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

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

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Oct 31, 2011 3:15 am

daverupa wrote: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.
If we take retro seriously, as in his immediately above msg, it seems not to be artificial at all. Also, The distinction between a use of a more percise set of terms and the conventional use of language in talking about the same thing is an acknowledged part of the suttas, which is found in the suttas, where the Buddha directly talks about using conventional language to make his points.
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Oct 31, 2011 3:19 am

daverupa wrote: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.
If one believes that. The problem is that when starts picking and choosing suttas, as to what is valid or not, one can twist the Buddha's teachings into anything. Now, if you want to discuss this further, a new thread would be in order.
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Oct 31, 2011 3:48 am

daverupa wrote: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.
Actually, you are very neatly making the point here. You are implicitly acknowledging the use of conventional language and the use of the precise, paramattha, language (as Ven Nanananda uses the term). And, while there are suttas that combine the two, as you have nicely shown, there are suttas that use the precise, paramattha, language, and there are suttas that use conventional language. So, what is the problem?
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"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 4:15 am

Greetings Tilt,

tiltbillings wrote: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.

If there is a useful distinction to be made, I think it's the distinction of Right [Path Factor] with/without asavas, ala MN 117. If you look at each side of the with/without asava equation, they do tend to marry up to what you're nominally regarding as "two truths". Accordingly, it's probably a more useful distinction to make (and one explicitly rooted in the Sutta Pitaka), since as you know, this whole "two truths" business has become very much loaded with, and convoluted by, post-canonical Abhidhammic developments, that (as Geoff points out) the dynamic Theravada tradition is starting to abandon.

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)


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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"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Oct 31, 2011 4:29 am

retrofuturist wrote:If there is a useful distinction to be made, I think it's the distinction of Right [Path Factor] with/without asavas, ala MN 117. If you look at each side of the with/without asava equation, they do tend to marry up to what you're nominally regarding as "two truths". Accordingly, it's probably a more useful distinction to make (and one explicitly rooted in the Sutta Pitaka), since as you know, this whole "two truths" business has become very much loaded with, and convoluted by, late-era Abhidhammic developments, that (as Geoff points out) the dynamic Theravada tradition is starting to abandon.
Thank you. Again, essentially acknowledging the double truth notion. If Geoff can pick and choose how he wants to understand the dhamma notion, going back to the Abhidhamma Pitaka rather than taking the much later ideas, there is no reason one has to buy into the later ideas of the double truth notion to find value in it.


If you do not find value in it, fine. No one here is saying you have to, but at least you have directly acknowledged its basis
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"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 4:34 am

Greetings Tilt,

tiltbillings wrote:If you do not find value in it, fine. No one here is saying you have to, but at least you have directly acknowledged its basis

Oh, I see a lot of value in the MN 117 with/without asava distinction, and see a lot of application for the "with asava" version of Right View either for lay practitioners who are content with "a good rebirth" or as a stepping stone to Right View without asavas as part of the so-called "gradual path" mode of teaching.

If you frame the distinction in accordance with MN 117 and not post-canonical terminology, I think you will find less resistence to the point you are trying to make. Furthermore, it may lead to a more refined discussion of the points others are trying to make too, which would be beneficial to everyone.

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


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)

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

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Oct 31, 2011 4:46 am

retrofuturist wrote:If you frame the distinction in accordance with MN 117 and not post-canonical terminology, I think you will find less resistence to the point you are trying to make. Furthermore, it may lead to a more refined discussion of the points others are trying to make too, which would be beneficial to everyone.
And why the resistance?

But as Mike says, he is not talking about the commentarial stuff, but commentarial or not, you have acknowledged the basis for a double truth notion, which is what Mike is trying to work with. The anti-commentarial crowd are the ones who seem to not to be getting get beyind the commentarial double truth notion and get at what Mike is actually trying to say. The conventional language and the precise, paramattha, language distinction is there in the suttas, commentaries or not. Rather than focusing the naughty commentaries, deal with the disctinction you have already acknowledged and actually address Mikes questions without all the side show.
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Oct 31, 2011 4:48 am

Hi Retro,

MN117 is the only place in the Suttas you find that distinction, and it seems to be a late addition... :thinking:

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 341#p16848

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

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Oct 31, 2011 4:53 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Retro,

MN117 is the only place in the Suttas you find that distinction, and it seems to be a late addition... :thinking:

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 341#p16848

:anjali:
Mike
Not another late addition.
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"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 5:00 am

Greetings Tilt,

tiltbillings wrote:And why the resistance?

Because it's a distinction that if not handled correctly, can be (and has been demonstrated to have historically been) harmful. The way the Buddha handled the distinction on the other hand was skilful, neither liable to harm nor diminuition of Buddhavacana by the doctrines of non-sammasambuddhas that establish themselves as "abhi". As Bhikkhu Bodhi observes in his critique of Nanavira Thera's DO interpretation, the commentaries take unnecessary risks when they retrofit their own frames of reference into the Sutta Pitaka.

My view is let us learn from history and avoid those unecessary risks and complications, and speak directly with reference to the Dhamma and the Discipline of the Teacher... taking that as the gold standard.

tiltbillings wrote:Not another late addition.

At least it's in the Sutta Pitaka. If one chooses to reject it, it's at their own peril... but do you really want to shoot down the Sutta which may help you make your point?

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


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)

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

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Oct 31, 2011 5:21 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Tilt,

tiltbillings wrote:And why the resistance?

Because it's a distinction that if not handled correctly,
The pitfalls are obvious: no absolutist paramattha.

tiltbillings wrote:Not another late addition.

At least it's in the Sutta Pitaka. If one chooses to reject it, it's at their own peril... but do you really want to shoot down the Sutta which may help you make your point?
I have no problem with it, but we already seen in this thread the Satipatthana Sutta set aside.

So, let us see where we go from here.
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"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 6:18 am

mikenz66 wrote: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.

I'm not really familiar with these objections to the Burmese vipassanā approaches, but AFAIK Burmese vipassanā doesn't necessarily require adherence to the commentarial two truth paññatti vs. paramattha distinction. Ñāṇananda practices and teaches vipassanā meditation which he learned from Ven. Ñāṇārāma, who was himself trained by Burmese monks in the Burmese vipassanā method. So it seems to me that these are two separate issues.

mikenz66 wrote: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 this is the crux of the issue: Those "simpler bits" are also conventional and not ultimate things in any way, shape, or form. The entire path uses conventional designations from start to finish, and it's misguided to assume that those conventions represent a real substratum of experience (i.e. an "ultimate reality") independent of those conceptual categories themselves. The culmination of cognitive liberation occurs when those categories are also transcended during supramundane meditation.

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

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Oct 31, 2011 6:26 am

Ñāṇa wrote:And this is the crux of the issue: Those "simpler bits" are also conventional and not ultimate things in any way, shape, or form. The entire path uses conventional designations from start to finish, and it's misguided to assume that those conventions represent a real substratum of experience (i.e. an "ultimate reality") independent of those conceptual categories themselves. The culmination of cognitive liberation occurs when those categories are also transcended during supramundane meditation.
I know I am not, and rather doubt that Mike saying anything different from this.
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Oct 31, 2011 8:01 am

Ñāṇa wrote:I'm not really familiar with these objections to the Burmese vipassanā approaches, but AFAIK Burmese vipassanā doesn't necessarily require adherence to the commentarial two truth paññatti vs. paramattha distinction. Ñāṇananda practices and teaches vipassanā meditation which he learned from Ven. Ñāṇārāma, who was himself trained by Burmese monks in the Burmese vipassanā method. So it seems to me that these are two separate issues.

That's good to know. Much of "Seeing through" reads as if it came from Mahasi: "seeing, seeing...". :thinking:

mikenz66 wrote: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".

Ñāṇa wrote:And this is the crux of the issue: Those "simpler bits" are also conventional and not ultimate things in any way, shape, or form. The entire path uses conventional designations from start to finish, and it's misguided to assume that those conventions represent a real substratum of experience (i.e. an "ultimate reality") independent of those conceptual categories themselves. The culmination of cognitive liberation occurs when those categories are also transcended during supramundane meditation.

And, as Tilt says, I don't think it is necessary to designate such things as "real". The Path is, after all, just a raft...

On the other hand, I do feel that too much can be made of the "problem" of believing that there is an "ultimate reality in there somewhere". Unless a practitioner is extremely naive and/or poorly instructed, it is quite obvious that one progresses through a series of "peeling away layers of delusion". [Oversimplified] One see that a "leg moving" is a complex combination of sensations, motions, and thoughts, and feels proud that one is "discerning khandhas and elements". Then, after a while, it becomes obvious that this "reality" is just another layer of concepts... [/Oversimplified].

I've no idea how it ends, but it seems to me that the important thing is to keep examining, not the motive for examining.

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

Postby Nyana » Mon Oct 31, 2011 9:57 am

mikenz66 wrote:On the other hand, I do feel that too much can be made of the "problem" of believing that there is an "ultimate reality in there somewhere". Unless a practitioner is extremely naive and/or poorly instructed, it is quite obvious that one progresses through a series of "peeling away layers of delusion". [Oversimplified] One see that a "leg moving" is a complex combination of sensations, motions, and thoughts, and feels proud that one is "discerning khandhas and elements". Then, after a while, it becomes obvious that this "reality" is just another layer of concepts... [/Oversimplified].

After recently reading Ṭhānissaro's rather bizarre footnotes to MN 38, you'll have to forgive me for not sharing your optimism on this point.

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

Postby Nyana » Mon Oct 31, 2011 10:34 am

tiltbillings wrote:I know I am not, and rather doubt that Mike saying anything different from this.

It's probably also worth mentioning that Buddhaghosa also gets it right, although not without a bit of waffling due to the cumbersome two truth hermeneutic. Relying on the path sequence outlined in the canoncial Dhammasaṅgaṇī, he explains in Visuddhimagga, Chapter 21, the awakening factors, path factors, and jhāna factors of the path attainment for the first three types of practitioners, which develops from the stage of equanimity about fabrications:

    According to governance by insight, the path arisen in a bare-insight worker, and the path arisen in one who possesses a jhāna attainment but who has not made the jhāna the basis for insight, and the path made to arise by comprehending unrelated fabrications after using the first jhāna as the basis for insight, are paths of the first jhāna only. In each case there are seven awakening factors, eight path factors, and five jhāna factors. For while their preliminary insight can be accompanied by happiness and it can be accompanied by equanimity, when their insight reaches the state of equanimity about fabrications at the time of emergence it is accompanied by happiness.

Ven. Ñāṇārāma also gets it. The path-cognition of stream-entry is a supramundane jhāna which must include the presence of the jhāna factors, and so on. In his Seven Stages of Purification & the Insight Knowledges he states:

    At whatever moment he attains the supramundane path, that path-consciousness comes to be reckoned as a jhāna in itself, since it has some affinity with the factors proper to jhānas, such as the first jhāna. What are known as transcendental meditations in Buddhism are these supramundane levels of concentration within the reach of the pure insight meditator.

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

Postby daverupa » Mon Oct 31, 2011 11:33 am

tiltbillings wrote:You are implicitly acknowledging the use of conventional language and the use of the precise, paramattha, language (as Ven Nanananda uses the term). And, while there are suttas that combine the two, as you have nicely shown, there are suttas that use the precise, paramattha, language, and there are suttas that use conventional language. So, what is the problem?


The problem is that I am not implicitly acknowledging the language difference, tilt. You are putting words in my mouth. I am using mikenz' definitions to find other examples of the dichotomy he is describing, and I am showing that those differences exist in combination without any explication or notification on the part of the Buddha. Therefore, the "language difference" is an artificial and arbitrary template over the Suttas, pulling out a pattern which is not actually employed there, particularly not in the context of bhavana.

In short: the word "purisa" and the word "dhamma" (for example) are not conventional/ultimate. Understanding these words and their use does not require that dichotomy.

I'd like to see a Sutta with only paramattha language, as pertains to bhavana. Can one be provided?
    "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 mikenz66 » Mon Oct 31, 2011 6:38 pm

Hi Dave,
daverupa wrote:I'd like to see a Sutta with only paramattha language, as pertains to bhavana. Can one be provided?

From my point of view there are hundreds, starting with the second discourse:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

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

Postby Nyana » Mon Oct 31, 2011 6:46 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Dave,
daverupa wrote:I'd like to see a Sutta with only paramattha language, as pertains to bhavana. Can one be provided?

From my point of view there are hundreds, starting with the second discourse:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

*Sigh* :tongue: How is any word of that discourse paramattha Mike?

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

Postby Alex123 » Mon Oct 31, 2011 7:26 pm

Any and every word (from person to citta) is conventional and conceptual. If citta lasts for a split second, then what exactly are we talking about when we say "citta"? Only the idea of a citta... Conceptualization is involved even when speaking about "ultimate reality", so how ultimate can it be? Is the split "ultimate vs conventional" itself conceptual?

Isn't analysis by itself a conceptual activity of the mind?

Does a baby who didn't yet learn conventional truths to be misled by, perceive ultimate truths? No. A person is supposed to learn these ultimate truths... So how real are they?

When it comes to splitting a person into 5 aggregates, the activity is purely abstract. One cannot divide a person in 5 heaps and place body in one heap, feelings in 2nd heap, perceptions in 3rd heap, volitions in 4th heap, and consciousness in 5th heap.

"Feeling, perception, & consciousness are conjoined, friend, not disjoined. It is not possible, having separated them one from another, to delineate the difference among them. For what one feels, that one perceives. What one perceives, that one cognizes. Therefore these qualities are conjoined, not disjoined, and it is not possible, having separated them one from another, to delineate the difference among them."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

In the 12 āyatana, for example, you can't physically separate mind-sphere (manāyatanaṃ) from mental-object-sphere (dhammāyatanaṃ). One cannot be without the other. Mental object requires mind, and mind cannot be without a mental object. So the separation is purely conceptual, done to illustrate some point, but not to be held as absolute reified analytical truth.
Last edited by Alex123 on Mon Oct 31, 2011 7:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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