"Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Postby aflatun » Tue Feb 14, 2017 12:15 am

SDC wrote:
aflatun wrote:I'm still struggling a bit with how rupa (generally speaking), and the "inaccessibility" of all five aggregates plays into his (Ven. NN) thinking, I'm hoping to gather some quotes that are giving me trouble and posing a question (s) once I've gathered my half baked thoughts :tongue:


Both monks put tremendous emphasis on the inaccessibility of matter/behaviour in their writings. I'm not sure if I've gathered the same for the other four aggregates, but given the relationship described below, that inaccessibility of rūpa is indeed a factor. I hope these shed some light here.

From SN on Rūpa:

Footnote c wrote:...Thus it will be observed that all difference in appearance (nāma) is difference in either consciousness (viññāna) or matter (rūpa). Why is this? Neither consciousness nor matter, by itself, can appear (or be manifest); for consciousness by itself lacks substance or specification—it is pure presence or existence without any thing that is present (or exists)—, and matter by itself lacks presence or existence—it is pure substance or specification, of which one cannot say 'it is' (i.e. 'it is present [or absent]'). Appearance or manifestation must necessarily partake of both consciousness and matter, but as an overlapping () and not simply an addition (for the simple superposition of two things each itself incapable of appearing would not produce appearance). Appearance is existence as substance, or substance as existence, and there must be also simple existence (or consciousness) and simple substance (or matter) to support this imbrication. Appearance, in a manner of speaking, is sandwiched between consciousness and matter: there must be rūpa, and nāma, and viññāna. - Ven. Ñanavira


SN on Rūpa wrote:In itself, purely as inertia or behaviour, matter cannot be said to exist. (Cf. Heidegger, op. cit., p. 212.) And if it cannot be said to exist it cannot be said to cease. Thus the question 'Where do the four mahābhūtā finally cease?' is improper. (The question will have been asked with the notion in mind of an existing general material world common to all. Such a general world could only exist—and cease—if there were a general consciousness common to all. But this is a contradiction, since consciousness and individuality [see SAKKĀYA] are one.) But behaviour can get a footing in existence by being present in some form. As rūpa in nāmarūpa, the four mahābhūtā get a borrowed existence as the behaviour of appearance (just as feeling, perception, and intentions, get a borrowed substance as the appearance of behaviour). And nāmarūpa is the condition for viññāna as viññāna is for nāmarūpa. When viññāna (q.v.) is anidassana it is said to have ceased (since avijjā has ceased). Thus, with cessation of viññāna there is cessation of nāmarūpa, and the four mahābhūtā no longer get a footing in existence. (The passage at Salāyatana Samyutta xix,8 <S.iv,192>, ...bhikkhu catunnam mahābhūtānam samudayañ ca atthagamañ ca yathābhūtam pajānāti, ('...a monk understands as they really are the arising and ceasing of the four great entities') is to be understood in this sense.) - Ven. Ñanavira


Resistance and Designation wrote:
    From earth, he has a percept of earth; having had from earth a percept, he conceives [that to be] earth, he conceives [that to be] in earth, he conceives [that to be] out of earth, he conceives earth as ‘mine’, he delights earth. Why is that? He has not fully understood it, I say… (MN 1)

What a puthujjana has to realize is that regardless of what he perceives, it is always his perception that is perceived. Whether it is ‘earth’, ‘water’, ‘fire’, ‘air’ or any other thing that MN 1 mentions, all one will ever perceive (puthujjana and arahant alike) is one’s own perception of that ‘matter’. This is saying nothing else than ‘matter’ is and will always be outside of one’s reach, outside of that which has appeared. - Ven. N. Ñanamoli


Much to digest here, sorry I have to be brief. My sense that all of the aggregates are inaccessible comes from listening to his recorded talks more than anything, in writing he seems to focus more on matter in this regard. Here is a cut and paste of some snippets from my transcription thread with some intervening text removed:


I mean you have no control to such an extent that you can’t even think matter. You can think in regard to that which matter is. And even that which you think that matter is …in regard to which you’re thinking, that’s also a thought. That’s how inaccessible elements are. And consciousness is out there with them, equally inaccessible. And then you will realize that whatever comes as a result of conscious matter, namely, feeling, perception, intentions…are equally inaccessible. So, my sense of my self… me, volition, intention, determination…are not mine. Inconceivable to be mine...

Yeah all of those…like there is…and that’s that inaccessible thing. Because if there wouldn’t be…Nibbana is the inaccessible. It’s real, in…in every experience… In experience of (a) Buddhist, Non Buddhist, Puthujjana, Arahant…Nibbana is there. It’s just whether it’s fully understood or not. If there wouldn’t be inaccessible, means, access would be there. And freedom from it would not be possible. But because there is inaccessible, freedom from anything that you could have accessed before is possible...

Basically it pertains to the way you take them, or not: The five aggregates. And you take them, for as long as you don’t fully understand…that it’s impossible to take them in the first place. They’re inaccessible. Not knowing that they’re inaccessible, you access them…through that lack of knowledge. So there is no room for it, but it has always been there. So its beginningless but actually its not supposed to be there. Its not needed, its not necessary, it’s a parasite as Nanavira referred to it…but beginningless. Something you know before, because if you knew before you couldn’t have fallen onto this not knowing. Because once you know, you cannot not know anymore. So this lack of knowledge is beginningless, yet completely gratuitous. Not knowing that they’re inaccessible. That’s it.
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16

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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Postby SDC » Tue Feb 14, 2017 12:16 am

aflatun wrote:Much to digest here, sorry I have to be brief. My sense that all of the aggregates are inaccessible comes from listening to his recorded talks more than anything, in writing he seems to focus more on matter in this regard. Here is a cut and paste of some snippets from my transcription thread with some intervening text removed:


I mean you have no control to such an extent that you can’t even think matter. You can think in regard to that which matter is. And even that which you think that matter is …in regard to which you’re thinking, that’s also a thought. That’s how inaccessible elements are. And consciousness is out there with them, equally inaccessible. And then you will realize that whatever comes as a result of conscious matter, namely, feeling, perception, intentions…are equally inaccessible. So, my sense of my self… me, volition, intention, determination…are not mine. Inconceivable to be mine...

Yeah all of those…like there is…and that’s that inaccessible thing. Because if there wouldn’t be…Nibbana is the inaccessible. It’s real, in…in every experience… In experience of (a) Buddhist, Non Buddhist, Puthujjana, Arahant…Nibbana is there. It’s just whether it’s fully understood or not. If there wouldn’t be inaccessible, means, access would be there. And freedom from it would not be possible. But because there is inaccessible, freedom from anything that you could have accessed before is possible...

Basically it pertains to the way you take them, or not: The five aggregates. And you take them, for as long as you don’t fully understand…that it’s impossible to take them in the first place. They’re inaccessible. Not knowing that they’re inaccessible, you access them…through that lack of knowledge. So there is no room for it, but it has always been there. So its beginningless but actually its not supposed to be there. Its not needed, its not necessary, it’s a parasite as Nanavira referred to it…but beginningless. Something you know before, because if you knew before you couldn’t have fallen onto this not knowing. Because once you know, you cannot not know anymore. So this lack of knowledge is beginningless, yet completely gratuitous. Not knowing that they’re inaccessible. That’s it.


Thanks for that!

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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Feb 14, 2017 1:18 am

Greetings,

I agree with the bolded aspects of the above quote - elements can only be known via rupa-sanna, perception of form, and it is both anicca and anatta.

(Ven. Nanananda also speaks to this point, but I'll not quote anything directly as that might serve only to distract from the topic. If anyone wants a pointer to such words and interpretations, please PM me)

Metta,
Paul. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"Having dispelled all darkness, he found delight in being alone" (Thanissaro) (Snp v.956)

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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Postby aflatun » Tue Feb 14, 2017 2:30 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

I agree with the bolded aspects of the above quote - elements can only be known via rupa-sanna, perception of form, and it is both anicca and anatta.

(Ven. Nanananda also speaks to this point, but I'll not quote anything directly as that might serve only to distract from the topic. If anyone wants a pointer to such words and interpretations, please PM me)

Metta,
Paul. :)


Hi Retro, glad to see you stop by! I'm personally totally OK with you posting anything you want to post.

It seems based on the above and what I've heard him say in other recorded talks, he is saying *all* of the aggregates are inaccessible, and this is what I've been trying to wrap my head around lately.

As far as Nanananda goes, I came across his interpretation of rupa-sanna earlier and took to it quite readily (and almost everything else I've read of his), as in some sense I've thought about sense experience in such a way for about 16 years if not longer.

So I'm trying to kind of bracket my own view in an attempt to understand what Ven. NN and Nanavira have to say about this (not saying anyone else needs to do this). Their views are difficult, but intriguing for me and I don't want to measure them in terms of another 'system' I've already accepted. That said a comparison with Nanananda is very inviting and intuitive here, and something I'm keenly interested in, as they have much in common, but there seem to be important distinctions. Putting it somewhat sloppily I think Ven. Nanananda is more radical in his rejection of anything outside of what is experienced, which some could construe as more "idealistic" (but see my signature!).

They seem to be positing some kind of unexperienced and inaccessible matter which is the basis of experience (in some sense), which to me is kind of like ideas of "thing in itself," or a "mind independent world," etc, things that don't make much sense to me.

EDIT: I should say, Venerable N. Nanamoli seems to be doing this more so than Nanavira. The passage SDC quoted above is one I've read before, and though I don't pretend to understand it entirely Venerable Nanavira is not positing some kind of mind independent existent matter, quite the contrary.

But I'm wondering if I'm just misreading them, especially in light of the inaccessibility of all five aggregates. (A more fleshed out version of the quoted passages above is in my Senses and the Thought transcription thread ( viewtopic.php?f=45&t=28882) which stands horribly unfinished, I raised a bunch of related questions in there (viewtopic.php?f=45&t=28882#p414955) especially in regards to the way he also calls Nibanna "The inaccessible")
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16

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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Postby aflatun » Tue Feb 14, 2017 3:07 am

pulga wrote:
aflatun wrote:
Just to make sure I'm understanding correctly, is it therefore correct that the individual will always be present for the Arahant so long as he is alive?


It's helpful to take a first-person perspective when approaching such a question. Given that the individual is the whole of experience, what he is is always present since the whole transcends its parts -- being an amalgam of the three ecstaces of time as they pass from the real to the imaginary -- but the existence of that transcendence is undermined by change.

Change always occurs at a specific level of generality. But at any level the change is total: what is ceases to be and is replaced by something else, or by nothing else. But on the next higher level there is no change at all: what is remains what it is until it ceases to be what it is...

Since on each higher level of generality there is no change at all we can say that from a point of view within any one level the next higher level is eternal. Or, better, extra-temporal. Just as change is perceptible only against a background of non-change, so too impermanence (temporality) is perceptible only against a background of extra-temporality. But that extra-temporality exists only in relationship to its less general foreground, and it is thus not independently extra-temporal. Its extra-temporality is due entirely to a particular point of view. And since points of view are invariably temporal, that extra-temporality will cease and be utterly ended when the perspective of the experience changes and no longer gives support to eternality. Thus, the extra-temporal exists only with temporality as its condition — a point to which we shall return. -- Ven. Bodhesako


Parts as wholes vanish, i.e. they cease utterly -- but as parts they linger in the what they determine.


Thank you pulga. I think I am beginning to understand this part/whole relation, thanks to the great help that's come from you and SDC...starting to understand it I think :tongue:
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16

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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Postby Alex9 » Tue Apr 11, 2017 12:38 pm

I am very late to this and just came upon the thread. I am amazed by this article, what little I can glean from it. I tried to follow the discussion in the thread but a lot of that escaped me too. If anyone is still following this, I wonder if you could help with just the basic outline of the article. I identify these stages in the development of the worldling's view:

1. Things do not even exist
2. Things exist out there, and because they do, they appear for me
3. Things appear for me, and in this way things exist
4. a. Appearances exist (not a statement about things)
b. Things appear, and the assumption makes them exist/maintains them existing

Is this right? I am actually unclear already about #1, as quoted on the first page of the thread:

aflatun wrote:
Because of these inauthentic attitudes, which are nevertheless normal attitudes of the puthujjana‘s everyday life, it would be correct to say that for him things don’t even exist, in a correct sense of that word. Only with the development of the rudimentary notions of authenticity, through the practice of mindfulness and restraint and reflection, can a puthujjana begin to notice, little by little, the nature of his experience as a whole—phenomena can start to appear. It is only in this way that one can understand what is meant by the ‘being’ of things, which is nothing fundamentally different than the ‘being’ of myself.


I'm thinking that things is the important word here--for him things don't even exist, as the author has defined things earlier as dhammas, that is phenomena. Before any mindfulness is established, the worldling does not perceive phenomena. He perceives manifestations of hidden reality, whether spirit or mechanistic molecules. Is this a correct reading?

I'm then a bit confused that then he goes into how if things exist then self exists observing them. That makes sense on its own. But in this context, where things do not exist at that first stage, does self then also not exist? I suppose I could see this in the strict naturalistic view, where reality is animal needs based on chemistry or whatever, so behaviors follow, but there is no self who performs them? (obviously we are far from the Buddhist idea of not-self. But am I right that the article presents a dialectical movement:

A. ignorant no self
B. knowing self
C. knowing no self

in which the third term surpasses while preserving both prior moments? It seems a little too neat. But if that's how consciousness works then great, I mean I don't know.

So, #4 is of course very difficult. I have written two lines because I'm not sure if these are two stages where one comes first or whether they are two aspects of the same stage. I guess a goal is to perceive the assumption taking place. Is it an intermediary goal to see appearances as what exists, rather than things? Is this making any sense at all? :shrug:

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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Postby SDC » Tue Apr 11, 2017 4:44 pm

Alex9 wrote:I am very late to this and just came upon the thread. I am amazed by this article, what little I can glean from it. I tried to follow the discussion in the thread but a lot of that escaped me too. If anyone is still following this, I wonder if you could help with just the basic outline of the article. I identify these stages in the development of the worldling's view:

1. Things do not even exist
2. Things exist out there, and because they do, they appear for me
3. Things appear for me, and in this way things exist
4. a. Appearances exist (not a statement about things)
b. Things appear, and the assumption makes them exist/maintains them existing

Is this right? I am actually unclear already about #1, as quoted on the first page of the thread:


That is very close to my reading of the different views he presents in the essay. I think what you have pointed out with 4b is the most crucial (aflatun and I were just discussing the following from the same author):

In order for something to exist (bhava), in order for it to be, in a full and appropriated sense, that thing has to be given first, in the form of an experience as a whole. – Existence Means Control, Ven. N. Ñāṇamoli


In short, I think he is saying that through conceiving the appearance there is existence, i.e. the appropriation of the appearance.

The only other thing I would say – to stay in line with the terminology (as much as to get the meaning) – is for 4a.: I think it would be safer to say “appearance is”. See the following:

[Bāhiya] already knew that by bracketing off the natural attitude (i.e. suspending any beliefs or assumptions that there is a world of phenomena out there that exists independently of his experience of it) he can attend to the appearance of phenomena. Thanks to Husserl, we are now able to refer to this process of putting the natural attitude ‘out of play’ as the epochē. It is by doing this that one can develop the following insight: something has appeared. Whether it is the most profound or sublime meditative state, or the most mundane occurrence of everyday life, whether it is felt as pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant—something has appeared. – Ven. Ariyavamsa, Phassa




Alex9 wrote:
Because of these inauthentic attitudes, which are nevertheless normal attitudes of the puthujjana‘s everyday life, it would be correct to say that for him things don’t even exist, in a correct sense of that word. Only with the development of the rudimentary notions of authenticity, through the practice of mindfulness and restraint and reflection, can a puthujjana begin to notice, little by little, the nature of his experience as a whole—phenomena can start to appear. It is only in this way that one can understand what is meant by the ‘being’ of things, which is nothing fundamentally different than the ‘being’ of myself. – Ven. NN, Appearance and Existence


I'm thinking that things is the important word here--for him things don't even exist, as the author has defined things earlier as dhammas, that is phenomena. Before any mindfulness is established, the worldling does not perceive phenomena. He perceives manifestations of hidden reality, whether spirit or mechanistic molecules. Is this a correct reading?


It is really hard to have this discussion and know for sure that we are referring to the same aspect of the experience. (That holds true for private contemplations as well: are we discerning precisely what the Buddha was describing?) This being the case, I think it is important that you take my thoughts with a grain of salt and then see how it lands. Nevertheless, here is my attempt: essentially, “He perceives manifestations of a hidden reality” is no different than “He perceives phenomena”. Why? In both cases there is the assumption of perceiving something other than perception, namely: matter. (The matter being not just "hidden reality" or "phenomena" but also "he"). This is a sticking point when it comes to this interpretation:

The problem for the puthujjana, then, lies in the fact that he expects to find himself (i.e. the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind), and all of things that make up his world, in that world. His problem is twofold. Not only does he assume that he has direct experience of that because of which there is this experience, he also misunderstands what the world actually is. For him, the world is nothing but the phenomenal experience of perceptions, feelings and intentions. In other words, he assumes that the world is entirely included in whatever arises dependent upon contact: the perceptions of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches and ideas, felt as pleasant, painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant…

…The rūpa that one thinks when thinking “rūpa must be there” is a perception and must not be taken as standing for that because of which that perception is there. – Ven. Ariyavamsa, Phassa


…But since all one can ever feel is one’s feeling; all one can ever perceive is one’s perception; all one can ever cognize is one’s cognizance – that thing which is conceived as that because of which feeling, perception and cognizance are there, will have to be either a feeling, a perception or a cognizance, and as such cannot be that because of which feeling, perception and cognizance are there. – Determining Determinations, Ven. NN


Alex9 wrote:So, #4 is of course very difficult. I have written two lines because I'm not sure if these are two stages where one comes first or whether they are two aspects of the same stage. I guess a goal is to perceive the assumption taking place. Is it an intermediary goal to see appearances as what exists, rather than things? Is this making any sense at all? :shrug:


“Perceiving the assumption taking place”: this can get tricky. As far as this interpretation goes, there is not a linear sequence of events to watch in order to discern this nature. For one not free from suffering, the assumption (upādāna) is the experience, as are the other 11 factors of paṭiccasamuppāda. What is available to be discerned depends on how the situation is attended. I’m not going to try and get fancy with language here, but it is within the realm of how experience is regarded, i.e. attitude towards it. Literally: directionally towards (and away from) that which has arisen.

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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Postby pulga » Sat Apr 22, 2017 4:52 pm

pulga wrote:
aflatun wrote:Perhaps Ven. NN and Nanavira have different conventions with respect to the word existence or being?


I have to admit that I’m not really clear on this either. Footnote 14 of the essay seems to differ from Ven. Ñanavira's Note, so it's best to withhold comment until I have a better understanding of how he interprets the term.


From some correspondence between Ven. Nyanamoli and Mathias, as found in the book Meanings:

Just a quick note, before I fully reply to you later on. In my last explanation I took the existence in a ‘pregnant sense’, i.e. as being or bhava, thinking that’s what you meant by it. Ven. Ñāṇavīra’s note on viññāna takes the existence as presence of a phenomenon. These two things are quite different, and they can both be used either way, but we have to be careful to distinguish them correctly. Consciousness always equals presence, but for existence, it will depend on the context. (Meanings, pg. 75)


And from Ven. Ñanavira's SN Viññāna, footnote [a]:

Personal existence is a synthetic relationship, dependent upon upādāna, and consisting of a subject and his objects. Being or existence in this pregnant sense is bhava, at least as it occurs in the paticcasamuppāda context, and the 'entity' in question is sakkāya (q.v.) or pañc'upādānakkhandhā.


Since personal existence is a synthetic relationship bhava would be applicable to the existence of both subject and object. While viññāna as the mere presence (existence) of a thing untainted by upādāna would be anidassana, and thus applicable to the arahat. The tainted viññāna of the puthujjana and the sekha is to be identified with bhava .

'To be' and 'to be present' are the same thing.[a] But note that 'being' as bhava, involves the existence of the (illusory) subject, and with cessation of the conceit (concept) '(I) am', asmimāna, there is cessation of being, bhavanirodha. With the arahat, there is just presence of the phenomenon ('This is present'), instead of the presence (or existence) of an apparent 'subject' to whom there is present an 'object' ('I am, and this is present to [or for] me', i.e. [what appears to be] the subject is present ['I am'], the object is present ['this is'], and the object concerns or 'belongs to' the subject [the object is 'for me' or 'mine']—see PHASSA & ATTĀ); and consciousness is then said to be anidassana, 'non-indicative' (i.e. not pointing to the presence of a 'subject'), or niruddha, 'ceased'. SN Viññāna


Things continue to "exist" for the arahat, only they are no longer in subjection, i.e. no longer appropriated. (This isn't meant to imply that things "exist" outside of the arahat's non-indicative consciousness.)

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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Postby SDC » Sun Apr 23, 2017 2:14 am

pulga wrote:Things continue to "exist" for the arahat, only they are no longer in subjection, i.e. no longer appropriated. (This isn't meant to imply that things "exist" outside of the arahat's non-indicative consciousness.)


Just taking a stab at reconciling the terminology:

I think this is where Ven. NN, especially when describing the arahat, defaults to "appearance" exclusively, whereas "existence" is reserved to described the "appropriated appearance" of the puthujjana.

The Teaching tells him that ‘existence’ cannot be conceived anywhere apart from ‘appearance’, but also that it is not ‘appearance’ as such; furthermore, and even more importantly, it also tells him that ‘existence’ does not depend on ‘appearance’ directly, it depends on the ‘assumption’ (upādāna) in regard to that which appears, and this means nothing else then that the appearance, for its appearing, does not require existence at all—it is actually better without it. - Ven. NN, Appearance and Existence


I think both monks, in choosing their words, are quite careful to emphasize that there is no correlation (no direct route) between the "respective intensities" of experience and the teleological/intentional nature common to both the arahat and puthujjana; but only that, while things remain teleological for the arahat, they are no longer mine, i.e. no longer significant "to me".

The arahat's experience, as stated above, is teleological, as is the puthujjana's; but with the arahat things no longer have the particular significance of being 'mine'. This special significance, dependent upon avijjā, is not of the same kind as a thing's simple intentional or teleological significances, but is, as it were, a parasite upon them. - Ven. Nv, ANICCA


Thus the hierarchy of signifying things continues to arise (cease and change-while-standing) but it no longer grows; it is “cut off at the root, made like a palm stump”. Its root was ignorance in itself and with its absence everything founded upon it comes to an end—one is free. In other words the respective experiences of the puthujjana and arahant alike, share the same fundamental nature of impermanence (arising and ceasing) but the respective intensities of those experiences are changed; for the arahant feeling none of it and for the puthujjana dependant on the amount of ignorance being present. More ignorance, more ‘intensity’, things appear as more ‘pressing’ and one is easily prone to giving in to desire-and-lust. - Ven. NN, Papañca-Saññā-Sankhā


Not sure if I missed by a mile, pulga, but this is what came to mind.

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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Postby aflatun » Sun Apr 23, 2017 2:53 am

Thanks to both of you I think I have a handle on their differing terminologies in this regard now (which is consistent with the above). What remains a question for me is why exactly Ven. NN chose to invest the word existence with this "extra" significance (bhava) in the first place? Couldn't he have clearly expressed the same by saying that for the unawakened mind things by definition exist "for me, are mine, are what I am" phenomena are present "for me, are mine, are what I am" etc?

Not a criticism, its just a curiosity for me. It certainly makes awakening sound more earth shattering to say things no longer exist, they merely appear :tongue:
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16

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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Postby pulga » Sun Apr 23, 2017 5:20 am

SDC wrote:Not sure if I missed by a mile, pulga, but this is what came to mind.


I think you're right on the mark. The clarification has made Ven. NN's writings easier for me to follow. So far whenever I have had a variance with any of these writers, including Ven. Ariyavamsa, it is has been due to my own misunderstanding -- which certainly spurs me to try to better understand their views.

That last quotation from Ven. NN brings to mind Ven. Ñanavira's chess analogy:

Imagine that, in order to add an (unwanted) interest to the game of dispassionate chess, some foolish person were to conceive the pieces as being subject to various passions having the effect of modifying their moves. The bishops, for example, being enamoured of the queen, would be diverted from their normal strict diagonal course when passing close to her, and would perhaps take corresponding steps to avoid the presence of the king out of fear of his jealousy. The knights would make their ordinary moves except that, being vain fellows, they would tend to move into a crowd of admiring pawns. The castles, owing to a mutual dislike, would always stay as far distant from each other as possible. Passionate chess would thus differ from dispassionate chess in that the moves of the pieces, though still normally governed by the rules of dispassionate chess, would be seriously complicated under the influence of passion; but both passionate and dispassionate chess would be played on the same chessboard of 64 squares.

We can take passionate chess as representing the behaviour of the puthujjana, which is complicated by craving, and dispassionate chess as the behaviour of the arahat, which is entirely free from irregularities due to craving. The chessboard, on which both kinds of chess alike are played, is Fundamental Structure. [L. 44 | 51] 11 April 1963

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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Postby SDC » Mon Apr 24, 2017 8:29 pm

aflatun wrote: What remains a question for me is why exactly Ven. NN chose to invest the word existence with this "extra" significance (bhava) in the first place? Couldn't he have clearly expressed the same by saying that for the unawakened mind things by definition exist "for me, are mine, are what I am" phenomena are present "for me, are mine, are what I am" etc?


Based on my understanding of how he chooses to present, it has very much to do with aligning with sutta language and structure; to describe something rather than explain it. To give the picture of an unawakened mind being able to decidedly take up, “that for the unawakened mind things by definition exist "for me, are mine, are what I am" phenomena are present "for me, are mine, are what I am"” seems to be a manner of presentation that is avoided. To be a commoner who holds that sort of an understanding is a fallacy: were one to hold that knowledge they would not be a commoner.

In many of his talks, he puts a good deal of stress on the word "manifest" (paññāyati, AN3.47,SN 22.37: rendered as "discerned" and "seen" respectively) in order to show that there is an even more general nature to arising, ceasing and persisting-while-changing; that what is common to those three “characteristics”, is the fundamental nature of their manifestation, that they too appear, i.e. arising appears, ceasing appears, persisting-while-changing appears. It is important to note, the additional issue of bhava does not require that these characteristics, nor their fundamental nature be called into question - because, even though both are there, they are there juxtaposed and with no direct relation to one another:

Let us try and say something more about the nature of superimposition, which is relevant for these two hierarchies. When things are superimposed they are not directly or linearly related. They are simply there, next to each other and any thought along the lines of causality distorts them as they are. This superimposed way of existing is nothing else than what is meant by being akālika, ‘timeless’ or ‘beyond time’. Two things are there, dependent, yet not directly related to each other. - Ven. NN, Hierarchy of Awareness


(I'm on super thin ice here, but it seems that bhava, bound up with the assumption, is none other than a failure to reconcile (recognize?) those three characteristics, thereby relegating existence to that domain exclusively, while the domain of appearance in that general sense remains completely obscure. Take that with a massive grain of salt.)

So it seems the distinction is important not only from a literary perspective since name, designation, perception, manifestation, arising, ceasing, persisting-while-changing, feeling, intention all relate or equate to "appearance", but to explicitly draw attention to what experience amounts to when the assumption is present. IMO, there is a lot sandwiched together their which probably requires the specific language.

I am not sure if I am overshooting your concern. Don't hesitate to be curt if I am lollygagging in the wrong direction. :tongue:

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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Postby SDC » Mon Apr 24, 2017 8:31 pm

pulga wrote:So far whenever I have had a variance with any of these writers, including Ven. Ariyavamsa, it is has been due to my own misunderstanding -- which certainly spurs me to try to better understand their views.


Definitely in the same boat.

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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Postby aflatun » Tue Apr 25, 2017 6:20 pm

SDC wrote:Based on my understanding of how he chooses to present, it has very much to do with aligning with sutta language and structure; to describe something rather than explain it. To give the picture of an unawakened mind being able to decidedly take up, “that for the unawakened mind things by definition exist "for me, are mine, are what I am" phenomena are present "for me, are mine, are what I am"” seems to be a manner of presentation that is avoided. To be a commoner who holds that sort of an understanding is a fallacy: were one to hold that knowledge they would not be a commoner.


I agree, and I wasn't meaning to imply that my clunky construction was necessarily a better alternative, far from it. This was just me trying to get into his head, see things from his point of view, etc.

SDC wrote:In many of his talks, he puts a good deal of stress on the word "manifest" (paññāyati, AN3.47,SN 22.37: rendered as "discerned" and "seen" respectively) in order to show that there is an even more general nature to arising, ceasing and persisting-while-changing; that what is common to those three “characteristics”, is the fundamental nature of their manifestation, that they too appear, i.e. arising appears, ceasing appears, persisting-while-changing appears. It is important to note, the additional issue of bhava does not require that these characteristics, nor their fundamental nature be called into question - because, even though both are there, they are there juxtaposed and with no direct relation to one another:


I believe I follow, and yes he uses that word "manifest" frequently in his recorded talks !

SDC wrote:(I'm on super thin ice here, but it seems that bhava, bound up with the assumption, is none other than a failure to reconcile (recognize?) those three characteristics, thereby relegating existence to that domain exclusively, while the domain of appearance in that general sense remains completely obscure. Take that with a massive grain of salt.)


I'm not sure I follow you here though? Relegating existence to the domain of arising, ceasing, persisting while changing? As opposed to being an unnecessary superimposition?

SDC wrote: So it seems the distinction is important not only from a literary perspective since name, designation, perception, manifestation, arising, ceasing, persisting-while-changing, feeling, intention all relate or equate to "appearance", but to explicitly draw attention to what experience amounts to when the assumption is present. IMO, there is a lot sandwiched together their which probably requires the specific language.

I am not sure if I am overshooting your concern. Don't hesitate to be curt if I am lollygagging in the wrong direction. :tongue:


Overshot or not its much appreciated! I've had to set aside a long developing disdain for words like "existence" and "being" (particularly as they are used in the (non Buddhist) existential/phenomenological tradition) in order to delve into these writings, and the rewards have been immense. But nevertheless I'm sure I'm liable to sounding like Grinch about it sometimes and I'm sorry if it came off as "jeez why couldn't he have been more clear!" :D
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16

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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Postby SDC » Wed Apr 26, 2017 2:38 am

aflatun wrote:
SDC wrote:(I'm on super thin ice here, but it seems that bhava, bound up with the assumption, is none other than a failure to reconcile (recognize?) those three characteristics, thereby relegating existence to that domain exclusively, while the domain of appearance in that general sense remains completely obscure. Take that with a massive grain of salt.)


I'm not sure I follow you here though? Relegating existence to the domain of arising, ceasing, persisting while changing? As opposed to being an unnecessary superimposition?


In my haste in making that point I neglected to mention that those three characteristics are describing the nature of the five aggregates (explicitly so in SN 22.37, but indirectly in AN 3.47). The assumption itself, when present, is bound up with the aggregates: the five-holding-aggregates. Hence the assertion that bhava too would be there as well. Not that there would have to be an act to relegate it to that domain, but that is just where it would apply and no where else.

Now even though it is unnecessary, it has still arisen as such, i.e. it is there, right or wrong. That "thereness", should not be called into question IMO, only the appropriation, which is giving it its priority.

(The reason it is on thin ice is that I felt like I was using some shaky terminology and probably brought more confusion than anything else.)

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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Postby Alex9 » Wed Apr 26, 2017 3:22 am

Thank you so much for your response. And sorry it took so long to follow up.

SDC wrote:In short, I think he is saying that through conceiving the appearance there is existence, i.e. the appropriation of the appearance.

The only other thing I would say – to stay in line with the terminology (as much as to get the meaning) – is for 4a.: I think it would be safer to say “appearance is”. See the following:

[Bāhiya] already knew that by bracketing off the natural attitude (i.e. suspending any beliefs or assumptions that there is a world of phenomena out there that exists independently of his experience of it) he can attend to the appearance of phenomena. Thanks to Husserl, we are now able to refer to this process of putting the natural attitude ‘out of play’ as the epochē. It is by doing this that one can develop the following insight: something has appeared. Whether it is the most profound or sublime meditative state, or the most mundane occurrence of everyday life, whether it is felt as pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant—something has appeared. – Ven. Ariyavamsa, Phassa


Yes. It is hard to phrase this with the options grammatically available to us. I see what you mean that "Appearances exist" unhelpfully raises the issue of existence. "Appearance is" or "something has appeared" are better, or something like the note "appearing... appearing..."

SDC wrote:It is really hard to have this discussion and know for sure that we are referring to the same aspect of the experience. (That holds true for private contemplations as well: are we discerning precisely what the Buddha was describing?)


Yes, absolutely.

SDC wrote:This being the case, I think it is important that you take my thoughts with a grain of salt and then see how it lands. Nevertheless, here is my attempt: essentially, “He perceives manifestations of a hidden reality” is no different than “He perceives phenomena”. Why? In both cases there is the assumption of perceiving something other than perception, namely: matter. (The matter being not just "hidden reality" or "phenomena" but also "he").


Good point. I was clumsily trying to articulate the first of the four stages that Ven. N. Ñāṇamoli describes, the completely naive situation of either idealism or materialism. Rather than even using the word perception it might be better to say that this greenest of worldlings just relates to life inauthentically as pure biological drives (or pure spirit). So the discernable stages or modes of perception might be better summarized:

1. Inauthentic, unreflective life of following biological drives (or divine soul)
2. Acknowledges the issue for the first time: there are phenomena, and only through them does reality appear for my (unchanging) self. (Kantian moment?)
3. After quite a bit of work, perception that self also appears, does not exist apart. Reversal of stage 2: Appearance is primary and only through it or together with it do things exist. (Hegelian reversal and unification?)
4. Understanding through the Teachings that it is not actually appearance that makes things exist. Only the process/action/experience of assuming things exist--appropriating the appearance--makes things exist, and that is optional.

I will need to read up on these other essays to get a better sense of stage 4, since it is not really the focus of this essay, only comes in at the end. I read the essay as more focused on the transition from stage 2 to stage 3. [Edit: deleted clear mistakes] I certainly still need to work on the transition between these.

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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Postby SDC » Wed Apr 26, 2017 2:30 pm

Alex9 wrote: I will need to read up on these other essays to get a better sense of stage 4, since it is not really the focus of this essay, only comes in at the end. I read the essay as more focused on the transition from stage 2 to stage 3. [Edit: deleted clear mistakes] I certainly still need to work on the transition between these.


While there is no set way to get familiar with this interpretation, I would highly recommend looking into the writings of Ven. Nanavira if you haven't already. His body of work, having been in place for a number of years, provides a generous platform for both Ven. N Nanamoli and Ven. Ariyavaṃsa to expand upon, allowing for a level of specificity and brevity which might otherwise be lost on the reader.

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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Postby binocular » Tue May 16, 2017 8:51 am

Greetings, all.

I've just recently begun to familiarize myself with the work of Ven. Ninoslav Nanamoli. I'd like to address some points earlier in the thread:


aflatun wrote:What remains a question for me is why exactly Ven. NN chose to invest the word existence with this "extra" significance (bhava) in the first place? Couldn't he have clearly expressed the same by saying that for the unawakened mind things by definition exist "for me, are mine, are what I am" phenomena are present "for me, are mine, are what I am" etc?

Ordinary people are naive realists, so for them "things exist out there" and an ordinary person believes (takes for granted) he/she has a mostly accurate idea of things that they get through their senses directly (perception is here considered a passive, mostly 1:1 process (optical illusions being one of the rare exceptions)).
An ordinary person does not say something like, "That tree there next to the house exists for me, but maybe not for someone else."

The question is how to correctly describe the view of the puthujjana, given that the puthujjana's view of how they view things is so different from the way their view can be described from the perspective of how to make an end to suffering.

(A naive realist doesn't think and wouldn't say, "I am taking for granted that the way I see things is pretty much the way they really are.")

Not a criticism, its just a curiosity for me. It certainly makes awakening sound more earth shattering to say things no longer exist, they merely appear


[Kaccayana:] "Lord, 'Right view, right view,' it is said. To what extent is there right view?"

[The Buddha:] "By & large, Kaccayana, this world is supported by (takes as its object) a polarity, that of existence & non-existence. But when one sees the origination of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'non-existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one. When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one.

"By & large, Kaccayana, this world is in bondage to attachments, clingings (sustenances), & biases. But one such as this does not get involved with or cling to these attachments, clingings, fixations of awareness, biases, or obsessions; nor is he resolved on 'my self.' He has no uncertainty or doubt that, when there is arising, only stress is arising; and that when there is passing away, only stress is passing away. In this, one's knowledge is independent of others. It is to this extent, Kaccayana, that there is right view."

— SN 12.15
Last edited by binocular on Tue May 16, 2017 10:11 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Postby binocular » Tue May 16, 2017 10:08 am

aflatun wrote:I'm tempted to ask, well then what are we supposed to do? I realize that's a loaded question, and its half rhetorical, as I'm guessing the more I read the more I'll understand the proposed intervention.

That was my first question too -- how does what Ven. Ninoslav Nanamoli say translate into actions, on a daily basis.
In "Appareance and existence," he says some things that I find they address this, namely, when he talks about responsibility. It would be too much to copy-paste all the relevant passages here, so here's just the 4th footnote:

“There is fruit and result of good and bad action…”, i.e.: “I am responsible for what I do”. Similarly, “there are… recluses and brahmins who have realised for themselves the direct knowledge…” means “Freedom from suffering is possible, and if I don’t pursue it, I, myself, am responsible for that. By not pursuing it I am responsible for remaining there where suffering can arise—I am responsible for my suffering.”


Whenever there is a responsibility, there are things to do. One can extrapolate for one's own situation how responsibility -- especially the one for one's own suffering -- translates into daily actions.

The passage I quoted I find significant because of the way Ven. Ninoslav Nanamoli translates what those definitions of "mundane" Right View mean, in terms of responsibility.

I also find it very important that he says that it is "mundane" Right View that can lead to "supramundane" Right View. In Buddhist circles, "mundane" Right View is sometimes looked down upon, as if it only serves the purpose of keeping one hoping to have a relatively good life in samsara. But here, the author views it differently than that:

Together with authenticity, there comes the sense of the fundamental responsibility for one’s own existence[3] which is a necessary prerequisite for a puthujjana’s ‘mundane’ Right View[4] (which can then lead further onwards toward the ‘supramundane’ Right View—the view of the Path). The reason why this attitude is a necessary prerequisite is because only with this attitude will a puthujjana be able to understand that he does not understand, and by doing so enable himself for understanding.”

The attitude he's referring to is noted earlier, as the definition of "mundane" Right View:
“There is what is given and what is offered and what is sacrificed; there is fruit and result of good and bad actions; there is this world and the other world; there is mother and father; there are spontaneously reborn beings; there are in the world good and virtuous recluses and brahmins who have realised for themselves by direct knowledge and declare this world and the other world.” (MN 117/iii,72)



On a related note, from his "Notes on meditation", his criticism of "techniques" (here just one section, there are more):
/.../ it is impossible to engage in a technique without the implicit belief that a set of motions, that the chosen technique consists of, performed in a particular mechanical order, will somehow, by itself, reveal the nature of things. By holding this belief and faith in a technique, one will not be trying to understand things, and by not making attempts toward the understanding, one will definitely remain devoid of it.

One sees things correctly – as phenomena – by understanding what the phenomenon is, and there is no technique that can make this magically occur. Thus, the closest to what one should do in order to obtain understanding is: trying to understand.


I tie this criticism of technique to responsibility and attenting to one's responsibilities. On principle, one can attend to one's responsibilities as a matter of technique: make a to-do list of daily activities that one can check off as one completes them.
For example, for the statement "There is mother and father" one could infer the responsibility and the action following from it "Clean my parents' shoes every evening"; or for the statement "There are in the world good and virtuous recluses and brahmins /../" one could infer the responsibility and the action following from it "Each morning, bow before the pictures of the Buddha and my teacher".

But if one does those actions mechanically, as techniques, as mere items to check off one one's to-do list, then --

Doing a technique in order to practice the Dhamma (i.e. see the nature of things) is like exiting the house, so as to be in it. It’s a contradiction in terms.


So I think another thing to ask oneself is whether one has attended to one's responsibilities as a matter of technique (which is similar to "attachment to rites and rituals", although "technique" can be used more broadly).


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