Eel wriggling vs inappropriate attention?

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Lazy_eye
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Eel wriggling vs inappropriate attention?

Post by Lazy_eye » Thu Nov 05, 2015 2:10 pm

In DN 1, the Buddha criticizes "eel-wriggling":
Herein, bhikkhus, a certain recluse or a brahmin is dull and stupid. Due to his dullness and stupidity, when he is questioned about this or that point, he resorts to evasive statements and to endless equivocation: 'If you ask me whether there is a world beyond — if I thought there is another world, I would declare that there is. But I do not take it thus, nor do I take it in that way, nor do I take it in some other way. I do not say that it is not, nor do I say that is neither this nor that.'
But in MN 2, he dismisses a set of rather similar questions as "inappropriate attention":
This is how he attends inappropriately: 'Was I in the past? Was I not in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what was I in the past? Shall I be in the future? Shall I not be in the future? What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? Having been what, what shall I be in the future?' Or else he is inwardly perplexed about the immediate present: 'Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? Where has this being come from? Where is it bound?'
I don't quite understand the difference between eel-wriggling and the practice of attending appropriately. If you steer clear of inappropriate attention, in effect you are giving the same answer as the eel-wriggler: you do not say what we will be in the future or what we were in the past.
If the "dull and stupid" recluse/brahmin had given definite answers in the passage above, wouldn't he in effect be answering inappropriate questions?

The MN 2 passage is often cited in support of Buddhist agnosticism, while the DN 1 passage is used to oppose it -- but beyond that particular debate, I would like to know how consistency is maintained across the two statements. I'm sure this must have been brought up on DW before, so links to relevant threads would be helpful (in addition to any new responses).

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Re: Eel wriggling vs inappropriate attention?

Post by dhammacoustic » Thu Nov 05, 2015 2:40 pm

The dull brahmin does not know what he is talking about, he doesn't have attention, let alone an inappropriate one, while the Tathagāta is free from misapprehension.
Uppādā vā tathagātanaṃ anuppādā vā tathagātanaṃ, ṭhitāva sā dhātu dhammaṭṭhitatā dhammaniyāmatā idappaccayatā. Taṃ tathagāto abhisam­buj­jhati abhisameti. Abhisam­bujjhitvā abhisametvā ācikkhati deseti paññāpeti paṭṭhapeti vivarati vibhajati uttānīkaroti. ‘Passathā’ti cāha; ‘avijjāpaccayā, bhikkhave, saṅkhārā’. Iti kho, bhikkhave, yā tatra tathatā avitathatā anaññathatā idappaccayatā-ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, paṭiccasamup­pādo.
:heart: namō tassa bhagavatō, arahatō, sammā sambuddhassā

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Re: Eel wriggling vs inappropriate attention?

Post by Buckwheat » Thu Nov 05, 2015 2:48 pm

if I remember correctly, the eel-wriggler is in the context of a discussion on kamma and rebirth (do actions have free will or determinism? do actions have results in this life and the next?) Buddha did not put refection on actions and their results in the category of inappropriate attention, so there is no conflict between the statements.
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.

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Re: Eel wriggling vs inappropriate attention?

Post by daverupa » Thu Nov 05, 2015 5:07 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:In DN 1, the Buddha criticizes "eel-wriggling":
But "dullness & stupidity" is only one of four grounds for this behavior; we also have:

fear and loathing of making a false statement
fear and loathing of clinging
fear and loathing of being cross-examined

...and, this is in response to questions about un/wholesomeness.
Lazy_eye wrote:But in MN 2, he dismisses a set of rather similar questions as "inappropriate attention":
"Rather similar" is inaccurate.

Here in MN 2, the point is that
"The well-instructed disciple of the noble ones — who has regard for noble ones, is well-versed & disciplined in their Dhamma; who has regard for men of integrity, is well-versed & disciplined in their Dhamma — discerns what ideas are fit for attention and what ideas are unfit for attention. This being so, he does not attend to ideas unfit for attention and attends [instead] to ideas fit for attention.
This individual isn't an eel-wriggler because they understand un/wholesomeness, and unlike the eel-wriggler they will be able to suggest appropriate attention - i.e. they will be able to address un/wholesomeness, where no eel-wriggler will do so.
  • "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: Eel wriggling vs inappropriate attention?

Post by Zom » Thu Nov 05, 2015 6:53 pm

The MN 2 passage is often cited in support of Buddhist agnosticism
And this is wrong. MN2 is not about that at all.
I don't quite understand the difference between eel-wriggling and the practice of attending appropriately.
The difference is a big one. Eel-wriggling is not "a set of views", and not even one particular view. It is a method of behavior while engaging in debates. Eel-wriggler "wriggles" not because he has some view, but because he doesn't want to be criticized. So, this same method can be used even by people with two opposite views.

While MN2 exposes a set of distinctive self-views. Each of the views listed there - is a variant of a self-view. Every such view is considered as "ayoniso manasikara" - unskilful, unwise attention. Why? Because if you see it this way, you cherish a view about "My Self". You can easily read those questions changing "I" onto "SELF" there:

"Was a self in the past? Was a self not in the past? What was a self in the past? How was a self in the past? Having been what, what was a self in the past? Shall a self be in the future? .....

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Re: Eel wriggling vs inappropriate attention?

Post by mikenz66 » Thu Nov 05, 2015 7:16 pm

Certainly MN2 is about self view.

The more interesting question might be to contrast the definition of eel-wriggling DN1 with the suttas where the Buddha refuses to answer questions, such as:
https://suttacentral.net/en/sn44.7
In most of those, self view does appear to be the underlying problem.

Here's a nice analysis by Piya Tan:
http://dharmafarer.org/wordpress/wp-con ... s-piya.pdf

:anjali:
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Re: Eel wriggling vs inappropriate attention?

Post by Lazy_eye » Fri Nov 06, 2015 2:12 pm

Hmm, so the difference is that the "endless equivicator" declines to give straight answers out of a desire to avoid being contradicted or shown wrong (which probably stems from clinging to his status as "authority"), whereas the Buddha declines because the questions are the wrong ones, from a Dhammic point of view -- i.e. they are based on an underlying concern with self and the fate of the self?

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Re: Eel wriggling vs inappropriate attention?

Post by NotMe » Fri Nov 06, 2015 5:34 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:Hmm, so the difference is that the "endless equivicator" declines to give straight answers out of a desire to avoid being contradicted or shown wrong (which probably stems from clinging to his status as "authority"), whereas the Buddha declines because the questions are the wrong ones, from a Dhammic point of view -- i.e. they are based on an underlying concern with self and the fate of the self?
Good eye, Amblyopia!

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Re: Eel wriggling vs inappropriate attention?

Post by santa100 » Fri Nov 06, 2015 7:04 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:the difference is that the "endless equivicator" declines to give straight answers out of a desire to avoid being contradicted or shown wrong (which probably stems from clinging to his status as "authority"), whereas the Buddha declines because the questions are the wrong ones, from a Dhammic point of view -- i.e. they are based on an underlying concern with self and the fate of the self?
Right. Also notice that the question about whether there's a world beyond which the eel-wriggler avoid to answer was clearly answered by the Buddha:
MN 117 wrote:And what is wrong view? 'There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed. There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions. There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings; no contemplatives or brahmans who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.' This is wrong view.

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Re: Eel wriggling vs inappropriate attention?

Post by Lazy_eye » Fri Nov 06, 2015 8:06 pm

santa100 wrote: Right. Also notice that the question about whether there's a world beyond which the eel-wriggler avoid to answer was clearly answered by the Buddha:
MN 117 wrote:And what is wrong view? 'There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed. There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions. There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings; no contemplatives or brahmans who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.' This is wrong view.
That underlined phrase is interesting. What is meant by "there is no this world?"

That is, in what way does the holder of Wrong View deny there is "this world"?

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Re: Eel wriggling vs inappropriate attention?

Post by santa100 » Fri Nov 06, 2015 8:56 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:That underlined phrase is interesting. What is meant by "there is no this world?"
Ven. Bodhi's note from his "Middle Length Discourses":
"no this world, no other world" means no rebirth into this world or a world beyond; "no mother, no father" means no fruit of good/bad conduct towards one's parents; "no recluses and brahmins" means denies existence of Buddhas and Arahants;

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Re: Eel wriggling vs inappropriate attention?

Post by Lazy_eye » Sat Nov 07, 2015 1:41 am

Ok. I don't know Pali and wouldn't have the requisite scholarly tools even if I did, but what stands out for me is that the phrase comes immediately after "there is no fruit or result of good or bad actions." To me, that indicates that it's referring to a (wrong) belief that there is no fruit of kamma in this world or the next.

That would tie in nicely with suttas such as SN 12:46, which discusses "wrong view" understanding of kamma, followed by a presentation of sammaditthi.
Dwelling at Savatthi... Then a certain brahman went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, exchanged courteous greetings with him. After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One: "What now, Master Gotama: Is the one who acts the same one who experiences [the results of the act]?"

[The Buddha:] "[To say,] 'The one who acts is the same one who experiences,' is one extreme."

[The brahman:] "Then, Master Gotama, is the one who acts someone other than the one who experiences?"

[The Buddha:] "[To say,] 'The one who acts is someone other than the one who experiences,' is the second extreme. Avoiding both of these extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma by means of the middle: From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications. From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness. From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form. From name-&-form as a requisite condition come the six sense media. From the six sense media as a requisite condition comes contact. From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling. From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving. From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging/sustenance. From clinging/sustenance as a requisite condition comes becoming. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth. From birth as a requisite condition, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair come into play. Such is the origination of this entire mass of stress & suffering.

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Re: Eel wriggling vs inappropriate attention?

Post by Cittasanto » Sat Nov 07, 2015 2:37 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:In DN 1, the Buddha criticizes "eel-wriggling":
Herein, bhikkhus, a certain recluse or a brahmin is dull and stupid. Due to his dullness and stupidity, when he is questioned about this or that point, he resorts to evasive statements and to endless equivocation: 'If you ask me whether there is a world beyond — if I thought there is another world, I would declare that there is. But I do not take it thus, nor do I take it in that way, nor do I take it in some other way. I do not say that it is not, nor do I say that is neither this nor that.'
The Brahmin is being questioned, and is evasive, not being precise regarding what they claim to know.

But in MN 2, he dismisses a set of rather similar questions as "inappropriate attention":
This is how he attends inappropriately: 'Was I in the past? Was I not in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what was I in the past? Shall I be in the future? Shall I not be in the future? What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? Having been what, what shall I be in the future?' Or else he is inwardly perplexed about the immediate present: 'Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? Where has this being come from? Where is it bound?'
Here there are questions being given sought answers to that the person is looking for answers to, they are not claiming knowledge, but are caught upon a hook of uncertainty.

I don't quite understand the difference between eel-wriggling and the practice of attending appropriately. If you steer clear of inappropriate attention, in effect you are giving the same answer as the eel-wriggler: you do not say what we will be in the future or what we were in the past.
If the "dull and stupid" recluse/brahmin had given definite answers in the passage above, wouldn't he in effect be answering inappropriate questions?
Context is the key to the similarity here, sometimes the questions posited in these passages may be worded in an appropriate way or not, and other times the questions/answers come from an inappropriate way of thinking ans should be put aside for useful questions and answers. So as these two passages have different context the conclusion you come too is wrong because the Buddha certainly did talk about these things at times (and I believe these questions may of even been answered to someone else???). Thanissaro's book a skill in questions(? there are two and I am thinking of the smaller one) maybe useful for you here.
The MN 2 passage is often cited in support of Buddhist agnosticism, while the DN 1 passage is used to oppose it -- but beyond that particular debate, I would like to know how consistency is maintained across the two statements. I'm sure this must have been brought up on DW before, so links to relevant threads would be helpful (in addition to any new responses).
Like I said earlier Context is the key. It is not a case of inconsistency, but rather a case of knowing how to look at the context. the subject matter and who is being spoken too. if I am asked about meditation by a Buddhist I will give one answer, but if I am asked by someone only familiar with Mindfulness-Based approaches I may give a different response simply because the angle each are coming from is slightly different. The examples I use may be essentially similar (as in the quoted text) but the meaning gathered is not.

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Cittasanto
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