Concepts and Realities


The Buddha encourages listeners to think in such-and-such a way, to ‘train yourself’ in such-and-such a way, etc. Since there is no ‘one’ to think or to train ‘oneself’, I assume that in these passages the Buddha is teaching according to his listeners’ abilities to understand. So here’s my question (finally): If a thought or concept is not a dhamma, is not real, does not arise or subside, can it still be called kusala or akusala? In other words, if a THOUGHT of, say, non-harming arises and drives out a THOUGHT of harming, even with the attendant deluded THOUGHT that oneself is causing the arising of the relatively more wholesome thought, is that thought really more kusala than the preceding thought?

Two main points, I think, to understand here.

1. Samattha bhavana (kusala concentration meditation) can be very effectively done, even to the extent of the eight jhana by one who holds very strong convictions about self. This type of meditation may even lead to more fixed views about self (see brahmajala sutta). Now the actual view itself is akusala but the moments with true calm are kusala.

2. One can have right view, know with deep understanding that there is no self, and develop the same jhanas. One may still use the common parlance of me, I and so on. But one knows that these are simply designations, terms that are useful ways of communicating but that do not refer to actual realities. Thus one can still train “oneself”, but understand that it is only by conditions that any kusala will arise – and thus one will not be perturbed if the kusala does not arise. Samattha and vipassana can go hand in hand – even for those who are sukka -vipassaka, dry insight workers (pure vipassana). For example, the development of vipassana makes metta -bhavana much easier. The far enemy of metta is anger but if panna is developed one can reflect easily “what am I angry with? Those namas and rupas that arose an instant ago have ceased already. Am I angry with the new ones? But these ones were not the ones that conditioned the sound that impinged on the ear sense. And that ear-sense and hearing consciousness have likewise long since passed…”. this is just a very rough example of the type of reflection conditioned by the development of vipassana. This level of understanding allows metta to replace the anger. Lobha, desire, is the near enemy of metta. And for the true development of vipassana there must be good understanding of the characteristic of lobha – otherwise, as we often discuss, one will take refined lobha for sati. Thus as lobha is better and better understood, by developing satipatthana, one is less fooled by it also when developing metta.

Even though these aren’t nama or rupa, is one more kusala than the other? Is there such a thing as a ‘wise’ or ‘unwise’ thought? And, if not, what was the Buddha’s intention when instructing his listeners to think or to train themselves in such-and-such a way?

The thinking process is composed of namas and some of these also condition rupa. What is not real is the concept that may be the object of thought (purple elephants, mother, self, tables, cars, pretty woman….) The javanna moments are always rooted in either kusala (with amoha(wisdom) or without) or akusala. Thus we can surely talk about wise or unwise thoughts. When we consider Dhamma at the level of pondering the thoughts are to some extent rooted in amoha, wisdom, alobha, detachment and adosa, non aversion. (Ideally that is – we can of course be thinking about Dhamma with underlying delusion or attachment.) Right Understanding at the level of thinking is a crucial factor before deeper levels can arise. And too, as the direct understanding develops this supports more understanding at the thinking level. It is an unward spiral – wise thinking, direct understanding, wise thinking, direct understanding, wisethinking…. A very gradual upward spiral, cira kala bhavana (long, long time development). Even after vipassana nanas are reached (the real ones) wise thinking and study is needed to further assist wisdom to grow. The visuddhmagga XVIII24 says
“after defining mentality -materialty thus according to its true nature (i.e. after the first vipassana nana), then in order to abandon this wordly designation of ‘a being’ and ‘a person’ more thoroghly, to surmount confusion about beings and to establish his mind on the plane of non-confusion he makes sure that the meaning defined, namely ‘this is mere mentality-materiality,there is no being, no person’ is confirmed by a number of suttas. ..”


Concepts are certainly unreal. People doubt this but they can prove it to themself if there is direct insight. That is what the development of satipatthana reveals – that it is only ignorance that takes concepts for realities. As the Abhidhammathasangaha says about concepts like human, person, man, chariot that
“All such different things , though they do not exist in the ultimate sense , become objects of consciousness in the form of shadows of ultimate things (paramattha dhammas)”(bodhi p.326)
Just to be explicit: the thinking process consists of different cittas and cetasikas all arising and passing away rapidly. These are paramattha dhammas, ultimate realities. Let us consider a couple of [examples of] thinking.

1. Think of a flying purple elephant. The process of thinking that imagines this, whether a graphic visualisation or your no-frills, idea only version, consists of cittas and cetasikas. The object of this thinking is a concept, not real.

2. Think of your mother or father (whether alive or not). Again same process – the cittas and cetasikas of the thinking process are real but the object, mother and father, is concept- not real.

3. If your mother and father were right in front of you now (talking to you) and you think of them, again the object is concept, not real; but the thinking process is real. The colours are real, the sounds are real, but mother and father is concept.

Obviously example 1 is easily understood. It is number 2 and especially number 3 that in daily life we get confused by.

Satipatthana can only take paramattha dhammas for object, not concepts. Does this mean we should try not to think of concepts? Some would have us do this but this is not the middle way. All the arahants thought of concepts but they could never confuse concept for reality. Panna and sati can understand dhammas directly even during the processes of thinking that take concepts for objects.

Now there is thinking happening that is trying to comprehend what was just read. The process of thinking is real and it might be rooted in lobha (desire) that wants to understand. The lobha is real – is it seen as just a dhamma , not you. There is also feeling; if you liked what was written this will be pleasant feeling – is it seen as just a conditioned dhamma, not you. And if you didn’t like it there was unpleasant feeling, not you. These present objects must be seen wisely otherwise there will always be doubt and one will not gain confidence. Or one will settle for attachment to the Dhamma rather than insight. Or worse become someone whose aim is to look for little flaws thinking that this is proper investigation.

I just heard on a tape from bangkok where someone said he rarely studies because he doesn’t like reading (from childhood)- yet it is clear to me that he understands the heart of Dhamma. This, I believe, is because he sees how to apply it in the present moment. best wishes
Thanks Kom,

I think that point was made in the last chapter of ADL. I had a further thought regarding this question that relates to “seeing things as they are”. Does this mean seeing the khandhas as delusion? seeing reality as delusion?

I think it is more like seeing the realities as they truly are (aren’t we going in circles?): as element, as rupa, as nama, as non-self, as conditioned nama or rupa, as impermanence, as something that cannot endure, as something that must fall away, etc. The realities has their own characteristics. We should learn what those characteristics are. Hardness and coldness have different characteristics. Hardness and feelings have different characteristics. That’s why we are learning in details what the different characteristics are, so this will condition wisdom to arise to cognize realities as they truly are.

If we understand what truly exists (paramatha dhamma) and what doesn’t exist at all (concept), then we can understand why some of our attachments / aversions toward concepts are truly silly (it doesn’t even exist!). If we also understand that even that truly exists (except nibbana) falls away immediately, then we can understand why holding on to them as self, or as belonging to self is also silly (how could anything belong to you if it is no longer there???). We become less delusional about realities and concepts: we learn about the truths of nature, about ourselves, and about the Buddha’s teachings. I think we strive to become less deluded about all the thing that happens around and within us.

mlnease@y… wrote:
Dear Friends,

1) How is concept specifically different from vitakka?

Vittaka is a paramattha dhamma. The usual translation is applied thinking. Howeer it is not exactly the same as what we usually meaqn by thinking. Even when we are in deep, dreamless sleep vittaka arises. Nevertheless we can say it is or may be predominant when we are thinking (in the conventional sense). When we are thinking about some idea one of the dhammas that is arsing and passing away during those moments is vittaka. If sati of satipatthana takes vittaka as an object, or any other dhamma, then the concept will disappear for the moments that this is happening. This is because sati, of this type, only takes paramattha dhamma for object.

2) Is there a pali word for concept?

Pannatti is the pali for concept. As Acharn Sujin explains in ‘Realities and concepts’ there are different types of concept. Such words as dosa, lobha, metta, colour, hatred, sound are concepts that designate paramattha dhammas, they are vijjamana pannatti. Words such as person, animal, computer, Robert, Mike do not refer to paramattha dhammas and are called avijjamana pannati.

3) Doesn’t a concept arise at the mind-door?

Concepts are dhammarammana(mental object) and they appear at the mind-door. The mind-door has many different objects including citta, cetasika, rupa and nibbana which are all paramattha dhamma. It also has concept as an object.

4) Is it not taken as an object by citta?

Yes but not in the same way that paramattha dhammas are taken as object. How could it as it is not real. The cittas and cetasikas are arising and passing away at great speed and forming up concepts but these concepts have no existence, although they give the illusion of existence. It is so hard to talk about this — we are using concepts to discuus it– and yet this is all happening right now. Can we see it? By the development of satipatthana the difference between concept and paramattha dhamma must gradually becomes clearer. Now you are reading this so it might be worthwhile analysing what is actually happening. There is visible object, the different colours making up the computer screen. The colours are real (but arising and passing away rapidly) the computer screen is not real, however the various rupas that make up the screen are real,(and arising and passing away ceaselessly). There is cakkhuvinnana, seeing consciousness which is real (and ephemeral) which arises due to the contact of the eyebase (real, conditioned by kamma done in the past, evanescent). Then there are processes of citta which experience the same object and then there are mind-door processes which think about what was seen and so concepts are formed up. Yet these concepts do not actually exist. There must be this process occuring, no one can stop it occuring. If it didn’t occur we would be utterly vacuous, know nothing at all, much less than a new born baby. Thus it is the most natural thing that concepts arise.

Unfortunately, though, throughout samasara we have given these concepts special staus that they don’t deserve, namely we think they exist. This mistaken notion means that we will do all sorts of evil to protect these illusionary figments such as self. When we see that concepts are simply concept, and that even parammattha dhammas are so temporary, would we still get so upset when we are critisised? Would we hate the man who steals our wife once we know that both are only idea? I think we would not kill, steal, lie or cheat over distintergrating colours, sounds or tastes. We can only get angry because of the distorted vision that can’t fully penetrate these matters. Thus papanaca and mannati are working.

5) Can someone please cite a clear, direct instruction on this topic from the sutta-pitaka?

The Buddha said that the all includes the 6 doors and there objects and the sense bases. There are many suttas classifying dhammas in different ways, the ayatanas, the khandas, the dhatus, so that they can be understood, so that concept is not mistaken for paramattha dhamma. The satipatthana sutta elucidates different dhammas that can be insighted. Anger is one of the objects listed in the satipatthana sutta- it should be understood. When we are angry do we see that we are angry with an illusion? Do we understand that what is really happening is simply cittas arising and passing away that are roooted in dosa. By studying our “lives”, which are only these brief moments of anger and lust and doubt and fear and pleasure and pain, and seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, by applying the satipatthana sutta, we are beginning to separate paramattha dhamma from concept.


Dear Ken O,

—–Original Message—–
From: Kenneth Ong [mailto:ashkenn@y…]

k: In the first place, in the sutta, there is no mention that concepts can not be objects of satipatthana. the position that concepts cannot be objects of satipatthana is in Abhidhamma and not in Sutta. I have not seen in what Buddha said that only paramattha are objects of satipatthana. Hence where is the inconsistency. Does Abhidhamma rejects concepts as objects in Satipatthana and on what basis is the objection derive from?
Is it just because concepts are not paramathas? Then we got to ask, where does objects derived from?

You are right to say that the sutta doesn’t appear to explicitly say that concepts cannot be objects of satipatthana. I will give you a list of reasons why saying that only “paramatha” dhammas are objects of satipatthana *may* be a plausible explanation:

1) If something is not even there, then it cannot have impermanence or falling-away as its characteristics

2) Howard coined “concepts” as “mental constructs.” Without the repetition of the mind door processes, mental constructs cannot be experienced. All paramatha characteristics are experienced relatively immediately after the brief existence of the object. There are definitely differences when we consider “feelings”, as compared to “freedom”: what’s the difference? One has its conditioned characteristics that can be directly experienced, where the other we have to think a little to understand what it means. One may have a hard time explaining to a person from another culture the concept of freedom, but I am sure one has less problem explaining feelings.

3) A good portion of the teachings in the sutta mention the 5 kandhas, 12 ayatanas, and 18 dhatus, all explained in the commentaries and the abhidhamma as being paramatha realities.

4) There are 84,000 headings in the tipitakas. Over 40,000 are in the abhidhamma. Unless you don’t believe in the authenticity of the abhidhamma, then you have to consider why even doubling the volume by extremely intricate and detailed explanation of the “realities” if about half is already enough to allow all beings to understand the essence of the teachings.

5) Of course, we shouldn’t stick to book knowledge and our own belief of what the teachings mean. There are realities arising now. What are the differences between experiencing the 5 kandhas and concepts?
Again, as far as I know, given the complexities of conditions that cause the dhamma to arise, no control (dhamma arises only because of conditions, and not a single agent causing the dhamma to arise) is the best explanation of the Buddha teachings. This theory doesn’t support random arising: if there are no (or not enough) conditions for a dhamma to arise, then it cannot arise. If there is, then it must arise. This is regardless of the intention of the person (since intention is not the *only* dhamma that

k: I did not said that there is a self that controls. We all know there is no self that controls but there is a cetasikas (cetana) that control or you prefer the word condition our actions. This cetasikas is the controlling factor in our decisions, whether to perform a kusala or akusala actions. To say that is no control is extremist. Take for example, while we are driving, if we are able to brake to stop an accident from happening, are we going to brake or not (vice aside other factors like wet road). Definitely there is no self that is controlling but there is a cetasikas that controls our actions. If there is no control, we will not be reading suttas or Abhidhamma in the first place.
Can we will (or cetana) all the angers (that most people don’t like) away?

When you say “we all know” there is no self, I interpret this to be that we understand conceptually that there is no self. Despite this understanding, the wrong views of self/mine/me are extremely subtle. It is everywhere. Even when we think we understand, we are still yet searching for the self that we desperately hold on to. My view (conceptual) is that each of the dhamma in quetions are *all* conditioned. You wouldn’t be reading or writing to me if the conditions are not perfect that this happens.
Plenty of people subscribe, and then leave, DSG. Why did they leave? They don’t have the will to persevere through this sort of discussion? Or is it just that they have no accumulations, both past and present, to endure this sort of discussion?

By reading the above statments, “you” have already subtly changed due to new accumulations. The kamma that has caused the reading of this right/wrong explanation has already given its results (in seeing, etc.). The accumulations in the past are pushing you to continue reading instead of just hitting the delete key (or hitting the delete key instead of just reading!). The considerations of the dicussions (be in kusala/aksuala) are already being accumulated that surely will condition future similar dhamma
to arise when the time comes. There are no single agent that directs. There is only dhamma that will cause vipaka (and other kind of dhammas) in the future (kusala/akusala), vipakas tha are results of the past, and all those functional cittas that are occuring, passing away, all without anyone noticing them.

Pannati, concepts can be classified in many ways (see the p.s to this post). In fact, things like a unicorn and God and rabbits horns can be considered as different types of pannati from trees. Trees, computers, humans, Robert, Howard, Christine are the shadows of what is really there – and what is really there are only namas and rupas, mentality and matter, insignificant dhammas that can barely be said to exist because they pass away instantly. These concepts are more deluding than concepts like unicorns (which we know have no reality).

Because of accumulated avijja, ignorance, these type of concepts (pannatti) delude and instead of being given their correct status – as neccessary designations* – they are assumed to be actual. And that is where all problems begin and end.

*Note that these designations happen long, long before they are linguistic labels. What is called a thought in conventional language is comprised of billions of momentary arisings which repeatedly take a concept as object and may include metally naming it. Becuase of this repetition – and the lack of insight into the actual dhammas – the illusion of permanence is solidified.

The commentary to the UDANA ( translation by Peter Masefield from PTS) (p71,vol1, enlightenment chapter)
“it is ignorance since it causes beings to dart among becomings and so on within samsara.., it is ignorance since it darts among those things which do not actually exist (i.e. men, women) and since it does not dart among those things that do exist (i.e. it cannot understand the khandas, paramattha dhammas).

H The example you give below of the thought of a flying purple elephant makes it clear to me that a so-called (individual) thought is actually a whole process, a sequence of cittas whose objects are various paramattha mind-objects (such as mental images). Is it always so that a thought is such a sequence?
Yes, that is right. What we call a thought in conventional language is a long and complex series of different processes. This is explained in detail in the commentaries.
Howard: Here you say “If … you think of them, again the object is concept, not real; but the thinking process is real.” Now, what if Christine does not think of them, but “merely looks” at them. That so-called mere looking at them is really a lot more than just looking. There is a big mental process transpiring that recognizes (perhaps wordlessly) two “entities” who are “people”, and they are “people who she knows”,
Yes, this is right. As I said above the conceptualising happens long before any naming has time to occur. Even babies and animals who have no linguistic abilities are fully involved in processes of conceptualising. However, animals and babies cannot yet expand concepts into the religions, sciences, and general craziness and wonder that is the fruit of civilisation. I think it can only be known by direct insight whether this is true or not and that is why the Buddha’s teaching is ehipassiko – come and see. Which is why I believe vipassana is not a matter of doing something to get something ; instead it is simply the developing of insight into what is real and what is not. All these processes, the realities and the concepts are happening every moment of the day. They do not have to be searched for – they only need to be seen.


p.s. Abhidhammattha Sangaha Ch VIII, section 4, on pannattis:
i) formal concept (santhana pannatti) corresponding to the form of things, such as land, mountain or tree, which are so designated on account of the mode of transition of the elements.

ii) collective concept (samuha pannatti), corresponding to modes of construction of materials, to a collection of things, such as a vehicle or a chariot.

iii) conventional concept (sammutti pannatti), such as person or individual, which is derived from the five khandhas.

iv) local concept (disa pannatti), a notion or idea derived from the revolving of the moon, such as the directions of East or West.

v) concept of time (kala pannatti), such as morning, evening.

vi) concept of season (masa pannatti), notions corresponding to seasons and months. The months are designated by names, such as Vesakha.

vii) concept of space (akasa), such as a well or a cave. It is derived from space which is not contacted by the four Great Elements.

viii) nimitta pannatti, the mental image which is acquired through the development of samatha, such as the nimitta of a kasina.

From an old discussion:

I think I understand the points Kalupahana is trying to make.
Is it right that he objects to the word ‘sabhava’ because this
means ‘essence’? But he doesn’t object to such words as dhamma (or
dhatu, element, or ayatana, sense field, or khandha, aggregate,?)
Does he object to words such as lakkhana, characteristic?

I would like to stress that although sabhava means essence, whne the
comemntaries talk about sabhava dhammas they go to lengths to stress
that sabhava in such cases never means something unconditioned
(except for nibbana).
So if we look at for example feeling. This is sabhava dhamma (as
against asabhava such as ‘soul’ which is imaginary). Feeling is
impermanent, dukkha and anatta. There are various kinds of feeling
when we consider by way of door. So the Visuddhimagga in the section
on Paticcasamuppada explains by way of the eye-door: ‘beginning with
eye-contact is a condition in eight ways as conascence, mutuality,
support, result, nutriment association, presence and non-
disappaearence conditions, for the five kinds of feelings that have
respectively eye sensitivity etc. as their respective basis…’ And
in the Phena Sutta (A Lump of Foam) which Sarah quoted some time
back the commentary by Buddhaghosa says about feeling: ( translated
by B.Bodhi:)
note 190: “Spk: a bubble ( is feeble and cannot be grasped,
breaks up as soon as it is seized; so too feeling is feeble and
cannot be
grasped as permanent and stable. As a bubble arises and ceases in a
water and does not last long, so too with feeling: 100,000 `ko.tis’
feelings arise and cease in the time of a fingersnap (one ko.ti = 10
As a bubble arises in dependence on conditions, so feeling arises in
on a sense base, an object, the defilements, and contact

I include this just to show how much stress is laid on
conditionality in the commentaries. There is never any hint that
dhammas could exist independent of conditions.

Sangaha says that concepts are a distorted view of the realities that actually
> I agree that the gist of the passage is the part you’ve highlighted, namely:
> “All such different things, though they do not exist in an ultimate sense,
become objects of thought in the form of shadows of (ultimate) things.”

S: Just a note from the commentary to this last sentence on shadows, STA transl:

” – these and various similar things, although they do not exist in the ultimate
sense, become objects of the arisings of consciousness in the manner of a shadow
of something real.”

Cy: ” ‘In the manner of a shadow of something real’: in the manner of a shadow
of an ultimate dhamma, in the manner of its semblance.”

: This is the PTS “Summary of the Topics of Abhidhamma” (Abhidhammatthasangaha)
and “Exposition of the Topics of Abhidhamma” (Abhidhammatthavibhaavinii), transl
by RP Wijeratne and R Gethin.

From dhammawheel
Re: Khandas, dhatus and ayatanas are real
by mikenz66 » Sun Aug 12, 2012 5:47 pm

SN 22.62 reads, in part:
“Bhikkhus, there are these three pathways of language, pathways of designation, pathways of description, that are unmixed, that were never mixed, that are not being mixed, that will not be mixed, that are not rejected by wise ascetics and brahmins. What three?

“Whatever form, bhikkhus, has passed, ceased, changed: the term, label, and description ‘was’ applies to it, not the term ‘is’ or the term ‘will be.’

[And so on for present and future. BB notes that this sutta is quoted in Kv 150 as support for the Theravādin argument against the Sarvāstivādins, who held that past and future phenomena exist in some way.

SN 22.94 reads, in part:
“Bhikkhus, I do not dispute with the world; rather, it is the world that disputes with me. A proponent of the Dhamma does not dispute with anyone in the world. Of that which the wise in the world agree upon as not existing, I too say that it does not exist. And of that which the wise in the world agree upon as existing, I too say that it exists.

[agree that form that is permanent, etc, does not exist …]

“And what is it, bhikkhus, that the wise in the world agree upon as existing, of which I too say that it exists? Form that is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change: this the wise in the world agree upon as existing, and I too say that it exists. Feeling … Perception … Volitional formations … Consciousness that is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change: this the wise in the world agree upon as existing, and I too say that it exists.

[BB comments: “The affirmation of the existence of the five aggregates, as impermanent processes, serves as a rejoinder to illusionist theories, which hold that the world lacks real being.”


No store of broken states, no future stock;
Those born balance like seeds on needle points.
Breakup of states is foredoomed at their birth;
Those present decay, unmingled with those past.
They come from nowhere, break up, nowhere go;
Flash in and out, as lightning in the sky23 (Nidd I 42).

*[i]Robert: Note that these designations happen long, long before they are linguistic labels. What is called a thought in conventional language is comprised of billions of momentary arisings which repeatedly take a concept as object and may include mentally naming it. Because of this repetition – and the lack of insight into the actual dhammas – the illusion of permanence is solidified[/i].

.From Nyanponika Abhidhamma Studies
Researches in Buddhist Psychology

In order to understand
how “remembering” or “recognizing”, too, is implied
in every act of perception we should mention that
according to the deeply penetrative analysis of the
Abhidhamma the apparently simple act, for example,
of seeing a rose, is in reality a very complex
process composed of different phases, each consisting of numerous smaller combinations of conscious
processes (citta-vãthi) which again are made
up of several single moments of consciousness (cittakkhana)
following each other in a definite sequence
of diverse functions. Among these phases there is
one that connects the present perception of a rose
with a previous one, and there is another that
attaches to the present perception the name “rose”,
remembered from previous experience. Not only in
relation to similar experiences in a relatively distant
past, but also between those infinitesimally brief
single phases and successive processes the connecting
function of rudimentary “memory” must be
assumed to operate, because each phase and each
lesser successive state has to “remember” the previous
one — a process called by the later Abhidhammikas
“grasping the past” (atãta-ggahana). Finally,
the individual contributions of all those different
perceptual processes have to be remembered and
co-ordinated in order to form the final and complete
perception of a rose.

Amongst women, men, etc., which are in the ultimate sense non-existent,
it hurries on (paramatthato AVIJjamánesu itthi-purisádisu JAvati), and amongst the
aggregates, etc., which are existent, it does not hurry on (vijjamánesu pi
khandhádisu na javati), thus it is ignorance (avijjá). Furthermore, it is ignorance
because it conceals the physical bases and objects of eye-consciousness, etc.,
and the dependent origination and dependently-originated states.

When we understand khandhas (aggregates) we know they are absolutely not-self. The claim that by believing they arise and cease means one must cling to them and obsess is strange.
In a flash of lightening, according to the Commentaries, billions of dhammas have arisen and ceased, never to arise again. If one could see this how could there be any clinging, they are so insignificant.
It is because one does not see this and instead imagines that concepts like people, girl, wife, boyfriend – and especially “my life”- have some substance, that they last seconds, hours, days and years that clinging grows so strong.

“As recorded in the Kathavatthu, the “Points of Controversy,” the main contention of the Puggalavadins or “Personalists” is that the person is known in a real and ultimate sense (saccikatthaparamatthena upalabbhati).20 Against this proposition a number of counter-arguments are adduced, which need not concern us here. What interests us, however, is that in denying that the person is known in a real and ultimate sense, the Theravadins admit that the khandhas or dhammas are known in a real and ultimate sense. Thus in their view what is real and ultimate is not the person but the khandhas or dhammas that enter into its composition.21”

The term paramattha is sometimes paraphased as bhutattha (the actual).67 This is explained to mean that the dhammas are not non-existent like an illusion or mirage or like the soul (purisa) and primordial nature (pakati) of the non-Buddhist schools of thought.68 The evidence for their existence is not based either on conventions (sammuti) or on mere scriptural authority (anussava).69 On the contrary, their very existence is vouchsafed by their own intrinsic nature.70 The very fact of their existence is the very mark of their reality. As the Visuddhimagga observes: “It (= dhamma) is that which, for those who examine it with the eye of understanding, is not misleading like an illusion, deceptive like a mirage, or undiscoverable like the self of the sectarians, but is rather the domain of noble knowledge as the real unmisleading actual state.” 71 The kind of existence implied here is not past or future existence, but present actual and verifiable existence (satvijjamanata).72 This emphasis on their actuality in the present phase of time rules out any association with the Sarvastivadins’ theory of tri-temporal existence. Thus, for th Theravadin, the use of the term paramattha does not carry any substantialist implications. It only means that the mental and material dhammas represent the utmost limits to which the analysis of empirical existence can be pushed

Those are some excellent quotes Robert.


I would say much food for the khandhas and not so much that we could get dispassionate from all tries of papanca. While coming across here, I am just on the way to translate the The Ballad of Liberation from the Khandhas , nice read. I guess it is also important to remember that it can be easy like poor people discussing the news and great stuff available in the next expensive shop on the next corner, where the cross by all the time, but rather then to use to time to gain merits to be able to get what they desire, they talk why, how, if, but… They could manage to stay at the level they are and entertain them till a good time may come, but it could be also, that they lose sign of their actually situations and fruitful duties, losing there wealth being attached to sannas and sankaras, the body works on, like a machine and it will not last. Don’t forget that those things are mostly sustenance giver, which of course are beloved by the mind.

Thus have I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Savatthi in Jetas Grove, Anathapiṇḍikas Park. There the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus thus: Bhikkhus!

Venerable sir! those bhikkhus replied. The Blessed One said this:

Once in the past, bhikkhus, a certain devata of the Tavatiṃsa host was revelling in Nandana Grove, < 11 > supplied and endowed with the five cords of celestial sensual pleasure, accompanied by a retinue of celestial nymphs. On that occasion he spoke this verse:

They do not know bliss
Who have not seen Nandana,
The abode of the glorious male devas
Belonging to the host of Thirty. [19]
When this was said, bhikkhus, a certain devata replied to that devata in verse:

Dont you know, you fool,
That maxim of the arahants?
Impermanent are all formations;
Their nature is to arise and vanish.
Having arisen, they cease:
Their appeasement is blissful. [20]


[19] Tāvatiṃsa, the realm of the thirty-three, is the third sense-sphere heaven. It is so named because thirty-three youths, headed by the youth Magha, had been reborn here as a result of their meritorious deeds. Magha himself became Sakka, ruler of the devas. Nandana is the Garden of Delight in Tāvatiṃsa, so called because it gives delight and joy to anyone who enters it. According to Spk, this deva had just taken rebirth into this heaven and, while wandering through the Nandana Grove, he spoke the verse as a spontaneous paean of joy over his celestial glory. Spk glosses naradevānaṃ with devapurisānaṃ, devamales; it is clearly not a dvanda compound. Tidasa, the Thirty (lit. triple ten), is a poetic epithet for Tāvatiṃsa.

[20] Spk ascribes this rejoinder to a female deva who was a noble disciple (ariyasāvikā). Thinking, This foolish deva imagines his glory to be permanent and unchanging, unaware that it is subject to cutting off, perishing, and dissolution, she spoke her stanza in order to dispel his delusion. The maxim of the arahants is pronounced by the Buddha at 15:20 (II 193, also at DN II 199,6-7); the deva-king Sakka repeats it on the occasion of the Buddhas parinibbāna (see v. 609). The first line usually reads aniccā vata saṅkhārā rather than, as here, aniccā sabbasaṅkhārā. An identical exchange of verses occurs below at 9:6, with the goddess Jālinı̄ and the Venerable Anuruddha as speakers. The feminine vocative bāle in pāda b implies that the latter dialogue was the original provenance of the verse, or in any case that the first devatā is female.

Spk: Formations here are all formations of the three planes of existence (sabbe tebhūmakasaṅkhārā), which are impermanent in the sense that they become nonexistent after having come to be (hutvā abhāvaṭṭhena aniccā). Their appeasement is blissful (tesaṃ vūpasamo sukho): Nibbāna itself, called the appeasement of those formations, is blissful.

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