Why are the Five Aggregates "paramatha"?

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Why are the Five Aggregates "paramatha"?

Postby Individual » Sat Jul 11, 2009 2:28 pm

For proponents of Abhidhamma, why are the Five Aggregates regarded as "paramatha" (ultimate) instead of sunnatta? If the Five Aggregates are considered ultimate realities, there is no basis for the Buddha's words in the Phena sutta, of the world being like an illusion. So, the Five Aggregates seem to be reducible to sunnatta. Being reducible, should they not be considered mental constructions derived from sunnatta?
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Re: Why are the Five Aggregates "paramatha"?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jul 11, 2009 2:34 pm

Individual wrote:For proponents of Abhidhamma, why are the Five Aggregates regarded as "paramatha" (ultimate) instead of sunnatta? If the Five Aggregates are considered ultimate realities, there is no basis for the Buddha's words in the Phena sutta, of the world being like an illusion. So, the Five Aggregates seem to be reducible to sunnatta. Being reducible, should they not be considered mental constructions derived from sunnatta?


What have you been reading?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

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Re: Why are the Five Aggregates "paramatha"?

Postby Individual » Sat Jul 11, 2009 2:36 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Individual wrote:For proponents of Abhidhamma, why are the Five Aggregates regarded as "paramatha" (ultimate) instead of sunnatta? If the Five Aggregates are considered ultimate realities, there is no basis for the Buddha's words in the Phena sutta, of the world being like an illusion. So, the Five Aggregates seem to be reducible to sunnatta. Being reducible, should they not be considered mental constructions derived from sunnatta?


What have you been reading?

I glanced into Bhikkhu Bodhi's comprehensive manual, only to find that it's simply a revision of the Abhidhamma Sangaha, with additional commentary. I put it down (well, closed the window, since it's a text online) because I know what's inside... List after list after convoluted list, without much justification.
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Re: Why are the Five Aggregates "paramatha"?

Postby Ben » Sat Jul 11, 2009 7:31 pm

Individual wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Individual wrote:For proponents of Abhidhamma, why are the Five Aggregates regarded as "paramatha" (ultimate) instead of sunnatta? If the Five Aggregates are considered ultimate realities, there is no basis for the Buddha's words in the Phena sutta, of the world being like an illusion. So, the Five Aggregates seem to be reducible to sunnatta. Being reducible, should they not be considered mental constructions derived from sunnatta?


What have you been reading?

I glanced into Bhikkhu Bodhi's comprehensive manual, only to find that it's simply a revision of the Abhidhamma Sangaha, with additional commentary. I put it down (well, closed the window, since it's a text online) because I know what's inside... List after list after convoluted list, without much justification.


What a load of crap.
I suggest you get over your negativity regarding Bhikkhu Bodhi and read it properly.
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: Why are the Five Aggregates "paramatha"?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jul 11, 2009 8:25 pm

Individual wrote:For proponents of Abhidhamma, why are the Five Aggregates regarded as "paramatha" (ultimate) instead of sunnatta?

They are both.

http://www.buddhanet.net/budsas/ebud/ni ... m#chapter1
All dhammas are anatta, not-self (in Pali: sabbe dhamma anatta). Thus, the conditioned dhammas are impermanent and dukkha. But all dhammas, that is, the four paramattha dhammas, nibbana included, have the characteristic of anatta, not-self.


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Re: Why are the Five Aggregates "paramatha"?

Postby Individual » Sat Jul 11, 2009 8:38 pm

Ben wrote:
Individual wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:What have you been reading?

I glanced into Bhikkhu Bodhi's comprehensive manual, only to find that it's simply a revision of the Abhidhamma Sangaha, with additional commentary. I put it down (well, closed the window, since it's a text online) because I know what's inside... List after list after convoluted list, without much justification.


What a load of crap.
I suggest you get over your negativity regarding Bhikkhu Bodhi and read it properly.

It has nothing to do with Bhikkhu Bodhi at all (I have no negativity towards him), but with Abhidhamma.
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Re: Why are the Five Aggregates "paramatha"?

Postby Individual » Sat Jul 11, 2009 8:59 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
Individual wrote:For proponents of Abhidhamma, why are the Five Aggregates regarded as "paramatha" (ultimate) instead of sunnatta?

They are both.

http://www.buddhanet.net/budsas/ebud/ni ... m#chapter1
All dhammas are anatta, not-self (in Pali: sabbe dhamma anatta). Thus, the conditioned dhammas are impermanent and dukkha. But all dhammas, that is, the four paramattha dhammas, nibbana included, have the characteristic of anatta, not-self.


Mike

I'm sorry but my grammar was ambiguous. I meant: Why are the Five Aggregates regarded as "paramattha" (ultimate), instead of sunnatta alone being regarded as paramattha?

On page 25 of his comprehensive manual, Bhikkhu Bodhi lays out the difference between the conventional and the ultimate. He says that the conventional is a product of mental construction (parikappana) that does not exist by way of its own-existence (sabhava). As examples, he mentions living beings, persons, men, women, animals, and all the apparently stable persisting objects that make up the world. He says that all of these things, while appearing distinct, when seen through Abhidhammic analysis do not have any distinct existence because they are an assemblage of impermanent factors, of mental and physical processes.

By contrast, "ultimate" dhammas are the final, irreducible components of existence, not mentally constructed at all, and they are regarded as intrinsic and distinct.

My contention is that the Five Aggregates do not seem to fit the definition of an "ultimate" dhamma, only sunatta does, since only sunatta is irreducible and has a distinct nature. After all, if the Five Aggregates can be reduced to sunatta, they are not irreducible. If the Five Aggregates origin' involves creating concepts from sunnatta, then they are mental fabrications too, and thus, conventional.

He seems to acknowledge that there is no such thing as sabhava (own-existence) for conventional objects: people, animals, buildings, trees, etc.. No such "thing" can be said to exist distinctly for the obvious reason that it is dependently originated. But I see nothing that distinguishes the Five Aggregates from these types of things either.

Also, even assuming that matter, consciousness, and the mental factors are "ultimate" (basically meaning truly real), it's not clear to me why what is produced by them should be any less substantial. I believe there were some early Buddhist schools which actually held this substantialist view.
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Re: Why are the Five Aggregates "paramatha"?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jul 11, 2009 9:16 pm

I think you are confusing terminology. Sunnatta is a description of phenomena, not a building block of phenomena. The paramattha dhammas are building blocks (at least in the sense of being what you can break phenomena down into - the question of whether or not they are "real" is a different question).

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Re: Why are the Five Aggregates "paramatha"?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jul 11, 2009 9:23 pm

To save tiltbillings from repeating himself:
http://www.lioncity.net/buddhism/index. ... &p=1215334
tiltbillings wrote:What kind of "ultimate things" are dhammas? Piatigorsky, in his studies of the Theravadin Abhidhamma Pitaka texts (THE BUDDHIST PHILOSOPHY OF THOUGHT 1984, 181) points out dharmas/dhammas are not substances; they are not 'things' in and of themselves:

We simpy cannot say that 'a dharma is... (a predicate follows)', because a dharma, in fact, 'is' no thing, yet [it is] a term denoting (not being) a certain relation or type of relation to thought, consciousness or mind. That is, dharma is not a concept in the accepted terminological sense of the latter, but a purely relational notion.

(Nyanaponika ABHIDHAMMA STUDIES @ page 41 BPS; page 42 Wisdom.)
By arranging the mental factors in relational groups a subordinate synthetical element has been introduced into the mainly analytical Dhammasangani. By so doing, the danger inherent in purely analytical methods is avoided. This danger consists in erroneously taking for genuine separate entities the “parts” resulting from analysis, instead of restricting their use to sound practical method with the purpose of classifying and dissolving composite events wrongly conceived as unities. Up to the present time it has been a regular occurrence in the history of physics, metaphysics, and psychology that when the “whole” has been successfully dissolved by analysis, the resultant “parts” themselves come in turn to be regarded as little “wholes.”


(Prof. Dr. Y. Karunadasa @ THE DHAMMA THEORY, page 9:)
In the Pali tradition it is only for the sake of definition and description that each dhamma is postulated as if it were a separate entity; but in reality it is by no means a solitary phenomenon having an existence of its own. . . . If this Abhidhammic view of existence, as seen from its doctrine of dhammas, cannot be interpreted as a radical pluralism, neither can it be interpreted as an out-and-out monism. For what are called dhammas -- the component factors of the universe, both within us and outside us -- are not fractions of an absolute unity but a multiplicity of co-ordinate factors. They are not reducible to, nor do they emerge from, a single reality, the fundamental postulate of monistic metaphysics. If they are to be interpreted as phenomena, this should be done with the proviso that they are phenomena with no corresponding noumena, no hidden underlying ground. For they are not manifestations of some mysterious metaphysical substratum, but processes taking place due to the interplay of a multitude of conditions. http://www.zeh-verlag.de/download/dhammatheory.pdf


(Harvey @ in his excellent INTRODUCTION TO BUDDHISM, characterizes the Theravadin position, page 87:)
"'They are dhammas because they uphold their own nature [sabhaava]. They are dhammas because they are upheld by conditions or they are upheld according to their own nature' (Asl.39). Here 'own-nature' would mean characteristic nature, which is not something inherent in a dhamma as a separate ultimate reality, but arise due to the supporting conditions both of other dhammas and previous occurrences of that dhamma."


(A.K. Warder @ in INDIAN BUDDHISM, page 323, discussing the Pali Abhidhamma commentarial literature, states:)
"The most significant new idea in the commentaries is the definition of a 'principle' or element (dharma): dharmas are what have (or 'hold', 'maintain', dhr. is the nearest equivalent in the language to the English 'have') their own own-nature (svabhaava). It is added that they naturally have this through conditions."

Dhammas in the Theravada Abhidhamma Pitaka are "ultimate things" only as a way of talking aspects about the relational flow of experience, not in terms of describing static realities. In other words, dhammas are empty of self. See my signature:
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Re: Why are the Five Aggregates "paramatha"?

Postby Individual » Sat Jul 11, 2009 10:12 pm

mikenz66 wrote:To save tiltbillings from repeating himself:
(Nyanaponika ABHIDHAMMA STUDIES @ page 41 BPS; page 42 Wisdom.)
By arranging the mental factors in relational groups a subordinate synthetical element has been introduced into the mainly analytical Dhammasangani. By so doing, the danger inherent in purely analytical methods is avoided. This danger consists in erroneously taking for genuine separate entities the “parts” resulting from analysis, instead of restricting their use to sound practical method with the purpose of classifying and dissolving composite events wrongly conceived as unities. Up to the present time it has been a regular occurrence in the history of physics, metaphysics, and psychology that when the “whole” has been successfully dissolved by analysis, the resultant “parts” themselves come in turn to be regarded as little “wholes.”

In suggesting they are "ultimate" by way of own-existence, this seems to be what is going on here. By means of analysis, the Buddha claimed there are Five Aggregates, but in Abhidhamma, they take these things as distinctly irreducible building blocks, "little wholes".

mikenz66 wrote:
(Prof. Dr. Y. Karunadasa @ THE DHAMMA THEORY, page 9:)
In the Pali tradition it is only for the sake of definition and description that each dhamma is postulated as if it were a separate entity; but in reality it is by no means a solitary phenomenon having an existence of its own. . . . If this Abhidhammic view of existence, as seen from its doctrine of dhammas, cannot be interpreted as a radical pluralism, neither can it be interpreted as an out-and-out monism. For what are called dhammas -- the component factors of the universe, both within us and outside us -- are not fractions of an absolute unity but a multiplicity of co-ordinate factors. They are not reducible to, nor do they emerge from, a single reality, the fundamental postulate of monistic metaphysics. If they are to be interpreted as phenomena, this should be done with the proviso that they are phenomena with no corresponding noumena, no hidden underlying ground. For they are not manifestations of some mysterious metaphysical substratum, but processes taking place due to the interplay of a multitude of conditions. http://www.zeh-verlag.de/download/dhammatheory.pdf

...which is a valid point... and so, why are they called "paramattha"?

mikenz66 wrote:
(Harvey @ in his excellent INTRODUCTION TO BUDDHISM, characterizes the Theravadin position, page 87:)
"'They are dhammas because they uphold their own nature [sabhaava]. They are dhammas because they are upheld by conditions or they are upheld according to their own nature' (Asl.39). Here 'own-nature' would mean characteristic nature, which is not something inherent in a dhamma as a separate ultimate reality, but arise due to the supporting conditions both of other dhammas and previous occurrences of that dhamma."


(A.K. Warder @ in INDIAN BUDDHISM, page 323, discussing the Pali Abhidhamma commentarial literature, states:)
"The most significant new idea in the commentaries is the definition of a 'principle' or element (dharma): dharmas are what have (or 'hold', 'maintain', dhr. is the nearest equivalent in the language to the English 'have') their own own-nature (svabhaava). It is added that they naturally have this through conditions."

Dhammas in the Theravada Abhidhamma Pitaka are "ultimate things" only as a way of talking aspects about the relational flow of experience, not in terms of describing static realities. In other words, dhammas are empty of self. See my signature:

Is the relational flow of experience not a static reality? Granted, everything is impermanent, but how often does the law of gravity cease to apply, how often do things just spontaneously happen? It does not make sense to me to say that dhammas have sabhava, due to conditions, yet are empty of self. It is because the nature is predicated on conditions, that their "nature" is not their "own" (being derived or based on other factors). With the case of most dhammas, what Warder says above applies, but not in the case of the four-fold ultimate realities, because Abhidhamma takes these things as unique, as fixed, not merely concepts or relational notions, but as distinct realities.
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Re: Why are the Five Aggregates "paramatha"?

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jul 12, 2009 5:20 am

Is Ven Nyanatiloa's explanation helpful?
http://what-buddha-said.net/library/Bud ... paramattha
Paramattha: sacca-vacana-Desanā 'truth or term, exposition that is true in the highest or ultimate sense', as contrasted with the 'conventional truth' vohāra-sacca which is also called 'commonly accepted truth' sammuti-sacca in Skr: samvrti-satya The Buddha, in explaining his doctrine, sometimes used conventional language and sometimes the philosophical mode of expression which is in accordance whith unconfused insight into reality. In that ultimate sense, existence is a mere process of physical and mental phenomena within which, or beyond which, no real ego-entity nor any abiding substance can ever be found. Thus, whenever the suttas speak of man, woman or person, or of the rebirth of a being, this must not be taken as being valid in the ultimate sense, but as a mere conventional mode of speech vohāra-vacana.

It is one of the main characteristics of the Abhidhamma Pitaka, in distinction from most of the Sutta Pitaka, that it does not employ conventional language, but deals only with ultimates, or realities in the highest sense paramattha-dhammā But also in the Sutta Pitaka there are many expositions in terms of ultimate language paramattha-desanā namely, wherever these texts deal with the groups khandha elements dhātu or sense-sources āyatana and their components; and wherever the 3 characteristics tilakkhana are applied. The majority of Sutta texts, however, use the conventional language, as appropriate in a practical or ethical context, because it;would not be right to say that 'the groups' khandha feel shame, etc

It should be noted, however, that also statements of the Buddha couched in conventional language, are called 'truth' vohāra-sacca being correct on their own level, which does not contradict the fact that such statements ultimately refer to impermanent and impersonal processes.

The two truths - ultimate and conventional - appear in that form only in the commentaries, but are implied in a sutta-distinction of 'explicit or direct meaning' nītattha and 'implicit meaning to be inferred' neyyattha Further, the Buddha repeatedly mentioned his reservations when using conventional speech, e.g. in D. 9:,These are merely names, expressions, turns of speech, designations in common use in the world, which the Perfect Qne Tathāgata uses without misapprehending them.; See also S. I. 25.

The term paramattha in the sense here used, occurs in the first para. of the Kathāvatthu, a work of the Abhidhamma Pitaka see: Guide, p. 62. App: vohāra.

The commentarial discussions on these truths Com. to D. 9 and M. 5 have not yet been translated in full. On these see K N. Jayatilleke, Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge London, 1963, pp. 361ff.

In Mahāyana, the Mādhyamika school has given a prominent place to the teaching of the two truths.

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Re: Why are the Five Aggregates "paramatha"?

Postby Sylvester » Mon Jul 13, 2009 1:50 pm

Hello Individual

I'm quite curious as to your source that the Theravadin Abhidhamma posits its dhammas to have "own existence".

Are you using this term "own existence" in the sense understood by the Sarvastivadins with their "Svabhava" and Sarvam Asti theories, or are you using it in the strict Theravadin sense as how that school understands "Sabhava" in the Patisambhidamagga and Atthasalini?

Perhaps Ven Nyanaponika's short passage bears re-reading -

"By arranging the mental factors in relational groups a subordinate synthetical element has been introduced into the mainly analytical Dhammasangani. By so doing, the danger inherent in purely analytical methods is avoided. This danger consists in erroneously taking for genuine separate entities the “parts” resulting from analysis, instead of restricting their use to sound practical method with the purpose of classifying and dissolving composite events wrongly conceived as unities. Up to the present time it has been a regular occurrence in the history of physics, metaphysics, and psychology that when the “whole” has been successfully dissolved by analysis, the resultant “parts” themselves come in turn to be regarded as little “wholes.”

The Venerable was in fact saying that the Abhidhamma's Dhammasangani analytic method was tempered by some recourse to the synthetic method (of the Patthana?). In so doing, the Dhammasangani avoided the metaphysical trap of atomism, ie simplistic reductionism leading to essences that are self-existent.

You might also find helpful Dr Karunadasa's expanded discussion of the Atthasalini commentary on "Sabhava" being a functionalist and agency definition, rather than an ontological one.
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Re: Why are the Five Aggregates "paramatha"?

Postby Samantha Noelle Golt » Tue Jul 21, 2009 10:17 pm

Hello Brothers and Sisters,

This is my thoughtfeel:
In ultimate truth, there is no such concept as spacetime, neither is there in conventional truth. So a whole and a part thereby become irrelevant. There is no distinction between illusion and what is real they are both One. An aggregate can be One or infinity or a part or even emptiness because all these concepts are One and yet only apply if there is a spacetime dimension. One paradox is that conventional and real truth are One. This means that there is no paradox just a multiplicity of consciousness like veils through which we can see or choose to be blind and close our eyes. We can decide to accept that there is a spacetime dimension as well as that there is not. The understanding of those concepts at once in One and through One really widens consciousness. We can also observe and be observed at once, play and be real at once, be atman and anatman. But please know the difference between good and evil and choose rightly. Becuase while the paradox is that they are both One the conventional reality is that there are two. Gaia knows this in her form and so does human.

The essence of the teachings is in how these are applied of course not what they can do for you but what they can do for One. We must make choices which can be applied to conventional reality, the samsaric wheel and maya, as well as to the ultimate truth. Harmonisation a consciousness that can be understood. If this is/to be in perfect pitch, in purity, or in a cacophony of sound this is your choice.

Do not just save yourselves, let us save the entire Planet. Gaia needs us. We are in the physical as well as outside it. We are working from form in form with form and through form or is it energy.

I wish you all good meditations, trances and analysis.

Peace in ONE.
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Re: Why are the Five Aggregates "paramatha"?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Jul 21, 2009 11:20 pm

Greetings Samantha,

Unfortunately, the nature of your comments here is off-topic in relation to the Abhidhamma, which is the subject of this particular forum. Please note the following...

Guidelines for the Abhidhamma forum
viewtopic.php?f=18&t=374

The Abhidhamma and Classical Theravada sub-forums are specialized venues for the discussion of the Abhidhamma and the classical Mahavihara understanding of the Dhamma. Within these forums the Pali Tipitaka and its commentaries are for discussion purposes treated as authoritative. These forums are for the benefit of those members who wish to develop a deeper understanding of these texts and are not for the challenging of the Abhidhamma and/or Theravada commentarial literature.

Posts should also include support from a reference, a citation (Tipitaka, commentarial, or from a later work from an author representative of the Classical point-of-view).

Posts that contain personal opinions and conjecture, points of view arrived at from meditative experiences, conversations with devas, blind faith in the supreme veracity of one's own teacher's point of view etc. are all regarded as off-topic, and as such, will be subject to moderator review and/or removal.

Thank you for your assistance.

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Re: Why are the Five Aggregates "paramatha"?

Postby kc2dpt » Wed Jul 22, 2009 3:58 am

Samantha Noelle Golt wrote:let us save the entire Planet. Gaia needs us.

retrofuturist wrote:the nature of your comments...

Groan. :roll:
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Re: Why are the Five Aggregates "paramatha"?

Postby Jechbi » Wed Jul 22, 2009 4:35 am

I wonder if Samantha would like to have her post moved to a more suitable forum on this board? Such as personal experiences, perhaps?

(btw, welcome Samantha. :hello: )
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Re: Why are the Five Aggregates "paramatha"?

Postby Ben » Wed Jul 22, 2009 5:46 am

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I think its time we all got back on topic before the big ugly moderator (me) goes into 'dissassemble aggregates' mode.
Anyone who's played the video game 'Star Wars Lego' knows exactly what I'm talking about.
Any further off-topic posts will be deleted without warning.
Now, back to topic! :jedi:
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but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

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Re: Why are the Five Aggregates "paramatha"?

Postby legolas » Mon Aug 30, 2010 12:52 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
Individual wrote:For proponents of Abhidhamma, why are the Five Aggregates regarded as "paramatha" (ultimate) instead of sunnatta?

They are both.

http://www.buddhanet.net/budsas/ebud/ni ... m#chapter1
All dhammas are anatta, not-self (in Pali: sabbe dhamma anatta). Thus, the conditioned dhammas are impermanent and dukkha. But all dhammas, that is, the four paramattha dhammas, nibbana included, have the characteristic of anatta, not-self.


Mike


Hi Mike,

I was trawling through dhammawheel looking for discussions on the five aggregates and came across this thread.
In the above link it states that nibbana is anatta, but I thought that the anatta formula goes something like this:- what is impermanent is suffering and what is suffering is anatta. Surely nibbana is not suffering. I am not saying nibbana is "self" either.

I was actually looking for discussions on how the 5 aggregates are linked in with DO.
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Re: Why are the Five Aggregates "paramatha"?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Aug 30, 2010 1:30 pm

legolas wrote:
I was trawling through dhammawheel looking for discussions on the five aggregates and came across this thread.
In the above link it states that nibbana is anatta, but I thought that the anatta formula goes something like this:- what is impermanent is suffering and what is suffering is anatta. Surely nibbana is not suffering. I am not saying nibbana is "self" either.
Dhp 279, sabbe dhamma anatta All dhammas are without self, is inclusive of nibbana.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
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Re: Why are the Five Aggregates "paramatha"?

Postby legolas » Mon Aug 30, 2010 1:52 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
legolas wrote:
I was trawling through dhammawheel looking for discussions on the five aggregates and came across this thread.
In the above link it states that nibbana is anatta, but I thought that the anatta formula goes something like this:- what is impermanent is suffering and what is suffering is anatta. Surely nibbana is not suffering. I am not saying nibbana is "self" either.
Dhp 279, sabbe dhamma anatta All dhammas are without self, is inclusive of nibbana.


Nibbana is beyond phenomena.

"One who has reached the end has no criterion by which anyone would say that — for him it doesn't exist. When all phenomena are done away with, all means of speaking are done away with as well."

Snp 5.6 Upasiva-manava-puccha.
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