Upādāna as fuel or sustenance

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Sam Vara
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Upādāna as fuel or sustenance

Post by Sam Vara » Fri Dec 27, 2019 11:59 pm

Several modern commentators have explained the term upādāna and its relationship to metaphors of burning by saying how it means both 1) "grasping"/"attachment" as mental activities, and 2) the material substrate or fuel which allows burning to take place.

Ajahn Thanissaro, for example, uses this dual meaning several times, most notably in Mind like Fire Unbound.
Upādāna carries both of its meanings — clinging & sustenance — when applied to the mind. It refers on the one hand both to mental clinging & to the object clung to, and on the other to both the act of taking mental sustenance & the sustenance itself.
and
Once a fire has been provoked, it needs 'upādāna' — commonly translated as fuel — to continue burning. Upādāna has other meanings besides fuel, though — one is the nourishment that sustains the life & growth of a tree — and as we will see below, wind can also function as a fire's upādāna. Thus, 'sustenance' would seem to be a more precise translation for the term.
Similarly, Gombrich, in What the Buddha Thought, says that the Pali term has an abstract meaning of grasping, and a more concrete meaning of sustenance or fuel for a process. Missing this double meaning makes the metaphors about fire, extinguishing, cooling, etc., harder to understand.

The P.E.D. linked on Sutta Central agrees:
upādāna
neuter

taking as one’s own, laying hold of, grasping.
material support or cause, fuel; (it is often difficult to determine which meaning is intended; both reinforce each other: previous grasping produces fuel, which is itself then grasped).
The former meaning is easy to accept, in the sense of "taking up". upa-ādāna

But is there anywhere in the canon a clear use of the term as equivalent merely to "fuel" or "sustenance for a process"? How do we know from the context that upādāna has this second sense?

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DooDoot
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Re: Upādāna as fuel or sustenance

Post by DooDoot » Sat Dec 28, 2019 12:41 am

Sam Vara wrote:
Fri Dec 27, 2019 11:59 pm
Once a fire has been provoked, it needs 'upādāna' — commonly translated as fuel — to continue burning.
To me, the above is a confusing metaphor because the fire must also begin with fuel rather than only be maintained by fuel. Since fuel must start the fire (of craving), it doesn't make sense, to me, upadana is the same as the original fuel (because, in dependent origination, the craving arises before the upadana).

Upadana is related to thinking, such as: "Its getting colder, I should add more logs to the fire". Upadana does not sound like "fuel" but sounds like deciding to take dependence or reliance on the fuel. This dependent or reliance might be the dictionary meaning of "support".

Upadana is thinking. It is a decision. Where as the motivational energy/fuel/fire of craving is not thinking. It is an energy.

Your wife may keep you warm in bed at night but the upadana is not the warmth of your wife but your decision to take reliance or dependence upon your wife. Imo.

In short, at upadana, the decision is made to rely on or to use as support the prior arising craving. :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.

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JohnK
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Re: Upādāna as fuel or sustenance

Post by JohnK » Sat Dec 28, 2019 5:03 am

Sam Vara wrote:
Fri Dec 27, 2019 11:59 pm
...But is there anywhere in the canon a clear use of the term as equivalent merely to "fuel" or "sustenance for a process"? How do we know from the context that upādāna has this second sense?
Doesn't "aggregates of clinging" imply that the aggregates (when viewed with ignorance) are the fuel or sustenance for the process/activity of clinging? The other classes of upadana seem to imply the same. (I may well be missing something.)
:anjali:
Those who grasp at perceptions & views wander the internet creating friction. [based on Sn4:9,v.847]

SarathW
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Re: Upādāna as fuel or sustenance

Post by SarathW » Sat Dec 28, 2019 6:01 am

I think he is trying to marry the following two sutta.
:shrug:

Ahara Sutta:
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html

Upadana sutta:
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

Srilankaputra
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Re: Upādāna as fuel or sustenance

Post by Srilankaputra » Sat Dec 28, 2019 6:33 am

Sam Vara wrote:
Fri Dec 27, 2019 11:59 pm
sustains the life & growth of a tree
MN1 wrote: Nandī dukkhassa mūlan’ti

delight is the root of suffering
MN44 wrote: But ma’am, is that grasping the exact same thing as the five grasping aggregates? Or is grasping one thing and the five grasping aggregates another?”

“That grasping is not the exact same thing as the five grasping aggregates. Nor is grasping one thing and the five grasping aggregates another.

The desire and greed for the five grasping aggregates is the grasping there.”


I think the simile with fire becomes clear if we look at the base of a flame. The flame appears to cling to the wick as well as obtain its nourishment from it.
Gombrich, in What the Buddha Thought, says that the Pali term has an abstract meaning of grasping, and a more concrete meaning of sustenance or fuel for a process. Missing this double meaning makes the metaphors about fire, extinguishing, cooling, etc., harder to understand.
Washing my feet, I noticed
the
water.

And in watching it flow from high
to
low,
my heart was composed
like a fine thoroughbred steed.

Then taking a lamp, I entered the hut,
checked the bedding,
sat down on the bed.
And taking a pin, I pulled out the wick:
Like the flame's unbinding
was the liberation
of awareness.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
I don't know if you have seen this type of oil lamp where the wick is held inside a metal cylinder made by rolling a flat piece matal, where the ends meet there is a gap. By using a pin through this gap the wick can be moved up and down. When the wick is moved right down I think it would appear like the base of the flame detaches from the wick and extinguishes.
This is the deathless, namely the liberation of the mind through not grasping.
Etaṃ amataṃ yadidaṃ anupādā cittassa vimokkho.
O seeing one,we for refuge go to thee!
O mighty sage do thou our teacher be!

Paccuppannañca yo dhammaṃ,
Tattha tattha vipassati

“Yato yato mano nivāraye,
Na dukkhameti naṃ tato tato;
Sa sabbato mano nivāraye,
Sa sabbato dukkhā pamuccatī”ti.

santa100
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Re: Upādāna as fuel or sustenance

Post by santa100 » Sun Dec 29, 2019 2:31 am

Sam Vara wrote:The former meaning is easy to accept, in the sense of "taking up". upa-ādāna

But is there anywhere in the canon a clear use of the term as equivalent merely to "fuel" or "sustenance for a process"? How do we know from the context that upādāna has this second sense?
From SN 44.9:
It is fitting for you to be perplexed, Vaccha, it is fitting for you to doubt. Doubt has arisen in you about a perplexing matter. I declare, Vaccha, rebirth for one with fuel, not for one without fuel. Just as a fire burns with fuel, but not without fuel, so, Vaccha, I declare rebirth for one with fuel, not for one without fuel."
And Ven. Bodhi's note from "Connected Discourses":
"Sa-upādānassa khvāhaṃ Vaccha upapattiṃ paññāpemi no anupādānassa". There is a double meaning here, with upādāna meaning both “fuel” and subjective “clinging,” but I have translated the sentence in consonance with the following simile. It was also in a discourse to Vacchagotta that the Buddha used his famous simile of the fire that goes out from lack of fuel to illustrate the status of one who has attained Nibbāna; see MN I 487,11–30.

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mikenz66
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Re: Upādāna as fuel or sustenance

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Dec 29, 2019 2:59 am

Bhikkhu Ñānananda has a transcribed talk: Nibbāna and The Fire Simile that discusses some of the issues, in his characteristic direct approach.
https://seeingthroughthenet.net/books/
Ñānananda wrote:According to the Buddha the totality of existence is
comparable to a fire. It is a fire which, as a rule, is dependent on
some fuel or other, which is called 'upādāna' – the term for
grasping as well as for fuel. A fire grasps, grabs, seizes or holds
on to the fuel which it consumes. Its extinction – the proverbial
'going out' – is Nibbāna. For the Buddha, nibbāna is not a
destination after death. The most telling evidence we get is his
lion's roar in the Udumbarika Sãhanāda Sutta.
...
Ñānananda wrote: .... It is this simile of the whirlpool that holds the answer to the
question about the after-death state of the arahant.

The answer is already implicit in the statement: 'The fire
has gone out.' How ridiculous it is to conclude that the fire goes [7]
somewhere when it goes out. If one asks whether the
extinguished fire has gone to the East or West or North or South,
it is a foolish question. If something exists depending on causes
and conditions, when those causes and conditions are removed,
it has to cease. This truth is implicit in the dictum 'bhavanirodho [8]
nibbānam'. 'Cessation of existence is extinction (or Nibbāna).'
The cessation of existence itself is Nibbāna. Apart from this
there is no other Nibbāna. What the Buddha points out to us is
the fact that this Nibbāna is to be realized here and now.

[7] There is a flush of Buddhist literature thriving in the
West which attempts to interpret this fire simile in the
light of the Vedic myth that the extinguished fire 'goes
into hiding'. Though the Buddha succeeded in
convincing the Brahmin interlocutors of the
dependently arisen nature of fire by the reductio-ad-
absurdum method, these scholars seem to be impervious
to his arguments. What is worse, misinterpretations
have even sought refuge in blatant mis-translations of
sacred texts.

[8] The term 'extinction' is anathema to the West in general.
Perhaps as a euphemism, 'extinguishment' might be
'passable'. But rather than playing with the 'fire-simile' it
is better to accept the obvious conclusions, willy nilly.

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Pondera
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Re: Upādāna as fuel or sustenance

Post by Pondera » Sun Dec 29, 2019 5:59 am

“The desire and greed for the grasping aggregates is the grasping there.”

As Sarath points out in the suttas he linked - one grows unattached you the five clinging aggregates when one reflects on their draw backs.

The draw backs are that they are impermanent, unsatisfactory, and not-self.

One penetrates into the three marks of existence through concentration.

One develops concentration through serenity.

The path to vipasanna is blazed by serenity insight.

Pulsar
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Re: Upādāna as fuel or sustenance

Post by Pulsar » Mon Dec 30, 2019 1:30 pm

Srilankaputa wrote
I don't know if you have seen this type of oil lamp where the wick is held inside a metal cylinder made by rolling a flat piece matal, where the ends meet there is a gap. By using a pin through this gap the wick can be moved up and down. When the wick is moved right down I think it would appear like the base of the flame detaches from the wick and extinguishes
What an amazing metaphor, words are not required anymore, neither Upadana, nor upadhi,
just that activity. It pays to belong to Dhamma Wheel.
Thank you DNS and thank you Srilankaputra.
With love

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