The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

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The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Post by starter » Sat Mar 12, 2011 12:29 am

Hello Teachers/Friends,

Considering the relevance, I moved my following discussion from the meditation subforum to this one, and revised it accordingly.

As I understand, the Buddha adopted the middle-road approach not to even "get involved with or cling to these attachments, clingings, fixations of awareness, biases, or obsessions [of the two extremes: "the soul is the same as the body" vs. "the soul is one thing and the body another"; or "there is "self" vs "there is no "self"]", but only to teach the four Noble truths to get out of suffering. He pointed out that " And when there is the view that the soul is one thing and the body another, there isn't the leading of the holy life. "

But as I understand from his other teachings (e.g. SN 22.59), the actual "how" he taught us to get out of suffering is by realization of the five aggregates as "ANATTA", which leads to disenchantment/dispassion of the five aggregates.

Were the "middle-way" teachings like SN12.35 & SN12.15 given much later than the ANATTA teachings like SN22.59 (which I believe was given at the very early period) or not? Toward the later period of his teaching career, did he still teach the ANATTA method or did he change to the ANICCA/Dukkha approach instead?

Metta to all,

Starter

PS -- SN 12.35:

"... If one were to ask, 'Which aging & death? And whose is this aging & death?' and if one were to ask, 'Is aging & death one thing, and is this the aging & death of someone/something else?' both of them would have the same meaning, even though their words would differ. When there is the view that the soul is the same as the body, there isn't the leading of the holy life. And when there is the view that the soul is one thing and the body another, there isn't the leading of the holy life. Avoiding these two extremes, the Tathagata points out the Dhamma in between: From birth as a requisite condition comes aging & death." [The same applies to birth / becoming / clinging / craving / feeling / contact / six sense media / name & form / consciousness / fabrications]

SN 12.15

"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 just stress [dukkha], when arising, is arising; stress, when passing away, is passing away. In this, his knowledge is independent of others. It's to this extent, Kaccayana, that there is right view.

"'Everything exists': That is one extreme. 'Everything doesn't exist': That is a second extreme. Avoiding these two extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma via the middle: From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications. From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness. ...

"Now from the remainderless fading & cessation of that very ignorance [-- but how?? Through ANATTA of the five aggregates taught in SN22.59?] comes the cessation of fabrications. From the cessation of fabrications comes the cessation of consciousness. From the cessation of consciousness comes the cessation of name-&-form. From the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of the six sense media. From the cessation of the six sense media comes the cessation of contact. From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of feeling. From the cessation of feeling comes the cessation of craving. From the cessation of craving comes the cessation of clinging/sustenance. From the cessation of clinging/sustenance comes the cessation of becoming. From the cessation of becoming comes the cessation of birth. From the cessation of birth, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair all cease. Such is the cessation of this entire mass of stress & suffering."

SN 22.59:

"Any form [feeling, perception, (mental) fabrications, consciousness] whatsoever that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near: every consciousness is to be seen as it actually is with right discernment as: 'This is not mine. This is not my self. This is not what I am.'

"Seeing thus, the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones grows disenchanted with form, disenchanted with feeling, disenchanted with perception, disenchanted with fabrications, disenchanted with consciousness. Disenchanted, he becomes dispassionate. Through dispassion, he is fully released. With full release, there is the knowledge, 'Fully released.' He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'"
Last edited by starter on Sun Mar 13, 2011 6:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Mar 12, 2011 12:41 am

Hi Starter,

Are you wondering if there is a contradiction between the Suttas (I don't see any)?
Or why the Buddha emphasised different things to different audiences (standard learner-centred approach)?

PS, it would be helpful to give links to anything you quote, so readers can read around the context.
For example in SN 22.59 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nymo.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; anicca and dukkha are used to lead on to the anatta message, so I don't see how you can say that anicca/dukkha are a "later idea":
"Bhikkhus, how do you conceive it: is form permanent or impermanent?" — "Impermanent, venerable Sir." — "Now is what is impermanent painful or pleasant?" — "Painful, venerable Sir." — "Now is what is impermanent, what is painful since subject to change, fit to be regarded thus: 'This is mine, this is I, this is my self'"? — "No, venerable sir."
:anjali:
Mike

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Re: The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Post by retrofuturist » Sat Mar 12, 2011 12:48 am

Greetings starter,

It's quite difficult to chronologise the individual suttas.

Validating your hypothesis would require a lot of scholastic investigation and presumably, a great deal of assumption.

Not to say you're right or wrong, or that it's not an interesting question... but it's going to be hard to prove one way or the other.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"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)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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Re: The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Mar 12, 2011 4:57 am

retrofuturist wrote: Validating your hypothesis would require a lot of scholastic investigation and presumably, a great deal of assumption.
And would also involve figuring out what parts of which Suttas are "original". As I understand it, the Vinaya gives the chronology of the
Dhammacakkappavattana http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nymo.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Anatta-lakkhana http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nymo.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Adittapariyaya http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nymo.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Suttas, but I've seen various scholars argue that the final form of those Suttas was not fixed for a century or two...

:anjali:
Mike

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Re: The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Post by Vossaga (Element) » Sat Mar 12, 2011 4:58 am

starter wrote:Were the "middle-way" teachings like SN12.35 & SN12.15 given much later than the ANATTA teachings like SN22.59 (which I believe was given at the very early period) or not?
Hello Starter

In his first sermon, the Buddha introduced the "Middle-Way", which begins with the right view of the Four Noble Truths.
The middle way discovered by a Perfect One avoids both these extremes; it gives vision, it gives knowledge, and it leads to peace, to direct acquaintance, to discovery, to nibbana. And what is that middle way? It is simply the noble eightfold path, that is to say, right view, right intention; right speech, right action, right livelihood; right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. That is the middle way discovered by a Perfect One, which gives vision, which gives knowledge, and which leads to peace, to direct acquaintance, to discovery, to nibbana.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nymo.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
In his second sermon, the Buddha introduced anicca, dukkha (unsatisfactoriness) & anatta, as the three characteristics of all conditioned things, be they physical or mental:
What do you think of this, O monks? Is form permanent or impermanent?"

"Impermanent, O Lord."

"Now, that which is impermanent, is it unsatisfactory or satisfactory?"

"Unsatisfactory, O Lord."

"Now, that which is impermanent, unsatisfactory, subject to change, is it proper to regard that as: 'This is mine, this I am, this is my self'?"

"Indeed, not that, O Lord."

O monks, the well-instructed noble disciple, seeing thus, gets wearied of form, gets wearied of feeling, gets wearied of perception, gets wearied of mental formations, gets wearied of consciousness. Being wearied he becomes passion-free. In his freedom from passion, he is emancipated. Being emancipated, there is the knowledge that he is emancipated. He knows: 'birth is exhausted, lived is the holy life, what had to be done is done, there is nothing more of this becoming.'"

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .mend.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
At a later time, the Buddha introduced Dependent Origination. SN12.35 & SN12.15 are more unusual discourses on Dependent Origination.

If we regard Dependent Origination to simply be a more detailed explanation of the Four Noble Truths, then we will understand Dependent Origination, the same as the Four Noble Truths, is the Middle Way.
Now, the Blessed One has said, "Whoever sees dependent co-arising sees the Dhamma; whoever sees the Dhamma sees dependent co-arising." And these things — the five aggregates subject to clinging— are dependently co-arisen. Any desire, embracing, graspin, & holding-on to these five aggregates subject to clinging is the origination of stress. Any subduing of desire & passion, any abandoning of desire & passion for these five aggregates subject to clinging is the cessation of stress.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Although the Four Noble Truths are highly venerated in Buddhism, in my opinion, which is probably not common, I regard the Four Noble Truths as a less profound teaching than Dependent Origination, in that the Four Noble Truths do not strongly display anatta (not-self). The Four Noble Truths simply state clinging to the five aggregates is suffering and this suffering originates from craving, liking & disliking, delight & lust that leads to new becoming.

So with the Four Noble Truths, in my opinion, a mind that still has the sense of 'self' can somewhat practise according to the Four Noble Truths by giving up the three kinds of craving.

Where as SN12.35, SN12.12 & SN12.15, which are about Dependent Origination, focus strongly on the notion of "being" or "becoming" and "existence". So when the question is asked: "Who experiences aging & death?" or "who craves?" or "who feels?", the Buddha answers: "This question is not valid" because there are causes & conditions that create "the being" or "the who".

Dependent Origination, as distinct from the Four Noble Truths, clinically dissects the causes & conditions that lead to "becoming/being" and suffering. So it is easy to extrapolate "anatta" from Dependent Origination. For example, extrapolating "anatta" or "sunnata" from Dependent Origination is quite popular in Mahayana.

Dependent Origination & the Four Noble Truths are the same. They are both teachings of conditionality/cause & effect (iddappaccayata) that describe how suffering originates in the human mind.

Whereas anicca, dukkha & anatta are the inherent charactistic of all conditioned things, be they physical or mental. Even if human minds do not experience or realise anicca, dukkha & anatta, these inherent charactistics of all conditioned things remain.

The Buddha said:
Monks, whether or not there is the arising of Tathagatas, this property stands — this steadfastness of the Dhamma, this orderliness of the Dhamma: All processes are inconstant. All processes are unsatisfactory. All phenomena are not-self.

The Tathagata directly awakens to that, breaks through to that. Directly awakening & breaking through to that, he declares it, teaches it, describes it, sets it forth. He reveals it, explains it & makes it plain.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
To end, the Middle Way/Four Noble Truths was the Buddha's first sermon. The Three Characteristics was the Buddha's second sermon. At a later time, the Buddha taught Dependent Origination as a more detailed explanation of the Four Noble Truths. However, in understanding and/or realising Dependent Origination, it can be understood and/or realised there is no true "self". The mind's thoughts & assumptions of "self" merely arise from causes & conditions. When the causes & conditions cease, the mind's thoughts & assumptions of "self" will also cease (and suffering will cease).

The Buddha, in combining Dependent Origination and the Three Characteristics said:
There is the case where an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person — who has no regard for noble ones, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma; who has no regard for men of integrity, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma — assumes form to be the "self".

That assumption is a fabrication.

Now what is the cause, what is the origination, what is the birth, what is the coming-into-existence of that fabrication?

To an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person, touched by that which is felt born of contact with ignorance, craving arises. That fabrication [of "self"] is born of that.

And that fabrication is impermanent (aniccā), fabricated (saṅkhatā), dependently co-arisen (paṭiccasamuppannā). That craving... That feeling... That contact... That ignorance is impermanent, fabricated, dependently co-arisen.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
In the end, all of these teaching lead to one place, namely, letting go, non-attachment, Nibbana.

The Buddha said:
One neither fabricates nor mentally fashions for the sake of becoming or un-becoming. This being the case, one is not sustained by anything in the world (does not cling to anything in the world). Unsustained, one is not agitated. Unagitated, one is totally unbound right within. One discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
With metta

:buddha1:

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Re: The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Post by starter » Sat Mar 12, 2011 7:42 pm

Hello Vossaga,

Many thanks for your very kind and helpful post. I don't have time now to do more research and reading on this subject, but have come to the following understanding after reading your post:

It seems to me that the Buddha's three approaches to end suffering (of course all the three fit in the four noble truths) could suit three types of practitioners:

1) The very beginners:
Understand the four noble truths that "clinging to the five aggregates is suffering and this suffering originates from craving, liking & disliking ... that leads to new becoming", and that ending of craving is the way to end suffering.

2) Those who have understood the four noble truths, but still have a strong sense of self:
Understand anicca/dukkha/anatta of the five aggregates at a logic/inference level -- "Now, that which is impermanent, unsatisfactory, subject to change [and not under one's control], is it proper to regard that as: 'This is mine, this I am, this is my self'?"

But this approach only led to the inference of the five aggregates as Not-self. There might leave a kind of assumption/implication that there's a "self" that would be permanent/not subject to change, satisfactory, and under one's control. The question/notion "what's then the 'self'" could still remain.

3) Those who have comprehended anicca/dukkha/anatta of the five aggregates at the above-stated inference level, but still have strong underline tendency of "I"/"Mine" -making towards the five aggregates due to the fundamental ignorance -- ignorance of the pure mind as it originally is and delusion of the conditioned phenomena caused by incoming defilements as "self":
Comprehend dependent origination (DO) to truly understand anatta -- the emptiness of all conditioned phenomena, the chain of DO starting from ignorance and ending with birth/death and all dukkha. Through truly realizing such emptiness of the whole DO chain, one can become disenchanted / detached / let-go of "self", "likes" and "dislikes".

My appreciation and metta to all!

Starter

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Re: The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Post by starter » Sun Mar 13, 2011 7:18 pm

Hm, just realized that the Buddha has actually taught us HOW to end the entire mass of dukkha very explicitly:

"Now from the remainderless fading & cessation of that very ignorance comes the cessation of fabrications. From the cessation of fabrications comes the cessation of consciousness. From the cessation of consciousness comes the cessation of name-&-form. From the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of the six sense media. From the cessation of the six sense media comes the cessation of contact. From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of feeling. From the cessation of feeling comes the cessation of craving. From the cessation of craving comes the cessation of clinging/sustenance. From the cessation of clinging/sustenance comes the cessation of becoming. From the cessation of becoming comes the cessation of birth. From the cessation of birth, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair all cease. Such is the cessation of this entire mass of stress & suffering." -- SN 12.15

To my understanding, the most efficacious and most important step is "the remainderless fading & cessation of that very ignorance" -- the ignorance of the pure mind as it originally is (which has none of the DO chain) and delusion of the conditioned phenomena (the DO chain) caused by incoming defilements as "self". When this ignorance ceases, all the rest of DO chain ceases. All conditioned phenomena in the entire DO chain are all empty because they are all ANATTA.

Metta to all,

Starter

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Re: The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Post by ancientbuddhism » Fri Apr 01, 2011 3:44 pm

The 4-NT and chronology of first and essential discourses of the Buddha have been presented. And from all of our reading of the suttas we could surmise that the essential pathway toward liberation is the three-marks of the 5 aggregates, and various schedules of dependant origination analysis to delineate exactly where the pathway of ignorance – notion of ‘I am’ – and disquietude, begins and ends.

That the schedules of the three-marks and dependant origination would be ‘essentials’ may be found in the Susīma Sutta (SN. 2.1.7.10), where we meet with the term released through wisdom (paññāvimutta). The Buddha clarifies this paññāvimutta by stating “…first there is knowledge of the structure of phenomena , afterwards knowledge of Nibbāna.” (“…pubbe kho, susima, dhammaṭṭhitiñāṇaṃ, pacchā nibbāne ñāṇa”nti.”). Needing further clarification, the Buddha continues instructing Susīma with the three-marks and dependant origination in the classic interrogative style.

The instructions which develop contemplative knowledge leading directly to wisdom and release are these. And these seem to point mainly to contemplation of impermanence (anicca) and rise and fall (udayabbayānupassī, samudayo - atthaṅgamo etc.)
Last edited by ancientbuddhism on Tue May 31, 2011 7:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Post by seanpdx » Fri Apr 01, 2011 6:14 pm

Retro gave the best response, imo. Your question is in the realm of academic buddhist studies.

Random food for thought (a pdf copy is floating around the internet):
"Inducing a Chronology of the Pali Canon", by Paul Kingsbury

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Re: The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Post by starter » Fri Apr 01, 2011 6:59 pm

Hello Khanti,

Many thanks for your very helpful info.Is the Susīma Sutta (SN. 2.1.7.10) you referred to the same as the following?
SN 12.70
PTS: S ii 119
CDB i 612
Susima Sutta: About Susima

Metta

Starter

PS: Thanks other friends for the helpful input as well. By the way, I'm trying to do a scholarly research into the chronology of the Pali Canon, but only would like to know those most important teachings of the Buddha which were given at his later teaching career, considering the development of his teachings.
Last edited by starter on Fri Apr 01, 2011 8:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Post by seanpdx » Fri Apr 01, 2011 7:58 pm

English translation of the susima sutta: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Pali in various transliterations can be found at tipitaka.org

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Re: The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Post by seanpdx » Fri Apr 01, 2011 8:02 pm

By the way, if you wish to further investigate the susima sutta, I recommend reading what Richard Gombrich has written on the subject. You can find some of his thoughts in How Buddhism Began.

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Re: The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Post by starter » Sat Apr 02, 2011 4:12 pm

Hi seanpdx,

Thanks for the link. I read the susima sutta and happened to find a Chinese commentary related to this sutta in which two different Chinese versions of this sutta were compared with the Pali version. It might be interesting to know that this commentary pointed out the mistakes Dr. Richard Gombrich made concerning the comparison of Chinese and Pali suttas. One Chinese version (one of the Agamas) has clearly indicated that the arahants liberated by insights didn't obtain any jhana (several other suttas in the same Agama have the same statements), but another version (from another branch of the early Buddhism) doesn't have such statement. Both Chinese versions don't have the three characteristics of the 5 aggregates, but only the 12 links of DO.

Metta to all,

Starter

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Re: The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Post by tiltbillings » Sun Apr 03, 2011 7:30 am

starter wrote:Hi seanpdx,

Thanks for the link. I read the susima sutta and happened to find a Chinese commentary related to this sutta in which two different Chinese versions of this sutta were compared with the Pali version. It might be interesting to know that this commentary pointed out the mistakes Dr. Richard Gombrich made concerning the comparison of Chinese and Pali suttas. One Chinese version (one of the Agamas) has clearly indicated that the arahants liberated by insights didn't obtain any jhana (several other suttas in the same Agama have the same statements), but another version (from another branch of the early Buddhism) doesn't have such statement. Both Chinese versions don't have the three characteristics of the 5 aggregates, but only the 12 links of DO.

Metta to all,

Starter
Please cite the sources for this.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Re: The Buddha's approach to nibbana?

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Apr 03, 2011 8:22 am

tiltbillings wrote:Please cite the sources for this.
Indeed. Clearly there is considerable room for discussion on these issues, but asserting that some unidentified source proves something is not particularly interesting.

:anjali:
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