good habituation he previously had is abandoned, while bad habituation is manifested. And this wrong view, wrong resolve, wrong speech, opposition to the arahants, persuasion in what is not true Dhamma, exaltation of self, & disparagement of others: These many evil, unskillful activities come into play, in dependence on wrong view.

A3. "With regard to this, a wise person considers thus: 'If there is no action, then — at the break-up of the body, after death — this venerable person has made himself safe. But if there is action, then this venerable person — on the break-up of the body, after death — will reappear in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell. Even if we didn't speak of action, and there weren't the true statement of those venerable brahmans & contemplatives, this venerable person is still criticized in the here-&-now by the wise as a person of bad habits & wrong view: one who holds to a doctrine of non-action. If there really is action, then this venerable person has made a bad throw twice: in that he is criticized by the wise here-&-now; and in that — with the break-up of the body, after death — he will reappear in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell. Thus this safe-bet teaching, when poorly grasped & poorly adopted by him, covers (only) one side, and leaves behind the possibility of the skillful.

B1. "Now, householders, of those brahmans & contemplatives who hold this doctrine, hold this view — 'In acting or getting others to act, in mutilating or getting others to mutilate, in torturing or getting others to torture... one does evil... Through generosity, self-control, restraint, and truthful speech there is merit from that cause, there is a coming of merit' — it can be expected that, shunning these three unskillful activities — bad bodily conduct, bad verbal conduct, bad mental conduct — they will adopt & practice these three skillful activities: good bodily conduct, good verbal conduct, good mental conduct. Why is that? Because those venerable brahmans & contemplatives see in unskillful activities the drawbacks, the degradation, and the defilement; and in skillful activities the rewards of renunciation, resembling cleansing.

B2. "Because there actually is action, the view of one who thinks, 'There is action' is his right view. Because there actually is action, when he is resolved that 'There is action,' that is his right resolve. Because there actually is action, when he speaks the statement, 'There is action,' that is his right speech. Because there actually is action, when he is says that 'There is action,' he doesn't make himself an opponent to those arahants who teach action. Because there actually is action, when he persuades another that 'There is action,' that is persuasion in what is true Dhamma. And in that persuasion in what is true Dhamma, he doesn't exalt himself or disparage others. Whatever bad habituation he previously had is abandoned, while good habituation is manifested. And this right view, right resolve, right speech, non-opposition to the arahants, persuasion in what is true Dhamma, non-exaltation of self, & non-disparagement of others: These many skillful activities come into play, in dependence on right view.

B3. "With regard to this, a wise person considers thus: 'If there is action, then this venerable person — on the break-up of the body, after death — will reappear in the good destination, the heavenly world. Even if we didn't speak of action, and there weren't the true statement of those venerable brahmans & contemplatives, this venerable person is still praised in the here-&-now by the wise as a person of good habits & right view: one who holds to a doctrine of action. If there really is a next world, then this venerable person has made a good throw twice, in that he is praised by the wise here-&-now; and in that — with the break-up of the body, after death — he will reappear in the good destination, the heavenly world. Thus this safe-bet teaching, when well grasped & adopted by him, covers both sides, and leaves behind the possibility of the unskillful.

Causality & non-causality
A. "There are some brahmans & contemplatives who hold this doctrine, hold this view: 'There is no causality, no requisite condition, for the defilement of beings. Beings are defiled without causality, without requisite condition. There is no causality, no requisite condition, for the purification of beings. Beings are purified without causality, without requisite condition. There is no strength, no effort, no human energy, no human endeavor. All living beings, all life, all beings, all souls are powerless, devoid of strength, devoid of effort. Subject to the changes of fate, serendipity, and nature, they experience pleasure and pain in the six great classes of birth.'4

B. "Some brahmans & contemplatives, speaking in direct opposition to those brahmans & contemplatives, say this: 'There is causality, there is requisite condition, for the defilement of beings. Beings are defiled with causality, with requisite condition. There is causality, there is requisite condition, for the purification of beings. Beings are purified with causality, with requisite condition. There is strength, there is effort, there is human energy, there is human endeavor. It's not the case that all living beings, all life, all beings, all souls are powerless, devoid of strength, devoid of effort; or that subject to the changes of fate, serendipity, and nature, they experience pleasure and pain in the six great classes of birth.'

"What do you think, householders? Don't these brahmans & contemplatives speak in direct opposition to each other?"

"Yes, lord."

A1. "Now, householders, of those brahmans & contemplatives who hold this doctrine, hold this view — 'There is no cause, no requisite condition, for the defilement of beings... Subject to the changes of fate, serendipity, and nature, they experience pleasure and pain in the six great classes of birth' — it can be expected that, shunning these three skillful activities — good bodily conduct, good verbal conduct, good mental conduct — they will adopt & practice these three unskillful activities: bad bodily conduct, bad verbal conduct, bad mental conduct. Why is that? Because those venerable brahmans & contemplatives do not see, in unskillful activities, the drawbacks, the degradation, and the defilement; nor in skillful activities the rewards of renunciation, resembling cleansing.

A2. "Because there actually is causality, the view of one who thinks, 'There is no causality' is his wrong view. Because there actually is causality, when he is resolved that 'There is no causality,' that is his wrong resolve. Because there actually is causality, when he speaks the statement, 'There is no causality,' that is his wrong speech. Because there actually is causality, when he is says that 'There is no causality,' he makes himself an opponent to those arahants who teach causality. Because there actually is causality, when he persuades another that 'There is no causality,' that is persuasion in what is not true Dhamma. And in that persuasion in what is not true Dhamma, he exalts himself and disparages others. Whatever good habituation he previously had is abandoned, while bad habituation is manifested. And this wrong view, wrong resolve, wrong speech, opposition to the arahants, persuasion in what is not true Dhamma, exaltation of self, & disparagement of others: These many evil, unskillful activities come into play, in dependence on wrong view.

A3. "With regard to this, a wise person considers thus: 'If there is no causality, then — at the break-up of the body, after death — this venerable person has made himself safe. But if there is causality, then this venerable person — on the break-up of the body, after death — will reappear in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell. Even if we didn't speak of causality, and there weren't the true statement of those venerable brahmans & contemplatives, this venerable person is still criticized in the here-&-now by the wise as a person of bad habits & wrong view: one who holds to a doctrine of non-causality. If there really is a next world, then this venerable person has made a bad throw twice: in that he is criticized by the wise here-&-now, and in that — with the break-up of the body, after death — he will reappear in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell. Thus this safe-bet teaching, when poorly grasped & poorly adopted by him, covers (only) one side, and leaves behind the possibility of the skillful.

B1. "Now, householders, of those brahmans & contemplatives who hold this doctrine, hold this view — 'There is causality, there is requisite condition, for the defilement of beings... It's not the case that all living beings, all life, all beings, all souls are powerless, devoid of strength, devoid of effort; or that subject to the changes of fate, serendipity, and nature, they experience pleasure and pain in the six great classes of birth' — it can be expected that, shunning these three unskillful activities — bad bodily conduct, bad verbal conduct, bad mental conduct — they will adopt & practice these three skillful activities: good bodily conduct, good verbal conduct, good mental conduct. Why is that? Because those venerable brahmans & contemplatives see in unskillful activities the drawbacks, the degradation, and the defilement; and in skillful activities the rewards of renunciation, resembling cleansing.

B2. "Because there actually is causality, the view of one who thinks, 'There is causality' is his right view. Because there actually is causality, when he is resolved that 'There is causality,' that is his right resolve. Because there actually causality, when he speaks the statement, 'There is causality,' that is his right speech. Because there actually is causality, when he is says that 'There is causality,' he doesn't make himself an opponent to those arahants who teach causality. Because there actually is causality, when he persuades another that 'There is causality,' that is persuasion in what is true Dhamma. And in that persuasion in what is true Dhamma, he doesn't exalt himself or disparage others. Whatever bad habituation he previously had is abandoned, while good habituation is manifested. And this right view, right resolve, right speech, non-opposition to the arahants, persuasion in what is true Dhamma, non-exaltation of self, & non-disparagement of others: These many skillful activities come into play, in dependence on right view.

B3. "With regard to this, a wise person considers thus: 'If there is causality, then this venerable person — on the break-up of the body, after death — will reappear in the good destination, the heavenly world. Even if we didn't speak of causality, and there weren't the true statement of those venerable brahmans & contemplatives, this venerable person is still praised in the here-&-now by the wise as a person of good habits & right view: one who holds to a doctrine of causality. If there really is causality, then this venerable person has made a good throw twice, in that he is praised by the wise here-&-now; and in that — with the break-up of the body, after death — he will reappear in the good destination, the heavenly world. Thus this safe-bet teaching, when well grasped & adopted by him, covers both sides, and leaves behind the possibility of the unskillful.

Formlessness
"There are some brahmans & contemplatives who hold this doctrine, hold this view: 'There is no total formlessness.' Some brahmans & contemplatives, speaking in direct opposition to those brahmans & contemplatives, say this: 'There is total formlessness.' What do you think, householders? Don't these brahmans & contemplatives speak in direct opposition to each other?"

"Yes, lord."

"With regard to this, a wise person considers thus: 'As for those venerable brahmans & contemplatives who hold this doctrine, hold this view — "There is no total formlessness" — I haven't seen that. As for those venerable brahmans & contemplatives who hold this doctrine, hold this view — "There is total formlessness" — I haven't known that. If I, not knowing, not seeing, were to take one side and declare, "Only this is true, anything otherwise is worthless," that would not be fitting for me. As for those venerable brahmans & contemplatives who hold this doctrine, hold this view — "There is no total formlessness": If their statement is true, there's the safe-bet possibility that I might reappear among the mind-made devas of form. As for those venerable brahmans & contemplatives who hold this doctrine, hold this view — "There is total formlessness": If their statement is true, there's the safe-bet possibility that I might reappear among the perception-made devas of no form. The taking up of rods & weapons, quarrels, contention, disputes, recrimination, divisiveness, & false speech are seen to arise from form, but not from total formlessness.' Reflecting thus, he practices for disenchantment toward forms, for dispassion toward forms, and for the cessation of forms.

Cessation of becoming
"There are some brahmans & contemplatives who hold this doctrine, hold this view: 'There is no total cessation of becoming.' Some brahmans & contemplatives, speaking in direct opposition to those brahmans & contemplatives, say this: 'There is total cessation of becoming.' What do you think, householders? Don't these brahmans & contemplatives speak in direct opposition to each other?"

"Yes, lord."

"With regard to this, a wise person considers thus: 'As for those venerable brahmans & contemplatives who hold this doctrine, hold this view — "There is no total cessation of becoming" — I haven't seen that. As for those venerable brahmans & contemplatives who hold this doctrine, hold this view — "There is total cessation of becoming" — I haven't known that. If I, not knowing, not seeing, were to take one side and declare, "Only this is true, anything otherwise is worthless," that would not be fitting for me. As for those venerable brahmans & contemplatives who hold this doctrine, hold this view — "There is no total cessation of becoming": If their statement is true, there's the safe-bet possibility that I might reappear among the perception-made devas of no form. As for those venerable brahmans & contemplatives who hold this doctrine, hold this view — "There is total cessation of becoming": If their statement is true, it is possible that I will be totally unbound in the here-&-now. As for those venerable brahmans & contemplatives who hold this doctrine, hold this view — "There is no total cessation of becoming": This view of theirs borders on passion, borders on fettering, borders on relishing, borders on grasping, borders on clinging. As for those venerable brahmans & contemplatives who hold this doctrine, hold this view — "There is total cessation of becoming": This view of theirs borders on non-passion, borders on non-fettering, borders on non-relishing, borders on non-grasping, borders on non-clinging.' Reflecting thus, he practices for disenchantment toward becomings, for dispassion toward becomings, and for the cessation of becomings.

Four individuals
"Householders, there are these four types of individuals to be found existing in the world. Which four? There is the case where a certain individual torments himself and is devoted to the practice of torturing himself. There is the case where a certain individual torments others and is devoted to the practice of torturing others. There is the case where a certain individual torments himself and is devoted to the practice of torturing himself, and also torments others and is devoted to the practice of torturing others. There is the case where a certain individual neither torments himself nor is he devoted to the practice of torturing himself, neither torments others nor is he devoted to the practice of torturing others. Neither tormenting himself nor tormenting others, he dwells in the here-&-now free of hunger, unbound, cooled, sensitive to happiness, with a Brahma-like mind.

"And which is the individual who torments himself and is devoted to the practice of torturing himself? There is the case where a certain individual is a cloth-less ascetic, rejecting conventions, licking his hands, not coming when called, not staying when asked. He does not accept food brought or specially made. He does not consent to an invitation (to a meal). He doesn't receive anything from the mouth of a pot, from the mouth of a container, across a threshold, across a stick, across a pestle, from two eating together, from a pregnant woman, from a woman nursing a child, from a woman living with a man, from where it is announced that food is to be distributed, from where a dog is waiting, from where flies are buzzing. He accepts no meat, no distilled liquor, no wine, no fermented liquor. He limits himself to one house for one morsel, to two houses for two morsels... to seven houses for seven morsels. He lives on one saucerful a day, two saucerfuls a day... seven saucerfuls a day. He takes food once a day, once every two days... once every seven days, and so on up to once every half-month. He remains devoted to the practice of taking food at stated intervals. He eats a diet of green vegetables or millet or wild rice or hide-parings or moss or rice bran or rice-water or sesame flour or grass or cow dung. He lives off forest roots & fruits. He eats fallen fruits. He clothes himself in hemp, in canvas, in shrouds, in thrown-away rags, in tree bark, in antelope hide, in wood-shavings fabric, in head-hair wool, in wild-animal wool, in owls' wings. He is a hair-&-beard puller, one devoted to the practice of pulling out his hair & beard. He is a stander, one who rejects seats. He is a hands-around-the-knees sitter, one devoted to the exertion of sitting with his hands around his knees. He is a spike-mattresser, one who makes his bed on a bed of spikes. He is a third-time-in-the-evening bather, one who stays devoted to the practice of bathing in water. Thus, in these many ways, he is devoted to the practice of tormenting & persecuting the body. This is called an individual who torments himself and is devoted to the practice of torturing himself.

"And which is the individual who torments others and is devoted to the practice of torturing others? There is the case where a certain individual is a butcher of sheep, a butcher of pigs, a butcher of fowl, a trapper, a hunter, a fisherman, a thief, an executioner,5 a prison warden, or anyone who follows any other bloody occupation. This is called an individual who torments others and is devoted to the practice of torturing others.

"And which is the individual who torments himself and is devoted to the practice of torturing himself, and also torments others and is devoted to the practice of torturing others? There is the case where an individual is a head-anointed noble warrior king, or a brahman of great wealth. Having had a new temple built to the east of the city, having shaved off his hair & beard, having dressed himself in a rough hide, having smeared his body with ghee & oil, and scratching his back with a deer horn, he enters the new temple along with his chief queen & brahman high priest. There he makes his bed on the bare ground strewn with grass. The king lives off the milk from the first teat of a cow with an identical calf; the queen lives off the milk from the second teat; the brahman high priest, off the milk from the third teat. The milk from the fourth teat they pour6 into the fire. The calf lives on what is left.

"He says, 'Let so many bulls be slaughtered for the sacrifice. Let so many bullocks... so many heifer... so many goats... so many sheep... Let so many horses be slaughtered for the sacrifice.7 Let so many trees be cut down for the sacrificial posts; let so many plants grass be mowed down for the sacrificial grass.' And his slaves, servants, & workers make preparations, weeping with tearful faces, spurred on by punishment, spurred on by fear. This is called an individual who torments himself and is devoted to the practice of torturing himself, and also torments others and is devoted to the practice of torturing others.

"And which is the individual who neither torments himself nor is devoted to the practice of torturing himself, neither torments others nor is devoted to the practice of torturing others; who — neither tormenting himself nor tormenting others — dwells in the here-&-now free of hunger, unbound, cooled, sensitive to happiness with a Brahma-like mind?

"There is the case where a Tathagata appears in the world, worthy and rightly self-awakened. He teaches the Dhamma admirable in its beginning, admirable in its middle, admirable in its end. He proclaims the holy life both in its particulars and in its essence, entirely perfect, surpassingly pure.

"A householder or householder's son, hearing the Dhamma, gains conviction in the Tathagata and reflects: 'Household life is confining, a dusty path. Life gone forth is the open air. It isn't easy, living at home, to practice the holy life totally perfect, totally pure, a polished shell. What if I, having shaved off my hair & beard and putting on the ochre robe, were to go forth from the household life into homelessness?'

"So after some time he abandons his mass of wealth, large or small; leaves his circle of relatives, large or small; shaves off his hair and beard, puts on the ochre robes, and goes forth from the household life into homelessness.

Virtue
"When he has thus gone forth, endowed with the monks' training & livelihood, then — abandoning the taking of life — he abstains from the taking of life. He dwells with his rod laid down, his knife laid down, scrupulous, merciful, compassionate for the welfare of all living beings.

"Abandoning the taking of what is not given, he abstains from taking what is not given. He takes only what is given, accepts only what is given, lives not by stealth but by means of a self that has become pure. This, too, is part of his virtue.

"Abandoning uncelibacy, he lives a celibate life, aloof, refraining from the sexual act that is the villager's way.

"Abandoning false speech, he abstains from false speech. He speaks the truth, holds to the truth, is firm, reliable, no deceiver of the world.

"Abandoning divisive speech he abstains from divisive speech. What he has heard here he does not tell there to break those people apart from these people here. What he has heard there he does not tell here to break these people apart from those people there. Thus reconciling those who have broken apart or cementing those who are united, he loves concord, delights in concord, enjoys concord, speaks things that create concord.

"Abandoning abusive speech, he abstains from abusive speech. He speaks words that are soothing to the ear, that are affectionate, that go to the heart, that are polite, appealing and pleasing to people at large.

"Abandoning idle chatter, he abstains from idle chatter. He speaks in season, speaks what is factual, what is in accordance with the goal, the Dhamma, and the Vinaya. He speaks words worth treasuring, seasonable, reasonable, circumscribed, connected with the goal.

"He abstains from damaging seed and plant life.

"He eats only once a day, refraining from the evening meal and from food at the wrong time of day.

"He abstains from dancing, singing, instrumental music, and from watching shows.

"He abstains from wearing garlands and from beautifying himself with scents and cosmetics.

"He abstains from high and luxurious beds and seats.

"He abstains from accepting gold and money.

"He abstains from accepting uncooked grain... raw meat... women and girls... male and female slaves... goats and sheep... fowl and pigs... elephants, cattle, steeds, and mares... fields and property.

"He abstains from running messages... from buying and selling... from dealing with false scales, false metals, and false measures... from bribery, deception, and fraud.

"He abstains from mutilating, executing, imprisoning, highway robbery, plunder, and violence.

"He is content with a set of robes to provide for his body and alms food to provide for his hunger. Just as a bird, wherever it goes, flies with its wings as its only burden; so too is he content with a set of robes to provide for his body and alms food to provide for his hunger. Wherever he goes, he takes only his barest necessities along.

"Endowed with this noble aggregate of virtue, he is inwardly sensitive to the pleasure of being blameless.

Sense restraint
"On seeing a form with the eye, he does not grasp at any theme or details by which — if he were to dwell without restraint over the faculty of the eye — evil, unskillful qualities such as greed or distress might assail him. On hearing a sound with the ear... On smelling an odor with the nose... On tasting a flavor with the tongue... On touching a tactile sensation with the body... On cognizing an idea with the intellect, he does not grasp at any theme or details by which — if he were to dwell without restraint over the faculty of the intellect — evil, unskillful qualities such as greed or distress might assail him. Endowed with this noble restraint over the sense faculties, he is inwardly sensitive to the pleasure of being blameless.

Mindfulness & alertness
"When going forward and returning, he acts with alertness. When looking toward and looking away... when bending and extending his limbs... when carrying his outer cloak, his upper robe, and his bowl... when eating, drinking, chewing, and tasting... when urinating and defecating... when walking, standing, sitting, falling asleep, waking up, talking, and remaining silent, he acts with alertness.

Abandoning the hindrances
"Endowed with this noble aggregate of virtue, this noble restraint over the sense faculties, this noble mindfulness & alertness, he seeks out a secluded dwelling: a wilderness, the shade of a tree, a mountain, a glen, a hillside cave, a charnel ground, a forest grove, the open air, a heap of straw. After his meal, returning from his alms round, he sits down, crosses his legs, holds his body erect, and brings mindfulness to the fore.

"Abandoning covetousness with regard to the world, he dwells with an awareness devoid of covetousness. He cleanses his mind of covetousness. Abandoning ill will and anger, he dwells with an awareness devoid of ill will, sympathetic with the welfare of all living beings. He cleanses his mind of ill will and anger. Abandoning sloth and drowsiness, he dwells with an awareness devoid of sloth and drowsiness, mindful, alert, percipient of light. He cleanses his mind of sloth and drowsiness. Abandoning restlessness and anxiety, he dwells undisturbed, his mind inwardly stilled. He cleanses his mind of restlessness and anxiety. Abandoning uncertainty, he dwells having crossed over uncertainty, with no perplexity with regard to skillful mental qualities. He cleanses his mind of uncertainty.

The four jhanas
"Having abandoned these five hindrances — imperfections of awareness that weaken discernment — then, quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful mental qualities, he enters and remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation.

"Then, with the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters and remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation — internal assurance.

"Then, with the fading of rapture, he remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and senses pleasure with the body. He enters and remains in the third jhana, of which the noble ones declare, 'Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.'

"Then, with the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — he enters and remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither-pleasure-nor-pain.

The three knowledges
"With his mind thus concentrated, purified, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs and inclines it to knowledge of the recollection of past lives (lit: previous homes). He recollects his manifold past lives, i.e., one birth, two births, three births, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, one hundred, one thousand, one hundred thousand, many aeons of cosmic contraction, many aeons of cosmic expansion, many aeons of cosmic contraction and expansion, [recollecting], 'There I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose there. There too I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose here.' Thus he recollects his manifold past lives in their modes and details. This, too, is how striving is fruitful, how exertion is fruitful.

"With his mind thus concentrated, purified, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs and inclines it to knowledge of the passing away and re-appearance of beings. He sees — by means of the divine eye, purified and surpassing the human — beings passing away and re-appearing, and he discerns how they are inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate in accordance with their kamma: 'These beings — who were endowed with bad conduct of body, speech, and mind, who reviled the noble ones, held wrong views and undertook actions under the influence of wrong views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell. But these beings — who were endowed with good conduct of body, speech, and mind, who did not revile the noble ones, who held right views and undertook actions under the influence of right views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the good destinations, in the heavenly world.' Thus — by means of the divine eye, purified and surpassing the human — he sees beings passing away and re-appearing, and he discerns how they are inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate in accordance with their kamma.

"With his mind thus concentrated, purified, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability, the monk directs and inclines it to the knowledge of the ending of the mental fermentations. He discerns, as it is actually present, that 'This is stress... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress... This is the way leading to the cessation of stress... These are mental fermentations... This is the origination of fermentations... This is the cessation of fermentations... This is the way leading to the cessation of fermentations.' His heart, thus knowing, thus seeing, is released from the fermentation of sensuality, the fermentation of becoming, the fermentation of ignorance. With release, there is the knowledge, 'Released.' He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'

"This is called an individual who neither torments himself nor is devoted to the practice of torturing himself, who neither torments others nor is devoted to the practice of torturing others. Neither tormenting himself nor tormenting others, he dwells in the here-&-now free of hunger, unbound, cooled, sensitive to happiness, with a Brahma-like mind."

When this was said, the brahman householders of Sala said, "Magnificent, master Gotama! Magnificent! Just as if he were to place upright what was overturned, to reveal what was hidden, to show the way to one who was lost, or to carry a lamp into the dark so that those with eyes could see forms, in the same way has master Gotama — through many lines of reasoning — made the Dhamma clear. We go to master Gotama for refuge, to the Dhamma, and to the Community of monks. May master Gotama remember us as lay followers who have gone to him for refuge, from this day forward, for life."


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Notes

1. This was the view of Ajita Kesakambalin. See DN 2.

2. In this context — where that actual truth or falseness of the doctrine is not being addressed — "wrong view" would have to mean a view that leads a person to engage in bad conduct in body, speech, or mind.

3. This was the view of Purana Kassapa. See DN 2.

4. This was the view of Makkhali Gosala. See DN 2.

5. The Burmese edition of the Canon here adds, "a slaughterer of cows."

6. This follows the Sinhalese, Burmese, and PTS editions of the Canon. The Thai edition reads, "he pours."

7. The PTS and Sinhalese editions omit the sentence, "Let so many horses be slaughtered for the sacrifice."

See also: MN 45; MN 95


Study Guidance on MN60

From Pressing Out Pure Honey (A Practitioner’s Study Guide) by Sharda Rogell

60 Apannaka Sutta The Incontrovertible Teaching

SUMMARY
The name of the discourse means an uncontradictable teaching. The Buddha
gives the brahmin householders of Sālā a long discourse on untangling a
number of wrong views and why it would be to their advantage to hold to right
view. There are five doctrines explored: of nihilism, of nondoing,
of noncausality,
of no immaterial realms and of no cessation of being. This discourse
holds particular interest for those who want to know about these five different
doctrines.

NOTES
An uncontradictable teaching also carries the implication of a teaching that holds
no matter what, e.g., assumptions that keep one safe no matter what the actual
nature of reality may be.
[7] QUOTE: “…and brahmins do not see in unwholesome states the danger,
degradation, and defilement, nor do they see in wholesome states, the blessing
of renunciation, the aspect of cleansing.” This point runs through this discourse.
It is the most important aspect of understanding karma. Each of the words
mentioned here—danger, degradation, defilement, renunciation and cleansing,
or purification—is important to reflect upon in order to fully understand the
meaning of this teaching. The danger, degradation, defilement are reflected in
the four kinds of suffering (as in MN54.6). The blessing is practicing the way of
abandoning and cutting off those fetters, and increasing the likelihood of
reappearing in a happy destination in the future.
[5] Doctrine of Nihilism: “There is nothing given,…no fruit or result of good
and bad actions; no this world, no other world; no mother,…no good and
virtuous recluses and brahmins in the world who have themselves realized…” In
other words, nothing exists so nothing matters. Note 625 mentions that this
doctrine denies the existence of an afterlife and of karmic retribution.
[11] “Since there actually is another world…” The Buddha proclaims this. This
is right view, right intention, and right speech, nonopposition
to noble ones,
convincing others to accept true Dharma, avoidance of selfpraise
and
disparagement of others. These wholesome states thus come into being based
on right view.
[1316]
Doctrine of Nondoing:
“There is no action (evil or good) done by the
doer.” This is wrong view. “One who intends, “There is no doing.” This is wrong
intention. If one says or teaches this, this is wrong speech and untrue Dharma.
In other words, this doctrine means it doesn’t matter what kinds of actions one
does.
[19] “Since there actually is doing…” The Buddha proclaims this. This is right
view, right intention, and right speech (as in [11]).
[21] Doctrine of Noncausality:
“There is no cause or condition for the
defilement of beings…for the purification of beings… All beings… are without
mastery, power, and energy; molded by destiny, circumstance and nature…” In
other words, we have no control or choice over what happens or the outcome of
events. Everything is predetermined.
[27] “Since there actually is causality…” The Buddha proclaims this (as in [11]
and [19]).
If one holds the view of nihilism or noncausality
(destiny), one would not
have any interest in good conduct because one would not see any danger in evil
deeds or blessings in good deeds. This is also wrong view, wrong intention and
wrong speech.
[2931]
Doctrine of no immaterial realms: “There are definitely no
immaterial realms.”
[34] Doctrine of no cessation of being: One’s view, according to the
Buddha, definitely determines the outcome of one’s rebirth. If one clings to the
view “there is no cessation of being,” it is unlikely that one will attain Nibbāna. If
one has the view “there is cessation of being,” there is the possibility that one will
attain Nibbāna, but not certainty. One practices even if one has doubts about the
existence of cessation of being because this is a better wager just in case it is
true.

PRACTICE
Reflect on your own relationship to each of the five doctrines presented, as well
as your relationship to the idea of rebirth. If you have doubts about rebirth, what
is your motivation for practice?


Still no formal leader for the study group, so we'll discuss the sutta, the concepts within, and the "practice" section mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: MN Session 2 - MN 60. Apannaka Sutta

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Jan 28, 2009 9:43 am

Greetings,

I may as well kick things off quickly....

I think this is a good sutta to encourage the reader to take on board and accept (at least as a "working hypothesis" until the truth can be known one way or the other) the Buddha's position on certain issues pertaining to the Dhamma. I also like the calm, sane, rational way in which he guides the audience... no wrathful fist-thumping on the table there. He treats them with respect.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: MN Session 2 - MN 60. Apannaka Sutta

Postby Jechbi » Wed Jan 28, 2009 5:04 pm

Four individuals
"Householders, there are these four types of individuals to be found existing in the world. Which four? There is the case where a certain individual torments himself and is devoted to the practice of torturing himself. There is the case where a certain individual torments others and is devoted to the practice of torturing others. There is the case where a certain individual torments himself and is devoted to the practice of torturing himself, and also torments others and is devoted to the practice of torturing others. There is the case where a certain individual neither torments himself nor is he devoted to the practice of torturing himself, neither torments others nor is he devoted to the practice of torturing others.

This is a very vivid way of framing what we do to ourselves and others. It appears that the fourth type of individual is the monk. The rest of us fall into one of the other three types, I guess. Very sobering.
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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Re: MN Session 2 - MN 60. Apannaka Sutta

Postby Lazy_eye » Thu Jan 29, 2009 12:39 pm

PRACTICE
Reflect on your own relationship to each of the five doctrines presented, as well
as your relationship to the idea of rebirth. If you have doubts about rebirth, what
is your motivation for practice?

[/quote]

My take on it (strongly influenced by this sutta, btw), is that the Buddha's teachings are valid and applicable to the present and the future. The rebirth question essentially has to do with scope. If rebirth were not literally true, then the teachings would be valid -- at a personal level -- until death. They would be continue to be valid, at a transpersonal level, beyond any one individual's death, since 'beings" will continue regardless. The possibility that "I" might die is not a reason to adopt nihilism or pretend there is no existence or right action.

If there is rebirth, then the teachings are valid at both a personal and transpersonal level, into infinity.

The Buddha's teachings here have been compared to Pascal's wager...but it seems to me there's a crucial difference. Pascal places his bet on the possibility of infinite gain; the Buddha's covers the immediate present as well...that is, the benefits can be seen right away, and the disadvantages of wrong view can be seen as well.
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Re: MN Session 2 - MN 60. Apannaka Sutta

Postby Jesse Smith » Thu Jan 29, 2009 3:33 pm

There is SO much in this sutta. It contains many repeated phrases, and these repeated phrases may only differ by one word, and these difference among these difference words may seem to be inconsequential. If you aren't reading very closely, it's easy to find yourself skipping over the repeated phrases thinking "yeah, I've heard this before," anticipating the same ending or the same content. But I think we'd be making a big mistake in glossing over these differences. A lover if lists and a decipher of patterns would be like a kid in a candy shop deconstructing this sutta.
In his audio lesson on this, Bhikku Bodhi says the Buddha avoids espousing his own doctrine and instead offers the "lucky throw" rationale. But I think his doctrine is saturating the entire sutta, both in its content and composition.
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Re: MN Session 2 - MN 60. Apannaka Sutta

Postby Lazy_eye » Fri Jan 30, 2009 3:07 pm

Jesse Smith wrote:There is SO much in this sutta. It contains many repeated phrases, and these repeated phrases may only differ by one word, and these difference among these difference words may seem to be inconsequential. If you aren't reading very closely, it's easy to find yourself skipping over the repeated phrases thinking "yeah, I've heard this before," anticipating the same ending or the same content. But I think we'd be making a big mistake in glossing over these differences. A lover if lists and a decipher of patterns would be like a kid in a candy shop deconstructing this sutta.


Yes, I agree...this is a very rich text, lots to go over. Maybe that's why this thread has been slow to take off. :coffee:

A passage that confused me was the one about formlessness. I just can't make heads or tails of it -- would appreciate an explication if someone could provide it...Formlessness for Dummies. I've gone over it several times and it just makes my head spin:

"With regard to this, a wise person considers thus: 'As for those venerable brahmans & contemplatives who hold this doctrine, hold this view — "There is no total formlessness" — I haven't seen that. As for those venerable brahmans & contemplatives who hold this doctrine, hold this view — "There is total formlessness" — I haven't known that. If I, not knowing, not seeing, were to take one side and declare, "Only this is true, anything otherwise is worthless," that would not be fitting for me. As for those venerable brahmans & contemplatives who hold this doctrine, hold this view — "There is no total formlessness": If their statement is true, there's the safe-bet possibility that I might reappear among the mind-made devas of form. As for those venerable brahmans & contemplatives who hold this doctrine, hold this view — "There is total formlessness": If their statement is true, there's the safe-bet possibility that I might reappear among the perception-made devas of no form. The taking up of rods & weapons, quarrels, contention, disputes, recrimination, divisiveness, & false speech are seen to arise from form, but not from total formlessness.' Reflecting thus, he practices for disenchantment toward forms, for dispassion toward forms, and for the cessation of forms.

I gather that it's a "safe bet" to posit the existence of formless realms, but am not clear about the line of argument (probably b/c of unfamiliarity with the terms).
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Re: MN Session 2 - MN 60. Apannaka Sutta

Postby Dhammanando » Fri Jan 30, 2009 4:03 pm

Hi Lazy_eye,

Lazy_eye wrote:A passage that confused me was the one about formlessness. I just can't make heads or tails of it -- would appreciate an explication if someone could provide it...Formlessness for Dummies.



Here is Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation:

    (IV. THERE ARE NO IMMATERIAL REALMS)

    “Householders, there are some recluses and brahmins whose doctrine and view is this: ‘There are definitely no immaterial realms.’ [1]

    “Now there are some recluses and brahmins whose doctrine is directly opposed to that of those recluses and brahmins, and they say thus: ‘There definitely are immaterial realms.’ What do you think, householders? Don’t these recluses and brahmins hold doctrines directly opposed to each other?” - “Yes, venerable sir.”

    “About this a wise man considers thus: ‘These good recluses and brahmins hold the doctrine and view “there are definitely no immaterial realms,” but that has not been seen by me. And these other good recluses and brahmins hold the doctrine and view “there definitely are immaterial realms,” but that has not been known by me. If, without knowing and seeing, I were to take one side and declare: “Only this is true, anything else is wrong,” that would not be fitting for me. Now as to the recluses and brahmins who hold the doctrine and view “there definitely are no immaterial realms,” if their word is true then it is certainly still possible that I might reappear [after death] among the gods of the fine-material realms who consist of mind. [2]

    “But as to the recluses and brahmins who hold the doctrine and view “there definitely are immaterial realms,” if their word is true then it is certainly possible that I might reappear [after death] among the gods of the immaterial realms who consist of perception. The taking up of rods and weapons, quarrels, brawls, disputes, recrimination, malice, and false speech are seen to occur based on material form, but this does not exist at all in the immaterial realms.’ After reflecting thus, he practises the way to dispassion towards material forms, to the fading away and cessation of material forms.” [3]

Notes:

[1] This is a denial of the four immaterial planes of existence, the objective counterparts of the four immaterial meditative attainments.

[2] These are the gods of the planes corresponding to the four jhanas. They possess bodies of subtle matter, unlike the gods of the immaterial planes who consist entirely of mind without any admixture of matter.

[3] Majjhima Commentary: Even though the wise man discussed here has doubts about the existence of the immaterial planes, he attains the fourth jhana, and on the basis of that he attempts to attain the immaterial absorptions. If he fails he is certain of rebirth in the fine-material planes, but if he succeeds he will be reborn in the immaterial planes. Thus for him this wager is an “incontrovertible teaching.”


Does this make things clearer?

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
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Re: MN Session 2 - MN 60. Apannaka Sutta

Postby Lazy_eye » Fri Jan 30, 2009 5:49 pm

Thank you, Venerable. I did find it helpful to contrast the two translations, and Note [3] seems to provide the needed explication. The Buddha's argument, if I understand it properly, assumes we agree that at least the fine material realm exists, if not the immaterial one.

Since modern materialism would probably cast doubt on the fine material realm as well, I wonder if the Buddha would have spoken somewhat differently today. Perhaps this gist is: even if you aren't convinced of these realms, assuming their existence will lead you further in your practice, to the point where you can experience them for yourself?
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Re: MN Session 2 - MN 60. Apannaka Sutta

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Feb 04, 2009 9:12 am

Thanks everyone. Session closed.

Still got questions? Feel free to take them to the relevant forum and ask away!

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Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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