Author Topic: Sharing my "beautiful study" of the day -Enjoy!  (Read 2557 times)

Offline humanitas

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Sharing my "beautiful study" of the day -Enjoy!
« on: November 28, 2009, 04:34:23 pm »
MN 72 PTS: M i 483
Aggi-Vacchagotta Sutta: To Vacchagotta on Fire
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
© 1997–2009



I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying in Savatthi, at Jeta's Grove, Anathapindika's monastery. Then the wanderer Vacchagotta went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, exchanged courteous greetings with him. After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there he asked the Blessed One: "How is it, Master Gotama, does Master Gotama hold the view: 'The cosmos is eternal: only this is true, anything otherwise is worthless'?"

"...no..."

"Then does Master Gotama hold the view: 'The cosmos is not eternal: only this is true, anything otherwise is worthless'?"

"...no..."

"Then does Master Gotama hold the view: 'The cosmos is finite: only this is true, anything otherwise is worthless'?"

"...no..."

"Then does Master Gotama hold the view: 'The cosmos is infinite: only this is true, anything otherwise is worthless'?"

"...no..."

"Then does Master Gotama hold the view: 'The soul & the body are the same: only this is true, anything otherwise is worthless'?"

"...no..."

"Then does Master Gotama hold the view: 'The soul is one thing and the body another: only this is true, anything otherwise is worthless'?"

"...no..."

"Then does Master Gotama hold the view: 'After death a Tathagata exists: only this is true, anything otherwise is worthless'?"

"...no..."

"Then does Master Gotama hold the view: 'After death a Tathagata does not exist: only this is true, anything otherwise is worthless'?"

"...no..."

"Then does Master Gotama hold the view: 'After death a Tathagata both exists & does not exist: only this is true, anything otherwise is worthless'?"

"...no..."

"Then does Master Gotama hold the view: 'After death a Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist: only this is true, anything otherwise is worthless'?"

"...no..."

"How is it, Master Gotama, when Master Gotama is asked if he holds the view 'the cosmos is eternal...'... 'after death a Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist: only this is true, anything otherwise is worthless,' he says '...no...' in each case. Seeing what drawback, then, is Master Gotama thus entirely dissociated from each of these ten positions?"

"Vaccha, the position that 'the cosmos is eternal' is a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views. It is accompanied by suffering, distress, despair, & fever, and it does not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation; to calm, direct knowledge, full Awakening, Unbinding.

"The position that 'the cosmos is not eternal'...

"...'the cosmos is finite'...

"...'the cosmos is infinite'...

"...'the soul & the body are the same'...

"...'the soul is one thing and the body another'...

"...'after death a Tathagata exists'...

"...'after death a Tathagata does not exist'...

"...'after death a Tathagata both exists & does not exist'...

"...'after death a Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist'... does not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation; to calm, direct knowledge, full Awakening, Unbinding."

"Does Master Gotama have any position at all?"

"A 'position,' Vaccha, is something that a Tathagata has done away with. What a Tathagata sees is this: 'Such is form, such its origin, such its disappearance; such is feeling, such its origin, such its disappearance; such is perception... such are mental fabrications... such is consciousness, such its origin, such its disappearance.' Because of this, I say, a Tathagata — with the ending, fading out, cessation, renunciation, & relinquishment of all construings, all excogitations, all I-making & mine-making & obsession with conceit — is, through lack of clinging/sustenance, released."

"But, Master Gotama, the monk whose mind is thus released: Where does he reappear?"

"'Reappear,' Vaccha, doesn't apply."

"In that case, Master Gotama, he does not reappear."

"'Does not reappear,' Vaccha, doesn't apply."

"...both does & does not reappear."

"...doesn't apply."

"...neither does nor does not reappear."

"...doesn't apply."

"How is it, Master Gotama, when Master Gotama is asked if the monk reappears... does not reappear... both does & does not reappear... neither does nor does not reappear, he says, '...doesn't apply' in each case. At this point, Master Gotama, I am befuddled; at this point, confused. The modicum of clarity coming to me from your earlier conversation is now obscured."

"Of course you're befuddled, Vaccha. Of course you're confused. Deep, Vaccha, is this phenomenon, hard to see, hard to realize, tranquil, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to-be-experienced by the wise. For those with other views, other practices, other satisfactions, other aims, other teachers, it is difficult to know. That being the case, I will now put some questions to you. Answer as you see fit. What do you think, Vaccha: If a fire were burning in front of you, would you know that, 'This fire is burning in front of me'?"

"...yes..."

"And suppose someone were to ask you, Vaccha, 'This fire burning in front of you, dependent on what is it burning?' Thus asked, how would you reply?"

"...I would reply, 'This fire burning in front of me is burning dependent on grass & timber as its sustenance.'"

"If the fire burning in front of you were to go out, would you know that, 'This fire burning in front of me has gone out'?"

"...yes..."

"And suppose someone were to ask you, 'This fire that has gone out in front of you, in which direction from here has it gone? East? West? North? Or south?' Thus asked, how would you reply?"

"That doesn't apply, Master Gotama. Any fire burning dependent on a sustenance of grass and timber, being unnourished — from having consumed that sustenance and not being offered any other — is classified simply as 'out' (unbound)."

"Even so, Vaccha, any physical form by which one describing the Tathagata would describe him: That the Tathagata has abandoned, its root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising. Freed from the classification of form, Vaccha, the Tathagata is deep, boundless, hard to fathom, like the sea. 'Reappears' doesn't apply. 'Does not reappear' doesn't apply. 'Both does & does not reappear' doesn't apply. 'Neither reappears nor does not reappear' doesn't apply.

"Any feeling... Any perception... Any mental fabrication...

"Any consciousness by which one describing the Tathagata would describe him: That the Tathagata has abandoned, its root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising. Freed from the classification of consciousness, Vaccha, the Tathagata is deep, boundless, hard to fathom, like the sea. 'Reappears' doesn't apply. 'Does not reappear' doesn't apply. 'Both does & does not reappear' doesn't apply. 'Neither reappears nor does not reappear' doesn't apply."

When this was said, the wanderer Vacchagotta said to the Blessed One: "Master Gotama, it is as if there were a great sala tree not far from a village or town: From inconstancy, its branches and leaves would wear away, its bark would wear away, its sapwood would wear away, so that on a later occasion — divested of branches, leaves, bark, & sapwood — it would stand as pure heartwood. In the same way, Master Gotama's words are divested of branches, leaves, bark, & sapwood and stand as pure heartwood.

"Magnificent, Master Gotama! Magnificent! Just as if he were to place upright what was overturned, to reveal what was hidden, to show the way to one who was lost, or were to carry a lamp into the dark so that those with eyes could see forms, in the same way has Master Gotama has — through many lines of reasoning — made the Dhamma clear. I go to Master Gotama for refuge, to the Dhamma, and to the Sangha of monks. May Master Gotama remember me as a lay follower who has gone to him for refuge, from this day forward, for life."
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Offline Optimus Prime

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Re: Sharing my "beautiful study" of the day -Enjoy!
« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2009, 08:19:18 pm »
Let's see if we can investigate this.  I've posted some of my notes based on Ajahn Brahm's talk on this Sutta at www.bswa.org (don't take my word for it though, as these are just my study notes - everyone is encouraged to investigate for themselves):

Vacchagotta had distilled the main philosophical questions at the time in India into 10 questions (I havent included all 10 questions here though).

He asked the Buddha whether he held the view that the universe is:
1.  Eternal, i.e., Time doesnt end.  - the Buddha said no.
2.  Not eternal - the Buddha said no.
When you ask whether the universe is not eternal, it means things like this:
- Will there be an end of time - like an Armageddon or some sort of a temporal end to the Universe?  No.
- Is there a beginning of time?  Because a lot of philosophies and religions say "Yes, there is a beginning of time - that was the Creation or the big bang".  But the Buddha didn't buy that - he said that there was no beginning of time - time is beginningless.

See our concepts of time are linear - its like this symbol in mathematics how were approaching it:
   .-------->
See thats our assumption.  But remember, when we start out with the wrong assumptions, our questions and conclusions arising from those assumptions are going to be wrong too.  But what if this is the wrong way of approaching it?


He also asked the Buddha "Is the universe infinite or finite?"
3.  Finite - the Buddha said no.
4.  Infinite - the Buddha said no.

So how can things like this be?

This is similar to the question of whether the area of a sphere finite or infinite?
Imagine the area of a sphere - the area is finite but its not bounded - theres no boundaries.  If you walk on the surface of the sphere, it wont end - in fact the surface has no beginning and no end.  Walk long enough, and you'll eventually get to the same spot.  You can travel on forever on the surface of that sphere and still not reach an end.

Apparently, in Einsteins general relativity - 3 dimensional space is bent in the 4th dimension.  So if you travel long enough in 1 direction, you'll eventually get to the same spot.



Vacchagotta kept on asking, "What happens to an enlightened one when they die?"

5.  Does he exist (you can also translate it as persist)?
6.  Does he not exist?
7.  Does he both exist and not exist? (this just sounds mystical - you know when someone says something that sounds mystical and people assume that they're really wise but they don't actually have a clue what they're talking about!)
8.  Does he neither exist nor not exist? (this is even a more mystical way of saying it)

So Vacchagotta thought that he covered everything here!  To each of these questions, the Buddha said that the question does not apply.

This really confused Vacchagotta and he goes, "I'm really confused.  Does the Buddha have no views on this at all?"

The Buddha replied "Of course you're confused because these things are really deep, difficult to see, difficult to understand.  A position is something that Buddhas have done away with.  You can't attain understanding of the Truth through just mere reasoning."

In other words, your perceptual framework stops you from seeing.  The Buddha attempts to offer a different framework.

He gives a simile - your questions are like this.  Lets say there's a wood fire burning in front of you.  When the fire goes out, in which direction did the fire go?  North, south, east or west?

In each of these cases, the question does not apply.  In other words, the Buddha didn't answer these questions because everyone of those questions was flawed and came from incorrect assumptions.  And to have answered the questions would have confused the listener even more!

Offline humanitas

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Re: Sharing my "beautiful study" of the day -Enjoy!
« Reply #2 on: November 28, 2009, 09:30:46 pm »
This is quite dense and rich.  I'm very interested in further study.  When I have digested this more and have formulated a response, I'll post it.  For now, I'm digesting and reflecting on this.  I will meditate on it later.

Thank you for sharing your study notes.  I really appreciate reading this material! 

 :bow:
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overmyhead

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Re: Sharing my "beautiful study" of the day -Enjoy!
« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2009, 11:13:15 pm »
Nice analysis Optimus Prime, you have gone into detail to point out the flaws in the questions.  Allow me to add to it by pointing out what is flawed and common to all of them.

What do those ten questions have in common?  They all make ontological assumptions.  They are asking about the manner in which things exist, making the assumption that existence has objective validity, not understanding emptiness.

"The cosmos is eternal: only this is true, anything otherwise is worthless."

There is this comprehensive "cosmos" which is assumed to exist in and of itself.  There is the assumption of time as existing in and of itself, and then the assumption that an infinite amount of this time applies to the cosmos.  There is the assumption that something can be fundamentally true, as opposed to false, and that one thing in particular can be the only thing that is true, as opposed to false.  There is the imposition of a value system, and the assumption that the word "worthless" applies in an objective sense.  And these concepts of existence, time, and values are not straightforward assumptions, they are themselves complex and filled with their own assumptions.  This is what is meant by "a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views".

 


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