MN 38: Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta

Each week we study and discuss a different sutta or Dhamma text

Moderator: mikenz66

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 16453
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: Aotearoa, New Zealand

Re: MN 38: Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta

Post by mikenz66 » Fri Oct 21, 2011 8:48 am

Sorry, a bit busy last week. Thanks for all the interesting discussion. Here's some material from Bhikkhu Bodhi (BB) and the Commentary (MA).

Now on this occasion a pernicious view had arising in a bhikkhu named Sati, son of a fisherman, thus: "As I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One, it is this same conciousness that runs and wanders through the round of rebirths, and not another."

BB: According to MA, through faulty reasoning based on the fact of rebirth, Sati came to the conclusion that a persisting conciousness transmigrating from one existence to another is necessary to explain rebirth. The first part of the sutta replicates the opening of MN 22 Alagaddūpama Sutta, The Discourse on the Snake Simile
http://www.bps.lk/olib/wh/wh048-u.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;


"What is this consciousness, Sati?"
"Venerable sir, it is that which speaks and feels and experiences here an there the result of good and bad actions."


BB: This is the last of the six views described at MN 2.8. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

The self as speaker represents the conception of the self as the agent of action; the self as feeler, the conception of the self as the passive subject. "Here and there" suggests the self as the transmigrating entity that retains its identity through a succession of different incarnations.


"Bhikkhus, do you understand the Dhamma taught by me as this bhikkhu Sati, son of a fisherman, does when he misrepresents us by his wrong grasp and injures himself and stores up much demerit?"

"No, venerable sir. For in many discourses the Blessed One has stated conciousness to be dependently arisen, since without a condition there is no origination of conciousness."

"Good, bhikkhus. It is good that you understand the Dhamma taught by me thus. For in many ways I have stated consciousness to be dependently arisen, since without a condition there is no origination of conciousness. But this bhikkhu Sati, son of a fisherman, misrepresents us by his wrong grasp and injures himself and stores up much demerit; for this will lead to the harm and suffering of this misguided man fro a long time."


[No comment from BB, but this is one of the great put-downs of the Canon...]

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 16453
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: Aotearoa, New Zealand

Re: MN 38: Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta

Post by mikenz66 » Fri Oct 21, 2011 8:24 pm

"Bhikkhus, conciousness is reckoned by the particular condition dependent on which it arises.
When conciousness arises dependent on the
eye and forms, it is reckoned as eye-conciousness; ...
ear and sounds ...
nose and odours ...
tongue and flavours ...
body and tangibles ...
mind and mind-objects ...

Just as a fire is reckoned by the particular condition dependent on which is burns ...
logs ...
faggots ...
grass ...
cowdung ...
chaff ...
rubbish ...


MA: The purpose of the simile is to show that there is no transmigration of conciousness across the sense doors. Just as a log fire burns dependent on logs and ceases when its fuel is finished, without transmigrating to faggots and becoming reckoned as a faggot fire, so too, consciousness arisen in the eye door dependent on the eye and forms ceases when its conditions are removed, without transmigrating to the ear, etc., and becoming reckoned as ear consciousness, etc. Thus the Buddha says in effect: "In the occurrence of consciousness there is not even the mere transmigration from door to door, so how can this misguided Sati speak of transmigration from existence to existence?"

I'm not sure if the similes mean anything. (A faggot in this case is a bundle of sticks). Is it significant that tongue and flavours corresponds with cowdung, or mind and mind-objects with rubbish? Perhaps there are Pali puns in there somewhere...

:anjali:
Mike

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 16453
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: Aotearoa, New Zealand

Re: MN 38: Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Oct 22, 2011 5:24 am

"Bhikkhus, do you see: 'This has come to be'?"
"Yes, venerable sir."
"Bhikkhus, do you see: 'It's origination occurs with that as nutriment?'"
"Yes, venerable sir."
"Bhikkhus, do you see: 'With the cessation of that nutriment, what has come to be is subject to cessation'?'"
"Yes, venerable sir."


MA: "This" refers to the five aggregates. Having shown the conditionality of consciousness, the Buddha states this passage to show the conditionality of all the five aggregates, which come into being through conditions, their "nutriment", and pass out of being with the ceasing of those conditions.


An alternative interpretation, which I must have heard in a talk by Bhikkhu Bodhi or some other teacher, is that this part of the discourse is a continuation of the discussion of various things burning, and the "this" refers to a fire burning before the bhikkhus. I.e.: "See this fire? It's burning due to the wood, when the wood is gone it goes out".

:namaste:
Mike

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 16453
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: Aotearoa, New Zealand

Re: MN 38: Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Oct 22, 2011 8:54 pm

Interesting that I got no comments about my "reinterpretation" of the sutta passage... :coffee:

"[this arises with that as nutrient ... cessation of the nutrient leads to cessation of that which has come to be ...]
Bhikkhus, purified and bright as this view is, if you adhere to it, cherish it, treasure it, and treat it as your posession, would you then understand that the Dhamma has been taught as similar to a raft, being for the purpose of crossing over, not for the purpose of grasping?"


BB: This is said to show the bhikkhus that they should not cling even to the right view of insight meditation. The simile of the raft is at MN 22.13
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nypo.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
Posts: 20090
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Contact:

Re: MN 38: Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta

Post by retrofuturist » Sat Oct 22, 2011 11:35 pm

Greetings Mike,

I think that regardless of what "this" is (e.g. a fire, aggregates, conditioned dhammas, other similes), the essence of what is being communicated is idappaccayata.

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)

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 16453
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: Aotearoa, New Zealand

Re: MN 38: Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Oct 23, 2011 12:44 am

Sure Retro, that's clearly what the whole exposition is about.

I'm just drawing attention to the part of the passage where one could make a case that the Buddha is actually speaking in a very straight-forward, common-sense maner using a fire as an example. Just as a modern teacher might. I suspect that there are a number of passages, such as this one, that ancient and modern commentators treat in very complicated ways, that are actually quite straightforward if the proper context is recognized.

Perhaps I'll start a thread on "common-sense interpretations of sutta passages" sometime if I can gather together enough examples...

:anjali:
Mike

User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
Posts: 20090
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Contact:

Re: MN 38: Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta

Post by retrofuturist » Sun Oct 23, 2011 12:48 am

Greetings Mike,

That would be interesting - I agree there is often unnecessary over-complication in various interpretations.

Often the suttas are pointing to the same thing, just in different ways, using different frames of reference.

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)

User avatar
ancientbuddhism
Posts: 884
Joined: Fri Apr 01, 2011 12:53 pm
Location: Cyberia

Re: MN 38: Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta

Post by ancientbuddhism » Sun Oct 23, 2011 6:23 pm

Ṭhanissaro has always overreached with his viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ viewpoint.

K.R. Norman has mentioned in his writings that the viññāṇa Sāti is stuck on is the Upaniṣadic notion found in Bṛhadāraṇaka Upaniṣad, perhaps this will be of interest :
As is well known, the attā is specifically denied as a permanent entity in Theravāda Buddhism, although the word is of course widely used in Pāli [Abbreviations of title of Pāli texts are as in the Epilegomena to the Critical Pāli Dictionary, Vol. I, Copenhagen, 1924-48. References are to the editions of the Pali Text Society.] in the everyday sense of “oneself”. The question then arises: If there is no permenant attā, then what transmigrates in the course of rebirths in saṃsāra? In the Mahātaṇhāsaṅkhayasutta of the Majjhima-nikāya[M I 256-71.] we read of the bhikkhu Sāti, who so misunderstood the Buddha’s teaching that he thought it was viññāṇa “consciousness” which continued in saṃsāra (tad ev’ idaṃ viññāṇaṃ sandhāvati saṃsārati, anaññaṃ).[M I 256, 19-20.] This would appear to be a recollection by Sāti of some such statements found in the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upanṣad that vijñāna continues: “idam mahad bhūtam anatam apāram viñānaghana eva [II.4.12], “This great being, endless, unlimited, consisting of nothing but intelligence”; sa vijñāno bhavati, sa vijñānam evānvavakrāmati [IV.4.2], “He becomes one intelligence; what had intelligence departs with him”; sa vā eṣa mahān aja ātmā yo ’yaṃ vijñānamayaḥ prāṇeṣu [IV.4.22], “Verily, he is the great unborn Self who is this (person) consisting of knowledge amongst the senses.” Radhakrishan’s note on Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad IV.4.1 states that “the principle of intelligence (vijñāna), after having absorbed all functions of consciousness, proceeds to continue in a new life” [S. Radhakrishan, The principle Upaniṣads, London 1953, p. 270.]

When Sati’s view was made known to the Buddha, he refuted it by pointing out that he had frequently taught that aññartra paccayā n’ atthi viññāṇassa sambhavo [M I 258, 20.] “Apart from condition there is no origination of consciousness”. He rejected the idea of a permanent viññāṇa which could transmigrate, by stressing the place of viññāṇa in the twelve-fold chain of the paṭicca-samuppāda “dependant origination”, where viññāṇa is caused by saṅkhāras “compounded formations” or “conditioned things”, and is itself the cause of nāmarūpa “name and form”.



Buddhism denied the existence both of a permanent soul and a permanent individuality. An individual is merely a group of five “elements of existence” (khandha), [Cf. evaṃ khandhesu santesu, hoti satto ti sammuti, S I 135, 21.]] “form” (rūpa), “feeling” (vedanā), “perception” (saññā), “mental-formations” (saṅkhāra) and “consciousness” (viññāṇa). If the “compounded formations” (saṅkhāra), the second link in the chain of dependent origination, are destroyed because their “ignorance” (avijjā), is destroyed by vijjā, then all compounded formations, including the passive “mental formations” (saṅkhāra) and other khandhas which go to make up the individual are destroyed and we are left only with the “uncompounded” (asaṅkhata), i.e. nibbāna, which is outside saṃsāra.

In these circumstances it is not surprising that the condition of being nibbuta or in nibbāna cannot be defined. The word nibbuta is also used of a fire which has gone out. Schrader long ago pointed out the Indian belief that an expiring flame does not really go out: vahner yathā yonigatasya mūrtir na dṛśyate naiva ca liṅganāśaḥ [Śvetāṣvatara Upaniṣad I.13, quoted by F. Otto Schrader, “On the problem of nirvāṇa”, in JPTS 1904-1905, p. 167 n. 2.] “as the form of a fire … is not seen nor its seed destroyed”. So it is with an individual who has gained nibbāna. His state cannot be described any more than the state of a fire which has gone out can be described. The only thing that is certain is that, because nibbāna is “not-self” (anatta), it cannot be reconciled with the views of those who think that the object of religious exertion is to re-unite the individual soul with Brahman or Ātman.
(Norman, Aspects of Early Buddhism 1990 p. 24-35)

See also:
A philological Approach to Buddhism, Norman, 1994
A Note on Atta in the Alagaddupama Sutta_Norman, 1981
I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

A Handful of Leaves

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 16453
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: Aotearoa, New Zealand

Re: MN 38: Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Oct 23, 2011 7:15 pm

Thanks AB!

:anjali:
Mike

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 16453
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: Aotearoa, New Zealand

Re: MN 38: Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Oct 23, 2011 8:51 pm

[Nutriment and dependent origination]

"Bhikkhus, there are these four kinds of nutriment for the maintenance of beings that already have come to be and for the support of those about to come to be. What four? They are: physical food as nutriment, gross or subtle; contact as the second; mental volition as the third; and consciousness as the fourth."

BB: Notes to Sutta MN9 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .ntbb.html.
"Nutriment" (ahara) is to be understood in a brad sense as a prominent condtion for the individual life-continuity.
Physical food is an important condition for the physical body, contact for feeling, mental volition for consciousness, and conciousness for mentality-materiality, the psychophysical organism in its totality. Craving is called the origin nutriment in that the craving of the previous existence the source of the present individuality with its dependence upon and continual consumption of the four nutriments in this existence. For an annotated compilation of the commentarial texts on the nutriments, see Nyanaponika Thera, The Four Nutrients of Life.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el105.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

MA: The Buddha states this passage and the following linking up the nutriments with dependent origination in order to show that he knows not merely the five aggregates but the entire chain of conditions responsible for their being.

Sylvester
Posts: 2205
Joined: Tue Mar 10, 2009 9:57 am

Re: MN 38: Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta

Post by Sylvester » Mon Oct 24, 2011 3:31 am

Thanks Mike, for raising the nutriment/ahara point!

Sometime in April, there was some discussion on the 4 "ahara" in the discussion on DO here -

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 20#p129203" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

It seems clear from SN 12.64 that "ahara" served some function in the context of the establishment of consciousness.

On the other hand, MN 9 which you cited broadens the role of the ahara to -
...There are these four kinds of nutriment for the maintenance of beings that already have come to be and for the support of those seeking a new existence.

Cattārome, āvuso, āhārā bhūtānaṃ vā sattānaṃ ṭhitiyā, sambhavesīnaṃ vā anuggahāya.
I suspect the "maintenance" spoken of here is in relation to contact and kamma-vipaka as part of DO's 2nd nidana of sankhara-vinnana. After all, SN 12.2 does not limit itself to mind-consciousness, but encompasses all the 6 consciousness-es.

The Cetana Suttas in SN 12.38-39 go into a little more detail regarding the relationship between intention/anusayas and the maintenance and establishment of consciousness -
What one intends, and what one plans, and whatever one has a tendency towards: this becomes a basis for the maintenance of consciousness. When there is a basis there is [a support for] the establishing of consciousness. When consciousness is established and has come to growth, there is the production of future renewed existence. When there is the production of future renewed existence, future birth, aging-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair come to be. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering.

Yañca, bhikkhave, ceteti yañca pakappeti yañca anuseti, ārammaṇametaṃ hoti viññāṇassa ṭhitiyā. Ārammaṇe sati patiṭṭhā viññāṇassa hoti. Tasmiṃ patiṭṭhite viññāṇe virūḷhe āyatiṃ punabbhavābhinibbatti hoti. Āyatiṃ punabbhavābhinibbattiyā sati āyatiṃ jāti jarāmaraṇaṃ sokaparidevadukkhadomanassupāyāsā sambhavanti. Evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa samudayo hoti.
Perhaps Ven Nanavira's one-life interpretation of DO could have some basis on this distinction between the maintenance (ṭhitiyā) versus the establishment (patiṭṭhā) of consciousness. :stirthepot: As I see it, patiṭṭhā is always in the context of rebirth, whereas ṭhitiyā seems to function in the continued making of contact/phassa which results in feelings. It would be odd if DO's 2nd nidana were not amenable to explaining kamma-vipaka, considering that vinnana in that nidana includes all 6 consciousness-es. Any consciousness would thus need to be conjoined to feeling/vedana, which would account for kamma as sankhara leading to vedana as vipaka.

But, that being said, since the Cetana Suttas expressed the nidana between the sankharas (cetana and anusaya) and consciousness in the locative absolute, there is no good reason to insist that this nidana must import simultaneity and not temporal disjunction : see the Ariyasavaka Suttas, SN 12.49-50.

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 16453
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: Aotearoa, New Zealand

Re: MN 38: Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Oct 24, 2011 3:52 am

Hi Sylvester,
Sylvester wrote:Thanks Mike, for raising the nutriment/ahara point!
Wasn't me, it was the Buddha... :buddha1:

This is a really long and complicated sutta. It goes over much of the same ground as DN 15 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html, including the "descent into the womb" passage...

I'm not sure if it helps anyone else, but I find going through posting comments piecemeal helps me to digest it...

:anjali:
Mike

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 16453
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: Aotearoa, New Zealand

Re: MN 38: Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Oct 24, 2011 8:40 am

...
"Formations have ignorance as a condition, venerable sir. Thus we take it in this case: 'With ignorance as condtion, formations.'"

"Good, bhikkhus. so you say thus, and I also say thus: 'When this exists, that comes to be; with the arising of this, that arises. That is, with ignorance as condition, formations..."


BB: This is a statement of the abstract principle of dependent origination exemplified by the twelvefold formula. The abstract principle on cessation is stated below:
  • 'When this does not exist, this does not come to be; with the cessation of this, that ceases.'
Namamoli had rendered the principles thus:
"That is when this is; that arises with the arising of this."
"That is not when this is not; that ceases with the cessation of this."

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 16453
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: Aotearoa, New Zealand

Re: MN 38: Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Oct 25, 2011 8:42 am

"Bhikkhus, knowing and seeing in this way would you run back into the past, ... run forward to the future, ... be inwardly perplexed about the present thus: 'Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? Where has this being come from, where will it go'?"

See also MN 131-134: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nana.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; which discusses this "I-making" in detail.


"... knowing and seeing this way, would you speak thus: 'The Recluse says this and we speak at the bidding of the Recluse.'?
... do you speak only of what you have known, seen and understood for youselves? ..."
"Good Bhikkhus, So you have been guided by me with this Dhamma, which is visible here and now, immediately effective, inviting inspection, onward leading, to be experienced by the wise for themselves..."

BB: "The Recluse" is the Buddha.

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 16453
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: Aotearoa, New Zealand

Re: MN 38: Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Oct 25, 2011 9:05 am

"Bhikkhus, the decent of the embryo takes place through the union of three things..."

BB: The following portion of the discourse may be understood as the concrete application of dependent origination --- so far expressed only as a doctrinal formula --- to the course of individual existence.
The factors from consciousness through feeling result from past ignorance and formations, the cause factors of craving and clinging build up a continuation of the samsaric round, and finally dependent origination is connected to the appearance of the Buddha and his teaching of the Dhamma, showing that the practice of the Dhamma is the means of bringing the round to and end.


"... when there is the union of the mother and the father, and the mother is in season, and the gandhabba is present, though the union of these three things the descent of the embryo takes place."

MA: the gandhabba is the being arriving there. It is not someone (i.e. a disembodied spirit) standing nearby watching the future parents having intercourse, but a being driven on by the mechanism of kamma, due to be reborn on that occasion.

BB: The exact import of the word grandhabba in relation to the rebirth process is not explained in the Nikayas, and the word in this sense occurs only here an in DN 15 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
DN 15 speaks of conciousness as "descending into the mother's womb", this being a condition for rebirth to take place. thus we may identify the gandhabba here as the stream of conscisousness, conceived mroe animistically as coming over from the previous existence and bringing along its total accumulation of kammic tendencies and personality traits. The fullest study of the concept of the gandhabba is Vijesekera "Vedic Gandharva and Pali Gandhabba", in Buddhist and Vedic Studies, pp. 191-202.

Locked

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests