Some Understanding Problems about Fundamental Structure by Nanavira

Exploring modern Theravāda interpretations of the Buddha's teaching.
Post Reply
ekagrata
Posts: 2
Joined: Sat Sep 17, 2016 11:49 am

Some Understanding Problems about Fundamental Structure by Nanavira

Post by ekagrata » Tue Apr 11, 2017 12:38 pm

Dear dhamma friends,
Some difficulties occur to me when I attempt to understand some sentences on Fundamental Structure of Notes on Dhamma. Let me enumerate:

1. In Static Aspect (http://nanavira.org/index.php/notes-on- ... tic-aspect) §11, Nanavira wrote "In how many ways can they pair off?" Why does Nanavira discuss the number of the ways that the noughts and crosses can pair off, and how is this related to the later sections?

2. Nanavira wrote "In any way, then, in which we happen to write down these four symbols, x marks the fourth place. (If, for example, we had written them o x o o, the symbol x would still mark the fourth place.) " and "Note that we must adjust the position of x in the fourth tetrad to come in whichever place we choose as the first.". Image Then why should the the position of x be adjusted according to the first tetrad, and can x remain in the same place as in Image?

3. And what does the number 1 mean in the picture above (however, the 4 does not change its place in the lower right corner), and why did Nanavida arrange the two tetrads in the form of this larger tetrad, since in §13 he wrote "any of these representations can—more strictly, though less conveniently—be written in one line"?

It seems that I have missed some important points so I cannot comprehend the work. Could you elaborate on these questions? Thanks in advance.


With metta

pulga
Posts: 1243
Joined: Sun Nov 14, 2010 3:02 pm

Re: Some Understanding Problems about Fundamental Structure by Nanavira

Post by pulga » Wed Apr 12, 2017 2:01 pm

It is helpful in trying to understand Fundamental Structure to apply to what Ven. Ñanavira is elaborating on to one’s own experience. At least for me it isn’t so much following in detail his steps, but gaining an appreciation of what he is describing phenomenologically.
I say that the structure of a thing of certain complexity is represented by Image. This is arrived at by purely phenomenological description (i.e. in the reflexive description of experience as such) [L. 73 | 80] 30 November 1963
Confining ourselves to visual experience for the time being, x always finds itself in the fourth spot because in the four quadrants (horizons) that make up my immediate spatial experience x represents the eye. So we end up with the diagram Image. This represents my “present” field of vision with the eye at the center, unable to see itself. (cf. SN 35.238) and the three other “absent” (cf. Shorter Note Nāma, footnote (b)) fields that make up my spatial surroundings. (Note: in order for my surrounding to be manifest, i.e. to be “describable” at least one of these quadrants must “exist”, whether as real in a real experience or as imagined in an imaginary experience. (This is why Ven. Ñanavira insists that things do exist: not independently of consciousness, but nonetheless the existence of things is a fundamental aspect of experience that cannot be denied.)

At the most primitive level the “eye” is always “here”. But FS also elaborates on experience of higher complexities (as in the letter quoted above). In such cases the duality of the mind and ideas takes the place of the eye and forms in its relation to the "here" and its peripheral "yonder". (Though it should be noted that the mind is in play even at the most primitive visual level in intuiting one's field of vision as a given whole.) My immediate spatial surroundings is also “here”, e.g. if considered say in my being in this room as opposed to other rooms -- the relational whole of which constitutes my being in this house. At this level we are dealing the “fleshly eye” always observed by the other senses to being invariably “here” amongst the variable “yonder”.
If experience were confined to the use of a single eye, the eye and forms would not be distinguishable, they would not appear as separate things; there would be just the experience describable in terms of pañc'upādānakkhandhā. But normal experience is always multiple, and other faculties (touch and so on) are engaged at the same time, and the eye and forms as separate things are manifest to them (in the duality of experience already referred to). The original experience is thus found to be a relationship: but the fleshly eye is observed (by the other faculties, notably touch, and by the eyes themselves seeing their own reflexion) to be invariable (it is always 'here', idha), whereas forms are observed to be variable (they are plural and 'yonder', huram). Visual experience, however, also is variable, and its entire content is thus naturally attributed to forms and none of it to the eye. In visual experience, then, forms are seen, the eye is unseen, yet (as our other faculties or a looking-glass informs us) there is the eye. Also in visual experience, but in quite a different way (indicated earlier), objects are seen, the subject is unseen (explicitly, at least; otherwise it [or he] would be an object), yet there is the subject ('I am'). On account of their structural similarity these two independent patterns appear one superimposed on the other; and when there is failure to distinguish between these patterns, the subject comes to be identified with the eye (and mutatis mutandis for the other āyatanāni). Shorter Note Phassa
All this is based upon the ramifications of the duality of the saḷāyatana, cf.SN 35.93.

There is a profound understatement that Ven. Ñanavira slips into §9 of FS Static: “Here it is clear that though in the fourth quarter,Image , x precedes o, yet the first quarter, Image , precedes the fourth quarter. So in the whole we must say 'o precedes x first, and then x precedes o. This is tantamount to saying that the whole of existence rests upon whatever we happen to be attending to. Whereas the contextual meaning of a thing (its significance) can be layered to infinity both in space and in time, its existence is implicitly contingent due to "the undeniable fact of change", cf. FS Static, footnote [c].

ekagrata
Posts: 2
Joined: Sat Sep 17, 2016 11:49 am

Re: Some Understanding Problems about Fundamental Structure by Nanavira

Post by ekagrata » Tue Apr 18, 2017 9:49 am

Many thanks for your reply, pulga. Having been busy reading Nanavira's letters for an entire week, however,the details of FS (and for most part of Dynamic Aspect) are still incomprehensible to me, and my confusion is even expanding as the study goes on.

1.If x represents the sense-bases (I could not find such explanations in Nanavira's correspondence), then does o represent sense-objects accordingly? But however the symbols Image arrange their patterns, they represent the same thing. ("two things define a thing, namely the difference between them" in §6) Therefore I cannot tell the difference between Image and Image, since they seem to represent the same thing

2.And "So in the whole we must say 'o precedes x first, and then x precedes o." It seems to me that the statement represents a shift of attention (from o to x, and then return to o), and I cannot then gain more from it. What point have I missed so far?

3.§11, Nanvarira writs "although we can now distinguish between the second place and the third place, we cannot tell which of the two,ImageorImage , is the second and which the third", this is still not very clear to me.

4.In §11, Nanavira writes "And if x comes in the fourth place in the first place, it will come in the first place in the fourth place." and "Note that we must adjust the position of x in the fourth tetrad to come in whichever place we choose as the first". He repeated the same thing twice, but did not provide the reason why one is obliged to change the position of x according to the "first place", and what the 16-symbol figure is used for?

5.Three absents defined by Nanavira are "here-and-then (then = not now; at some other time) or there-and-now (there = not here; at some other place) or there-and-then."(In Shorter Notes Nama, link http://nanavira.org/index.php/notes-on- ... notes/nama), and he managed to prove that "The first result is that three negatives, not one, are absolutely required, which, incidentally, is why space is necessarily three-dimensional" ([L.44] link http://nanavira.org/index.php/letters/p ... april-1963) However, I do not know how this result is derived.

Would you bother to elaborate these questions?

pulga
Posts: 1243
Joined: Sun Nov 14, 2010 3:02 pm

Re: Some Understanding Problems about Fundamental Structure by Nanavira

Post by pulga » Fri Nov 10, 2017 2:49 pm

The letter dates back to January 1959 before Ven. Ñanavira's breakthrough, but this passage I think is helpful in gaining some understanding of what FS is trying to describe.
My view of being is this: the present single directly perceived phenomenon (whatever it may be) appears against a background of other phenomena that it is not, and these other phenomena are peripherally perceived, not directly perceived. They are absent not present; possible, not certain. But this background itself appears as directly perceived relative to a further background, which further background is thus doubly peripheral, doubly absent; with regard to the original single phenomenon. And this further background has itself got another, still further, background against which it appears, and so on ad infinitum. This is the hierarchy (or one aspect of it). To illustrate this, the picture of squares within squares will serve, and you may now regard it, as you suggest, as an advancing pyramid with diminishing sections. Each section is standing out as a single phenomenon against the background of the next larger section, which represents, all the (limited) immediate possibilities of, or alternatives to, the smaller section within it. The relation is essentially part-to-whole, repeated indefinitely. Now, Berkeley's esse est percipi, takes account of the single immediately present phenomenon that you happen to have started with (i.e. by ignoring the fact that this given phenomenon is itself a background to a still more present phenomenon). (Seeking the Path, Letter 86)
The "advancing pyramid" referred to displays the "perpendicular" hierarchy that accompanies the particular-and-general hierarchy in successive orders of reflexion. cf. I Static Aspect §16.

Also helpful is Ñanavira's observation that FS can be represented as the structure of a line:
Note that any of these representations can—more strictly, though less conveniently—be written in one line, in which case there are no columns-and-rows; and we are then concerned throughout only with interchanges of symbols—singly and in pairs, in pairs of pairs and in pairs of pairs of pairs, and so on. (This, incidentally, throws light on the structure of a line; for we are taking advantage of the structure of a line to represent structure in general. The structure of the line—or, more exactly, of length—is seen when we superpose all the members of the representation.) emphasis added I Static Aspect §13
Such superposition brings to mind our experience of a horizon with our point of view being the vertex. At each level of complexity a particular length is present. The superposition of all the lengths come to form horizon, an analogy made much use of by both Husserl and Heidegger.
Last edited by pulga on Fri Nov 10, 2017 3:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
aflatun
Posts: 606
Joined: Fri Sep 16, 2016 2:40 pm
Location: Bay Area, CA

Re: Some Understanding Problems about Fundamental Structure by Nanavira

Post by aflatun » Fri Nov 10, 2017 3:01 pm

Thank you for that pulga, I will digest and be back later! Sorry for the delay, and sorry to Mr. SDC as well :heart:
"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

User avatar
aflatun
Posts: 606
Joined: Fri Sep 16, 2016 2:40 pm
Location: Bay Area, CA

Re: Some Understanding Problems about Fundamental Structure by Nanavira

Post by aflatun » Sat Nov 11, 2017 5:25 pm

pulga wrote:
Fri Nov 10, 2017 2:49 pm

I suggest that we start with Part 1: Static Aspect. Letter 44/51 is very helpful in providing an orientation of what Ñanavira is up to regarding FS -- and of course in the letter are the very words Ñanavira himself used in trying to convey the principles of FS to Hon. Samaratunga. His explanation of the nature of inference and the example of the objects in a room can be applied to the x's and o's of FS. Keep in mind that x is "here", an inherent negative and that is why it is always in the fourth place. When I attend to any o in my field of vision, there is always something to the left and right of it. But all four of these coordinates make up the singular whole of my act of seeing, and thus there is no difference between them in the act of seeing itself. In other words, we infer the differences, but the seeing in its immediacy is a singular whole, cf. SN Phassa, footnote [c].

As I see it, the difference between the perpendicular and the horizontal hierarchy has to do with the presence of a thing as opposed to it meaning, i.e. its significance which is determined contextually, i.e. horizontally. In SN Attā Ñanavira writes:
The question of self-identity arises either when a thing is seen from two points of view at once (as in reflexion, 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).
If the arahat takes himself to be an individual "thing" as opposed to a subject -- i.e. a person -- the images that make up his past and future which are present in reflexion determine "what" he is, though not "who" he is. These images all have their place within a spaciotemporal horizon made up of hierarchy of consciousness cum name-and-matter. If a thing (an experience) exists it must have a past, present, and future that constitutes its moment of existing. And every moment of a given duration itself has a past, present, and future, and so on. All of this layering implies an eternity that falls within the static aspect of Fundamental Structure, as if the alpha and the omega of the whole of the existing universe were contained within a single snapshot. The dynamic aspect of Fundamental Structure deals with how the horizon comes to endure in spite of the vanishing of this frozen moment in time.
I suggest that we start with Part 1: Static Aspect.
Yes I think that's best, as that's where I'm getting stuck, right at the beginning :tongue:

His explanation of the nature of inference and the example of the objects in a room can be applied to the x's and o's of FS. Keep in mind that x is "here", an inherent negative and that is why it is always in the fourth place. When I attend to any o in my field of vision, there is always something to the left and right of it. But all four of these coordinates make up the singular whole of my act of seeing, and thus there is no difference between them in the act of seeing itself. In other words, we infer the differences, but the seeing in its immediacy is a singular whole
So these o's and x's are a big part of what I'm struggling with. So are we saying that if I'm attending to an o in my field of vision, lets say this laptop, the x stands for the negative eye, and all three os stand for the laptop? (I'm setting the singular whole aside for a moment)

This is a big part of where I am confused. If o = o, why is o found in three different positions in the one square? Your description refers to "something to the left and right of it." Are these represented by the other two o's?

I'm working on the letter you linked to now, thank you for that
Last edited by aflatun on Sat Nov 11, 2017 5:47 pm, edited 2 times in total.
"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

User avatar
aflatun
Posts: 606
Joined: Fri Sep 16, 2016 2:40 pm
Location: Bay Area, CA

Re: Some Understanding Problems about Fundamental Structure by Nanavira

Post by aflatun » Sat Nov 11, 2017 5:28 pm

SDC wrote:
Tue Nov 07, 2017 3:47 am
As far as my own understanding goes, I seem to have gripped it to a certain degree putting as much emphasis as I can on trying to see it in experience as opposed to having it be a model that I understand in the linear manner in which it is presented. With that it is always very hard to discuss it because whether I would be describing it correctly or not, it is hard to convey that what is NOT linear in my experience is made linear by virtue of trying to put it into words - and there is no avoiding this as the first step trying to understand it. In no way am I an authority on this model, but hopefully can make it a bit easier for you to approach it and perhaps make some use of it.

So quite like reading a sutta describing experience, you have to find a way to apply it in an experiential manner. In a sense, as you well know, that would include "you" along with any other elusive, subjective cache that may be withheld in the confines of conceiving - all must be considered in fundamental structure. To the degree that if something were to arise outside bounds of what the model currently means in your experience (and it will) that too already has a place in that structure even though it appears to have exceeded the bounds. This is where the whole notion of "infinite in either direction" comes into play. There can be appearance in the direction of more particular or more general. Whether you deal with the simple thing as "o" and go in the direction of the representation with the four quadrant o o o x. Or you can go the other way, instead of dealing with the representation of the simple "o", go in the direction of its position in that more complex representation. Do you see how these are two different direction in the model? The point is that you are dealing with changing layers of generality and there is no limit in either direction. This infinity can be known to the degree that it is always available, not in the sense that it has to be grasped at all times (one could not quantify it anyhow).
This is where the whole notion of "infinite in either direction" comes into play. There can be appearance in the direction of more particular or more general. Whether you deal with the simple thing as "o" and go in the direction of the representation with the four quadrant o o o x. Or you can go the other way, instead of dealing with the representation of the simple "o", go in the direction of its position in that more complex representation. Do you see how these are two different direction in the model? The point is that you are dealing with changing layers of generality and there is no limit in either direction.
I think I do see how these are two different directions in the model, and on the whole, or with respect to the general principle, I think I understand it, but where I'm getting tripped up (for starters!) is what exactly these o's and x's refer to, and why there are three o's and one x, if o is always the same thing? Maybe we can try to hammer this out with mundane examples as I'm trying to do with pulga above.
"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

pulga
Posts: 1243
Joined: Sun Nov 14, 2010 3:02 pm

Re: Some Understanding Problems about Fundamental Structure by Nanavira

Post by pulga » Sun Nov 12, 2017 9:37 am

aflatun wrote:
Sat Nov 11, 2017 5:25 pm

So these o's and x's are a big part of what I'm struggling with. So are we saying that if I'm attending to an o in my field of vision, lets say this laptop, the x stands for the negative eye, and all three os stand for the laptop? (I'm setting the singular whole aside for a moment)

This is a big part of where I am confused. If o = o, why is o found in three different positions in the one square? Your description refers to "something to the left and right of it." Are these represented by the other two o's?
Orders in priority have to be accounted for, cf. FS I §4. Because your laptop is "this" it is represented as oo, your eye not being the focus of attention is "that", i.e. it is only implied in a relationship with your laptop, i.e. with o, so that that part of the experience is represented within the pairing ox, (which is not-o, a negative). So the experience of "seeing" your laptop is represented as ooox. All of the various interchanges together with no interchange that Ven. Ñanavira elaborates on in FS I §11 leads to a representation of the whole of your "seeing" your laptop.

Image represents the whole of Image, thus displaying the recursive nature of the structure we're dealing with.

I'm working on a more detailed explanation, but for now I recommend Ven. Nyanamoli's A Note on Fundamental Structure
, §4 is especially helpful. Keep in mind that one of the quadrants of Image is positive, the other three are negative, i.e. one is oo (no interchange), the other three are ox (interchanges).

Added note:

Another way to approach this is by way of the structure of not merely a horizon, but the "experience of a horizon", cf. FS I §13. A horizon has a left-side, middle, and right-side. The horizon itself is one thing and the focus of attention, i.e. oo. The vertex is x and another thing, but in order to be a vertex it has to be in some relation to the horizon, i.e. ox. Shifting your attention to different parts of the horizon are different examples of ox. All of these ox's are negative, taken together with the positive oo they constitute the "experience of a horizon" as a whole.
Intentions may be regarded basically as the relation between the actual and the possible. A thing always presents itself from a particular point of view; there is an actual aspect together with a number of possible aspects.[d] The set of relations between the actual aspect and all the alternative aspects is the same, no matter which one of the various aspects should happen to be actual. It is in virtue of this that a thing remains the same, as the point of view changes. Intentions are the significance of the actual aspect; they are every possible aspect, and therefore the thing-as-a-whole.

[d] It seems that, at the first level of complexity, the actual aspect is necessarily accompanied by precisely three possible aspects (like a tetrahedron* presenting any given face). For details see FUNDAMENTAL STRUCTURE I. -- SN Cetanā
*Image

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 6 guests