Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
vinasp
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Post by vinasp » Mon Nov 09, 2009 3:32 am

Hi nowheat,

It would appear that the real meaning of the teachings has been lost or is being kept secret. Many discourses contain things which are difficult to understand and for which no explanation is offered. This sutta is one of the most difficult in the entire five nikayas. I will outline some of the problems for you.

1. This is a "late" discourse chronologically and includes earlier material.
2. The opening is in fact an earlier short sutta, so MN 117 is not in fact about noble right concentration.
3. The term "noble right concentration" is strange and rarely found. Right concentration is a factor of the noble eightfold path and so it is already noble, perhaps the intention is just to emphasise this.
4. Most monks were "ordinary men" and so were on the wrong eightfold path, only "noble disciples" were on the noble eightfold path.
5. When the noble eightfold path arises all eight path factors arise together.
6. This is why the other seven factors are said to be needed for, and to support noble right concentration.
7. Right view is the essential path factor, all the other path factors are just by-products of right view.
8. This means that noble right concentration is quite different from the ordinary concentration practice.
9. What MN 117 is really about is the distinction between the "mundane" path and the "supramundane" path.
10. The "mundane" path is the noble eightfold path.

The above draws on my "new interpretation" and is not the "standard" explanation ( if there is one ).

Best wishes, Vincent.

nowheat
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Post by nowheat » Mon Nov 09, 2009 1:18 pm

vinasp wrote:It would appear that the real meaning of the teachings has been lost or is being kept secret. Many discourses contain things which are difficult to understand and for which no explanation is offered. . . . The above draws on my "new interpretation" and is not the "standard" explanation ( if there is one ).
This post gives lots of room for discussion but I think the particular direction of that discussion would be best handled in your thread on the new interpretation of the Pali suttas, Vincent. Here, for the most part, it seems to me it would move us further away from understanding, not toward, and since I have already stated in your thread my reason for disagreeing with your premise, I won't restate it here. I would take up some of your points but am afraid if I do, that discussion of your theory will take over this thread, so perhaps I should not? I do understand that this sutta fits in with your theory, and appreciate the amount of effort you've put into finding evidence to support it.

:namaste:

vinasp
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Post by vinasp » Mon Nov 09, 2009 3:09 pm

Hi nowheat,

On the question about noble right concentration. The earlier short sutta can be found in Connected Discourses page 1537 it has the title "Concentration" It begins : "Bhikkhus, I will teach you noble right concentration with its supports and its accessories. Listen to that ...."
This sutta is only seven lines in length. It is a full explanation of noble right concentration in itself. If you are looking for some further explanation in MN117 then you will not find it because it is not there.
What is being said is that any "one-pointedness" of mind which is found with the other seven path factors is, by definition, noble right concentration. The "learner" ( sekha ) is defined by his possesion of the eight path factors, not yet fully developed. Those on the noble eightfold path can be called "learners" or "noble disciples". The path is "one thing" with eight facets ( limbs ) not eight separate things.
The noble eightfold path is a very bad description of the true path to enlightenment. Its purpose is to make the true path look similar to the wrong eightfold path which most monks were on. So that the puthujjana monks would not realise that they were on the wrong path.
This is just my point of view, there is no need to debate any of it.

Best wishes, Vincent.

nowheat
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Post by nowheat » Mon Nov 09, 2009 7:07 pm

vinasp wrote:On the question about noble right concentration. The earlier short sutta can be found in Connected Discourses page 1537 it has the title "Concentration"... If you are looking for some further explanation in MN117 then you will not find it because it is not there.
And yet you go on to explain how it is there.
What is being said is that any "one-pointedness" of mind which is found with the other seven path factors is, by definition, noble right concentration.
That right concentration is a part of each other factor of the path, is to be found in each other factor seems a valid way of looking at it.

Is the reverse also true? Take for example right view: Does concentration have anything to do with obtaining right view? If so, how so?

:namaste:

nowheat
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Post by nowheat » Wed Nov 11, 2009 2:23 am

Anyone still left standing? That is, anyone who still has an open mind about the premise? I was kind of hoping for discussion but everyone seems to have drifted away, and I'm not really wanting to Expound to a silent audience.

:namaste:

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mikenz66
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Post by mikenz66 » Wed Nov 11, 2009 2:40 am

nowheat wrote:Anyone still left standing? That is, anyone who still has an open mind about the premise? I was kind of hoping for discussion but everyone seems to have drifted away, and I'm not really wanting to Expound to a silent audience.
What was it you wanted further feedback on? The right view without taints or where concentration comes into the Sutta?
If the former, what do you think of this comment?
http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=1814#p23845" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
... the idea of mundane/supermundane right view [in this Sutta] seems to be directly from the Abhidhamma, and is the only Sutta I've read where that sort of exposition is presented. ...
Mike

nowheat
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Post by nowheat » Wed Nov 11, 2009 4:18 am

mikenz66 wrote: What was it you wanted further feedback on? The right view without taints or where concentration comes into the Sutta?
If the former, what do you think of this comment?
http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=1814#p23845" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
... the idea of mundane/supermundane right view [in this Sutta] seems to be directly from the Abhidhamma, and is the only Sutta I've read where that sort of exposition is presented. ...
Mike
Concentration is where I left off, but I'm glad to take up the Abhidamma question. I noticed Bhikkhu Bodhi said the same in the audio talk I've been listening to, and I've seen it in numerous places, the argument in each place is the same "This is the language used in the Abhidhamma" and "This is the only sutta like this" so "it must be a sutta modified by later thinking."

I haven't studied the Abhidhamma but this makes me want to. Just based on what little has been said in defense of this being a corrupt sutta, though, I don't believe the logic holds up. I would hope that the Abhidhamma would draw language from the suttas -- that the two use the same language is not solid evidence, but an interesting theory, which I remain mindful of. And in my reading, having a sutta that preserves unique language or a less ornamented story gives it extra points towards potentially being closer to what was originally taught. The suttas that have huge chunks of language in common with other suttas are the ones I suspect have gotten tangled up, picking up blocks from elsewhere and muddying the thoughts. For example the blocks of description of tenets in the doctrines in this sutta are found in other suttas stuck together with bits from other places in one long chunk, and when the doctrines don't fit well with what's being said in those suttas -- those seem likely to be corrupted. Whereas in this sutta the three doctrines fit with the list of views at the start.

Plus, looking at this sutta through the lens of the Abhidhamma seems to have made it less comprehensible for Bhikkhu Bodhi (and for me) -- which makes it less likely to be what the Buddha taught. The reading I am seeing in it simplifies it and makes it more comprehensible -- though less in line with current thought -- but it seems to me the Buddha was an excellent speaker, clear and straightforward and good at conveying his message. A reading in which all the pieces fit together smoothly should be closer to the original teaching than one that is confusing, unclear, and difficult to understand.

What do you think, Mike?

:namaste:

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mikenz66
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Post by mikenz66 » Wed Nov 11, 2009 4:43 am

I didn't say it was a corrupt sutta, I just wanted to point out the connection with the Abhidhamma, because I've seen it quoted by people who seem to dislike the Abhidhamma, but use this Sutta to expound on right view. Of course, I partly got my information from Bhikkhu Bodhi's talk...

I think that the interesting thing is that super-mundane right view here is really not having a "view":
"And what is the right view that is without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path? The discernment, the faculty of discernment, the strength of discernment, analysis of qualities as a factor for Awakening, the path factor of right view of one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is free from effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path. This is the right view that is without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.
Metta
Mike

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BlackBird
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Post by BlackBird » Wed Nov 11, 2009 5:28 am

Hi all

Is there 'for dummies' guide to this thread?

:anjali:
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta

nowheat
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Post by nowheat » Wed Nov 11, 2009 1:26 pm

BlackBird wrote: Is there 'for dummies' guide to this thread?
Hey BlackBird, I suppose it's about time I do a summary; I'll work on that after I've had a cup of tea.

:namaste:

nowheat
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Post by nowheat » Wed Nov 11, 2009 1:27 pm

I still have a question that does not need to be tied to this sutta, which is "Does concentration have anything to do with obtaining right view? If so, how so?" Think of this is a "real world" question. In your experience, how does the practice of meditation relate to "right view"?

nowheat
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Post by nowheat » Wed Nov 11, 2009 3:45 pm

mikenz66 wrote:I didn't say it was a corrupt sutta
Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that you did. "Corrupt" is my word, after listening to the talk I mentioned, and reading about it on various sites. Also, please don't be alarmed by my use of the word. I don't mean "corrupt" like Mafia infiltration "corrupt" I mean it as in "made inferior by errors or alterations, as a text" (from Dictionary.com).
I think that the interesting thing is that super-mundane right view here is really not having a "view":
"And what is the right view that is without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path? The discernment, the faculty of discernment, the strength of discernment, analysis of qualities as a factor for Awakening, the path factor of right view of one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is free from effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path. This is the right view that is without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.
Interesting indeed. Which part of that quote do you see as meaning that super-mundane right view is not having a view?

:namaste:

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mikenz66
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Post by mikenz66 » Wed Nov 11, 2009 7:24 pm

Hi NoWheat,
nowheat wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:I didn't say it was a corrupt sutta
Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that you did. "Corrupt" is my word, after listening to the talk I mentioned, and reading about it on various sites. Also, please don't be alarmed by my use of the word. I don't mean "corrupt" like Mafia infiltration "corrupt" I mean it as in "made inferior by errors or alterations, as a text" (from Dictionary.com).
That's what I understood "corrupt" to mean in this context.

Mike

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mikenz66
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Post by mikenz66 » Wed Nov 11, 2009 7:33 pm

Hi NoWheat,
nowheat wrote:
mikenz66 wrote: I think that the interesting thing is that super-mundane right view here is really not having a "view":
"And what is the right view that is without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path? The discernment, the faculty of discernment, the strength of discernment, analysis of qualities as a factor for Awakening, the path factor of right view of one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is free from effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path. This is the right view that is without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.
Interesting indeed. Which part of that quote do you see as meaning that super-mundane right view is not having a view?
Do you see any "views" expressed there? It just says that if you have supermundane right view you have discernment, analysis of qualities, and so on. As opposed to the mundane right view, which prescribes particular "views".

This passage reminds me of descriptions of Ajahn Chah by his students (for example, Ajahn Tiradhammo, who I've met a few times). Ajahn T. said that for a while he tried to figure out what Ajahn Chah's opinions were, and he came to the conclusion that Ajahn Chah didn't really have any opinions, one could just observe wisdom operating, according to the particular situation. That's the sort of message I read into the above quote.

See also:
MN 72 Aggi-Vacchagotta Sutta: To Vacchagotta on Fire
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
"Does Master Gotama have any position at all?"

"A 'position,' Vaccha, is something that a Tathagata has done away with. What a Tathagata sees is this: 'Such is form, such its origin, such its disappearance; such is feeling, such its origin, such its disappearance; such is perception... such are mental fabrications... such is consciousness, such its origin, such its disappearance.' Because of this, I say, a Tathagata — with the ending, fading out, cessation, renunciation, & relinquishment of all construings, all excogitations, all I-making & mine-making & obsession with conceit — is, through lack of clinging/sustenance, released."
Metta
Mike

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mikenz66
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Re: Sutta Readers: Shoot Me Down, Please

Post by mikenz66 » Wed Nov 11, 2009 7:45 pm

Hello again NoWheat,
nowheat wrote:I still have a question that does not need to be tied to this sutta, which is "Does concentration have anything to do with obtaining right view? If so, how so?" Think of this is a "real world" question. In your experience, how does the practice of meditation relate to "right view"?
Looking at the Sutta again, I don't really see a problem with it.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
The Buddha starts out with:
The Blessed One said, "Monks, I will teach you noble right concentration with its supports and requisite conditions. Listen, and pay close attention. I will speak."
Then describes the path in great detail, emphasising right view at each step and showing how it, and the other factors build up to right concentration:
"Of those, right view is the forerunner. And how is right view the forerunner? In one of right view, wrong view is abolished. The many evil, unskillful qualities that come into play with wrong view as their condition are also abolished, while the many skillful qualities that have right view as their condition go to the culmination of their development. In one of right resolve, wrong resolve is abolished... In one of right speech, wrong speech is abolished... In one of right action, wrong action is abolished... In one of right livelihood, wrong livelihood is abolished... In one of right effort, wrong effort is abolished... In one of right mindfulness, wrong mindfulness is abolished... In one of right concentration, wrong concentration is abolished...
Unfortunately, the use of ellipses tends to de-emphasise the punch line so let's put the words back:
... The many evil, unskillful qualities that come into play with wrong concentration as their condition are also abolished, while the many skillful qualities that have right concentration as their condition go to the culmination of their development.
Having done that, he finishes off by explaining that noble right concentration isn't an end in itself, but a means to right knowledge and release:
In one of right knowledge, wrong knowledge is abolished... In one of right release, wrong release is abolished. The many evil, unskillful qualities that come into play with wrong release as their condition are also abolished, while the many skillful qualities that have right release as their condition go to the culmination of their development.
Metta
Mike

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