"No discernible beginning"

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LonesomeYogurt
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"No discernible beginning"

Post by LonesomeYogurt »

In what sutta(s) does the Buddha use the term "no discernible beginning" to describe Samsara?
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.

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Polar Bear
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Re: "No discernible beginning"

Post by Polar Bear »

At Savatthi. There the Blessed One said: "From an inconstruable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on. What do you think, monks: Which is greater, the tears you have shed while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — or the water in the four great oceans?"

"As we understand the Dhamma taught to us by the Blessed One, this is the greater: the tears we have shed while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — not the water in the four great oceans."

"Excellent, monks. Excellent. It is excellent that you thus understand the Dhamma taught by me.

"This is the greater: the tears you have shed while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — not the water in the four great oceans.

"Long have you (repeatedly) experienced the death of a mother. The tears you have shed over the death of a mother while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — are greater than the water in the four great oceans.

"Long have you (repeatedly) experienced the death of a father... the death of a brother... the death of a sister... the death of a son... the death of a daughter... loss with regard to relatives... loss with regard to wealth... loss with regard to disease. The tears you have shed over loss with regard to disease while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — are greater than the water in the four great oceans.

"Why is that? From an inconstruable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on. Long have you thus experienced stress, experienced pain, experienced loss, swelling the cemeteries — enough to become disenchanted with all fabricated things, enough to become dispassionate, enough to be released."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;


I'll look for some more
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."

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Polar Bear
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Re: "No discernible beginning"

Post by Polar Bear »

However

Then Vacchagotta the wanderer went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, exchanged courteous greetings with him. After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there, he said to the Blessed One, "Now then, Master Gotama, is the cosmos eternal?"

"That has not been declared by me, Vaccha: 'The cosmos is eternal.'"

"Well then, Master Gotama, is the cosmos not eternal?"

"Vaccha, that too has not been declared by me: 'The cosmos is not eternal.'"
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

So it's really besides the point.


edit: Although some might try to make a distinction between the cosmos and samsara, it's pretty clear that one has to be in the cosmos in order to be in samsara or be in the act of samsara-ing

Also, the Buddha may have used the term eternal as a description of something that doesn't change, as opposed to eternal continuity characterized by change. So who knows what his point really is? Aside from the fact that it's pointless to speculate about things outside of the All.
"Monks, I will teach you the All. Listen & pay close attention. I will speak."

"As you say, lord," the monks responded.

The Blessed One said, "What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. [1] Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Last edited by Polar Bear on Wed May 30, 2012 10:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."

vinasp
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Re: "No discernible beginning"

Post by vinasp »

Hi lonesomeYogurt,

There is a series of about twenty suttas starting with SN 15.1

" ... this samsara is without discoverable beginning."

There may also be others.

Regards, Vincent.

vinasp
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Re: "No discernible beginning"

Post by vinasp »

Hi everyone,

Bhikkhu Bodhi translates as follows;

"Bhikkhus, this samsara is without discoverable beginning. A first point is
not discerned of beings roaming and wandering on hindered by ignorance and
fettered by craving."

It could be that "a first point is not discerned" because in fact there are
no BEINGS "roaming and wandering on hindered by ignorance and fettered by
craving."

Regards, Vincent.

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LonesomeYogurt
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Re: "No discernible beginning"

Post by LonesomeYogurt »

Thanks guys, these all help me out!
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.

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retrofuturist
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Re: "No discernible beginning"

Post by retrofuturist »

Greetings,

Just as another caveat, I don't think it's appropriate to translate samsara as transmigration (as I suspect Thanissaro Bhikkhu has done in the translation above).

Samsara is etymologically similar to the Sankrit samskara (Pali: sankhāra) which is defined in much detail here...

Sankhāra
http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philol ... :2800.pali" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

As explained there, the "sa" signfies "composition, aggregate" implying a process of "putting together".

Compare with punnabhava, colloquially translated as rebirth, which more accurately means "repeated existence".

As I understand it, samsara, punnabhava and sankhara all relate to the putting together of existence, and this is a volitional activity, undertaken on account of avijja (ignorance) that is described in the Buddha's teaching of paticcasamuppada (i.e. dependent origination).

To call that "transmigration" is to falsely and implicitly infer a subject for transmigration, and to falsely infer that the process of samsara is applicable only in-between physical deaths and births.

Thus to say there is "no discernible beginning" is to say there is not a time discernible in the past where there was not avijja (ignorance) giving rise to the experience of sentient existence.

In the context of this, consider the following (source: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el238.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;)...
(AN 10.61:) "A first beginning of ignorance cannot be conceived, (of which it can be said), 'Before that, there was no ignorance and it came to be after that.' Though this is so, monks, yet a specific condition of ignorance can be conceived. Ignorance, too, has its nutriment, I declare; and it is not without a nutriment. And what is the nutriment of ignorance? 'The five hindrances,' should be the answer.

(AN 10.62:) "A first beginning of the craving of existence cannot be conceived, (of which it can be said), 'Before that, there was no craving for existence and it came to be after that.' Though this is so, monks, yet a specific condition for craving for existence can be conceived. Craving for existence, too, has its nutriment, I declare; and it is not without a nutriment. And what is the nutriment of craving for existence? 'Ignorance,' should be the answer.
Metta,
Retro. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

“Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” (Flannery O'Connor)

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hanzze_
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Re: "No discernible beginning"

Post by hanzze_ »

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Just as another caveat, I don't think it's appropriate to translate samsara as transmigration (as I suspect Thanissaro Bhikkhu has done in the translation above).

Samsara is etymologically similar to the Sankrit samskara (Pali: sankhāra) which is defined in much detail here...

Sankhāra
http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philol ... :2800.pali" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

As explained there, the "sa" signfies "composition, aggregate" implying a process of "putting together".

Compare with punnabhava, colloquially translated as rebirth, which more accurately means "repeated existence".

As I understand it, samsara, punnabhava and sankhara all relate to the putting together of existence, and this is a volitional activity, undertaken on account of avijja (ignorance) that is described in the Buddha's teaching of paticcasamuppada (i.e. dependent origination).

To call that "transmigration" is to falsely and implicitly infer a subject for transmigration, and to falsely infer that the process of samsara is applicable only in-between physical deaths and births.

Thus to say there is "no discernible beginning" is to say there is not a time discernible in the past where there was not avijja (ignorance) giving rise to the experience of sentient existence.

In the context of this, consider the following (source: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el238.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;)...
(AN 10.61:) "A first beginning of ignorance cannot be conceived, (of which it can be said), 'Before that, there was no ignorance and it came to be after that.' Though this is so, monks, yet a specific condition of ignorance can be conceived. Ignorance, too, has its nutriment, I declare; and it is not without a nutriment. And what is the nutriment of ignorance? 'The five hindrances,' should be the answer.

(AN 10.62:) "A first beginning of the craving of existence cannot be conceived, (of which it can be said), 'Before that, there was no craving for existence and it came to be after that.' Though this is so, monks, yet a specific condition for craving for existence can be conceived. Craving for existence, too, has its nutriment, I declare; and it is not without a nutriment. And what is the nutriment of craving for existence? 'Ignorance,' should be the answer.
Metta,
Retro. :)
"I don't think it's appropriate to translate samsara as transmigration" and "the "sa" signfies "composition, aggregate" implying a process of "the "sa" signfies "composition, aggregate" implying a process of "putting together""

...raises the question, if they are fix pounded (which could be the reason for this conclusion, if it is not just a phraseology dislike) together or transmigrate in decaying and becoming. I guess it's good to see/focus on the process rather than on what is. Realizing this process and uproot the cause is the end of samsara, the wandering forth. There is no such thing as an existing Samsara, there is a process which we usually call so.

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mikenz66
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Re: "No discernible beginning"

Post by mikenz66 »

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote: Samsara is etymologically similar to the Sankrit samskara (Pali: sankhāra) which is defined in much detail here...

Sankhāra
http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philol ... :2800.pali" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
I'm no Pali expert, so I've really no idea whether that's true or not, but don't see the connection. The sāra words seem to do with rolling, wheels, continuation, etc. Do you have a source?

Here is: Saŋsāra in the PTS dictionary:
http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philol ... :2609.pali" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
And some entymology comments:
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=samsara" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
samsara Look up samsara at Dictionary.com
1886, from Skt. samsara “a wandering through,” from sam-, prefix denoting completeness, + sr- “to run, glide.”
Bhikkhu Bodhi's introduction to the SN:
(1) As the second factor in the formula of dependent origination, saṅkhāras are the kammically active volitions responsible, in conjunction with ignorance and craving, for generating rebirth and sustaining the forward movement of saṃsāra from one life to the next. Saṅkhārā is synonymous with kamma, to which it is etymologically related, both being derived from karoti.
And from SN 15.1
“Bhikkhus, this saṃsāra is without discoverable beginning. A first point is not discerned of beings roaming and wandering on hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving.
:anjali:
Mike

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retrofuturist
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Re: "No discernible beginning"

Post by retrofuturist »

Greetings,

Just as a point of clarification, I was actually going to say that "saṃ" (rather than "sa") indicates this "compiled" nature, in accordance with what Bhikkhu Bodhi says here: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 50&start=0" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote:prefix sam (=con), "together"
In that context see also the use of Saṃskāra (potentially related to karoti, just like sankhara?) in the broader Indian religious tradition - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sa%E1%B9%83sk%C4%81ra" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; - it which it is clear that saṃskāra is a volitional activity.

...but I deferred instead to the PTS Dictionary account of "sa" in the above post.

Either way, as "sa" or "sam" it's use as a prefix signals "composition, aggregate" (PTS) or "together" (Bodhi).

As for this...
Bhikkhu Bodhi's introduction to the SN:
(1) As the second factor in the formula of dependent origination, saṅkhāras are the kammically active volitions responsible, in conjunction with ignorance and craving, for generating rebirth and sustaining the forward movement of saṃsāra from one life to the next. Saṅkhārā is synonymous with kamma, to which it is etymologically related, both being derived from karoti.
Well, that's Bhikkhu Bodhi doing his usual thing, isn't it? i.e. Representing the three-lifetime dependent origination interpretation and by doing so making sankhara mean different things in different contexts. We could of course re-enact the Nanavira/Bodhi debate with respect to sankhara, but I see little purpose in the context of this topic.
Do you have a source?
If when I find it, I'll let you know.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

“Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” (Flannery O'Connor)

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mikenz66
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Re: "No discernible beginning"

Post by mikenz66 »

Hi Retro,

I was trying to get to the bottom of the entymology and Bhikhu Bodhi mentions the entymology of sankhara. Is he incorrect on that? Generally with Pali roots are at the end, aren't they?

But of course, how one interprets DO is relevant to this whole issue of how to interpret those suttas.

:anjali:
Mike

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hanzze_
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Re: "No discernible beginning"

Post by hanzze_ »

Dear retro,

the point is more a "composition" or composing better ongoing composed / "aggregate" or aggregating better ongoing aggregating.
Whether one follows such a thing in a greater wheel or in it's smallest processes does not really make a different. If one sees the process in a smaller scale, he would not have a problem if one likes to see it in a lager scale and it would not touch the topic.

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retrofuturist
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Re: "No discernible beginning"

Post by retrofuturist »

Greetings,
mikenz66 wrote:I was trying to get to the bottom of the entymology and Bhikhu Bodhi mentions the entymology of sankhara. Is he incorrect on that?
Not as far as I'm aware.
mikenz66 wrote:But of course, how one interprets DO is relevant to this whole issue of how to interpret those suttas.
Yep.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

“Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” (Flannery O'Connor)

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Re: "No discernible beginning"

Post by tiltbillings »

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Retro,

I was trying to get to the bottom of the entymology and Bhikhu Bodhi mentions the entymology of sankhara. Is he incorrect on that?
Not in the least. Simply put, the Buddha taught literal rebirth.

Saŋ, as the PTS Dictionary points out (p. 655), functions very often, as in this case, as an "intensifier." Saŋ plus Sarati ("to go, flow, run, move along" PTSD 697) is what gives us samsara. How this word is to be understood in the Pali suttas is best shown by how it is actually used:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dham ... msara.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
>> 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: "No discernible beginning"

Post by vinasp »

Hi everyone,

The phrase also occurs in SN 22.100 - The Leash (2)

This is a very interesting discourse, for example it says:

""Monks, I can imagine no one group of beings more variegated than that of common animals. Common animals are created by mind."

What does the Buddha mean by this statement?

Also, we find:

"It's just as when — there being dye, lac, yellow orpiment, indigo, or crimson — a dyer or painter would paint the picture of a woman or a man, complete in all its parts, on a well-polished panel or wall, or on a piece of cloth; in the same way, an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person, when creating, creates nothing but form... feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness."

Does this mean that the ordinary person creates nothing but himself, or that
which he takes to be his self?

Is the ordinary person continuously creating a new set of five aggregates in
order to continue to have a "self"?

Link: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Regards, Vincent.

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