Is Theravada "Realist"?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Postby Prasadachitta » Thu Sep 08, 2011 3:05 pm

Nicro wrote:I don't think its realist.

Reality is what we experience of it. We can't say anything exists outside of our experience. We can't even say if anything exists outside of what our sense doors tell us. I am looking at my computer now, so I am experiencing looking at my computer, but I can't even say if it is real. It is just what my eyes and hands tell me.


Hi Nicro,

Can you say why you think its important to establish our inability to establish anything?

Metta

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"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Postby Prasadachitta » Thu Sep 08, 2011 3:11 pm

chownah wrote:I don't get it.....the Buddha taught that The World contains only fabricated things and that all fabricated things are contained in The World. Can this be the same as realism? Can this be different from realism?
chownah



"Monks, these three are fabricated characteristics of what is fabricated. Which three? Arising is discernible, passing away is discernible, alteration (literally, other-ness) while staying is discernible.

"These are three fabricated characteristics of what is fabricated.

"Now these three are unfabricated characteristics of what is unfabricated. Which three? No arising is discernible, no passing away is discernible, no alteration while staying is discernible.

"These are three unfabricated characteristics of what is unfabricated."
Sankhata Suttahttp://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an03/an03.047.than.html

Hi Chownah,

I have nothing to say about this discourse. I dont think it is meant to be understood in any conventional sense.

Metta

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"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Postby Travis » Thu Sep 08, 2011 3:14 pm

:meditate:
Last edited by Travis on Sat Sep 10, 2011 6:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Postby Alex123 » Thu Sep 08, 2011 5:54 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Friends, is Theravada Realist? If so, in what form?


Theravada is a very broad term. Do you include Abhidhamma or not? Interpret some parts of the earliest nikayas in pragmatic or ontological way?

To me it seems that certain kinds of Theravada is closer to some form of nihilism:

"Mereological nihilism (also called compositional nihilism, or rarely simply nihilism) is the position that objects with proper parts do not exist"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mereologic ... e_Nihilism

Replace objects with concepts, or Atta, and you have basically what Abhidhamma Theravada teaches. Self is a concept made of parts, it is not indivisible whole and as such it doesn't ultimately exist. Some deny the existence of external objects, but affirm the existence of dhammas (parts) that make up what we conceptual call "whole".
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Postby Nicro » Thu Sep 08, 2011 5:55 pm

Prasadachitta wrote:
Nicro wrote:I don't think its realist.

Reality is what we experience of it. We can't say anything exists outside of our experience. We can't even say if anything exists outside of what our sense doors tell us. I am looking at my computer now, so I am experiencing looking at my computer, but I can't even say if it is real. It is just what my eyes and hands tell me.


Hi Nicro,

Can you say why you think its important to establish our inability to establish anything?

Metta

Prasadachitta



I was just saying I don't find the Dhamma to be "realist". From the OP realism says that there is a reality outside of our experience. I was saying reality is our experience and what we experience would be reality. It then goes further because by saying what we experience is reality, we can't say if there is anything beyond what we experience. Experience = Reality= Experience.

This is a good talk here:

http://yuttadhammo.sirimangalo.org/mp3- ... 20_Reality
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Postby Alex123 » Thu Sep 08, 2011 6:56 pm

Hello Nicro,

What about the idea of asaññasatta where it is said that only matter (rūpa) is present and no mind? That shows that Buddhism allows for mind independent rūpa to exist.

What about state called cessation of perception and feelings (saññāvedayitanirodha)? The meditator's body doesn't vanish when his perception & feelings cease. This shows that matter (rūpa) can exist independent of one's perception and feelings.

So in this way, Dhamma is realist when it comes to dhammas such as "rūpa".

Of course the nature of rūpa is not be the same as "whole thing" in naive realism (it seems closer to Mereological nihilism), but rūpa does seem to exist independent of one's perception of it.


With best wishes,

Alex
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Postby Nicro » Thu Sep 08, 2011 9:33 pm

I guess it depends on how you view those situations. In terms of the actual person its happening to, if there was nothing there at all, they would experience nothing, meaning either they would not remember it all(as in deep sleep) or reality would be nothing in that there is nothing for them to experience.

In the first case you listed it doesn't seem to me to be "no mind" but unconsciousness. This would be like deep sleep where nothing is remembered. So say you were born human, then born into a state of unconsciousness, then human again and you could remember your past lives, it would seem to you that you were human, then died, then were born human again. There would be no remembrance of that state, so as far you are concerned it wasn't real.

In the second case, if one doesn't experience the body then it isn't real. If you were in such a state and were burned, cut, etc.. You wouldn't experience pain, therefore it wouldn't be real to you. This would be seeing not self, impermanence and suffering. If you can enter into a state where there is no connection to the body, then obviously it is not "you". The fact that this change from being aware of the body to being unaware shows impermanence. And you see dissatisfaction because of these changes.

From my point of view, we can only verify what we experience to be reality. In the same way one who is happy, upon seeing a rose will find it beautiful, while one who is angry will only see the thorns. One's reality is beautiful the others is ugly and hurtful. I find this to be the reason to practice Metta and cultivate good thoughts, it impacts your reality. Without practicing Metta, when someone wrongs you, you only see it as them striking out at you. With a Metta filled mind you understand they are the same as you and act out of ignorance just like all unenlightened beings.

In Vipassana you note what you experience. You don't think, "It someone brought me a piece of pie right now I would be so happy!!". Well, you may think that :jumping: but you just note it, you don't purposefully cultivate "what ifs".


Edit: Just to clarify this is just how I see these things from my own experience in practice, I'm not playing the Devil's Advocate or something like that.
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Sep 08, 2011 9:53 pm

Is Theravada "Realist"?
The real question is is: Does it really matter?
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: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Postby SDC » Fri Sep 09, 2011 12:00 am

I've actually posted this lecture by Venerable Punnaji before in a discussion of nama and rupa, but it addresses this issue too. He discusses John Locke's "theory of mind", the subjective idealism/immaterialism of George Berkeley, and then the phenomenalism of David Hume (which he mistakenly refers to as phenomenology - an almost completely different idea of which, ironically, the Venerable Nanavira Thera did consider to be very closely related to the practice of the Buddha's teaching.)

He briefly explains how he sees Hume's phenomenalist view to be very closely related to the dhamma. And this view, being rooted in both idealism and empiricism, is pretty much the philosophical opposite of realism.

The part of the talk that addresses this is over after the first seven minutes, but the rest of the talk is quite interesting.

I hope this helps. :smile:
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Postby Alex123 » Fri Sep 09, 2011 12:17 am

Hello SDC,

In the early suttas the meditator's body can exist independently of perception and feelings in the state called saññāvedayitanirodha. So personal perception (saññā) and feeling (vedanā) are not causes of the material body.

We cannot will things to change. The external world is not one's imagination, that in theory could be manipulated through "lucid dreaming" or change of perception. This can occur only in a lucid dream.

Because we cannot alter external world, we cannot base stable happiness on it. Pleasure, status, and all the "good" stuff is ultimately dukkha and we need to realize that completely so as to see futility of trying to attain what we cannot attain from the world. The more we see uncontrollability of the world, the more dispassion can be developed leading to cessation of all dukkha.



With best wishes,

Alex
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Postby Viscid » Fri Sep 09, 2011 12:20 am

SDC wrote:He briefly explains how he sees Hume's phenomenalist view to be very closely related to the dhamma. And this view, being rooted in both idealism and empiricism, is pretty much the philosophical opposite of realism.


It really is the closest approximation of the dhamma. The Buddha would've likely stayed silent if you asked him if there was a reality independent of observers.
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Postby Alex123 » Fri Sep 09, 2011 12:25 am

Viscid wrote:
SDC wrote:He briefly explains how he sees Hume's phenomenalist view to be very closely related to the dhamma. And this view, being rooted in both idealism and empiricism, is pretty much the philosophical opposite of realism.


It really is the closest approximation of the dhamma. The Buddha would've likely stayed silent if you asked him if there was a reality independent of observers.


What about the idea of asaññasatta where it is said that only matter (rūpa) is present and no perception (sañña)? That shows that Buddhism allows for (sañña) independent rūpa to exist. Since, as I understand it, sañña accompanies all mental states, a state without sañña would be without any other mental factors or consciousness. So asaññasatta is an example of a plane where only rūpa can be present.

Also similar with saññāvedayitanirodha in human world. So the Buddha as recorded in the suttas did answer this question.

With best wishes,
Alex
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Sep 09, 2011 1:02 am

Greetings Alex,

Alex123 wrote:Theravada is a very broad term. Do you include Abhidhamma or not?

Yes, I intended to include anything that falls under the Theravada banner... but in saying that, I recognise that respondents might see some parts as realist, and some parts as not, so if such differentiation is observed it would be relevant to the topic.

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: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Postby Viscid » Fri Sep 09, 2011 1:04 am

Alex123 wrote:What about the idea of asaññasatta where it is said that only matter (rūpa) is present and no perception (sañña)? That shows that Buddhism allows for (sañña) independent rūpa to exist. Since, as I understand it, sañña accompanies all mental states, a state without sañña would be without any other mental factors or consciousness. So asaññasatta is an example of a plane where only rūpa can be present.

I am not familiar with the source, but I have a hunch that 'rūpa' doesn't necessarily translate into 'matter' in this context.

encyclopedia.com wrote:asaññasattā (Pāli, unconscious beings). Class of gods (devas) who exist on a noumenal plane without conscious experience of any kind. These are typically former practitioners of meditation who, having immersed themselves in the fourth dhyāna for long periods, now incline to dwell with their minds untroubled by any kind of thought or sensation.

As the fourth jhana preceeds the arupa jhanas, 'rūpa' in this case may mean what preceeds the perception of the infinitude of space: space with limits.
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Sep 09, 2011 1:06 am

Greetings,

Is an explanation of rupa, interpreted as matter, realist?

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: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Postby Viscid » Fri Sep 09, 2011 1:06 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Is an explanation of rupa, interpreted as matter, realist?

Metta,
Retro. :)


Absolutely.
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Postby SDC » Fri Sep 09, 2011 1:19 am

Alex123 wrote:Hello SDC,

In the early suttas the meditator's body can exist independently of perception and feelings in the state called saññāvedayitanirodha. So personal perception (saññā) and feeling (vedanā) are not causes of the material body.

We cannot will things to change. The external world is not one's imagination, that in theory could be manipulated through "lucid dreaming" or change of perception. This can occur only in a lucid dream.

Because we cannot alter external world, we cannot base stable happiness on it. Pleasure, status, and all the "good" stuff is ultimately dukkha and we need to realize that completely so as to see futility of trying to attain what we cannot attain from the world. The more we see uncontrollability of the world, the more dispassion can be developed leading to cessation of all dukkha.

With best wishes,

Alex


Hi Alex,

Having not seen either viewpoint stand fully true in my own experience, I cannot say I disagree with you, even though I want to say, "I disagree". :D I very much appreciate the things the Venerable Punnaji brings to the table, and although it did make a lot of sense to me and his explanation was thorough, I can't fully declare that he is correct. I just wanted to let Retro hear it to perhaps clarify his own ideas.

However, I will say that what I have understood intellectually, and with what I have observed so far in my practice, the dhamma is not the way you described. Once again, I'm not saying it is wrong, I'm just not in a place where I understand it that way. I may as time goes on.
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Postby SDC » Fri Sep 09, 2011 1:27 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Is an explanation of rupa, interpreted as matter, realist?

Metta,
Retro. :)


Yes.
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Postby Alex123 » Fri Sep 09, 2011 1:39 am

Viscid wrote:
Alex123 wrote:What about the idea of asaññasatta where it is said that only matter (rūpa) is present and no perception (sañña)? That shows that Buddhism allows for (sañña) independent rūpa to exist. Since, as I understand it, sañña accompanies all mental states, a state without sañña would be without any other mental factors or consciousness. So asaññasatta is an example of a plane where only rūpa can be present.

I am not familiar with the source, but I have a hunch that 'rūpa' doesn't necessarily translate into 'matter' in this context.

encyclopedia.com wrote:asaññasattā (Pāli, unconscious beings). Class of gods (devas) who exist on a noumenal plane without conscious experience of any kind. These are typically former practitioners of meditation who, having immersed themselves in the fourth dhyāna for long periods, now incline to dwell with their minds untroubled by any kind of thought or sensation.

As the fourth jhana preceeds the arupa jhanas, 'rūpa' in this case may mean what preceeds the perception of the infinitude of space: space with limits.


Space with what kind of limits, made of what?

The Buddha was clear when He defined rūpa:
"The four great elements, and the form dependent on the four great elements: This is called form."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Four great elements have to exist for it to be called "rūpa".


asaññasattā still are in rūpaloka corresponding to 4th Jhāna plane, not arūpaloka.

And rūpa can still be present and seen by others when one is in saññāvedayitanirodha.
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Sep 09, 2011 1:44 am

Greetings Tilt, all,

tiltbillings wrote:
Is Theravada "Realist"?
The real question is is: Does it really matter?

Setting aside for the moment the clever use of the word "matter", one argument I have read suggests it does. It is made by Nananada Bhikkhu here in this interview... http://nidahas.com/2010/09/nanananda-heretic-sage-2/

For readers, I have attached below what seem to be some pertinent highlights from the interview, as they relate to the question of "Is Theravada Realist?"... (actual quotes by Nanananda are in quotation marks, the rest are by the author)

"Extrem­ism is found not only in ethics, but also in var­i­ous kinds of views. The dual­ity of asti and nāsti has a long his­tory. I don’t have much knowl­edge in the Vedas, but I remem­ber in Ṛg Veda, in the Nāsādīya Sūkta, you get the beau­ti­ful phrase nāsadāsīn no sadāsīt tadānīṃ. They were spec­u­lat­ing about the begin­nings: did exis­tence come from non-existence or vice-versa."

“All those kinds of dual­i­ties, be it asti/nāsti or sabbaṃ ekattaṃ/sabbaṃ puthuttaṃ etc. were rejected by the Bud­dha: majjhena Tathā­gato Dhammaṃ deseti – he taught the Dhamma by the mid­dle. It’s not just the mid­dle path. It’s not a mix­ture of 50% of each. We usu­ally think that the mid­dle is between two ends. It’s a rejec­tion of both ends and an intro­duc­tion of a novel stand­point."

...

The impos­si­bil­ity of mak­ing cat­e­gor­i­cal state­ments about exis­tence was dis­cussed exten­sively in Bhante Ñāṇananda’s The Magic of the Mind, and he reminds me again about the impor­tance of the Kālakārāma Sutta which pro­vided the basis for that book. He quickly adds that the Buddha’s stand is not some­thing like that of his con­tem­po­rary scep­tic agnos­tic Sañ­jaya Bellaṭṭhiputta, the so-called eel-wriggler; rather, the sit­u­a­tion is beyond what could be expressed through the lin­guis­tic medium. It can only be known indi­vid­u­ally: pac­cattaṃ ved­itabbo.

...

His inter­pre­ta­tion of paṭiccasamuppāda, which dra­mat­i­cally devi­ates from the tra­di­tional exe­ge­sis, has earned Bhante Ñāṇananda a few vehe­ment crit­ics. He amus­edly men­tions a recent let­ter sent by a monk where he was accused of ‘being a dis­grace to the Theriya tra­di­tion’. This crit­i­cism, no doubt com­ing from a Ther­avāda dog­ma­tist, is under­stand­able see­ing how accom­mo­dat­ing Bhante Ñāṇananda is when it comes to teach­ings tra­di­tion­ally con­sid­ered Mahāyāna, hence taboo for any self-respecting Ther­avādin. How­ever, if one delves deeper, one would see that he is only try­ing to stay as close as pos­si­ble to early Bud­dhist teachings.

“I didn’t quote from the Mahāyāna texts in the Nib­bāna ser­mons,” he says, “because there was no need. All that was needed was already found in the Sut­tas. Teach­ers like Nāgār­juna brought to light what was already there but was hid­den from view. Unfor­tu­nately his later fol­low­ers turned it in to a vāda.”

He goes on to quote two of his favourite verses from Ven. Nāgārjuna’s Mūlamād­hya­makakārikā (as usual, from memory):

Śūnyatā sarva-dṛṣtīnaṃ proktā niḥsaranaṃ jinaiḥ,
yeṣāṃ śūnyatā-dṛṣtis tān asād­hyān babhāṣire [MK 13.8]

The Vic­to­ri­ous Ones have declared that empti­ness is the relin­quish­ing of all views. Those who are pos­sessed of the view of empti­ness are said to be incorrigible.

Sarva-dṛṣti-prahāṇāya yaḥ sad­dhar­mam adeśayat,
anukam­pam upādāya taṃ namasyāmi gau­tamaṃ [MK 26.30]

I rev­er­ently bow to Gau­tama who, out of com­pas­sion, has taught the doc­trine in order to relin­quish all views.

.....

“When I first read the Kārikā I too was doubt­ing Ven. Nāgārjuna’s san­ity” he laughs. “But the work needs to be under­stood in the con­text. He was tak­ing a jab at the Sarvās­tivādins. To be hon­est, even the oth­ers deserve the rebuke, although they now try to get away by using Sarvās­tivāda as an excuse. How skilled Ven. Nāgār­juna must have been, to com­pose those verses so ele­gantly and fill­ing them with so much mean­ing, like the Dhamma­pada verses. It’s quite amaz­ing."

....

To end the dis­cus­sion I pick up the thorni­est of issues. I ask: “What is a ‘thing’? Is it com­pletely imag­i­nary, or is it some­thing made by the mind using the ingre­di­ents ‘out there’?” A straight­for­ward answer to that rather extrem­ist ques­tion would make Bhante Ñāṇananda’s posi­tion clear on the gamut of views.

“I’m sure you have read Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi’s trans­la­tion of the Saṃyutta Nikāya. You must have come across the Pheṇapindūpama Sutta. In the notes you’ll see Ven. Bodhi explain­ing that although the lump is illu­sory, the ingre­di­ents aren’t. It is worse when it comes to the magic show. He says that only the magic is not real; the magician’s appur­te­nances are. This is a dis­tor­tion of the sim­ile given by the Bud­dha. We must appre­ci­ate the great work done by Ven. Bodhi, but it is unfor­tu­nate that he is bound by the com­men­tar­ial tradition.

“What is con­sid­ered the ‘truth’ is rel­a­tive to each indi­vid­ual. Each per­son gives evi­dence in the court of real­ity based on his own level of expe­ri­ence. For exam­ple, par­ents often give false expla­na­tions to their lit­tle chil­dren. But these are true to the kids. When asked, the kid will tell what his par­ents told him. It’s true for the child, but not for us. In the famous com­men­tar­ial story about Ven. Tissa Thera we find him see­ing a woman as a skele­ton, and say­ing so when asked by her hus­band. The ven­er­a­ble was closer to the truth.

“When we tran­scend one level of truth, the new level becomes what is true for us. The pre­vi­ous one is now false. What one expe­ri­ences may not be what is expe­ri­enced by the world in gen­eral, but that may well be truer. But how do we reach the ulti­mate truth? This is beau­ti­fully explained in the Dhātuvibhaṇga Sutta: Taṃ saccaṃ, yaṃ amosad­hammaṃ nib­bānaṃ. And from the Dvay­atānu­pas­sanā Sutta: amosad­hammaṃ nib­bānaṃ tad ariyā sac­cato vidū. It is Nib­bāna that is of non-falsifying nature, where there is no ‘thing’. Nib­bāna is the high­est truth because there is no other truth to tran­scend it.

“The Bud­dha called him­self the first chick in this era to break out of the egg of igno­rance. All these won­der­ful things we do such as space travel all hap­pen inside this saḷāyatana shell. If paṭiccasamuppāda is pre­sented prop­erly, per­haps a few more chicks would be able to break through today.

“Ven. Nāgār­juna was right: at the end, all is empty. We are not will­ing to accept that exis­tence is a per­ver­sion. Exis­tence is suf­fer­ing pre­cisely because it is a perversion.”

It may not be a cat­e­gor­i­cal answer, and it prob­a­bly isn’t pos­si­ble to give one.

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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