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Thread: Is It Better to Have Never Been Born?

  1. #41
    Forums Member ancientbuddhism's Avatar
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    With reference to the OP, I don’t see the aim of the Dhamma as claiming that it is better to have never been born; the present life is considered as a given fact. Rather, the aim is the removal of the second dart. The problem of craving (taṇhā) is so much easier to understand than ignorance (avijjā) as pivotal to taking the pathway to the second dart, or diverting from it, as given in Dependant Arising frameworks. This is why I find the Loka Sutta so helpful because it uses the saḷāyatana and the arising and falling of craving within it to explain DA in an immediately ascertainable framework as something to be found in our daily practice.

    BTW thank you Aloka for correcting the link I posted earlier, I was in a rush...

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    Quote Originally Posted by ancientbuddhism View Post
    Whenever there is a topic of this sort (or micro-topic at present), Ṭhānissaro’s meandering eternalistic drivel is sure to show up. Here is a slight nudge back into the light of knowledge:

    Nibbana is not viññāṇa. Really, it just isn’t” by Bhikkhu Sujato
    I haven't seen anyone claiming consciousness is nibbana, or eternalism for that matter, other than in your article. What I've seen is some talk about what is founded upon it, and therefore ceases upon it's cessation. So by extension, what it's ultimately prior to, rather than subsequent to. Talk that is attributed to the Blessed One, albeit translated by Ṭhānissaro.

    Your link refers to a blog where the author begins with an exposition of the etymology of the terms, which truthfully I found a little ironic, because I'd begun to have a concern whether folks were not just working with their interpretations of texts into common (and imo fairly narrow) Western concepts and views, rather than any genuine insight into what's behind the words being applied. To be clear, I don't have an issue with his conclusions, but feel the article might be based on seeing something that isn't there.

    ... but to respond to your forthrightness in kind, contrary to "the light of knowledge", my spidey-sense tells me that if we were to drill down, it may well turn out that this 'everyman conception of consciousness' merely serves to shield an unconscious reification of the personal (i.e. identification with namarupa). In order to keep the ground beneath our feet.
    Last edited by Aloka; 06 Dec 17 at 15:49. Reason: personal comment removed to comply with 5a of Code of Conduct

  3. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by ancientbuddhism View Post
    With reference to the OP, I don’t see the aim of the Dhamma as claiming that it is better to have never been born; the present life is considered as a given fact. Rather, the aim is the removal of the second dart. The problem of craving (taṇhā) is so much easier to understand than ignorance (avijjā) as pivotal to taking the pathway to the second dart, or diverting from it, as given in Dependant Arising frameworks. This is why I find the Loka Sutta so helpful because it uses the saḷāyatana and the arising and falling of craving within it to explain DA in an immediately ascertainable framework as something to be found in our daily practice.

    BTW thank you Aloka for correcting the link I posted earlier, I was in a rush...
    Can't argue with any of that. The Buddha's teaching starts from (presupposes) a position of samsara/dukkha, and what you've put forward is a sound focus as a method of practice.



    But on the "micro-topic" again, just to be clear about the order of 'events' …

    Part of the cycle of suffering

    Nāmarupa is the fourth of the Twelve Nidanas, preceded by consciousness (vinnana) and followed by the six sense bases (salayatana). Thus, in the Sutta Nipata, the Buddha explains to the Ven. Ajita how samsaric rebirth ceases:

    https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipi...5.01.than.html

    [Ven. Ajita:]

    ...name & form, dear sir:
    Tell me, when asked this,
    where are they brought to a halt?

    [The Buddha:]

    This question you've asked, Ajita,
    I'll answer it for you —
    where name & form
    are brought to a halt
    without trace:
    With the cessation of consciousness
    they're brought
    to a halt.
    Last edited by uguay; 06 Dec 17 at 20:57.

  4. #44
    Can I request URL links for any quoting that's done from suttas, articles, etc, please. (See Code of Conduct)

    Many thanks

  5. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aloka View Post
    Can I request URL links for any quoting that's done from suttas, articles, etc, please. (See Code of Conduct)

    Many thanks
    Yes of course, apologies. (link edited into post)

  6. #46
    Forums Member daverupa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by srivijaya View Post
    ...that nice infinite, radiant luminosity.

  7. #47
    Forums Member ancientbuddhism's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by uguay View Post
    I haven't seen anyone claiming consciousness is nibbana, or eternalism for that matter, ...
    When you cited Ṭhānissaro’s rendering of DN. 11 you introduced it with:

    “There is also a type of consciousness that lies outside of the khandas — called consciousness without feature (vinnanam anidassanaṃ) — which is not related to the six senses at all.”

    Which is so close to Ṭhānissaro’s own theory on viññānam anidassanam that I must have assumed that you were familiar with it, and its connection to his theories on Nibbāna. If I have assumed wrong the following will explain.

    There is an article by Ṭhānissaro, The Essence of Dhamma, followed by an interview with the Insight Journal of Barre Center for Buddhist Studies.

    In the interview, Ṭhānissaro is asked on the topic of anattā, where he refers to his special interpretation of viññānam anidassanam, where nibbāna is a “…dimension outside all the dimensions in which we ordinarily live.”; a notably odd interpretation to give for nibbānic consciousness as some property of Nibbāna continuing beyond death. What may inform our understanding of this claim is that his theories on nibbāna do have a kind of resonance with his theories on anattā, where in the article mentioned above, he gives one of his trademark strawman arguments:

    ”Some people have argued that such a consciousness cannot possibly exist, given that all consciousness is in the five aggregates, and all the aggregates are inconstant, stressful, and not self.”

    Ṭhānissaro has made other references in his writings to viññānam anidassanam. For a closer look at his interpretations of this and Nibbāna read Mind Like Fire Unbound.

    Said simply, Ṭhānissaro makes the assertion that nibbāna is a kind of consciousness (see his notes on MN 49), and that ‘consciousness without surface’ (viññāṇa anidassanaṃ) is not experienced by the saḷāyatana. In his notes on MN 38 and in the article mentioned above, he claims this ‘consciousness without surface’ is separate from the aggregates. And in Mind Like Fire Unbound he claims that this consciousness represents the experience of the arahant after death.

    Considering this, please note that all of these claims were not assertions of the Tathāgata, or as far as I know, of any credible authority, academic or otherwise, on the Dhamma or Buddhism.

  8. #48
    Forums Member ancientbuddhism's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by uguay View Post
    Can't argue with any of that. The Buddha's teaching starts from (presupposes) a position of samsara/dukkha, and what you've put forward is a sound focus as a method of practice.



    But on the "micro-topic" again, just to be clear about the order of 'events' … Nāmarupa is the fourth of the Twelve Nidanas, preceded by consciousness (vinnana) and followed by the six sense bases (salayatana). Thus, in the Sutta Nipata, the Buddha explains to the Ven. Ajita how samsaric rebirth ceases:
    The 12 Nidānas were most likely a construct that came later in the Tathāgata’s teaching career. Keep in mind what it is there for; the Tathāgata deconstructed what the Brahmāṇa taught as ātman in the Upaniṣads through the five-bases pañcakkhandha viz that there is only a body and an accretion of cognition. Then he reconstructed what is experienced through Dependent Arising models, including the later 12-nidāna of paṭiccasamuppāda.

    Your mention of nāma-rūpa is helpful on topic because it represents why human existence is so miserable (until one lets go the illusion of course).

    I especially like your reference to Sn. 5.1; Ajitamāṇavapuccā. This and much of this series is Dependent Arising at its earliest in the Pāḷi Nikāyas.

  9. #49
    Forums Member srivijaya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ancientbuddhism View Post
    There is an article by Ṭhānissaro, The Essence of Dhamma, followed by an interview with the Insight Journal of Barre Center for Buddhist Studies.
    What an illuminating and unusual article, thanks for flagging it up. The whole 'essence of dhamma v dhamma without essence' debate is entirely unnecessary. This for example:
    Because all things lack inherent existence, the theory goes, they have no inherent nature or substance. So, given that the Buddha’s Dhamma came into existence dependent on conditions, it too is devoid of substance.
    Lack of inherent existence is something taught in a specific Mahayana school and is (in my opinion) a complete misrepresentation of the function and efficacy of Buddha's path. Odd to find him using it in this way.

    he gives one of his trademark strawman arguments:

    ”Some people have argued that such a consciousness cannot possibly exist, given that all consciousness is in the five aggregates, and all the aggregates are inconstant, stressful, and not self.”
    Could you expand on that? I'm sure you're right, but I'd just like to see how that lines up.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ancientbuddhism View Post
    When you cited Ṭhānissaro’s rendering of DN. 11 you introduced it with:

    “There is also a type of consciousness that lies outside of the khandas — called consciousness without feature (vinnanam anidassanaṃ) — which is not related to the six senses at all.”

    Which is so close to Ṭhānissaro’s own theory on viññānam anidassanam that I must have assumed that you were familiar with it, and its connection to his theories on Nibbāna. If I have assumed wrong the following will explain.

    I'm afraid to say I'm not intimately familiar with Ṭhānissaro’s theory. I was familiar with the phrase, and found it relatable in respect to some of my own insight, but I just happened to pull that paragraph from the Access to Insight glossary in order to introduce it into this discussion. I understand Ṭhānissaro contributes quite a lot to that site, so it may well even be his own words, idk. The truth is I'm not particularly learned/scholarly, or an avid reader, and tend to glaze over when presented with one text-wall after another. I do have a bit of an overview though, and find this a particularly interesting subject, I think it's important, and so I genuinely appreciate the links, which I'll go through in detail.


    There is an article by Ṭhānissaro, The Essence of Dhamma, followed by an interview with the Insight Journal of Barre Center for Buddhist Studies.

    In the interview, Ṭhānissaro is asked on the topic of anattā, where he refers to his special interpretation of viññānam anidassanam, where nibbāna is a “…dimension outside all the dimensions in which we ordinarily live.”; a notably odd interpretation to give for nibbānic consciousness as some property of Nibbāna continuing beyond death. What may inform our understanding of this claim is that his theories on nibbāna do have a kind of resonance with his theories on anattā, where in the article mentioned above, he gives one of his trademark strawman arguments:

    ”Some people have argued that such a consciousness cannot possibly exist, given that all consciousness is in the five aggregates, and all the aggregates are inconstant, stressful, and not self.”

    Ṭhānissaro has made other references in his writings to viññānam anidassanam. For a closer look at his interpretations of this and Nibbāna read Mind Like Fire Unbound.

    Said simply, Ṭhānissaro makes the assertion that nibbāna is a kind of consciousness (see his notes on MN 49), and that ‘consciousness without surface’ (viññāṇa anidassanaṃ) is not experienced by the saḷāyatana. In his notes on MN 38 and in the article mentioned above, he claims this ‘consciousness without surface’ is separate from the aggregates. And in Mind Like Fire Unbound he claims that this consciousness represents the experience of the arahant after death.

    Considering this, please note that all of these claims were not assertions of the Tathāgata, or as far as I know, of any credible authority, academic or otherwise, on the Dhamma or Buddhism.

    In the meantime I confess that I can actually relate to much of that, although admittedly the "not related to the six senses at all" part in the definition I originally introduced the phrase with gave me slight cause for concern at the time, and similarly, the "separate from the aggregates" you attribute to Ṭhānissaro in your post. I'd be disinclined to put it quite that way because I view vinnana as both a conditioning cause and effect of those things, (and to my mind that's actually key, and is why the term is popping up in different contexts). But for that reason it seems odd to entirely divorce them that way.

    However, I do believe I understand what Ṭhānissaro is pointing away from when he says that, and he's saying there is a level of vinnana which prevails even upon the cessation of the processes of sensory perception, and cognition, and I've previously related this to the sixth jhana (2nd arupajhana). Although rather than 'infinite consciousness' my inclination was to talk about it at that level in terms of 'undifferentiated awareness' in order to make a distinction between this and the courser vinnana commonly associated with the sense-bases, which you describe as an accretion. Anyway, I can relate to a level of 'consciousness' so discreet it transcends death because I believe in the round of rebirth in a fairly literal sense. A round where this discreet vinnana is itself actually still conditioned by 'ethereal predisposition' (due to ongoing avijja) - accepting that's where it's all a bit wispy for the moment - but as such this vinnana is still itself samsaric in nature, and therefore not eternalistic per se. As a condition it gives rise to namarupa, and so on, and broadly all this can be viewed as a process where the subtle literally grows into the grossly manifest. World-building.

    Putting all that aside for the moment, imo what all this basically boils down to is, what if anything is paranibbana beyond consciousness but over and above nothingness. Obviously this is fraught with difficulties to try and talk about for a number of reasons, but it doesn't seem to have stopped Ṭhānissaro from trying, and I kind of admire him for that. Fwiw, I motion the answer lies somewhere around the eighth jhana, (which at that level can adequately only be pointed to by negation, rather than employing the use of positive terminology). In fact the whole situation reminds me of conversations I've witnessed in the past where folks have argued about whether such things as 'Peace' or 'emptiness' should be classed as a presence or an absence. The presence stance tends toward eternalism, and the absence stance - nothingness, and to take either position is effectively an extreme view leading only to confusion, with the truth seemingly to lye somewhere between.

    I understand if you dismiss all this, because it's obviously not particularly technical, I'm just trying to express something mostly in my own words for now.
    Last edited by uguay; 07 Dec 17 at 19:42.

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