Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.

Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby Alex123 » Tue Oct 25, 2011 8:51 pm

Hello all,

I've read 4.5 Nikayas and yet I haven't found explicit doctrine on Two Truths. Very often conventional teaching is taught without any mention that it is merely conventional and that these things don't ultimately exist.

"He words things by means of what is said in the world but without grasping at it (voharati aparāmasa’’nti)."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

"In the same way, when there is a gross acquisition of a self... it's classified just as a gross acquisition of a self. When there is a mind-made acquisition of a self... When there is a formless acquisition of a self, it's not classified either as a gross acquisition of a self or as a mind-made acquisition of a self. It's classified just as a formless acquisition of a self.

"Citta, these are the world's designations, the world's expressions, the world's ways of speaking, the world's descriptions, with which the Tathagata expresses himself but without grasping to them (voharati aparāmasa’’nti)."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... tml#fnt-10


It seems that the only the words such as "I, me, mine, self" are conventional which the Buddha uses but does not assume eternal and happy Atta. It also seems that what the Buddha meant above was that He doesn't cling too much to words.
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Oct 25, 2011 8:55 pm

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.
"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby daverupa » Tue Oct 25, 2011 9:31 pm

AN 2.25 wrote:"Monks, these two slander the Tathagata. Which two? He who explains a discourse whose meaning needs to be inferred as one whose meaning has already been fully drawn out. And he who explains a discourse whose meaning has already been fully drawn out as one whose meaning needs to be inferred. These are two who slander the Tathagata."


This is the whole of it in the SuttaVinaya? Fascinating that it should be made so much of in the later literature. Seems rather unimportant, given that it's attested in a single Sutta.
Last edited by daverupa on Tue Oct 25, 2011 9:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Oct 25, 2011 9:33 pm

daverupa wrote:
AN 2.25 wrote:"Monks, these two slander the Tathagata. Which two? He who explains a discourse whose meaning needs to be inferred as one whose meaning has already been fully drawn out. And he who explains a discourse whose meaning has already been fully drawn out as one whose meaning needs to be inferred. These are two who slander the Tathagata."


This is the whole of it in the SuttaVinaya? Fascinating that it should be made so much of in the later literature.
And your point is?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.
"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby daverupa » Tue Oct 25, 2011 9:38 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
daverupa wrote:
AN 2.25 wrote:"Monks, these two slander the Tathagata. Which two? He who explains a discourse whose meaning needs to be inferred as one whose meaning has already been fully drawn out. And he who explains a discourse whose meaning has already been fully drawn out as one whose meaning needs to be inferred. These are two who slander the Tathagata."


This is the whole of it in the SuttaVinaya? Fascinating that it should be made so much of in the later literature.
And your point is?


Well, the OP asks if the Buddha taught it. As far as I can tell, the abhidhamma taught it and built it up, but it's not attested in the Early Buddhism sources, which is this section of the forum.

Do you have a goal in mind by asking that question?
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Oct 25, 2011 9:48 pm

daverupa wrote:Well, the OP asks if the Buddha taught it. As far as I can tell, the abhidhamma taught it and built it up, but that it's not attested in the Early Buddhism sources, which is this section of the forum.
Yes, well, it all depends on what is meant by early Buddhism and what is included in that. Also, as Karunadasa shows, a case can be made for the idea of two truths as a reasonable extension of what is found in the suttas. Your comment above is unclear in what it is or is not saying.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.
"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby daverupa » Tue Oct 25, 2011 10:03 pm

tiltbillings wrote:Yes, well, it all depends on what is meant by early Buddhism and what is included in that.


I'm easily thinking Nikayas, Agamas, Vinaya, etc., when this subforum seems to include early school formation and their resultant abhidhammas. So that'll be a bias I have - the Pre-Sectarian understanding of that phrase.

tiltbillings wrote:Also, as Karunadasa shows, a case can be made for the idea of two truths as a reasonable extension of what is found in the suttas.


Karunadasa uses a grand total of two Suttas: the AN one I quoted, and DN 33. Despite often writing that the two truths doctrine has connections to the earlier strata of texts, other than those two Suttas the matter is never mentioned in the whole of the SuttaVinaya (and DN 33 is late - but again, my bias). This is not a reasonable extension, in my view.

Also, per the question of the OP, it means the Buddha doesn't seem to have taught it - unless he was in heaven teaching this as part of abhidhamma... whereupon the door is open for all manner of Mahayana texts...

tiltbillings wrote:Your comment above is unclear in what it is or is not saying.


It is saying, "fascinating, seeing such a mountain come out of this molehill. What can have been the causes and conditions of that?"
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Oct 25, 2011 10:24 pm

daverupa wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:Yes, well, it all depends on what is meant by early Buddhism and what is included in that.


I'm easily thinking Nikayas, Agamas, Vinaya, etc., when this subforum seems to include early school formation and their resultant abhidhammas. So that'll be a bias I have - the Pre-Sectarian understanding of that phrase.

tiltbillings wrote:Also, as Karunadasa shows, a case can be made for the idea of two truths as a reasonable extension of what is found in the suttas.


Karunadasa uses a grand total of two Suttas: the AN one I quoted, and DN 33. Despite often writing that the two truths doctrine has connections to the earlier strata of texts, other than those two Suttas the matter is never mentioned in the whole of the SuttaVinaya (and DN 33 is late - but again, my bias).

tiltbillings wrote:Your comment above is unclear in what it is or is not saying.


It is saying, "fascinating, seeing such a mountain come out of this molehill."
Thank you for sharing your bias. Maybe the molehill is not so small. While I am not committed to the two truth notion, I do see its pragmatic utility.

But following your thrust, it looks like you are saying that something has to be literally spelled out, called by name for it to be acceptable. Drawing out implications is not acceptable, according to, so it would seem. Blowing off a sutta that is inconvenient as being a late addition is one way to deal with things, but without a seriously and carefully done argumentation to show that it should not be regarded as a text to be taken seriously is an expression of bias carries no weight.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.
"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby daverupa » Tue Oct 25, 2011 10:35 pm

tiltbillings wrote:But following your thrust, it looks like you are saying that something has to be literally spelled out, called by name for it to be acceptable. Drawing out implications is not acceptable, according to, so it would seem. Blowing off a sutta that is inconvenient as being a late addition is one way to deal with things, but without a seriously and carefully done argumentation to show that it should not be regarded as a text to be taken seriously is an expression of bias carries no weight.


Well, I'm not saying it has to be literally spelled out at all, but nevermind this burgeoning straw man - I know where this is going, tilt, and I'm just not that enthused about battling your sacred cow. My bias is apparent, and I've posted what I wanted to post. Others will do their own research.

Peace, good sir.

:anjali:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Oct 25, 2011 10:41 pm

daverupa wrote:Well, I'm not saying it has to be literally spelled out at all, but nevermind this burgeoning straw man - I know where this is going, tilt, and I'm just not that enthused about battling your sacred cow. My bias is apparent, and I've posted what I wanted to post. Others will do their own research.
Strawman? Not at all. Just trying to make sense out of what you are trying to say, but not getting very far. And there is no sacred cow here, and as for what you are tyrying to say, damdifino what it is.

No one has to buy into the two truth notion, but as the essay by Ven Karunadasa shows it has its basis within the suttas and it has its uses as a way talking about Dhamma things.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.
"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Oct 25, 2011 10:42 pm

I tend to think of the "two truths" thing as not being so much about those couple of suttas.

There are hundreds (or thousands...) of suttas talking about "conventional" stuff, hundreds where experience is broken down into aggregates, sense bases, etc, etc, and hundreds where they are mixed, often moving from the first to the second, as in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .piya.html
"The Noble Truth of Suffering (dukkha), monks, is this: Birth is suffering, aging is suffering, sickness is suffering, death is suffering, association with the unpleasant is suffering, dissociation from the pleasant is suffering, not to receive what one desires is suffering in brief the five aggregates subject to grasping are suffering.

Sometimes the other way round:
SN 35.200 (241): Daruka-khandha Sutta — The Log
viewtopic.php?f=25&t=9450&p=145977&hilit=+conventional#p145977
"'The near shore,' monks, stands for the six internal sense media. 'The far shore' stands for the six external sense media. 'Sinking in the middle' stands for passion & delight. 'Being washed up on high ground' stands for the conceit, 'I am.'

"And what, monks, is being snared by human beings? There is the case where a monk lives entangled with householders, delighting with them and sorrowing with them, happy when they are happy, pained when they are in pain, taking on their affairs as his own duty. This is called being snared by human beings.

:anjali:
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Oct 26, 2011 1:07 am

Greetings Mike,

Yes - I have heard the distinction between these two modes being regarded by some as "conventional language" and "Dhamma language".

One does not negate the other of course, but only one communicates the unique, deep and original Dhammic insights that the Buddha brought to the table.

That's a slightly different spectrum though to the distinction between sutta language and paramattha dhammas.

Metta,
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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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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Oct 26, 2011 1:13 am

Hi Retro,

Clearly there are different ways of interpreting the suttas and the abhidhamma, but to me (considering passages such as the ones I quoted, and the hundreds of others...) the paramattha dhamma ideas is simply a development of the khandas, elements, sense bases, etc. Just an eleboration of the process of slicing up experience in various ways, as described in the suttas.

:anjali:
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby daverupa » Wed Oct 26, 2011 1:36 am

DN 9 wrote:"In the same way, Citta, when any one of the three assumed selves is present, then we do not speak of either of the other two. For these, Citta, are merely names, expressions, turns of speech, designations in common use in the world. But a Tathàgata [one who has fully realized the truth] makes use of them, but does not misapprehend them."


I think this is the final Sutta fragment referred to in Karunadasa's essay.

For the edification of those doing their own research.

:anjali:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby ground » Wed Oct 26, 2011 3:30 am

B. Bodhi's translations

But for one who sees the origin of the world as it really is with correct wisdom, there is no notion of nonexistence in regard to the world. And for one who sees the cessation of the world as it really is with correct wisdom, there is no notion of existence in regard to the world.

SN12.15

Bhikkhus, I do not dispute with the world; rather it is the world that disputes with me. A proponent of the dhamma does not dispute with anyone in the world.
Of that which the wise of the world agree upon as not existing, I too say that it does not exist. And of that which the wise in the world agree upon as existing, I too say that it exists.

SN22.94


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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby ground » Wed Oct 26, 2011 3:36 am

[Deva:]
He who's an Arahant, his work achieved, Free from taints, in final body clad, That monk still might use such words as "I." Still perchance might say: "They call this mine." ... Would such a monk be prone to vain conceits?

[The Blessed One:]
Bonds are gone for him without conceits, All delusion's chains are cast aside: Truly wise, he's gone beyond such thoughts.[1] That monk still might use such words as "I," Still perchance might say: "They call this mine." Well aware of common worldly speech, He would speak conforming to such use.[2]

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



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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby Alex123 » Wed Oct 26, 2011 4:23 pm

TMingyur wrote:
[The Blessed One:] Bonds are gone for him without conceits, All delusion's chains are cast aside: Truly wise, he's gone beyond such thoughts.[1] That monk still might use such words as "I," Still perchance might say: "They call this mine." Well aware of common worldly speech, He would speak conforming to such use.[2]
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .wlsh.html

Kind regards


Thanks for that sutta quote. It was the sutta or one of the suttas that I had in mind when I've said in first post: "It seems that the only the words such as "I, me, mine, self" are conventional which the Buddha uses but does not assume eternal and happy Atta."

That sutta quote is very far from claiming that there are two truths and that ultimately conventional things do not exist. All the Buddha is saying is that He does not misinterpret His words to mean eternal, happy Atta whenever He uses personal pronouns.

With best wishes,
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby daverupa » Wed Oct 26, 2011 4:25 pm

Alex123 wrote: All the Buddha is saying is that He does not misinterpret His words to mean eternal, happy Atta whenever He uses personal pronouns.


That does appear to be its exclusive context, doesn't it?
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby Alex123 » Wed Oct 26, 2011 4:32 pm

TMingyur wrote:B. Bodhi's translations
Bhikkhus, I do not dispute with the world; rather it is the world that disputes with me. A proponent of the dhamma does not dispute with anyone in the world.
Of that which the wise of the world agree upon as not existing, I too say that it does not exist. And of that which the wise in the world agree upon as existing, I too say that it exists.

SN22.94
Kind regards


The quote misses the essential part:

And what is it, bhikkhus, that the wise in the world agree upon as not existing, of which I too say that it does not exist? [139] Form that is permanent, stable, eternal, not subject to change: this the wise in the world agree upon as not existing, and I too say that it does not exist. Feeling … Perception … Volitional constructions … Consciousness that is permanent, stable, eternal, not subject to change: this the wise in the world agree upon as not existing, and I too say that it does not exist." - SN22.94

What doesn't exist are 5 aggregates that are "permanent, stable, eternal, not subject to change".

What does exist is:

"“And what is it, bhikkhus, that the wise in the world agree upon as existing, of which I too say that it exists? Form that is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change: this the wise in the world agree upon as existing, and I too say that it exists. Feeling that is impermanent … Perception … Volitional constructions … Consciousness that is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change: this the wise in the world agree upon as existing, and I too say that it exists."
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby Alex123 » Wed Oct 26, 2011 4:36 pm

daverupa wrote:
Alex123 wrote: All the Buddha is saying is that He does not misinterpret His words to mean eternal, happy Atta whenever He uses personal pronouns.


That does appear to be its exclusive context, doesn't it?


It definitely seems so. Buddha used words personal pronouns but didn't give them idea of permanent, happy, Atman.

I can't remember anywhere Buddha teaching that the world of conventional reality (such as tables, cars, trees, etc) doesn't exist at all. If this was so important to distinguish concepts from reality, the Buddha would have taught it very clearly and often.

Going through pali search engine doesn't give much results for words such as "paramasaccaṃ" which is used in phrase such as:

Here, bhikkhus, a certain thoroughbred man hears, in such and such a village or hamlet, a woman or man is either gravely ill or is dead and he becomes frightened and remorseful. Then he wisely arouses effort to dispel, realizes the highest truth with the body (kāyena ceva paramasaccaṃ) and penetratingly sees it with wisdom. Bhikkhus, he is like the first thoroughbred horse, who is frightened and remorseful seeing the case of the whip. This is the first thoroughbred man evident in the world.
http://metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pitaka/ ... ggo-e.html

Having made an exertion, one realizes with the body the ultimate truth and, having penetrated it with discernment, sees it
pahitatto samāno kāyena ceva paramasaccaṃ sacchikaroti paññāya ca naṃ ativijjha passati
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... tml#fnt-10

Thus a monk so endowed is endowed with the highest determination for truth (paramena saccādhiṭṭhānena), for this — Unbinding, the undeceptive — is the highest noble truth. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Nibbana is highest truth.
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