A Theory of Eel Wrigglers

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
Post Reply
rolling_boulder
Posts: 284
Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2013 4:01 am

A Theory of Eel Wrigglers

Post by rolling_boulder » Fri Aug 08, 2014 3:51 am

Hello,
'If you ask me if there exists another world [after death], if I thought that there exists another world, would I declare that to you? I don't think so. I don't think in that way. I don't think otherwise. I don't think not. I don't think not not. If you asked me if there isn't another world... both is and isn't... neither is nor isn't... if there are beings who transmigrate... if there aren't... both are and aren't... neither are nor aren't... if the Tathagata exists after death... doesn't... both... neither exists nor exists after death, would I declare that to you? I don't think so. I don't think in that way. I don't think otherwise. I don't think not. I don't think not not.'
- Sanjaya Belatthputta (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanjaya_Belatthaputta)
In the Brahmajala Sutta (DN 1), Sanjaya's views are deemed to be amaravikkhepavad, "a theory of eel-wrigglers."
In what way does this view differ from the Buddha's view?

I am struggling to understand how this is not the same as abandoning the concept of self.
As far as I am aware, the Buddha encouraged suspension of judgement until sufficient insight is developed. It seems that Sanjaya suspends his judgement as well, is it not the case?

Where does the Buddha refute such agnosticism?

Thanks very much for any information. :reading:
The world is swept away. It does not endure...
The world is without shelter, without protector...
The world is without ownership. One has to pass on, leaving everything behind...
The world is insufficient, insatiable, a slave to craving.

User avatar
Mkoll
Posts: 6529
Joined: Wed Dec 05, 2012 6:55 pm
Location: Texas

Re: A Theory of Eel Wrigglers

Post by Mkoll » Fri Aug 08, 2014 4:17 am

rolling_boulder wrote:In what way does this view differ from the Buddha's view?
What is the "Buddha's view"? That's a novel concept to me.
rolling_boulder wrote:I am struggling to understand how this is not the same as abandoning the concept of self.
As far as I am aware, the Buddha encouraged suspension of judgement until sufficient insight is developed. It seems that Sanjaya suspends his judgement as well, is it not the case?

Where does the Buddha refute such agnosticism?

Thanks very much for any information. :reading:
Contrast the eel-wriggling attitude with that of a relevant excerpt from the Canki Sutta, below.
MN 95, Canki Sutta wrote:"It's not only out of conviction, Master Gotama, that the brahmans honor this. They also honor it as unbroken tradition."

"Bharadvaja, first you went by conviction. Now you speak of unbroken tradition. There are five things that can turn out in two ways in the here-&-now. Which five? Conviction, liking, unbroken tradition, reasoning by analogy, & an agreement through pondering views. These are the five things that can turn out in two ways in the here-&-now. Now some things are firmly held in conviction and yet vain, empty, & false. Some things are not firmly held in conviction, and yet they are genuine, factual, & unmistaken. Some things are well-liked... truly an unbroken tradition... well-reasoned... Some things are well-pondered and yet vain, empty, & false. Some things are not well-pondered, and yet they are genuine, factual, & unmistaken. In these cases it isn't proper for a knowledgeable person who safeguards the truth to come to a definite conclusion, 'Only this is true; anything else is worthless."

"But to what extent, Master Gotama, is there the safeguarding of the truth? To what extent does one safeguard the truth? We ask Master Gotama about the safeguarding of the truth."

"If a person has conviction, his statement, 'This is my conviction,' safeguards the truth. But he doesn't yet come to the definite conclusion that 'Only this is true; anything else is worthless.' To this extent, Bharadvaja, there is the safeguarding of the truth. To this extent one safeguards the truth. I describe this as the safeguarding of the truth. But it is not yet an awakening to the truth.

"If a person likes something... holds an unbroken tradition... has something reasoned through analogy... has something he agrees to, having pondered views, his statement, 'This is what I agree to, having pondered views,' safeguards the truth. But he doesn't yet come to the definite conclusion that 'Only this is true; anything else is worthless.' To this extent, Bharadvaja, there is the safeguarding of the truth. To this extent one safeguards the truth. I describe this as the safeguarding of the truth. But it is not yet an awakening to the truth.
Do you see the difference between them?
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

culaavuso
Posts: 1363
Joined: Sat Jan 11, 2014 8:27 pm

Re: A Theory of Eel Wrigglers

Post by culaavuso » Fri Aug 08, 2014 5:14 am

rolling_boulder wrote: As far as I am aware, the Buddha encouraged suspension of judgement until sufficient insight is developed. It seems that Sanjaya suspends his judgement as well, is it not the case?

Where does the Buddha refute such agnosticism?
Sanjaya's equivocation was described in DN 1:
DN 1: Brahmajāla Sutta wrote: "There are, bhikkhus, some recluses and brahmins who are endless equivocators. When questioned about this or that point, on four grounds they resort to evasive statements and to endless equivocation. And owing to what, with reference to what, do these honorable recluses and brahmins do so?

"Herein, bhikkhus, a certain recluse or a brahmin does not understand as it really is what is wholesome and what is unwholesome. He thinks: 'I do not understand as it really is what is wholesome and what is unwholesome. If, without understanding, I were to declare something to be wholesome or unwholesome, my declaration might be false. If my declaration should be false, that would distress me, and that distress would be an obstacle for me.' Therefore, out of fear and loathing of making a false statement, he does not declare anything to be wholesome or unwholesome. But when he is questioned about this or that point, he resorts to evasive statements and to endless equivocation: "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 it is neither this nor that.'
This is discussed in comparison with the Buddha in AN 10.94:
AN 10.94: Vajjiyamāhita Sutta wrote: When this was said, one of the wanderers said to Vajjiya Mahita the householder, "Now wait a minute, householder. This contemplative Gotama whom you praise is a nihilist, one who doesn't declare anything."

"I tell you, venerable sirs, that the Blessed One righteously declares that 'This is skillful.' He declares that 'This is unskillful.' Declaring that 'This is skillful' and 'This is unskillful,' he is one who has declared [a teaching]. He is not a nihilist, one who doesn't declare anything."

santa100
Posts: 3949
Joined: Fri Jun 10, 2011 10:55 pm

Re: A Theory of Eel Wrigglers

Post by santa100 » Fri Aug 08, 2014 2:00 pm

rolling_boulder wrote:Hello,
'If you ask me if there exists another world [after death], if I thought that there exists another world, would I declare that to you? I don't think so. I don't think in that way. I don't think otherwise. I don't think not. I don't think not not. If you asked me if there isn't another world... both is and isn't... neither is nor isn't... if there are beings who transmigrate... if there aren't... both are and aren't... neither are nor aren't... if the Tathagata exists after death... doesn't... both... neither exists nor exists after death, would I declare that to you? I don't think so. I don't think in that way. I don't think otherwise. I don't think not. I don't think not not.'
...In what way does this view differ from the Buddha's view?
The paragraph following the above paragraph in DN 2. presents the clear difference. It actually provides the background story to DN 2: the Buddha gave the discourse on the fruits of the contemplative life to King Ajatasattu on request by him after the king has already posed in vain to six different famous philosophers (including the eel-wriggling teacher Belatthaputta):
DN 2. wrote:King Ajatasattu: "Thus, when asked about a fruit of the contemplative life, visible here and now, Sañjaya Belatthaputta answered with evasion. Just as if a person, when asked about a mango, were to answer with a breadfruit; or, when asked about a breadfruit, were to answer with a mango: In the same way, when asked about a fruit of the contemplative life, visible here and now, Sañjaya Belatthaputta answered with evasion. The thought occurred to me: 'This — among these brahmans and contemplatives — is the most foolish and confused of all. How can he, when asked about a fruit of the contemplative life, visible here and now, answer with evasion?' Still the thought occurred to me: 'How can anyone like me think of disparaging a brahman or contemplative living in his realm?' Yet I neither delighted in Sañjaya Belatthaputta's words nor did I protest against them. Neither delighting nor protesting, I was dissatisfied. Without expressing dissatisfaction, without accepting his teaching, without adopting it, I got up from my seat and left."

meindzai
Posts: 595
Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2009 8:10 pm

Re: A Theory of Eel Wrigglers

Post by meindzai » Fri Aug 08, 2014 6:17 pm

rolling_boulder wrote: I am struggling to understand how this is not the same as abandoning the concept of self.
As far as I am aware, the Buddha encouraged suspension of judgement until sufficient insight is developed. It seems that Sanjaya suspends his judgement as well, is it not the case?
Good answers above.

I think suspension of judgement is practical, skillful means of approaching views for those willing to admit they don't know, while eel-wriggling is kind of deliberately evasive, and a rhetorical advice by people who claim something just isn't knowable. The Buddha claimed that we can certainly know about all these things, but that until we do, we have to adopt those views that are the most beneficial to our practice. Sanjaya Belatthputta seems to be avoiding the issue altogether.

-Dave K

User avatar
martinfrank
Posts: 272
Joined: Fri Feb 05, 2010 7:55 am
Location: Zurich, Switzerland
Contact:

Re: A Theory of Eel Wrigglers

Post by martinfrank » Fri Aug 08, 2014 7:42 pm

meindzai wrote:
rolling_boulder wrote: I am struggling to understand how this is not the same as abandoning the concept of self.
As far as I am aware, the Buddha encouraged suspension of judgement until sufficient insight is developed. It seems that Sanjaya suspends his judgement as well, is it not the case?
Good answers above.

I think suspension of judgement is practical, skillful means of approaching views for those willing to admit they don't know, while eel-wriggling is kind of deliberately evasive, and a rhetorical advice by people who claim something just isn't knowable. The Buddha claimed that we can certainly know about all these things, but that until we do, we have to adopt those views that are the most beneficial to our practice. Sanjaya Belatthputta seems to be avoiding the issue altogether.

-Dave K
From a meditation point of view, the questions which Lord Buddha did not answer are questions where each opinion or view would block us in meditation because these are questions which cannot be answered with words. Truth and Knowledge of Truth extend beyond the scope of words. Words represent concepts and concepts which mean something are always dependent on other concepts which mean something different. To advance in meditation we have to consider the undeclared as undeclared and leave it at that.
The Noble Eightfold Path: Proposed to all, imposed on none.

User avatar
Goofaholix
Posts: 2989
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 3:49 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: A Theory of Eel Wrigglers

Post by Goofaholix » Fri Aug 08, 2014 8:00 pm

I think the main difference between suspension of judgement and eel wriggling is one of motivation/intention.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

meindzai
Posts: 595
Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2009 8:10 pm

Re: A Theory of Eel Wrigglers

Post by meindzai » Fri Aug 08, 2014 8:03 pm

martinfrank wrote: From a meditation point of view, the questions which Lord Buddha did not answer are questions where each opinion or view would block us in meditation because these are questions which cannot be answered with words. Truth and Knowledge of Truth extend beyond the scope of words. Words represent concepts and concepts which mean something are always dependent on other concepts which mean something different. To advance in meditation we have to consider the undeclared as undeclared and leave it at that.
I agree there are certain things that cannot be completely conveyed verbally. But the Buddha never said that he *couldn't* explain something. He tended to say that it wasn't worth discussing or that it was based on incorrect assumptions to begin with. Otherwise, he certainly was never at a loss for words!

-Dave K

culaavuso
Posts: 1363
Joined: Sat Jan 11, 2014 8:27 pm

Re: A Theory of Eel Wrigglers

Post by culaavuso » Fri Aug 08, 2014 8:27 pm

martinfrank wrote: From a meditation point of view, the questions which Lord Buddha did not answer are questions where each opinion or view would block us in meditation because these are questions which cannot be answered with words.
These limitations of language are discussed in a few different suttas
DN 15: Mahānidāna Sutta wrote: It is to this extent, Ānanda, that one can be born, age, and die, pass away and re-arise, to this extent that there is a pathway for designation, to this extent that there is a pathway for language, to this extent that there is a pathway for description, to this extent that there is a sphere for wisdom, to this extent that the round turns for describing this state of being, that is, when there is mentality-materiality together with consciousness.
...
Ānanda, if anyone should say of a bhikkhu whose mind has been thus liberated, that he holds the view ‘A Tathāgata exists after death’—that would not be proper; or that he holds the view ‘A Tathāgata does not exist after death’—that would not be proper; or that he holds the view ‘A Tathāgata both exists and does not exist after death’—that would not be proper; or that he holds the view ‘A Tathāgata neither exists nor does not exist after death’—that would not be proper. For what reason? Because that bhikkhu is liberated by directly knowing this: the extent of designation and the extent of the pathway for designation, the extent of language and the extent of the pathway for language, the extent of description and the extent of the pathway for description, the extent of wisdom and the extent of the sphere for wisdom, the extent of the round and the extent to which the round turns.
AN 4.174: Mahākoṭṭhita Sutta wrote: However far the six contact-media go, that is how far objectification goes. However far objectification goes, that is how far the six contact media go. With the remainderless fading & stopping of the six contact-media, there comes to be the stopping, the allaying of objectification.
MN 44: Cūḷavedalla Sutta wrote: "What lies on the other side of Unbinding?"

"You've gone too far, friend Visakha. You can't keep holding on up to the limit of questions."

User avatar
Mkoll
Posts: 6529
Joined: Wed Dec 05, 2012 6:55 pm
Location: Texas

Re: A Theory of Eel Wrigglers

Post by Mkoll » Fri Aug 08, 2014 8:35 pm

culaavuso wrote:These limitations of language are discussed in a few different suttas
Here's another one:
K.R. Norman's translation of Sutta Nipata 5.7, lines 1075-1076 wrote:1075. 'He who has gone out, does he not exist, or does he remain unimpaired for ever? Explain this to me well, sage, for thus is this doctrine known to you.'

1076. 'There is no measuring of one who has gone out, Upasīva,' said the Blessed One. 'That no longer exists for him by which they might speak of him. When all phenomena have been removed, then all ways of speaking are also removed.'
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 17397
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: Aotearoa, New Zealand

Re: A Theory of Eel Wrigglers

Post by mikenz66 » Fri Aug 08, 2014 8:55 pm

And here's Ven Nanananda's comments on that passage: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... ad#p103112

:anjali:
Mike

User avatar
Mkoll
Posts: 6529
Joined: Wed Dec 05, 2012 6:55 pm
Location: Texas

Re: A Theory of Eel Wrigglers

Post by Mkoll » Fri Aug 08, 2014 8:58 pm

mikenz66 wrote:And here's Ven Nanananda's comments on that passage: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... ad#p103112

:anjali:
Mike
:thanks: for that Mike.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: cappuccino, Dan74, Jeremy and 71 guests