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Re: [dsg] Re: characteristics

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  • m. nease
    Hi Michael, ... From: Michael Beisert To: Sent: Thursday, January 01, 2004 5:48 AM Subject: Re:
    Message 1 of 152 , Jan 1 5:26 PM
      Hi Michael,

      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "Michael Beisert" <mbeisert@...>
      To: <dhammastudygroup@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Thursday, January 01, 2004 5:48 AM
      Subject: Re: [dsg] Re: characteristics

      > Hello Mike,
      > Mike:
      > The question is whether or not concept is conditioned
      > object/phenomenon. I'm suggesting that the distinction is sabhaava.

      This (immediately above) wasn't from me, was it? Another Mike, perhaps?

      > Michael:
      > Could you pls expand a little bit more on this idea? When you say concept,
      > are you using the idea of paññati? I am not very comfrotable with paññati
      > because it appears in very few suttas.

      Interesting point about the occurence in the suttas-- I'll leave the
      question to others better qualified to answer, though.

      > I don't know exactly were it comes
      > from and what exactly it means. But anyway, in what sense is a concept
      > distinct from a thought and would a concept fall into the sankhara
      > aggregate, a mental formation?
      > And if a concept is not conditioned, what is
      > it then?

      Good questions all (in my opinion), and also better answered by our
      better-informed correspondents.

      The only point I meant to make had to do with sabhaava being (perhaps) the
      distinguishing characteristic of what can vs. cannot be the object of
      satipa.t.thaana, as opposed to denoting some kind of essence or reality in a
      western philosophical sense. I think we might agree that the latter is not
      a particularly useful avenue of discussion.

    • Jonothan Abbott
      Michael I haven t forgotten that I said I would look to see how sabhava is used in the Visuddhimagga. In fact, I took the Vism with me to Thailand but
      Message 152 of 152 , Feb 7, 2004

        I haven't forgotten that I said I would look to see how 'sabhava' is
        used in the Visuddhimagga. In fact, I took the Vism with me to
        Thailand but didn't get a lot of chances to write out messages;-)).
        Sorry about the delay.

        I'd like to start with an example of 'sabhava' used (deliberately) in
        the Vism to mean something fixed or lasting, just to show that the
        compiler was alive to that possible connotation. See the passage
        pasted at the end of this message (and the reference to 'wrong

        --- Michael Beisert <mbeisert@...> wrote: > Hello Jon,
        M: If your interpretation is correct then I think the Pali
        commentators were really dumb in using the combination
        paramatha/sabhava to qualify dhammas. They certainly knew other ways
        of describing dhammas to avoid falling into some form of reification.

        J: There is no single term that would achieve this for all persons.
        This is because (a) our language is inextricably bound up with views
        of reification and (b) if a person has a strong reification view he
        will read reification into whatever term is used.

        M: But I don’t think you are correct. In my view the Pali
        commentators really regarded dhammas as paramatha/sabhava and the
        reason I believe that is the strong reaction against those ideas that
        was engendered by the early Mahayana commentators, in particular

        J: But is it appropriate to base a view of the teachings on the
        reactions of another individual (or group of individuals), and not on
        a study of the texts themselves? The problem with the views of
        others is that there is no way of taking account of any possible
        wrong view the other may have.

        M: One should also keep in mind the interpretations of modern
        Theravada commentators which clearly read paramatha/sabhava as truly
        existent, within a context of substantiality.

        J: Again, I would want to know the particular textual passages from
        the tipitaka and commentaries that these later commentators rely on
        for their conclusions.

        M: I also don’t agree with your argument that dhammas are not
        capable of further reduction but, would rather argue that they are
        capable of further reduction, but it is not necessary to do so in
        order to see the nature of things as they are, i.e., viewing the 3
        characteristics of the aggregates with proper insight is enough for
        liberation, one does not have to dwell deeper. But that doesn’t mean
        this is not possible. I would rather say that the development of the
        path is the understanding of these dhammas because that is the most
        practical, not that it is the only possibility.

        J: I'd be interested to know what textual support there is for the
        view that dhammas are not capable of further reduction.

        M: Again, if the commentators used ‘essence’ without the intention
        of meaning ‘essence’ then simply they should not have used it.

        J: I have pasted below the complete definition of 'essence' from the
        'Concise Oxford Dictionary'. As you will notice, permanence is not a
        necessary connotation. The meaning of 'quality which determines
        something's character' or 'property of something without which it
        would not be what it is' would fit well here.

        In fact of course it is not the modern-day meaning of 'essence' that
        is the issue, but meaning of 'sabhava' as sued in the texts. What
        light can you throw on this?

        M: I would prefer to say that features are due to the regularity of
        the dhamma. It is not something intrinsic to the dhamma but when that
        dhamma arises with its characteristics, both due to causes and
        conditions, the feature of regularity makes that dhamma have that
        characteristic. And because of regularity we are mistaken to take
        that characteristic as unique, being part of the essence of that

        J: The Buddha never said that characteristics arise -- only that
        dhammas arise. Nor did he speak of the causes and conditions of
        characteristics -- only of dhammas. Again, there is no textual
        support for this, as I see it.


        Visuddhi-Magga, XVI


        84. 9. 'As to knowledge's functions': the expositions should be
        understood according to knowledge of the truths. ...

        85. When this knowledge is mundane, then ... knowledge of origin
        forestalls wrong theories of cause that occur as finding a reason
        where there is none, such as 'The world occurs owing to an Overlord,
        a Basic Principle, Time, Nature (Individual Essence)', etc.;[23]

        [23] Those who hold the theory of Nature (sabhava -- individual
        essence) say, "The world appears and disappears (sambhoti vibhoti ca)
        just because of its nature (individual essence), like the sharp
        nature (essence) of thorns, like the roundness of apples, like the
        variedness of wild bests, birds, snakes, and so on".

        Concise Oxford Dictionary, 10th ed, 1999, OUP
        1. the intrinsic nature of something; the quality which determines
        something's character; [philosophy] a property or group of properties
        of something without which it would not exist or be what it is.
        2. an abstract or concentrate obtained from a plant or other
        substance and used for flavouring or scent.


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