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Correct apprehension of impermanence

Posted: Wed Feb 06, 2019 7:46 pm
by paul
There is danger of relying on the Abhidhamma disproportionately to the extent of losing contact with reality as grounded in the suttas and in nature itself. The body is the most commonly used subject in the suttas to teach impermanence, and is governed by the cycle of birth, growth, maturity, ageing, decline and death. Every conditioned thing, mental or physical is subject to that cycle and its stages.

The salient point of impermanence study is that the mind, driven by the unwholesome root of greed, clings to the ‘growth to maturity’ phase of the cycle of impermanence. This is the stage that engenders a feeling of continuity, the perverse sense that the object of clinging is going to remain at the ‘ripe’ stage indefinitely, when in fact it is subtly undergoing continuous change and from maturity, decline. This clinging is apparent when we choose a ripe apple and have a feeling of rejection for a decayed one, and the underlying source of the 'Apple' brand name, the bite indicating it is ripe:
apple.png
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Because this bias is a deeply entrenched factor of survival, the doctrine counteracts it by emphasising the dissolution phase of the cycle as a focus of practice at every point. This is evidenced in the meditations on the foulness of the body under the first foundation of mindfulness. This change happens over time, and the Buddha has chosen the impermanence of the body as having the most powerful effect on the mind to oppose the illusion of continuity. Momentariness is not represented in the suttas, and perceiving mentality is much more difficult than materiality.

The Buddha’s original stimulus for embarking on the search for enlightenment was the exposure to the three divine messengers, old age, disease and death, representing the dissolution phase. To regard impermanence as simply rise and fall in an abbreviated fashion admittedly teaches that what arises is destined to die, but it does not emphasize the stages of decline, decay and death which are a necessary contemplation to adequately counteract the ‘ripe stage’ obsession.

Re: Correct apprehension of impermanence

Posted: Thu Feb 07, 2019 12:18 am
by cappuccino
Going forth is hard;
houses are hard places to live;
the Dhamma is deep;
wealth, hard to obtain;
it's hard to keep going
with whatever we get:

so it's right that we ponder
continually
continual
inconstancy.


Jenta (Thag 1.111)

Re: Correct apprehension of impermanence

Posted: Sat Feb 09, 2019 5:54 am
by salayatananirodha
all conditioned phenomena are subject to decay

Re: Correct apprehension of impermanence

Posted: Sat Feb 09, 2019 6:27 am
by Mkoll
It's worth noting that one of the few "universal teachings" (and by that I mean it was explicitly taught to be cultivated by both monastic and lay disciples) is the below 5 reflections, all strongly related to impermanence as one would reflect upon it reflectively, and much less to the momentariness of phenomena as they are (conceived to be) experienced.
AN 5.57 wrote:“Bhikkhus, there are these five themes that should often be reflected upon by a woman or a man, by a householder or one gone forth. What five? (1) A woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, should often reflect thus: ‘I am subject to old age; I am not exempt from old age.’ (2) A woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, should often reflect thus: ‘I am subject to illness; I am not exempt from illness.’ (3) A woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, should often reflect thus: ‘I am subject to death; I am not exempt from death.’ (4) A woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, should often reflect thus: ‘I must be parted and separated from everyone and everything dear and agreeable to me.’ (5) A woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, should often reflect thus: ‘I am the owner of my kamma, the heir of my kamma; I have kamma as my origin, kamma as my relative, kamma as my resort; I will be the heir of whatever kamma, good or bad, that I do.’

(1) “For the sake of what benefit should a woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, often reflect thus: ‘I am subject to old age; I am not exempt from old age’? In their youth beings are intoxicated with their youth, and when they are intoxicated with their youth they engage in misconduct by body, speech, and mind. But when one often reflects upon this theme, the intoxication with youth is either completely abandoned or diminished. It is for the sake of this benefit that a woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, should often reflect thus: ‘I am subject to old age; I am not exempt from old age.’

(2) “And for the sake of what benefit should a woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, often reflect thus: ‘I am subject to illness; I am not exempt from illness’? In a state of health beings are intoxicated with their health, and when they are intoxicated with their health they engage in misconduct by body, speech, and mind. But when one often reflects upon this theme, the intoxication with health is either completely abandoned or diminished. It is for the sake of this benefit that a woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, should often reflect thus: ‘I am subject to illness; I am not exempt from illness.’

(3) “And for the sake of what benefit should a woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, often reflect thus: ‘I am subject to death; I am not exempt from death’? During their lives beings are intoxicated with life, and when they are intoxicated with life they engage in misconduct by body, speech, and mind. But when one often reflects upon this theme, the intoxication with life is either completely abandoned or diminished. It is for the sake of this benefit that a woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, should often reflect thus: ‘I am subject to death; I am not exempt from death.’

(4) “And for the sake of what benefit should a woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, often reflect thus: ‘I must be parted and separated from everyone and everything dear and agreeable to me’? Beings have desire and lust in regard to those people and things that are dear and agreeable, and excited by this lust, they engage in misconduct by body, speech, and mind. But when one often reflects upon this theme, the desire and lust in regard to everyone and everything dear and agreeable is either completely abandoned or diminished. It is for the sake of this benefit that a woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, should often reflect thus: ‘I must be parted and separated from everyone and everything dear and agreeable to me.’

(5) “And for the sake of what benefit should a woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, often reflect thus: ‘I am the owner of my kamma, the heir of my kamma; I have kamma as my origin, kamma as my relative, kamma as my resort; I will be the heir of whatever kamma, good or bad, that I do’? People engage in misconduct by body, speech, and mind. But when one often reflects upon this theme, such misconduct is either completely abandoned or diminished. It is for the sake of this benefit that a woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, should often reflect thus: ‘I am the owner of my kamma, the heir of my kamma; I have kamma as my origin, kamma as my relative, kamma as my resort; I will be the heir of whatever kamma, good or bad, that I do.’

(1) “This noble disciple reflects thus: ‘I am not the only one who is subject to old age, not exempt from old age. All beings that come and go, that pass away and undergo rebirth, are subject to old age; none are exempt from old age.’ As he often reflects on this theme, the path is generated. He pursues this path, develops it, and cultivates it. As he does so, the fetters are entirely abandoned and the underlying tendencies are uprooted.

(2) “This noble disciple reflects thus: ‘I am not the only one who is subject to illness, not exempt from illness. All beings that come and go, that pass away and undergo rebirth, are subject to illness; none are exempt from illness.’ As he often reflects on this theme, the path is generated. He pursues this path, develops it, and cultivates it. As he does so, the fetters are entirely abandoned and the underlying tendencies are uprooted.

(3) “This noble disciple reflects thus: ‘I am not the only one who is subject to death, not exempt from death. All beings that come and go, that pass away and undergo rebirth, are subject to death; none are exempt from death.’ As he often reflects on this theme, the path is generated. He pursues this path, develops it, and cultivates it. As he does so, the fetters are entirely abandoned and the underlying tendencies are uprooted.

(4) “This noble disciple reflects thus: ‘I am not the only one who must be parted and separated from everyone and everything dear and agreeable. All beings that come and go, that pass away and undergo rebirth, must be parted and separated from everyone and everything dear and agreeable.’ As he often reflects on this theme, the path is generated. He pursues this path, develops it, and cultivates it. As he does so, the fetters are entirely abandoned and the underlying tendencies are uprooted.

(5) “This noble disciple reflects thus: ‘I am not the only one who is the owner of one’s kamma, the heir of one’s kamma; who has kamma as one’s origin, kamma as one’s relative, kamma as one’s resort; who will be the heir of whatever kamma, good or bad, that one does. All beings that come and go, that pass away and undergo rebirth, are owners of their kamma, heirs of their kamma; all have kamma as their origin, kamma as their relative, kamma as their resort; all will be heirs of whatever kamma, good or bad, that they do.’ As he often reflects on this theme, the path is generated. He pursues this path, develops it, and cultivates it. As he does so, the fetters are entirely abandoned and the underlying tendencies are uprooted.

“Worldlings subject to illness,
old age, and death are disgusted
by other people who exist
in accordance with their nature.

“If I were to become disgusted
with beings who have such a nature,
that would not be proper for me
since I too have the same nature.

“While I was dwelling thus,
having known the state without acquisitions,
I overcame all intoxications—
intoxication with health,
with youth, and with life—
having seen security in renunciation.

“Zeal then arose in me
as I clearly saw nibbāna.
Now I am incapable
of indulging in sensual pleasures.
Relying on the spiritual life,
never will I turn back.”

Re: Correct apprehension of impermanence

Posted: Sat Feb 09, 2019 12:12 pm
by paul
:goodpost:
Mkoll wrote:
Sat Feb 09, 2019 6:27 am
It's worth noting that one of the few "universal teachings" (and by that I mean it was explicitly taught to be cultivated by both monastic and lay disciples) is the below 5 reflections, all strongly related to impermanence as one would reflect upon it reflectively, and much less to the momentariness of phenomena as they are (conceived to be) experienced.
AN 5.57
______________________________________________________________________


SN 35.206 describes the role of mindfulness of the body in sense-restraint, which is a preparatory requirement for meditation and reducing the 'greed and discontent with reference to the world,' requirement of mindfulness:

"Thus you should train yourselves: 'We will develop mindfulness immersed in the body. We will pursue it, hand it the reins and take it as a basis, give it a grounding. We will steady it, consolidate it, and set about it properly.' That's how you should train yourselves."

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

Monastery cell in Sri Lanka:
skeleton.jpeg

Re: Correct apprehension of impermanence

Posted: Tue Feb 12, 2019 9:09 pm
by paul
Benefits of the contemplation of the dissolution phase of the cycle of impermanence, disease, decline and death, in both animate and inanimate objects:

“When he constantly sees that all formations thus break up all the time, then contemplation of dissolution grows strong in him, bringing eight advantages, which are these: abandoning of [false] view of becoming, giving up attachment to life, constant application, a purified livelihood, no more anxiety, absence of fear, acquisition of patience and gentleness, and conquest of aversion (boredom) and sensual delight.”—-Vism. XXI, 28

Re: Correct apprehension of impermanence

Posted: Wed Feb 13, 2019 12:00 pm
by Bundokji
Would it be wrong to say that the above does not come without its potential drawbacks?

For instance, acknowledging impermanence can become the basis of having a pessimistic view of life instead of using it to overcome clinging.

From my current vantage point, seeing the teachings on impermanence as tools which can be used skillfully rather than "categorical positions" about life helps us to use them wisely and without unnecessary harm. Keeping in mind that "impermanence" is a paradoxical term, it can be used to justify any position, and in fact, it equally justifies both the ways of the world and the ways of the Buddhas.

All in my opinion.

Re: Correct apprehension of impermanence

Posted: Wed Feb 13, 2019 4:27 pm
by paul
The exercises on impermanence of the body are in the first foundation of mindfulness, indicating they are recommended for beginners.
Furthermore In MN 118, the Buddha indicates the progression of meditation subjects and places impermanence and the foulness of the body following the breath in descending order:

"...[the perception of the] foulness [of the body]... the perception of inconstancy: such are the monks in this community of monks.

"In this community of monks there are monks who remain devoted to mindfulness of in-&-out breathing.

Not only that, but the Anapanasati sutta is immediately followed by MN 119, on mindfulness of the body:

"In whomever mindfulness immersed in the body is not developed, not pursued, Mara gains entry, Mara gains a foothold."

Re: Correct apprehension of impermanence

Posted: Wed Feb 13, 2019 5:16 pm
by Bundokji
paul wrote:
Wed Feb 13, 2019 4:27 pm
"...[the perception of the] foulness [of the body]... the perception of inconstancy: such are the monks in this community of monks.
Thanks paul :anjali:

How should the practitioner understand the Buddha's instruction of perceiving the form/body in a certain way and reconcile it with other descriptions in relation to the aggregate of perception itself as inconstant?

Re: Correct apprehension of impermanence

Posted: Wed Feb 13, 2019 7:37 pm
by paul
The practitioner should disregard the other aggregates and focus only on the body, materiality is much more easily comprehended than mentality. This is not fashionable, there is a tendency to go in a wrong direction towards the doldrums of increasing complexity, such as abhidhamma and trying to reinterpret Pali words, and increasing intellectualization, rather than towards the four noble truths. Theravada is a grounded school and the doctrine demands foundation in the body, disease, death, just as the Buddha's initial impetus was the three heavenly messengers seen in the street. Without grounding in the existential facts of the body, the practice will lack the earth element. The reason there is that wrong tendency is the computer age where people are lured towards airy mental preoccupation and shun physical activity, and the reality of materiality is repugnant. It could be said they are taking refuge in the Buddha, the Screen, and the Sangha, which omits the physical experience which is the missing factor in making the dhamma intelligible, and is activated by stepping out into the blinding light of the street and interpreting that experience in the practice. It is necessary to balance time of contemplation with time of secular exposure though, to prevent being overwhelmed.

If this thread is read through, it shows an example of a beginner who could not understand the simple fact of how statements from the Dhammapada were related to the four noble truths, and was in danger of being led astray into the area of Pali reinterpretation and increasing complexity.
viewtopic.php?f=19&t=33632

Understanding the dhamma requires the earth element of practical training:

"While in a literate culture in which systematic thought is highly prized the lack of such a text with a unifying function might be viewed as a defect, in an entirely oral culture—as was the culture in which the Buddha lived and moved—the lack of a descriptive key to the Dhamma would hardly be considered significant. Within this culture neither teacher nor student aimed at conceptual completeness. The teacher did not intend to present a complete system of ideas; his pupils did not aspire to learn a complete system of ideas. The aim that united them in the process of learning—the process of transmission—was that of practical training, self-transformation, the realization of truth, and unshakable liberation of the mind."---"In the Buddha's Words", Bikkhu Bodhi.

Seeing perception as inconstant is a symptom of PND (Premature Nibbana Disorder), where the practitioner is unable to recognize that the path involves the skilful use of conditioned phenomena such as perception, and is unable to accept their current pre-enlightenment position on the path, instead projecting themselves to an imaginary position of enlightenment. The conditions of the path (conditioned) and those of nibbana (unconditioned) are different, and a separation must be made between the two for practical purposes. This move involves going from the dilettante stage to fully taking refuge in the dhamma as it involves letting go of samsara. It's like a child in a swimming lesson progressively going further away from the bar, and they must accept that reaching the further end is dependent on improving present ability. The child who thinks otherwise is overreaching, ironically a result of not having experienced anything, indicating they have not yet let go of the bar.
It should be bourn in mind that the measures in the insight knowledges which are opposed to worldly attitudes and cultivate dispassion, have release as their final end, leading from contemplation of dissolution (2), to contemplation of dispassion (5).

Re: Correct apprehension of impermanence

Posted: Thu Feb 14, 2019 5:56 am
by pegembara
All that arises passes away.
Going, going, gone.
“Bhikshus,when the perception of impermanence, is cultivated, often developed,
completely destroys all sensual lust,
completely destroys all lust for form,
completely destroys all lust for existence,
completely destroys all ignorance,
abolishes all "I am‟ conceit.
And how, bhikshus, is the perception of impermanence cultivated, how is it [157] often developed, so that
all sensual lust, is completely destroyed,
all lust for form is completely destroyed,
all lust for existence is completely destroyed,
all ignorance is completely destroyed,
all „I am‟ conceit is abolished?

15 (It is thus:)
"Such is form; such is the arising of form; s such is the ending of form.
Such is feeling; such is the arising of feeling; such is the ending of feeling.
Such is perception; such is the arising of perception; such is the ending of perception.
Such are formations; such is the arising of formations; such is the ending of formations.
Such is consciousness; such is the arising of consciousness; such is the ending of consciousness.‟
posting.php?mode=reply&f=44&t=33569#preview

Re: Correct apprehension of impermanence

Posted: Thu Feb 14, 2019 12:07 pm
by Bundokji
paul wrote:
Wed Feb 13, 2019 7:37 pm
............
Thank you :anjali:

Re: Correct apprehension of impermanence

Posted: Fri Feb 15, 2019 8:44 pm
by paul
Study of the suttas should be done through reading organized collections such as “In the Buddha’s Words” and using the Abhidhammma sparingly to clarify difficult points, and not relying on the Abhidhamma as a main source rather than the suttas, which should form the foundation:

“In this early stage of my monk’s life I faced considerable confusion trying to find the proper key to understand the Dhamma correctly. Western interpreters of Buddhism are often prone to invent their own versions of the Buddha’s teachings, which they then hail as the sole valid interpretation of the Dhamma. Without a reliable guide it is easy to get lost in the jungles of speculation and opinion, littered with the landmines of pride, contention, and conceit. During this period the Mahanayaka Thera always reminded me of the importance of relying on the Theravada commentarial tradition in order to understand the Pali Dhamma correctly.”—-Bikkhu Bodhi