SN 4.1 Tapokamma Sutta: Austere Practice

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SN 4.1 Tapokamma Sutta: Austere Practice

Post by mikenz66 » Fri Dec 05, 2014 9:57 pm

SN 4.1 [SN i 103] <SN i 231>Tapokamma Sutta: Austere Practice
Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi


http://suttacentral.net/en/sn4.1

Thus have I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Uruvela on the bank of the river Nerañjara at the foot of the Goatherd’s Banyan Tree just after he had become fully enlightened. [260] Then, while the Blessed One was alone in seclusion, a reflection arose in his mind thus: “I am indeed freed from that gruelling asceticism! It is good indeed that I am freed from that useless gruelling asceticism! It is good that, steady and mindful, I have attained enlightenment!” [261]

Then Mara the Evil One, having known with his own mind the reflection in the Blessed One’s mind, approached the Blessed One and addressed him in verse:
  • “Having deviated from the austere practice
    By which men purify themselves,
    Being impure, you think you’re pure:
    You have missed the path to purity.” [262]
Then the Blessed One, having understood, “This is Mara the Evil One,” replied to him in verses:
  • “Having known as useless any austerity
    Aimed at the immortal state, [263]
    That all such penances are futile
    Like oars and rudder on dry land, [264]

    By developing the path to enlightenment—
    Virtue, concentration, and wisdom—
    I have attained supreme purity:
    You’re defeated, End-maker!” [265]
Then Mara the Evil One, realizing, “The Blessed One knows me, the Fortunate One knows me,” sad and disappointed, disappeared right there.


Notes

[260] Spk assigns this sutta to the first week after the Buddha’s enlightenment.


[261] By gruelling asceticism (dukkarakārikā) the Buddha refers to the rigorous austerities he practised for six years before he discovered the “middle way” to enlightenment.


[262] There is a delicate irony here in Māra the Tempter, usually the suave proponent of sensual indulgence, now recommending strict asceticism. This confirms the old maxim that the extremes are actually closer to each other than either is to the mean.


[263] Spk: Low austerity practised for the sake of immortality (amarabhāvatthāya kataṃ lukhatapaṃ); that is, devotion to self-mortification (attakilamathānuyogo).
Spk-pṭ: For the most part one is devoted to the practice of bodily mortification for the sake of immortality, and when that is pursued by those who accept kamma it may be for the sake of becoming a deva (believed to be immortal).
See too Sutta Nipata 249d. (in Snp 2.2).
  • 249. Not the flesh of fish, nor fasting, nor nakedness, nor shaven head, matted hari, dirt, nor rough animal skins, nor observance of the fire ceremony, nor even the many penances there are in the world for (gaining) immortality, not hymns nor ablations, nor the performance of sacrifices at the proper season, purity a mortal who has not crossed beyond doubt.
[264] Piyārittaṃ va dhammani. Spk: Araññe thale piyārittaṃ viya; “like oars and rudder on high forest ground.” Spk-pṭ: Dhammaṃ vuccati vaṇṇu; so idha dhamman ti vuttaṃ. Dhammani vaṇṇupadese ti attho; “It is sand that is called ‘dhammaṃ’; that is what is meant here by ‘dhammaṃ.’ The meaning is: in a sandy place.” PED lists dhammani but does not explain the derivation; but see MW, s.v. dhanvan, where the meanings given include dry soil, shore, desert.

Spk: “This is meant: If a ship were placed on high ground, and were loaded with merchandise, and the crew would board it, take hold of the oars and rudder, and pull and push with all their might, for all their effort they would not be able to advance the ship even one or two inches; the effort would be useless, futile. So, having known austerities thus, I rejected them as futile.”


[265] Virtue, concentration, and wisdom are the three divisions of the Noble Eightfold Path: virtue (sīla) includes right speech, action, and livelihood; concentration (samādhi), right effort, mindfulness, and concentration; and wisdom (paññā), right view and right intention. Māra is called the End-maker (antaka) because he binds beings to death.

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Re: SN 4.1 Tapokamma Sutta: Austere Practice

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Dec 06, 2014 12:38 pm

I am indeed freed from that gruelling asceticism! It is good indeed that I am freed from that useless gruelling asceticism!
This little pair of similar sentences works well. The first one is a statement of fact, which we nevertheless tend to read an element of value-judgement into. But the real evaluation comes in the second sentence: "It is good indeed...", and this is joined with the extra fact that the asceticism is useless. Even the pain of asceticism is just pain; the importance in terms of progress in the dhamma is the uselessness.

This can of course be contrasted with the types of pains or exertions which the Buddha labels as being useful - for example in MN 101.
When I exert myself with stress & pain, though, unskillful qualities decline in me & skillful qualities increase. Why don't I exert myself with stress & pain?' So he exerts himself with stress & pain, and while he is exerting himself with stress & pain, unskillful qualities decline in him, & skillful qualities increase. Then at a later time he would no longer exert himself with stress & pain. Why is that? Because he has attained the goal for which he was exerting himself with stress & pain. That is why, at a later time, he would no longer exert himself with stress & pain.
On a more general level, the idea that one can use self-mortification as a means of useful development gets stranger the more I think of it. It obviously emerged from a particular set of cultural assumptions, but they are not ones that sit comfortably with a modern or scientific world-view. We would be inclined to see pain as evolutionarily necessary for sentient beings, but useless beyond a signal that a particular stimulus should be avoided. Self-mortifiers (such as the Niganthas) seemed to have assumptions around there being a personalised "stock" of finite experience located in the person; or (a more western view) assumptions about appeasing a God or demiurge of some type. Hence, possibly, the use of the term "penance" in Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation.

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Re: SN 4.1 Tapokamma Sutta: Austere Practice

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Dec 08, 2014 7:08 am

The Commentary assigns this sutta to the first week after the Buddha's awakening.

The story before his awakening is split between two MN suttas:
MN 26 The Noble Search
http://suttacentral.net/search?query=mn+26
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=346

MN 36 The Greater Discourse to Saccaka
http://suttacentral.net/search?query=mn+36

From MN 36, at the end of his period of austerity the Buddha states:
"I thought: ‘Whatever recluses or brahmins in the past have experienced painful, racking, piercing feelings due to exertion, this is the utmost, there is none beyond this. And whatever recluses and brahmins in the future will experience painful, racking, piercing feelings due to exertion, this is the utmost, there is none beyond this. And whatever recluses and brahmins at present experience painful, racking, piercing feelings due to exertion, this is the utmost, there is none beyond this. But by this racking practice of austerities I have not attained any superhuman states, any distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones. Could there be another path to enlightenment?’

“I considered: ‘I recall that when my father the Sakyan was occupied, while I was sitting in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, I entered upon and abided in the first jhāna, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of seclusion. Could that be the path to enlightenment?’ Then, following on that memory, came the realisation: ‘That is indeed the path to enlightenment.’
And in his first discourse to the 5 ascetics, SN 56.11
http://suttacentral.net/search?query=sn+56.11
he teaches:
"Bhikkhus, these two extremes should not be followed by one who has gone forth into homelessness. What two? The pursuit of sensual happiness in sensual pleasures, which is low, vulgar, the way of worldlings, ignoble, unbeneficial; and the pursuit of self-mortification, which is painful, ignoble, unbeneficial. Without veering towards either of these extremes, the Tathagata has awakened to the middle way, which gives rise to vision, which gives rise to knowledge, which leads to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbāna.
:anjali:
Mike

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Re: SN 4.1 Tapokamma Sutta: Austere Practice

Post by rowboat » Mon Dec 08, 2014 8:35 am

Mike, I appreciate your efforts in curating this growing collection of excellent suttas.

:anjali:
Rain soddens what is covered up,
It does not sodden what is open.
Therefore uncover what is covered
That the rain will not sodden it.
Ud 5.5

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Re: SN 4.1 Tapokamma Sutta: Austere Practice

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Dec 08, 2014 8:50 am

Thanks! I like the interesting angles that some Members bring to the suttas...

It's interesting that several suttas (as well as this one) in the Mara Samyutta seem to have Mara tempting the Buddha after his awakening. It's interesting that these doubts and temptations still arise after awakening, even though they are no longer acted upon.

:anjali:
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Re: SN 4.1 Tapokamma Sutta: Austere Practice

Post by SarathW » Mon Dec 08, 2014 10:18 am

Now we no austerity practices are not useful.
So it is not a bad idea to test this theory by a mild practice.
- Try not eating for twenty four hours
- Try not taking pain killers when you have a head ache or tooth ache.
- Try sleeping on the floor for a one night.
:thinking:
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: SN 4.1 Tapokamma Sutta: Austere Practice

Post by Sam Vara » Mon Dec 08, 2014 10:51 am

mikenz66 wrote:Thanks! I like the interesting angles that some Members bring to the suttas...

It's interesting that several suttas (as well as this one) in the Mara Samyutta seem to have Mara tempting the Buddha after his awakening. It's interesting that these doubts and temptations still arise after awakening, even though they are no longer acted upon.

:anjali:
Mike
Yes, in these suttas Mara is sometimes doubt personified, and sometimes other qualities such as fear or lust. It might be the sutta is telling us that the Buddha is merely responding to the idea of these mental states - they simply cannot arise. Alternatively, it might be that the mental states arise and are clearly comprehended, as per the Satipatthana instructions. Fear is known to be fear, doubt is known to be doubt. This is consistent with the formula in the Mara Samyutta
The Blessed One knows me, the Fortunate One knows me

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Re: SN 4.1 Tapokamma Sutta: Austere Practice

Post by santa100 » Mon Dec 08, 2014 2:34 pm

mikenz66 wrote:It's interesting that several suttas (as well as this one) in the Mara Samyutta seem to have Mara tempting the Buddha after his awakening. It's interesting that these doubts and temptations still arise after awakening, even though they are no longer acted upon.
Depends on which "Mara" we're talking about. For the Buddha, the "inner" Mara (all the defilements) certainly was completely destroyed. The "outer" one (the deity residing at the Kama-loka heaven) will always be there..

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Re: SN 4.1 Tapokamma Sutta: Austere Practice

Post by Kim OHara » Mon Dec 08, 2014 9:59 pm

Sam Vara wrote:On a more general level, the idea that one can use self-mortification as a means of useful development gets stranger the more I think of it. It obviously emerged from a particular set of cultural assumptions, but they are not ones that sit comfortably with a modern or scientific world-view. We would be inclined to see pain as evolutionarily necessary for sentient beings, but useless beyond a signal that a particular stimulus should be avoided. Self-mortifiers (such as the Niganthas) seemed to have assumptions around there being a personalised "stock" of finite experience located in the person; or (a more western view) assumptions about appeasing a God or demiurge of some type. Hence, possibly, the use of the term "penance" in Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation.
There is another religious reason for self-mortification: it can lead to abnormal states of mind (let's say) in exactly the same way that psychotropic drugs can. If I remember Aldous Huxley's "Heaven and Hell" correctly, the physical cause is that breakdown products of adrenaline are very similar to some drugs (and I guess that's why the drugs work). (That's about all I can remember - I lost the book decades ago.)
I don't think that's a good enough reason for flagellation or beds of nails but it is a plausible reason for the adoption of such practices.

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Re: SN 4.1 Tapokamma Sutta: Austere Practice

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Dec 08, 2014 10:26 pm

In his talks on MN26, available here: http://www.noblepath.org/audio.html, Bhikkhu Bodhi comments that other ascetics felt that infliction of pain, etc would lead to liberation, perhaps for reasons related to Kim's post. There was a question at one point from an Abrahamic-religion point of view which led him to explain that he felt that it wasn't that a matter of considering the body shameful, or inflicting punishment, but that the idea was simply to liberate the mind from the body.

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Re: SN 4.1 Tapokamma Sutta: Austere Practice

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Dec 09, 2014 9:05 pm

Kim OHara wrote: There is another religious reason for self-mortification: it can lead to abnormal states of mind (let's say) in exactly the same way that psychotropic drugs can. If I remember Aldous Huxley's "Heaven and Hell" correctly, the physical cause is that breakdown products of adrenaline are very similar to some drugs (and I guess that's why the drugs work). (That's about all I can remember - I lost the book decades ago.)
I don't think that's a good enough reason for flagellation or beds of nails but it is a plausible reason for the adoption of such practices.

:namaste:
Kim
Yes, good point - I hadn't thought of that. I guess endorphins could be released, and lead to some sort of natural high.

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Re: SN 4.1 Tapokamma Sutta: Austere Practice

Post by SarathW » Tue Dec 09, 2014 9:28 pm

I am not an advocate for self harming.
However we should take pain as a good teacher rather than our enemy.
We are living in a society, depend too much on drugs.
I do not remember the last time I took a pain killer.
However I have constant body pain due to my age.
:)

Seven days without pain killers:

http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f= ... 532&hilit=
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: SN 4.1 Tapokamma Sutta: Austere Practice

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Dec 09, 2014 9:46 pm

Hi SarathW,

It seems to me that there is a distinction between (a) taking the arising of pain as a learning experience and learning to cope with it (which is your point, I think) and (b) inducing or prolonging pain with the idea that it is the key to awakening.

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Re: SN 4.1 Tapokamma Sutta: Austere Practice

Post by SarathW » Wed Dec 17, 2014 4:04 am

Yes I meant A not B.
:)
============
"[4] And what are the fermentations to be abandoned by tolerating? There is the case where a monk, reflecting appropriately, endures. He tolerates cold, heat, hunger, & thirst; the touch of flies, mosquitoes, wind, sun, & reptiles; ill-spoken, unwelcome words & bodily feelings that, when they arise, are painful, racking, sharp, piercing, disagreeable, displeasing, & menacing to life. The fermentations, vexation, or fever that would arise if he were not to tolerate these things do not arise for him when he tolerates them. These are called the fermentations to be abandoned by tolerating.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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