Bhikkhuni sutta relying on tanha


the Buddha mentioned about “papanca dhamma” which is dhamma assails and stops a person to end the obsessions of passion, the obsessions of resistance, the obsessions of views, the obsessions of uncertainty, the obsessions of conceit, the obsessions of passion for becoming and the obsessions of ignorance. The Pali Commentaries define papañca as covering three types of thought: craving, conceit, and views. They also note that it functions to slow the mind down in its escape from samsara. And any type of desire or craving and self views demoralize wholesomeness of mind including desire for becoming an Arahat. It is, therefore, very odd when one interprets that desire for becoming an Arahat can attain a person arahantship with simple meaning by citing Bhikkuni sutta. Moreover, there is an issue of translation of this sutta as well as interpretation mentioned in useful post #100183 :
“C: “I usually don’t trust his translations, but this instance is an exception. It is Thanissaro’s rendering of the Bhikkhuni Sutta that accords with theAnguttara Commentary, not the PTS one.”

The PTS edition gives:

“…’This body has come into being through craving, is dependent on
craving; craving must be abandoned…”


“…This body comes into being through craving. And yet it is by
relying on craving that craving is to be abandoned…”

And the

Ta.nhaasambhuuto aya.m, bhagini, kaayo ta.nha.m nissaaya. Ta.nhaa pahaatabbaa ‘ti, iti kho paneta.m vutta.m.

C: “…we meet with the clarifying statement:

‘so aparena samayena ta.nha.m nissaaya ta.nha.m pajahati’…

‘He, on a later occasion, [through] having relied on craving, abandons craving.'”

Scott: What is not ambiguous is that at all times, despite conventional language, the function of impersonal dhammas is being described in this sutta. I consider that the suttas are expressed conventionally and that it doesn’t do to take these conventional expressions in a literal fashion. In particular, it doesn’t do to misunderstand the meaning of ‘he…having relied on craving,
abandons craving,’ Or, as Thanissaro puts it, ‘it is by relying on craving that craving is to be abandoned.’

There is no one who relies on or uses anything, nor is there anyone who abandons. No one ‘bootstraps’ anything. There is no ‘using’ of craving by an agent in order to ‘abandon’ craving. And I think this is the whole of Thanissaro’s project. Given that all dhammas are anatta, and that the characteristic of anatta is that any given dhamma is not subject to control, then this whole premise founders.

C: “The commentary explains that the craving rooted in the past round of sa.msaara is abandoned through relying on the presently arisen craving (for extinction of the aasavas). It then continues:

aya.m pana paccuppannata.nhaa kusalaa akusalaati?
sevitabbaa na sevitabbaati?
pa.tisandhi.m aaka.d.dhati naaka.d.dhatiiti?
naaka.d.dhati. etissaapi pana paccuppannaaya sevitabbata.nhaaya nikanti

Q. But is this presently arisen craving wholesome or unwholesome?
A. It is unwholesome.
Q. Must it be embraced or not embraced?
A. It must be embraced.
Q. Does it draw one towards rebirth-linking?
A. It does not draw one. However, desire for the presently arisen
craving-that-must-be-embraced must be abandoned.”

Scott: From the PTS PED:

“Paccuppanna…what has arisen (just now), existing, present…”

What is your take on the meaning of the commentary? Are we dealing then with a dhamma (ta.nhaa) which is present in this case? Is ‘ta.nhaa’ meant as a synonym for ‘lobha?’ It seems to me that ‘ta.nhaa’ is used when the reference is to that which leads to the round of rebirth, but that, ultimately, it refers to lobha cetasika.

In what sense is ‘the presently arisen craving’ ‘relied’ upon? Would it not be in the sense of serving as object of liberating wisdom? And, for that matter, could not any dhamma could serve as object in this regard?

One need not assume, for example, that the sutta or its commentary mean to suggest that by literally craving abandonment someone can use this craving to finally achieve abandonment craving after working hard towards it.

Sorry for the loose thinking, I’m writing on the fly here.



JJ: I quite agree with Scott that the meaning of “by relying on craving that craving is to be abandoned” should mean that craving which arises and falls away can be the object of sati to experience its reality until panna directly understands its nature completely and automatically abandons craving. Not relying on craving in the sense that applying more and more craving to become arahant to abandon craving of all.
And this should be the same as self view and conceit.
>A: If practice was wrong because it developed Self Views, and this sort of practice was widely known, don’t you think that it would be all over the suttas him saying it over and over again?

JJ: Practice cannot be wrong with right view of no self.

>A: Buddha refused to say that “there is no self” to Vachagotta, and then to sotapanna Ananda, and never has said that word again, yet people who claim to understand Buddha’s teaching seem to put this “there is no self” almost to the highest if not the highest positions. Not only that, this is used to totally twist the meaning of many other suttas to make them say precisely what they do not say.

JJ: In Anatta-lakkhana Sutta: The Discourse on the Not-self Characteristic translated from the Pali by Ñanamoli Thera :

The Blessed One said this.
“Bhikkhus, form is not-self. Were form self, then this form would not lead to affliction, and one could have it of form: ‘Let my form be thus, let my form be not thus.’ And since form is not-self, so it leads to affliction, and none can have it of form: ‘Let my form be thus, let my form be not thus.’
“Bhikkhus, feeling is not-self…
“Bhikkhus, perception is not-self…
“Bhikkhus, determinations are not-self…
“Bhikkhus, consciousness is not self. Were consciousness self, then this consciousness would not lead to affliction, and one could have it of consciousness: ‘Let my consciousness be thus, let my consciousness be not thus.’ And since consciousness is not-self, so it leads to affliction, and none can have it of consciousness: ‘Let my consciousness be thus, let my consciousness be not thus.’

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