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Done and Done-er
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8/27/10 8:02 PM
Done and Done-er

or

Mastering the core pointing instruction of the Buddha

Key Reference:

MN 1
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.001.than.html

I don't post much having continually come to a deeper appreciation of the limits of my communications skills but I thought this might be a topic for fruitful discussion. So I will present a few of my reflections and close with an open question for anyone and everyone, regardless of where they may be in their processes and on the path because I would appreciate feedback from anyone and everyone on this subject.

In recent months I've been enjoying a pleasant email discussion with a good friend about our lives and practices, and ranging across a number of interesting Dhamma subjects. Just the other day we were engaging in a topic related to the expressions of various views about the path and the practice and MN 1 came to mind. So I read the sutta again a few times and reflected on it at length last night and this contemplation on the central theme of MN 1 has continued throughout today as well.

I held the central point continually in mind and together with that I allowed my mind to range across whatever difficult issues of the texts and the many varieties of teachings and practices that have emerged since then. I was repeatedly struck by how this simple pointing instruction continually demonstrated a path whereby one could travel from merely subscribing to a reasonable view of a difficult subject to realizing a direct knowledge about it and thereby arriving at a clear, true and unwaveringly certain understanding of the subject, thereby putting the subject and any further related concerns fully to rest.

It became ever more apparent that here was a pointing instruction, a method and a technique which was in it's clarity and simplicity the very essence of all effective pointing instructions, techniques and methods.

Central to the instruction is the repeated phrase "he does not conceive…"

Conceiving is related to the rest of the discourse by means of four categories or kinds of persons.

I'll put these kinds of persons into the context of the discussions and terminology employed throughout the three Hurricane Ranch discussions found at Interactive Buddha, namely 'what is doing it?' and 'what is getting it done?'.

The first presentation is of an ordinary uninstructed person who does not know or practice or function in accordance with this pointing instruction and so they are considered completely ignorant or blind in this sense. So it is phrased a little differently as 'he conceives' and then the various examples of conceiving are given. So it might be said this is the essential difference between those who know and do and have done what needs to be done and someone who does not even know and cannot therefore do what needs to be and therefore cannot possibly awaken to the essential core or complete truth of this point. They just 'don't get it'.

The second presentation is of someone who has been given the pointing instruction, understands it correctly and is practicing or training with this 'point' in mind. He has been told what 'TO DO' and is someone who 'GETS IT' and is 'DOING IT'. It is not specified to what extent he has or has not DONE IT but it is specified that he does know and understand what TO DO and is DOING IT.

The third presentation is of someone who is an Arahant or has finished the training and so he is described as someone who GETS IT, DOES IT and has DONE IT to the extent that he gives rise to no further delusions about anything. I won't try to define 'no further delusions whatsoever' as that is beside the point. The key distinction is that the Arahant has GOT IT, DOES IT unwaveringly and therefore in the most vital regards has GOT IT DONE.

The last presentation is about the Buddha and the only added distinction in this last case is that the Buddha speaks of himself as one who has GOT IT DONE COMPLETELY. So I take this to mean that he has GOT IT, DOES IT and has DONE IT in regards to everything. So I take it that this is an order of magnitude beyond simply doing it in regards to delusion. The way I have come to see this distinction is that the Arahant has mastered not conceiving while the Buddha has perfected not conceiving.

In any case, in the course of applying this pointing instruction I came to see the seemly inexhaustible practical relevance of it, regardless of where one may be on the path. Regardless of whether or not one is just beginning to practice, or has crossed the A&P, has entered the stream, done what needs to be done or become a Buddha the core of this technique is consistent. That essential core being, DO NOT CONCEIVE. (big period)

So, just in these recent hours I have come to an ever deeper appreciation of what is meant by 'conceiving' and what is meant by 'not conceiving' in so many ways that I think I could probably write books about it for several lifetimes without leaving the topic. But enough about me!

So, what do you good people think?

Do you think this pointing instruction as essential as it appears? Can you see relevance for effective noting practice? To determining the essential efficacy of any given technique? To arisings and passings, causes and effects? To achieving the PCE? To developing and perfecting concentration and insight? To penetrating the subtle workings of causal and resultant kamma or of comprehending dependent conditionality? To walking the straight and narrow path and eventually laying down the burden. To perfecting the great way of a Bodhisattva and becoming a Buddha? To resolving knotty issues within dualities and nondualities? Etc, etc?

The question for everyone is, in simplest terms, in regards to conceiving or conception and not conceiving or non-conception, in regards to this pointing instruction, what is getting it, doing it and getting it done? Further, in what ways and to what extent can this practice be applied?

That's all from me. Over to you then.

upekkha
-triplethink

RE: Done and Done-er
Answer
8/28/10 4:07 AM as a reply to triple think.
triple think:

So, just in these recent hours I have come to an ever deeper appreciation of what is meant by 'conceiving' and what is meant by 'not conceiving' in so many ways that I think I could probably write books about it for several lifetimes without leaving the topic. But enough about me!


can you explain, in somewhat shorter format than that, what appreciation you have come to of what is meant by 'conceiving' and 'not conceiving'?


triple think:

So, what do you good people think?

i think that there would be far less confusion in buddhist communities with regard to what samkhya notions[1] are if this discourse you reference were upheld as the standard by which to discern the understanding as prescribed. and yet, the likelihood that all who propagate buddhist practices will accept it as such and orient themselves thither is slim, given that they are already elsewise committed, and so the confusion and comparitivism and argumentation and charitably passive disagreement will likely continue as they do.


triple think:

Do you think this pointing instruction as essential as it appears?

in dispelling samkhya notions? yes.


triple think:

Can you see relevance for effective noting practice?

particularly so.


triple think:

[Do you think this pointing instruction as essential as it appears to] determining the essential efficacy of any given technique?

to determine a technique's essential efficacy for dispelling samkhya notions? yes.


triple think:

[Do you think this pointing instruction as essential as it appears to determining] arisings and passings, causes and effects?

it is essential to whatever extent samkhya notions prevent a practitioner from comprehending arisings and passings, causes and effects.


triple think:

[Do you think this pointing instruction as essential as it appears to] achieving the PCE?

it is essential to whatever extent samkhya notions are what currently prevent a practitioner from inducing a pce.


triple think:

[Do you think this pointing instruction as essential as it appears to] developing and perfecting concentration and insight?

it is essential to whatever extent samkhya notions are preventing a practitioner from developing concentration and insight.


triple think:

[Do you think this pointing instruction as essential as it appears to] penetrating the subtle workings of causal and resultant kamma or of comprehending dependent conditionality?

it is essential to whatever extent samkhya notions are preventing a practitioner from attending to the subtle workings of causal and resultant kamma or from comprehending dependent conditionality.


triple think:

[Do you think this pointing instruction as essential as it appears to] walking the straight and narrow path and eventually laying down the burden[?]

it is essential to whatever extent samkhya notions are distracting a practitioner from walking the straight and narrow path that leads to them laying down the burden as prescribed.


triple think:

[Do you think this pointing instruction as essential as it appears to] perfecting the great way of a Bodhisattva and becoming a Buddha?

it is essential to whatever extent samkhya notions preclude boddhisattvic activities (parami-accumulation) which are believed to lead to buddhahood (in a future existence).


triple think:

[Do you think this pointing instruction as essential as it appears to] resolving knotty issues within dualities and nondualities?

it is essential to whatever extent samkhya notions reinforce or reify those knotty issues for a practitioner.


triple think:

The question for everyone is, in simplest terms, in regards to conceiving or conception and not conceiving or non-conception, in regards to this pointing instruction, what is getting it, doing it and getting it done?

in regard to this pointing instruction, getting it means acknowledging that as comprehension of phenomena alone leads to the understanding prescribed, then comprehension of phenomena alone is the practice prescribed.

in regard to this pointing instruction, doing it means comprehending phenomena.

in regard to this pointing instruction, getting it done means comprehending phenomena to the extent that no craving, aversion, or delusion arises to condition (a lack of) comprehension, and so the understanding as prescribed - being the comprehension of phenomena without passion, aversion, or delusion - is attained.

further, in regard to this pointing instruction, getting it done completely means comprehending phenomena to the extent that the operating conditions are known as clearly as is possible, and their knowledge applied as masterfully as is possible.

further still, in regard to this pointing instruction, getting it done beyond completely means then (physically) dying.


triple think:

Further, in what ways and to what extent can this practice be applied?


in whichever ways the practice of comprehension (without conception) are understood by its practitioners, and to whatever extent its practitioners are willing to apply it. the permutations seem many and i don't purport to know the intricacies of all possible proclivities, fascinations, and desires.

i hear that done and done-erer made for a pretty bad prequel anyway.

tarin

[1] as explained in the referenced discourse's translator's introduction.

RE: Done and Done-er
Answer
8/28/10 11:38 AM as a reply to tarin greco.
tarin greco:
triple think:

So, just in these recent hours I have come to an ever deeper appreciation of what is meant by 'conceiving' and what is meant by 'not conceiving' in so many ways that I think I could probably write books about it for several lifetimes without leaving the topic. But enough about me!


can you explain, in somewhat shorter format than that, what appreciation you have come to of what is meant by 'conceiving' and 'not conceiving'?
hi Tarin

Great explication. My intention in the thread is to leave the application or interpretation to everyone else to express in whatever ways they will rather than offer up something for people to respond to. The way I've applied the 'not conceiving' and in reviewing the efficacy of this, it appears to apply to not only samkhya notions but any and all notions as well.

RE: Done and Done-er
Answer
8/29/10 12:14 PM as a reply to triple think.
triple think:
tarin greco:
triple think:

So, just in these recent hours I have come to an ever deeper appreciation of what is meant by 'conceiving' and what is meant by 'not conceiving' in so many ways that I think I could probably write books about it for several lifetimes without leaving the topic. But enough about me!


can you explain, in somewhat shorter format than that, what appreciation you have come to of what is meant by 'conceiving' and 'not conceiving'?
hi Tarin

Great explication. My intention in the thread is to leave the application or interpretation to everyone else to express in whatever ways they will rather than offer up something for people to respond to. The way I've applied the 'not conceiving' and in reviewing the efficacy of this, it appears to apply to not only samkhya notions but any and all notions as well.


here, it may be relevant to question whether a samkhya mode of experience can be (directly and intimately) comprehended without being conceived. if so, then this pointing out instruction does not go far enough.. but if not, then the elimination of samkhya notions ought to effect the elimination of 'any and all other notions' as well.

i would be interested to read others' takes on the original post, too.

tarin

RE: Done and Done-er
Answer
8/29/10 1:52 PM as a reply to triple think.
Hi Nathan,

I have no trouble with your communication style. I always read what you have to say, and it's always been worth paying attention to.

I read the sutta just now, will re-read it later and sleep over it and so on.

Upon short reflection, I can see the relevance to technique, and to other teachings like the one about "self-identity views" (sakkaya ditthi) in general.

I can also see how this ties in with dependent arising in general, i.e. making (conceiving) these kinds of view out of ignorance, which leads to suffering; and not doing so, which doesn't. That's a kind of "root sequence" as well.

Also apparent is the applicability of this pointing-out regarding ancient teachings about delusion (moha), or more modern takes like Daniel's "seemingly infinite fractal" of cycles.

It boils down to seeing something where there isn't anything, conceiving something out of nothing, etc. Not taking "nothing" to really mean "nothing". Or the quip (due to one Thai Forest Ajahn) about big books being written about emptiness - what can you say about emptiness, except to fill it up with views.

I hope that further reflection will bring up some more clarity on this, and if it does. I'll post it here.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: Done and Done-er
Answer
8/30/10 7:54 AM as a reply to Florian.
Further reflection:

It occurred to me that Duncan Barford described essentially the same thing in his essay on "The Gesture" on openenlightenment.org:

Forget those theories of the brain making a picture to itself of the world, and that picture playing the role of truth, and its manufacture constituting the act of understanding. Forget that tedious dualist crap, because it’s clueless and will make you miserable.

...

Understanding is not a representation in the mind or brain but a penetration of consciousness by the thing understood. There’s a French proverb, tout comprendre c’est tout pardonner, which translates as ‘to understand all is to forgive all’. Understanding is a surrender of self, indistinguishable in many respects from compassion and love.

The world of spirit opens when we recognise our perception of the rose is a part of the rose, not a part of or a picture in our mind. No great artist ever painted a picture of anything. Instead they let the thing into themselves, accommodated it, aligned themselves with it, were penetrated by it. This is seeing.

So how do we learn to see?

Vipassana meditation is one method. Boiling it down to a single mental gesture, I’d sum it up as this: include.

...

Make a special effort to include particularly anything that pretends it can’t be included: such as moments of complete unconsciousness, or that sense of a detached, watching self. These are only what they seem to be. Just include that seeming. Any impression or part-impression of them that you can grasp, just include that, and you will have done more than enough. Sooner than you think, understanding will come.

This gesture leads to understanding because this gesture is understanding. Understanding is this letting in, this surrender of self. There is not a picture of reality in your mind, and no need for one. Your mind is in reality. So open it up now please – for Fuck’s sake – and awaken!


In the light of that exposition, "getting it" is understanding the "gesture" intellectually; "doing it" is performing this inclusive gesture; "getting it done" is the understanding arising from this performance.

Kinda reminiscent of the "three duties" attached to each of the four noble truths, as expounded in the "setting the wheel of dhamma in motion" discourse.

Oh, and I find it funny how the textual traditions can't agree on whether the monks addressed in M1 were satisfied or not in the end... emoticon

Also, the Phillip K. Dick definition of reality seems related to this pointing out instruction: Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: Done and Done-er
Answer
8/31/10 1:32 AM as a reply to Florian.
Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote a book on MN 1 with a complete translation of the discourse and selected extracts from the sutta commentaries and notes on translation and the text. It's worth reading if you are interested and I highly recommend it. The sutta as posted on ATI is highly abridged and there are some important points and much of the accompanying text missing from it there.

There is an online copy at Goggle books, here:
http://books.google.ca/books?id=Mia6JAaSb0AC&printsec=frontcover&dq=the+discourse+on+the+root+of+existence&source=bl&ots=VBjd5En3_P&sig=6rh8uAyRz0lXv2K_bloPWmJmDhE&hl=en&ei=Op18TKPIKcaqlAfz75meCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBcQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

In terms of skillful applications of not conceiving this essay covers a range of useful approaches:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/integrityofemptiness.html

I'm not aware of a version of this text where the monks were pleased but I would be interested to know where I could check that out. Typically, in all but a few suttas, the listeners are pleased with a discourse, but the reasons they are not in this case are explained in the accompanying notes, I think both at ATI and in the much more extensive notes in Ven. Bodhi's book.

RE: Done and Done-er
Answer
8/31/10 3:01 AM as a reply to triple think.
Hi Nathan,

thanks for the link.

The PTS version has happy Bhikkhus, as does the German translation by K.E.Neumann. The Siamese version has a variant reading, as can be seen on tipitaka.org. Not that it matters that much, I think; it's just Pali geekery.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: Done and Done-er
Answer
8/31/10 11:29 AM as a reply to triple think.
triple think:
Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote a book on MN 1 with a complete translation of the discourse and selected extracts from the sutta commentaries and notes on translation and the text. It's worth reading if you are interested and I highly recommend it. The sutta as posted on ATI is highly abridged and there are some important points and much of the accompanying text missing from it there. . . .

The title of the book that Nathan is referring to is Discourse on the Root of Existence: Mulapariyaya Sutta and Its Commentaries. I have the book, and it is well worth reading and taking notes on, if one is interested in deepening one's knowledge of this aspect of the teaching, which I would recommend to all serious practitioners. It's a relatively short book (79 pages), but packs a whallop in terms of insight.

Another lesser known (although fast becoming more well known) and equally, if not more, insightful book on this same topic of conceiving is Ven. K. Nanananda's book [url=http://amazon.com/o/ASIN/9552401364/thomelio-20" title="Concept and Reality in Early Buddhist Thought"]Concept and Reality in Early Buddhist Thought. It explores the concepts found in the terms pananca (proliferation) and papancasanna-sankha ("concepts, reckonings, designations or linguistic conventions characterized by the prolific conceptualising tendency of the mind") and how understanding these concepts play a key role in the completion of the awakening process. The blurb on the back of the book neatly sums up its significance:

"This work focuses upon two important but controversial terms found in the Buddha's discourses — papanca and papancasanna-sankha. The author sees these terms as referring to the mind's conceptual proliferation, its tendency to create a screen of concepts by which it misinterprets the basic data of experience. He shows the characteristic Buddhist teaching of "not-self" to have new dimensions of significance, not only in the context of Buddhism but also in relation to philosophy, psychology, and ethics. Copious quotations from the Buddhist texts provide increased knowledge and new interpretations of obscure passages. This book will serve as a stimulating source of insights into the deep meaning of the Dhamma."
The study and comprehension of knowledge contained in these two books and their related topics can provide much insight into the vastness of what the Buddha had to teach. Not to mention their focus on crucially important concepts leading to the process of awakening.

RE: Done and Done-er
Answer
8/31/10 2:52 PM as a reply to Ian And.
Ian And:

Another lesser known (although fast becoming more well known) and equally, if not more, insightful book on this same topic of conceiving is Ven. K. Nanananda's book [url=http://amazon.com/o/ASIN/9552401364/thomelio-20" title="Concept and Reality in Early Buddhist Thought"]Concept and Reality in Early Buddhist Thought. It explores the concepts found in the terms pananca (proliferation) and papancasanna-sankha ("concepts, reckonings, designations or linguistic conventions characterized by the prolific conceptualising tendency of the mind") and how understanding these concepts play a key role in the completion of the awakening process. The blurb on the back of the book neatly sums up its significance:


i'm just popping in to mention that this book is also available by special order at wisdom books (and for significantly less cost).

tarin

RE: Done and Done-er
Answer
9/1/10 12:34 PM as a reply to Florian.
i received the below message from triple think, who is having technical difficulties in posting to the forum, and have edited out the pali diacritics.



----------



Florian Weps:
Hi Nathan,

thanks for the link.

The PTS version has happy Bhikkhus, as does the German translation by K.E.Neumann. The Siamese version has a variant reading, as can be seen on tipitaka.org. Not that it matters that much, I think; it's just Pali geekery.

Cheers,
Florian
Im not a Pali scholar, here is what I have so far from those who are:

In the PTS edition of this sutta, it has:

Idamavoca bhagava.4 Na te bhikkhu bhagavato bhasitam abhinandunti.5

4. Na attamana te bhikkhu sya. Attamana te bhikkhu
5. Nabhinandunti katthaci

---

And the Chatthasangayana digital edition has:

Idamavoca bhagava. Na te bhikkhu [na attamana tebhikkhu (sya.), te bhikkhu (pi. ka.)] bhagavato bhasitam abhinandunti.

"attamana" means "mentally enraptured", or "delighted", or whatever term you may wish to use. "na" is a negation.

RE: Done and Done-er
Answer
9/1/10 1:14 PM as a reply to tarin greco.
i received additional information from triple think and am again posting on his behalf, below.



-------



The German version (KEN) ends with the bhikkhus being pleased.
Also sprach der Erhabene. Zufrieden freuten sich jene Mönche über das Wort des Erhabenen.

However, another German translation (Kay Zumwinkel/Mettiko Bhikkhu) ends with the monks not being pleased.
Das ist es, was der Erhabene sagte. Aber jene Bhikkhus waren nicht entzückt über die Worte des Erhabenen.

As far as I know, Mettiko's translation is mainly a translation of Bhikkhu Bodhi's work, whereas KEN translated directly from Pali.

RE: Done and Done-er
Answer
9/5/10 12:10 PM as a reply to tarin greco.
I thought I would comment on what MN 1 has meant and means to me a little since there hasn't been much comment from others.

I was raised by a man with a bible and a belt. If there is any goodness or kindness in me it was passed along to me by him and my mother. I was instructed daily about the primary importance of the salvation of my soul. I searched endlessly for that soul and the spirit of God somewhere within me. I could find only changing thoughts and sensations and I was tormented by my apparent soullessness.

When I was about 14 I meditated for the first time after reading a short tract on breath meditation which suggested focusing on the breath and inquiring within. I sat down and focused on the breath, relaxing into it and began to look for the soul. Within about half an hour I passed through the four jhana and let go of the body. Passing then through the four formless qualities of the mind and nowhere recognizing a soul I let go of consciousness entirely as well. Entering complete cessation there was the only an unformable recognition, 'this is the end of everything that is me, there is nothing more' and 'this is perfect peace'. After this it was clear, there is no me, only momentary appearances, arising and passing that is all 'I' will ever be.

What is left when 'I' am gone is an immense and imponderable universe, both within and without. Any 'I' that arises, anywhere, in any way, is dust in the eye of clear seeing into an immensity that will suffer no namings.

We can map the ways of gradually removing this dust of 'I', layer by layer, room by room. We can model the imponderable immensity that is seen when the dust is removed, but all such maps and models are likewise made of dust. Letting go of all of the dust, only clear seeing remains, untraceable, imperturbable, unnameable.

RE: Done and Done-er
Answer
9/6/10 5:41 PM as a reply to triple think.
triple think:
Entering complete cessation there was the only an unformable recognition, 'this is the end of everything that is me, there is nothing more' and 'this is perfect peace'. After this it was clear, there is no me, only momentary appearances, arising and passing that is all 'I' will ever be.

What is left when 'I' am gone is an immense and imponderable universe, both within and without. Any 'I' that arises, anywhere, in any way, is dust in the eye of clear seeing into an immensity that will suffer no namings.

We can map the ways of gradually removing this dust of 'I', layer by layer, room by room. We can model the imponderable immensity that is seen when the dust is removed, but all such maps and models are likewise made of dust. Letting go of all of the dust, only clear seeing remains, untraceable, imperturbable, unnameable.


Nicely put Nathan.
Thanks,
-Chuck