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  • Sarah
    May 3, 2004
      Hi RobM (Mike, TG, Howard & All),

      Great discussions and thank you for sharing your latest reflections. Your
      cave and shadow analogy reminder me of Thein Nyun’s description of the
      shadows on the cinema screen which he uses in his preface to his
      translation of the Discourse on Elements (Dhaatu-Kathaa), the 3rd book of
      the Abhidhamma Pitaka (PTS).
      “The material and mental elements may be compared to the shadows on the
      cinema screen, which appear and disappear in rapid succession. The
      mind-consciousness element (of what is conventionally said to be the
      spectator) takes the actors, actressess, rivers, mountains, etc., as
      objects, and a drama is built up from them. This is due to a perverted
      belief that the actors, etc., exist, and the shadows serve as stimuli for
      imagining them. Similarly the material and mental elements arise and
      cease in rapid succession and the mind-consciousness element takes men,
      women, trees, mountains, etc., and a drama of a world of animate and
      inanimate things is built up from them. This is due to the perverted
      belief in the existence of a living world of persons and things and the
      elements serves as stimuli for imagining them.

      Here the difference from the cinema is that there are no spectators as the
      mind-consciousness element is also like the shadow on the screen, i.e. it
      is always arising and ceasing. If the mind-consciousness element is not
      seen in this manner according to reality it will be believed that it
      permanently resides in the body and that it is the same mind-consciousness
      element that 1) seeks and takes objects; 2) is present throughout the day;
      3) was present yesterday, is present now and will be present tomorrow - in
      other words, that from birth to death the mind-consciousness element is
      the same and is conscious of all daily actions, speech and thoughts.”
      Of course we also read about ‘shadows of ultimate things’ in the
      Abhidammattha Sangaha. From CMA,ch V111, Bodhi transl:
      “All such different things [S: e.g land, mountain, cave, kasina sign etc],
      though they do not exist in the ultimate sense, become objects of
      consciousness in the form of shadows of (ultimate) things.

      They are called concepts (pa~n~nattii) because they are thought of,
      reckoned, understood, expressed, and made known on account of, in
      consideration of, with respect to, this or that mode. This kind of
      concept is so called because it is made known.”
      You and others like TG & Howard have also been discussing the conditions
      for seeing consciousness including light and I thought of this quote from
      Summary and Exposition of Topics ch 4 (Abhidammatthavibhaavinii, comy to
      the text above, PTS):
      “Seeing, beholding directly. But since it is said that ‘one sees visible
      forms with the eye’ (Vibh 248) is it not the eye-faculty itself that
      performs the function of seeing, and not consciousness? Not so.
      Materiality, being blind, has no capacity to see the visible form. And if
      it were the eye-faculty that saw visible form, then it would also be
      possible for someone experiencing a consciousness other [than
      eye-consciousness] to see visible form. Yet if one attributes the
      function [of seeing] to consciousness, then, since consciousness has no
      obstacles, one would see concealed visible objects. One can allow the
      seeing of something concealed when it is placed behind crystal, etc., and
      there is no obstacle to light, but when it is something concealed by a
      wall, etc., there is an obstacle to light, and in the absence of this
      condition consciousness does not arise and eye-consciousness does not
      apprehend the object. But in the above quotation ‘by the eye’ means ‘by
      the eye-door which is the means [of seeing]’.”
      Finally, at the risk of over-doing the quotes, I’d like to give this one
      from Dispeller 228(Sammohavinodanii, PTS) which stresses the conditioned
      nature of all these elements:
      “Likewise [they should be regarded] as inactive and unoccupied. For it
      does not occur to the eye and visible-datum and so on: ‘Would that
      consciousness might arise from our concurrence.’ And they are not active
      nor do they occupy themselves as door, basis and object for the purpose of
      arousing consciousness; but rather it is the rule (dhammataa) that
      eye-consciousness and so on come into being with the concurrence of
      eye-visible-datum and so on. Therefore they should be regarded as
      inactive and unoccupied.”

      p.s Rob, you may also like to review this post and quotes I wrote before
      and see if we are more in agreement now:

      Also see others under ‘visible object’ in U.P.

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