Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

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tiltbillings
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Re: Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Post by tiltbillings » Mon Oct 31, 2011 5:21 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Tilt,
tiltbillings wrote:And why the resistance?
Because it's a distinction that if not handled correctly,
The pitfalls are obvious: no absolutist paramattha.
tiltbillings wrote:Not another late addition.
At least it's in the Sutta Pitaka. If one chooses to reject it, it's at their own peril... but do you really want to shoot down the Sutta which may help you make your point?
I have no problem with it, but we already seen in this thread the Satipatthana Sutta set aside.

So, let us see where we go from here.
>> 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: Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Post by Nyana » Mon Oct 31, 2011 6:18 am

mikenz66 wrote:Some objections to modern "vipassana" approaches (Mahasi, Goenka, etc) seem to me to revolve around the fact that they make use of Commentarial terminology. Therefore they are infected by these two-truth ideas. Therefore they are problematic.
I'm not really familiar with these objections to the Burmese vipassanā approaches, but AFAIK Burmese vipassanā doesn't necessarily require adherence to the commentarial two truth paññatti vs. paramattha distinction. Ñāṇananda practices and teaches vipassanā meditation which he learned from Ven. Ñāṇārāma, who was himself trained by Burmese monks in the Burmese vipassanā method. So it seems to me that these are two separate issues.
mikenz66 wrote:So if you think that:
"breaking experience down into simpler bits" isn't a two truth notion
then that's fine with me.

My reading of Ven Nanananda's discussions of bhavana is that he does seem to advocate beginning by "breaking experience down into simpler bits", just as in approaches I am familiar with. However, he objects to taking those "simpler bits" to be "ultimate".
And this is the crux of the issue: Those "simpler bits" are also conventional and not ultimate things in any way, shape, or form. The entire path uses conventional designations from start to finish, and it's misguided to assume that those conventions represent a real substratum of experience (i.e. an "ultimate reality") independent of those conceptual categories themselves. The culmination of cognitive liberation occurs when those categories are also transcended during supramundane meditation.

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Re: Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Post by tiltbillings » Mon Oct 31, 2011 6:26 am

Ñāṇa wrote:And this is the crux of the issue: Those "simpler bits" are also conventional and not ultimate things in any way, shape, or form. The entire path uses conventional designations from start to finish, and it's misguided to assume that those conventions represent a real substratum of experience (i.e. an "ultimate reality") independent of those conceptual categories themselves. The culmination of cognitive liberation occurs when those categories are also transcended during supramundane meditation.
I know I am not, and rather doubt that Mike saying anything different from 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: Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Oct 31, 2011 8:01 am

Ñāṇa wrote: I'm not really familiar with these objections to the Burmese vipassanā approaches, but AFAIK Burmese vipassanā doesn't necessarily require adherence to the commentarial two truth paññatti vs. paramattha distinction. Ñāṇananda practices and teaches vipassanā meditation which he learned from Ven. Ñāṇārāma, who was himself trained by Burmese monks in the Burmese vipassanā method. So it seems to me that these are two separate issues.
That's good to know. Much of "Seeing through" reads as if it came from Mahasi: "seeing, seeing...". :thinking:
mikenz66 wrote: My reading of Ven Nanananda's discussions of bhavana is that he does seem to advocate beginning by "breaking experience down into simpler bits", just as in approaches I am familiar with. However, he objects to taking those "simpler bits" to be "ultimate".
Ñāṇa wrote: And this is the crux of the issue: Those "simpler bits" are also conventional and not ultimate things in any way, shape, or form. The entire path uses conventional designations from start to finish, and it's misguided to assume that those conventions represent a real substratum of experience (i.e. an "ultimate reality") independent of those conceptual categories themselves. The culmination of cognitive liberation occurs when those categories are also transcended during supramundane meditation.
And, as Tilt says, I don't think it is necessary to designate such things as "real". The Path is, after all, just a raft...

On the other hand, I do feel that too much can be made of the "problem" of believing that there is an "ultimate reality in there somewhere". Unless a practitioner is extremely naive and/or poorly instructed, it is quite obvious that one progresses through a series of "peeling away layers of delusion". [Oversimplified] One see that a "leg moving" is a complex combination of sensations, motions, and thoughts, and feels proud that one is "discerning khandhas and elements". Then, after a while, it becomes obvious that this "reality" is just another layer of concepts... [/Oversimplified].

I've no idea how it ends, but it seems to me that the important thing is to keep examining, not the motive for examining.

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Re: Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Post by Nyana » Mon Oct 31, 2011 9:57 am

mikenz66 wrote:On the other hand, I do feel that too much can be made of the "problem" of believing that there is an "ultimate reality in there somewhere". Unless a practitioner is extremely naive and/or poorly instructed, it is quite obvious that one progresses through a series of "peeling away layers of delusion". [Oversimplified] One see that a "leg moving" is a complex combination of sensations, motions, and thoughts, and feels proud that one is "discerning khandhas and elements". Then, after a while, it becomes obvious that this "reality" is just another layer of concepts... [/Oversimplified].
After recently reading Ṭhānissaro's rather bizarre footnotes to MN 38, you'll have to forgive me for not sharing your optimism on this point.

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Re: Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Post by Nyana » Mon Oct 31, 2011 10:34 am

tiltbillings wrote:I know I am not, and rather doubt that Mike saying anything different from this.
It's probably also worth mentioning that Buddhaghosa also gets it right, although not without a bit of waffling due to the cumbersome two truth hermeneutic. Relying on the path sequence outlined in the canoncial Dhammasaṅgaṇī, he explains in Visuddhimagga, Chapter 21, the awakening factors, path factors, and jhāna factors of the path attainment for the first three types of practitioners, which develops from the stage of equanimity about fabrications:
  • According to governance by insight, the path arisen in a bare-insight worker, and the path arisen in one who possesses a jhāna attainment but who has not made the jhāna the basis for insight, and the path made to arise by comprehending unrelated fabrications after using the first jhāna as the basis for insight, are paths of the first jhāna only. In each case there are seven awakening factors, eight path factors, and five jhāna factors. For while their preliminary insight can be accompanied by happiness and it can be accompanied by equanimity, when their insight reaches the state of equanimity about fabrications at the time of emergence it is accompanied by happiness.
Ven. Ñāṇārāma also gets it. The path-cognition of stream-entry is a supramundane jhāna which must include the presence of the jhāna factors, and so on. In his Seven Stages of Purification & the Insight Knowledges he states:
  • At whatever moment he attains the supramundane path, that path-consciousness comes to be reckoned as a jhāna in itself, since it has some affinity with the factors proper to jhānas, such as the first jhāna. What are known as transcendental meditations in Buddhism are these supramundane levels of concentration within the reach of the pure insight meditator.

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Re: Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Post by daverupa » Mon Oct 31, 2011 11:33 am

tiltbillings wrote:You are implicitly acknowledging the use of conventional language and the use of the precise, paramattha, language (as Ven Nanananda uses the term). And, while there are suttas that combine the two, as you have nicely shown, there are suttas that use the precise, paramattha, language, and there are suttas that use conventional language. So, what is the problem?
The problem is that I am not implicitly acknowledging the language difference, tilt. You are putting words in my mouth. I am using mikenz' definitions to find other examples of the dichotomy he is describing, and I am showing that those differences exist in combination without any explication or notification on the part of the Buddha. Therefore, the "language difference" is an artificial and arbitrary template over the Suttas, pulling out a pattern which is not actually employed there, particularly not in the context of bhavana.

In short: the word "purisa" and the word "dhamma" (for example) are not conventional/ultimate. Understanding these words and their use does not require that dichotomy.

I'd like to see a Sutta with only paramattha language, as pertains to bhavana. Can one be provided?
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Oct 31, 2011 6:38 pm

Hi Dave,
daverupa wrote: I'd like to see a Sutta with only paramattha language, as pertains to bhavana. Can one be provided?
From my point of view there are hundreds, starting with the second discourse:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

:anjali:
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Re: Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Post by Nyana » Mon Oct 31, 2011 6:46 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Dave,
daverupa wrote: I'd like to see a Sutta with only paramattha language, as pertains to bhavana. Can one be provided?
From my point of view there are hundreds, starting with the second discourse:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
*Sigh* :tongue: How is any word of that discourse paramattha Mike?

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Re: Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Post by Alex123 » Mon Oct 31, 2011 7:26 pm

Any and every word (from person to citta) is conventional and conceptual. If citta lasts for a split second, then what exactly are we talking about when we say "citta"? Only the idea of a citta... Conceptualization is involved even when speaking about "ultimate reality", so how ultimate can it be? Is the split "ultimate vs conventional" itself conceptual?

Isn't analysis by itself a conceptual activity of the mind?

Does a baby who didn't yet learn conventional truths to be misled by, perceive ultimate truths? No. A person is supposed to learn these ultimate truths... So how real are they?

When it comes to splitting a person into 5 aggregates, the activity is purely abstract. One cannot divide a person in 5 heaps and place body in one heap, feelings in 2nd heap, perceptions in 3rd heap, volitions in 4th heap, and consciousness in 5th heap.

"Feeling, perception, & consciousness are conjoined, friend, not disjoined. It is not possible, having separated them one from another, to delineate the difference among them. For what one feels, that one perceives. What one perceives, that one cognizes. Therefore these qualities are conjoined, not disjoined, and it is not possible, having separated them one from another, to delineate the difference among them."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

In the 12 āyatana, for example, you can't physically separate mind-sphere (manāyatanaṃ) from mental-object-sphere (dhammāyatanaṃ). One cannot be without the other. Mental object requires mind, and mind cannot be without a mental object. So the separation is purely conceptual, done to illustrate some point, but not to be held as absolute reified analytical truth.
Last edited by Alex123 on Mon Oct 31, 2011 7:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Oct 31, 2011 7:39 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:Hi Dave,
daverupa wrote: I'd like to see a Sutta with only paramattha language, as pertains to bhavana. Can one be provided?
From my point of view there are hundreds, starting with the second discourse:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
*Sigh* :tongue: How is any word of that discourse paramattha Mike?
Well, sorry, but I really have trouble figuring out what Dave is trying to ask, so I pointed out, yet again, that that whole discourse is framed in terms of khandhas, not in terms of "conventional beings".

I have been trying to avoid the term "paramattha" but I assumed that this was the sense that Dave was using it. Another possible reply would have been that there in no "paramattha" in the suttas in this sense...

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Re: Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Post by Nyana » Mon Oct 31, 2011 7:56 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Well, sorry, but I really have trouble figuring out what Dave is trying to ask, so I pointed out, yet again, that that whole discourse is framed in terms of khandhas, not in terms of "conventional beings".

I have been trying to avoid the term "paramattha" but I assumed that this was the sense that Dave was using it. Another possible reply would have been that there in no "paramattha" in the suttas in this sense...
No need to apologize to me Mike. I think you're a pretty straight up guy. But for what it's worth, I'd suggest that your other possible reply is probably more accurate: there in no "paramattha" in the suttas in this sense...

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Re: Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Post by daverupa » Mon Oct 31, 2011 9:59 pm

mikenz66 wrote: that whole discourse is framed in terms of khandhas, not in terms of "conventional beings".
My point is perhaps too subtle to appear meaningful:
...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...
Talk of khandas, and then instantly a reference to a being. The whole discourse is not framed in terms of khandas, else there could be no reference to a being such as a disciple; it is not framed in purely ultimate terms because no Sutta is - throughout the Suttas the Buddha teaches without using such affectations.

The abhidhamma et al, whence the two truth idea, attempts such affectations. The Buddha never does. This is really the whole of the point: understanding Sutta-based bhavana cannot proceed via these sorts of interpolated dichotomies without such artifice becoming obfuscatory because such artifice always intervenes between the Buddha's words and the reader's understanding. Some artifice (English is not Pali, for example) is unavoidable for most; but keeping these things thin on the ground is of paramount importance, is it not?
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Nov 01, 2011 1:43 am

daverupa wrote: My point is perhaps too subtle to appear meaningful:
...
Perhaps. It's certainly too subtle for me to be particularly concerned with...

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Re: Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Post by retrofuturist » Tue Nov 01, 2011 1:50 am

Greetings Mike,

If I understand Dave's point correctly, adding "interpolated dichotomies" (Dave's words), which are sankharas (my words), runs counter to the intent to 'progress through a series of "peeling away layers of delusion"' (your words).

Less is more, more or less.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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