Page 1 of 5

Alternatives to "moments"

Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2017 7:50 pm
by Coëmgenu
Greetings all,

I have seen criticized, a few times, the notion of "momentariness", as being some sort of innovation, foreign to the "Early Dhamma".

I don't really want to start a conversation/argument, as the internet is often wont to do, about "Early Buddhism" vs "Buddhism", or suttāni vs Abhidhamma/commentary, but on what grounds is momentariness refuted as "unDhammic"?

How can the world not be momentary? Made of myriad overlapping moments (dhammā), lacking substantial graspable identity, outlining an ever-changing all-encompassing impermanence of experience? It seems to me that momentariness is simply impermanence.

I don't even think this "momentariness" is highly related to Buddhism, it just seems like common sense that our experiences occur momentarily, blatantly obvious, but that is just my own thinking. Apparently not only is it not "blatantly obvious" to some, but to some it is wrong altogether, or wrong in some detail that I don't know.

To those who reject momentariness altogether, or who merely reject certain models of momentary existence, on what grounds do you do this and why? I am not trying to critique the "anti-momentariness" perspective, just to try to understand it, because I literally can't even conceive of an alternative.

:anjali:
-Caoimhghín

Re: Alternatives to "moments"

Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2017 8:15 pm
by aflatun
Coëmgenu wrote:Greetings all,

I have seen criticized, a few times, the notion of "momentariness", as being some sort of innovation, foreign to the "Early Dhamma".

I don't really want to start a conversation/argument, as the internet is often wont to do, about "Early Buddhism" vs "Buddhism", or suttāni vs Abhidhamma/commentary, but on what grounds is momentariness refuted as "unDhammic"?

How can the world not be momentary? Made of myriad overlapping moments (dhammā), lacking substantial graspable identity, outlining an ever-changing all-encompassing impermanence of experience? It seems to me that momentariness is simply impermanence.

I don't even think this "momentariness" is highly related to Buddhism, it just seems like common sense that our experiences occur momentarily, blatantly obvious, but that is just my own thinking. Apparently not only is it not "blatantly obvious" to some, but to some it is wrong altogether, or wrong in some detail that I don't know.

To those who reject momentariness altogether, or who merely reject certain models of momentary existence, on what grounds do you do this and why? I am not trying to critique the "anti-momentariness" perspective, just to try to understand it, because I literally can't even conceive of an alternative.

:anjali:
-Caoimhghín

This is a rich and interesting subject, which as you imply has been debated at length here. An example of a prior thread and post on this subject (hopefully this link takes you to Nyana's post):

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... ter#p74163

Without pointing the finger at any individual or school (which is beyond my capacities) I'll try to summarize some of what I think those who argue against it see themselves as criticizing, whether this view is held by anyone or not I'm not sure.

One target is the idea that, for example, this apple I am holding in my hand is a mere construct, a concept, an idea, but what 'is really there' is a fleeting succession of atomic sensations, that is what is *real.* Yes experience can be divided into little bits by our conceptual apparatus, or even discerned as such by a refinement of perception, but this division or perception is something constructed, a conceptual filter if you will.

Another target is the notion that impermanence cannot be grasped unless this 'atomicity' is seen, and that impermanence is therefore precisely about this 'ultimate nature' of things, not about the kind of impermanence we encounter in ordinary experience.

The post I linked you to unpacks some more complex consequences for how NIrvana and Liberation are understood.

(Another good example of a criticism of this point of view is written by Sujato ftp://ttbc.no-ip.org/%A5@%AC%C9%A6U%A6a ... dhamma.pdf )

For my own part I, at the moment and perhaps wrongly, think of impermanence as a perception that is to be cultivated, not a metaphysical attribute of "things" that I need to see, therefore if the cultivation of the perception of momentariness results in dispassion, letting go, etc, I believe its done its job. I would however argue that this has nothing to do with 'how things really are." In other words, momentariness is not some 'primordial given.'

Re: Alternatives to "moments"

Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2017 8:24 pm
by mikenz66
aflatun wrote: (Another good example of a criticism of this point of view is written by Sujato ftp://ttbc.no-ip.org/%A5@%AC%C9%A6U%A6a ... dhamma.pdf )
That wasn't working. Here's one that does:
https://sites.google.com/site/santipada ... abhidhamma

:anjali:
Mike

Re: Alternatives to "moments"

Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2017 8:26 pm
by Sam Vara
I don't even think this "momentariness" is highly related to Buddhism, it just seems like common sense that our experiences occur momentarily, blatantly obvious, but that is just my own thinking. Apparently not only is it not "blatantly obvious" to some, but to some it is wrong altogether, or wrong in some detail that I don't know.
This might be related to how closely we pay attention to it; or how it appears, rather than how we might conceive it has to be. Some meditative states seem "solid" rather than successive moments, and many of us lack the insight to see some types of suffering as anything other than an enduring block of nastiness. Here's Richard Gombrich in a footnote on Impermanence (anicca)
The term "impermanent" does not, of course, necessarily imply that something is changing all the time, and I believe that in some contexts the buddha did not intend the term to carry this strong sense. But expositions gloss this over; and in the abhidhamma the doctrine was systematised to mean constant change: it was even attempted to specify the speed of change.
(What the Buddha Thought, Ch 1, footnote 10)

Re: Alternatives to "moments"

Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2017 8:26 pm
by aflatun
mikenz66 wrote:
aflatun wrote: (Another good example of a criticism of this point of view is written by Sujato ftp://ttbc.no-ip.org/%A5@%AC%C9%A6U%A6a ... dhamma.pdf )
That wasn't working. Here's one that does:
https://sites.google.com/site/santipada ... abhidhamma

:anjali:
Mike
Thank you kind sir :thumbsup:

Re: Alternatives to "moments"

Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2017 8:27 pm
by Goofaholix
Coëmgenu wrote:I don't even think this "momentariness" is highly related to Buddhism, it just seems like common sense that our experiences occur momentarily, blatantly obvious, but that is just my own thinking.
I agree.

Isn't it just an alternative translation of anicca? Anicca is not so much about "things" changing as about the momentariness or inconstancy of phenomenal experience.

Re: Alternatives to "moments"

Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2017 8:32 pm
by SarathW
It seems to me that momentariness is simply impermanence.
Agree.'
I call it time. (not the clock time)
Any smallest part of time can be conceived only by the mind.
So What else you can call it?

Re: Alternatives to "moments"

Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2017 8:33 pm
by Mkoll
aflatun wrote:For my own part I, at the moment and perhaps wrongly, think of impermanence as a perception that is to be cultivated
Yes, this is my approach as well. It is born out in the suttas: see e.g. SN 22.102, AN 7.49, 8.6, 10.60, and many others.

As far as momentariness goes, AN 1.394-574 is basically a list of wholesome dhammas (5 spiritual faculties, Noble Eightfold Path, brahmaviharas, etc.) that if one develops for even a finger snap, one is acting upon the teaching of the Teacher, and how much more so for one who cultivates it. So the benefit of cultivating the Dhamma even for a finger snap (or, a moment) is fruitful, and how much more so for many moments.

That's enough of an understanding of momentariness for me.

Re: Alternatives to "moments"

Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2017 8:43 pm
by mikenz66
The idea of successions of experience is hinted at in the suttas and the Canonical Abhidhamma:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... ts#p411420

We can't be sure, of course, how the billions of mind moments per second, and enumeration of so many moments of adverting/bhavanga/etc in particular sequences developed in the Commentarial literature.

However, the perception of experience breaking up into perhaps dozens of chunks in a second is not uncommon with some development of mindfulness and concentration.

So, did the ancients extrapolate from that? Did they exaggerate the speed? Or did they really experience billions of mind moments per second?

What the other schools say about this aspect would also be interesting.

:anjali:
Mke

Re: Alternatives to "moments"

Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2017 8:47 pm
by retrofuturist
Greetings C,

In short, when one takes a dhamma as existing for even "one moment", they have embraced atomism, fallen into the polarity of existence/non-existence, and fallen away from the understanding that there is merely arising and cessation.

Pegging reality to units of time introduces a layer of fabrication and reification over the top of actuality, and invites misunderstandings about the atemporal causality found in paticcasamuppada.

Metta,
Paul. :)

Re: Alternatives to "moments"

Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2017 8:51 pm
by practitioner
Abhidhamma says consciousness is discrete. Every sense contact involves X number of conscious moments.

Yes, consciousness is not continuous. Citta arise with cetasika and then disappear. Each arising of citta and cetasika is one conscious moment.

Re: Alternatives to "moments"

Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2017 8:54 pm
by mikenz66
retrofuturist wrote: In short, when one takes a dhamma as existing for even "one moment", they have embraced atomism, and fallen away from the understanding that there is merely arising and cessation. Pegging reality to units of time introduces a layer of fabrication and reification over the top of actuality, and invites misunderstandings about the atemporal causality found in paticcasamuppada.
Yes, of course there are layers of fabrication. All experience is fabricated and it's experience we are talking about here...


:anjali:
Mike

Re: Alternatives to "moments"

Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2017 9:05 pm
by Coëmgenu
retrofuturist wrote:Greetings C,

In short, when one takes a dhamma as existing for even "one moment", they have embraced atomism, fallen into the polarity of existence/non-existence, and fallen away from the understanding that there is merely arising and cessation.

Pegging reality to units of time introduces a layer of fabrication and reification over the top of actuality, and invites misunderstandings about the atemporal causality found in paticcasamuppada.

Metta,
Paul. :)
In Theravāda, are not all dhammā without identity (not-self) and without constancy (impermanent) of any sort? Doesn't that negate sabhāva framings of dhammā, rendering them untenable?

Re: Alternatives to "moments"

Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2017 9:10 pm
by aflatun
Coëmgenu wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:Greetings C,

In short, when one takes a dhamma as existing for even "one moment", they have embraced atomism, fallen into the polarity of existence/non-existence, and fallen away from the understanding that there is merely arising and cessation.

Pegging reality to units of time introduces a layer of fabrication and reification over the top of actuality, and invites misunderstandings about the atemporal causality found in paticcasamuppada.

Metta,
Paul. :)
In Theravāda, are not all dhammā without identity (not-self) and without constancy (impermanent) of any sort? Doesn't that negate sabhāva framings of dhammā, rendering them untenable?
I'm not retro, but I think part of the problem is once you posit an "atom" it becomes dubious as to whether one can also maintain not self and impermanence.

An atom would seem to be a self existent experience independent "thing" that is basically a micro self. If you insist that the atom depends on all other atoms, most importantly the fabricating mind that is experiencing it, then I'm personally skeptical of what justifies calling it an atom to begin with, which is my understanding of Nagarjuna's rejection of existence in toto, e.g. what exists in dependence cannot exist. (Which doesn't mean nonexistence is the correct characterization either).

EDIT: But it does appear in so far as its fabricated/constructed

Re: Alternatives to "moments"

Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2017 9:14 pm
by retrofuturist
Greetings C,
In Theravāda, are not all dhammā without identity (not-self) and without constancy (impermanent) of any sort? Doesn't that negate sabhāva framings of dhammā, rendering them untenable?
Yes, they are regarded as such, but often for the wrong reasons, which assert that "because" they last (I.e. exist) for only a moment, they are inconstant and not self. However, that's not what makes them have those attributes.

Rather, they have those qualities "because" they are sankhara - fabrications. They are the fabricated products of ignorance. Being so, how could they ever be said to truly "exist"?... even for one of these fabricated "moments"?

Metta,
Paul. :)