Sylvester wrote:This is just the patiloma order of DO, and does not create a vinnana that will go on forever and ever as our happy Parinibbana Retirement Resort.
Ok just to make sure I'm understanding you correctly, are you definitely disagreeing with the following interpretation of Ven Thanissaro:
"In other words, normal sensory consciousness is experienced because it has a "surface" against which it lands: the sense organs and their objects, which constitute the "all." For instance, we experience visual consciousness because of the eye and forms of which we are conscious. Consciousness without surface, however, is directly known, without intermediary, free from any dependence on conditions at all"
I see very little in Ven Thanissaro's reasoning to recommend itself to my agreement. Let me give my reasons, which are essentially two-fold.Firstly
, let's take a look at his reasoning from his footnote to MN 49 which you extracted. I'll pull out his entire argument for discussion -
Consciousness without surface (viññanam anidassanam): This term appears to be related to the following image from SN 12.64:
"Just as if there were a roofed house or a roofed hall having windows on the north, the south, or the east. When the sun rises, and a ray has entered by way of the window, where does it land?"
"On the western wall, lord."
"And if there is no western wall, where does it land?"
"On the ground, lord."
"And if there is no ground, where does it land?"
"On the water, lord."
"And if there is no water, where does it land?"
"It does not land, lord."
"In the same way, where there is no passion for the nutriment of physical food ... contact ... intellectual intention ... consciousness, where there is no delight, no craving, then consciousness does not land there or grow. Where consciousness does not land or grow, name-&-form does not alight. Where name-&-form does not alight, there is no growth of fabrications. Where there is no growth of fabrications, there is no production of renewed becoming in the future. Where there is no production of renewed becoming in the future, there is no future birth, aging, & death. That, I tell you, has no sorrow, affliction, or despair."
In other words, normal sensory consciousness is experienced because it has a "surface" against which it lands: the sense organs and their objects, which constitute the "all." For instance, we experience visual consciousness because of the eye and forms of which we are conscious. Consciousness without surface, however, is directly known, without intermediary, free from any dependence on conditions at all.
This consciousness thus differs from the consciousness factor in dependent co-arising, which is defined in terms of the six sense media. Lying outside of time and space, it would also not come under the consciousness-aggregate, which covers all consciousness near and far; past, present, and future. And, as SN 35.23 notes, the word "all" in the Buddha's teaching covers only the six sense media, which is another reason for not including this consciousness under the aggregates. However, the fact that it is outside of time and space — in a dimension where there is no here, there, or in between (Ud I.10), no coming, no going, or staying (Ud VIII.1) — means that it cannot be described as permanent or omnipresent, terms that have meaning only within space and time.
Some have objected to the equation of this consciousness with nibbana, on the grounds that nibbana is no where else in the Canon described as a form of consciousness. Thus they have proposed that consciousness without surface be regarded as an arahant's consciousness of nibbana in meditative experience, and not nibbana itself. This argument, however, contains two flaws: (1) The term viññanam anidassanam also occurs in DN 11, where it is described as where name & form are brought to an end: surely a synonym for nibbana. (2) If nibbana is an object of mental consciousness (as a dhamma), it would come under the all, as an object of the intellect. There are passages in the Canon (such as AN 9.36) that describe meditators experiencing nibbana as a dhamma, but these passages seem to indicate that this description applies up through the level of non-returning. Other passages, however, describe nibbana as the ending of all dhammas. For instance, Sn V.6 quotes the Buddha as calling the attainment of the goal the transcending of all dhammas. Sn IV.6 and Sn IV.10 state that the arahant has transcended dispassion, said to be the highest dhamma. Thus, for the arahant, nibbana is not an object of consciousness. Instead it is directly known without mediation. Because consciousness without feature is directly known without mediation, there seems good reason to equate the two.
His interpretation of the sunlight simile as he understands in green
is way out there. As a simile, the passage of the sunlight is supposed to be evocative, not to be taken literally. His literal interpretation presupposes that vinnana is waiting/lurking around somewhere (like the sunlight) to "land" on the respective 12 ayatanas. His literal interpretation flies in the face of a major DO sutta, MN 28. There, it is quite clear, that the "corresponding engagement" working with the respective pair of ayatana+indriya, are what cause the "manifestation of the corresponding section of consciousness" (MN 28, s.27, per BB's translation). When SN 12.64 speaks of consciousness "landing", it cannot mean that consciousness was already zooming around like sunlight. MN 28 is very clear, that consciousness only arises/manifests when there is tajja samannāhāra+ayatana+indriya. When those 3 are in conjunction, then and only then does consciousness arise (tathābhūta). I would just urge caution when reading his English translation of patiṭṭhita to mean "land" and to refrain from inferring into it all sorts of unnecessary gobbledy-gook.
The text in red
is nothing more than petitio principii
. He has not even established the validity of the event he calls "consciousness without feature", but tautologically asserts it without evidence.
The text in blue
is a bare assertion about the possibility of something other than Nibbana being asankhata.
As for the text in turquoise
, he's clearly overlooked SN 35.24 where phassa/contact is also included in the ALL.Secondly
, I take issue with his interpretation of "Viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ". Now, this term occurs twice in the sutta pitaka (DN 11 and MN 49) and in both cases, they occur in verse. With verse, normal syntactic conventions and grammar can be suspended in service of metri causa
. Using these dispensations, Ven Thanissaro legitimately may read "Viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ", as "anidassanaṃ Viññāṇaṃ" in order to establish a 'junction' (adjective-noun), rather than the 'nexus' (noun-qualifier) employed in the text. This is how he translates the term as "consciousness without feature".
But is this a necessary reading of the term?
"Anidassanaṃ" occurs in a few other places in the suttas, and we just have to pop into the SN where the term occurs specifically at SN 43.14-43 (Anasavadi Sutta) and SN 43.44 (Parayana Sutta). In the series of suttas, the Buddha gives instructions on 30 subjects and the path leading to these 30. Nibbana is one of the 30 and the rest of the 29 subjects are nothing more than synonyms for Nibbana. One of the 30 is nothing other than "anidassana" (which BB translates as "the unmanifest").
Should it be translated as "without feature"/"without surface" (per Ven Thanissaro) or "non-manifestative" (per Ven Nanananda)?
I think that the Anasavadi Sutta is very clear that anidassana is nothing less than Nibbana, which is not line with the Commentarial explanation that "Viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ" means "Nibbana". One way of reading this could be "cognise Nibbana" (following the Commentarial explanation of "viññāṇaṃ" in "Viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ").
A far simpler way to read "Viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ" would simply be "consciousness (is) not manifest". That would bring it in line with the 2nd part of the verse which relates the cessation of Nama-Rupa to the cessation of vinnana. The silent copula (hoti) fits in perfectly, if we retain the original verse structure of a nexus, rather than reading it as a junction.
Of course, you could object that this does not account for the rest of the qualifiers "anantaṃ sabbatopabhaṃ" being associated with "consciousness not manifest". This won't be the only occassion when Nibbana or the extinguishment of an Aggregate is described in such positive terms. See for example Nibbana Sutta, AN 9.34 -
I have heard that on one occasion Ven. Sariputta was staying near Rajagaha in the Bamboo Grove, the Squirrels' Feeding Sanctuary. There he said to the monks, "This Unbinding is pleasant, friends. This Unbinding is pleasant."
When this was said, Ven. Udayin said to Ven. Sariputta, "But what is the pleasure here, my friend, where there is nothing felt?"
Hope the above clarifies.