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#1 RobertK

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Posted 12 July 2006 - 03:39 AM

Sukinder" <sukin@k...> wrote:
Dear Rob,

You said:

It seems to me that there is a difference between not having a 'self' and not being able to do anything.

Sukin:

I am going to attempt an answer with very little theoretical knowledge, so it is quite likely that I am mistaken. There is a constant arising and falling away of nama and rupa. There is activity, intention arises and falls away with every citta. It does its job whether or not we know it. Because of avija, there is no knowing the object of cetana which is the same as the citta. In citta rooted in lobha or dosa, cetana is akusala, so the direction taken will be in accordance with the object. If there is avija, attachment to what appears through the senses is inevitable and concepts are formed. The kilesas have already done their job. For example, I intend to eat something, the thinking says "I am hungry", but maybe I am motivated by the thought about the taste of the food. So I end up not eating to fill my stomach, but to satisfy greed and so I accumulate more greed and avija. On the other hand if there is sati at the moment of sense impressions, there is no lobha or dosa and cetana is kusala. At the moment of satipatthana there is no attachment and no concepts are formed. Panna has been accumulated to a little or more degree. Can cetana in lobhamula citta result in kusala? Can the thinking about doing good for humanity(a story), change the result that a citta rooted in greed bring? Can a moment of satipatthana not accumulate panna? Where is there control, where choice? Without knowledge about dhamma, chances are that we will always be thrust this way and that by the waves of lobha and dosa. But with more and more knowledge about dhamma, there is a chance that we can sometimes move in the direction where sati and panna will take us. But none of this is decided by any imagined or implied 'controler'. There are other conditioning factors such as temperature, nutrition and pressures in the physical body at any given time. And also just fallen away cittas. They all suggest how impersonal everything is.

You said:

The bodymind does exist, it has a brain with thoughts and feelings. there are qualities of action and intention that exist within that organism. It is possible for this organism to develop intentions, make decisions, etc. Of course there are always conditions around every decision, every action. But the question is: can the conscious decisions or will that the organism exert affect its progress.

Sukin:

It seems to me that there is 'self' there somewhere. Even if we agree that cittas are momentary happenings, if we are not careful we will still posit an entity into them. Even this much can give rise to an idea of 'control' and 'choice' I think. Surely cetana as a cetasika affects other cetasikas and the citta itself. And the present ciita conditioning the next citta must also have been influenced by the cetana accompanying it. You said: I am sure you would agree that if you were to say 'well, there's no self so i won't keep track of anything' and walk in front of a truck, these kandhas would soon be spread out in a way that would not be suitable for further discernment. So we as organisms are constantly doing things in a more or less skillful way and trying to maximize our progress towards understanding.

Sukin:

I think we agree that self- love (attachment to self?) is prime. We move in the direction that lobha takes us. With this in mind I think we can even say that much of the time that we think we are doing for the sake of the 'other', we are in fact doing it for ourselves. Where was apparent cetana pointing to then? Cetana to cross the road only after carefully looking left and right IS a reality, but was the decision right or wrong in relation to anything but the prevailing conditions? Is being able to "survive" and live comfortably till the age of 90 a sign of progress? Coming into contact with dhamma and all the necessary conditions for its development may have been a series of right conditions. Choice is just an idea we put into the situation.

You said:

The question then is whether these qualities exist and whether the conscious mind can cause certain things to happen through intention, whether intention organizes effort and action in a way which, despite conditions, are part of the conditions that maximize our progress.

Sukin:

Nothing exist prior to its arising, every citta that arises falls away completely. Intention arises with every citta, but whether there is understanding or not depends on other factors such as accumulated panna and kilesa. Cetana is as impersoanl as every other nama, as much a conditioning factor as every other cetasika. Just has a different function, a very important one(being kamma) nevertheless dependent on other dhammas for its quality and intensity

sukinder

#2 RobertK

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Posted 12 July 2006 - 03:41 AM

You said:

... but I think the issue is still out as to whether the intention put into consciousness at a given moment, which is then carried by the stream of arising moments of consciousness, will at some point bear a positive fruit.

Sukin:

I think everything that we do and think has an effect on what we will do and think in the future, as accumulated wrong view or wisdom or as behavioral tendency. But whether it will be positive or negative is hard to know.

You said:

If we think right now: well I will commit myself to being more mindful; does that thought bear a fruit for future mindfulness?

Sukin:
I think you will agree that different people with different backgrounds will have different understanding of what is worthy and what is not. A buddhist with a good knowledge of the Tipitaka will not necessary know what the right object of mindfulness should be, let alone know what the conditions are for sati to arise. Which is why I consider "right view"( I speak of the intellectual level ) as the most important aspect of the Buddha's teachings. What I've noticed is that even with one `right view' many wrong practices are seen for what they are and hence discarded. I think one of the greatest stumbling blocks in our progress towards more understanding of the Buddha's teachings, is our tendency to be stuck in old thought habits. We have very little knowledge of our accumulated wrong view and so we do not notice the fault in our reasoning, which is based on premises we take for granted. For example this idea about trying to be mindful in all situations has been so much popularized by meditation teachers and writers of today that we are stuck with the story about it. We never even try to question about its validity or even go deeper into the meaning of samatha and vipassana, there is so much superficial appeal that we quickly grab the idea and follow any or all who speak with a voice of authority. My own brief encounter with Goenka style of practice has shown me how I was attached to the `goal' set by myself regarding time and place of practice, how on the day I manage to more or less reach that goal was a day I felt pleased with myself and on other days I would be somewhat disappointed. Would it have been different had I thought along the lines "if I reach the goal good, if I don't reach the goal also good"? I doubt it. Why, because if there is no right understanding in the beginning about what is taking place, then there is a moving towards a goal and attachment to the outcome. Part of what I would call `right understanding' would be, "All dhammas are anatta, they arise because of conditions, sati being a dhamma will arise only when the conditions are right for it to. Intention is a dhamma, it will arise and have the right object only when it arises with sati and a host of other kusala dhammas."( I'm just repeating myself here, sorry.) Also in looking back, when walking around trying to be mindful of my bodily movement, my thoughts etc., I don't remember ever having a sense of `letting go' in relation to having an insight into a situation, but instead I was often reminding myself about the need to `let go' and so end up in `trying to let go'. Did I ever have any idea that I was dealing with concepts? NO! In other words I was blissfully unaware of what was going on. So am I now, but at least I don't believe otherwise. But this is only my experience and I cannot speak for another. Let me now go to your next point.

You said:

And if the thought arises and is agreed to by subsequent consciousnesses: `well there is no use in exerting mundane effort and intention, since the results are really out of my control', what fruits will that yield?

Sukin:

If I am doing nothing, I am still doing something, viriya cetasika is still there. Only its object will be different. I still have to consider what is kusala and what is not. But what do I do? The cittas have already fallen away before their affect have fallen into awareness, so there is nothing to be done about those. What about the future cittas, akusala can arise again? So they will, if the conditions are there, if the kilesas are still in plenty. Does this mean I do nothing about it? Yes! I cannot do anything directly about my kilesas, but I can have `right understanding' and this will influence the accumulated tendencies. Sati and panna can arise in the future and whatever that can be done with regard to akusala will be done by these cetasikas, not by anything else. And is this control, I don't think so. There is no trying to do anything directly with whatever is arising now. When I read the posts on dsg for instance, it's mostly a desire to understand more but sometimes there is chanda to have more understanding. But in either case there is no thinking that I will one day be able to be mindful of all situations or that sati will arise more often. Such thinking I think is based on lobha, it will not lead to the goal. I think this answers (or at least I hope it does, since I'm already feeling so tired, I type at snail's pace) your points below too.

You said:

So I don't think that trying to intervene in the process of delusion and ignorance necessarily implies that one is promoting a self-concept, in and of itself. I think we can put our minds in the right direction by `going along' with the proper thoughts and intentions when they arise, and follow the Buddha's lead in promoting the breakup of ignorance.

As a last thought, if we try to study the Dhamma and practice discernment, does this or does this not imply the idea that there is a `self' to be enlightened? If there weren't, wouldn't we just drop the whole thing and go about our daily lives, knowing that there was no self and therefore the path was unnecessary?

#3 RobertK

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Posted 12 July 2006 - 03:44 AM

You write: ...secluded spot, sitting cross-legged, spine erect, etc., and that one can retain true, unbroken mindfulness in all situations as they arise...

Dan:

This "unbroken mindfulness" sounds very peculiar to me. Yes, I've heard it said many times before and have even been deluded into thinking I've experienced it at times. But even when the mind is numb to it, always there is sense consciousness, investigating consciousness, five-door adverting consciousness, mind-door adverting consciousness intervening -- and sati in none of these. This is there to be observed in practice, in FM, in daily life, in study but it does require seeing to see. Sati cannot be unbroken; it rises and falls with consciousness, moment to moment. It cannot be avoided. Some moments it's there, but usually not. This remains true even though concentration may be very prominent and sharp. Seeing this is impossible, though, while there is no discernment of the distinction between concentration and mindfulness. Knowing the distinction is much, much more than hearing the word "mindfulness" and its definition. It must be known in practice, but how can it be known when there is the view that it can be unbroken, in all situations?

Erik:

Before, and for many years, I used to kid myself into believing that mere study would suffice, that I could somehow grasp the essenc of the Dhamma if I read just enough books and "understood" things like anatta.

Dan:

I think we can agree that reading and putting together arguments is of limited utility. Fleeting, transient, and fabricated, lacking any innate "essence" or "core"--particularly the collection of transient and impersonal processes the Buddha labeled the five khandas.

Does sati rise and fall too? Or can it be unbroken? To which khanda does sati belong?

It need not be for those who have advanced past the stage where training in clear comprehension, mindfulness, and concentration are so thoroughly established--to the point that one can truly (truly) retain unbroken mindfulness and clear comprehension in the most demanding situations. Since I am not at such a lofty point in m own development of mindfulness, I prefer to heed the Buddha's instructions on this matter and avoid attempting to reinterpret the Buddha's explicit advice in a way that favors my own prejudices,

Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu! The conditions for satipatthana? Hearing the true Dhamma and yoniso manasikara. It cannot be forced: "I'm going to make sati arise now by using yoniso manasikara." Not at all! Even if one is inclined to put faith in one's personal control over sankhara, yoniso manasikara arises PRE-javana and colors the subsequent javana process, so it is still something that cannot be forced.

Dan

#4 RobertK

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Posted 23 July 2006 - 09:56 AM

I hope you don't mind that I join in the conversation with Jon.

One point about your quotation from the Abhidhammattha-sangaha You realise that that entire quotation came NOT from the actual Abhidhammattha-sangaha but from Venerable Narada , a Sri Lankan monk who translated the book, and died a few years back. It is his ideas not those of the Anuruddha thera.

You write that "I believe this free will and choice is available at mind level as well. This is what it says in the Abhidhammattha-Sangaha CHAPTER III - Miscellaneous Section" and you cite The venerable Narada

QUOTE
"This javana stage is the most important from a ethical standpoint. It is at this psychological stage that good or evil is actually done. Irrespective of the desirability or the undesirability of the object presented to the mind, one can make the Javana process good or bad. "


I wonder if there are other ways to look at this. The javana process is going very fast - it has gone before we can really decide to make it good or bad. I think that only by conditions good or bad arises. Not us who can choose.


I have been intending to write more about the six sense doors as I think if anyone can learn to study, say, seeing and colour that any doubts they have about why we stress awareness at any time will naturally go. If one learns to develop awareness even when one is tired or worried or just walking to the shop then the way different objects are uncontrollable become gradually more apparent, I think. Anyway sarah wrote that basics are basics and anatta should be stressed - and I can't argue there.

So here we go. Those who have heard it all before won't want to be subjected to another robert harangue so push 'delete' now. You said you felt discouraged to learn that awareness can't be directed . I don't think you need to feel discouraged. The texts mention that simply throwing out the dregs of a cup in the hope that it might benefit the minute creatures in a pond will result in riches in thousands of lives in the future. The development of panna (wisdom) at whatever level is kusala of much higher merit. And understanding of anatta only occurs during a buddha sasana.

If we learn that control and free will is an illusion that will bring great good fortune and it also should lead towards correct, direct understanding of the dhammas at the 6 doors; and that, so I believe, leads out of samasara altogether. I used to plan and hope for big results in this life, but that was all self. Just learning about conditions in theory and a little directly is satisfying enough now; even this brings directly visible benefits in that the obsession of self is reduced and so life is lived more in accord with the way things are rather than ideals we have of how things should be.

In some ways it seems we can direct awareness. If I think about seeing now that tends to condition an investigation of seeing or visible object. Or when we were talking much about dosa on the list recently: hearing about how dosa can be an object for sati may condition a degree of study of dosa when it arises. It is good to know about the different levels of awareness, though, as we might overestimate just how much awareness there was. It is all changing so fast. When there is some study of the characteristic of dosa this is mostly in a vague way - seeing it directly a little but much of it is still thinking about it. What I call thinking in the present moment. This level shouldn't be scorned as it has to be like this - as far as I can see- we can't jump to direct, deep experience where nama is separated from rupa.

At this level, when one is still thinking and studying in the present moment, I think one tends to still favour certain objects and so for some people sound becomes a little clearer, for others seeing, for others feeling. Colour is clearer than seeing for me but for others it may be different. There needs to be investigation of many dhammas, though, and the reason there is/seems to be some degree of "choice" is due to deeprooted self view.

And so while there is study of dosa there shouldn't be neglect of the visible object or sound or feeling that is also arising quickly in between moments of dosa. However, if we just try to "let go" and be aware of whatever dhamma arises this too can be a type of attachment where one is trying to run after different dhammas - it doesn't work. Also if there aren't enough conditions for awareness it can't arise. I think this is crucial to accept otherwise we might be manufacturing some sort of distorted vision that we think is awareness. Or we might feel dejected if awreness doesn't arise often. Sati is simply a conditioned phenomena and seeeing that should lessen attachment to it. If it doesn't arise much that is because there are not so many conditions for it. The reason lobha is so dominant in our lives is because there are strong conditions for that particular dhamma- but by studying it we learn a little more each time; it is an object for satipatthana, and it is awareness that investigates lobha.

Always it is a balance - we can go to other extremes and not even consider or study dhammas at all- thinking that it will all just somehow happen if we listen and read Dhamma books.

Studying directly- even at a very basic level- the way different objects present themselves should weaken the idea of control. Can we decide what the next moment is? I don't think so. Is it seeing or hearing or feeling or dosa or metta or delusion or sound that just arose? It is all happening because of conditions that we are not even aware of and it is all happening very fast.

In the "Dispeller of Delusion"(PTS) p 137 paragraph 564 it says
QUOTE
"In respect of the classification of the Foundations of Mindfulness. And this also takes place in multiple consciousness in the prior stage (prior to supramundane). For it lays hold of the body with one consciousness and with others feeling etc."


As the quote from the "Dispeller" indicates at one moment sati takes feelings as an object and at another rupa. We will perhaps see that trying to make sati go to certain objects does not lead to detachment from the idea of self. We might also remember that sati is just a cetasika, itself conditioned by various factors, and so ephemeral.

If we have understood Abhidhamma correctly we know that each moment is conditioned by different conditions and that not even one of those conditions is controllable even for an instant The burmese Abhidhamma teacher Thein Nyun in his preface to the DhatuKathu (PTS)
xxvii writes about this:

QUOTE
"Because the functions of the elements give rise to the concepts of continuity, collection and form, the ideas arise:

1)the initial effort that has to be exerted when a deed is about to be performed and

2) the care that has to be taken while the deed is being performed to its completion and this leads to the subsequent ideas3)"I can perform" and

4) "I can feel".

Thus these four imaginary characteristic functions of being have bought about a deep-rooted belief in their existence. But the elements have not the time or span of duration to carry out such functions."


This is only theory but I find it agrees with the way the world appears to me. And the world can only be understood by dissecting the whole into its component parts. We can't come to profound understanding if we think about concepts - then it still seems that "I" can choose this or that. Thus while I can write about, say, 'giving special attention to dosa' (especially if it is prolonged and if one habitually avoids awareness of it), it depends on understanding, mine and the listener, as to what is meant. One person takes it to mean that one can choose at the deepest level to have sati just by attention and effort(ie a level of wrong view). Another knows that only at the conventional level is there any choice. Fundamentally there can be none because there is no self. This helps one to read the pali texts including the Dhammapada in a clearer way also. One may think dosa should be the object when one is upset - but feeling may instead present itself to awareness; Or the nature of seeing could be clearer: how painful feeling or dosa is not present at the actual moments of seeing. I find it is all very interesting and thus only discouraging if one is set on goals and ideals.

robert

#5 RobertK

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Posted 08 December 2006 - 05:11 AM

Your long quote from Nina's book cetasikas about cetana should be understood properly. She wrote:

QUOTE
"The Visuddhimagga (XIV, 135) gives a similar definition. 1. The characteristic of cetanaa is coordinating. It coordinates the citta and the other cetasikas it accompanies on the object. Citta cognizes the object, it is the leader in knowing the object. The cetasikas which accompany citta share the same object, but they each have to fulfil their own task. For example, phassa contacts the object, vedanaa feels, experiences the "taste" of the object, and sa~n~na "marks" and remembers the object. Cetanaa sees to it that the other dhammas it arises together with fulfil their tasks with regard to the object they all share."


Cetana simply performs its function of coordinating without any self doing anything. It is present for an infinitely short time and then falls away and another arises which performs its function. It cannot do anything other than perform its function. But because of continuity there is a belief, a vipallasa, perversion of perception, that believes there is somewhere , somehow a controller of the whole complex. That is why it easy for buddhists to say "there is no self" but how many really want to see that there actually is NO self, no control, no controller- there are only elements arising and ceasing and performing their many different functions which - like a brilliant puppet show - delude one into thinking there is some special element behind it all.

The Burmese teacher Thein Nyun explains much better than I can. He writes in his preface to the DhatuKathu (Pali Text Society)Book of elements).

He writes that in fact all elements, including cetana disappear so fast:

QUOTE
"The elements..arise and cease within a very short time. In the wink of an eye or a flash of lightning the mental elements arise and cease a trillion times.`This is just an estimate . the subcommentary takes an even higher figure....."



Anatta is deep and hard to fathom. The Buddha used various ways to teach it. Sarah quoted the sammohavinodani recently:

QUOTE
For the fully Englightened One, when teaching the characteristic of no-self, teaches it by means of the impermanent, or by means of suffering, or by means of (both) the impermanent and suffering." Why? Because of the obviousness of impermanence and suffering. For when a plate or a saucer or whatever it may be falls from the hand and breaks, they say: `Ah! Impermanence,' thus impermanence is obvious. But as regards the person (attabhaava), when boils and carbuncles and the like have sprung up, or when pierced by splinters and thorns, etc, they say:Ah! The pain.' thus pain is obvious. The characteristic of no-self is unobvious, dark, unclear, dificult to penetrate, difficult to illustrate, difficult to make known."


The literal translation of the Anatta lakkhana sutta is "the characteristic of not-self" and that characteristic is no control. ""The mode of insusceptibility to having power exercised over them is the characteristic of no-self.""Sammohavinodani

People really don't like to accept that there is no one who can control. They think they can become sotapanna if they put in much effort. But all dhammas are conditioned and such efforts, conditioned by wrong view - which is not seen as it is- will lead to the wrong path.

Anguttara Nikaya Book of the tens XI (iii) 103 Wrongness From wrong view proceeds wrong thinking.....From wrong effort proceeds wrong mindfulness; from that wrong concentration. From wrong concentration proceeds wrong knowledge. From wrong knowledge proceeds wrong release...... Because this wrong view is tied up with tanha(desire) it will entangle more and more. Instead of calmly and patiently investigating the characteristic of the present moment as it is right now one will always be looking for something better and this will condition wrong concentration. And then -based on the unusual experiences that occur during wrong concentration-tanha and mana will conclude that some attainments have happened. If it goes far enough then wrong release will finally occur and one will happily conclude they are now sotapanna.

The path is so direct: to learn the true nature of the dhammas that are arising now. But because of the deeprooted wrongview of self and control it is very hard to do.

Robertk

#6 RobertK

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Posted 08 December 2006 - 05:11 AM

________
I wrote this a while back based on the Dhammapada: The Buddha said (my translation): 279:

"Sabbe dhamma anattati, yada paaya passati; atha nibbindati dukkhe, esa maggo visuddhiya"ti."

All dhammas are not-self: when one sees this with insight then one is detached (or disenchanted, nibbindati) from dukkha, This is the Path (magga)to Purity (visuddhi).

The commentary says:

Tattha sabbe dhammati paakkhandha eva adhippeta.

Here(tattha)by all (sabbe) phenomena (dhammati), five aggregates (pancakkhandha) is meant (adhippeta).

Anattati "ma jiyantu ma miyantu"ti vase vattetum na sakkati
avasavattanatthena anatta attasua assamika anissarati attho.


Are not-self (anattati) because Birth(jiyantu), decay and death (miyantu) are not able to have power exercised over them (vase vattetum na). In the sense of powerlessness (avasavattanatthena) anatta, void of self (attasu~n~na).

RobertK

#7 RobertK

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Posted 08 December 2006 - 05:11 AM

Robert:

Thein Nyun:

"Because the functions of the elements give rise to the concepts of continuity, collection and form, the ideas arise:

1. the initial effort that has to be exerted when a deed is about to be performed, and

2. the care that has to be taken while the deed is being performed to its completion and this leads to the subsequent ideas

3. "I can perform" and 4) "I can feel"


Thus these four imaginary characteristic functions of being have bought about a deep-rooted belief in their existence.

------------

SW: I do not understand how "conceit" and "personality belief" can be called ideas. I know that "conceit" is a cetasika and not an idea. I know that "personality belief" is a cetasika and not an idea. How are "effort" and "care" imaginary characteristics? I don't think my effort and care to write you this letter is an imaginery characteristic. It is as real as the khandas as it can be. I don't think the effort and care expended by the Buddha to teach his Disciples is an imaginary characteristic.

------------

When studying the Dhamma a prime requisite is to understand the difference between concept and reality (paramattha dhamma). In the case you mention above "I don't think my effort and care to write you this letter is an imaginary characteristic" you are talking about a long chain of events, moments. The story writing a letter is a concept. Even in one second so many dhammas have arisen and passed away. When we talk about long periods like writing a letter it is countless. During the writing effort arose and fell away and each moment was different from the other - but because each moment also is one of the conditions (among many ) for the next this is not fully realised. There may have been some moments with kusala effort, some without, some with weak concentration (right or wrong) some with stronger. Moments of energy, moments of slightly less energy: and all usually taken as 'my' energy. Even when we talk about one brief moment this is a very complex thing many different conditions needed.

Without hearing the dhamma we imagine "we" are controlling everything, not understanding the intricate conditions that make up each moment. Take the act of seeing while you were writing the letter. So many different moments of seeing and each moment conditioned:

"Firstly the eye element is a condition in six ways namely, dissociation, prenascence, presence, non-disapearance, support, and faculty for the eye-consciouness (cakkhu vi~n~nana) element. The visible object is a condition in four ways, namely, prenascent, presence, non-disappearance, and object for the eye- consciousness element"
Visuddhimagga XV 40

Then following that flash of seeing there are many mental processes similarly conditioned by several factors, none of which are in the control of anyone. And these conditioning factors are all likewise conditioned by many conditions. Because of ignorance of this the illusion of beings and self, like actors in an endless play, continues.

We can understand conceptually how this is by looking at bodily functions - say the way the body heals cuts - very complex, and if even one condition is not present then infection can arise and so other complex conditions are needed to heal. Nama (mentality) is more subtle than rupa and more complex:

"It would be better for the unlearned worldling to regard this body, built up of the four elements, as his self, rather than the mind. For it is evident that this body may last for a year, for two years, for three years, four, five, or ten years, or even a hundred years and more; but that which is called thought, or mind, or consciousness, is continuously, during day and night, arising as one thing, and passing away as another thing."
S. XII. 62

============================

Robert: Because of continuity there is a belief, a vipallasa, perversion of perception, that believes there is somewhere, somehow a controller of the whole complex.

----------------------------------

SW: I do not understand how this continuity can result in "personality belief". It it because of this continuity that magga and then phala arises. It is because of this continuity that the Noble Eightfold Path can be perfected. If it is because of this continuity that there arises "personality belief", then there can be no escape from samsara. The Buddha could not rightly proclaim his Lion's Roar.

--------------

"When continuity is disrupted by discerning rise and fall, the characteristic of impermanence becomes apparent in its true nature."
(Visuddhimagga XXI 4)

Of course continuity is only one aspect of why it is hard to discern the tilakkhana.

--------------

SW: What is the actual root cause of "personality belief"?

-------------

This is like asking what is the root cause of ignorance. No beginning is discerned to the paticasamuppada, the wheel of dependent origination) but personality belief is uprooted gradually by seeing the actual characteristics of the different dhammas:

"When the resolution of the compact is effected by resolution into elements (dhatus), the characteristic of not-self become apparent in its true nature."
(Visuddhimagga XX 15)

This 'being' is simply a puppet with manifold parts - all coming together in different combinations - lasting for an instant and then falling away again.

Because the conditions that make up each moment are often similar "we" look and feel somewhat the same from moment to moment and this is one aspect of how continuity deludes.

"Therefore, just as a marionette is void, soulless and without curisosity, and while it works and stands merely through the combination of strings and wood yet it seems as if it had curiosity and interestedness, so too this materiality (rupa)-mentality (nama) is void, soulless and without curiosity, and while it walks and stands merely through the combination of the two together, yet it seems as if it had curiosity and interestedness."
Visuddhimagga XVIII 31

The conditions that make up what we think of as a human being are of course more complex than a marionette, and hence more difficult to fathom. The first steps, of this very long untanglement, are about identifying, with right wisdom, the various characteristics of the different phenomena that comprise this 'being' this manisfestion of paticcasamuppada.

Usually we think "I'm interested or bored or excited or calm, or sad or happy or wise or confused or making effort or being negligent. But there are only different elements performing different functions - and they have no agenda:

"The uninterestedness becomes evident to him though seeing rise and fall according to condition owing to his discovery of the inability of states to have mastery exercised over them. Then he more thoroughly abandons the self view."
Visuddhimagga XX 102

"The characteristic of not-self becomes evident to him through seeing rise according to conditions owing to his discovery that states have no curiosity and have their existence depending upon conditions"
XX 102

"All the formed bases(eye base, ear base, tongue base etc) should be regarded as having no provenance and no destination. On the contrary, before their rise they had no individual essence and after their fall their individual essences are completely dissolved. And they occur without mastery being exercisable over them since they exist in dependence on conditions and in between the past and the future."
XV 15

I think everyone has no problem in accepting that there is no control over the eye or ear base. But the same applies also to the other elements which are all equally conditioned - whether they be nama or rupa.

They often talk about dhatus (elements) in the suttas. What does it mean - element? There are several definitions including this:

"Element is a term for what is soulesss."
Visuddhimagga XV 22, and

"They are only mere sortings out of suffering because no mastery is exercisable over them."
Visuddhimagga XV 20

"There is removal of false view in one who sees thus: "If formations were self it would be right to take them as self; but being not-self they are taken as self. Therefore they are not self in the sense of no power being exercisable over them; they are impermanent in the sense of non-existence after having come to be; they are painful in the sense of oppression by rise and fall"
Visuddhimagga XX 83

__________

Robert: There are only elements arising and ceasing and performing their many different functions which - like a brilliant puppet show - delude one into thinking there is some special element behind it all.

_________

SW: Is it the case that the arising and ceasing of the elements performing their different functions the actual root cause of this delusion?

---------------

It is not seeing the actual arising and ceasing that allows the delusion to continue.

--------------

Robert: He writes that in fact all elements, including cetana disappear so fast:

"The elements...arise and cease within a very short time. In the wink of an eye or a flash of lightning the mental elements arise and cease a trillion times. This is just an estimate. The subcommentary takes an even higher figure....."
________

SW: If the elements have not the time or span of duration to carry out the 'ideas' "I can perform" or "I can feel", then I do not see how these 'ideas' can survive in the first place. For without the elements, there cannot be the 'ideas'.
________

The ideas are the shadows of what is really there. I recently quoted a letter Kom wrote which helps to explain this:

"Before a process can arise, there must be thousands of them, and processes already taken place repeatedly. By this description, we can deduce that, it is not enough for a single rupa (17 moments of cittas) to condition the cittas to start experiencing pannati. It must take thousands of panja-dvara-javana-vithi and mano-dvara-javana vithi, which actually experience paramatha aramana, for the citta to start organizing and arranging the sense objects into a concept. The concepts also change as the mano-dvara-javana vithi, experiencing the concept, repeats. For seeing, in the beginning we may just see an unidentified shape, and then it becomes a familiar shape, and then we may attach a name to the shape. At this point, the process of taking paramatha object all the way to a memorable, identifiable, namable concept is complete: a perfect aramana for upadana to hold on to."

I can write more about this if you wish.

________

Robert: . In the Atthasalini it notes that the monks who are reciters of the suttanta (the second basket which includes the 5 nikayas) may come to wrong view because in the suttas they often talk about beings and things. In reality there are simply dhammas arising and passing, utterly conditioned.
_____

SW: It seems that the Buddha liked to perform linguistic acrobatics...really? Isn't the Buddha speaking in "conventional language" when he said in Samyutta Nikaya XXII.59:

And it is not possible to say with regard to consciousness, 'Let MY consciousness be thus. Let MY consciousness not be thus.'

The Buddha is basically performing linguistic acrobatics all over the Suttas. What gives?

========================== ______________________

Important to know when conventional speech (vohara vacca) is being used:

"As with the assembly of parts the word chariot is countenanced, so, when the aggregates are present, a being is said in common usage."
(Samyutta I, 135)

"These, Citta, are merely names, expressions, turns of speech, designations in common use in the world. And of these a Tathagata makes use indeed, but he does not misapprehend them."
(Digha 9)

The suttas often use such words as MY, and we can too, but we need to know that they are mere concepts.

"Such forms as woman or man are local forms of speech. ..In those who have not fully understood what a physical base is there comes to be the misinterpretation "this is really a woman..." But since this is mere concept, which depends on states made to occur in such ans such a wise, one who sees and knows the dependent origination does not interpret it as ultimate meaning."
Note 4, Visuddhimagga VII (Pm)
___________

SW: The five aggregates can never be willed not to dissolute. This is an impossiblity. Yet, to suit your own agenda of "no control", you have perversed the very meaning of this statement.
___________

Robert: The literal translation of the Anatta Lakkhana Sutta is "the characteristic of not-self" and that characteristic is no control.

"The mode of insusceptibility to having power exercised over them is the characteristic of no-self."
Sammohavinodani.
____________

SW: Sammohavinodani (whatever that is, I have not come across this funny name) did not say "characteristic of no control". That is your own extrapolation.
___________

Yes, I shortened it , I think the meaning remains the same. The Sammohavinodani is the commentary to the second book of the Abhidhamma. Anyway for this letter I use the Visuddhimagga as I know most members have a copy.
____________

SW: The statement "the mode of insusceptibility to having power exercised over them" must be understood in the context of what was said. And what did Sarah say?

"For the fully Englightened One, when teaching the characteristic of no-self, teaches it by means of the impermanent, or by means of suffering, or by means of (both) the impermanent and suffering."

This means that there can be no power that can be exercised over the impermanent and dukkha elements such that they become permanent and non-dukkha. This is an impossibility. In reference to this was this statement uttered. This impossibility manifests the characterisitc of no-self.
_____________

The characteristic of anatta is "the insusceptibilty of having power exercised over them" (no control, for short). This is so difficult to see and to help the Buddha teaches it by means of impermanence or by means of suffering. The same dhammas - all elements (except nibbana) have the same Tilakkhana of anicca.m, dukkha.m and anatta (Nibbaana only has the last). So by properly understanding either impermanence or dukkha one also can understand anatta. It is also understood by conditionality. There is much more to be said on all this - a topic which we can never hear enough of - but as this letter is already long I will stop for now.

RobertK

#8 RobertK

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Posted 14 December 2006 - 04:03 AM

I had that same idea during my first few years of learning about Buddhism – I was really worried about dying suddenly and not being aware. Thus anything that disturbed my calm had to be avoided. Life can get pretty uptight with that kind of misunderstanding. Recently I read a book by a buddhist teacher in America who has contracted a fatal illness – he said he is seriously considering suicide as he wants to be sure that his mind doesn’t deteriorate.

These ideas come about because of the belief in control – the idea that dhammas can be willed into existence or non –existence, the idea that the mind is an entity. We may not have deep understanding of Dhamma but as my friend, who has studied for only a few months, demonstrates, right understanding , be it ever so little, is a huge help in cutting through wrong view and can have an immediate benefit in our
daily life.

The more we understand the clearer it becomes. Upon first learning about Dhamma I found it easy to accept that the mind was changing and that it depended on conditions. But this wasn’t really understanding, not even in theory. It was after learning about the elements (dhatus), the khandhas, and the ayatanas that the truth of anatta, no control, began to make sense. Consider the eyesense. It arises because of a complex set of conditions lasts an infinitesimally short time and is then replaced by another eyesense. The conditions that arose to bring the bodysense into its brief existence are themselves conditioned by other equally brief conditions. Seeing consciousness depends on the eyesense as well as other ephemeral conditions. I could, and perhaps should, list many more conditions but I think this illustrates the point. How could any of this be controlled? Who could control it?

It seems almost paradoxical but the more we see into the truth of no-control the more relaxed we tend to become. Thus not much worry about when we die, whether we have a “good” death, where we will be reborn. Conditions will take care of all that by themselves. Our job is to understand; to literally get “ourselves” out of the picture.

Robert

#9 RobertK

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Posted 14 December 2006 - 04:09 AM

My understanding of Buddhism, and hence my whole perspective on life, is quite different from the early years. After learning a little about the nature of the mind I realized how powerful ignorance and desire were. - . I wished to stop them. I tried to suppress , tried to keep mindfulness going continuously. It was because I didn't understand anatta.

Later, I understood that they can't be quickly got rid of. That when desire arises it is by conditions - that the uncontrollabilty of it demonstrates the truth of anatta. Now my focus is always to understand conditions. To let go of trying to control. To see that there is nobody at all doing anything. Before, secretly, unknowingly I was trying to get something for myself, trying to be better a better person, trying to have less dosa, less lobha, more sila. But done with a subtle sense of self. It is not the way.

I found it very hard to let go of the idea of control. It is really a complete upturning of the old way of viewing the world. It took time, study and reflection. It helped to take refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the sangha. I reflected on the past monks , the ancient ones who recorded the teachings so faithfully. Now it seems strange to think of anything as controllable.

This intellectual acceptance and understanding of anatta is only the beginning of the path - but once we truly see it then our impatience and desire for results fades. Because we know that only by the right conditions can understanding grow. Some may never even reach this intellectual stage - they are trying very hard but going in the wrong direction.

Even when we begin to see things as they happen it is mostly thinking about them (a sort of thinking in the present moment) rather than direct experience. Do we accept this or do we want more? The right reflection helps to let go the idea of a self who is having understanding. Then there are more conditions for direct experience (of the true kind) But even right reflection can get in the way –if there is clinging to it . One can stop at that level , content because life is now better understood. In the Ogha sutta the Buddha crossed the flood by not stuggling and not tarrying.

Now some comments on Dhamma. Some of this I have said before so please excuse the repetition. Whatever we are doing at any moment there are only namas and rupas arising and passing away – as we learn from the Tipitaka. It is true that much of our lives are spent lost in stories about life. Concepts of friends, things, cars, houses, work, and on and on. None of these are real in the deepest sense – they are pannati, concept. If they are not real then why do we think of them? Why do two people looking in the same direction see the same object?

Some concepts can be classified as samutti-sacca, conventional truth: as the ancient commentaries explain they are the shadows of realities. When we are thinking about something there are processes of thinking arising and passing away rapidly that have a concept as object. The concept is not real – it is not nama or rupa, but the thinking processes are nama they are actually different cittas and cetasikas doing their intricate work conditioned by different paccaya (conditions) – no self at all. These cittas and cetasikas are nama –they are dhammas and can be objects for sati. Thus there is really no moment that is excluded as a potential object for the development of satipatthana. This doesn’t mean that we can or should know each moment. It is beyond control, conditions have their own agendas and act entirely according to their function and characteristic.

No moment is excluded as a potential object for insight. Thus even when we are reading say a novel there are still moments when sati can arise and directly experience a reality as it is: as merely as dhamma . If it is truly a moment of sati at the level of satipathhana then there is no “me” having this sati. No me making it happen, no subtle idea of control, of “bringing” sati up.

But especially when we study the Tipitika conditions can quite naturally arise for direct insight. Sometimes people wonder how it is that so many monks , nuns, laypeople and devas could become enlightened just while listening to a Dhamma talk from the Buddha or one f his followers.

Firstly it is because they have fulfilled the parami and developed the necessary supporting conditions over many aeons. They did not rush blindly following any teacher or just doing some special technique – they developed understanding and other wholesome qualities whenever the opportunity arose, while working, while thinking, while playing. Sometimes under ideal conditions of solitude and quiet other times admist pain, fear and illness- they must have been so brave not to stop half way, content with some minor achievemnt. Sometimes they went off course, they did evil, or briefly followed a misguided teaching, maybe even an imitation Buddhist practise but they had developed the parami of sacca, truth to such an extent that they could not be fool themselves by overestimating any state. They soon saw that any unusual experience or calm state was no indication of insight. Especially they listened , studied and applied the teachings that they received during Buddha sasana after Buddha sasana.

Further than this the Dhamma itself is the foundation for insight. Thus hearing the Dhamma, for those developed ones, is an immediate condition for direct insight into namas and rupas and they are able to progress through the stages of insight so rapidly.

A similar process can happen with us . We are not as wise as those at the Buddha’s time but we have an interest in the Dhamma . This is not accidental. It is because of past interest and past insight. When we study the Tipitika we may come to realize that every word was perfectly spoken by the Buddha. It was a condition for insight at the time he spoke it and it is a condition now.

The words are only concepts but they point directly to dhammas, realities. They can and do, even now, lead to direct experience of realities. If there are not enough supporting conditions then insight at the level of satipatthana cannot yet occur. But by studying the Tipitaka, considering it, applying it and testing it, even at the very moment of study, then gradually the necessary supports will develop. If the conditions are fulfilled then insight must arise -no self or God who could stop it.

Where we are on the path can be seen not by how calm we are, not by having unusual experiences in meditation but right at this moment. Now, do we believe in a world? A world of people, cars, computers, houses, our children, our life, or do we see that there are only different experiences of color, sound, taste touch, smell ,and mind objects.

Maybe we can see how little we know yet.

The more we develop insight ourselves the clearer we are able to judge the words of others. Later dhammas, realities, themselves become our teachers.

Robert

#10 RobertK

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Posted 14 December 2006 - 04:14 AM

This is by Mike

http://groups.yahoo....up/message/2458

Robert

In later years I gathered enough courage to question them thoroughly and found many who truly believed in control. They would say that there is no self but then talk about - just as you said above - choice, and having sati just by concentrating, and the importance of intention (as if intention was something controllable).
_________

Mike

This is such a fine and crucial point. I think that it's relatively easy to embrace anatta on a conceptual level, because, with a little understanding, it's easy to see how much unhappiness springs from the illusion of self (among other reasons). So we can reject atta out of plain old dosa...

The idea of 'freedom'--meaning 'freedom of choice'--is MUCH harder to relinquish--especially (ironically) among those of us for whom 'liberation' is the central issue. I think this line of thinking usually goes something like this: "If 'I' can't choose patipada over pariyatti, or pariyatti over panyatti, If 'I' can't choose vipassana- over samatha-bhavana, If 'I' can't choose to investigate dhammas rather than to ignore them, to hear buddhadhamma rather than not to hear it, If 'I' can't choose to think, speak and act* in a wholesome way, then 'I' can never cultivate the eightfold path and attain liberation."

So, 'I' don't mind giving up the idea of self, just so long as 'I'm' allowed to choose to do so (and receive the credit)...!

Whether pariyatti or patipada or panyatti arises, whether samatha or vipassana bhavana is cultivated, whether dhammas are investigated or not, or buddhadhamma listened to or ignored, even whether kusala or akusala kamma is committed, NO ONE IS THERE in the arising, or the cultivation, or the investigation, listening, ignoring, thinking, speaking or acting. If there is no chooser, how can there be, or have been, a choice? Just wisdom or ignorance, in any possible situation, tipping the scale one way or the other depending on how much of each has accumulated.

I think that's why right effort is defined by its outcomes, rather than its intent.

It leads to:

the going down of unskilled states already arisen;
the non-arising unskilled states as yet unarisen;
the arising of skilled states as yet unarisen; and
the continuation, development and perfection of
skilled states already arisen.


(sorry I can't cite the source of this translation)

No one choosing or intending in any of these--just cause, and effect.

So it really doesn't make much sense to argue about whether we'll meditate or not, or study abhidhamma or not, or contemplate our breath rather than aggregates or bases or elements. 'We' will do what conditions, internal and external, allow us to do, and not otherwise--ever. If sufficient wisdom has accumulated for us to think, say and do intelligent things, and not to think, say or do stupid things, that's just wisdom at work--not 'us'.

mike

#11 RobertK

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Posted 04 May 2007 - 12:23 PM

I have been intending to write more about the six sense doors as I think if anyone can learn to study, say, seeing and colour that any doubts they have about why we stress awareness at any time will naturally go. If one learns to develop awareness even when one is tired or worried or just walking to the shop then the way different objects are uncontrollable become gradually more apparent, I think. The texts mention that simply throwing out the dregs of a cup in the hope that it might benefit the minute creatures in a pond will result in riches in thousands of lives in the future.

The development of pa~n~na (wisdom) at whatever level is kusala of much higher merit. And understanding of anatta only occurs during a buddha sasana. If we learn that control and free will is an illusion that will bring great good fortune and it also should lead towards correct, direct understanding of the dhammas at the 6 doors; and that, so I believe, leads out of samasara altogether. I used to plan and hope for big results in this life, but that was all self. Just learning about conditions in theory and a little directly is satisfying enough now; even this brings directly visible benefits in that the obsession of self is reduced and so life is lived more in accord with the way things are rather than ideals we have of how things should be.

In some ways it seems we can direct awareness. If I think about seeing now that tends to condition an investigation of seeing or visible object. Or when we were talking much about dosa on the list recently: hearing about how dosa can be an object for sati may condition a degree of study of dosa when it arises.

It is good to know about the different levels of awareness, though, as we might overestimate just how much awareness there was. It is all changing so fast. When there is some study of the characteristic of dosa this is mostly in a vague way - seeing it directly a little but much of it is still thinking about it.

What I call thinking in the present moment. This level shouldn't be scorned as it has to be like this - as far as I can see- we can't jump to direct, deep experience where nama is separated from rupa.

At this level, when one is still thinking and studying in the present moment, I think one tends to still favour certain objects and so for some people sound becomes a little clearer, for others seeing, for others feeling. Colour is clearer than seeing for me but for others it may be different. There needs to be investigation of many dhammas, though, and the reason there is/seems to be some degree of "choice" is due to deeprooted self view.

And so while there is study of dosa there shouldn't be neglect of the visible object or sound or feeling that is also arising quickly in between moments of dosa. However, if we just try to "let go" and be aware of whatever dhamma arises this too can be a type of attachment where one is trying to run after different dhammas - it doesn't work.

Also if there aren't enough conditions for awreness it can't arise. I think this is crucial to accept otherwise we might be manufacturing some sort of distorted vision that we think is awareness. Or we might feel dejected if awareness doesn't arise often. Sati is simply a conditioned phenomena and seeeing that should lessen attachment to it. If it doesn't arise much that is because there are not so many conditions for it. The reason lobha is so dominant in our lives is because there are strong conditions for that particular dhamma- but by studying it we learn a little more each time; it is an object for satipatthana, and it is awreness that investigates lobha.

Always it is a balance - we can go to other extremes and not even consider or study dhammas at all- thinking that it will all just somehow happen if we listen and read Dhamma books.

Studying directly- even at a very basic level- the way different objects present themselves should weaken the idea of control. Can we decide what the next moment is? I don't think so. Is it seeing or hearing or feeling or dosa or metta or delusion or sound that just arose? It is all happening because of conditions that we are not even aware of and it is all happening very fast.

In the "Dispeller of Delusion"(PTS) p 137 paragraph 564 it says:

QUOTE
"In respect of the classification of the Foundations of Mindfulness. And this also takes place in multiple consciousness in the prior stage (prior to supramundane). For it lays hold of the body with one consciousness and with others feeling etc."


As the quote from the "Dispeller" indicates at one moment sati takes feelings as an object and at another rupa. We will perhaps see that trying to make sati go to certain objects does not lead to detachment from the idea of self. We might also remember that sati is just a cetasika, itself conditioned by various factors, and so ephemeral.

If we have understood Abhidhamma correctly we know that each moment is conditioned by different conditions and that not even one of those conditions is controllable even for an instant The burmese Abhidhamma teacher Thein Nyun in his preface to the DhatuKathu (PTS) xxvii writes about this:

QUOTE
"Because the functions of the elements give rise to the concepts of continuity, collection and form, the ideas arise:

1)the initial effort that has to be exerted when a deed is about to be performed and

2) the care that has to be taken while the deed is being performed to its completion and this leads to the subsequent ideas

3)"I can perform" and

4) "I can feel".


Thus these four imaginary characteristic functions of being have bought about a deep-rooted belief in their existence.

But the elements have not the time or span of duration to carry out such functions" .

This is only theory but I find it agrees with the way the world appears to me. And the world can only be understood by dissecting the whole into its component parts. We can't come to profound understanding if we think about concepts - then it still seems that "I" can choose this or that.

Thus while I can write about, say, 'giving special attention to dosa' (especially if it is prolonged and if one habitually avoids awareness of it), it depends on understanding, mine and the listener, as to what is meant. One person takes it to mean that one can choose at the deepest level to have sati just by attention and effort (ie a level of wrong view). Another knows that only at the conventional level is there any choice. Fundamentally there can be none because there is no self.

This helps one to read the pali texts including the Dhammapada in a clearer way also. One may think dosa should be the object when one is upset - but feeling may instead present itself to awareness; Or the nature of seeing could be clearer: how painful feeling or dosa is not present at the actual moments of seeing. I find it is all very interesting and thus only discouraging if one is set on goals and ideals.

robert

#12 RobertK

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Posted 21 September 2013 - 04:31 PM

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#13 RobertK

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Posted 21 September 2013 - 04:33 PM

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#14 Virgo

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    That one doesn't regret having done,
    That results in joy
    And delight.

    - Dhammapada Verse 68

Posted 15 April 2014 - 12:54 AM

http://www.accesstoi...3.091.than.html

 

There are these three urgent duties of a farming householder. Which three?

"There is the case where a farming householder quickly gets his field well-plowed & well-harrowed. Having quickly gotten his field well-plowed & well-harrowed, he quickly plants the seed. Having quickly planted the seed, he quickly lets in the water & then lets it out.

"These are the three urgent duties of a farming householder. Now, that farming householder does not have the power or might [to say:] 'May my crops spring up today, may the grains appear tomorrow, and may they ripen the next day.' But when the time has come, the farming householder's crops spring up, the grains appear, and they ripen.

"In the same way, there are these three urgent duties of a monk. Which three? The undertaking of heightened virtue, the undertaking of heightened mind, the undertaking of heightened discernment. These are the three urgent duties of a monk. Now, that monk does not have the power or might [to say:] 'May my mind be released from fermentations through lack of clinging/sustenance today or tomorrow or the next day.' But when the time has come, his mind is released from fermentations through lack of clinging/sustenance.

 

"Thus, monks, you should train yourselves: 'Strong will be our desire for the undertaking of heightened virtue. Strong will be our desire for the undertaking of heightened mind. Strong will be our desire for the undertaking of heightened discernment.' That's how you should train yourselves."