Attha / yoni

Posted: December 20, 2018 by pathpress in Dhamma Article

by Ven. Ariyavaṃsa

I.

tasmā hi paṇḍito poso, sampassaṃ atthamattano.
yoniso vicine dhammaṃ, evaṃ tattha visujjhati.

MN 143

How are we to translate these lines of poetry into English? First of all, we must decide if we want to create something which will have some poetic value in English. If we are to do this, it is highly likely that we will find ourselves having to stray away from the Pāli. Alternatively, we can try to stay as closely as possible to the Pāli. This would be my preference. Our primary aim is not to produce some beautiful words and phrases but to understand the teachings spoken by the Tathāgatha and his noble disciples.

tasmātiha, bhikkhave, evaṃ sikkhitabbaṃ — ‘ye te suttantā tathāgatabhāsitā gambhīrā gambhīratthā lokuttarā suññatappaṭisaṃyuttā, tesu bhaññamānesu sussūsissāma, sotaṃ odahissāma, aññā cittaṃ upaṭṭhāpessāma, te ca dhamme uggahetabbaṃ pariyāpuṇitabbaṃ maññissāmā’ti. evañhi vo, bhikkhave, sikkhitabban”ti.

Therefore, bhikkhus, it should be learned like this: ‘When those discourses spoken by the Tathāgatha—which are deep, deep in meaning, beyond the world, connected with emptiness—are being spoken, we will listen, we will lend an ear, we will make the mind ready for discernment and we will think these things should be taken up, should be mastered.’ In this way, bhikkhus, it should be learned by you.

SN 20:7

If our translation is being guided by our wish to understand the meaning of the Pāli, then we are likely to produce something which we can no longer call poetry, but which attempts to capture the original text as literally as possible.

But when a translation is only literal it is not necessarily faithful. It is faithful only when its terms are words which speak from the language of the matter itself.

Heidegger 1984:14

To adapt something that Heidegger says in another essay (1998:188), we should not be aiming at a “trans-lation” in the sense of a “carrying-over” of the Pāli words into the proper force and weight of English. The intention is not to replace the Pāli but only to place us into the Pāli. In what follows, I will try to translate these words in a way that speaks from the language of the matter itself.

 

II.

First, let me say a little about the context. These lines are attributed to the young deva Anāthapiṇḍika. Shortly after having received a teaching from the venerable Sāriputta, Anāthapiṇḍika—an ariyasāvaka—died and reappeared in the Tusita heaven. One night, Anāthapiṇḍika, now a young god of beautiful appearance, came to Jeta’s Grove and addressed the Blessed One in verse. This is one of the four stanzas that he uttered. These verses are also found at SN 1:48 and SN 2:20.

We might translate the first line as follows:

tasmā hi paṇḍito poso, sampassaṃ atthamattano

Therefore, a wise man, seeing his own welfare

This, I believe, would be something like the standard translation. In the PTS dictionary, the primary meaning of attha is given as “interest, advantage, gain; (moral) good blessing, welfare; profit, prosperity, well-being”. However, although this may be accurate, I believe we may be able to get closer to the matter that Anāthapiṇḍika is speaking of if we consider this word attha more carefully. The Pāli attha is related to the Vedic artha, which itself is etymologically connected with the Greek αἰτία, which we might write as aitia. This word aitia (or sometimes aition) plays a key role in Aristotle’s writings.1 We also see it at work in the English word aetiology—the study of causation (in philosophy) or the study of the causation of disease (in medicine). The Latin equivalent of aitia is causa. The traditional English translation of aitia is “cause”.

In light of this, we might now translate the first line as follows:

tasmā hi paṇḍito poso, sampassaṃ atthamattano

Therefore, a wise man, seeing the cause of his self

This is certainly quite different from our previous attempt and begins to get closer. But the problem now lies in this word “cause”. What do we mean by this word?

Causa, casus, belongs to the verb cadere, “to fall”, and means that which brings it about that something falls out as a result in such and such a way.

Heidegger 1993:314

A cause is that which brings something about, that which obtains results or effects.

But everything that later ages seek in Greek thought under the conception and rubric “causality” in the realm of Greek thought and for Greek thought per se has simply nothing to do with bringing about and effecting. What we call cause [Ursache] and the Romans call causa is called aition by the Greeks, that to which something is indebted.

ibid.

For Aristotle, aitia (or aition) is that which is responsible for something being what it is. It is that which something owes thanks to, that which it is indebted to. It is that which determines something as the thing that it is—that without which this thing would not be possible. In order to understand what is being described here, one must understand that, for the Greeks, the relationship between a thing and its aitia is not temporal. They are not separated in time. Rather, the aitia is simultaneously present with that thing, for as long as that thing is there, being the thing that it is.

This commitment appears most starkly to modern eyes in Aristotle’s discussion of projectile motion. What keeps the projectile moving after it leaves the hand? “Impetus,” “momentum,” much less “inertia,” are not possible answers. There must be a mover, distinct (at least in some sense) from the thing moved, which is exercising its motive capacity at every moment of the projectile’s flight.

Hankinson 2009:217

Fortunately, we need not concern ourselves here with what this “mover” might be. All we need to understand is that Aristotle’s aitia is quite different from what is normally meant by the word “cause”. It has nothing to do with our modern-day laws of causality which attempt to explain the natural world and which form the basis of what we now call natural science. It is not to be found from within the natural attitude. One must adopt a phenomenological attitude. What this means is that the relationship between a thing and its aitia can only be understood with respect to this thing’s meaning. The aitia is that because of which this thing makes sense to me in the way that I make sense of it. It is that which is responsible for the meaning of this thing and will only be discerned as a negative aspect of this thing whose meaning it is responsible for. One will only find the aitia through (and simultaneously present with) this positive thing which is indebted to that aitia.

In order to put aside our scientific concept of causality that pertains to natural entities in the natural world, it may be helpful to re-examine the ancient doctrine of the four causes which has been taught by philosophers for centuries:

1. the causa materialis, the material, the matter out of which, for example, a silver chalice is made;

2. the causa formalis, the form, the shape into which the material enters;

3. the causa finalis, the end, for example, the sacrificial rite in relation to which the required chalice is determined as to its form and matter;

4. the causa efficiens, which brings about the effect that is the finished, actual chalice, in this instance, the silversmith.

Heidegger 1993:313-4

“But suppose,” Heidegger continues, “that causality, for its part, is veiled in darkness with respect to what it is” (ibid). What Heidegger wants to point out is that when one reads about these four causes, one can no longer see what it is they are describing. One cannot help but interpret this doctrine in the light of our modern understanding of causality. As a result, what Aristotle meant by this fourfold causality remains obscured. Let us, therefore, consider Heidegger’s phenomenological interpretation of Aristotle’s understanding of these four “causes”:

Silver is that out of which the silver chalice is made. As this matter (hyle), it is co-responsible for the chalice. The chalice is indebted to, i.e. owes thanks to, the silver for that of which it consists. But the sacrificial vessel is indebted not only to the silver. As a chalice, that which is indebted to the silver appears in the aspect of a chalice, and not in that of a brooch or a ring. Thus the sacred vessel is at the same time indebted to the aspect (eidos) of chaliceness. Both the silver into which the aspect is admitted as chalice and the aspect in which the silver appears are in their respective ways co-responsible for the sacrificial vessel.

But there remains yet a third something that is above all responsible for the sacrificial vessel. It is that which in advance confines the chalice within the realm of consecration and bestowal. Through this the chalice is circumscribed as sacrificial vessel. Circumscribing gives bounds to the thing. With the bounds the thing does not stop; rather, from within them it begins to be what after production it will be. That which gives bounds, that which completes, in this sense is called in Greek telos, which is all too often translated as “aim” or “purpose”, and so misinterpreted. The telos is responsible for what as matter and what as aspect are together co-responsible for the sacrificial vessel.

Finally, there is a fourth participant in the responsibility for the finished sacrificial vessel’s lying before us ready for use; i.e. the silversmith—but not at all because he, in working, brings about the finished sacrificial chalice as if it were the effect of a making; the silversmith is not a causa efficiens.

The Aristotelian doctrine neither knows the cause that is named by this term, nor uses a Greek word that would correspond to it.

The silversmith considers carefully and gathers together the three aforementioned ways of being responsible and indebted. To consider carefully [überlegen] is in Greek legein, logos. Legein is rooted in apophainesthai, to bring forward into appearance. The silversmith is co-responsible as that from which the sacred vessel’s being brought forth and subsistence take and retain their first departure. The three previously mentioned ways of being responsible owe thanks to the pondering of the silversmith for the “that” and the “how” of their coming into appearance and into play for the production of the sacrificial vessel.

Thus four ways of owing hold sway in the sacrificial vessel that lies ready before us. They differ from one another, yet they belong together.

ibid: 315-6

Let us now consider the possibility that the Pāli attha is to be understood in a similar manner. One may even be tempted to wonder how closely these four causes relate to the Buddha’s doctrine of the five aggregates. To what extent is Aristotle’s hyle similar to rūpa? Is the eidos—the thing’s aspect; what is seen in the act of seeing; the thing’s intelligible appearance—the same as saññā? Or is it more like namā? Are we to think of a thing’s telos, that which gives bounds to the thing, in terms of those saṅkhārā which determine the significance of this thing? This gathering, bringing-forth, coming into appearance that Aristotle saw in legein and apophainesthai—is this viññāṇa? And what of vedanā? Such questions may have some superficial value, but ultimately they are scholarly questions. If one wants to actually make use of the Buddha’s teaching for one’s own welfare, one must adopt a vertical view and look “straight down into the abyss of [one’s] personal existence” (Ñāṇavīra 2010:3). To do this one does not need to find all of the horizontal connections between Greek and Indian thought. One simply needs to take up, out of faith, the doctrine of the five aggregates and apply this description to this very experience right here. Only in this way will one come to understand what is meant by the word attha.

The attha is not the cause of some effect. It is not the white snooker ball that causes the black to fall into the corner pocket. Neither is it that which is operative between kamma and vipāka.2 Rather, a thing’s attha is that which is simultaneously present with this thing and which is responsible for this thing being what it is, having the meaning that it has. What we are thinking when we are thinking a thing’s attha is the domain of the a priori conditions for the possibility of this thing being the thing that it is. This transcendental move is the hallmark of phenomenology. Phenomenology involves an inquiry into the transcendental conditions that make it possible for us to have this meaningful experience with the things we encounter. It is an investigation not so much of things, but of the attha of things.

We can now translate our first line as follows:

tasmā hi paṇḍito poso, sampassaṃ atthamattano

Therefore, a wise man, seeing that which is responsible for his assumption of his own existence

The wise man sees his own attha. He sees that which his very existence is dependent upon, that which his existence owes thanks to, that without which his existence would be inconceivable. But this existence is not something out there in nature. Rather, it is the essential meaning of his experience. His experience is understood as being “my experience” because he assumes that he exists. The attha of his attā is that because of which this assumption of self is possible at all. And this is not something to be found at some previous moment in time. It is simply these five assumed aggregates that have manifested dependent upon which he keeps assuming that he exists. These five assumed aggregates can only be discerned through this phenomenon of “my experience” and as having simultaneously arisen with it. It is only possible to see one’s own attha if one learns how to look in a direction that has nothing to do with time. When one does this, it becomes possible to understand what the Buddha meant when he described the Dhamma as akālika.

 

III.

Let us now consider the second line. I would expect the standard translation to be something like the following:

yoniso vicine dhammaṃ, evaṃ tattha visujjhati.

He should carefully examine the Dhamma; In this way he is purified there.

Here vicine is the optative third person singular of the verb vicināti, which means “he considers, he discriminates, he selects”. The word dhammaṃ certainly can be used to refer to the Buddha’s teaching. But yoniso does not mean “carefully”. This really misses the heart of the matter that is being spoken about. Yoniso literally means “from the womb” or “from the origin”. We mainly know it from the expression yoniso manasikāra—“attention from the origin”. Whenever one attends (manasi karoti) to something (dhammaṃ), one can either attend yoniso or ayoniso. Or the way in which one reflects (paṭisaṅkhāti) can be described as yoniso or ayoniso (e.g. MN 2). Or one examines (upaparikkhati) something yoniso or ayoniso (SN 22:95). Or, as we see in this verse, we might say that one can either consider a thing (vicināti dhammaṃ) yoniso or ayoniso.

But what is meant when we say that one considers a thing from its origin? We have already seen this. To consider a thing from its origin involves recognising the attha of the thing and seeing that this thing is inseparable from its attha. The origin of a thing is that because of which this thing is what it is.

Origin here means that from which and by which something is what it is and as it is. What something is, as it is, we call its essence. The origin of something is the source of its essence.

Heidegger 1993:143

If one considers a thing from the perspective of its origin, one recognises that because of which this thing is here in the way that it is here, and sees this thing in the light of its origination. To attend to something from the perspective of its origin—i.e. while simultaneously recognising the source of its essence—is to be engaged in the phenomenological attitude. But although we say “from the origin” (yoniso is the ablative)3 one must also understand that this origin is inconceivable without this thing also being there. The origin can only be found as the negative of this thing, and so it requires that positive thing to be there in order for it to be discerned. Although there can be no foreground without a background, so too there can be no background without a foreground. The origin of a thing is that because of which this thing has manifested; and yet the thing is that because of which this origin is discernible. When there is this, there is this. They are simultaneously present, dependently originated.

And so, here is a translation of these two lines of verse which, I believe, begins to speak from the language of the matter that was being articulated by the young deva Anāthapiṇḍika:

tasmā hi paṇḍito poso, sampassaṃ atthamattano. yoniso vicine dhammaṃ, evaṃ tattha visujjhati.

Therefore, a wise man, seeing that which is responsible for his assumption of his own existence should consider the thing from its origin. In this way he is purified there.

In order to see the Dhamma, a puthujjana must not only recognise the phenomenon of self that has manifested (in whichever way it has manifested), he must also recognise that because of which this phenomenon of self has manifested in this way. In other words, he must be approaching things phenomenologically. He must see that which all notions of “This is mine, this I am, this is my self” depend upon. By recognising that which allows for this meaning to be there—the origin of this meaningful experience of self-&-world—he is now ready to enter the stream of Dhamma. It was because of yoniso manasikāra that the Bodhisatta Vipassī had a breakthrough of understanding and discovered the Dhamma for himself.

atha kho, bhikkhave, vipassissa bodhisattassa vāsūpagatassa rahogatassa paṭisallīnassa evaṃ cetaso parivitakko udapādi — ‘kicchaṃ vatāyaṃ loko āpanno, jāyati ca jīyati ca mīyati ca cavati ca upapajjati ca, atha ca panimassa dukkhassa nissaraṇaṃ nappajānāti jarāmaraṇassa, kudāssu nāma imassa dukkhassa nissaraṇaṃ paññāyissati jarāmaraṇassā’ti?

atha kho, bhikkhave, vipassissa bodhisattassa etadahosi — ‘kimhi nu kho sati jarāmaraṇaṃ hoti, kiṃpaccayā jarāmaraṇan’ti? atha kho, bhikkhave, vipassissa bodhisattassa yoniso manasikārā ahu paññāya abhisamayo — ‘jātiyā kho sati jarāmaraṇaṃ hoti, jātipaccayā jarāmaraṇan’ti. atha kho, bhikkhave, vipassissa bodhisattassa etadahosi — ‘kimhi nu kho sati jāti… bhavo… upādānaṃ… taṇhā… vedanā… phasso… saḷāyatanaṃ… nāmarūpaṃ… viññāṇaṃ hoti, kiṃpaccayā viññāṇan’ti? atha kho, bhikkhave, vipassissa bodhisattassa yoniso manasikārā ahu paññāya abhisamayo — ‘nāmarūpe kho sati viññāṇaṃ hoti, nāmarūpapaccayā viññāṇan’ti.

atha kho, bhikkhave, vipassissa bodhisattassa etadahosi — ‘paccudāvattati kho idaṃ viññāṇaṃ nāmarūpamhā, nāparaṃ gacchati. ettāvatā jāyetha vā jiyyetha vā miyyetha vā cavetha vā upapajjetha vā, yadidaṃ nāmarūpapaccayā viññāṇaṃ, viññāṇapaccayā nāmarūpaṃ, nāmarūpapaccayā saḷāyatanaṃ, saḷāyatanapaccayā phasso, phassapaccayā vedanā, vedanāpaccayā taṇhā, taṇhāpaccayā upādānaṃ, upādānapaccayā bhavo, bhavapaccayā jāti, jātipaccayā jarāmaraṇaṃ sokaparidevadukkhadomanassupāyāsā sambhavanti. evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa samudayo hoti’. ‘samudayo samudayo’ti kho, bhikkhave, vipassissa bodhisattassa pubbe ananussutesu dhammesu cakkhuṃ udapādi, ñāṇaṃ udapādi, paññā udapādi, vijjā udapādi, āloko udapādi.

atha kho, bhikkhave, vipassissa bodhisattassa etadahosi — ‘kimhi nu kho asati jarāmaraṇaṃ na hoti, kissa nirodhā jarāmaraṇanirodho’ti? atha kho, bhikkhave, vipassissa bodhisattassa yoniso manasikārā ahu paññāya abhisamayo — ‘jātiyā kho asati jarāmaraṇaṃ na hoti, jātinirodhā jarāmaraṇanirodho’ti. atha kho, bhikkhave, vipassissa bodhisattassa etadahosi — ‘kimhi nu kho asati jāti… bhavo… upādānaṃ… taṇhā… vedanā… phasso… saḷāyatanaṃ… nāmarūpaṃ… viññāṇaṃ na hoti, kissa nirodhā viññāṇanirodho’ti?

atha kho, bhikkhave, vipassissa bodhisattassa yoniso manasikārā ahu paññāya abhisamayo — ‘nāmarūpe kho asati viññāṇaṃ na hoti, nāmarūpanirodhā viññāṇanirodho’ti. atha kho, bhikkhave, vipassissa bodhisattassa etadahosi — ‘adhigato kho myāyaṃ maggo sambodhāya yadidaṃ — nāmarūpanirodhā viññāṇanirodho, viññāṇanirodhā nāmarūpanirodho, nāmarūpanirodhā saḷāyatananirodho, saḷāyatananirodhā phassanirodho, phassanirodhā vedanānirodho, vedanānirodhā taṇhānirodho, taṇhānirodhā upādānanirodho, upādānanirodhā bhavanirodho, bhavanirodhā jātinirodho, jātinirodhā jarāmaraṇaṃ sokaparidevadukkhadomanassupāyāsā nirujjhanti. evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa nirodho hoti’.‘nirodho nirodho’ti kho, bhikkhave, vipassissa bodhisattassa pubbe ananussutesu dhammesu cakkhuṃ udapādi, ñāṇaṃ udapādi, paññā udapādi, vijjā udapādi, āloko udapādi.

Then, bhikkhus, for the Bodhisatta Vipassī, who had gone to his dwelling, gone into solitude, in seclusion, this reflection arose in his mind: “Indeed, the world has entered into misery: one is born, ages, dies, passes away and is reborn. And yet one does not understand the escape from this suffering. Oh, when will the escape from this suffering be seen?”

Then, bhikkhus, for the Bodhisatta Vipassī there was this: “When there is what is there ageing-&-death, with the support of what, ageing-&-death?” Then, bhikkhus, for the Bodhisatta Vipassī, because of attention from the origin, there was a breakthrough in understanding: “When there is birth there is ageing-&-death, with the support of birth, ageing-&-death.” Then, bhikkhus, for the Bodhisatta Vipassī there was this: “When there is what is there birth… being… assuming… craving… feeling… contact… the six domains… name-&-matter… consciousness, with the support of what is there consciousness?”

Then, bhikkhus, for the Bodhisatta Vipassī, because of attention from the origin, there was a breakthrough in understanding: “When there is name-&-matter there is consciousness, with the support of name-&-matter, consciousness.” Then, bhikkhus, for the Bodhisatta Vipassī there was this: “This consciousness keeps coming back because of name-&-matter, it goes no further. In this way one can be born, one can age, one can die, one can pass away or one can be reborn, that is: with the support of name-&-matter, consciousness. With the support of consciousness, name-&-matter. With the support of name-&-matter, the six domains. With the support of the six domains, contact. With the support of contact, feeling. With the support of feeling, craving. With the support of craving, assuming. With the support of assuming, being. With the support of being, birth. With the support of birth, ageing-&-death, sorrow-lamentation-pain-unhappiness-&-despair arises. In this way there is the origination of this whole heap of suffering.” “Origination, origination,” bhikkhus: for the Bodhisatta Vipassī, in things unheard of before, the eye arose, knowledge arose, understanding arose, wisdom arose, light arose.

Then, bhikkhus, for the Bodhisatta Vipassī there was this: “When there is not what is there not ageing-&-death, with the cessation of what, cessation of ageing-&-death?” Then, bhikkhus, for the Bodhisatta Vipassī, because of attention from the origin, there was a breakthrough in understanding: “When there is not birth there is not ageing-&-death, with the cessation of birth, cessation of ageing-&-death.” Then, bhikkhus, for the Bodhisatta Vipassī there was this: “When there is not what is there not birth… being… assuming… craving… feeling… contact… the six domains… name-&-matter… consciousness, with the cessation of what, cessation of consciousness?”

Then, bhikkhus, for the Bodhisatta Vipassī, because of attention from the origin, there was a breakthrough in understanding: “When there is not name-&-matter there is not consciousness, with the cessation of name-&-matter, cessation of consciousness.” Then, bhikkhus, for the Bodhisatta Vipassī there was this: “This path of awakening has been found by me, that is: with the cessation of name-&-matter, cessation of consciousness. With the cessation of consciousness, cessation of name-&-matter. With the cessation of name-&-matter, cessation of the six domains. With the cessation of the six domains, cessation of contact. With the cessation of contact, cessation of feeling. With the cessation of feeling, cessation of craving. With the cessation of craving, cessation of assuming. With the cessation of assuming, cessation of being. With the cessation of being, cessation of birth. With the cessation of birth, ageing-&-death, sorrow-lamentation-pain-unhappiness-&-despair ceases. In this way there is the cessation of this whole heap of suffering.” “Cessation, cessation,” bhikkhus: for the Bodhisatta Vipassī, in things unheard of before, the eye arose, knowledge arose, understanding arose, wisdom arose, light arose.

DN 14

For someone who is destined to be a Buddha, like the Bodhisatta Vipassī, it is by attending to things from the origin that he finds himself entering upon the path of awakening. However, for everyone other than a Buddha, what is required is not only yoniso manasikāra, but also some external instruction: parato ghosa.

dveme, bhikkhave, paccayā sammādiṭṭhiyā uppādāya. katame dve? parato ca ghoso, yoniso ca manasikāro. ime kho, bhikkhave, dve paccayā sammādiṭṭhiyā uppādāyā”ti.

Bhikkhus, there are these two supports for the arising of right view. Which two? The voice from beyond and attention from the origin. These, bhikkhus, are the two supports for the arising of right view.

AN 2:126

The voice from beyond provides an understanding of things (sammappaññā) which comes from outside of one’s current understanding. It is an external perspective on one’s situation. And we find this understanding being described by the following words:

yaṃ kiñci samudayadhammaṃ, sabbaṃ taṃ nirodhadhamman”ti.

“Whatever has the nature of origination, all that has the nature of cessation.”

SN 56:11

Whoever sees this for himself can now be called an ariyasāvaka, a noble disciple of the Buddha, and he is now in a position to practise in line with the Dhamma. To do this, he applies this perception of impermanence (aniccasaññā) to this very attha of his attā. He develops the understanding that everything which could possibly be the origin of all notions of “This is mine, this I am, this is my self”—namely: the pañcupādānakkhandhā—is impermanent, subject to change and responsible for all this suffering. One who sees that because of which this thing is what it is, as it is, sees the origination of this thing. But an ariyasāvaka, for whom there is aniccasaññā, also sees the impermanence of this origination. He sees that that because of which this thing is what it is, as it is, could be swept away at any moment. And if that because of which this thing is there were not there, this thing would no longer remain standing. In this way, the ariyasāvaka not only sees the origination of this thing, he also—simultaneously—sees its cessation.

vuttaṃ kho panetaṃ bhagavatā — ‘yo paṭiccasamuppādaṃ passati so dhammaṃ passati; yo dhammaṃ passati so paṭiccasamuppādaṃ passatīti. paṭiccasamuppannā kho panime yadidaṃ pañcupādānakkhandhā. yo imesu pañcasu upādānakkhandhesu chando ālayo anunayo ajjhosānaṃ so dukkhasamudayo. yo imesu pañcasu upādānakkhandhesu chandarāgavinayo chandarāgappahānaṃ, so dukkhanirodho’ti.

But this has been said by the Blessed One: ‘Whoever sees dependent origination sees the Dhamma, whoever sees the Dhamma sees dependent origination.’ And these five are dependently arisen, that is the five assumed aggregates. Whatever desire, attachment, acceptance, holding in these five assumed aggregates—this is the origin of suffering. Whatever removal of desire-&-passion, abandoning of desire-&-passion—this is the cessation of suffering.

MN 28

This phenomenon of self which has manifested owes thanks to, is indebted to, is determined by these five assumed aggregates. By understanding that his very existence depends upon these things that are dependently arisen, subject to change, completely out of his control, the ariyasāvaka removes all desire-&-passion for these things and, thereby, uproots all notions of “This is mine, this I am, this is my self’. In order to do this, all he needs to do is to keep attending to his existential situation phenomenologically, from the origin, from the perspective of its attha.

nāhaṃ, bhikkhave, aññaṃ ekadhammampi samanupassāmi yena anuppannā vā micchādiṭṭhi uppajjati uppannā vā micchādiṭṭhi pavaḍḍhati yathayidaṃ, bhikkhave, ayonisomanasikāro. ayoniso, bhikkhave, manasi karoto anuppannā ceva micchādiṭṭhi uppajjati uppannā ca micchādiṭṭhi pavaḍḍhatī”ti.

Bhikkhus, I do not see even one other thing because of which unarisen wrong view arises or arisen wrong view increases as this attention-not-from-the-origin. Bhikkhus, attending-not-from-the-origin, unarisen wrong view arises and arisen wrong view increases.

AN 1:309

 

nāhaṃ, bhikkhave, aññaṃ ekadhammampi samanupassāmi yena anuppannā vā sammādiṭṭhi uppajjati uppannā vā sammādiṭṭhi pavaḍḍhati yathayidaṃ, bhikkhave, yonisomanasikāro. yoniso, bhikkhave, manasi karoto anuppannā ceva sammādiṭṭhi uppajjati uppannā ca sammādiṭṭhi pavaḍḍhatī”ti.

Bhikkhus, I do not see even one other thing because of which unarisen right view arises or arisen right view increases as this attention-from-the-origin. Bhikkhus, attending-from-the-origin, unarisen right view arises and arisen right view increases.

AN 1:310

Yoniso manasikāra, the Buddha tells us, is of utmost importance. It is that by which an instructed bhikkhu (sutavā bhikkhu) can become a sotāpanna and that by which a sotāpanna can practise for arahatship.4 If a puthujjana attends to the teachings of the Buddha in the right way, yoniso, then it is possible that he will come to recognise what is being described—in which case, he will no longer be a puthujjana. He can now be called a paṇḍita posa (“a wise man”). He should now follow the advice of the young deva Anāthapiṇḍika and make the effort to keep on attending to things in this way. If he does, he can make an end to this whole heap of suffering in this very life—just like the Bodhisatta Vipassī.

atha kho, bhikkhave, vipassī bodhisatto aparena samayena pañcasu upādānakkhandhesu udayabbayānupassī vihāsi — ‘iti rūpaṃ, iti rūpassa samudayo, iti rūpassa atthaṅgamo; iti vedanā, iti vedanāya samudayo, iti vedanāya atthaṅgamo; iti saññā, iti saññāya samudayo, iti saññāya atthaṅgamo; iti saṅkhārā, iti saṅkhārānaṃ samudayo, iti saṅkhārānaṃ atthaṅgamo; iti viññāṇaṃ, iti viññāṇassa samudayo, iti viññāṇassa atthaṅgamo’ti, tassa pañcasu upādānakkhandhesu udayabbayānupassino viharato na cirasseva anupādāya āsavehi cittaṃ vimuccī”ti.

Then, bhikkhus, the Bodhisatta Vipassī, on a later occasion, dwelled as one who sees growth-&-decay in the five assumed aggregates: ‘This is matter, this is the origin of matter, this is the disappearing of matter. This is feeling, this is the origin of feeling, this is the disappearing of feeling. This is perception, this is the origin of perception, this is the disappearing of perception. This is determinations, this is the origin of determinations, this is the disappearing of determinations. This is consciousness, this is the origin of consciousness, this is the disappearing of consciousness.’ Dwelling as one who sees growth-&-decay in these five assumed aggregates, it was not long before his mind was liberated from the taints by not assuming.

DN 14

 

References from the Pāli Canon

DN: Dīgha Nikāya

MN: Majjhima Nikāya

SN: Saṃyutta Nikāya

AN: Aṅguttara Nikāya

 

Other references

Hankinson, R. J. (2009) “Causes”. In G. Anagnostopoulos (ed.) A Companion to Aristotle. West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell. p.213-229.

Heidegger, M. (1998) Pathmarks (ed. W. McNeill). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Heidegger, M. (1993) Basic Writings (Revised and Expanded Edition) (ed. D. F. Krell). Oxon: Routledge.

Heidegger, M. (1984) The Early Greeks (trans. D. F. Krell and F. A. Capuzzi). New York, NY: Harper & Row.

Ñāṇavīra, Bhikkhu (2010) Clearing the Path. Path Press Publications.

 

Endnotes:

1 The reason Aristotle seems to use aitia and aition interchangeably is probably because both of these words began life as an adjective: aitios. See Hankinson (2009:213).

2 As Venerable Ñāṇavīra puts it: “the ripening of kamma as vipāka takes time—vipāka always follows kamma after an interval and is never simultaneous with it” (2010:17).

3 The ablative generally indicates the locus from which an action begins (e.g. uṭṭhāyāsanā: “having got up from his seat”). But it can also express the cause or origin from which something has arisen (e.g. kiṃpaccayā bhavo: “from what support is there existence?”) With this latter meaning in mind, perhaps we may be justified in translating yoniso manasikāra as “attention which is indebted to that which this thing which I am attending to right now is indebted to”.

4 See SN 22:123. Indeed, as this sutta tells us, yoniso manasikāra is also that by which an arahat can, by gaining jhāna, have a pleasant dwelling in this very life.

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Comments
  1. Sir’s! …”which is responsible for his assumption of his own existence”… what a caught in asdumptions… why not simply starting to practice and leave the rest to Saddha? Philosopher are incapable of yoni (that what gives birth) manasikāra. A cat trying to catch it’s tail journey, on and on with no atthanaya (heartwood, sense, refuge…) at all. To get it in it’s meaning therefore maybe better to say: One seeing that he tries to catch his tail and nothing else…sould simply start to practice.

  2. Nitesh says:

    Bhante, In your Endnote 4, you refer to the part of SN 22:123 which tell us that yoniso manasikāra is also that by which an arahat can have a pleasant dwelling in this very life. I am intrigued by this part of the sutta as it says that even an arahat should attend-from-origin pañcupādānakkhandhā as impermanent, suffering etc. to have a pleasant dwelling. I am trying to understand what attending-from-origin pañcupādānakkhandhā entails for an arhat when his experience is just pañcakkhandhā, without any upādāna/ possibility of upādāna. Would appreciate if you could clarify this for me. Many thanks.

    • dr Cotard says:

      In the case of an arahat, it is rather a simple exercise in concentration. Gain, fame, can negatively influence his ability of concentration, but the more unified the mind the more pleasant abiding now and here.

    • ariyavaṃsa says:

      “Sāriputta, which are the things that an instructed bhikkhu should attend to from the origin?” “Friend Koṭṭhika, an instructed bhikkhu should attend to the five assumed-aggregates, as impermanent, as suffering, as a disease, as an abscess, as an arrow, as pain, as illness, as other, as disintegrating, as empty, as not-self. Which five? As follows: the assumed-aggregate of matter, the assumed-aggregate of feeling, the assumed-aggregate of perception, the assumed-aggregate of determinations, the assumed-aggregate of consciousness… It is possible, friend, that an instructed bhikkhu, attending from the origin to these five assumed-aggregates, as impermanent… as not-self, might realise the fruit of stream-entry.”

      “Sāriputta, which are the things that a bhikkhu who is a stream-enterer should attend to from the origin?” “Friend Koṭṭhika, a bhikkhu who is a stream-enterer should also attend from the origin to these five assumed-aggregates, as impermanent… as not-self. It is possible, friend, that a bhikkhu who is a stream-enterer, attending from the origin to these five assumed-aggregates, as impermanent… as not-self, might realise the fruit of once-returning.”

      “Sāriputta, which are the things that a bhikkhu who is a once-returner should attend to from the origin?” “Friend Koṭṭhika, a bhikkhu who is a once-returner should also attend from the origin to these five assumed-aggregates, as impermanent… as not-self. It is possible, friend, that a bhikkhu who is once-returner, attending from the origin to these five assumed-aggregates, as impermanent… as not-self, might realise the fruit of non-returning.”

      “Sāriputta, which are the things that a bhikkhu who is a non-returner should attend to from the origin?” “Friend Koṭṭhika, a bhikkhu who is a non-returner should also attend from the origin to these five assumed-aggregates, as impermanent… as not-self. It is possible, friend, that a bhikkhu who is non-returner, attending from the origin to these five assumed-aggregates, as impermanent… as not-self, might realise the fruit of arahatship.”

      “Sāriputta, which are the things that a bhikkhu who is an arahat should attend to from the origin?” “Friend Koṭṭhika, a bhikkhu who is an arahat should also attend from the origin to these five assumed-aggregates, as impermanent, as suffering, as a disease, as an abscess, as an arrow, as pain, as illness, as other, as disintegrating, as empty, as not-self. Friend, there isn’t anything further for an arahat to do, or any adding to what has been done. And yet these things when developed, made much of, lead to a pleasant dwelling in this very life and mindfulness-&-awareness.”
      (SN 22:123)

      Here’s how I understand this. If an arahat properly attends to the present experience ‘from the perspective of its origin’ (yoniso manasi karoti), he makes explicit the understanding (which is always already there, even if it is not being explicitly attended to) that this experience involves a LACK of upādāna. As you point out, for the arahat there is not and can no longer be any upādāna regarding the pañcakkhandhā. This is because upādāna has been fully understood — which is to say that it is no longer possible for him to conceive of there being any room for it. If he attends (‘from the origin’) to the absence of upādāna in regard to the pañcakkhandhā, then this is felt as pleasant. As Sāriputta is careful to point out, there is nothing that the arahat needs to do, nothing further that needs to be developed… and yet still, even for him, yoniso manasikāra of these things (which are ‘present’ as ‘lacking’) is preferable to ayoniso manasikāra. He should attend-from-the-origin to these things (yoniso manasi kātabbā), since this leads to a happiness born of complete and fully developed seclusion from all that is unwholesome.

      • dr Cotard says:

        Lack of upādāna means cessation of being. While an arahat says:

        ‘I was’ is not for me, not for me is ‘I shall be’;
        Determinations will un-be: therein what place for sighs?
        Pure arising of things, pure series of determinants—
        For one who sees this as it is, chieftain, there is no fear.
        Theragāthā 715, 716

        In SN 12: 20 the Buddha says:

        “When, bhikkhus, a noble disciple has clearly seen with correct wisdom as it really is this dependent origination and these dependently arisen phenomena, it is impossible that he will run back into the past, thinking: ‘Did I exist in the past? Did I not exist in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what did I become in the past?’ Or that he will run forward into the future, thinking: ‘Will I exist in the future? Will I not exist in the future? What will I be in the future? How will I be in the future? Having been what, what will I become in the future?’ Or that he will now be inwardly confused about the present thus: ‘Do I exist? Do I not exist? What am I? How am I? This being—where has it come from, and where will it go?’
        “For what reason is this impossible? Because, bhikkhus, the noble disciple has clearly seen with correct wisdom as it really is this dependent origination and these dependently arisen phenomena.” SN 12: 20

        Bhante, could you write something about the difference between perception of time in these to cases? Thank you.

  3. Joseph says:

    Thank you for the essay, Bhante.

    I’m a little puzzled and would be very appreciative if you could provide be with some clarification. (Though please give priority to Nitesh’s posting before mine.) I’m wondering whether a distinction can be drawn between the meaning of a thing and its presence or being? It seems to me that a thing’s meaning comes about holistically from the top down, while it’s being is derived from the bottom up. E.g. the meaning of a sentence is the syntactical whole of a number of words, but its manifestation (or being) rests upon the presence or being of a single one of those words. In other words, the transcendent is ontologically contingent upon the what is particular and immanent at any given moment. the manifestation of the background depends upon its foreground, yet the meaning of the foreground depends upon the background. When you speak of a thing’s origin are you referring to the foreground or the background, or both?

    With best regards,

    • ariyavaṃsa says:

      “When you speak of a thing’s origin are you referring to the foreground or the background, or both?”

      Attending to something ‘from-the-origin’ simply means recognising that because of which this thing is there, while it is there. So, for as long as this thing is in the foreground, you are simultaneously aware of the presence of the background which makes this foreground possible. In this way, you are attending to the entirety of this experience – experience-as-a-whole.

      “I’m wondering whether a distinction can be drawn between the meaning of a thing and its presence or being?”

      This is an excellent question, which gets to the crux of the phenomenological attitude. What phenomenology reveals is that we can only access things in terms of what they mean to us. The phenomenologist is not concerned with things “being-out-there”, independent of our experience of them. Rather, he is solely concerned with things insofar as they are understood by us. To say that something “is” is to say that it “makes sense”. Its “being” is its “meaning”.

      Heidegger describes it as follows:

      “It is not the case that objects are at first present as bare realities, as objects in some sort of natural state and that then in the course of our experience they receive the garb of a value‐character so that they do not have to run around naked.” (GA 61: 91.22-5 = 69.6-9)

      “Rather, what is primary and what is immediately given to us without some mental detour through a conceptual grasp of the thing is the meaningful [das Bedeutsame]. When we live in the first‐hand world around us [die Umwelt], everything comes at us loaded with meaning, all over the place and all the time.” (GA 56/57: 72.31-73.5 = 61.19-28)

      (I’ve taken these quotes from the following article, which perhaps you might find useful: Sheehan, T. (2016) “Sense and Meaning: From Aristotle to Heidegger,” in Niall Keane and Chris Lawn,The Blackwell Companion to Hermeneutics, Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley-Blackwell, 270-279. (available at https://religiousstudies.stanford.edu/people/thomas-sheehan/publications))

      Thomas Sheehan then continues: “Which means: If beings are the meaningful (das Bedeutsame), their being is their meaningfulness (Bedeutsamkeit), that is, their intelligible presence to man.” (p.271)

  4. ariyavaṃsa says:

    Dear Dr Cotard,

    na me hoti ‘ahosin’ti, ‘bhavissan’ti na hoti me.
    saṅkhārā vigamissanti, tattha kā paridevanā.
    suddhaṃ dhammasamuppādaṃ, suddhaṃ saṅkhārasantatiṃ.
    passantassa yathābhūtaṃ, na bhayaṃ hoti gāmaṇi.

    For me, there isn’t ‘I am’, ‘I will be’ isn’t there for me.
    Determinations will disappear, what lamentation is there there?
    The origination of things is clear, the duration of determinations is clear.
    For one seeing as it is, chieftain, there is no fear.

    (Th. 715-6)

    “yato kho, bhikkhave, ariyasāvakassa ‘ayañca paṭiccasamuppādo, ime ca paṭiccasamuppannā dhammā’ yathābhūtaṃ sammappaññāya sudiṭṭhā honti, so vata pubbantaṃ vā paṭidhāvissati — ‘ahosiṃ nu kho ahaṃ atītamaddhānaṃ, nanu kho ahosiṃ atītamaddhānaṃ, kiṃ nu kho ahosiṃ atītamaddhānaṃ, kathaṃ nu kho ahosiṃ atītamaddhānaṃ, kiṃ hutvā kiṃ ahosiṃ nu kho ahaṃ atītamaddhānan’ti;
    aparantaṃ vā upadhāvissati — ‘bhavissāmi nu kho ahaṃ anāgatamaddhānaṃ, nanu kho bhavissāmi anāgatamaddhānaṃ, kiṃ nu kho bhavissāmi anāgatamaddhānaṃ, kathaṃ nu kho bhavissāmi anāgatamaddhānaṃ, kiṃ hutvā kiṃ bhavissāmi nu kho ahaṃ anāgatamaddhānan’ti;
    etarahi vā paccuppannaṃ addhānaṃ ajjhattaṃ kathaṃkathī bhavissati — ‘ahaṃ nu khosmi, no nu khosmi, kiṃ nu khosmi, kathaṃ nu khosmi, ayaṃ nu kho satto kuto āgato, so kuhiṃ gamissatī’ti — netaṃ ṭhānaṃ vijjati. taṃ kissa hetu? tathāhi, bhikkhave, ariyasāvakassa ayañca paṭiccasamuppādo ime ca paṭiccasamuppannā dhammā yathābhūtaṃ sammappaññāya sudiṭṭhā”ti.

    Bhikkhus, because this dependent origination and these dependently arisen things are seen as they are by a noble disciple, with right understanding, for him to run back to the past thus:
    ‘Did I exist in the past? Did I not exist in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? After being what, what did I become in the past?’
    or for him to run after the future thus:
    ‘Will I exist in the future? Will I not exist in the future? What will I be in the future? How will I be in the future? After being what, what will I become in the future?’
    or for him to be undecided about the present thus:
    ‘Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? This sentient being: where did it come from? And where will it go?’
    — this is impossible.

    (SN 12:20)

    I’m not sure I understand exactly what it is you have in mind here. But let me try to say something about these two suttas.

    What is being described in SN 12:20 is the absence of sakkāyadiṭṭhi, the absence of the assumption of ‘this existing entity which I was/will be/am’, an entity which stands outside of this experience (and, therefore, is the master/owner/experiencer of it).

    This assumed entity, sakkāya, manifests (for the puthujjana) as something/someone which I was, which I will be, which I am right now. In all cases, it is assumed as being ‘above and beyond’ what has arisen right here. The assumed temporal stretch of a puthujjana’s existence provides room (in some realm which is taken to be ‘elsewhere’) for this enduring entity to remain. The puthujjana “runs back to the past”, “runs after the future”… runs out to an assumed realm beyond what has arisen. In either case, he is unclear about what is present.

    For the ariyasāvaka, the assumption of an enduring self-which-I-am has been abandoned. Seeing dependent origination (“with this, this is… but without this, this isn’t”), he sees the impermanence of all that has arisen here. With the arising of the perception of impermanence, this assumption of something-which-I-am (in the past, the future and the present) is now inconceivable.

    Th. 715-6 also describes an understanding of the impermanence of all determinations (everything that makes this experience possible), although here it is not the understanding ‘I am X’ which is described as being absent, but ‘I am’ (and ‘I will be’). This is the description of an arahat, who is not only free from sakkāyadiṭṭhi (I am X), but is also, and more fundamentally, free from all traces of asmimāna (the conceit ‘I am’).

    • dr Cotard says:

      Thank you, Bhante. “All being is limited and particularized—if I am at all, I am in a spatial world.” Nanavira L 121 But if I am in a spatial world, I must have also duration. But what about if I am, and do not particularize my being: “I am X”? My assumed duration seems to be delusion, a consequence of self-identification with X which of course has a certain duration.

      To what extent in the case of sekha memories and expectations can be tainted by subjectivity without falling into sakkāyadiṭṭhi?

      Thank you.

      • ariyavaṃsa says:

        One’s experience is always, inescapably meaningful. This meaning is determined by these “memories and expectations” that you speak of. That is to say, these “memories and expectations” are determinations. They are included in the thoughts/images/possibilities/meanings which constitute the background which determines the significance of this situation you are in right now.

        idha, gahapati, sutavā ariyasāvako ariyānaṃ dassāvī ariyadhammassa kovido ariyadhamme suvinīto sappurisānaṃ dassāvī sappurisadhammassa kovido sappurisadhamme suvinīto … na saṅkhāre attato samanupassati, na saṅkhāravantaṃ vā attānaṃ; na attani vā saṅkhāre, na saṅkhāresu vā attānaṃ. ‘ahaṃ saṅkhārā, mama saṅkhārā’ti na pariyuṭṭhaṭṭhāyī hoti. tassa ‘ahaṃ saṅkhārā, mama saṅkhārā’ti apariyuṭṭhaṭṭhāyino, te saṅkhārā vipariṇamanti aññathā honti. tassa saṅkhāravipariṇāmaññathābhāvā nuppajjanti sokaparidevadukkhadomanassupāyāsā.

        Here, householder, an instructed noble disciple, one who sees the noble ones, well-versed in the noble ones’ Dhamma, properly trained in the noble ones’ Dhamma, one who sees the good men, well-versed in the good men’s Dhamma, properly trained in the good men’s Dhamma… does not see determinations as self, or self as having determinations, or determinations as in self, or self as in determinations. He is one who is not obsessed by ‘I am determinations, determinations are mine.’ For one who is not obsessed by ‘I am determinations, determinations are mine,’ those determinations change, become otherwise. For him, with the change and becoming otherwise of determinations, sorrow-lamentation-pain-unhappiness-&-despair do not arise.
        (SN 22:1)

        saṅkhārā anattā atītānāgatā; ko pana vādo paccuppannānaṃ! evaṃ passaṃ, bhikkhave, sutavā ariyasāvako atītesu saṅkhāresu anapekkho hoti; anāgate saṅkhāre nābhinandati; paccuppannānaṃ saṅkhārānaṃ nibbidāya virāgāya nirodhāya paṭipanno hoti.

        Determinations of past-&-future are not-self, and what to speak of the present! Seeing in this way, bhikkhus, a noble disciple is without expectation among determinations of the past. He does not delight in determinations of the future. He is practising for the turning away from, the dispassion, the cessation of determinations.
        (SN 22: 11)

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