Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Postby daverupa » Sun Oct 30, 2011 8:57 pm

tiltbillings wrote:studying and understanding the Buddha's word is not without its importance as a guidance and framework for the bhavana.


Agreed, but that's why two truths isn't a bhavana tool - it's been admitted that it's not Buddhavacana. If it's used as a bhavana tool, I actually don't think that's sammasati.

We'll probably have to remain in disagreement here.

:toast:

tiltbillings wrote:Also, keep in mind, daverupa, no one here is saying that you must, to truly understand the Dhamma, look at things this way or that.


... no sammaditthi then? :shrug:

:group:
    "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"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Postby brahmabull » Sun Oct 30, 2011 9:05 pm

Conventional truth, as I understand it, would be truth according to ordinary worldly conventions and language, i.e., a table has legs and a surface, or, a being form body subject to rebirth. Also included would be proofs deriving from observation, evidence and inference according to something like a court. Ultimate truth is the truth according one who has mastered the path, i.e., that describes the nature of dependent origination of a chair, or the khandas of a being, etc. Such that, the metta and karuna are emotions aspirants of the path share with non-aspirants. Whereas, the practice that involves discerning phenomena in their ultimate truth is unique to the path.
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Re: Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Oct 30, 2011 9:21 pm

daverupa wrote:Agreed, but that's why two truths isn't a bhavana tool - it's been admitted that it's not Buddhavacana. If it's used as a bhavana tool, I actually don't think that's sammasati.

That seems like an extremely large leap of logic...

All that I have said is how I understand some parts of the sutta instructions for bhavana. Others seem to understand those sutta instructions in different ways from how I do, and/or prefer to rely on different suttas. That doesn't (necessarily) make either approach "wrong" or "ineffective".

Unless, of course, you think that there is one special "correct" way to interpret the suttas, and approach bhavana, and all of the others are wrong.

:anjali:
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Re: Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Postby daverupa » Sun Oct 30, 2011 9:30 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Unless, of course, you think that there is one special "correct" way to interpret the suttas, and approach bhavana, and all of the others are wrong.


I think it's possible to do it wrong, yes, especially if one "runs and circles around" wrong view - not at all necessarily that two truths is wrong view, simply that wrong mindfulness springs from wrong view. This is obvious.

It is not the case that any two meditation methods anywhere are equally efficacious, and some are useless, just as some are useful, and there are degrees there as well. It just seems to me that two truths simply leads to problems, and solves none, and that instruction on satipatthana benefits when two truths is not posited.

Preference, I suppose.
    "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"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Oct 30, 2011 9:44 pm

daverupa wrote: two truths isn't a bhavana tool
That is your opinion. If it helps one better understand the Dhamma, then it is skilful.
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: Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Oct 30, 2011 9:45 pm

Greetings Chownah,

chownah wrote:I studied to be a teacher at university and they taught that different people have different learning styles and one of the differences they discussed was that some people are analytic while some are holistic (holisitic isn't the word they used but I've forgotten it).....

Synthetic?

By the way, excellent post earlier (and yes, it was read :tongue: )

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: Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Oct 30, 2011 9:49 pm

daverupa wrote: seems to me that two truths simply leads to problems, and solves none, and that instruction on satipatthana benefits when two truths is not posited.
Thank you for sharing your opinion.
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"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Postby daverupa » Sun Oct 30, 2011 10:00 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
daverupa wrote: seems to me that two truths simply leads to problems, and solves none, and that instruction on satipatthana benefits when two truths is not posited.
Thank you for sharing your opinion.


And you, yours.

:group:
    "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"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Postby Nyana » Sun Oct 30, 2011 11:55 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
daverupa wrote:What does holding a two truths notion actually help you to understand?

Not so much a "notion" as the "approach" of breaking experience down into simpler bits.

Since that's what most people I've paid attention to seem to teach as part of their approach it's interesting to find that it's not universal.

This "breaking experience down into simpler bits" isn't a two truth notion per se. You're a pretty smart fellow Mike. I find it kinda hard to believe that you don't understand these distinctions, and don't see the problems and limitations of the commentarial two truth theory?
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Re: Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Oct 31, 2011 12:12 am

Ñāṇa wrote:This "breaking experience down into simpler bits" isn't a two truth notion per se. You're a pretty smart fellow Mike. I find it kinda hard to believe that you don't understand these distinctions, and don't see the problems and limitations of the commentarial two truth theory?
In the commentary passage I quoted elsewhere? It depends. If one ties the two truths to a rigid hierarchy and absolutism, big problems, That passage, however, taken at face value is not any more a problem than is Nagarjuna's take on it and I would say, even less so, given that the commentator is putting the so-called "conventional" and "ultimate" on equal footing, which really undermines any sort of hierarchy and absolutism, making the teachings exactly what they are, the stuff for putting together the raft.

Now, the question: is there any reason why the double truth notion cannot be approached that way? None that I see, especially if one takes Ven Nanananda seriously. Also, it is a way of questioning and challenging the later orthodoxy's absolutist assumptions.

Now did the authors of the passage mean it that way? Dunno, but I am not convinced that they were also buying into the later absolutist notions that give you the heebie-jeebies.
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"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Postby Nyana » Mon Oct 31, 2011 12:56 am

tiltbillings wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote:This "breaking experience down into simpler bits" isn't a two truth notion per se. You're a pretty smart fellow Mike. I find it kinda hard to believe that you don't understand these distinctions, and don't see the problems and limitations of the commentarial two truth theory?
In the commentary passage I quoted elsewhere? It depends. If one ties the two truths to a rigid hierarchy and absolutism, big problems, That passage, however, taken at face value is not any more a problem than is Nagarjuna's take on it and I would say, even less so, given that the commentator is putting the so-called "conventional" and "ultimate" on equal footing, which really undermines any sort of hierarchy and absolutism, making the teachings exactly what they are, the stuff for putting together the raft.

Now, the question: is there any reason why the double truth notion cannot be approached that way? None that I see, especially if one takes Ven Nanananda seriously. Also, it is a way of questioning and challenging the later orthodoxy's absolutist assumptions.

Now did the authors of the passage mean it that way? Dunno, but I am not convinced that they were also buying into the later absolutist notions that give you the heebie-jeebies.

Let's be clear here. Ven. Ñāṇananda has explicitly referred to the commentarial era two truth theory as a "deviation from the original position at the commentarial level." He also calls the well-known commentarial verse quoted by Buddhaghosa in support of the two truth theory a "naïve defense" of said theory. Concept and Reality In Early Buddhist Thought:

    [T]he word ‘paramattha’ in its earlier and non-technical usage, actually meant the Highest Goal as the object of realization, and any words tending towards that goal were called ‘paramatthasaṃhita’ (connected with the Highest Goal), irrespective of their precision or technicality. However, the Buddha, for his part, was content to treat all of them as ‘sammuti’. For him, they were ‘merely worldly conventions in common use, which he made use of, without clinging to them’ (DN I 202, Poṭṭhapāda Sutta).

    One wonders whether this simple though profound attitude of the Buddha towards concepts, has been properly handed down in tradition, when for instance one comes across the following verse quoted approvingly by Buddhaghosa (source unknown) in his commentary to the Anaṅgaṇa Sutta of the Majjhima Nikāya:

    Duve saccāni akkhāsi, sambuddho vadataṃ varo;
    sammutiṃ paramatthañca, tatiyaṃ nūpalabbhati.
    Saṅketavacanaṃ saccaṃ, lokasammutikāraṇā;
    paramatthavacanaṃ saccaṃ, dhammānaṃ bhūtakāraṇā.
    Tasmā vohārakusalassa, lokanāthassa satthuno;
    sammutiṃ voharantassa, musāvādo na jāyati.

    "The Fully Enlightened One, the best of those who speak, declared two truths, the conventional and the absolute; there can be no third.

    "Words of symbolic nature are true by reason of their existence in worldly parlance. Words of absolute significance, are true by reason of the existence of the elements.

    "Hence, even though the Lord of the World, the Teacher versed in worldly parlance, makes use of such conventional speech, there arises no offence of falsehood for him."

    If one can appreciate the significance of the term ‘nippapañca,’ one might realize that the Buddha could magnanimously afford to dispense with such naïve defenses as the above, against any charges of his having violated the fourth precept.

And so this criticism of the commentarial hermeneutic -- which is what it is -- isn't just "an opinion" that's been fostered here on DW by a few fervent "sutta-only" types. It's been a part of the contemporary Theravāda discussion since the publication of C & R in 1971. It's a rather important issue occurring within contemporary Theravāda which probably shouldn't be dismissed lightly. And at some point a practitioner has to decide which interpretation of the dhamma they are going to use. In this particular case, I don't really see how one can have it both ways. To try to regard the two truth theory as merely a nominal distinction undermines the very purpose of the interpretation that it attempts to impose.
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Re: Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Oct 31, 2011 1:39 am

Hi Geoff,
Ñāṇa wrote:This "breaking experience down into simpler bits" isn't a two truth notion per se. You're a pretty smart fellow Mike.

:anjali:
Ñāṇa wrote:I find it kinda hard to believe that you don't understand these distinctions, and don't see the problems and limitations of the commentarial two truth theory?

Well, that's why I'm trying to discuss some of these ideas without recourse to the commentaries, and therefore the standard objections.

Some objections to modern "vipassana" approaches (Mahasi, Goenka, etc) seem to me to revolve around the fact that they make use of Commentarial terminology. Therefore they are infected by these two-truth ideas. Therefore they are problematic.

So if you think that:
"breaking experience down into simpler bits" isn't a two truth notion

then that's fine with me.

My reading of Ven Nanananda's discussions of bhavana is that he does seem to advocate beginning by "breaking experience down into simpler bits", just as in approaches I am familiar with. However, he objects to taking those "simpler bits" to be "ultimate". And he has his own interpretation of how the insights will unfold.
E.g. in Seeing Through, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katukurund ... anda_Thera or
http://www.scribd.com/doc/64230534/Bhik ... Meditation

:namaste:
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Re: Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Oct 31, 2011 2:10 am

Ñāṇa wrote:And so this criticism of the commentarial hermeneutic -- which is what it is -- isn't just "an opinion" that's been fostered here on DW by a few fervent "sutta-only" types. It's been a part of the contemporary Theravāda discussion since the publication of C & R in 1971. It's a rather important issue occurring within contemporary Theravāda which probably shouldn't be dismissed lightly. And at some point a practitioner has to decide which interpretation of the dhamma they are going to use. In this particular case, I don't really see how one can have it both ways. To try to regard the two truth theory as merely a nominal distinction undermines the very purpose of the interpretation that it attempts to impose.
I am dismissing it in this context, because I am not making that argument nor is Mike is in this thread. I do not care about that argument. You know as well I do that the commentaries are not necessarily consistent, either chronological or among the Nikayas. In terms of the commentarial passage I quoted, Ven Nanananda's conventional gloss of paramattha works.

But more importantly, I think rather you might want to pay a bit more attention to what Mike is saying about what he is trying to do in this thread of his: I'm trying to discuss some of these ideas without recourse to the commentaries, and therefore the standard objections. And in this I am also at fault for bringing up the AN commentarial passage. I think at this point we can point the commentarial issue aside and objections, etc aside, or if you cannot, you can start a new thread.
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"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Postby daverupa » Mon Oct 31, 2011 2:15 am

discuss some of these ideas without recourse to the commentaries


tiltbillings wrote:I think at this point we can point the commentarial issue aside...


This would mean scrapping the two truth idea, for the purposes of any Sutta-based discussion of bhavana... rather nullifies the OP...
    "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"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Oct 31, 2011 2:26 am

daverupa wrote:This would mean scrapping the two truth idea, for the purposes of any Sutta-based discussion of bhavana... rather nullifies the OP...
No, it would not, and if you cannot abide by the OP's author's wishes, go play elsewhere.
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: Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Oct 31, 2011 2:35 am

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 to nana wrote:So if you think that "breaking experience down into simpler bits" isn't a two truth notion then that's fine with me.

I concur that "breaking experience down into simpler bits" isn't a two truth notion. The Buddha broke down the puggala in many ways - five aggregates, six consciousnesses etc.

What I like personally about the 5A & 6C is that they consitute the entirety of experience (ala Sabba Sutta) so seem suitable frames for perception by which to regard anything that comes into your sphere of experience. They are not too excessive either - one does not need to memorise a periodic table of dhammic elements to apply them in practice... a list of five, and a list of six... not too taxing on the old grey matter.

I find the six consciousnesses a good place to start because they are the most obvious... all you need to do is discern the sense-channel and the sensory input and you know how to classify that "framed experience" and observe its aniccata, thus anattata, thus dukkhata. Once the mind tunes into this practice, the five aggregates serve as a good next step of refinement if "mind consciousness" is insufficient as a means of classifying the activities going on within the old grey matter. Again, with the five aggregates you know how to classify that "framed experience" and observe its aniccata, thus anattata, thus dukkhata.

At this point (or anywhere along it), there is the opportunity to recognise that all the "framed experiences" thus far are indeed just that - framed / fabricated / conditioned experiences - they are all sankhata dhamma. This is where the teaching on dependent origination and its underlying this/that conditionality may be applied. One learns the process of framing (sankata), the process of labelling forms (nama-rupa) and nama-rupa's "whirlpool" relationship with consciousness (i.e. consciousness framed by nama-rupa framed by consciousness)... and that in the end it all leads to dukkha.

Seeing thus, there is the realisation that everything (no matter if five aggregates, six aggregates, a periodic table of dhamma elements) is formed, and by believing the formations are real (or worse, thinking they represent something that "exists") we set ourselves up for dukkha. So... we come to learn that the acting of "forming the formed" is the inherent problem here. What would happen if we didn't do the forming? Sankhara would become extinguished, consciousness would become extinguished, nama-rupa would become extinguished - and you can see where this is going.

Realising thus that EVERYTHING experienced is sankhata dhamma (with the attributes of aniccata, anatta & dukkhata) one naturally (when paying attention!) becomes disillusioned with one's own creations and seeks the solitude of emptiness. That leads to development in the Dhamma.

That is how I understand and apply the Dhamma discourses, without recourse to "two truths" or anything else. Although I have presented the above in a particular way for the purpose of logical development and explanation, any of the above can be done in any order at any time, and thus a separate "method" need not be established out of that.

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: Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Oct 31, 2011 2:46 am

retrofuturist wrote:. . . What I like personally about the 5A & 6C is that they consitute the entirety of experience (ala Sabba Sutta) so seem suitable frames for perception by which to regard anything that comes into your sphere of experience. . . . That is how I understand and apply the Dhamma discourses, without recourse to "two truths" or anything else. Although I have presented the above in a particular way for the purpose of logical development and explanation, any of the above can be done in any order at any time, and thus a separate "method" need not be established out of that.
Basically, in the above description, you are dealing with the more precise terminology while not paying any real heed to the more conventional expressions.
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"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Oct 31, 2011 2:50 am

Greetings,

tiltbillings wrote:Basically, you are dealing with the more precise terminology while not paying any real heed to the more conventional expressions.

Yes - neither rejected, nor accepted.

In fact, not even bifurcated in the first place... it's just a distinction that is set aside, and not applied.

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: Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Oct 31, 2011 3:03 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

tiltbillings wrote:Basically, you are dealing with the more precise terminology while not paying any real heed to the more conventional expressions.

Yes - neither rejected, nor accepted.

In fact, not even bifurcated in the first place... it's just a distinction that is set aside, and not applied.
A rose by any other name . . . .

The conventional language, which you here implicity admit exists, is part of the suttas. While you, in your sorting of what is what in the suttas, have found what appeals to you is the precise, paramattha, language, that does not mean that more conventional language does not have a significant role to play for others. The Buddha clearly acknowledges conventional usage, so this not an artificial bifurcation. It is simply an acknowledgment of differing ways of talking about the same thing. Understanding that can help prevent some rather serious mistakes.
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"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Postby daverupa » Mon Oct 31, 2011 3:07 am

tiltbillings wrote:abide by the OP's author's wishes


mikenz66 wrote:Well, that's why I'm trying to discuss some of these ideas without recourse to the commentaries, and therefore the standard objections.


mikenz66 wrote:it is well known that in the suttas we find two descriptions.
One in terms of "beings"/"concepts" and one in terms of various "subdivisions" (khandhas/sense bases/elements, etc).

In many cases this distinction seems rather important in mental cultivation instructions.


I'm not using the Satipatthana Sutta as found in the Majjhima Nikaya because it's a combinatorial work, as explored here. The Samyutta Nikaya contains what was compiled to generate MN 10, and as such the SN sources are worth exploring on their own.

Throughout the Satipatthanasamyutta (and the Anapanasatisamyutta, but I won't bring it up as much in order to maximize common ground), this "two descriptions" dichotomy simply doesn't occur. I cannot show this without going through every Sutta, but I can highlight an important point on this note with one remarkable Sutta, SN 47.11.

I paraphrase: Sariputta there asks the Buddha "in what way is one a 'great person'?" (Pali: mahapurisa) The Buddha responds "With a liberated mind, one is a mahapurisa... And how does one have a liberated mind? Here, a bhikkhu dwells contemplating the body in the body (etc.)" Here we see a juxtaposition of talk of a being, and talk of subdivisions.

Or again, SN 47.18 calls satipatthana "the one-way path for the purification of beings". Another juxtaposition of the dichotomy.

SN 47.19 says that satipatthana is to be practiced with the idea "I will protect myself" and "I will protect others". Yet again, juxtaposed. The Suttas are completely at ease combining such talk of beings alongside talk of contemplation of dhammas in and of themselves.

The dichotomy is an artificial one; to ask about this dichotomy without recourse to the commentaries is to beg the question, because in the worldview of the Suttas this dichotomy does not exist.
    "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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