Why Learn Pali

Explore the ancient language of the Tipitaka and Theravāda commentaries

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Re: Why Learn Pali

Post by Kare » Thu Jul 04, 2013 1:50 pm

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Re: Why Learn Pali

Post by binocular » Thu Jul 04, 2013 2:20 pm

arijitmitter wrote:Why this immense stress on knowing the Suttas in as much original detail as Buddha might have spoken it ?
/.../
What is of essense is the Dhamma. And from the bickering in the post quoted above by mikenzen, Dhamma was the last thing on the mind of most of those taking part.

In East you are not supposed to dissect philosophy endlessly. It is not a lecture on Spinoza or Hegel in Oxford classroom. It is to be accepted in the heart and it does not matter if 5 % or 10 % of the scripture is actually learned [ Hinduism or Buddhism ]. What matters is how much heart went into it. If you learned 100 % of the philosophy it would not get you any closer to self realization than someone who learned 10 % of it [ or even in extreme cases of Saints who learned no philosophy at all ]. In East it is never about the learning but the heart.
It seems to me that what you're displaying is a fairly typical Eastern attitude to religion/spirituality.
I think it would be interesting to explore what are the differences between East and West, how come they exist, and how they manifest in people's attitudes to scriptures and the language thereof.

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Re: Why Learn Pali

Post by arijitmitter » Thu Jul 04, 2013 3:19 pm

binocular wrote:
It seems to me that what you're displaying is a fairly typical Eastern attitude to religion/spirituality.
I think it would be interesting to explore what are the differences between East and West, how come they exist, and how they manifest in people's attitudes to scriptures and the language thereof.
Quite correct and I will be glad to elaborate.

I will give two extreme examples both from Hinduism but since both Hinduism and Buddhism originated in the same country the same example should hold true [ whether String Theory has 10 dimensions or 11 dimensions is a matter of immense distinction to physicists; but same methods, techniques and thought process went into constructing both theories ]

Bhakta Kabir [ born 1440 AD ] was an illiterate Muslim boy who was probably born out of wedlock to a Brahmin woman and then abandoned. He was brought up by poor Muslim parents in Varanasi. Despite his wish to learn about scriptures he was unable to find one due to his low stature in society. No Brahmin would let his shadow fall up on their home let alone teach him. So in desperation he immersed himself in water of the Ganges before dawn just near the steps. He knew a famous priest Ramananda came every day to take a pre dawn bath in Ganges. Ramananda in half light of dawn stepped on him and said " mara, mara " [ dead body, dead body - not Mara in Buddhism ]. Now Kabir heard it as " ram, ram " because his ears were covered by water. He accepted that as Guru bani [ discourse by Guru ] and began to meditate on the word Ram [ an avatar of Vishnu ]. Later he became a Saint to both Hindus and Muslims and is much revered even today.

Swami Vivekananda introduced Hinduism to the West in late 19th century. A fascinating and energetic monk he spent his whole life in study of various religions, meditation and social work. His teacher was Sri Ramkrishna Paramhansa - a very revered modern Saint in Hinduism. Though a Brahmin, Sri Ramkrishna was not learned in the scriptures except he knew how to perform puja of a certain female deity. Other than that he had no knowledge of the vast tomes that Hinduism has produced. Yet the most learned Brahmins came to pay him respect every day due to his eminence and understanding of Hinduism.

It has to be noted how Pariyatti, Patipatti, Pativedha is interpreted in East. Pariyatti is like the wire which connects the battery of your car to the starter motor, Patipatti is like the electricity, Pativedha is like the turning of the starter motor.

All three are indispensable. But if the wire is torn or worn it can be patched up [ two bits on both sides with a 2 inch gap be patched with a new wire entangling both ], but if the battery does not have the amperage or the starter motor has worn brushes then the repair will take longer duration [ have to be a more thorough repair ]. If the wire is entirely lost then any piece of long flexible metal will do the job of conveying electricity [ even a GI wire held to the battery and motor will do nicely ]. But if the battery fails you cannot start the car by arranging a number of flashlight batteries in series to deliver 12 volts; it will not have the amperage. If the starter motor does not work you have to take it apart and fix it.

Kabir, Sri Ramkrishna and Mother Teresa lacked Pariyatti but they made up for it in Patipatti and Pativedha. There are many many people in India who know the Vedas and Vedanta inside out. But that does not grant on them status of a Saint [ by Saint I mean a person who is perhaps an Arahant; not a Saint in Vatican's description ]. It does not matter to Christ if you read Bible in Aramaic or Hebrew or Greek or Japanese. What matters to Christ is will you come to the aid of your fellow man - do you have it in you to embrace a leper and dress his wounds while he lies in your lap ? That is why I am sure Mother Teresa was warmly embraced by Christ and not those who endlessly dissect so and so interpretation of Bible if we take this into account and if we take that into account in Theology courses.

Patipatti and Pativedha is hugely stressed in East. No matter how much you learn the Suttas - it is your life that matters much more. It is how intrinsically you have intertwined your life and the Dhamma and not how much you learn from tomes that is important.

I have digressed from the original topic and will like to beg forgiveness of the moderator for my migration. I hope it caused no dilution of this sub Forum.

I really must return to my vow of silence now,

:namaste: Arijit

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Re: Why Learn Pali

Post by Holdan » Thu Jul 04, 2013 9:16 pm

BlackBird wrote:So we can see that nama is not a thing as such, but an aggregate of things...How does Name come to be all this crap? That I am not entirely set on, but my theory is that you have name for things you experience so it is the name of this and the name of that, all of which is experienced. You are naming the parts that make up experience.
What was a broad aggregate of five things become something extremely narrow & limited to one thing. When I name a spec of dust, which is essentially unimportant to me, as 'dust', feeling & intention are no significant here or exist at all. A child asks me: "what is the name of that tiny spec?", and I reply "dust". There is just basic perception & contact functioning here, with very little feeling, intention or even attention. Difficult to see the relevance of 'naming' in 'nama'. Naming would be what we plainly think & speak rather than what we intend or pay attention to.

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Re: Why Learn Pali

Post by Holdan » Thu Jul 04, 2013 9:32 pm

arijitmitter wrote:To come to a great example shared - Nama Rupa

Ven K S Dhammannanda has described it thus -
... Mind (nama) and matter (rupa). Mind consists of the combination of sensations, perceptions, volitional activities and consciousness. Matter consists of the combination of the four elements of solidity, fluidity, motion and heat.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu has described it thus -
And what [monks] is name-&-form? Feeling, perception, intention, contact, & attention: This is called name. The four great elements, and the form dependent on the four great elements: This is called form. This name & this form are, [monks], called name-&-form. [ from elsewhere four great elements are earth, water, fire and air ]

Irrespective of the differences in translation one understands that " Nama refers to the psychological elements of the human being while Rupa refers to the physical " [ Wikipedia ]. And despite the difference in selection of words both translations adequately convey the meaning of the word.

Now one can individually translate vedanā, saññā, cetanā, phasso, manasikāro to check what definition has been given above. But is that not an addiction to an esoteric practice ? Any one of the two translations above adequately convey meaning of Nama Rupa. Can one really check it any better than two people who between them have more than 50 years of Pali learning ? And can that time not be better used in meditation ?
Arijit. As I read it, the nama-rupa is describing something to be identified in practise, which is also very subtle. A person may devote much time to meditation but they may never notice the nama-rupa the Pali scripture is pointing out.

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Re: Why Learn Pali

Post by BlackBird » Fri Jul 05, 2013 2:25 am

Holdan wrote:
BlackBird wrote:So we can see that nama is not a thing as such, but an aggregate of things...How does Name come to be all this crap? That I am not entirely set on, but my theory is that you have name for things you experience so it is the name of this and the name of that, all of which is experienced. You are naming the parts that make up experience.
What was a broad aggregate of five things become something extremely narrow & limited to one thing. When I name a spec of dust, which is essentially unimportant to me, as 'dust', feeling & intention are no significant here or exist at all. A child asks me: "what is the name of that tiny spec?", and I reply "dust". There is just basic perception & contact functioning here, with very little feeling, intention or even attention. Difficult to see the relevance of 'naming' in 'nama'. Naming would be what we plainly think & speak rather than what we intend or pay attention to.
Yeah, I know. It's not a great theory for what 'name' actually means and why it is 'name', but it is, according to most sources. Nama translates as name.
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta

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Re: Why Learn Pali

Post by SarathW » Fri Jul 05, 2013 2:53 am

Hi Arijit
I am a Sri Lankan and my native language Sinhalease is derived from Sanskrit and Pali. So some of the Pali words are very natural to me.
Do you know, I learnt 95% of Buddha’s teaching by reading English literature?
I think learning any language is very important. They complement each other.
Currently I am learning French, German , Spanish and Japanese languages.
:) :reading:
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: Why Learn Pali

Post by arijitmitter » Fri Jul 05, 2013 3:55 am

BlackBird wrote:
So we can see that nama is not a thing as such, but an aggregate of things...How does Name come to be all this crap? That I am not entirely set on, but my theory is that you have name for things you experience so it is the name of this and the name of that, all of which is experienced. You are naming the parts that make up experience.
I have broken my maun [ vow of silence ] to answer this one sentence alone [ not anything else said before or after ]

The word Nama means name and it also means the psychological elements present in the entity [ human or Divine ] having that name.

Such as a Guru asks his disciple to say " Rama Nama " 2,000 times a day [ I have to use a Hindu parallel since no such parallel exists in Buddhism to adequately display it ]. That means to utter " Rama, Rama, Rama " 2,000 times a day [ it may be aloud, silent or whispering chant ]. What does taking Rama Nama mean [ or it may be Vishnu, Christ, Shiva any one ]. It means the disciple is praying to the Divine entity by that name but the disciple is also asking the qualities of that Divine entity to be manifest in their life or meditation [ Sadhana ]. What are the qualities of Rama - a King who is humble, virtuous, brave, compassionate, mighty warrior, slayer of evil, just ruler and so on.

If the Guru asked the disciple to take " Shiva Nama " then the name in chanting or prayer would be Shiva's but Shiva's qualities will be asked to manifest itself - a God who is an ascetic, destroyer, restorer and so on.

So name - Nama - name is a circular structure. The name [ actual ] leads to the Nama [ psychological attributes ] which again leads back to the name [ person who had those psychological attributes ].

An example of Nama Rupa may be also had from this example - when a God, Goddess is worshipped a temporary idol of clay and bamboo is created [ such as famed Durga Puja in Calcutta or Ganesh Puja is Bombay ]. The clay and bamboo represent the Rupa as described in mythology [ a Goddess has ten hands and ten weapons and so on ]. When her idol is being made you can engage in drinking a bottle of whiskey in front of it and no harm is done [ takes 2 months to make it ]. But when the eye is drawn and the priest utters slokas to invoke Goddess to come and reside in that clay idol she is embodiment of Goddess Durga and that clay idol of her has as much power as she herself in her own abode. Before the eyes are drawn even if the idol is 99.9 % complete it is still just a piece of clay. When the name is invoked and requested to come and reside in it the clay idol turns Divine since the Durga Nama brings with it her qualities as the mighty slayer of demons who was created by Brahma and she is the embodiment of Shakti [ energy ].

:namaste: Arijit

all editing done for grammar
Last edited by arijitmitter on Fri Jul 05, 2013 4:20 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Why Learn Pali

Post by BlackBird » Fri Jul 05, 2013 4:05 am

This is what my 'guru' if you will has to say about it:
In any experience (leaving out of account arūpa) there is a phenomenon that is present (i.e. that is cognized). The presence, or cognition, or consciousness, of the phenomenon is viññāna (q.v.). The phenomenon has two characteristics, inertia and designation (patigha and adhivacana). The inertia of a phenomenon is rūpa ('matter' or 'substance'), which may be seen also as its behaviour; and this presents itself only in the passage of time (however short). (These four mahābhūtā are the general modes of behaviour or matter: earthy, or persistent and resistant, or solid; watery, or cohesive; fiery, or ripening, or maturing; airy, or tense, or distended, or moving. See RŪPA.) The designation of a phenomenon is nāma ('name'), which may be seen also as its appearance (the form or guise adopted by the behaviour, as distinct from the behaviour itself).[a] Nāma consists of the following (Majjhima i,9 <M.i,53>[1]): whether (the experience is) pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral (vedanā or 'feeling'); shape, colour, smell, and so on (saññā [q.v.] or 'perception [percepts]'); significance or purpose (cetanā [q.v.] or 'intention[s]'); engagement in experience (phassa [q.v.] or 'contact'); and (intentional) direction of emphasis (manasikāra or 'attention'). Phassa is included in nāma since nāma, in specifying saññā, necessarily specifies the pair of āyatanāni ('bases') and kind of viññāna involved (e.g. perception of sourness specifies tongue, tastes, and tongue-consciousness), whereas rūpa does not (inertia or behaviour does not specify its mode of appearance, visual, auditory, and so on): nāma, in other words, entails (but does not include) viññāna, whereas rūpa is simply 'discovered' by viññāna (see RŪPA). Manasikāra is included in nāma since, whereas rūpa precedes manasikāra (logically, not temporally: behaviour takes place whether it is attended to or not—the clock, for example, does not stop when I leave the room), nāma involves manasikāra: experience is always particular or selective, one thing to the fore at once and the rest receding in the background. Rūpa, in other words, in order to appear—i.e. in order to be phenomenal as nāmarūpa—, must be oriented: a phenomenon cannot present all aspects at once with equal emphasis, but only in a perspective involving manasikāra. (Manasikāra is involved as an intentional modification of the perspective or direction of emphasis that is given at the most immediate level. Cf. CETANĀ [e] & Bradley, op. cit. (Logic) , III/I, vi, §13.)

To be present is to be here-and-now; to be absent is to be 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. Attention is (intentional) difference between presence and absence, i.e. between varying degrees of presence, of consciousness ('Let this be present, let that be absent!'). Consciousness is the difference between presence (in any degree) and utter non-presence (i.e. non- existence). (An image may be present or absent, but even if present it is always absent reality. Mind-consciousness, manoviññāna, is the presence of an image or, since an image can be absent, of an image of an image.) Intention is the absent in relation to the present. Every present is necessarily accompanied by a number of absents—the present is singular, the absent is plural. Each absent is a possibility of the present, and the ordered total of the present's absents is the significance of the present (i.e. what it points to, or indicates, beyond itself), which is also its intention. (In general, no two absents—even of the same order—are of exactly the same 'weight'.) Volition (which is what is more commonly understood by 'intention') is really a double intention (in the sense used here), i.e. it is intentional intention. This simply means that certain of the absents (or possibles) are intentionally emphasized at the expense of the others. When, in the course of time, one absent comes wholly to predominate over the others (often, but not necessarily, the one preferred), the present suddenly vanishes, and the absent takes its place as the new present. (The vanished present—see ANICCA [a] —is now to be found among the absents.) This is a description of action (kamma) in its essential form, but leaving out of account the question of kammavipāka, which is acinteyya (Anguttara IV,viii,7 <A.ii,80>[8]), and therefore rather beyond the scope of these Notes. See also a definition of action in RŪPA , and an ethical account in KAMMA.

The passage at Dīgha ii,2 <D.ii,62-3>[9] is essential for an understanding of nāmarūpa, and it rules out the facile and slipshod interpretation of nāmarūpa as 'mind-&- matter'—rūpa is certainly 'matter' (or 'substance'), but nāma is not 'mind'.[c] The passage at Majjhima iii,8 <M.i,190-1>[10] makes it clear that all five upādānakkhandhā, and therefore viññāna with nāmarūpa, are present both in five-base experience and in mental experience. Thus, a visible (real) stone persists (or keeps its shape and its colour—i.e. is earthy) visibly (or in reality); an imagined stone persists in imagination. Both the actual (real) taste of castor oil and the thought of tasting it (i.e. the imaginary taste) are unpleasant. Both matter and feeling (as also perception and the rest) are both real and imaginary.[d] See PHASSA [a]. Nāmarūpa at Dīgha ii,2 <D.ii,63,§21>[9] may firstly be taken as one's own cognized body. Cf. Nidāna/Abhisamaya Samy. ii,9 <S.ii,24>: Avijjānīvaranassa bhikkhave bālassa/panditassa tanhāya sampayuttassa evam ayam kāyo samudāgato. Iti ayam c'eva kāyo bahiddhā ca nāmarūpam, itth'etam dvayam. ('A stupid/intelligent man, monks, constrained by nescience and attached by craving, has thus acquired this body. So there is just this body and name-&-matter externally: in that way there is a dyad.') This passage distinguishes between nāmarūpa that is external and one's own body. Together, these make up the totality of nāmarūpa at any time. The body, as rūpa, is independent of its appearance; but together with its appearance, which is how we normally take it, it is nāmarūpa. Nāmarūpa that is external is all cognized phenomena apart from one's own body. Cf. Majjhima xi,9 <M.iii,19>: ...imasmiñ ca saviññānake kāye bahiddhā ca sabbanimittesu... ('...in this conscious body and externally in all objects...') Though, as said above, we may firstly understand nāmarūpa in the Dīgha passage as one's own cognized body, properly speaking we must take nāmarūpa as the total cognized phenomena (which may not be explicitly formulated), thus: (i) 'I-[am]-lying-in-the- mother's-womb'; (ii) 'I-[am]-being-born-into-the-world'; (iii) 'I-[am]-a-young-man-about-town'. In other words, I am ultimately concerned not with this or that particular phenomenon in my experience but with myself as determined by my whole situation.


So to him: Nama = name = Designation

I'm happy with that.
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta

arijitmitter
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Re: Why Learn Pali

Post by arijitmitter » Fri Jul 05, 2013 4:37 am

BlackBird wrote:
This is what my 'guru' if you will has to say about it:
If you peruse the last 2 posts carefully you will see I and your Guru are saying the same thing about Nama. He has presented an analytical philosophical treatise and I have used parallels from every day life. [ Bit like a flash light and candle; both emit light but through very different chemical processes; we have both described Nama to reach same conclusion about it's meaning ]

:namaste: Arijit

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Re: Why Learn Pali

Post by BlackBird » Fri Jul 05, 2013 4:41 am

arijitmitter wrote:
BlackBird wrote:
This is what my 'guru' if you will has to say about it:
If you peruse the last 2 posts carefully you will see I and your Guru are saying the same thing about Nama. He has presented an analytical philosophical treatise and I have used parallels from every day life. [ Bit like a flash light and candle; both emit light but through very different chemical processes; we have both described Nama to reach same conclusion about it's meaning ]

:namaste: Arijit
Yeah, I didn't see anything in your above post that I disagreed with, I thought it might be beneficial to add Ven. Nanaviras take on it to compliment what you've said.
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta

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Re: Why Learn Pali

Post by Holdan » Sat Jul 06, 2013 9:46 am

arijitmitter wrote:The word Nama means name and it also means the psychological elements present in the entity [ human or Divine ] having that name.

So name - Nama - name is a circular structure. The name [ actual ] leads to the Nama [ psychological attributes ] which again leads back to the name [ person who had those psychological attributes.
Very insightful.
Holdan wrote:
arijitmitter wrote:So if you try to search Sati in the internet you will end up really confused. Now imagine trying to understand " Kamasukhallikanuyogo ". I can make out that Kama means lust and Sukh means happiness beyond that I am lost. I kind of get that the word must mean happiness from sensual pleasure and guess what - Thanissaro Bhikkhu has translated it as " craving for sensual pleasure " and Ven Nanamoli Thera as " craving for sensual desires ".
'Kamasukhallikanuyogo' is translated 'devoted to sensual pleasure with reference to sensual objects' and ' devotion to indulgence of pleasure in the objects of sensual desire'. "Craving for sensual pleasure " and " craving for sensual desires" come from 'the Pali kāmataṇhā'.

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Re: Why Learn Pali

Post by binocular » Sat Jul 06, 2013 5:54 pm

arijitmitter wrote:Patipatti and Pativedha is hugely stressed in East. No matter how much you learn the Suttas - it is your life that matters much more. It is how intrinsically you have intertwined your life and the Dhamma and not how much you learn from tomes that is important.
I think you underestimate that Westerners tend to live in an environment that is often very hostile to any practice of the Dhamma. As such, Westerners need to have a firm verbal basis for their practice (ie. study of scriptures and teachings) to get anything done in it at all.

In the East, the general atmosphere has been, at least traditionally, approving of Dhamma practice. Whereas many Westerners live in a society where any mention of spirituality or anything related to it is dismissed as "woo-woo."

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Re: Why Learn Pali

Post by now realm » Thu Aug 22, 2013 3:22 am

Greetings to all. I would like to chime in on namarupa. I concur with Thanissaro's translation of name-&-form. My understanding is that it's misleading to translate namarupa as mind & matter although it is embodied within mind & matter but it is more precise to called it name-&form as namarupa is not separate entities like in mind & matter. As every knows, rupa in namarupa here is referring to the four elements earth etc & its respective forms. Everything we sense in this world has the 4 elements. Nama according to my understanding is our perception or identification of the forms from our experience. Buddha's explanation is tiptop. He said form derived from the elements something like that (pls refer to the exact word in pali). To my understanding it is the mental object or external object we perceived through our 6 senses which is termed as rupa & recognition of the said form is nama with the assistance of our consciousness, like giving a name to what you experience internally or externally. According to Buddha, namarupa has the other mental factors but not consciousness or vinnana. So, from this, I find that it is inaccurate to separate namarupa as mind & body & it also doesn't make sense that, with consciousness as condition arise mind & matter which instead should be, with consciousness as condition arise name-&form. My understanding here is, only when we are conscious of namarupa it arises otherwise no namarupa arise as there's no awareness or attention, contact, intention, perception, feeling. Thus, with consciousness as condition arise namarupa and not mind & matter (in dependant origination). Another argument is, how can consciousness give rise to mind & matter i.e. 5 aggregates when consciousness itself is one of the 5 aggregates? Doesn't make sense to me. I am sorry if there're those that don't agree, but we need to get it right. Please correct me if my understanding of namarupa is wrong or my explanation is incorrect. Apology, if any. Peace & love to all.
Last edited by now realm on Sun Aug 25, 2013 12:45 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Why Learn Pali

Post by Jhana4 » Thu Aug 22, 2013 1:45 pm

arijitmitter wrote: I have a question. Why does a Theravadan Buddhist need to learn Pali ?
So you can know what is actually said in the Pali Canon, the text of your religion.

Pali doesn't translate exactly into English. Translators have make compromises, which may obscure the true meaning of ideas for some readers.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.

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