A perspective on understanding the Buddha's words

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
char101
Posts: 336
Joined: Wed Nov 04, 2009 1:21 am

A perspective on understanding the Buddha's words

Post by char101 » Tue Jan 14, 2020 7:47 am

I came in a recent paper(2) to the conclusion that a more developed
understanding of those texts requires a significant effort of interpretation of
ideas rather than analysis of language, and that because those ideas were
predominantly concerned with "experiences", such as renunciation, meditation,
faith, attention, motivation, effort, self-awareness, self-regulation,
contemplation, and investigation of transcendental questions and practical
experiences – I judged that, just as a genuine understanding of yoga or of any
sport requires necessarily a degree or another of actually practising and
experiencing of them, likewise a sound interpretation of the ideas contained in
the Pāli texts requires necessarily a degree or another of actual experience by
the interpreter of those ideas; the limitations of the interpreter's experience
being themselves those of how far he or she can develop a sound understanding
of the teachings contained in the text.

Motivation And Effort In Buddhist Soteriology by Mahaviveka (bhikkhu Dhammarakkhita)
https://archive.org/details/MotivationE ... teriology/
---
(2) https://mahaviveka.wordpress.com/2018/0 ... iterature/
Or in other words, the understanding of language might not fully describe the meaning of the teachings of the Buddha. What is written in the texts should only be taken as instructions to practice. From practice, true understanding will grow. Learning -> practice -> understanding. Don't expect to understand the meaning of the words by just reading about it.

For example: citta or consciousness when just learned is a vague word. When practicing vipassana, seeing for yourself the arising and ceasing of citta provides much more insight on the true meaning of the word citta.

User avatar
JamesTheGiant
Posts: 1151
Joined: Fri Jan 02, 2015 8:41 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: A perspective on understanding the Buddha's words

Post by JamesTheGiant » Tue Jan 14, 2020 9:02 am

Absolutely!
Time and time again, I've only realized the meaning of a sutta after experiencing what it talks about.
That's why reading and re-reading a few years later is so useful.

SteRo
Posts: 959
Joined: Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:27 am

Re: A perspective on understanding the Buddha's words

Post by SteRo » Tue Jan 14, 2020 9:27 am

B. Bodhi wrote:Spk: One “fully understands what can be expressed” by way of the three kinds of full understanding: (i) by full understanding of the known (ñātapariññā) ... (ii) by full understanding by scrutinization (tīraṇapariññā) ...(iii) by full understanding as abandonment (pahānapariññā)
One should not overestimate experience because that is based on formations (2nd limb)

char101
Posts: 336
Joined: Wed Nov 04, 2009 1:21 am

Re: A perspective on understanding the Buddha's words

Post by char101 » Tue Jan 14, 2020 9:41 am

SteRo wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 9:27 am
B. Bodhi wrote:Spk: One “fully understands what can be expressed” by way of the three kinds of full understanding: (i) by full understanding of the known (ñātapariññā) ... (ii) by full understanding by scrutinization (tīraṇapariññā) ...(iii) by full understanding as abandonment (pahānapariññā)
One should not overestimate experience because that is based on formations (2nd limb)
I don't quite understand how you go to that conclusion.

ñātapariññā = observation, tīraṇapariññā = investigation of observed phenomena, pahānapariññā = abandoning after observing conditionality of the phenomena.
Thus one will see and understand one of these phenomena as it really is. This
is full understanding of the known (ñātapariññā). One will also see and
understand the characteristic of impermanence and so on, and will see and
understand it as arising and passing away. These are full understanding by
investigation (tīraṇapariññā) and full understanding by abandoning (pahānapariññā).

https://books.google.co.id/books?id=JSQ ... 81&f=false

SteRo
Posts: 959
Joined: Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:27 am

Re: A perspective on understanding the Buddha's words

Post by SteRo » Tue Jan 14, 2020 10:33 am

char101 wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 9:41 am
SteRo wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 9:27 am
B. Bodhi wrote:Spk: One “fully understands what can be expressed” by way of the three kinds of full understanding: (i) by full understanding of the known (ñātapariññā) ... (ii) by full understanding by scrutinization (tīraṇapariññā) ...(iii) by full understanding as abandonment (pahānapariññā)
One should not overestimate experience because that is based on formations (2nd limb)
I don't quite understand how you go to that conclusion.

ñātapariññā = observation, tīraṇapariññā = investigation of observed phenomena, pahānapariññā = abandoning after observing conditionality of the phenomena.
Thus one will see and understand one of these phenomena as it really is. This
is full understanding of the known (ñātapariññā). One will also see and
understand the characteristic of impermanence and so on, and will see and
understand it as arising and passing away. These are full understanding by
investigation (tīraṇapariññā) and full understanding by abandoning (pahānapariññā).

https://books.google.co.id/books?id=JSQ ... 81&f=false
The known, scrutinization and abandonment applies to both, the object experienced and the experience as such.

char101
Posts: 336
Joined: Wed Nov 04, 2009 1:21 am

Re: A perspective on understanding the Buddha's words

Post by char101 » Tue Jan 14, 2020 10:36 am

This sentence from the next paragraph in the book is also interesting
This concern is highly important for the reader to be aware of, in that it will
enable him to remember that whatever it is that he will read anywhere about the
Buddha's teachings, lies somewhere across the spectrum which extends from the
extreme of ambiguous and literal, word-for-word translations of Pāli texts
which offer little or no vibrant meaning, to the other extreme where
interpretations that may be vivid and effective in conveying meaning, are yet
based predominantly on the interpreter's own personal practice and experience
of the Buddhist path, with little or no regard for the text.
In other words, when picking teachings, it is good to stick to the words of a teacher you believe in. While it is ad hominem to judge a sentence by the speaker/writer, in the case of translation/interpretation, the experience of the speaker/writer does matter.

User avatar
DooDoot
Posts: 6889
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:06 pm

Re: A perspective on understanding the Buddha's words

Post by DooDoot » Tue Jan 14, 2020 12:15 pm

char101 wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 7:47 am
Or in other words, the understanding of language might not fully describe the meaning of the teachings of the Buddha.
The above appears to contradict the Dhamma Refuge, which say the Dhamma is well-spoken by the Blessed One. It seems it is due to not understanding language that misunderstanding arises.
char101 wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 7:47 am
What is written in the texts should only be taken as instructions to practice.
If the texts are not understood, then practice probably will be contrary to the texts.
char101 wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 7:47 am
From practice, true understanding will grow.
Wrong practise based on wrong understanding probably won't bring the right results.
char101 wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 7:47 am
For example: citta or consciousness when just learned is a vague word. When practicing vipassana, seeing for yourself the arising and ceasing of citta provides much more insight on the true meaning of the word citta.
The above appears not an example of results of practise but appears imagining what has been read in certain Abhidhamma & Burmese texts. For example, in real practise, citta is known as one thing and consciousness is known as another thing. The sutta texts also tell us citta is an object of consciousness rather than consciousness.
There is always an official executioner. If you try to take his place, It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood. If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.

https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/paticcasamuppada
https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/anapanasati

char101
Posts: 336
Joined: Wed Nov 04, 2009 1:21 am

Re: A perspective on understanding the Buddha's words

Post by char101 » Tue Jan 14, 2020 1:56 pm

DooDoot wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 12:15 pm
The sutta texts also tell us citta is an object of consciousness rather than consciousness.
I don't usually express my opinion is emoticon but when I do

:shrug:

I think beyond using your own interpretation of the sutta you also need to consider common opinion, at least from respectable teachers. In my limited knowledge I never ever come into a view like this, at least in the theravada tradition.

sunnat
Posts: 389
Joined: Tue Apr 02, 2019 5:08 am

Re: A perspective on understanding the Buddha's words

Post by sunnat » Wed Jan 15, 2020 1:20 am

It is when practicing that letting go happens and true wisdom arises. It is that letting go that indicates progress on the path. One may be simple and illiterate and reach the goal and one may have sophisticated book knowledge of the teachings and be far from the goal.

The Buddha, 6 of 6:
"Bhikkus, that one shall here and now make an end of suffering by abandoning the underlying tendency to lust for pleasant mind-feeling, by abolishing the underlying tendency to aversion for painful mind feeling, by extirpating the underlying tendency to ignorance in regard to neither pleasant-nor-painful mind-feeling, by abandoning ignorance and arousing true knowledge - this is possible."

Ajahn Buddhadasa, from: 'Heart-wood from the Bo Tree':

"The most essential meaning of the word 'study' is of the unceasing, dedicated observation and investigation of whatever arises in the mind, be it pleasant or unpleasant.

Only one familiar with observation of mind, can really understand Dhamma.
One who merely reads books cannot understand and what's more, may even go astray. But one who tries to observe things going on in the mind and always takes that which is true in his or her mind as a standard has no way to get muddled. Such a person will be able to comprehend Dukkha and the cessation of Dukkha and ultimately will understand Dhamma.
Then if books are read they will be understood well."

Ajahn Brahm:

"stop"

chownah
Posts: 8631
Joined: Wed Aug 12, 2009 2:19 pm

Re: A perspective on understanding the Buddha's words

Post by chownah » Wed Jan 15, 2020 2:01 am

DooDoot wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 12:15 pm
char101 wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 7:47 am
Or in other words, the understanding of language might not fully describe the meaning of the teachings of the Buddha.
The above appears to contradict the Dhamma Refuge, which say the Dhamma is well-spoken by the Blessed One. It seems it is due to not understanding language that misunderstanding arises.
I see no contradiction here.

A metaphor: wine lovers have developed a special vocabulary of words to describe the qualities of wine. A wine lover might describe a wine by saying "it has rich body with.....etc....., and a fruity flavor with undertones of BS".....and this might be a very good description which can help someone to know if this is the kind of wine one wants to drink and so they might say that the description was "well-spoken".....but....that language does not (and I assert CAN not) describe just exactly what the wine tastes like.

Similarly, the buddha gave a "well-spoken" dhamma but it does not (and I assert CAN not) describe what experiences will arise in an individual when that dhamma is studied nor the precise path that that individual will follow.

The dhamma as revealed in the suttas is clearly ambiguous enough to allow for various interpretations and my view is that this is done purposefully so that various individuals with their various kammic accumulations and various experiences will find resonance...... which can guide them to their goal.
chownah

User avatar
DooDoot
Posts: 6889
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:06 pm

Re: A perspective on understanding the Buddha's words

Post by DooDoot » Wed Jan 15, 2020 3:12 am

char101 wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 1:56 pm
I think beyond using your own interpretation of the sutta you also need to consider common opinion, at least from respectable teachers.
The above comment appears contradicting this thread topic. It sounds like blind faith or idol worship.
char101 wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 1:56 pm
In my limited knowledge I never ever come into a view like this, at least in the theravada tradition.
Yes, in limited knowledge.
chownah wrote:
Wed Jan 15, 2020 2:01 am
Similarly, the buddha gave a "well-spoken" dhamma but it does not (and I assert CAN not) describe what experiences will arise in an individual when that dhamma is studied nor the precise path that that individual will follow.
The well-spoken dhamma exactly describes what experiences will arise. All sotapanna, once-returner, non-returner & Arahant have the same experiences. :smile:
There is always an official executioner. If you try to take his place, It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood. If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.

https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/paticcasamuppada
https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/anapanasati

SteRo
Posts: 959
Joined: Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:27 am

Re: A perspective on understanding the Buddha's words

Post by SteRo » Wed Jan 15, 2020 5:50 am

DooDoot wrote:
Wed Jan 15, 2020 3:12 am
The well-spoken dhamma exactly describes what experiences will arise. All sotapanna, once-returner, non-returner & Arahant have the same experiences. :smile:
If these do have the same experiences then why do they not all have abandoned the same fetters? Obviously "the well-spoken dhamma" states - it does not really 'describe' - that those have different experiences.

User avatar
DooDoot
Posts: 6889
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:06 pm

Re: A perspective on understanding the Buddha's words

Post by DooDoot » Thu Jan 16, 2020 2:48 am

SteRo wrote:
Wed Jan 15, 2020 5:50 am
If these do have the same experiences then why do they not all have abandoned the same fetters?
It was not my intention to say the above. My intention was: all sotapanna have the same experience as other sotapanna, etc.

:focus:
There is always an official executioner. If you try to take his place, It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood. If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.

https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/paticcasamuppada
https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/anapanasati

form
Posts: 1381
Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2016 3:23 am

Re: A perspective on understanding the Buddha's words

Post by form » Thu Jan 16, 2020 9:09 am

This thread so far already demonstrate that different people will see it differently. The Buddha used blind men and the elephant to illustrate this.

SteRo
Posts: 959
Joined: Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:27 am

Re: A perspective on understanding the Buddha's words

Post by SteRo » Thu Jan 16, 2020 10:56 am

DooDoot wrote:
Thu Jan 16, 2020 2:48 am
SteRo wrote:
Wed Jan 15, 2020 5:50 am
If these do have the same experiences then why do they not all have abandoned the same fetters?
It was not my intention to say the above. My intention was: all sotapanna have the same experience as other sotapanna, etc.

:focus:
Not even that can be said because even if two sotapannas may still experience sensual desire they may experience this sensual desire in the context of different objects. Therefore their experience may not be the same.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Baidu [Spider], Dan74 and 279 guests