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Parsing MN 9 – Sammādiṭṭhi Sutta

I thought about titling this post “If You Think This Post is Long, You Should Try Reading the Sutta”, but the SEO would be lousy.

Anyway. Greetings!

I’m still working on MN 9 for the Bodhi College CPP homework. After building the comparative translation spreadsheet it was a bit easier to parse the content of the text.

(If you’d like to add this to your own PKM, you can download an .md or .json here. If you have no idea what that sentence means, don’t worry about it and continue. :)

Intro

Title: Sammā-diṭṭhi is translated differently:

  • Suj – Right View
  • B – Right View
  • H – Perfect View
  • T – Right View
  • Sud – Right Perspective
  • Stephen Batchelor said in ABB that we could put the translation “Right View” politely to one side. He prefers the term “Complete Perspective.

Location: Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Park

Author: Sāriputta
Interesting point about Dukkha from Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu: “2. In passages where the Buddha defines stress, (e.g., SN 56:11DN 22), he includes the statements, “association with the unbeloved is stressful; separation from the loved is stressful,” prior to “not getting what one wants is stressful.” For some reason, in passages where Ven. Sāriputta defines stress (here and at MN 28 and MN 141), he drops these statements from the definition.” What’s that all about?

The question Sariputta is asking is: how do we know if someone has “right view”? It’s not “what is right view?”. It’s something about process rather than definitions.
(I like Bhikkhu Sujato’s phrase, “someone who has experiential confidence in the teaching”. That’s very evidence-based faith.)

The mendicants respond, “We would travel a long way to learn the meaning…”
I’d never thought of it before, but after reading Marc Akincano Weber’s “On Reading the Suttas”, I understood the implications of this compliment “we would travel a long way”. The mendicants would have traveled by foot with no guarantee of food or sheleter. It’s a big deal to travel a long way.

Content

There are 16 sections (these are Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translations):

  • Wholesome/unwholesome
  • Nutriment
  • 4 noble truths
  • Ageing and Death
  • Birth
  • Being
  • Clinging
  • Craving
  • Feeling
  • Contact
  • Sixfold Base
  • Mentality/Materiality
  • Consciousness
  • Formations
  • Ignorance
  • Taints

Interesting that here is Twelve Nidānas, but with taints (Āhāra) as the “cause” of ignorance.

All of these parts except the first, A/Kusala, use the four-part structure: phenomenon, cause, ceasing, path that leads to the ceasing.

Kusala and Akusala

What is Akusala?

Translations:
Suj – skillful/unskillful
B – wholesome/unwholesome
H – skill/unskill
T – skillful/unskillful
Sud – wholesome/unwholesome

There are seven actions:

  • Four of the Five Precepts:
  • Killing living creatures, stealing, and misconduct of sense-pleasures; speech that’s false,
  • In a phone call with LB, he said that the reason the fifth precept was not included is that it is a later addition to Theravadan Buddhism.
  • Then two more things from Sammā-vācā:
  • [speach that’s] divisive, harsh, or nonsensical

Then there are three states of mind: covetousness (abhijjā), ill will (byāpādo), and wrong view (micchādiṭṭhi). These seem awfully close to the Kilesa?

In a phone call with SW, he reported askig Stephen Batchelor about this. And Stephen said: covetousness (abbhijā), ill will (byāpādo), and wrong view (micchādiṭṭhi) are thought of as actions that give rise to karma, whereas greed (lobha), anger (dosa), and delusion (moha) are the underlying tendencies that don’t create karma on their own. “At some point a thought morphs into an intention to take action.”
This was developed later in the Abidhamma, maybe?

And what is the root of Akusala? Lobha, Dosa, Moha.

What is Kusala?
non- Akusala stuff.

Part of the logical structure is:
1) Having right view means knowing how to be skillful and,
2) being skillful means having right view.
Is that circular? Or just dodgy?

And what is the root of Kusala?
non-Lobha, non-Dosa, non-Moha

And why do this? Because it ends Dukkha, not in another life, but here and now. (I think this “here and now” bit is important.)

What does it mean to have ended Dukkha?
Suddāso: then having completely abandoned the subconscious tendency towards passion, having removed the subconscious tendency towards aversion, having destroyed the subconscious tendency towards the conceit ‘I exist,’
Bhikkhu Sujato: They’ve given up ignorance and given rise to knowledge

Nutriment, aka Āhāra

Āhāra translations:
Suj – Fuel
B – nutriment
H – sustenance
T – nutriment
Sud – nutriment

How do we get from A/Kusala to Āhāra? Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu says that we have Kusala and Akusala stuff, and that stuff has roots. And those roots then draw nutriment. And that’s the connection. It’s certainly not spelled out like that in the sutta.

SN 12:64 says that nutriment isn’t the problem. It’s lust for the nutriments that’s the problem. That makes more sense to me. That makes nutriment just straight up nutriment. And I’m fine with that. Rāga (passion/lust), Nandi (desire/relishing), Taṇhā (craving) for the nutriment as the problem.

Four types of Āhāra:

  1. Physical food
  2. Phassa (contact) (aka sense-impingement, which I really like. Horner.)
  3. Manosañcetanā (mental cognition/intention?)
  4. Viññāṇa (Consciousness)

In a 2020 workshop, Akincano Weber said, “the nutriment of contact, Phassa. That’s how we feed our senses, through contact.” … the nutriment of mental volition [Shan’s Note: Mental Intention is another translation.]. That’s how we feed our mind, Manosañcetanā. … the nutriment of consciousness, that’s Viññāṇa. That’s how we feed the function of cognition.

I’m happy with Phassa feeding senses. I’m less happy with manosancetana and vinnana.

Āhāra arises from Taṇhā. A metaphysical leap indeed.

Four Noble Truths / Dukkha

Dukkha translations:
Suj – suffering
B – suffering
H – anguish
T – stress
Sud – dissatisfaction

Sujato: A noble disciple understands suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the practice that leads to its cessation.

But what is suffering? What is its origin, its cessation, and the practice that leads to its cessation?

Rebirth is suffering; old age is suffering; death is suffering; sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress are suffering; association with the disliked is suffering; separation from the liked is suffering; not getting what you wish for is suffering. In brief, the five grasping aggregates are suffering.

A note about “association with the disliked and separation from the liked”, which Sujato has included, this from Thānissaro: “2In passages where the Buddha defines stress, (e.g., SN 56:11, DN 22), he includes the statements, “association with the unbeloved is stressful; separation from the loved is stressful,” prior to “not getting what one wants is stressful.” For some reason, in passages where Ven. Sāriputta defines stress (here and at MN 28 and MN 141), he drops these statements from the definition.”

Dukkha arises from: That craving which is connected with again-becoming, accompanied by delight and attachment, finding delight in this and that, (H)

Kāmataṇhā Bhavataṇhā Vibhavataṇhā— (that is, craving for sensual pleasures , craving for being, and craving for non-being. B)

Dukkha ceases from: It’s the fading away and cessation of that very same craving with nothing left over; giving it away, letting it go, releasing it, and not adhering to it. Suj

Khandhas translations:
Suj – the five grasping aggregates
B – the five aggregates affected by clinging
H – the five groups of grasping
T – the five clinging-aggregates
Sud – the five aggregates when affected by clinging

“Pañcupādānakkhandhā”, five, Upādāna (clinging), khandas (aggregates). I’ve heard it referred to as Suddāso says, the five aggregates subject to clinging. But pañcupādānakkhandhā does look more like “the five clinging aggregates”.

Ageing and Death (aka Jarāmaraṇa)

Arises from birth (Bhikkhu Sujato says re-birth and I think he may be more literally correct) and ceases when birth ceases. A little nihilism, maybe?

Birth (aka Jāti)

What is Birth? The rebirth, inception, conception, reincarnation, manifestation of the aggregates, and acquisition of the sense fields of the various sentient beings in the various orders of sentient beings.

Of all of this the most interesting part may be this bit about the manifestation of the aggregates and acquisition of the sense fields.

Jāti arises based on Bhava.

Being/Becoming (Bhava)

Bhava translations:
Suj – continued existence
B – being
H – becoming
T – becoming
Sud – existence

Three kinds of Bhava:
kāmabhavo, rūpabhavo, arūpabhavo.
Sud – sensual existence, material existence, and immaterial existence.
Suj – Existence in the sensual realm, the realm of luminous form, and the formless realm.
B – sense-sphere being, fine-material being, and immaterial being.
T – sensual becoming, form becoming, & formless becoming.

Rūpa translations:
Suj – “luminous form”
B – fine-material
H – fine-materiality
T – form
Sud – material

Bhava arises from Upādāna. Hardly evident.

Upādāna

Four kinds of Upādāna:
kāmupādānaṁ, diṭṭhupādānaṁ, sīlabbatupādānaṁ, attavādupādānaṁ.
clinging to sensual pleasures, clinging to views, clinging to rules and observances, and clinging to a doctrine of self.

Upādāna arises from Taṇhā

Taṇhā

Six kinds of Taṇhā:
rūpataṇhā, saddataṇhā, gandhataṇhā, rasataṇhā, phoṭṭhabbataṇhā, dhammataṇhā.
Suj – Craving for sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches, and thoughts.

Rūpa here is “sights” forms, material shapes, forms, visible objects. It seems like a categorically different thing; now it seems we are talking about sight. Whereas in the section on “being”, “rūpa” was more about material form than about sight.
It may be just that they did not separate form and visual objects in the same way we do.

Taṇhā arises from Vedanā.

Vedanā

Six kinds of Vedanā:
cakkhusamphassajā vedanā, sotasamphassajā vedanā, ghānasamphassajā vedanā, jivhāsamphassajā vedanā, kāyasamphassajā vedanā, manosamphassajā vedanā.
Sujato had an easy to read: Feeling born of contact through the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind.
But I prefer Horner’s: Feeling arising from sensory impingement on the eye, feeling arising from sensory impingement on the ear, etc…
I think this is the best description I’ve seen of Phassa

Vedanā arises from Phassa.

Phassa

Six kinds of Phassa:
cakkhusamphasso, sotasamphasso, ghānasamphasso, jivhāsamphasso, kāyasamphasso, manosamphasso.
Bodhi – eye-contact, ear-contact, nose-contact, tongue-contact, body-contact, mind-contact.
But again I prefer Horner: Sensory impingement on the eye, sensory impingement on the ear, etc…

Phassa arises from Saḷāyatana.

Six Sense Bases (aka Saḷāyatana)

Saḷāyatana translations:
Suj – six sense fields
B – sixfold base
H – six bases of sense-impressions
T – six sense media
Sud – sixfold sense-base

My dictionary says “the six organs of sense”. Why then don’t we just translate it the “sense-organs”? Or the “six sense-organs”?

Six Saḷāyatana:
cakkhāyatanaṁ, sotāyatanaṁ, ghānāyatanaṁ, jivhāyatanaṁ, kāyāyatanaṁ, manāyatanaṁ.
Suj – The sense fields of the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind.
B – the eye-base, the ear-base, the nose-base, the tongue-base, the body-base, the mind-base.

Saḷāyatana arise from Nāmarūpa.

Nāmarūpa

Nāmarūpa translations:
Suj – name and form
B – mentality-materiality
H – mind-and-matter
T – name-&-form
Sud – mind and body

What is Nāmarūpa?

Name:
Vedanā, Sañña, Cetanā, Phassa, Manasikāra—
Suj – Feeling, perception, intention, contact, and attention
B – Feeling, perception, volition, contact, and attention—
H – Feeling, perception, volition, sensory impingement, reflectiveness,

Form:
The four primary elements, and form derived from the four primary elements—

Nāmarūpa arises from Consciousness.

Consciousness

Six kinds of Viññāṇa:
cakkhuviññāṇaṁ, sotaviññāṇaṁ, ghānaviññāṇaṁ, jivhāviññāṇaṁ, kāyaviññāṇaṁ, manoviññāṇaṁ.
Suj – Eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind consciousness.

Viññāṇa arises from Saṅkhāra

Saṅkhāra

Saṅkhāra translations:
Suj – choices
B – formations
H – formations
T – fabrication
Sud – formations

Three kinds of Saṅkhāra:
kāyasaṅkhāro, vacīsaṅkhāro, cittasaṅkhāro.
Suj – Choices by way of body, speech, and mind.
B – the bodily formation, the verbal formation, the mental formation.
I think Horner gets closest to my understanding with: Activity of the body, activity of speech, activity of mind.
You could say “habit patterns of body”, “habit patterns of speech”, “habit patterns of mind”.

Saṅkhāra arises based on Avijjā

Avijjā

Avijjā arises on not knowing the Four Noble Truths about Dukkha.
And Avijjā arises from Āsavas.

Āsavas / Taints

Āsava translations:
Suj – defilement
B – taint
H – canker
T – effluent
Sud – taint

Three types of Āsavas:
kāmāsavo, bhavāsavo, avijjāsavo.
Suj – The defilements of sensuality, desire to be reborn, and ignorance.
B – the taint of sensual desire, the taint of being, and the taint of ignorance.

Āsavas arise from Avijjā. That’s a little circular.

Other

Nihilism

This entire section of dependency reads nihilistic to me. Maybe they didn’t mean it that way, but it reads as wanting to get rid of birth, Vedanā, Phassa, Salayatana, namarupa, and consciousness. Not learning to come to deal with these aspects of our existence, but getting rid of them.

I once heard a teacher say that Hindus claim Buddhism is a Nihilistic religion; I didn’t understand why until I read this sutta.

Saḷāyatana and Taṇhā

There is a strong orientation towards embodied experience: the Saḷāyatana are referenced in four of the parts: Taṇhā, Vedanā, Saḷāyatana, and Viññāna.

Similarly a strong recognition of craving: Taṇhā is refered to in Āhāra (nutriment), Dukkha (Four Truths), Upādāna, and of course Taṇhā.


Whew! That’s so much stuff. If I’ve missed anything or mis-interpreted, I’d be thrilled to hear your thoughts on the same.

May you be well!

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