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Re: [Pali] Buddha and the present moment.

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  • Piya Tan
    This is an insightful note, bhante. I m always ecstatic when monastics speak on the suttas, esp with insight. Pali words, as we know, are often pregnant with
    Message 1 of 37 , Aug 16, 2013
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      This is an insightful note, bhante. I'm always ecstatic when monastics
      speak on the suttas, esp with insight.

      Pali words, as we know, are often pregnant with nuances. Often, in
      English, it takes multiple words, even sentences, to bring all of them out.
      Hence it is vital to know (as far as possible) of the context of the word
      or term.

      This is where I use an ":amplified translation" strategy (where needed) to
      try to bring out what is difficult to represent fully in English. Building
      on what Kumara has suggested, we could render the Bhaddekaratta
      Sutta quote as follows:

      "*Let one not pursue** [not dwell on] the past,*"

      Oh yes, I like "pursue" because it somewhat rhymes with "past". We should
      try our best to present our translations both in "truth and beauty."

      The best way to know early Buddhism is of course to know Pali as we know
      our own language. However, this may limit accessibility for others.
      Moreover the value and purpose of a translation is more so to convey the
      meaning (attha) of the text. Hence, we may often need to use some
      contemporary words and expressions, esp idiomatic language. This is where
      the amplified translations, footnotes, etc help to support in making the
      word or passage meaning clearer. The teacher's task is to make them
      relevant to our times and people.

      Contemporary psychotherapy (esp the cognitive behaviour therapy systems)
      heavily borrow from Buddhism and often build up their own vocabulary and
      neologisms. If these are wisely used, they help us relate to Buddhist
      teachings in a healing way where healing is needed. (I've just finished a
      comparative study of ACT and early Buddhism, SD 43.1). Modern psychology
      poses a great challenge we need to answer, too. Sujato has written a
      helpful paper on this recently.

      Otherwise, we all have our way of relating to the suttas so that we
      somehow, esp through meditation, have a progressively better understanding
      of not only what the Buddha teaches, but more importantly, what the Buddha
      means. This, in my life's evening, after over 40 years of Buddhism, I must
      say that we need to simply let go of more and more of our views as we go
      along. Not easy, but liberating.

      A good way to know that the suttas are working for us, is that we able to
      let go of our views as we go along. We just let the suttas speak for
      themselves, as it were. Those who regular meditate would notice that a clam
      and clear mind is free from views, and this is simply blissful. This is
      what the suttas ultimately point to.

      With metta and mudita,


      On Wed, Aug 14, 2013 at 11:04 AM, Kumara Bhikkhu

      > **
      > I'd like to update my choice of translation for the opening line of
      > Bhaddekaratta gatha "Atiita.m naanvaagameyya"
      > atiita.m = past
      > naanvaagameyya = na anu + aagameyya
      > na = not
      > anu = (prefix) along, repeatedly, continually
      > aagameyya = optative of aagameti = would aagameti
      > aagameti = stay; wait, wait for, welcome, expect
      > So the sutta, in referring to the spiritual practitioner who is
      > attentive of the present, says that he (in idiomatic English) "would
      > not dwell on the past". The suttas define that as being carried away
      > with delightful thoughts about the past. In other words, we are lost
      > in thoughts of the past. This is not the same as remembering past
      > events while being present-minded.
      > Kumara Bhikkhu wrote thus at 05:46 PM 26-03-09:
      > >That's an edifying point, Lennart.
      > >
      > >I notice that many meditators are misled by the phrase "living in
      > >the present", such that when the mind settles and memories of the
      > >past arise, they take it to mean that it should not happen, because
      > >they are not "living in the present". So, they suppress the memory
      > >and "come back to the present" breath, or whatever. They don't
      > >realise that while the memories are associated with the past, they
      > >are arising in the present.
      > >
      > >This can be rather unfortunate when the matter is an unresolved
      > >emotional issues, or what some call a psychological wound. When such
      > >a memory arises, it's an opportunity to resolve it by seeing it,
      > >together with all kinds of reactions to it, with wisdom as it is.
      > >Then the practice can be seen directly as a path of purification,
      > >sokaparidevaana.m samatikkamaaya, dukkhadomanassaana.m
      > >attha"ngamaaya, ~naayassa adhigamaaya, nibbaanassa sacchikiriyaaya.
      > >
      > >Coincidentally, I was looking through the MLDB Bhaddekaratta Sutta
      > >translation, which Nina reproduced here. It begins with "Let not a
      > >person revive the past" as the translation of
      > >"Atiita.m naanvaagameyya". Someone who reads this English
      > >translation may respond in the same way as above. When I read this,
      > >it occurred to me, "Could Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi's unending migraine be
      > >due to suppression of unhappy memories?"
      > >
      > >Anyway, I think the sentence is more correctly translated as "Let
      > >not one *pursue* the past." The difference may be outwardly subtle,
      > >but significant in a practice where subtle things (dhammas) matter.
      > >
      > >kb
      > >
      > >Lennart Lopin wrote thus at 11:44 PM 23-03-09:
      > >>Is it really "paccupannanca jiivati"
      > >>
      > >>or rather
      > >>
      > >>"paccupannanca yo dhammam, tattha tattha vipassati"
      > >>
      > >>;-)
      > >>
      > >>On Mon, Mar 23, 2009 at 2:15 AM, DC Wijeratna <dcwijeratna@...>
      > wrote:
      > >>
      > >> > Whole of the Satipa.t.thaana sutta is about living in the present.
      > >> > D. G. D. C. Wijeratna
      > >> >
      > >> > ________________________________
      > >> > From: Piya Tan <dharmafarer@... <dharmafarer%40gmail.com>>
      > >> > To: Pali@yahoogroups.com <Pali%40yahoogroups.com>
      > >> > Sent: Sunday, March 22, 2009 6:04:43 PM
      > >> > Subject: Re: [Pali] Buddha and the present moment.
      > >> >
      > >> >
      > >> > See the Bhaddekaratta Suttas (M 131-137).
      > >> >
      > >> > There are others, which others might point out.
      > >> >
      > >> > With metta,
      > >> >
      > >> > Piya Tan
      > >> >
      > >> > On Sun, Mar 22, 2009 at 11:01 AM, pgd2507 <pgd2507@gmail. com> wrote:
      > >> >
      > >> > > Dear pali scholars,
      > >> > >
      > >> > > I was wondering if the buddha spoke on what in modern terms is often
      > >> > > referred as "living in the present moment" or "being in the now".
      > >> > > Mindfulness of the breath and mindfulness of vedanaa are no doubt
      > >> > excellent
      > >> > > tools of keeping one in the present moment but are there any suttas
      > >> > > dedicated to the now and how "being in the now" works beneficially?
      > >> > >
      > >> > > with metta,
      > >> > > PG

      *hp (65) 8211 0879*

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    • Piya Tan
      Dharma Friends, I want to address only one interesting point, that is, Stefan s remark about difficulty of watching the present moment. The main difficulty
      Message 37 of 37 , Sep 17, 2013
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        Dharma Friends,
        I want to address only one interesting point, that is, Stefan's remark about difficulty of watching the "present moment."
        The main difficulty here is that we are watching the "views" of the present moment, watching them as contents, rather than as process itself.
        If we watch the process, then all we see the rise and fall. (Emphasis is on "see" not "note," although this term can be helpful in its right context.)
        If we keep watching the rise and fall of the mind, then the mind should be able to calm itself in due course.
        Indeed, if we reflect on M 131, "past" and "future" are simply our views of them, We think that thought A is something about the past, thought B is about the future. These "past" and "future" are themselves concepts, not helpful here. In meditation, we need to clear the mind of all views, but gently (we cannot wish for it). Just let go. (See SD 40a.1)
        The "present" is our mental directing to whatever is going on, the passing of mental events, if you like. This is the so called "present moment awareness" (useful concept but don't get caught up with its philosophy).
        Dh 348 does not contradict M 131, but speaks in another way, reminding us that even the present moment should not be taken as a view. Let that go, too. M 131 lists the 15 wrong views, which is a sort of abridged version of the 16 doubts mentioned in M 2 (Sabbasava Sutta), etc (see Intro to SD 8.9). The 16 doubts deal with past, present and future: let go of all such thoughts in meditation.
        The 15 wrong-view method of M 131 exhorts us to let go of the past and future. For the present, we regard the 5 aggregates (one by one or as necessary) as impermanent.
        The bottom line is that we need to let go of all conceiving and thinking. Only when the mind if free from thoughts will the hindrances go away. Even if dhyana cannot be attained, the momentary stillness is itself of such profound joy. We use this to study the suttas, which are very useful in our understanding of meditation theory.
        I have two offerings, a translation of M 131 (SD 8.9) and an essay, "Notion of di.t.thi" (SD 40a.1), about letting go of views. Contact me offline if you want these files. Taste the joy of meditation, and the suttas becomes clearer. Enjoy the suttas, and meditation theory becomes easier.
        Hope this is helpful.
        With metta and mudita,

        On Mon, Sep 9, 2013 at 3:04 PM, Kumara Bhikkhu <kumara.bhikkhu@...> wrote:

        Dear stefan_karpik,

        One word for now/present in Pali is
        "paccuppanna", which can be literally translated as "just occurred".


        wrote thus at 06:37 PM 20-08-13:
        >Dear PG,
        >I wonder if 4 years is a record delay on this group!
        >As I have found the attempt to focus on the present moment unhelpful in
        >my own meditation practice, I've had my doubts that the Buddha ever
        >referred to living in the moment or awareness of the present moment or
        >present moment awareness. My problems are: sometimes the mind works so
        >fast that the experience I am being aware of has gone by the time I am
        >aware of it; also, if the past or future is in awareness now, I don't
        >see that present moment awareness adds anything to my practice. I was
        >tying myself in knots trying to achieve present-moment awareness that
        >made any difference.
        >I think Dhammapada Verse 348. Reaching The Further Shore, advises
        >against present moment awareness:
        >Let go before, let go the after,
        >let go the middle, beyond the becoming.
        >With mind released in every way
        >you'll come no more to birth, decay.
        >348. muñca pure muñca pacchato, majjhe muñca bhavassa
        >pÄ ragÅ«.
        > sabbattha vimuttamÄ naso, na punaṃ jÄ tijaraṃ
        >Here I am taking 'majjhe' as meaning what is between the present and
        >past, i.e. the present moment, which Joseph Goldstein does.
        >Joseph Goldstein in the first 10 minutes of his Talk 21 of the
        >Satipatthana series examines the advantages and disadvantages of present
        >moment awareness and concludes that he does not want a construct like
        >'present moment', he wants reality.
        ><http://dharmaseed.org/teacher/96/talk/300/> This where I got the
        >Dhammapada quote from.
        >Christopher Titmuss critiques present moment awareness in Dharma Enews
        >12 August 2007 in "Is the Now a lot of hype?"
        >So does Georges Dreyfus in "Is mindfulness present-centred and
        >There seems to be a view around of the Buddha as a kind of ancient
        >Eckhart Tolle and some translations seem to support this. Bhikkhu Bodhi
        >regularly translates 'dhammo.....sandit.t.hiko' as 'the dhamma visible
        >here and now' eg MLDB page 358 MN 38.25. However, 'sandit.t.hiko' is
        >literally 'completely visiible', which I interpret as 'obvious',
        >'transparent', 'open'; there is certainly no 'here' or 'now in the Pali.
        >Now I have used Dhp 348 to say the Buddha did not advocate present
        >moment awareness, but others in this group have used MN 131
        >Bhaddekaratta Sutta to claim the opposite. !f you look closely, there is
        >an ambiguity; the translation of 'paccuppannam' as 'presently-arisen'
        >(MLDB page 1039) can mean (1) 'present in awareness' or (2) ' in
        >present-moment awareness', as the English 'present' can refer to
        >existence or to time; meaning (1) supports my stance against present
        >moment awareness and meaning (2) supports the opposite! To be honest,
        >given Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation of 'sandit.t.hiko', I think he
        >intended meaning (2), but did the Buddha? The PED gives for
        >'paccuppanna' 'what has arisen (just now), existing, present (as opposed
        >to .. past and... future)', but still I doubt: PED gives the derivation
        >of 'paccuppanna' as 'pat.i + uppajjati' and the article on 'pat.i' does
        >not offer the meaning 'now' and only offers 'again' in a temporal sense;
        >so I wonder if the PED inadvertently slipped from meaning (1),
        >'existent', to meaning (2), 'present-moment', never imagining that a
        >whole philosophy of the now and present-moment awareness would be
        >hooked onto this anomalous interpretation of 'pat.i' as 'now' !
        >To sum up: either the Buddha contradicts himself between Dhp 348 and
        >MN131 on present-moment awareness or the PED contradicts itself in its
        >understanding of 'pat.i' and 'paccuppanna'. At the moment, PG, I can't
        >see MN 131 as supporting the modern idea of present moment awareness,
        >but that puts me in the difficult position of agreeing with the PED on
        >'pat.i', but disagreeing with the PED on 'paccuppanna', which I take to
        >mean 'come to mind, the contents of mind' without any temporal
        >reference; if temporal reference to 'now' were seriously meant, the Pali
        >would surely use 'vuttamaana'. I would really appreciate some feedback
        >on this point.
        >I'm sorry if I have muddied the waters for you and, if you find
        >'present-moment awareness' a useful concept, please keep it. But it is
        >not useful for me or some others and I genuinely doubt that the Buddha
        >taught it. I wonder if those who do see this concept in the Buddha's
        >teachings are projecting a modern zeitgeist onto the Buddha.
        >Better late than never,
        >With metta
        >Stefan Karpik

        hp (65) 8211 0879

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