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Thread: Acintita Sutta: Unconjecturable

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    Acintita Sutta: Unconjecturable

    "There are these four unconjecturables that are not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about them. Which four?

    "The Buddha-range of the Buddha is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.

    "The jhana-range of a person in jhana...

    "The [precise working out of the] results of kamma...

    "Conjecture about [the origin, etc., of] the world is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.
    "These are the four unconjecturables that are not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about them."
    My question is what does "madness & vexation" really mean in this context? What are the Pali words for those and what do the Pali words really mean? Some people take the view that "Well, I have pondered the above and I have not "gone mad" as in the modern day usage of the word. Which would be "insane" like someone who is committed to a modern day mental hospital. So people say "since I have pondered the above and have not, nor will be, at risk for being committed to a mental hospital, the Buddha was simply wrong here!"

    But that can't be what it really means. Yes?

  2. #2
    Moderation Note

    Please always provide a link for quotes.

    AN 4.77 Acintita Sutta =

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipit....077.than.html


    (Translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu)

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by John923 View Post
    My question is what does "madness & vexation" really mean in this context? What are the Pali words for those and what do the Pali words really mean? Some people take the view that "Well, I have pondered the above and I have not "gone mad" as in the modern day usage of the word. Which would be "insane" like someone who is committed to a modern day mental hospital. So people say "since I have pondered the above and have not, nor will be, at risk for being committed to a mental hospital, the Buddha was simply wrong here!"

    But that can't be what it really means. Yes?

    I don't know the Pali for this sutta.

    I've always taken the "madness and vexation" part to mean something similar to when one might think: " Trying to figure this out is driving me crazy and is absolutely pointless!"

    I don't take it to mean actual mental illness. However that's just my own interpretation, I might be completely wrong......


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    Forums Member Element's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John923 View Post
    I have pondered the above and have not, nor will be, at risk for being committed to a mental hospital, the Buddha was simply wrong here!"
    hi John

    it obviously means the mind would lose its peace & be overwhelmed. for example, take the reproductive systems & capacities of animals that are intrinsic in creation. if we deeply ponder how these function & particularly how they came to be, at least for me, it certainly overwhelms the mind

    similarly, that a Buddha can transmit, with psychic power, thought messages & images of himself, around the Earth, is also overwhelming for one that does not have such a capacity. we may speculate the brain & mind, which is comprised of electricity, may use the electrical field of the atmosphere to do this, just like television transmission does. but, still, that a single brain can do this is overwhelming to most, let alone unfathomable it can exist

    kind regards


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    Thank you both for your answers!

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    Forums Member seattlegal's Avatar
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    There's a really cool feature on the accesstoinsight site where you can see the Pali--on the line above the title of the sutta, there's a link at the far right side that will take you to the Pali.

    Here's the link to the Pali for the Acintita Sutta

    Here's the Pali:
    (Acinteyyasuttaṃ)

    (Sāvatthinidānaṃ:)

    27. Cattārimāni bhikkhave acinteyyāni na cintetabbāni, yāni cintento ummādassa vighātassa bhāgī assa. Katamāni cattāri?

    Buddhānaṃ bhikkhave buddhavisayo acinteyyo na cintetabbo, yaṃ cintento ummādassa vighātassa bhāgī assa.

    Jhāyissa bhikkhave jhānavisayo acinteyyo na cintetabbo, yaṃ cintento ummādassa vighātassa bhāgī assa.

    Kammavipāko bhikkhave acinteyyo na cintetabbo, yaṃ cintento ummādassa vighātassa bhāgī assa.

    Lokacintā bhikkhave acinteyyā na cintetabbā, yaṃ cintento ummādassa vighātassa bhāgī assa.

    Imāni kho bhikkhave cattāri acinteyyāni na cintetabbāni, yāni cintento ummādassa vighātassa bhāgī assāti.
    The Pali Text Society also has a Pali-to-English dictionary where you can look up Pali words, but it can be difficult to use. From this site:

    Ummatta

    Ummatta (adj.) [ud + matta of mad] out of one's mind, mad S v.447 (+ viceta); J v.386; Miln 122; Sdhp 88; PvA 40 (˚puggala read with v. l. SS for dummati puggala). Cp. next & ummāda.
    -- rūpa like mad, madly, insane Pv i.81; ii.62 (where J iii.156 has santaramāna).

    Vighāta

    Vighāta [vi+ghata] 1. destruction, killing, slaughter PvA 150 (vighātaŋ āpajjati=vihaññati). -- as adj. slain, beaten Pv iv.53 (=vighātavā vihata -- bala). <-> 2. distress, annoyance, upset of mind, trouble, vexation D iii.249; M i.510; A ii.197 sq.; iv.161 (˚pariḷāha); Sn 814 (=ugghāta pīḷana ghaṭṭana upaddava Nd1 140=170); Th 2, 450 (bahu˚ full of annoyance). -- sa˚ connected with, or bringing vexation, with opp. a˚ free of annoyance: S iii.8; v.97; A i.202 sq.; iii.3, 429; Th 2, 352; ThA 242. -- 3. opposition M i.499.
    -- pakkhika having its part in adversity, associated with trouble M i.115; S v.97; DhsA 382. -- bhūmi ground for vexation Sn 830 (cp. Nd1 170 with expln as above).

  7. #7
    This is a different translation from 'Anguttara Nikaya Anthology' translated by Nyanaponika Thera & Bhikkhu Bodhi.



    56. The Four Unthinkables (4.77)

    Monks, there are these four unthinkables, not to be pondered upon; which if pondered upon,
    would lead one to insanity and distress. What are the four?

    The range of a Buddha, O monk, is an unthinkable, not to be pondered upon; which, if
    pondered upon, would lead one to insanity and distress.

    The range of the meditative absorptions … the results of Kamma … speculations about the
    world are unthinkables, not to be pondered upon, which if pondered upon, would lead to
    insanity and distress.


    http://www.urbandharma.org/pdf1/wh15...araNikaya1.pdf
    There are notes at the link.


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    The real problem is how all of the translators are treating "-visayo".

    We do not say, "the range of ghosts", nor "the range of the dead"; yet we are here supposed to treat nonsense as if it made sense, in reading about "the range of the Buddha". Cattle-herds have ranges; Buddhas don't; and, if I may presume, jhānas don't either.

    The addition of words in square brackets (in the first translation) is also unacceptable; the text does not say, "The [precise working out of the]...", and these words have been added simply because the translator would be uncomfortable with the direct reading of the text.

    Both of the translators are probably deeply uncomfortable with the notion that the Buddha or jhāna had a "realm" ascribed to them by ancient authors of the canon; and the irony is that the ancient authors of this sutta were probably motivated by a similar discomfort with the subject (in marking these very themes as "unthinkable") in the authorship of the original Pali.

    The translation of lokacintā, also, is mangled, but I cannot say if this is intentional or not; as with the words added in square parentheses, the mistranslation here narrows the meaning, perhaps because the broader (actually-intended) meaning of the word would be upsetting to the translator, and perhaps out of sheer incompetence.

    However, the O.P.'s question was about "madness & vexation"; these may be the only words that are not controversial in the English rendering of the passage!

  9. #9
    Forums Member Sea Turtle's Avatar
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    Would you be able to share your translation of this passage with us? Very curious.

    Many thanks,
    Helena

  10. #10
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    Pragmatically speaking all these questions have been ponderd to madness already. (ha ha).

    All these questions are answeared to some extent in other suttas (qualities/abilities of a Buddha/Jhana, results of kamma and the beginning of the world). Am I wrong?

    So I would (also) suggest that there is something else that is meant.

    Might I suggest the translation riddle for acinteyyāni and figure out/reason out for na cintetabbāni (I think I am aiming for the word "ponder") and
    finally unproductive state of mind instead of insanity and distress?

    I mean the translation
    Monks, there are these four riddles, that can not be reasoned out; which if mearly reasond upon,
    would lead one to unproductive state of mind. What are the four?
    would make more sense if considering what the sutta referrs to.

    The range of a Buddha. One of the markings of a Buddha is Nibbana. That can obviuosly not be reasoned out but has to be experienced. So is jhana in those aspects that lean toward nibbana. All other aspects of a Buddha or Jhana that does not lead to nibbana are of course unproductive by definition.

    The results of kamma are definately not to be figured out and then there is the beginning of the world? If that referres to the beginning of samsara there is no information that we know of in this world that could be used to model that and if this means the beginning of the world in the six sense faculties then that cannot be understood by mearly reasoning about it either but is central in breath meditation.

    There is a problem with my thinking. Because it is easy to understand that mearly reasoning about nibbana/jhana and how the world arise in the six sense faculties are dead ends and will only lead you so far. But how does karma figure into that?

    Why, in that case, are results of karma mentioned here? Following my own reasoning I would have to suggest that "result of kamma" must be central to practise/cultivation and to be experienced by direkt knowleadge. But to what does it refer in cultivation? Any thoughts?

    /Victor
    Last edited by Victorious; 02 May 14 at 06:39.

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