Email to Ven Sujāto:
On Jun 21, 2012 5:24 PM, “Dhammadarsa” <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
I hope this email finds you in good health and peace of mind.
I have, for a while now, thought that the divisions of sutta and veyyaakara.na were the early divisions of concise words of the Buddha and commentary/detailed explanation mostly by diciples. In this light it is interesting to read two consecutive sentences from the Dhammacakkappavattana-sutta:
Attamanaa pañcavaggiyaa bhikkhuu bhagavato bhaasitang abhinandunti. [Normal end of suttas.]
Imasmiñca pana veyyaakara.nasming bhaññamaane aayasmato ko.n.daññassa virajang viitamalang dhammacakkhung udapaadi–
“yang kiñci samudayadhammang, sabbang tang nirodhadhamman”ti.
So is the Dhammcakka…sutta or veyyaakara.na, or a mixture of both? As we know from the Vinaya details, Kondanya realised first, then after more instruction, Vappa and Bhaddiya. Then the six lived on the alms food those three realised people had brought back. So the Buddha stayed teaching and did not go on alms round and the remaining two Mahanama and Assaji took at least one more day. For a while I thought they all took turns to go on alms food, but the Vinaya passage shows the realised ones supported the Buddha and others, so they could focus on realisation.
[BD Vol IV pg 9]:
Then the Lord, eating the food brought back by these, 3 exhorted, instructed those remaining monks with dhamma-talk, saying : ” Let the group of six 4 live on whatever the three monks 3 bring when they have walked for almsfood.” 1135 II
Then while they were being exhorted, instructed by the Lord with dhamma-talk, dhamma-vision, dustless, stainless, arose to the venerable Mahandma 5 and to the venerable Assaji,6 that “whatever is of the nature to uprise, all that is of the nature to stop.” II 36 11
How compassionate! But how I think this relates is, that the Dhammacakka…sutta could be a compilation of sutta and veyyakara.na to cover what happened over the at least two days. Could it be that the talk on the extremes was enough for Kondanya to realise the Dhammacakkhu?
On 27/06/2012 6:58 PM, Sujato Bhikkhu wrote:
That’s a great idea. I’d noticed the mention of veyyākarana in the Dhammacakka, but hadn’t thought to connect that with the extended teaching over a few days. Perhaps this idea could be investigated further in light of your analysis of the 17 versions…
I hope this email finds you and those close to you in good health and peace of mind.
Recently I was trying to explain the difference between re-becoming and re-birth, as I understand the terms. The latter term, in my opinion, is from a misunderstanding of the Buddha’s teaching, but it has become generally accepted, without reflection. The Paali term in question is “punabbhava”. You will not find the Buddha talking about “puna-jaati” at all in the Paali Canon. These days you can search the whole text for particular words or phrases using digital copies. Puna-jaati would be the Paali translation of “re-birth”. Punabbhava on the other hand, is often spoken about by the Buddha in the Paali texts and I think would be best translated “re-becoming”.
Due to all conditioned things being impermanent, it is impossible that something could experience the same birth again. No, each birth is different, or the being born each time, is different. Therefore a being could not have a “re-birth”. Of course one could be born as a human, angel, demon etcetera many times, but one would be (the birth would be) different each time.
If we understand “becoming” as a process which leads to birth, each time a different birth, we could see that the process of becoming could be the same each time. Therefore we can undergo the process many times, again and again, thus “re-becoming” or “again-becoming” leading to a different birth each time.
This can be likened to the process of cooking a cake. The process has to be repeated each time one wants to cook a cake. The ingredients may change a little depending on the type of cake one wanted, but even if we wanted to cook a banana cake every time, the resulting cake would never be the same as the one before. Though of course there would be basic similarities, otherwise we couldn’t call it a “banana” cake.
Thus we would have “re-becoming” leading to a different birth each time and many births [and deaths] in the cycling within Sa.msaara.
The common “translation” of the three knowledges includes such terms as “re-birth” and “past lives.” (See my previous post.) We should look closely at the text and put aside extra ideas, avoid reading our interpretations into the text. This is what a translator tries to avoid. When we avoid doing that we will see that “re-“ is not mentioned regarding “birth” and “lives” is not mentioned at all. Making such (minor?) changes or adjustments is very dangerous, because the Buddha said his teaching is very subtle. It is certainly not correct to translate the idea of “many past births”, which the Buddha spoke of in the first of the three knowledges, as “many past lives”. Even a renowned Paali scholar uses the term “re-birth” in translations dated 2005.
I’d encourage you all to stop practising Parrot Buddhism and start making a “thorough investigation” as the Buddha encouraged intelligent people to do. Of course, we may generally be doing so, but slip up on certain occasions, but if we have a highly respected position we must be very careful, as we could easily mislead people. Thus, I think it is always best to keep in mind, that we are not experts in Dhamma, even if we have PhD’s, until we are fully enlightened. Even then, the discourses say that those on the path only take the Buddha as the teacher. That leaves all the rest, including ourselves as good friends helping each other to understand the Buddha’s teaching.
Morality or Ethics [Paali: siila]
The purpose of Morality is twofold. It brings benefit to oneself and others, as all practices in the Buddha’s teaching would do. The benefit for oneself is, one avoids a guilty conscience and depression and one’s mind can be relatively bright and clear. The benefit for others is, people who maintain the five precepts are safe to be around. They make society that little bit safer because they are moral people. The Buddha said those who are moral are “devaa” which is translated as “gods”, but for those with a Christian upbringing “angels” would give a closer understanding. Have you ever called someone an angel due to their kindness? Well that is the kind of thing the Buddha meant.
This gives a very different understanding to the chant Asian monks recite very often as a blessing, which says “may all the gods protect you”. You have to understand that blessing with the advice from the Buddha “don’t associate with fools, but associate with the wise, this it a high blessing”. The wise are moral, they are gods/angels and a blessing is the result of our action, not the speech or wish of others. The Buddha said wishes are not just obtained by wishing, but by acting also. On the other hand, acting without making a clear wish or intention would not be very effective.
The Buddha’s teaching is summarised as:
Not to do evil,
To do good and
To purify the mind.
The first of these three points refers to Morality. It is avoiding serious unwholesome actions of thought, word and deed. Yes, all three.
The common explanation of the Path is the Noble Eightfold Path:
Right Understanding and Right Aspiration come first and these are not Wisdom. These are part of the training in Morality. The Buddha taught that mind is most important when we consider suffering. So the first thing we need to avoid is unwholesome aspects of thought: wrong understanding and wrong aspiration. These two are the most obstructive things for progress on the path. Being established in Right Understanding and Right Aspiration, we can then go to the next steps of avoiding serious unwholesome aspects of speech and deed. Our speech and deeds will not be ritualistic, they will be realistic and practical. They will be effective in purifying our lives and bringing happiness.
When we consider the five precepts for laypeople, moral thinking is assumed, or we can say the first two steps of the Noble Eightfold Path are assumed, because the five precepts are given to those on the path, who have proper understanding, right thinking. Therefore the five precepts only cover Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood, that is speech and deed.
People with right thinking know that the five precepts are not Morality. They know the difference between precepts and Morality. Precepts are a guide, usually from others, originating externally, but Morality is a quality of character, a quality of mind, an inner quality. The precepts are only the path to Morality, or the trainings for Morality. After training, we develop Morality. If the five precepts were Morality, then we could say we get Morality by doing the religious ceremony of receiving the five precepts from monks. That would mean that monks give us Morality, but this is totally against the teaching of the Buddha. Morality is the first training that we undertake as part of the path. We do the training, we walk the path. No one can do it for us, no one can give us inner qualities. They can only show the way for us to develop those qualities ourselves. This is what happens when we get the five precepts from monks.
The five precepts have two levels that are usually not understood.
The five precepts are:
Avoid sexual misconduct
The Buddha said to compare the Discourses and the Discipline when we are trying to understand his teaching. When it comes to understanding Morality, the monk’s Discipline explains it as avoiding serious actions (the first two groups of monks precepts totalling 17 precepts). Of course the other not so serious actions should be avoided too, but breaking them is not called immorality. Avoiding the other less serious actions is called good habits (Mv IV.16.12 = V i 172). Breaking the less serious actions would be called “bad habits”. Avoiding “bad habits” is not defined as part of “ethics” and vice versa. So we have two levels of prohibition. This can be seen as the principle that should be applied to the lay training in Morality also.
The serious precepts for the monks are: the four defeats and the thirteen offences requiring a meeting of the community of monks. If a monk commits any of the four defeats, he is no long a monk, automatically. Breaking the first four precepts cannot be reversed. That shows how serious they are. If any of the thirteen others have been done, the monk must undergo a period of probation and rehabilitation. He temporarily does not have full status as a monk. That shows how serious they are, but that situation can be repaired. The thirteen are not relevant to laypeople.
The five precepts can be seen to cover both the serious and not serious rules of the monks. Here we must use our intelligence. If, for example, killing a mosquito is a “bad habit” that a monk should avoid, but it is not being immoral (like killing another human being), then it must be similar for the laypeople. The lay peoples’ training cannot be more strict than the monks’! It cannot be that killing a mosquito is a bad habit for a monk but immoral for a layperson!
To be continued…