retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Sherab,
My understanding with respect to "find no footing" is it speaks of the absence of sankhata dhamma (formed dhammas) of which consciousness could take as subject. In the absence of sankhata dhamma, consciousness takes the unformed (i.e. nibbana) as object.
So to answer Sherab's question... the answer is they arise due to ignorance, and cease in the absence of ignorance.
Retro and tilt are on the right track here. But I think that Sherab might also appreciate the take given by Bhk. Nanananda.
On the point of "non-manifestive consciousness" this phrase is the translation for the Pali terms anidassana vinnana
and which translation is used by Bhk. Nanananda in his book Concept and Reality in Early Buddhist Thought
. This has also been translated as "where consciousness is signless" (M. Walshe) and "consciousness non-manifesting" (Bh. Bodhi).
We can find this phrase used in the Kevaddha Sutta
(DN 11) in the following translation and commentary by Bhk. Nanananda:
[The Buddha says:] "Consciousness which is non-manifestive, endless, lustrous on all sides, here it is that earth and water, fire and wind, no footing find. Here again are long and short, subtle and gross, pleasant and unpleasant, name and form, all cut off without exceptions. When consciousness comes to cease, these are held in check herein."
A monk conceives the riddle, "Wherein do these four great elements viz. earth, water, fire and air cease altogether?", and in order to get a suitable answer, develops his psychic powers and goes from heaven to heaven querying gods and Brahmas in vain. At last he approaches the Buddha, and when the riddle is put to him, he remarks that it is not properly worded and therefore reformulates it thus, before giving his solution in the verse quoted above:
[The Buddha says:] "Where do earth and water, fire and wind, long and short, fine and coarse, pleasant and unpleasant, no footing find? Where is it that name and form are held in check with no trace left?"
[Bhk. Nanananda comments:] "According to the Buddha's reply, earth, water, fire and air do not find footing, long, short, subtle, gross, pleasant, unpleasant and name and form are completely cut off in a consciousness which makes nothing manifest and which is infinite and lustrous all-round. It is very likely that the reference again is to the anna phala samadhi (the 'Fruit of Knowledge' concentration) of the Arahant. Though less obvious, the string of negations is in general agreement with those that occur elsewhere in like contexts. Terms like long and short, subtle and gross, pleasant and unpleasant as well as name-and-form could easily be comprehended by the standard phrase 'whatever is seen, heard, sensed, cognized, attained, sought after and traversed by the mind'. The last line of the verse stresses the fact that the four great elements do not find a footing — and that name-and-form (comprehending them) can be cut off completely — in that anidassana-vinnana (the 'non-manifestive consciousness') of the Arahant, by the cessation of his normal consciousness which rests on the data of sense-experience. This is a corrective to that monk's notion that the four elements can cease altogether somewhere — a notion which had its roots in the popular conception of self-existing material elements. The Buddha's reformulation of the original question and this concluding line are meant to combat this wrong notion. . . . This consciousness of the Arahant is one that manifests nothing out of our world of concepts. It does not 'il-lustrate' (Lat. lustro, 'bright') anything though (or because) it is itself 'all-lustrous,' for darkness can never be illustrated or made manifest by light. With his penetrative insight the Arahant sees through the concepts. Now, an object of perception (arammana) for the worldling is essentially something that is brought into focus — something he is looking at. For the Arahant, however, all concepts have become transparent to such a degree in that all-encompassing vision, that their boundaries together with their umbra and penumbra have yielded to the radiance of wisdom. This, then, is the significance of the word 'anantam' (endless, infinite). Thus the paradoxically detached gaze of the contemplative sage as he looks through concepts is one which has no object (arammana) as the point of focus for the worldling to identify it with. It is a gaze that is neither conscious nor non-conscious, neither attentive nor non-attentive, neither fixed nor not fixed — a gaze that knows no horizon."
Footnote  "By what track can you lead that Awakened One who is trackless and whose range is endless and to whom there is not that entangling net of craving to lead anywhere?" —Dhp. 180
From the above explanation and commentary, then, anidassana vinnana
, or non-manifestive consciousness, can be seen not to be nibbana
but rather an ending of the mind's ability to manifest conceptualization when confronted by nama-rupa
(name and form). Put in another way, it is the mind's ability to apply bare attention to the objects placed before it, namely, to not label, not make subjective judgments, to not conceive preconceived notions, nor to otherwise add alien admixtures which would render the object more than something simple and pure as it already is.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV