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 Post subject: The relativity of all things that the Buddha revealed
 Post Posted: Sun Jun 11, 2006 3:58 am 
Patthana - The relativity of all things that the Buddha revealed

Patthana means origination, the way things originate or come into existence. Things coming into being dependently on causes and sustained by conditions is called paccaya.

by Bogoda Premaratne
@ SI / 11Jun2006


Buddha teaches anatta, which means that in one’s living experience there is no involvement of a self, of a person, of a subject, nor of an ‘I’ or ‘me’ or ‘mine’. On hearing this one’s intellectual habit intervenes with a series of questions:

Who is it then that thinks, that speaks and acts?’ In short ‘who is experiencing life’? Who intends action? And who commits karma? etc. etc.

The answer is provided in the teaching categorized under what is called Patthana’ in the abhidhamma-pitaka.

* What is Patthana?

Patthana is the title of the 7th and the last text in the Abhidhamma pitaka.

A few decades ago a Sri Lankan monk, Reverend Yagoda Dharmapprabhd Thera, when receiving his training in Vipassana meditation in Burma, saw how the Burmese Buddhists held this particular Abhidhamma text in great esteem, treating it as a sacred object worthy of veneration; and on his return he did much to popularize the study of this teaching by setting up study circles and establishing the patthana sabha patronized by his pupils.

In this month of June the Sabha will be holding its anniversary commemorative celebrations in Anuradhapura.

* What is so- important about Patthana?

On the seventh night of the Buddha’s Enlightenment He directed his attention to the question of creation: ‘who actually created this universe with all its creatures and their destinies? This was a subject of utmost importance to the Buddha, as His object of research was to find a solution to the existential suffering of all creatures. He had grave doubts about a benevolent God being responsible for creating man and beast destined to go through such pains of birth, disease, old age and death as he had himself witnessed. But the fact was that all of the religious teachers and philosophers of his day were teaching that the universe and its creatures were created and sustained by an all-powerful God, whom they named Ishvara or Brahma. Thus it was a matter of priority for him to obtain clarification on this through the Enlightened wisdom that he had attained.

The knowledge and vision that he received on this subject was that not only the universe, but all, everything with no exception whatsoever, all things, even the minutest elements, substances and compounds, and all mental events such as feelings, perceptions, thoughts, ideas, intentions, emotions and desires of all beings come into existence through the interaction of other things reckoned as causes, (hetu) and are sustained by causes which then are recognized as conditions, (prathya) and with cessation of those causes and conditions they fall away, leaving room for other things similarly to arise, persist in existence, and then be subject to all manner of change before they fall away.

This natural process, the Buddha called Dependent Origination, paticca samuppada. This activity of one thing determining something else, called sankharic activity or conditionality, is by no means a simple process; it is a highly complex and complicated process. The patthana text, under the term paccaya, enumerates and describes 24 different modes in which this interaction takes place, with particular reference, of course, to our psychological life experience.

* Meaning of the term Patthana

Patthana means origination, the way things originate or come into existence. Things coming into being dependently on causes and sustained by conditions is called paccaya.

(E.g. avijja paccaya sankhara is to be understood as ‘dependent upon my ignorance, all things such as my suffering have come into being, and are being sustained. Therefore those things that determine other things are to be considered as ‘conditions’ or ‘determinations’ (sankhara) that usually operate without my knowledge)

Whatever that happens within my life experience, it is left for me to find out what is acting as cause or causes for that event to take place, and also what serves as conditions to sustain that event, even for a brief moment.

That is what is meant by ‘avijja nirodha sankhara nirodho’ = cessation of my non-knowledge is the cessation of determinations. In other words, when I am totally alive to, and fully aware of, the nature of such conditions, then those conditions, particularly those operative in my mental life, will cease to operate.

* The practical value of this teaching

This teaching of the Buddha is not for me to take pride in the fact that the Buddha announced the theory of relativity of all things long before Einstein, but for me to understand and actually see its operation through and through in all things that I take to be my living experience, so that, in due course, my mind will be compelled to abandon its false belief in a subject or personality or a self or atma or ego being in possession of this body and mind, and being responsible for directing all its physical and mental activities.

Those who have not practised the Buddha’s instructions in regard to this subject, will naturally find it impossible to accept a statement such as "You are not the owner of your body, nor are you the master of your mind: your perceptions, feelings, emotions, intentions etc. They are all determinations or inevitable consequences of causes and conditions of which you are, at the moment, unaware". It is this conditionality that is covered in the teachings on paccaya in the Patthana text.

* If you are still unconvinced, we would like to pose this question:

You take in food and liquids to sustain your life. Other than eating and drinking what do you know of what exactly happens to the food and water you have taken in? What is your personal responsibility in regard to the process of digestion? What role does your self play in what is called metabolism or the use of nutritive material in building up living matter? Are you the master who directs, controls and guides the functioning of your lungs or those most precious operations of the heart? Can you not accept the fact that it is nothing but the movement of one thing caused and conditioned by the occurrence of something else? It is nothing other than what is called paticcasamuppada or ‘dependent-together-arising’ and ‘dependent-together-ceasing’ of events, with no intervention whatsoever of a person, an agent, a self, a subject claiming to be ‘I’ ‘me’ or ‘mine’. Why can’t you accept the fact that it is the same kind of natural conditioning that operates in the psychological domain, but making you believe that it is your personal living experience?

* Why is it wrong to hold a belief in self or atma?

All my experience is centered round the mental image of my body, what my senses perceive, consequent sensations, my thoughts and all sorts of mental constructions such as concepts, ideas, views, beliefs and opinions. Consciousness is that which reveals all of these different aspects of experience. These comprise the five aggregates of my living experience. The nature or the actuality of my experiencing these aggregates is such that something arises in my mind, persists for a moment, and then fades away, which is what is called impermanence. It is a characteristic of all natural phenomena.

One should have no difficulty in understanding that nature or all natural phenomena are completely devoid of feeling, emotions, pleasure or displeasure or suffering or happiness of any sort. But what I want out of every bit of my sense-experience is some pleasure, some satisfaction that I can be enjoying for some duration in time. Wanting to be happy, to be comfortable to be cheerful to be pleased, which satisfaction is for ever denied to me by this fact of nature’s impermanence. This dissatisfaction has induced the mind to come up with a strategy a subterfuge to counter this nature of all phenomena, and that is by inventing the notion of a permanent and for-ever pleasurable entity in the form, of a self, an atma, personality, or ego who can feel, experience and enjoy emotions of all types, pleasant as well as unpleasant. This is an act of causal conditioning by that craving for pleasurable existence which results in creating this entity by holding and grasping the five aggregates, and that grasping in turn results in identifying the aggregates as personal property possessed by this permanent and pleasurable self.

The aggregates or the conditions of my living experience which have now been identified with a permanent and pleasurable self, by their very nature, are impermanent: arising, changing and ceasing every moment. Holding them and clinging to them as ‘mine’ and ‘me’ and expecting pleasure out of them must inevitably lead to frustration, disappointment and unhappiness, in short to suffering.

The moment I become fully alive to, and aware of this conditioning process, is a moment of liberation.

* An example of conditionality

There is, for example, a class of conditions identified as hetu-paccaya or root conditions. It is the dependent relativity that exists between the tree and its root system? Most of the thoughts that arise in my mind arise and are nourished and sustained by greed or by aversion or hatred, or by delusion; just as the tree is dependent on its root system for its arising and sustenance. The quality of my thinking, whether unwholesome or wholesome is dependent on whether its origin and sustenance is based on any one of these conditions or on their absence Delusion is a highly complex structure that primarily includes considering experience that is non- personal as being personal or subjective, and consequently impermanent experience appears as permanent, and unpleasant and unpleasurable experience is taken to be pleasant and pleasurable.

This kind of delusion in the mind is conditioned by the false view of atta or self. Atta or self-view has been invented by the mind as a nicca-sukha, a permanent and pleasurable buffer against the actuality of life-experience that is impermanent and unsatisfactory.

* Paticca-samuppada formula

There are 24 different ways or paccayas or conditions in which one thing determines something else, leaving no room for the intervention of an imaginary self.

The 24 conditions are really, expansions of the paticca-samuppada formula which means "from the arising of one thing something else also arises’ (imassuppada-idam uppajjati). and ‘when one thing exists there exists something else as well’ (imasming sati-idang hoti). In other words ‘something happens, invariably, on the condition of something else happening’ and ‘if there is anything that exists, it exists depending on the existence of something else’.

There is no person who makes things happen; it is that craving to enjoy sense experience that has conditioned the notion, the view, the ditthi of a personality who only can make living experience enjoyable. Craving makes it happen by grasping and holding the five khandas or aggregates together, converting them to be the permanent property identifiable with the permanent self that expresses itself in terms of ‘I’ ‘mine’ and ‘my-self’. Only when the mind becomes enlightened or fully aware of this process of conditioning that the mind, at its subconscious level, will let go of the false concept of self, together with all defilements and fetters that cause sorrow, lamentation, pain and depression etc.. etc.

* The only way to root out the false ditthi of self

People of the present generation with the sophistication of modern education and technology are apt to think that any thing can be achieved through the power of the intellect. May be, but certainly not the cleansing of the ingrained notion of a self, certainly not the desire to exist (Bhava tanha), certainly not the craving to annihilate that which obstructs my pleasurable existence (vibhava tanha) The only way has been very clearly prescribed by the Buddha as the practice and development of mindful awareness (sati-sampajanna) that leads to vipassana or knowledge and insight into the conditioning process, resulting in its complete de-conditioning, (avijja nirodha- sankhara nirodho), in other words liberation or nirvana.


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 Post Posted: Wed Jun 14, 2006 6:12 am 
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Joined: Sat Jun 10, 2006 9:56 am
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When we have such rich philosophy why should we continue to have so much of corruption and injustice in our society? Why don't we put our heads together to do something about it?


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