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pañca-khandha and first sîla

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  • Bittar Gabriel, PhD, Geneva University
    Dear Suan Lu Zaw, John and Dimitry, I am a bit late with my translation, having hurt my right hand while moving a stone. But there it is finally, albeit
    Message 1 of 2 , Apr 6, 2002
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      Dear Suan Lu Zaw, John and Dimitry,

      I am a bit late with my translation, having hurt my right hand while moving
      a stone. But there it is finally, albeit partial at this stage.

      The categorisation of the world structures in five 5 types of aggregates
      (pañca-khandhâ) is quite often repeated in the Suttas. I find it a quite
      useful view of the world, when keeping in mind that it is a categorisation
      view, when adapting this categorisation to modern knowledge and when using
      it with flexibility.
      The following is an extract of some notes that I had used in Dhamma
      retreats in relation to the first sîla. The question was: from a practical
      point of view, how does one integrate this sîla in everyday life. To answer
      this question, it seemed necessary to think about the phenomenon of life
      from a psychological and ethical perspective founded on reality. As an
      evolutionary scientist with a peculiar interest for psychological aspects
      of it, I have adopted and shared the following interpretation - mind you,
      it's nothing more (or less) than that: a personal interpretation.
      I have translated from the French the critical biological and ethical
      aspects of my notes, leaving aside the psychological and philosophical
      aspects.
      Considering that these were notes, meant to be used verbally, you would
      pardon the poor litterary quality and somewhat naked aspect of what follows.

      The pañca-khandhâ, the 5 types of aggregates (in the evolutionary
      progression, each one of the first four is source and direct support of the
      next one).

      1. : The rûpa-khandhâ, the aggregates of form, include the basic elements
      constituting matter.
      In the archaic belief: the cattâri mahâ-bhûtâni (the "four great forms") -
      pa.thavî-dhâtu, earth element; âpo-dhâtu, water element; tejo-dhâtu, fire
      element; vâyo-dhâtu, air element -, but also sometimes âkâsa-dhâtu, space
      element.
      In the language of modern science, this can be translated as: space-time,
      sub-atomic wave-particles, fundamental forces.
      In addition to the the cattâri mahâ-bhûtâni, the rûpa-khandhâ also include
      the upâdâya-rûpâ, the secundary forms, derived properties of which some
      belong to living beings. In the archaic belief: the 5 senses, feminity,
      masculinity, vitality, etc. In the language of modern science: DNA,
      enzymes, metabolism, etc..
      The rûpa-khandhâ should not be considered as some sorts of ontologically
      constitutive objects, but as a more or less complex events, in the same
      manner that modern science considers matter (e.g., even a most basic
      constituent of matter such as an electron is better to be considered as an
      event rather than as some sort of elemental object). The rûpa-khandhâ are
      more or less complex san'khârâ (structural fluxes / processes) that
      constitute the non-living matter (including the viruses) but also the
      physical basic (molecular) mechanisms of the more complex life phenomena.

      2. to 5. : The cattâri nâma-rûpa khandhâ, the 4 types of
      psycho-physiological aggregates.

      2. The vedanâ-khandhâ, the aggregates of sensations, are formed within the
      simplest living beings. In modern biology, it is possible to discern three
      evolutionary levels of vedanâ-khandhâ formation :
      the mono-cellular beings (the bacteria and archea, the unicellular fungi,
      the unicellular algae, the protozoans);
      the simplest fungi and plants (e.g. the multicellulars), and the simplest
      animals (e.g. the multicellulars), not showing a nervous system (e.g.
      sponges);
      the complex, pluricellular fungi, the more complex pluricellular plants,
      and the pluricellular animals, not showing a central nervous nodule (e.g.
      medusas, urchins, starfishes).

      3. The saññâ-khandhâ, the aggregates of perceptions, are formed in more
      complex living beings. In modern biology, it is possible to discern three
      evolutionary levels of saññâ-khandhâ formation :
      the higher plants, and the animals with a simple nervous nodule, capable of
      reflex organisation (e.g. taenias, rotifers, leeches, earthworms, mussels,
      aplysias, snails);
      the complex invertebrates (e.g. ticks, spiders, scorpions, lobsters,
      crawfishes, crabs, millipedes, crickets, flies, antsŠ);
      the poikilothermic ("cold-blooded") vertebrates, i.e. fishes, amphibians
      and reptiles.
      The higher plants and the complex invertebrates have approximately the same
      complexity of coding genome (...)
      All beings capable of saññâ are also capable of uneasiness and of pain,
      thus the ethical duty for those organisms capable of vi'ññâ.na is to avoid
      whenever possible to harm them.

      4. The (citta-)san'khârâ-khandhâ, the aggregates of (psychic) structural
      processes which emerge from a complex (quasi-)nervous nodule. Which means,
      either from a complex nervous nodule (homeothermic vertebrates, i.e.
      mammals and birds, plus some bony fishes such as tunas), or from a complex
      set of nodules (i.e. a large ants' nest).
      (...)
      Any evolutive complexification implies a process of
      differentiation-dissociation; this is valid as well for biological life as
      for psychic life. Any psychic differentiation-dissociation implies in a
      first stage the constitution of some sort of ego. This constitution is
      necessary for the psychological coherence of the organism during its son
      développement multi-factorial development towards some sort of puggala, the
      person-personality from which a discerning consciousness (vi'ññâ.na) will
      eventually be able to develop.
      (...)
      What is perceived as an "ego"-puggala is not a cause of existence (the
      archaic attâ-"anima" concept) but the dynamic outcome of a multi-factorial
      psycho-physiological process, unfolding and evolving in a complex world of
      inter-dependent processes (cf. fire, which is not, as the archaic view had
      it, an inalterable element, but a physical un phenomenon, the result of a
      chemical process - combustion - and not the cause of this process).
      (...)
      The organisms producing san'khârâ-khandhâ are capable of cetâna (volition)
      and of kamma (act, action, deed), thus fully capable of suffering.
      Accordingly, the ethical duty for those organisms capable of vi'ññâ.na is
      to rigorously avoid harming them.

      5. The vi'ññâ.na-khandhâ, the aggregates of discerning consciousness
      ("consciousness-conscience"), which emerge from a coherent whole of
      structural processes set up in a process of reflection ("know thyself");
      privileged exit-point out of sa.m'sâra.
      (...)


      --------------------------------------------------
      Jacqueline "Gotamî Jîvarakkhî" Bittar
      Dr Gabriel "Ananda Jîvasattha" Bittar,
      PhD University of Geneva
      phone +61 8 8553 7442 , fax +61 8 8553 7444
      mob. ph. +61 4 2743 5148

      Institut Suisse de Bioinformatique
      Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics
      http://www.isb-sib.ch/DEA/plan_etudes.html
      email: bittar@...

      Université Bouddhique Européenne
      http://www.bouddhisme-universite.org/universite/programme/cours-et-stages/inter
      venants.html

      À Bientôt Seayu Lodge, http://www.seayu.com
      email: bittar@...

      Buddhâyatana, http://www.buddhayatana.org
      email: buddhayatana@...

      4/5 Warawee road / 34 Falie court
      PO box 281, American River, Kangaroo Island
      South Australia 5221

      GMT +9h30 (allow for +1h when "summer time" in SA)

      a'niccâ vata san'khârâ
      ( a'niccaa vata san'khaaraa )
      "impermanent are structural processes"
      "instables sont les flux structurels"
      Siddhârtha (Siddhaartha) Gautama Buddha
      ---------------------------------------------------
    • John Kelly
      Dear Gabriel, I ve been meaning to respond to you for some time about this talk of yours that you sent us. I had never thought of the panca-khanda in quite
      Message 2 of 2 , May 25, 2002
      • 0 Attachment
        Dear Gabriel,
        I've been meaning to respond to you for some time
        about this talk of yours that you sent us. I had
        never thought of the panca-khanda in quite that
        evolutionary way before - thank you very much for
        opening my eyes to this. I have subsequently
        introduced this idea to others, and they too have been
        grateful for the insight.
        I also like the way you then relate this to the first
        precept.
        I very much look forward to meeting you when I come
        down under to visit in October.
        Metta,
        John
        --- "Bittar Gabriel, PhD, Geneva University"
        <buddhayatana@...> wrote:
        > Dear Suan Lu Zaw, John and Dimitry,
        >
        > I am a bit late with my translation, having hurt my
        > right hand while moving
        > a stone. But there it is finally, albeit partial at
        > this stage.
        >
        > The categorisation of the world structures in five 5
        > types of aggregates
        > (pa�ca-khandh�) is quite often repeated in the
        > Suttas. I find it a quite
        > useful view of the world, when keeping in mind that
        > it is a categorisation
        > view, when adapting this categorisation to modern
        > knowledge and when using
        > it with flexibility.
        > The following is an extract of some notes that I had
        > used in Dhamma
        > retreats in relation to the first s�la. The question
        > was: from a practical
        > point of view, how does one integrate this s�la in
        > everyday life. To answer
        > this question, it seemed necessary to think about
        > the phenomenon of life
        > from a psychological and ethical perspective founded
        > on reality. As an
        > evolutionary scientist with a peculiar interest for
        > psychological aspects
        > of it, I have adopted and shared the following
        > interpretation - mind you,
        > it's nothing more (or less) than that: a personal
        > interpretation.
        > I have translated from the French the critical
        > biological and ethical
        > aspects of my notes, leaving aside the psychological
        > and philosophical
        > aspects.
        > Considering that these were notes, meant to be used
        > verbally, you would
        > pardon the poor litterary quality and somewhat naked
        > aspect of what follows.
        >
        > The pa�ca-khandh�, the 5 types of aggregates (in the
        > evolutionary
        > progression, each one of the first four is source
        > and direct support of the
        > next one).
        >
        > 1. : The r�pa-khandh�, the aggregates of form,
        > include the basic elements
        > constituting matter.
        > In the archaic belief: the catt�ri mah�-bh�t�ni (the
        > "four great forms") -
        > pa.thav�-dh�tu, earth element; �po-dh�tu, water
        > element; tejo-dh�tu, fire
        > element; v�yo-dh�tu, air element -, but also
        > sometimes �k�sa-dh�tu, space
        > element.
        > In the language of modern science, this can be
        > translated as: space-time,
        > sub-atomic wave-particles, fundamental forces.
        > In addition to the the catt�ri mah�-bh�t�ni, the
        > r�pa-khandh� also include
        > the up�d�ya-r�p�, the secundary forms, derived
        > properties of which some
        > belong to living beings. In the archaic belief: the
        > 5 senses, feminity,
        > masculinity, vitality, etc. In the language of
        > modern science: DNA,
        > enzymes, metabolism, etc..
        > The r�pa-khandh� should not be considered as some
        > sorts of ontologically
        > constitutive objects, but as a more or less complex
        > events, in the same
        > manner that modern science considers matter (e.g.,
        > even a most basic
        > constituent of matter such as an electron is better
        > to be considered as an
        > event rather than as some sort of elemental object).
        > The r�pa-khandh� are
        > more or less complex san'kh�r� (structural fluxes /
        > processes) that
        > constitute the non-living matter (including the
        > viruses) but also the
        > physical basic (molecular) mechanisms of the more
        > complex life phenomena.
        >
        > 2. to 5. : The catt�ri n�ma-r�pa khandh�, the 4
        > types of
        > psycho-physiological aggregates.
        >
        > 2. The vedan�-khandh�, the aggregates of sensations,
        > are formed within the
        > simplest living beings. In modern biology, it is
        > possible to discern three
        > evolutionary levels of vedan�-khandh� formation :
        > the mono-cellular beings (the bacteria and archea,
        > the unicellular fungi,
        > the unicellular algae, the protozoans);
        > the simplest fungi and plants (e.g. the
        > multicellulars), and the simplest
        > animals (e.g. the multicellulars), not showing a
        > nervous system (e.g.
        > sponges);
        > the complex, pluricellular fungi, the more complex
        > pluricellular plants,
        > and the pluricellular animals, not showing a central
        > nervous nodule (e.g.
        > medusas, urchins, starfishes).
        >
        > 3. The sa���-khandh�, the aggregates of perceptions,
        > are formed in more
        > complex living beings. In modern biology, it is
        > possible to discern three
        > evolutionary levels of sa���-khandh� formation :
        > the higher plants, and the animals with a simple
        > nervous nodule, capable of
        > reflex organisation (e.g. taenias, rotifers,
        > leeches, earthworms, mussels,
        > aplysias, snails);
        > the complex invertebrates (e.g. ticks, spiders,
        > scorpions, lobsters,
        > crawfishes, crabs, millipedes, crickets, flies,
        > ants�);
        > the poikilothermic ("cold-blooded") vertebrates,
        > i.e. fishes, amphibians
        > and reptiles.
        > The higher plants and the complex invertebrates have
        > approximately the same
        > complexity of coding genome (...)
        > All beings capable of sa��� are also capable of
        > uneasiness and of pain,
        > thus the ethical duty for those organisms capable of
        > vi'���.na is to avoid
        > whenever possible to harm them.
        >
        > 4. The (citta-)san'kh�r�-khandh�, the aggregates of
        > (psychic) structural
        > processes which emerge from a complex
        > (quasi-)nervous nodule. Which means,
        > either from a complex nervous nodule (homeothermic
        > vertebrates, i.e.
        > mammals and birds, plus some bony fishes such as
        > tunas), or from a complex
        > set of nodules (i.e. a large ants' nest).
        > (...)
        > Any evolutive complexification implies a process of
        > differentiation-dissociation; this is valid as well
        > for biological life as
        > for psychic life. Any psychic
        > differentiation-dissociation implies in a
        > first stage the constitution of some sort of ego.
        > This constitution is
        > necessary for the psychological coherence of the
        > organism during its son
        > d�veloppement multi-factorial development towards
        > some sort of puggala, the
        > person-personality from which a discerning
        > consciousness (vi'���.na) will
        > eventually be able to develop.
        > (...)
        > What is perceived as an "ego"-puggala is not a cause
        > of existence (the
        > archaic att�-"anima" concept) but the dynamic
        > outcome of a multi-factorial
        > psycho-physiological process, unfolding and evolving
        > in a complex world of
        > inter-dependent processes (cf. fire, which is not,
        > as the archaic view had
        > it, an inalterable element, but a physical un
        > phenomenon, the result of a
        > chemical process - combustion - and not the cause of
        > this process).
        > (...)
        > The organisms producing san'kh�r�-khandh� are
        > capable of cet�na (volition)
        > and of kamma (act, action, deed), thus fully capable
        > of suffering.
        > Accordingly, the ethical duty for those organisms
        > capable of vi'���.na is
        > to rigorously avoid harming them.
        >
        > 5. The vi'���.na-khandh�, the aggregates of
        > discerning consciousness
        > ("consciousness-conscience"), which emerge from a
        > coherent whole of
        > structural processes set up in a process of
        > reflection ("know thyself");
        > privileged exit-point out of sa.m's�ra.
        > (...)
        >
        >
        > --------------------------------------------------
        > Jacqueline "Gotam� J�varakkh�" Bittar
        > Dr Gabriel "Ananda J�vasattha" Bittar,
        > PhD University of Geneva
        > phone +61 8 8553 7442 , fax +61 8 8553 7444
        > mob. ph. +61 4 2743 5148
        >
        > Institut Suisse de Bioinformatique
        > Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics
        >
        === message truncated ===


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