A Review of Ven. Ñānavīra's "Notes on Dhamma"

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Re: A Review of Ven. Ñānavīra's "Notes on Dhamma"

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Jul 21, 2015 6:57 am

retrofuturist wrote:
Mike wrote:This definition of sankhāra as "something that something else depends on" seems, on the face of it, to miss at least half of the meaning
Not at all. The "something else" may simply be samsaric experience.
I'm not sure what this means, but whatever it means it must be a condition.
With ignorance as condition, volitional formations come to be;
https://suttacentral.net/en/sn12.2
retrofuturist wrote: Samsaric experience depends on sankhata-dhammas (aka sankharas). The rest of paticcasamuppada from sankhara onwards is dependent upon sankharas.
And ignorance.

I think that the answer to my question may be that in this context Ven N is talking about a particular use of the noun, and not the sense of "conditioned" that occurs in a number of suttas.

:anjali:
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Re: A Review of Ven. Ñānavīra's "Notes on Dhamma"

Post by acinteyyo » Tue Jul 21, 2015 9:08 am

mikenz66 wrote:I keep struggling to get a handle on Ven N's ideas. This definition of sankhāra as "something that something else depends on" seems, on the face of it, to miss at least half of the meaning, since sankhāra's depend on other things. See, for example, Bhikkhu Bodhi's examples from the SN: http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?t=23352#p335218. It's interesting to note that Ven N uses Nanamoli's "determinations" terminology.

However can see some value in emphasising the active side (something that something else depends on) since perhaps the passive side of the meaning (something that depends on something else) may otherwise be over-emphasised.

Best Wishes
Mike
Hi Mike,
I understand your difficulties. Ven. N in his notes on sankhāra is not so much concerned with the dependence of sankhārā on something else, which is true, but Ven. N's intention is to point out the special feature of sankhāra as being a determinant. Any sankhāra whatsoever in all cases determines something else and this in particular is what Ven. N is trying to highlight here when he says:
It is there maintained that the word sankhāra, in all contexts, means 'something that something else depends on', that is to say a determination (determinant).
There is no sankhāra that does not determine anything else. This is the special characteristic of sankhārā, i.e. it determines, conditions, creates, forms.
The other part of the meaning of sankhārā, that they also depent on something else is not emphasized in this note. Conditioned things (sankhata dhammā) clearly depent on something else.

best wishes, acinteyyo
Thag 1.20. Ajita - I do not fear death; nor do I long for life. I’ll lay down this body, aware and mindful.

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Re: A Review of Ven. Ñānavīra's "Notes on Dhamma"

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Jul 21, 2015 9:34 am

Thanks acinteyyo, that's a useful clarification.

:anjali:
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Re: A Review of Ven. Ñānavīra's "Notes on Dhamma"

Post by Dinsdale » Tue Jul 21, 2015 9:50 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Spiny,
No problem.
I'd like to add MN1 to the list though. ;)
Buddha save me from new-agers!

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Re: A Review of Ven. Ñānavīra's "Notes on Dhamma"

Post by retrofuturist » Tue Jul 21, 2015 9:54 am

Greetings Spiny,

Haha yeah, I was tempted to include MN1 but had to stop somewhere. :)

Maybe let's call it a path of practice, based on the wisdom derived from the phenomenological view.

Wishing you a good day.

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

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

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Re: A Review of Ven. Ñānavīra's "Notes on Dhamma"

Post by Dinsdale » Tue Jul 21, 2015 10:31 am

retrofuturist wrote:Maybe let's call it a path of practice, based on the wisdom derived from the phenomenological view.
It's tricky though because there are quite a lot of suttas where the phenomenological view isn't at all obvious.
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Re: A Review of Ven. Ñānavīra's "Notes on Dhamma"

Post by retrofuturist » Tue Jul 21, 2015 11:00 am

Greetings Spiny,

Yes, and quite clearly, not everything is presented in that way all the time. Much in the suttas is not framed in the sense of first-person direct-experience.

I think the challenge is to be open to what may be understood in that way.

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

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

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Re: A Review of Ven. Ñānavīra's "Notes on Dhamma"

Post by SDC » Tue Jul 21, 2015 1:35 pm

mikenz66 wrote:As I said, that sort of attitude is hardly likely to engender sympathy for the ideas of Nanavira or you and is diametrically opposed to the request SDC made at the start of this thread.
This thread is not about 'winning over' those opposed to, or unsure about, this work. This is here to discuss these writings plain and simple. There will be declared no victor in end - victory will come if one is able to personally benefit from it in practice. While some weak attempts have been made to sabotage this discussion, it has for the most part gone well and I hope those who are still unsure will continue to ask questions.

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Re: A Review of Ven. Ñānavīra's "Notes on Dhamma"

Post by SDC » Wed Jul 22, 2015 12:47 am

mikenz66 wrote:This definition of sankhāra as "something that something else depends on" seems, on the face of it, to miss at least half of the meaning, since sankhāra's depend on other things.
Another sankhāra. If a thing is, it depends on something else. If that "something else" is the thing, it too depends on something else.

Although it is a difficult read, Ven. N. Ñāṇamoli wrote a very unique essay about this. A word of caution from the footnotes:
Ven. N. Ñāṇamoli wrote:Now is probably the time to mention that none of this, nor paragraphs to follow, can be grasped intellectually by the reader. Things that are described here are not to be made sense of in a rationally or philosophically satisfying way, but to be seen in a certain order that they arise in one’s experience. Hence the deliberate repetitive style which aligns things in the order they are to be understood (which is also the reason why the Suttas are in that form). Also, refraining from a too particular and established terminology was intentional, since that would most likely lead a reader to assume that he already knows what those terms refer to.
A teaser:
Ven. N. Ñāṇamoli wrote:One determines one’s determinations through assuming that because of which determinations are there.

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Re: A Review of Ven. Ñānavīra's "Notes on Dhamma"

Post by SDC » Mon Jul 27, 2015 1:05 am

Please refer to this post for information on the purpose of this thread.

Shorter Notes - 11th Excerpt
Previous Excerpts - 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10

Saññā
Ven. Ñāṇavīra wrote:Saññā and viññāna (perception and consciousness) may be differentiated as follows. Saññā (defined in Anguttara VI,vi,9 <A.iii,413>) is the quality or percept itself (e.g. blue), whereas viññāna (q.v) is the presence or consciousness of the quality or percept—or, more strictly, of the thing exhibiting the quality or percept (i.e. of nāmarūpa). (A quality, it may be noted, is unchanged whether it is present or absent—blue is blue whether seen or imagined --, and the word saññā is used both of five-base experience and of mental experience.)

It would be as wrong to say 'a feeling is perceived' as it would 'a percept is felt' (which mix up saññā and vedanā); but it is quite in order to say 'a feeling, a percept, (that is, a felt thing, a perceived thing) is cognized', which simply means that a feeling or a percept is present (as, indeed, they both are in all experience—see Majjhima v,3 <M.i,293>[15]). Strictly speaking, then, what is cognized is nāmarūpa, whereas what is perceived (or felt) is saññā (or vedanā), i.e. only nāma. This distinction can be shown grammatically. Vijānāti, to cognize, is active voice in sense (taking an objective accusative): consciousness cognizes a phenomenon (nāmarūpa); consciousness is always consciousness of something. Sañjānāti, to perceive, (or vediyati, to feel) is middle voice in sense (taking a cognate accusative): perception perceives [a percept] (or feeling feels [a feeling]). Thus we should say 'a blue thing (= a blueness), a painful thing (= a pain), is cognized', but 'blue is perceived' and 'pain is felt'. (In the Suttas generally, due allowance is to be made for the elasticity in the common usage of words. But in certain passages, and also in one's finer thinking, stricter definition may be required.)

At Dīgha i,9 <D.i,185>, Potthapāda asks the Buddha whether perception arises before knowledge, or knowledge before perception, or both together. The Buddha gives the following answer: Saññā kho Potthapāda pathamam uppajjati, pacchā ñānam; saññ'uppādā ca pana ñān'uppādo hoti. So evam pajānāti, Idapaccayā kira me ñānam udapādí ti. ('Perception, Potthapāda, arises first, knowledge afterwards; but with arising of perception there is arising of knowledge. One understands thus: 'With this as condition, indeed, knowledge arose in me.'') Saññā thus precedes ñāna, not only temporally but also structurally (or logically). Perception, that is to say, is structurally simpler than knowledge; and though perception comes first in time, it does not cease (see CITTA) in order that knowledge can arise. [a] However many stories there are to a house, the ground floor is built first; but it is not then removed to make way for the rest. (The case of vitakkavicārā and vācāA NOTE ON PATICCASAMUPPĀDA §5—is parallel.)

The temptation must be resisted (into which, however, the Visuddhimagga [Ch. XIV] falls) to understand viññāna, in the primitive context of the khandhā, as a more elaborate version of saññā, thus approximating it to ñāna. But, whereas there is always consciousness when there is perception (see above), there is not always knowledge (which is preceded by perception). The difference between viññāna and saññā is in kind, not in degree. (In looser contexts, however,—e.g. Majjhima v,7 <M.i,317>viññāna does tend to mean 'knowing', but not in opposition to saññā. In Majjhima xv,1 <M.iii,259-60>[16] & xiv,8 <227-8>[17] viññāna occurs in both senses, where the second is the complex consciousness of reflexion, i.e. the presence of a known phenomenon—of an example of a universal, that is to say.)
This concludes the Shorter Note on "Saññā".

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Re: A Review of Ven. Ñānavīra's "Notes on Dhamma"

Post by SDC » Mon Aug 03, 2015 10:13 pm

Please refer to this post for information on the purpose of this thread.

Shorter Notes - 12th Excerpt
Previous Excerpts - 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11

VIÑÑĀṆA
Ven. Ñāṇavīra wrote:Consciousness (viññāna) can be thought of as the presence of a phenomenon, which consists of nāma and rūpa. Nāmarūpa and viññāna together constitute the phenomenon 'in person'—i.e. an experience (in German: Erlebnis). The phenomenon is the support (ārammana—see first reference in [c] below) of consciousness, and all consciousness is consciousness of something (viz, of a phenomenon). Just as there cannot be presence without something that is present, so there cannot be something without its being to that extent present—thus viññāna and nāmarūpa depend on each other (see A NOTE ON PATICCASAMUPPĀDA §17). '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' (see A NOTE ON PATICCASAMUPPĀDA §22). Viññānanirodha refers indifferently to anidassana viññāna (saupādisesa nibbānadhātu, which refers to the living arahat: Itivuttaka II,ii,7 <Iti.38>[12]) and to cessation, at the arahat's death, of all consciousness whatsoever (anupādisesa nibbānadhātu). Viññānanirodha, strictly speaking, is cessation of viññān'upādānakkhandha as bhavanirodha is cessation of pañc'upādānakkhandhā (i.e. sakkāyanirodha), but it is extended to cover the final cessation of viññānakkhandha (and therefore of pañcakkhandhā) at the breaking up of the arahat's body.

Consciousness, it must be noted, is emphatically no more 'subjective' than are the other four upādānakkhandhā (i.e. than nāmarūpa). (This should be clear from what has gone before; but it is a commonly held view that consciousness is essentially subjective, and a slight discussion will be in place.) It is quite wrong to regard viññāna as the subject to whom the phenomenon (nāmarūpa), now regarded as object, is present (in which case we should have to say, with Sartre, that consciousness as subjectivity is presence to the object). Viññāna is negative as regards essence (or 'what-ness'): it is not part of the phenomenon, of what is present, but is simply the presence of the phenomenon.[c] Consequently, in visual experience (for example), phenomena are seen, eye-consciousness is not seen (being negative as regards essence), yet there is eye-consciousness (eye -consciousness is present reflexively).[d] In this way consciousness comes to be associated with the body (saviññānaka kāya), and is frequently identified as the subject, or at least as subjectivity (e.g. by Husserl [see CETANĀ ] and Sartre [op. cit., p. 27]). (To follow this discussion reference should be made to PHASSA, particularly [c], where it is shown that there is a natural tendency for subjectivity to be associated with the body. Three distinct pairs of complementaries are thus seen to be superimposed: eye & forms (or, generally: six-based body & externals); consciousness & phenomena; subject & objects. To identify consciousness and the subject is only too easy. With attainment of arahattā all trace of the subject-&-objects duality vanishes. Cf. also ATTĀ [c].)


This concludes the Shorter Note on "Viññāna".

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Re: A Review of Ven. Ñānavīra's "Notes on Dhamma"

Post by SDC » Mon Aug 10, 2015 4:44 pm

Please refer to this post for information on the purpose of this thread.

Shorter Notes - 13th Excerpt
Previous Excerpts - 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12

ANICCA
Ven. Ñāṇavīra wrote:Aniccatā or 'impermanence', in the Buddha's Teaching, is sometimes taken as a 'doctrine of universal flux', or continuous change of condition. This is a disastrous over-simplification—see PATICCASAMUPPĀDA [c].

In the Khandha Samyutta (iv,6 <S.iii,38>) it is said of rūpa, vedanā, saññā, sankhārā, and viññāna: uppādo paññāyati; vayo paññāyati; thitassa aññathattam paññāyati. ('Arising (appearance) is manifest; disappearance is manifest; change while standing is manifest. (Cf. Anguttara III,v,7, at the head of FUNDAMENTAL STRUCTURE.)')[a] These three sankhatassa sankhatalakkhanāni (Anguttara III,v,7 <A.i,152> ), or characteristics whereby what is determined (i.e. a sankhata dhamma) may be known as such (i.e. as sankhata), concisely indicate the fundamental structure in virtue of which things are things—in virtue of which, that is to say, things are distinct, one from another. It is also in virtue of this structure that all experience, including the arahat's, is intentional (see CETANĀ) or teleological (i.e. that things are significant, that they point to other, possible, things—e.g. a hammer is a thing for hammering, and what it is for hammering is nails; or, more subtly, a particular shade of a particular colour is just that shade by pointing to all the other distinct shades that it might be, while yet remaining the same colour, but actually is not [cf. Spinoza's dictum 'Omnis determinatio est negatio']). 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. Detailed consideration of this structure and its implications seems to lead to the solution of a great many philosophical problems, but these are no more than indirectly relevant to the understanding of the Buddha's Teaching.[c] Some people, however, may find that a description of this structure provides a useful instrument for thinking with. (See FUNDAMENTAL STRUCTURE.)

For a discussion of sabbe sankhārā aniccā see DHAMMA.


This concludes the Shorter Note on "Anicca".

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Re: A Review of Ven. Ñānavīra's "Notes on Dhamma"

Post by SDC » Mon Aug 17, 2015 10:05 pm

Please refer to this post for information on the purpose of this thread.

Shorter Notes - 14th Excerpt
Previous Excerpts - 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13

ATAKKĀVACARA
Ven. Ñāṇavīra wrote:Sometimes translated as 'unattainable by reasoning' or 'not accessible to doubt'. But the Cartesian cogito ergo sum is also, in a sense, inaccessible to doubt; for I cannot doubt my existence without tacitly assuming it. This merely shows, however, that one cannot get beyond the cogito by doubting it. And the Dhamma is beyond the cogito. The cogito, then, can be reached by doubt—one doubts and doubts until one finds what one cannot doubt, what is inaccessible to doubt, namely the cogito. But the Dhamma cannot be reached in this way. Thus the Dhamma, though certainly inaccessible to doubt, is more than that; it is altogether beyond the sphere of doubt. The rationalist, however, does not even reach the inadequate cogito, or if he does reach it[a] he overshoots the mark (atidhāvati—Itivuttaka II,ii,12 <Iti. 43>); for he starts from the axiom that everything can be doubted (including, of course, the cogito). Cf. also Majjhima xi,2 <M.ii,232-3> & i,2 <M.i,8>. See NIBBĀNA.
This concludes the Shorter Note on "Atakkāvacara".

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Re: A Review of Ven. Ñānavīra's "Notes on Dhamma"

Post by SDC » Thu Aug 20, 2015 9:32 pm

Please refer to this post for information on the purpose of this thread.

Shorter Notes - 15th Excerpt
Previous Excerpts - 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14

ATTĀ
Ven. Ñāṇavīra wrote:In the arahat's reflexion what appears reflexively is only pañcakkhandhā, which he calls 'myself' simply for want of any other term. But in the puthujjana's reflexion what appears reflexively is pañc'upādānakkhandhā, or sakkāya; and sakkāya (q.v.), when it appears reflexively, appears (in one way or another) as being and belonging to an extra-temporal changeless 'self' (i.e. a soul). The puthujjana confuses (as the arahat does not) the self-identity of simple reflexion—as with a mirror, where the same thing is seen from two points of view at once ('the thing itself', 'the selfsame thing')—with the 'self' as the subject that appears in reflexion—'my self' (i.e. 'I itself', i.e. 'the I that appears when I reflect'). For the puthujjana the word self is necessarily ambiguous, since he cannot conceive of any reflexion not involving reflexive experience of the subject—i.e. not involving manifestation of a soul. Since the self of self-identity is involved in the structure of the subject appearing in reflexion ('my self' = 'I itself'), it is sometimes taken (when recourse is not had to a supposed Transcendental Being) as the basic principle of all subjectivity. The subject is then conceived as a hypostasized play of reflexions of one kind or another, the hypostasis itself somehow deriving from (or being motivated by) the play of reflexions. The puthujjana, however, does not see that attainment of arahattā removes all trace of the desire or conceit '(I) am', leaving the entire reflexive structure intact—in other words, that subjectivity is a parasite on experience. Indeed, it is by his very failure to see this that he remains a puthujjana.

The question of self-identity arises either when a thing is seen from two points of view at once (as in reflexion,[a] for example; or when it is at the same time the object of two different senses—I am now both looking at my pen and touching it with my fingers, and I might wonder if it is the same pen in the two simultaneous experiences [see RŪPA]), or when a thing is seen to endure in time, when the question may be asked if it continues to be the same thing (the answer being, that a thing at any one given level of generality is the invariant of a transformation—see ANICCA [a] & FUNDAMENTAL STRUCTURE—, and that 'to remain the same' means just this). With the question of a thing's self-identity (which presents no particular difficulty) the Buddha's Teaching of anattā has nothing whatsoever to do: anattā is purely concerned with 'self' as subject. (See PATICCASAMUPPĀDA [c].)

'Self' as subject can be briefly discussed as follows. As pointed out in PHASSA , the puthujjana thinks 'things are mine (i.e. are my concern) because I am, because I exist'. He takes the subject ('I') for granted; and if things are appropriated, that is because he, the subject, exists. The ditthisampanna (or sotāpanna) sees, however, that this is the wrong way round. He sees that the notion 'I am' arises because things (so long as there is any trace of avijjā) present themselves as 'mine'. This significance (or intention, or determination), 'mine' or 'for me'—see A NOTE ON PATICCASAMUPPĀDA [e]—, is, in a sense, a void, a negative aspect of the present thing (or existing phenomenon), since it simply points to a subject; and the puthujjana, not seeing impermanence (or more specifically, not seeing the impermanence of this ubiquitous determination), deceives himself into supposing that there actually exists a subject—'self'—independent of the object (which latter, as the ditthisampanna well understands, is merely the positive aspect of the phenomenon—that which is 'for me'). In this way it may be seen that the puthujjana's experience, pañc'upādānakkhandhā, has a negative aspect (the subject) and a positive aspect (the object). But care is needed; for, in fact, the division subject/object is not a simple negative/positive division. If it were, only the positive would be present (as an existing phenomenon) and the negative (the subject) would not be present at all—it would simply not exist. But the subject is, in a sense, phenomenal: it (or he) is an existing phenomenal negative, a negative that appears; for the puthujjana asserts the present reality of his 'self' ('the irreplaceable being that I am'). The fact is, that the intention or determination 'mine', pointing to a subject, is a complex structure involving avijjā. The subject is not simply a negative in relation to the positive object: it (or he) is master over the object, and is thus a kind of positive negative, a master who does not appear explicitly but who, somehow or other, nevertheless exists.[c] It is this master whom the puthujjana, when he engages in reflexion, is seeking to identify—in vain![d] This delusive mastery of subject over object must be rigorously distinguished from the reflexive power of control or choice that is exercised in voluntary action by puthujjana and arahat alike.

For a discussion of sabbe dhammā anattā see DHAMMA.

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Re: A Review of Ven. Ñānavīra's "Notes on Dhamma"

Post by SDC » Tue Aug 25, 2015 10:00 pm

Please refer to this post for information on the purpose of this thread.

Shorter Notes - 16th Excerpt
Previous Excerpts - 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15

BALA
Ven. Ñāṇavīra wrote:The distinction between indriya and bala seems to be that indriya, 'faculty', means a qualitative range of capacity or extent of dominion in a given province, whereas bala, 'power', implies rather a quantitative superiority of endowment. As faculties the five items, saddhā, viriya, sati, samādhi, and paññā, are, in the ariyasāvaka, either effective or latent all at once (see Indriya Samy. vi,2 <S.v,228>) and are totally absent from the puthujjana (ibid. ii,8 <S.v,202>). As powers they are the strength of the ariyasāvaka, who has equipment for practice of the Dhamma that is lacking in the puthujjana. Katamañ ca bhikkhave bhāvanābalam. Tatra bhikkhave yam idam bhāvanābalam sekhānam etam balam sekhamhi. ('And which, monks, is the development-power? Herein, monks, as to the development-power, this is the trainers' power, in trainers.') (Anguttara II,ii,1 <A.i,52>) It is sometimes supposed that a puthujjana possesses these faculties and powers, at least in embryo, and that his task is to develop them. This is a misunderstanding. It is the puthujjana's task to acquire them. It is for the sekha, who has acquired them, to develop them.

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