The meaning of the Great Forty: MN 117 & its agama parallels

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starter
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The meaning of the Great Forty: MN 117 & its agama parallels

Post by starter » Sat Oct 18, 2014 6:55 pm

Greetings!

I happen to read and compare MN 117 and its Chinese Agama parallel MA 189 and partial parallel SA 785 and SA 789 today, and would like to share the following:

In MA 189 only one path with mundane right understanding and other mundane/supramundane path factors (a kind of a hybrid path, with 8 factors for the trainees and 10 factors for the arahants) was seen. In both SA 785 and SA 789 the two paths (mundane and supramundane) were seen. Strangely, at the end of MA 189, as in MN 117, “the Great Forty” (“twenty factors on the side of the wholesome, and twenty factors on the side of the unwholesome”) was mentioned:

MA 189: [from http://suttacentral.net/zh/ma189]

"... 是為二十善品、二十不善品,是為說四十大法品轉於梵輪,沙門、梵志、天及魔、梵及餘世間,無有能制而言非者。若有沙門、梵志者,我所說四十大法品轉於梵輪,沙門、梵志、天及魔、梵及餘世間,無有能制而言非者。" [It's the same as in MN 117]

MN 117: [http://suttacentral.net/en/mn117]

"... Thus, bhikkhus, there are twenty factors on the side of the wholesome, and twenty factors on the side of the unwholesome. This Dhamma discourse on the Great Forty has been set rolling and cannot be stopped by any recluse or brahmin or god or Māra or Brahmā or anyone in the world."

However, to my understanding, there are actually only twenty factors (ten on the side of the wholesome and ten on the side of the unwholesome for one path) in MA 189, not the forty factors for the two paths as seen in MN 117 or SA 785.

Considering the missing of the supramundane right view and the missing of the other twenty factors in MA 189, it appears to me that MA 189 is probably not the complete original discourse on the Great Forty. While MN 117 seems to be more complete and original than MA 189 in that it contains the two paths and forty factors, it somehow lost the mentioning of the four noble truths in the supramundane path, which was preserved in both SA 785 and SA 789 before the mentioning of the mental factors. It's a pity that only these mental factors, not the four noble truths, are now seen in the supramundane path in MN 117, which might have contributed to confusion and doubts. Let's use right view as an example:

SA 785:

“What is right view? Right view is of two types: there is right view that is mundane, with
'leaks' (有漏于正見:not being perfected in right view), with grasping, that turns towards [rebirth in] a good destination; and there is right view that is noble, supramundane, without 'leaks' (无漏于正見: being perfected in right view), without grasping, that rightly eradicates
dukkha and turns towards the transcendence of dukkha. What is right view that is [mundane], with 'leaks', with grasping, [that turns] towards [rebirth in] a good destination? If one has the view that there is giving, … there are arahants in this world who will not experience a further existence — this is called right view that is mundane, with leeks, with grasping, [that turns] towards [rebirth in] a good destination.

What is right view that is noble, supramundane, without 'leaks', without grasping, that rightly
eradicates dukkha and turns towards the transcendence of dukkha? It is: a noble disciple attends to suffering and contemplates suffering; attends to the cause of suffering and contemplates the cause; attends to the cessation of suffering and contemplates the cessation; attends to the path and contemplates the path. In the absence of defilements, he contemplates in accordance with the Dhamma [by way of] discrimination, investigation, inquiring, breakthrough and realization, wisdom, awakening and contemplative examination — this is called right view that is noble, supramundane, without 'leaks', without grasping, that rightly eradicates dukkha and turns towards the transcendence of dukkha."

MN 117:

And what, bhikkhus, is right view? Right view, I say, is twofold: there is right view that is affected by taints, partaking of merit, ripening in the acquisitions; and there is right view that is noble, taintless, supramundane, a factor of the path.

“And what, bhikkhus, is right view that is with "leaks", partaking of merit, ripening in the acquisitions? ‘There is what is given and what is offered and what is sacrificed; there is fruit and result of good and bad actions; there is this world and the other world; there is mother and father; there are beings who are reborn spontaneously; there are in the world good and virtuous recluses and brahmins who have realised for themselves by direct knowledge and declare this world and the other world.’ This is right view that is unperfected, partaking of merit, ripening in the acquisitions.

And what, bhikkhus, is right view that is noble, without "leaks", supramundane, a factor of the path? [Suppose the 4NT is here] The wisdom, the faculty of wisdom, the power of wisdom, the investigation-of-states enlightenment factor, the path factor of right view in one whose mind is noble, whose mind is (temporarily) without "leaks", who possesses the noble path and is developing the noble path: this is right view that is noble, without "leaks", supramundane, a factor of the path."

As we can see, with the precedence of the 4NT, the mental factors would become more understandable and make more sense.

Metta to all! :anjali:

starter
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Re: The meaning of the Great Forty: MN 117 & its agama paral

Post by starter » Sun Oct 19, 2014 2:14 am

What is the meaning of the Great Forty? What are the twenty factors on the side of the wholesome, and twenty factors on the side of the unwholesome?

It seems to me that each of the two paths has ten factors on the side of the wholesome (right understanding, ... right deliverance) and ten factors on the side of the unwholesome (wrong understanding, ... wrong deliverance):

The mundane path: [Showing the sequence of fulfillment]

-- Right understanding [of the law of karma]
-- Right resolve/thinking [of non-unrighteous greed/non-covetousness (the gross sensual desire), non-ill will, non-wrong view (of the law of karma) / non-harming]
-- Right speech
-- Right action
-- Right livelihood
-- Right effort [to efface the 10 unwholesome deeds, establish the 8 path factors, and understand the 4 Noble Truths]
-- Right mindfulness
-- Right concentration [mundane Samadhi, singleness of mind]
-- Right knowledge [know the 5 aggregates/6 sense objects are all anicca/dukkha/anatta (gain "the Dhamma eye"), gain Noble Right Understanding of the 4 Noble Truths (the first 4 of the 12 folds)]
-- Right deliverance [break the three fetters, gain confirmed Faith, become stream winners, enter the Noble Path (the "stream")]

The Noble Path:

-- Noble Right understanding [of the 4 Noble Truths]
-- Noble Right resolve/thinking [of non-sensual desire, non-malevonance (hate, hostility, anger, ...), non-cruelty]
-- Noble Right speech
-- Noble Right action
-- Noble Right livelihood
-- Noble Right effort [to perfect the 8 path factors, and realize Nibbana]
-- Noble Right mindfulness
-- Noble Right concentration [Unification of mind equipped with the other seven factors]
-- Noble Right knowledge [comprehension of the four noble truths in three ways and twelve folds & cessation of ignorance]
-- Noble Right deliverance [Nibbana]

For more details of the two paths please see relevant discussion http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... liberation

I read that the twenty factors on the wholesome side include both the ten right factors and the wholesome states originate from each. I tend to think that the states originate from each factor can hardly be counted as factors of the Great Forty.

MN 117 is indeed a very deep sutta. The more I read it, the deeper it becomes. :anjali:

Bakmoon
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Joined: Sat Mar 10, 2012 3:14 pm

Re: The meaning of the Great Forty: MN 117 & its agama paral

Post by Bakmoon » Thu Oct 23, 2014 3:56 am

Interesting. That's a very sensible interpretation of the chronology of MN 117. I've heard some people say that the discrepancy between MN117 and its parallel in the Madhyama agama is due to interpolations of Abhidhamma, but after looking at the partial parallels in the Samyukt-Agama and the numbering discrepancy, it seems much more likely that it could be from a deletion in the Madhyama Agama version rather than an addition in the Majjhima Nikaya version. Very insightful of you to pick that up.
The non-doing of any evil,
The performance of what's skillful,
The cleansing of one's own mind:
This is the Buddhas' teaching.

SarathW
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Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:49 am

Re: The meaning of the Great Forty: MN 117 & its agama paral

Post by SarathW » Thu Oct 23, 2014 9:22 am

I read MN 117 as follows:
- 10 wholesome factors by developing (good) and abandoning (bad) = 20 wholesome
- 10 unwholesome factors by developing (bad) and abandoning (good) = 20 unwholesome

See the following link as well:


What is wrong release?
http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=20436&hilit
:reading:
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

SarathW
Posts: 12147
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:49 am

Re: The meaning of the Great Forty: MN 117 & its agama parallels

Post by SarathW » Tue Aug 28, 2018 10:17 pm

Another view:

The above is from a post where I discussed this issue of interpreting suttas. A key problem today is the practice of translating a given sutta just word-by-word, without paying attention to the key message embedded in the sutta.

The name of the MN 117 is “Great Forty”. One first needs to know where 40 comes from. There are 8 steps in the eightfold path, but two more needed to attain the Arahant stage: Sammā Ñāna and Sammā Vimutti. So, altogether there are 10 factors. I have explained this earlier.
So, for the mundane and lokottara paths, there are 10 factors each.

In the same way, in the “wrong path” there are two possible: one will most of the 10 types of mica ditthi and another with a few mica ditthi remaining. This is not explained in detail in the sutta. As I explained above, a given sutta cannot explain everything. We need to remember that these suttas were designed for oral transmission.

viewtopic.php?p=485125#p485125
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

SarathW
Posts: 12147
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:49 am

Re: The meaning of the Great Forty: MN 117 & its agama parallels

Post by SarathW » Wed Aug 07, 2019 9:35 am

“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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