I would propose that we discuss this issue by referencing relevant citations from the commentaries, as you have done here. In addition, it would also be useful to include references and citations from contemporary authorities on the Abhidhamma and the Mahāvihāra commentarial literature. This would include both scholars and meditation teachers such as the Burmese teachers who rely strictly on Mahāvihāra abhidhammika tenets ("scholar" and "meditation teacher" are not necessarily mutually exclusive categories).pt1 wrote:I'll reply to this separately as it's not so much about practice but more about our interpretation of the texts, so here I don't mind a bit of an argument.Thanks, that's the sutta. Yes, I think it's open to interpretation what "it exists" means. To me, when it's contrasted with non-existence of aggregates that are permanent, self, etc, it means that an aggregate (which is anicca, dukkha and anatta) is something that can be practically experienced in insight. I mean, if such an aggregate was just a concepts equivalent to that unicorn that Alex recently mentioned, then I don't think the Buddha would have the need to say that it exist, or even that "it is", as you say, because the unicorn obviously "is not" even though we can think it.Ñāṇa wrote:The sutta is SN 22.94 (S iii 138) Puppha Sutta. And the term translated as "it exists" is atthi, which doesn't have any realist connotations whatsoever. It could well be translated as "it is."pt1 wrote:E.g. if he is really saying what you think he’s saying, then to me that goes directly against that SN sutta where the Buddha quite clearly says that aggregates which are anicca, dukkha and anatta, are said to exist by the wise, which imo is the same thing that the commentaries are saying on their own terms.
Of course, different things can be read into the commentaries by different people. I personally feel that ascribing to commentaries various "realist, atomisitic, etc" interpretations are not correct. One particular quote I remember in this regard is from the MN tika that I saved from one of robertk's posts:Ñāṇa wrote: It is very far from the ontological and realist implications of the commentarial "sabhāva."the majjhimanikaya tika (mulapariyaya sutta) has the following
to say. I use bhikkhu bodhi's translation p39.
It comments on the atthakatha which says "they bear their own
characteristics, thus they are dhammas."
The tika(subcommentary ) notes. "although there are no dhammas
devoid of their own characteristics this is said fro the purpose
of showing that mere dhammas endowed with their specific natures
devoid of such attributes as being etc... whereas such entities
as self, permanence or nature, soul, body etc are mere
misconstructions due to craving and views...and cannot be
discovered as ultinately real actualities, these dhammas
(ie.those endowed with a specific sabhava) can. these dhammas
are discovered as actually real actualties. And although there
IS NO REAL DISTINCTION between these dhammas and their
characteristics, still, in order to facilitate understanding,
the exposition makes a distinction as a mere metaphorical
device. Also they are borne, or they are discerned, known ,
acccording to their specific nature, thus they are dhammas"
To me this says at least two things:
1. sabhava is equivalent to the characteristics of a dhamma - individual and general characteristics.
2. practical experience of a dhamma is NO DIFFERENT to the experience of these characteristics.
So in my mind, this is absolutely identical to when the suttas say:
Form is impermanent, feeling is impermanent, etc for the rest of the aggregates, as well as anatta and dukha combinations.
which in commentarial speak equals to:
form = individual characteristic, impermanent = general characteristic, etc.
So, if considering both the suttas and commentaries in terms of describing a practical experience of insight, rather than engaging in some sort of philosophying, then imo they are speaking about the same practical experience.
In The Dhamma Theory: Philosophical Cornerstone of the Abhidhamma, (BPS, 1996), Dr. Y. Karunadasa, an authoritative Sri Lankan Abhidhamma scholar, tells us that:
- All the different modes of analysis and classification found in the Abhidhamma stem from a single philosophical principle, which gave direction and shape to the entire project of systematization. This principle is the notion that all the phenomena of empirical existence are made up of a number of elementary constituents, the ultimate realities behind the manifest phenomena. These elementary constituents, the building blocks of experience, are called dhammas. The dhamma theory is not merely one principle among others in the body of Abhidhamma philosophy but the base upon which the entire system rests.
Specifically, it seems that there are three interrelated principles that are central to the Mahāvihāra commentarial view:
- 1.the dhamma theory (dhammavāda)
2.the theory of radical momentariness (khaṇavāda)
3.the theory of two truths (sammutisacca & paramatthasacca)
Anything that you or any other member may wish to add is welcome.