Author Topic: The Buddha telling people their understanding is wrong  (Read 2469 times)

Offline ABC

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The Buddha telling people their understanding is wrong
« on: March 25, 2012, 08:12:43 pm »
Greetings,

The Buddha spoke to a lot of people about the Dhamma and, in order to make clear the Dhamma and differentiate it from Wrong View, he often corrected others when they were incorrect in their understanding or, worse, misrepresenting the Dhamma.

The purpose of this topic is for us to explore how the Buddha went about this...

1. What methods did the Buddha apply when speaking to those of incorrect understanding?

2. Did his methods differ when dealing with those who had taken refuge in him, as compared to dealing with those who hadn't taken refuge?

3. How did the Buddha respond to naysayers who erroneously assumed that he didn't actually know what he speaking about?

4. Was the Buddha right to correct people as he did? Is the Dhamma universal such that if he observed something was a particular way (and therefore knew what was otherwise) that it would necessarily be that same way for another?

5. Are there any recurring themes we can draw out from the suttas about his mode of engagement in such circumstances?

If anyone wishes to take up the general topic of "the Buddha telling people their understanding is wrong" and run with it in a particular direction, by all means please do... don't feel restricted to responding to those five questions.


  :buddha2:

Metta,
ABCo.
Therefore, Ananda, engage with me friends and not as opponents. That will be for your long-term well-being & happiness - MN 122

Offline Hanzze

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Re: The Buddha telling people their understanding is wrong
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2012, 11:44:00 pm »
Quote
1. What methods did the Buddha apply when speaking to those of incorrect understanding?

I don't think that he had something that we can call a method. If he saw it as useful he did, if not he did not.

Quote
2. Did his methods differ when dealing with those who had taken refuge in him, as compared to dealing with those who hadn't taken refuge?

To those who had not taken refuge, he gave free a possibility to start it with his teachings. To Those who had taken refuge already, he gave them a free possibility to stay with it.

Quote
3. How did the Buddha respond to naysayers who erroneously assumed that he didn't actually know what he speaking about?

I don't think that he sought for lent ears.

Quote
4. Was the Buddha right to correct people as he did? Is the Dhamma universal such that if he observed something was a particular way (and therefore knew what was otherwise) that it would necessarily be that same way for another?

Could one be wrong by offering something?

Quote
5. Are there any recurring themes we can draw out from the suttas about his mode of engagement in such circumstances?


I guess the best answer in general to the question is found in "AN 5.157 Dukkathā Sutta" (could not find an alternative english version yet but maybe the the server works later again: http://www.metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pitaka/4Anguttara-Nikaya/Anguttara3/5-pancakanipata/016-saddhammavaggo-e.html) *smile*

Offline ABC

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Re: The Buddha telling people their understanding is wrong
« Reply #2 on: March 26, 2012, 02:36:20 am »
The Buddha spoke to a lot of people about the Dhamma and, in order to make clear the Dhamma and differentiate it from Wrong View, he often corrected others when they were incorrect in their understanding or, worse, misrepresenting the Dhamma.
Greetings HanzzeO

Although I cannot remember all of the occassions where Buddha corrected people, the impression which remains most strongly in my recollection is the Buddha most strongly corrected monks who misrepresented him personally. Therefore, in the Pali teachings, I have sensed there is the notion of "slandering the Tathagata" rather than "misrepresenting the Dhamma".  But I may be wrong.

A stock phrase in the Pali suttas is:
Quote
Do not say so! Do not misrepresent the Blessed One! It is not right to misrepresent him. Never would the Blessed One speak like that.

However, since the Buddha passed away 2,500 years and is no longer here to defend himself, I doubt any of us are in the position to uphold what he actually said.

As I said, my impression is the Buddha was rather 'personal' about himself personally being misrepresented. Thus he often corrected those who said he said something he did not say.

In this spirit of personal understanding, imo, we can only defend our personal understanding of Dhamma (Truth) rather than believe we are defenders or correctors of the Dhamma.

We read suttas and apply our personal interpretions to them. This is why we all have different interpretations of the Pali suttas.

To assert others can be corrected regarding their 'wrong views' of the Dhamma is non-sequitur, imo.

Metta  ABCo :buddha2:
« Last Edit: March 26, 2012, 04:08:47 am by ABC »
Therefore, Ananda, engage with me friends and not as opponents. That will be for your long-term well-being & happiness - MN 122

Yeshe

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Re: The Buddha telling people their understanding is wrong
« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2012, 03:16:10 am »
Hi

Whilst not 'correcting', the The Sammaditthi Sutta expounds Right View in an incredibly exact form, addressing various aspects in discourse, such as Taints:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nanamoli/wheel377.html


I have very little exposure to the Pali Cannon, and am not in a position to critique the translation, but this Sutta seems very helpful. I wonder if Buddha would have disagreed with Sariputta .
« Last Edit: March 26, 2012, 03:29:09 am by Blue Garuda »

Yeshe

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Re: The Buddha telling people their understanding is wrong
« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2012, 03:27:16 am »
This Sutta, Brahmajāla Sutta, would appear to be a direct response in correcting views expressed by Bhkkhus:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.01.0.bodh.html

''If, bhikkhus, others speak in dispraise of me, or in dispraise of the Dhamma, or in dispraise of the Sangha, you should unravel what is false and point it out as false, saying: 'For such and such a reason this is false, this is untrue, there is no such thing in us, this is not found among us.''


Offline ABC

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Re: The Buddha telling people their understanding is wrong
« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2012, 03:50:48 am »
Whilst not 'correcting', the The Sammaditthi Sutta expounds Right View in an incredibly exact form

Greetings Blue Garudo

Indeed it does. But its nuances remain subject to our personal interpretations. All Buddhists do not have universal agreement about the meanings & implications of the various words.

For example, some Buddhists, such as the translator, interpret 'birth' to mean 'birth from a womb'. Other Buddhists interpret 'birth' to mean 'acquisition' (taking ownership) of the aggregates. Other Buddhists interpret 'nama-rupa' to meaning 'naming-forms', where as others interpret 'nama-rupa' as 'materiality-mentality'.

In his Visiddhimagga, the scholar Achariya Buddhaghosa listed at least half a dozen different meanings of the Pali word jati ('birth').

If the Sammaditthi Sutta expounds Right View in an incredibly exact form, as you have suggested, why would the translator need to use additional bracketed words in their translation and provide an extensive commentary?

Buddha taught:

Quote
Monks, in this Teaching that is so well proclaimed by me and is plain, open, explicit and free of patchwork.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.022.nypo.html


Yet individual Buddhists continue to not be in agreement about these plain, open, explicit and unconvoluted teachings.

Thus, I am unable to relinquish by view that there cannot be a claim to uphold the correct Dhamma by various individuals.

As I originally posted, I continue to insist that only personal interpretation can prevail.

 :listen:

I wonder if Buddha would have disagreed with Sariputta .

The Buddha would not have disagreed. It is reported Buddha said:

Quote
Bhikkhus, I do not know of any other person who could follow up the teaching proclaimed by the Thus Gone One other than Sāriputta. Bhikkhus, Sāriputta follows up the teaching proclaimed by me.

http://awake.kiev.ua/dhamma/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pitaka/4Anguttara-Nikaya/Anguttara1/1-ekanipata/013-Ekapuggalavaggo-e.html

The wording the Venerable Sāriputta used in the Sammaditthi Sutta agrees with the Buddha. But our personal interpretations or the interpretations of the translator may not agree with the Buddha & Sariputta.

Thus bold claims such as: "the Buddha is my only teacher"; "the Buddha is the only authority"; etc, are non-sequitur, imo.

 :namaste:

« Last Edit: March 26, 2012, 04:18:57 am by ABC »
Therefore, Ananda, engage with me friends and not as opponents. That will be for your long-term well-being & happiness - MN 122

Offline Hanzze

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Re: The Buddha telling people their understanding is wrong
« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2012, 04:46:22 am »
To assert others can be corrected regarding their 'wrong views' of the Dhamma is non-sequitur, imo.
I think your are right if we look at it from an intellectual side as Blue Garuda also mentioned with the his text:

Quote
''Right view, as explained in the commentary to the Sammaditthi Sutta, has a variety of aspects, but it might best be considered as twofold: conceptual right view, which is the intellectual grasp of the principles enunciated in the Buddha's teaching, and experiential right view, which is the wisdom that arises by direct penetration of the teaching. Conceptual right view, also called the right view in conformity with the truths (saccanulomika-sammaditthi), is a correct conceptual understanding of the Dhamma arrived at by study of the Buddha's teachings and deep examination of their meaning. Such understanding, though conceptual rather than experiential, is not dry and sterile. When rooted in faith in the Triple Gem and driven by a keen aspiration to realize the truth embedded in the formulated principles of the Dhamma, it serves as a critical phase in the development of wisdom (pañña), for it provides the germ out of which experiential right view gradually evolves.

Experiential right view is the penetration of the truth of the teaching in one's own immediate experience. Thus it is also called right view that penetrates the truths (saccapativedha-sammaditthi). This type of right view is aroused by the practice of insight meditation guided by a correct conceptual understanding of the Dhamma. To arrive at direct penetration, one must begin with a correct conceptual grasp of the teaching and transform that grasp from intellectual comprehension to direct perception by cultivating the threefold training in morality, concentration and wisdom. If conceptual right view can be compared to a hand, a hand that grasps the truth by way of concepts, then experiential right view can be compared to an eye — the eye of wisdom that sees directly into the true nature of existence ordinarily hidden from us by our greed, aversion and delusion.''

How ever, we are lucky to have many good sutas delivered and are able to have an idea of right view also from an intellectual side. As long as we are mindful and less attached to ideas, we would also see if we or others have right view in the present and could according to our understanding also try to explain if something is not right view.

Intellectual its very simple:

Quote
"And what is right view? Knowledge with regard to stress, knowledge with regard to the origination of stress, knowledge with regard to the cessation of stress, knowledge with regard to the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress: This is called right view."

— DN 22

But to make right view his own, one needs to turn the wheel of the eightfold path first and realize it for one self.
If you would have right view does not mean, that you would be able to explain right view automatically. The more defilement people have, the lesser they would understand what you are talking about.

How ever, right view (may it intellectual at the beginning) is the first step on the path. If it is started with wrong view all the other path factors will be more or lesser wrong, even so wrong that they totally fail the aim without the possibility of gaining right view for one self.

How that happens is good understandable in this sutta:

Quote
A thicket of wrong views

"There is the case where an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person... does not discern what ideas are fit for attention, or what ideas are unfit for attention. This being so, he does not attend to ideas fit for attention, and attends instead to ideas unfit for attention... This is how he attends inappropriately: 'Was I in the past? Was I not in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what was I in the past? Shall I be in the future? Shall I not be in the future? What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? Having been what, what shall I be in the future?' Or else he is inwardly perplexed about the immediate present: 'Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? Where has this being come from? Where is it bound?'

"As he attends inappropriately in this way, one of six kinds of view arises in him: The view I have a self arises in him as true & established, or the view I have no self... or the view It is precisely by means of self that I perceive self... or the view It is precisely by means of self that I perceive not-self... or the view It is precisely by means of not-self that I perceive self arises in him as true & established, or else he has a view like this: This very self of mine — the knower that is sensitive here & there to the ripening of good & bad actions — is the self of mine that is constant, everlasting, eternal, not subject to change, and will endure as long as eternity. This is called a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views. Bound by a fetter of views, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person is not freed from birth, aging, & death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair. He is not freed, I tell you, from suffering & stress.

"The well-instructed disciple of the noble ones... discerns what ideas are fit for attention, and what ideas are unfit for attention. This being so, he does not attend to ideas unfit for attention, and attends [instead] to ideas fit for attention... He attends appropriately, This is stress... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress... This is the way leading to the cessation of stress. As he attends appropriately in this way, three fetters are abandoned in him: identity-view, doubt, and grasping at precepts & practices."

— MN 2

We should take care of that also on discussing right view, we easily get attached to things which are off-topic (not leading to right view). *smile*

After the first turning of the wheel of the eightfold path (we could say the worldly turn), we need to give up also the intellectual view, better said, all views, to have no hindrances to realize reality for our self.

Teachable is the way to gain right view. Its also possible to remember on right view is one has lost it but had it before. It is not possible to teach right view it self. If that would be possible, we would not be here. *smile*

Yeshe

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Re: The Buddha telling people their understanding is wrong
« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2012, 05:23:28 am »
Whilst not 'correcting', the The Sammaditthi Sutta expounds Right View in an incredibly exact form

Greetings Blue Garudo

Indeed it does. But its nuances remain subject to our personal interpretations. All Buddhists do not have universal agreement about the meanings & implications of the various words.

For example, some Buddhists, such as the translator, interpret 'birth' to mean 'birth from a womb'. Other Buddhists interpret 'birth' to mean 'acquisition' (taking ownership) of the aggregates. Other Buddhists interpret 'nama-rupa' to meaning 'naming-forms', where as others interpret 'nama-rupa' as 'materiality-mentality'.

In his Visiddhimagga, the scholar Achariya Buddhaghosa listed at least half a dozen different meanings of the Pali word jati ('birth').

If the Sammaditthi Sutta expounds Right View in an incredibly exact form, as you have suggested, why would the translator need to use additional bracketed words in their translation and provide an extensive commentary?

Buddha taught:

Quote
Monks, in this Teaching that is so well proclaimed by me and is plain, open, explicit and free of patchwork.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.022.nypo.html


Yet individual Buddhists continue to not be in agreement about these plain, open, explicit and unconvoluted teachings.

Thus, I am unable to relinquish by view that there cannot be a claim to uphold the correct Dhamma by various individuals.

As I originally posted, I continue to insist that only personal interpretation can prevail.

 :listen:

I wonder if Buddha would have disagreed with Sariputta .

The Buddha would not have disagreed. It is reported Buddha said:

Quote
Bhikkhus, I do not know of any other person who could follow up the teaching proclaimed by the Thus Gone One other than Sāriputta. Bhikkhus, Sāriputta follows up the teaching proclaimed by me.

http://awake.kiev.ua/dhamma/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pitaka/4Anguttara-Nikaya/Anguttara1/1-ekanipata/013-Ekapuggalavaggo-e.html

The wording the Venerable Sāriputta used in the Sammaditthi Sutta agrees with the Buddha. But our personal interpretations or the interpretations of the translator may not agree with the Buddha & Sariputta.

Thus bold claims such as: "the Buddha is my only teacher"; "the Buddha is the only authority"; etc, are non-sequitur, imo.

 :namaste:


There have certainly been many discussions on various forums on rebirth and 'jati' which revolve around translation, context, interpretation etc.

These also include to what extent Right View is held 'with Taints'. What I meant by 'exact' may be better coneveyed perhaps by describing the teachings as very precisely targeted at specific issues and quite comprehensive in scope.

Your view seems to be reflected in the introduction to that Sutta about intepretations and a person's desire to establish that they are transmitting Buddhadharma, even when the view is experiential (as often happens when certain 'signs' are taken to denote attainment) and prescribed for every disciple's path:

''Right view, as explained in the commentary to the Sammaditthi Sutta, has a variety of aspects, but it might best be considered as twofold: conceptual right view, which is the intellectual grasp of the principles enunciated in the Buddha's teaching, and experiential right view, which is the wisdom that arises by direct penetration of the teaching.''

The Brahmajāla Sutta I mentioned in my last post would seem to be Buddha's own prescription for dealing with adverse criticism  - what tone to adopt and what to say.
« Last Edit: March 26, 2012, 05:32:00 am by Blue Garuda »

Offline ABC

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Re: The Buddha telling people their understanding is wrong
« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2012, 11:46:52 am »
''Right view, as explained in the commentary to the Sammaditthi Sutta, has a variety of aspects, but it might best be considered as twofold: conceptual right view, which is the intellectual grasp of the principles enunciated in the Buddha's teaching, and experiential right view, which is the wisdom that arises by direct penetration of the teaching.''

You are relying again on the commentary, thus contradicting your very point about the exactness of the sutta. Further, you are relying on a contradiction in the commentary, in that the commentator claims one can have direct penetration via wisdom about 'birth' being birth from a womb. Wisdom is something that ends suffering and seeing birth from a womb is not guarranted to end suffering. Only wisdom (insight) that results the extingushing of ignorance & craving can end suffering. For example, often people see babies being born and they rejoice, even to the point of breaking out into tears of joy & holding life long that the birth of their child was their greatest joy.

The Brahmajāla Sutta I mentioned in my last post would seem to be Buddha's own prescription for dealing with adverse criticism  - what tone to adopt and what to say.

Sure. But this is not related to the topic. Three contradictions it seems.

  :listen:
« Last Edit: March 26, 2012, 12:40:56 pm by ABC »
Therefore, Ananda, engage with me friends and not as opponents. That will be for your long-term well-being & happiness - MN 122

Offline ABC

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Re: The Buddha telling people their understanding is wrong
« Reply #9 on: March 26, 2012, 11:57:42 am »
1. What methods did the Buddha apply when speaking to those of incorrect understanding?

So, returning back to the topic, the Pali scriptures show Buddha used many methods when speaking to those of incorrect understanding, such as:

(1) heavily admonishing them, such as calling them "foolish" or "worthless" (depending on the translation)

Quote
Worthless man, from whom have you understood that Dhamma taught by me in such a way? But you, worthless man, through your own wrong grasp [of the Dhamma], have both misrepresented us as well as injuring yourself and accumulating much demerit for yourself, for that will lead to your long-term harm & suffering."
 
When this was said, the monk Arittha Formerly-of-the-Vulture-Killers sat silent, abashed, his shoulders drooping, his head down, brooding, at a loss for words.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.022.than.html

 
(2) using supernormal powers to know their inner thoughts or appear before them to teach them

Quote
I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Rajagaha, on Vulture Peak Mountain. And on that occasion Ven. Sona was staying near Rajagaha in the Cool Wood.

Then, as Ven. Sona was meditating in seclusion, this train of thought arose in his awareness: "Of the Blessed One's disciples who have aroused their persistence, I am one, but my mind is not released from the fermentations through lack of clinging/sustenance. Now, my family has enough wealth that it would be possible to enjoy wealth & make merit. What if I were to disavow the training, return to the lower life, enjoy wealth & make merit?"
 
Then the Blessed One, as soon as he perceived with his awareness the train of thought in Ven. Sona's awareness — as a strong man might stretch out his bent arm or bend his outstretched arm — disappeared from Vulture Peak Mountain, appeared in the Cool Wood right in front of Ven. Sona, and sat down on a prepared seat.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an06/an06.055.than.html


However, for most of us, using these methods is either harmful or impossible for us.

Thus, taking an interest in them probably cannot help us.

 :eek:

« Last Edit: March 26, 2012, 12:24:46 pm by ABC »
Therefore, Ananda, engage with me friends and not as opponents. That will be for your long-term well-being & happiness - MN 122

Offline ABC

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Re: The Buddha telling people their understanding is wrong
« Reply #10 on: March 26, 2012, 12:05:26 pm »
3. How did the Buddha respond to naysayers who erroneously assumed that he didn't actually know what he speaking about?

At times, the Buddha basically 'trashed' & utter humiliated them, such as in MN 35. Again, not a fitting example for us. The Tao Te Ching states: "If you try to use the tools of a master carpenter, you will end up cutting your own hand".

At other times, Buddha kept silent, such as in MN 18. This is often a fitting example for us so we avoid taking a fundamentalist position, in believing we are representing & upholding the True Dhamma (when we probably are not).

I watched a You Tube video about Dogen recently & could not help to feel that the continued statements by Dogen about possessing 'The True Teachings of Gautama" somehow diminished from what the movie was attempting to impart.

In the serenity if the movie, each time the depicted Dogen claimed to possess 'The True Teachings of Gautama', your heart kind of sunk.

 ;D
« Last Edit: March 26, 2012, 12:41:55 pm by ABC »
Therefore, Ananda, engage with me friends and not as opponents. That will be for your long-term well-being & happiness - MN 122

Offline ABC

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Re: The Buddha telling people their understanding is wrong
« Reply #11 on: March 26, 2012, 12:35:02 pm »
4. Was the Buddha right to correct people as he did?

My opinion is the scriptures are merely reports and probably often prone to exaggeration, propaganda, etc. We are not the Buddha nor were we there so who are we to assess whether he was right & wrong in the imagined circumstances.

Is the Dhamma universal such that if he observed something was a particular way (and therefore knew what was otherwise) that it would necessarily be that same way for another?

My opinion is definitely not. The Buddha did not convolute his teachings or keep anything secret. The entire scope of the teachings are found in Buddha's 1st three sermons. Buddha said:

Quote
Monks, in this Teaching that is so well proclaimed by me and is plain, open, explicit and free of patchwork.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.022.nypo.html


Quote
I have set forth the Dhamma without making any distinction of esoteric and exoteric doctrine; there is nothing, Ananda, with regard to the teachings that the Tathagata holds to the last with the closed fist of a teacher who keeps some things back.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.16.1-6.vaji.html

Buddha did give different teachings to different audiences but remained consistent within those different teachings.

Thus, the scriptures unambiguously report Buddha did not use "complex language" with "hidden meanings". Believing such is the type of idiosyncratic interpretation mentioned in my previous posts.

In short, it is universally chanted each day by millions of Buddhists (but not universally understood) that the Dhamma is perfectly spoken by the Blessed One, namely: 'Svakhato bhagavata dhammo'.

Metta

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« Last Edit: March 26, 2012, 12:46:49 pm by ABC »
Therefore, Ananda, engage with me friends and not as opponents. That will be for your long-term well-being & happiness - MN 122

Offline Caz

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Re: The Buddha telling people their understanding is wrong
« Reply #12 on: March 26, 2012, 01:57:40 pm »
I would be honored to be corrected by the Tathaghata.  :dharma:
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Offline ABC

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Re: The Buddha telling people their understanding is wrong
« Reply #13 on: March 26, 2012, 04:02:54 pm »
I would be honored to be corrected by anyone (as long as they are actually correct).  :teehee:
Therefore, Ananda, engage with me friends and not as opponents. That will be for your long-term well-being & happiness - MN 122

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Re: The Buddha telling people their understanding is wrong
« Reply #14 on: March 26, 2012, 04:03:53 pm »
I would be honored to be corrected by the Tathaghata.  :dharma:

I like that. It explains the depth of the Dhamma without recourse to "complications" like intellectual analysis, philosophical inquiry, conceptual proliferation etc.

Metta,
ABCo.  :namaste:
« Last Edit: March 26, 2012, 04:14:25 pm by ABC »
Therefore, Ananda, engage with me friends and not as opponents. That will be for your long-term well-being & happiness - MN 122

 


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