Unconditioned

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Spiny Norman
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Unconditioned

Post by Spiny Norman » Thu Jul 14, 2016 1:37 pm

Given that the unconditioned is an epithet for Nibbana, what are the practical implications of AN 3.47? No arising is seen of what, exactly?

"Bhikkhus, there are these three characteristics that define the conditioned. What three? An arising is seen, a vanishing is seen, and its alteration while it persists is seen. These are the three characteristics that define the conditioned.

Bhikkhus, there are these three characteristics that define the unconditioned. What three? No arising is seen, no vanishing is seen, and no alteration while it persists is seen. These are the three characteristics that define the unconditioned.”

https://suttacentral.net/en/an3.47
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chownah
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Re: Unconditioned

Post by chownah » Thu Jul 14, 2016 2:01 pm

No arising is seen of what, exactly?
Nibbanana.
chownah

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katavedi
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Re: Unconditioned

Post by katavedi » Thu Jul 14, 2016 2:13 pm

chownah wrote:Nibbanana.
Is this some sort of rare and wonderful fruit? (pun intended)
“But, Gotamī, when you know of certain things: ‘These things lead to dispassion, not to passion; to detachment, not to attachment; to diminution, not to accumulation; to having few wishes, not to having many wishes; to contentment, not to discontent; to seclusion, not to socializing; to the arousing of energy, not to indolence; to simple living, not to luxurious living’ – of such things you can be certain: ‘This is the Dhamma; this is the Discipline; this is the Master’s Teaching.’”

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katavedi
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Re: Unconditioned

Post by katavedi » Thu Jul 14, 2016 2:45 pm

Hello Spiny,
Spiny Norman wrote:Given that the unconditioned is an epithet for Nibbana, what are the practical implications of AN 3.47? No arising is seen of what, exactly?
Good topic that you raised.

I've found it more useful to translate asankhata as "unconstructed", meaning that the mind is no longer constructing objects (and, as a result, a subject) out of experience. Thus there is no arising of "things", either "out there" (as objects that define a subject) or "in here" (as a subject that needs objects for its existence).

This is the case with the meditative experience of nibbana, the still point, in which all the constructive activities of the mind have ceased. But I think this sutta could also be referring to the everyday mind of the arahant, who is no longer constructing a subject to whom experience is happening. And with no subject, there can no longer be objects -- just as with no objects, there can be no subject. The two need each other to exist, as the sheaves of reeds simile attests (SN 12.67). It's not that the arahant can't use or recognize what we conventionally call "objects", but s/he is not "thingifying" them in a way that creates an "experiencer".

So, to me, this sutta says that when there is asankhata, there is no arising of "things", either subject or objects, presumably because one has seen that it's the constructive activities of the mind (the sankharas) that create the "things" (particularly the illusion of self).

Kind wishes,
katavedi
“But, Gotamī, when you know of certain things: ‘These things lead to dispassion, not to passion; to detachment, not to attachment; to diminution, not to accumulation; to having few wishes, not to having many wishes; to contentment, not to discontent; to seclusion, not to socializing; to the arousing of energy, not to indolence; to simple living, not to luxurious living’ – of such things you can be certain: ‘This is the Dhamma; this is the Discipline; this is the Master’s Teaching.’”

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Re: Unconditioned

Post by davidbrainerd » Thu Jul 14, 2016 6:15 pm

If Nibbana is merely a "meditative experience" then it is something arisen and conditioned in the mind. I'm finding it impossible to avoid the conclusion that by the unconditoned Buddha means the uncreated essence that is what we truly are, which is why parinibbana is described as unbinding. If you have an object bound in cloth (a sword maybe) and you ubind it then what it truly is becomes apparent whereas before it could have been thought the cloth was part of the object. If you are unbound from the aggreates what are you? They're conditioned but are you also conditioned? How could the conditioned "go to" the unconditioned? It seems ultimately the point is you are already the unconditioned, just wrapped up in the conditioned in such a way that you've begun to identify as the wrapping rather than what's underneath the wrapping. After all the whole notion that things and reality are created by your mind is extremely presumptuous if you are thinking of a conditioned rather than an unconditioned mind creating reality. Its like saying "everything is created by my physical brain, including my physical brain itself"...does not work.

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Re: Unconditioned

Post by Nicolas » Thu Jul 14, 2016 6:29 pm

davidbrainerd wrote:[...]
Mūlapariyāya Sutta (MN 1) wrote: [An untaught ordinary person] perceives Nibbāna as Nibbāna. Having perceived Nibbāna as Nibbāna, he conceives himself as Nibbāna, he conceives himself in Nibbāna, he conceives himself apart from Nibbāna, he conceives Nibbāna to be ‘mine,’ he delights in Nibbāna. Why is that? Because he has not fully understood it, I say.
[...]
[A bhikkhu who is in higher training] directly knows Nibbāna as Nibbāna. Having directly known Nibbāna as Nibbāna, he should not conceive himself as Nibbāna, he should not conceive himself in Nibbāna, he should not conceive himself apart from Nibbāna, he should not conceive Nibbāna to be ‘mine,’ he should not delight in Nibbāna. Why is that? Because he must fully understand it, I say.
[...]
[A bhikkhu who is an arahant with taints destroyed], he too directly knows Nibbāna as Nibbāna. Having directly known Nibbāna as Nibbāna, he does not conceive himself as Nibbāna, he does not conceive himself in Nibbāna, he does not conceive himself apart from Nibbāna, he does not conceive Nibbāna to be ‘mine,’ he does not delight in Nibbāna. Why is that? Because he has fully understood it, I say.

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The Thinker
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Re: Unconditioned

Post by The Thinker » Thu Jul 14, 2016 6:39 pm

katavedi wrote:Hello Spiny,
Spiny Norman wrote:Given that the unconditioned is an epithet for Nibbana, what are the practical implications of AN 3.47? No arising is seen of what, exactly?
Good topic that you raised.

I've found it more useful to translate asankhata as "unconstructed", meaning that the mind is no longer constructing objects (and, as a result, a subject) out of experience. Thus there is no arising of "things", either "out there" (as objects that define a subject) or "in here" (as a subject that needs objects for its existence).

This is the case with the meditative experience of nibbana, the still point, in which all the constructive activities of the mind have ceased. But I think this sutta could also be referring to the everyday mind of the arahant, who is no longer constructing a subject to whom experience is happening. And with no subject, there can no longer be objects -- just as with no objects, there can be no subject. The two need each other to exist, as the sheaves of reeds simile attests (SN 12.67). It's not that the arahant can't use or recognize what we conventionally call "objects", but s/he is not "thingifying" them in a way that creates an "experiencer".

So, to me, this sutta says that when there is asankhata, there is no arising of "things", either subject or objects, presumably because one has seen that it's the constructive activities of the mind (the sankharas) that create the "things" (particularly the illusion of self).

Kind wishes,
katavedi
But all things change, why should this meditative experience be any different?

and if so is the unconditioned a movement?
"Watch your heart, observe. Be the observer, be the knower, not the condition" Ajahn Sumedho volume5 - The Wheel Of Truth

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Re: Unconditioned

Post by davidbrainerd » Thu Jul 14, 2016 6:47 pm

Nicolas wrote:
Mūlapariyāya Sutta (MN 1) wrote: [An untaught ordinary person] perceives Nibbāna as Nibbāna. Having perceived Nibbāna as Nibbāna, he conceives himself as Nibbāna, he conceives himself in Nibbāna, he conceives himself apart from Nibbāna, he conceives Nibbāna to be ‘mine,’ he delights in Nibbāna. Why is that? Because he has not fully understood it, I say.
He has obviously not fully understood it if he thinks he both is and is not nibbana.

If he "conceives himself as Nibbāna" and also "conceives himself apart from Nibbāna" then his mind is obviously given to extreme inconsistency.

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Re: Unconditioned

Post by Nicolas » Thu Jul 14, 2016 6:58 pm

davidbrainerd wrote:He has obviously not fully understood it if he thinks he both is and is not nibbana.

If he "conceives himself as Nibbāna" and also "conceives himself apart from Nibbāna" then his mind is obviously given to extreme inconsistency.
That's not the point. "I am Nibbāna", "I am in Nibbāna", "I am apart from Nibbāna", "Nibbāna is mine" are all incorrect. Sabbe dhamma anatta.

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Re: Unconditioned

Post by davidbrainerd » Thu Jul 14, 2016 7:45 pm

Nicolas wrote:
davidbrainerd wrote:He has obviously not fully understood it if he thinks he both is and is not nibbana.

If he "conceives himself as Nibbāna" and also "conceives himself apart from Nibbāna" then his mind is obviously given to extreme inconsistency.
That's not the point. "I am Nibbāna", "I am in Nibbāna", "I am apart from Nibbāna", "Nibbāna is mine" are all incorrect. Sabbe dhamma anatta.
When I see a sutta that takes every option off the table (you cannot say you are nibbana, nor you are in nibbana, nor you are apart from nibbana meaning not nibbana and not in nibbana, so you cannot say anything at all), especially when so many other suttas are herding you to one of these positions, then I wonder if such an out of place and essentially meaningless and incoherent sutta did not arise by an abbott wanting to just shut all his monks up on the issue by asserting "Buddha said you cannot say anything at all on this subject, so fall in line in saying nothing at all."

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Re: Unconditioned

Post by davidbrainerd » Thu Jul 14, 2016 7:49 pm

There is a similar issue with the question of if the Tagatha continues to exist after parinibbana or not. A sutta is made to take all options off the tablr and just shut everyone up, which I think ultimately damages Buddhism. If we cannot say snything about nibbana, might as well give up. So I cannot fathom how these kind of "just shut up" suttas could be authentic.

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Nicolas
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Re: Unconditioned

Post by Nicolas » Thu Jul 14, 2016 7:57 pm

davidbrainerd wrote:[...]
This is still not the point. There is no "you" in Nibbana. There is no identification. Anatta.
davidbrainerd wrote:the uncreated essence that is what we truly are [...] what are you? [...] are you also conditioned? [...] you are already the unconditioned [...] you've begun to identify as the wrapping rather than what's underneath the wrapping.
There is too much "you" in there. "You" are not the unconditioned. Sabbe dhamma anatta. What's "underneath the wrapping" is not to be identified with.

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Re: Unconditioned

Post by davidbrainerd » Thu Jul 14, 2016 8:04 pm

Nicolas wrote: Sabbe dhamma anatta.
Is Nibbana ever called a dhamma in the suttas?

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Re: Unconditioned

Post by Nicolas » Thu Jul 14, 2016 8:20 pm

Indirectly: Sabbe saṅkhārā aniccā. Sabbe saṅkhārā dukkhā. Sabbe dhammā anattā.

Regardless of the definition of "dhamma", based off of what I quoted from MN 1, one should not conceive of Nibbana as "mine" or "what I am".

Apologies to all for veering somewhat off-topic.

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Re: Unconditioned

Post by Nicolas » Thu Jul 14, 2016 8:28 pm

Itivuttaka 90 wrote: Yāvatā, bhikkhave, dhammā saṅkhatā vā asaṅkhatā vā, virāgo tesaṃ aggamakkhāyati, yadidaṃ madanimmadano pipāsavinayo ālaya­samug­ghāto vaṭṭupacchedo taṇhakkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānaṃ.

Whatever states there are, whether conditioned or unconditioned, of these detachment is reckoned foremost, that is, the subduing of vanity, the elimination of thirst, the removal of reliance, the termination of the round (of rebirths), the destruction of craving, detachment, cessation, Nibbāna. (John D. Ireland)

To whatever extent there are phenomena conditioned or unconditioned, dispassion is declared the foremost among them, that is, the crushing of pride, the removal of thirst, the uprooting of attachment, the termination of the round, the destruction of craving, dispassion, cessation, nibbāna. (Bhikkhu Bodhi)

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Re: Unconditioned

Post by katavedi » Thu Jul 14, 2016 10:12 pm

Hello David,
davidbrainerd wrote:If Nibbana is merely a "meditative experience" then it is something arisen and conditioned in the mind. I'm finding it impossible to avoid the conclusion that by the unconditoned Buddha means the uncreated essence that is what we truly are, which is why parinibbana is described as unbinding. If you have an object bound in cloth (a sword maybe) and you ubind it then what it truly is becomes apparent whereas before it could have been thought the cloth was part of the object. If you are unbound from the aggreates what are you? They're conditioned but are you also conditioned? How could the conditioned "go to" the unconditioned? It seems ultimately the point is you are already the unconditioned, just wrapped up in the conditioned in such a way that you've begun to identify as the wrapping rather than what's underneath the wrapping. After all the whole notion that things and reality are created by your mind is extremely presumptuous if you are thinking of a conditioned rather than an unconditioned mind creating reality. Its like saying "everything is created by my physical brain, including my physical brain itself"...does not work.
Thank you for your reply. I actually didn't say that nibbana was merely a meditative experience. I said that the sutta could certainly apply to the experience of the nibbana element in meditation, by which I mean the occasion in which the mind ceases its constructing, including the constructing of a self, an experiencer, a subject to whom things are happening, and takes as its object the stillness/cessation of constructions itself. When there is unconstructed ("unconditioned" in the OP sutta), there is no more constructing of a self. When the experience of self is stilled and it disappears, even if momentarily, one can then know that it was merely a construction to begin with.
davidbrainerd wrote:If you have an object bound in cloth (a sword maybe) and you ubind it then what it truly is becomes apparent whereas before it could have been thought the cloth was part of the object.
To use this analogy, it would be more accurate to say that when you remove the cloth, there is no sword there. It was an assumption, based on the appearance of the cloth.
davidbrainerd wrote:If you are unbound from the aggreates what are you?
This seems to posit a "you" to begin with, which I can't agree to.
davidbrainerd wrote:They're conditioned but are you also conditioned?
Yes, in the sense that "you" is a construction, a sankhara.
davidbrainerd wrote:How could the conditioned "go to" the unconditioned?
When constructing stops, there is asankhata, unconstructed.
davidbrainerd wrote:It seems ultimately the point is you are already the unconditioned, just wrapped up in the conditioned in such a way that you've begun to identify as the wrapping rather than what's underneath the wrapping.
If there is asankhata, unconstructed, there would not be any "you" to be "the unconstructed".
davidbrainerd wrote:After all the whole notion that things and reality are created by your mind is extremely presumptuous if you are thinking of a conditioned rather than an unconditioned mind creating reality. Its like saying "everything is created by my physical brain, including my physical brain itself"...does not work.
I wouldn't say that reality is created by the mind, only the mistaken perception of reality -- that there are inherently existing "things" (including a "me"), rather than dependently arisen phenomena that are impermanent, dukkha, and without essence.

Kind wishes,
katavedi
“But, Gotamī, when you know of certain things: ‘These things lead to dispassion, not to passion; to detachment, not to attachment; to diminution, not to accumulation; to having few wishes, not to having many wishes; to contentment, not to discontent; to seclusion, not to socializing; to the arousing of energy, not to indolence; to simple living, not to luxurious living’ – of such things you can be certain: ‘This is the Dhamma; this is the Discipline; this is the Master’s Teaching.’”

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katavedi
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Re: Unconditioned

Post by katavedi » Thu Jul 14, 2016 10:22 pm

Hello Thinker,
The Thinker wrote: But all things change, why should this meditative experience be any different?
Yes, all things change, but nibbana is not a thing; it is the cessation of things. The mind stops constructing things, especially the dearest and most delusive thing of all --- me.
The Thinker wrote:and if so is the unconditioned a movement?
I'm afraid I don't understand that question, my friend, so I don't know how to answer that. But it's probably best understood without the article "the" attached to "unconditioned" (or "unconstructed", as I think of it). That way we don't turn it into another "thing".

Kind wishes,
katavedi
“But, Gotamī, when you know of certain things: ‘These things lead to dispassion, not to passion; to detachment, not to attachment; to diminution, not to accumulation; to having few wishes, not to having many wishes; to contentment, not to discontent; to seclusion, not to socializing; to the arousing of energy, not to indolence; to simple living, not to luxurious living’ – of such things you can be certain: ‘This is the Dhamma; this is the Discipline; this is the Master’s Teaching.’”

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Re: Unconditioned

Post by retrofuturist » Thu Jul 14, 2016 10:43 pm

Greetings Spiny,

I was going make a comment, but what Katavedi said here...
katavedi wrote:Yes, all things change, but nibbana is not a thing; it is the cessation of things. The mind stops constructing things, especially the dearest and most delusive thing of all --- me.
... and what the Buddha said here...
Sn 757-758, Dvayatānupassanāsutta wrote:"In whatever way they imagine,
Thereby it turns otherwise,
That itself is the falsity
Of this puerile deceptive thing.
Nibbāna is unfalsifying in its nature,
That they understood as the truth,
And indeed by the higher understanding of that truth
They have become hungerless and fully appeased.
...should suffice.

All the best.

Metta,
Paul. :)
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Re: Unconditioned

Post by davidbrainerd » Fri Jul 15, 2016 12:06 am

katavedi wrote: the occasion in which the mind ceases its constructing, including the constructing of a self, an experiencer, a subject to whom things are happening, and takes as its object the stillness/cessation of constructions itself. When there is unconstructed ("unconditioned" in the OP sutta), there is no more constructing of a self. When the experience of self is stilled and it disappears, even if momentarily, one can then know that it was merely a construction to begin with.
What you're saying is not so different from what I'm saying except you think of self always as the physical "self". When you stop constructing the the physical "self" its because you the unconditioned self stopped constructing a physical "self"....how were you constructing a physical "self" to begin with if there was no non-physical self to do the constructing?

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katavedi
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Re: Unconditioned

Post by katavedi » Fri Jul 15, 2016 12:50 am

Hello David,
davidbrainerd wrote:
katavedi wrote: the occasion in which the mind ceases its constructing, including the constructing of a self, an experiencer, a subject to whom things are happening, and takes as its object the stillness/cessation of constructions itself. When there is unconstructed ("unconditioned" in the OP sutta), there is no more constructing of a self. When the experience of self is stilled and it disappears, even if momentarily, one can then know that it was merely a construction to begin with.
What you're saying is not so different from what I'm saying except you think of self always as the physical "self". When you stop constructing the the physical "self" its because you the unconditioned self stopped constructing a physical "self"....how were you constructing a physical "self" to begin with if there was no non-physical self to do the constructing?
I'd have to disagree with you here. I think what we're saying is quite different. Please correct me if I'm misrepresenting you, but you seem to be positing an "unconditioned self", which to me is a contradiction in terms. This is because it is possible to see and experience that the self illusion (in whatever way one may conceive of it) is conditioned, dependently arisen, subject to arising and subject to cessation.

You said above that I "think of self always as the physical "self"". But that is not true at all. I don't think of a self, physical or otherwise. If one is constructing a self, it's not the "unconditioned" or "non-physical" self doing the constructing. It's only sankharas, conditioned by ignorance, doing the constructing. There's no one behind it all. With the cessation of ignorance, there is no more constructing (i.e., no more sankharas).

It can be difficult to reason it out, because it's hard to step outside of thinking in terms of entities. One might say, "Well, if there's no me, then who is typing this?" But this is just running in circles, assuming a "who" behind experience. We can't even use our language to explain it very effectively, because the language is based on nouns (things, entities). The key is to get beyond positing a "what" or a "who" and see that there is only dependent arising at play.

Kind wishes,
katavedi
“But, Gotamī, when you know of certain things: ‘These things lead to dispassion, not to passion; to detachment, not to attachment; to diminution, not to accumulation; to having few wishes, not to having many wishes; to contentment, not to discontent; to seclusion, not to socializing; to the arousing of energy, not to indolence; to simple living, not to luxurious living’ – of such things you can be certain: ‘This is the Dhamma; this is the Discipline; this is the Master’s Teaching.’”

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