Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby bodom » Thu Nov 11, 2010 10:54 pm

"Having approached the priests & contemplatives who hold that... 'Whatever a person experiences... is all caused by what was done in the past,' I said to them: 'Is it true that you hold that... "Whatever a person experiences... is all caused by what was done in the past?"' Thus asked by me, they admitted, 'Yes.' Then I said to them, 'Then in that case, a person is a killer of living beings because of what was done in the past. A person is a thief... unchaste... a liar... a divisive speaker... a harsh speaker... an idle chatterer... greedy... malicious... a holder of wrong views because of what was done in the past.' When one falls back on what was done in the past as being essential, monks, there is no desire, no effort [at the thought], 'This should be done. This shouldn't be done.' When one can't pin down as a truth or reality what should & shouldn't be done, one dwells bewildered & unprotected. One cannot righteously refer to oneself as a contemplative. - Tittha Sutta: Sectarians
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby Alex123 » Thu Nov 11, 2010 11:00 pm

bodom wrote:
"Having approached the priests & contemplatives who hold that... 'Whatever a person experiences... is all caused by what was done in the past,' I said to them: 'Is it true that you hold that... "Whatever a person experiences... is all caused by what was done in the past?"' Thus asked by me, they admitted, 'Yes.' Then I said to them, 'Then in that case, a person is a killer of living beings because of what was done in the past. A person is a thief... unchaste... a liar... a divisive speaker... a harsh speaker... an idle chatterer... greedy... malicious... a holder of wrong views because of what was done in the past.' When one falls back on what was done in the past as being essential, monks, there is no desire, no effort [at the thought], 'This should be done. This shouldn't be done.' When one can't pin down as a truth or reality what should & shouldn't be done, one dwells bewildered & unprotected. One cannot righteously refer to oneself as a contemplative. - Tittha Sutta: Sectarians


He was talking about past Kamma not 100% determining what happens in this life. Killing, etc, is a choice and action that happens due to certain set of circumstances, all of them fully conditioned.


"Bhikkhus, determinations [saṅkhāra khandha] are not self. Were determinations self, then these determinations would not lead to affliction, and one could have it of determinations: 'Let my determinations be thus, let my determinations be not thus.' And since determinations are not-self, so it leads to affliction, and none can have it of determinations: 'Let my determinations be thus, let my determinations be not thus.'
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nymo.html


So, there isn't a Self that can choose in a free-will fashion to kill or to abstain from killing. Or to think X or not to think Y during meditation.

I hope there is no contradiction between SN22.59 and Tittha Sutta.


Another interesting sutta

Doesn't intellect-consciousness (manoviññāṇa) arise in dependence on the intellect & ideas?"

"Yes, friend."

"And if the cause & reason for the arising of intellect-consciousness were to cease totally everywhere, totally in every way without remainder, would intellect-consciousness be discerned?"

"No, friend."

"It's in this way, friend, that consciousness has been pointed out, revealed, and announced by the Blessed One [with these words]: 'For this reason consciousness is not-self.'
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


So in other words, one can't choose to have this or that state of mind-consciousness (to kill or not to kill, to be or not to be distracted during meditation) to arise.
Last edited by Alex123 on Thu Nov 11, 2010 11:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby Viscid » Thu Nov 11, 2010 11:03 pm

"Having approached the priests & contemplatives who hold that... 'Whatever a person experiences... is all caused by what was done in the past,' I said to them: 'Is it true that you hold that... "Whatever a person experiences... is all caused by what was done in the past?"' Thus asked by me, they admitted, 'Yes.' Then I said to them, 'Then in that case, a person is a killer of living beings because of what was done in the past. A person is a thief... unchaste... a liar... a divisive speaker... a harsh speaker... an idle chatterer... greedy... malicious... a holder of wrong views because of what was done in the past.' When one falls back on what was done in the past as being essential, monks, there is no desire, no effort [at the thought], 'This should be done. This shouldn't be done.' When one can't pin down as a truth or reality what should & shouldn't be done, one dwells bewildered & unprotected. One cannot righteously refer to oneself as a contemplative. - Tittha Sutta: Sectarians


Sutta copy-pasta cop-out.

The sutta is discouraging a defeatist attitude which may result from seeing 'choice' as strictly deterministic. A determinist could say "Well, if all the unwholesome actions I've done in my past determine my future, then there is no point in attempting to change my behaviour and attitude, because I can't change anything." Which is silly.

If you know and value your own capacity to change your behaviour, you can do so, and doing so will result in future contentedness. But you do not choose to know and value your own capacity to change. We are a self-regulating system, but we did not choose our capacity to self-regulate.
"What holds attention determines action." - William James
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby bodom » Thu Nov 11, 2010 11:07 pm

A determinist could say "Well, if all the things I've done in my past unwholesome actions determine my future, then there is no point in attempting to change my behaviour and attitude, because I can't change anything." Which is silly.


Right. There is choice, there is free will. This was my only point to begin with. Where is the problem and what do we disagree on?

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby Alex123 » Thu Nov 11, 2010 11:10 pm

bodom wrote:
A determinist could say "Well, if all the things I've done in my past unwholesome actions determine my future, then there is no point in attempting to change my behaviour and attitude, because I can't change anything." Which is silly.


Right. There is choice, there is free will. This was my only point to begin with.

:anjali:



What about Anatta-lakkhana sutta that says that one can't control the 5 aggregates, one of them being saṅkhāra khandha (where choice, intention, will) is included?

Doesn't the teaching on Free-Will go against conditionality and proposes an Agent that can do things regardless of conditions?


Recently today I did try to "crush mind with mind" and force the mind onto the breath. It didn't work! There is no Agent that can do these things out of free will.

If attention was really mine, then I could latch it onto anything I would wish. But this can't occur.

This, btw, is one of the reasons for dukkha, the 1st NT. You can't control the aggregates so that only good stuff ever happens for ever and ever. Things happen due to impersonal causes & conditions and not due to Self Agency of the Agent standing behind 5 aggregates.
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Nov 11, 2010 11:31 pm

Alex123 wrote:Doesn't the teaching on Free-Will go against conditionality and proposes an Agent that can do things regardless of conditions?
Clearly there is choice that functions within the context of conditions, but there is choice.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby bodom » Thu Nov 11, 2010 11:31 pm

To hold the view that there is no choice is fatalism.

I ask you again, how and why did Gotama become the Buddha? Was it by mere chance? Was it an accident?

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby Alex123 » Thu Nov 11, 2010 11:37 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Alex123 wrote:Doesn't the teaching on Free-Will go against conditionality and proposes an Agent that can do things regardless of conditions?
Clearly there is choice that functions within the context of conditions, but there is choice.


If that choice functions within the context of conditions, then it is not a free choice. It is fully conditioned and if those conditions would repeat 100%, the resultant choice would be the same. If it weren't the same resultant choice, then it would be acausal or random.
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby Alex123 » Thu Nov 11, 2010 11:38 pm

bodom wrote:To hold the view that there is no choice is fatalism.

I ask you again, how and why did Gotama become the Buddha? Was it by mere chance? Was it an accident?

:anjali:


It was due to impersonal causes & conditions. Fully conditioned, fully not-Self.
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Nov 11, 2010 11:43 pm

Alex123 wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Alex123 wrote:Doesn't the teaching on Free-Will go against conditionality and proposes an Agent that can do things regardless of conditions?
Clearly there is choice that functions within the context of conditions, but there is choice.


If that choice functions within the context of conditions, then it is not a free choice. It is fully conditioned and if those conditions would repeat 100%, the resultant choice would be the same. If it weren't the same resultant choice, then it would be acausal or random.
But it is choice. If it were not choice, there would be no kamma nor awakening. As for the 100% thingie, You are assuming a mechanical universe, but the reality is, you don't know that.

You are sounding a bit like Makkhali Gosala. Well, actually, a lot like Makkhali Gosala.
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.
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Nov 11, 2010 11:44 pm

Alex123 wrote:
bodom wrote:To hold the view that there is no choice is fatalism.

I ask you again, how and why did Gotama become the Buddha? Was it by mere chance? Was it an accident?

:anjali:


It was due to impersonal causes & conditions. Fully conditioned, fully not-Self.
However, the Buddha made choices.
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.
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby Alex123 » Thu Nov 11, 2010 11:46 pm

tiltbillings wrote: But it is choice. If it were not choice, there would be no kamma nor awakening. As for the 100% thingie, You are assuming a mechanical universe, but the reality is, you don't know that.

You are sounding a bit like Makkhali Gosala. Well, actually, a lot like Makkhali Gosala.


But if there isn't any choice (sankhara khandha) that is unconditioned, then how can it be free? What about anattalakkhana sutta?


Who can choose with free will to do this or that? Isn't even this choice fully conditioned?

However, the Buddha made choices.


The choices the Buddha has made were fully conditioned. I hope you are not proposing a Self, a Free Agent that can choose.
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Nov 11, 2010 11:53 pm

Alex123 wrote:The choices the Buddha has made were fully conditioned. I hope you are not proposing a Self, a Free Agent that can choose.
Not at all, but there is choice. And I hope you are not advocating Makkhali Gosala's deterministic doctrine.
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.
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby 5heaps » Fri Nov 12, 2010 12:02 am

Alex123 wrote:This, btw, is one of the reasons for dukkha, the 1st NT. You can't control the aggregates so that only good stuff ever happens for ever and ever. Things happen due to impersonal causes & conditions and not due to Self Agency of the Agent standing behind 5 aggregates.
did the Ajahn teach that the observer is beyond causes and conditions? i find that hard to believe

Who can choose with free will to do this or that? Isn't even this choice fully conditioned?
youre onto something, but stick to an analysis of how the controller exists. is it just the mere collection of parts, or is it something more? in the end the fact that the observer is not a controller over the observed does not contradict that the mental factor of intention exists, functions, and is conditioned.
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby Alex123 » Fri Nov 12, 2010 1:15 am

Note: contact -> kamma (or intention)

"Intention, I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect.

"And what is the cause by which kamma comes into play? Contact is the cause by which kamma comes into play...

..."And what is the cessation of kamma? From the cessation of contact is the cessation of kamma;
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

The six classes of contact should be known.' Thus was it said. In reference to what was it said? Dependent on the eye & forms there arises consciousness at the eye. The meeting of the three is contact. Dependent on the ear & sounds there arises consciousness at the ear. The meeting of the three is contact. Dependent on the nose & aromas there arises consciousness at the nose. The meeting of the three is contact. Dependent on the tongue & flavors there arises consciousness at the tongue. The meeting of the three is contact. Dependent on the body & tactile sensations there arises consciousness at the body. The meeting of the three is contact. Dependent on the intellect & ideas there arises consciousness at the intellect. The meeting of the three is contact.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html



Can one control contact? No. So one cannot control the Kamma that is being done. If that were the case, may I do only that Kamma which leads to awakening! May I never do bad kamma! Unfortunately these things cannot be controlled like that.
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby bodom » Fri Nov 12, 2010 1:47 am

Can one control contact? No.


Right. But one can choose to control the reactions by guarding the sense doors and not allowing greed or hatred to arise.

How does one guard the sense doors? Herein, a monk, having seen a form, does not seize upon its (delusive) appearance as a whole, nor on its details. If his sense of sight were uncontrolled, covetousness, grief and other evil, unwholesome states would flow into him. Therefore he practices for the sake of its control, he watches over the sense of sight, he enters upon its control. Having heard a sound... smelt an odor... tasted a taste... felt a touch... cognized a mental object, he does not seize upon its (delusive) appearance as a whole... he enters upon its control.


:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby Alex123 » Fri Nov 12, 2010 2:44 am

Hi Bodom, all,

bodom wrote:
Can one control contact? No.


Right. But one can choose to control the reactions by guarding the sense doors and not allowing greed or hatred to arise.
:anjali:



WHO can choose to control the reactions? They happen ultimately due to avijjā. Can one will and control "let me have no ignorance! Let me be wise and properly react to whatever happens! Let me not be carried away by delusive features!"

avijjā ->saṅkhāra

With the arising of ignorance [avijjā] there is the arising of formations [saṅkhāra]. With the cessation of ignorance there is the cessation of formations. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .ntbb.html


BTW, reactions belong to saṅkhāras.


"Bhikkhus, determinations [saṅkhārā] are not self. Were determinations self, then these determinations would not lead to affliction, and one could have it of determinations: 'Let my determinations be thus, let my determinations be not thus.' And since determinations are not-self, so it leads to affliction, and none can have it of determinations: 'Let my determinations be thus, let my determinations be not thus.'
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nymo.html





You know, I've tried to control the thoughts and reactions. It doesn't work, there is no Self that is the ultimate and sole Controller of what happens.


As if one could put peace or anger in the space between observer & the observed. As if one could set up in the min "let me never react with greed or aversion!" . If that could be done, I would have been an Arahant long ago.
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby bodom » Fri Nov 12, 2010 2:53 am

You know, I've tried to control the thoughts and reactions. It doesn't work..


You haven't attained mastery of mind:

"Master Gotama thinks whatever thought he wants to think, and doesn't think any thought he doesn't want to think. He wills any resolve he wants to will, and doesn't will any resolve he doesn't want to will. He has attained mastery of the mind with regard to the pathways of thought.


:namaste:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby Alex123 » Fri Nov 12, 2010 3:00 am

bodom wrote:
You know, I've tried to control the thoughts and reactions. It doesn't work..


You haven't attained mastery of mind:


Right. There is no Master, no Overlord who can control the mind. Neither mine, nor Self for the Buddha.



"Master Gotama thinks whatever thought he wants to think, and doesn't think any thought he doesn't want to think. He wills any resolve he wants to will, and doesn't will any resolve he doesn't want to will. He has attained mastery of the mind with regard to the pathways of thought.


The above talks about it conventionally from our perspective, just like in DN11 where the Buddha has said that "I feel horrified, humiliated, and disgusted with the miracle of psychic power." Obviously the Buddha, being an Arahant, cannot feel horrified, humiliated, and disgusted (aṭṭiyāmi harāyāmi jigucchāmi). It was said conventionally. Same is here.

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

Thought happens due to impersonal causes and conditions (mano + dhamma), and not due to some Self. It is all fully conditioned and happens because that is the only way it could happen.


Dependent on the intellect & ideas there arises consciousness at the intellect.
Manañca paṭicca dhamme ca uppajjati manoviññāṇaṃ.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


I don't think that there is a provision for achieving a Self that can replace bare conditionality.
"Bhikkhus, consciousness is not self. Were consciousness self, then this consciousness would not lead to affliction, and one could have it of consciousness: 'Let my consciousness be thus, let my consciousness be not thus.' And since consciousness is not-self, so it leads to affliction, and none can have it of consciousness: 'Let my consciousness be thus, let my consciousness be not thus.'
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nymo.html


Not even the Buddha could have it 'Let my consciousness be thus, let my consciousness be not thus.' Same goes for other khandhas.
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby bodom » Fri Nov 12, 2010 3:08 am

Well then according to you were all screwed alex. None of us has the choice to follow and practice the Buddha's path. We are all bound to samsara forever.

I am sorry but I do not agree with your fatalistic views on the Dhamma.

Good luck with your practice, much metta to you and may you find happiness.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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