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55341Re: [dsg] Re: 5th anniversary of DSG - Audio discussion between Erik & A.Suji...

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  • sarah abbott
    Feb 1, 2006
      Hi Howard (Matheesha & all),

      Firstly, welcome back Matheesha*. I’m just getting round to responding to
      a post of Howard’s addressed to us both before you went away!

      --- upasaka@... wrote:
      > > S: More on nibbana to come in the next audio sections.
      > >
      > > I think the point is that all that can ever be known (yes, by
      > panna:-))
      > > are the namas and rupas appearing now. Nibbana is not apparent and so
      > all
      > > we can do is to speculate about it now. It won’t help us realize it
      > at
      > > all. Such realization will only come about by highly developed
      > > understanding and detachment from the presently conditioned dhammas
      > > appearing.
      > ------------------------------------------
      > Howard:
      > The foregoing troubles me a bit, Sarah, on several accounts. For
      > one
      > thing, it seems to me that paramattha dhammas are known by many, if not
      > all, of
      > our mental operations, including, among others, vi~n~nana (most
      > especially),
      > sa~n~na (possibly taking second place), and vedana.
      S: Yes, of course there has to be citta (vi~n~naana) experiencing the
      object and sa~n~naa and other mental factors performing their functions
      too. But as in the passage Larry recently posted made clear, pa~n~naa is
      what illuminates the object, like when the money-changer assesses the
      value of the coins.

      Here’s another translation of a similar passage in the commentary to the
      Abhidhamattha Sangaha (PTS), Ch2, Mentalities:

      “Wisdom (pa~n~naa) is what knows the way (pakaarena) [of things]; it
      understands them as impermanent, etc. As it is suited to predominance in
      understanding the true nature [of things] it is a controlling faculty, the
      faculty of wisdom (pa~n~nindriya).

      “Now what is the difference between the recognition, consciousness and
      wisdom? Recognition (S: sa~n~naa) only does the job of recognizing
      (something) as blue, etc; it is not able to penetrate its characteristics.
      Consciousness (S: vi~n~naana or citta) is capable of penetrating the
      characteristics, but having performed this task, it is not able to bring
      about attainment of the path. Wisdom, however, can do all three. The
      relevant illustration is the way a child, villager, and a goldsmith
      [respectively] understand a coin. And here, when recognition is
      dissociated from knowledge at the time it arises byway of apprehending the
      appearance [of the object], consciousness is nominal; and at other times
      it is strong. Associated with knowledge, both [recognition and
      consciousness] are assimilated to it.”

      H:>Also, what exactly
      > *is*
      > pa~n~na? It is made to sound like a "God dhamma" that can be all, see
      > all, and
      > be everywhere. But to me, when our mental faculties function properly,
      > unobscured by defilement, with ignorance out of the way if not uprooted,
      > we *say* that
      > they operate with wisdom.
      S: When we are in deep sleep, there are no defilements arising and no
      wisdom either. Wisdom or pa~n~naa is not merely what occurs when there is
      no ignorance. At moments of seeing or hearing or other vipaka cittas
      arising, there is no ignorance, for example too.

      Pa~n~naa is a specific mental factor which arises when there are the right
      conditions and ‘illuminates’ the object being experienced. Even when there
      are wholesome states arising, such as when we show generosity or kindness,
      there usually isn’t any pa~n~naa arising which knows or determines

      H:>What is right understanding, for example, if
      > not an
      > unobscured, rightly operating recognition (sa~n~na)?
      S: We can say there is ‘rightly operating recognition’ or sa~n~naa
      whenever the experiencing of an object is pure or wholesome (as opposed to
      when there is perversion of sa~n~naa arising). However, this doesn’t mean
      there is necessarily any right understanding at such moments as I
      indicated in the example of showing generosity or kindness.
      H:> Also, the terminology, so common in the writings of Khun Sujin
      > and her
      > students, long the lines of "It is panna which knows, fully understands
      > and
      > eventually abandons such dhammas and realizes the 4 Noble Truths" is
      > very
      > troublesome to me. Even if wisdom is not just the absence of
      > obscuration, even if
      > it is a distinct mental operation, it is not an agent that does things -
      > it is
      > the doing! To say that pa~n~na knows and understands is to reify an
      > operation!
      S: It is to point out that there is an element, a dhatu, which is pa~n~naa
      which performs the particular function of illuminating. Again “Wisdom
      (pa~n~naa) is what knows the way (pakaarena) [of things]; it understands
      them as impermanent, etc.” By stressing that it’s an element, a cetasika
      which performs this function, it becomes apparent that there is no self or
      person of any kind involved. However, different elements do arise, do
      exist momentarily, do perform their functions momentarily and do fall

      In AN, Bk of 3s, 35 ‘Three Sectarian Tenets’(Bodhi transl), there is an
      account of the elements. In the commentary note which Bodhi gives, it

      “The four mental aggregates are ‘name’ (or ‘mentality’, naama)and the
      aggregate of form is ‘form’(or matter, ruupa). Thus there are only these
      two things: name and form (naamaruupa). Beyond that, there is neither a
      substantial being (satta) nor a soul (jiiva). In this way one should
      understand in brief the meditation subject of the six elements that leads
      up to arahantship.”

      S: With respect, when we appreciate more and more that everything we find
      so important are merely elements, merely naamaruupa, there is no question
      of there being any substantial being involved. We may have to agree to
      disagree here for now. This doesn’t mean that these elements do not exist
      right now and do not perform their functions or are not experienced by
      naama elements.

      I think you may have mentioned before that even ‘element’ sounds
      substantialist to you. But elements are not only found throughout the
      Abhidhamma, but also throughout the Sutta Pitaka. There is a whole section
      on elements in the Dhatu Samyutta.

      In his preface to his translation of the Dhaatu-Kathaa (Discourse on
      Elements, PTS), U Narada states that this text “was expounded by the
      Buddha in order to dispel wrong views of attaa, i.e of substantiality,
      ego-entity, self, soul, I, being, person, man, woman, and life. It deals
      with the states (dhammas) which are the only things to be found, under the
      categories of aggregates, bases and elements which are all anattaa, ie not
      attaa. Therefore there is no attaa but only the arising and ceasing of
      states that are either aggregates, bases or elements. Being, person, self,
      I, etc are mere concepts expressed in conventional terms which the vast
      majority believe correspond with reality.”

      S: Anyway, I know you agree with all this. He also indicates that “The 5
      sense-consciousness elements and the mind element are conscious of sense
      objects which are material elements. Mind-consciousness element, however,
      is conscious of objects of thought which are either of the past, present,
      or future, material or mental, real or imaginary. All these consciousness
      elements occur in mental processes.”

      S: There is lots more here and under ‘Elements’ in U.P. The point is that
      rather than ‘reifying’ or ‘making such dhammas substantialist’, such
      appreciation of elements as namas (which may experience objects) or as
      rupas (which can never experience objects) leads to an appreciation of
      dhammas as anatta. On the contrary, as I see it, by looking for an
      understanding of ‘an event’, there will not be the growth of right
      understanding which clearly sees the distinction between these various

      So finally, to really set the cat among the pigeons here, U Narada writes:

      “An element is defined as that which bears its own intrinsic nature. It
      cannot be split up or transformed into another.”

      S: You wrote a good post on sabhava, so I know you appreciate there is no
      sense of ‘atta’ here. Whether we refer to sound or hearing as having its
      ‘own intrinsic nature’ or ‘particular characteristics or qualities’, the
      point is merely that the qualities of sound or hearing can never be
      merged, can never be understood as ‘an event’, but are distinct and can be
      known one at a time.
      H:> The terminology is harmful and misleading, I believe. Pa~n~na, in that

      > sentence, sounds like "the Lord, God," an omniscient being who knows,
      > understands,
      > and not only that, also *abandons*(!), a non-cognitive acting. Pa~n~na
      > is
      > presented as a little divine being. Where is anatta here?
      S: :-) Without pa~n~naa there is no way out of samsara, there is no path,
      there is no Dhamma.

      Yes, it is pa~n~naa which realizes the 4 Noble Truths and which abandons
      what should be abandoned.

      Pahaana pari~n~naa (full understanding as abandoning) is the pa~n~naa
      which realizes the 3 characteristics of anicca, dukkha and anatta,
      overcoming or abandoning the ideas of permanence, satisfactoriness and
      self for good. This is the particular quality or nature of pa~n~naa.

      You might like to look at the suttas on Abandonment in
      Sa.laayatansa.myutta, SN, 24 and 25. The second one starts with the Buddha

      “Bhikkhus, I will teach you the Dhamma for abandoning all through direct
      knowledge and full understanding(sabba.m abhi~n~naa pari~n~naa
      pahaanaaya)”. It goes on to indicate how all dhammas are abandoned through
      the highly developed pa~n~naa only.

      Howard, I’ve probably said too much, but will look forward to any further
      discussion with you on return from our trip. I’ve been enjoying all your
      recent threads and if that’s the result of your mediation, keep it up:-)).
      (I also shared your samvegga post with our N.Y. friend I mentioned, Neil,
      who recently lost his wife. I’m trying to encourage him to join us here).



      * Btw, Matheesha, I recently replied to Tep on some of your discussions
      together you may wish to look for them, see subject ‘Tep(3)’ and
      ‘Tep(4)’, a few days before you returned I think.)Perhaps you can
      encourage Tep to continue your good discussions while I'm away:).
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