mikenz66 wrote:Sure. Some, such as Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Ajahn Payutto, and many other teachers talk about it working on various timescales.
I don't see "time scale" as being mentioned in what I see as the structure of this view of DA. It might be there in the original structure -- but I can't see it because I don't yet know enough about the Vedic view of atman around the time of the Buddha. Perhaps the information is available (if I were in a University, I'd be off talking to scholars studying these things to find out) and perhaps it is lost to us; at this point I can't even guess.
But I'm aware there is a 3-lives model that is more-or-less linear, and I've heard talk of a one-life model that is not conceived of as always following the precise order of twelve links, and I've read about the view of DA as being about moment-to-moment arising of feeling that results in dukkha "thousands of times in a day". And to this we can add your single-moment rendition. And then we have Thanissaro Bhikkho's "Dependent co-arising can be observed at many scales, which means that lessons drawn from observing the world can be applied..." which seems to me an attempt to say, "Everyone is right." But I think I'm inclined to agree with Nanavira Thera, that it's unlikely that the lesson the Buddha was teaching us was meant to be interpreted at several different scales. While he does talk about "untold lifetimes" in many suttas, this seems to me to be the sort of hyperbole that was popular in his day -- everyone had thousands of followers trailing them from here to there; every army was 10-fold larger than everyone else's. But he talks about "at most seven more lifetimes" with enough frequency and without the sense of wild exaggeration; this makes me think he had something definite in mind when he was speaking in that way (though I admit, as above, that I haven't found a reference for it and am not certain I ever will).
But all that's just background to what I want to say about what I'm seeing, and that is that I think I understand where the three-lives model comes from, and where the one-life model comes from also, and that's because I believe both are suggested by the underlying structure of DA. They are both *in there* and so when we're trying to sort out what's being said, we pick up echoes of the references to them in the structure, and then we mistake the structure for the version we latch onto (one life, or three lives). I'm thinking the moment-to-moment comes out of that middle section alone -- nothing else supports it, really, that I can find, but the problem I have with it is the way dukkha would need to be able to -- some fair amount of the time -- land in the moment of the feeling, if we're interpreting the reference to "lives" as "moments" then the experience of feelings that are the fruits that land within the same lifetime would have to land in the same "moment" instead; and I just don't think we usually get our dukkha quite that quickly. Seems to me the moment-to-moment (while useful as a stopgap till we understand DA better) is a bit of a Rube-Goldberg contraption trying to reconcile talk of many rebirths with the one bit of the whole thing we understand well -- the middle section about contact-feeling-craving-clinging which clearly has to be something that happens over and over.
I don't think the actual structure, though, is any of those, exactly. What it is, is a description of the Vedic worldview about the Cosmic order and how "self" comes into being, what we do to improve on that self in order to gain a better future, and where that self goes after death. This makes the initial section map onto the Prajapati myth, which describes both the coming-into-being of the First Man, and how we as individuals come into the world -- it explains how we are always seeking atman, and why; the middle section maps to the rituals based on the Prajapati myth: these are the things we do over and over again in order to increase our knowledge of self and gain a better life after death; the ending maps to what happens after the self has been perfected: it goes to birth in the world one has aimed for, after death. This is why we pick up echoes of the three lives model, because the first part is addressing who we are at our point of origin: birth from the womb; the second section is addressing the famous moment when an upper class man became "twice-born" by starting a life full of rituals (so this is his second birth and life); the third birth (and life) comes after death and it is the most important birth, into the world one has been striving for all one's life. But this is also -- if we look at it closely -- just one life being described, from birth through death.
But that structure isn't the whole of what DA is about, because it's not *endorsing* a belief in the Vedic worldview, it's *denying* that it's accurate; and so it simultaneously tells us what the Buddha sees is *actually* happening. For example, in the section that is about "Vedic rituals that create and perfect the self" the Buddha describes *our* rituals -- the things we do over and over and over again -- and of course we know, don't we, that they don't create and perfect a self that will go on to bliss in the hereafter, right?
So, in my speculations, when the Buddha talks about "at most seven more lifetimes", in making guesses about what that could connect to, I imagine that (since I'm seeing the structure as being about Vedic rituals -- samskara-type rituals, perhaps? -- that there might have been Seven Siginificant Samskaras that were used to perfect the self, and it was those he was making reference to -- significant "rebirths" within one's own lifetime. (Or maybe it just maps onto meditative achievements -- a case could be made for that, too.)