Better to Investigate the Present Moment Than Looking In to Beginning

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    • #21393

      I keep getting enquiries about when I am going to write about the Agganna Sutta, which describes “the beginnings of this world”, which is really the beginning of our own Earth.

      There are several problems with such an attempt, and it will not be beneficial due to the following reasons:

      1. Only 500 years ago, the accepted “world view” was that Earth was at the center of the universe and all the stars were embedded in a “celestial spheres“. If someone tried to explain that the Earth was actually rotating around the Sun, he would have had a hard time.
      2. In fact, Galileo was in that difficult position as we all know.
      3. I have thought a lot about even how to start on such a project, and I think I would be spending a lot of time engaging in very unfruitful debates.

      The Buddha himself encountered this problem when one disciple threatened to disrobe if the Buddha did not explain to him “the details about this world”. See, MN 63.

      There is absolutely no benefit to this kind of inquiry, even though I myself spent a lot of time on that in the past (especially in the early years of my Dhamma learning).

      Instead there is another angle that we can pursue, which is to look at the “existence of the world” from a personal level. I got this idea recently when I had to take a colonoscopy scan.

      I was made unconscious under the supervision of an anesthesiologist. They injected something and I was gone (unconscious) for over 30 minutes. I saw a black screen and I was gone.

      During that “time out” I had no sense of existence! Where was I until “came back”? I was not anywhere!

      In a way, we experience this every night. When we fall asleep, we are “gone”, especially if it is a deep sleep without any dreams.

      So, I would like to hear others’ ideas about this. There is a “world out there”, only when we are awake and our six senses can bring in sense inputs.

      Sometime back, when our children were small, we took them to a underground lake inside of a mountain in Tennessee. Before getting to the lake, there was a huge underground cave and the guide asked us to be quiet and turned off the lights. It was pitch black, and absolutely no sensations. I let go of my daughters hand and stood still like all others. It was the closest to becoming “unconscious” before the colonoscopy for me. Except for the thoughts running in my mind, there was no “outside world”!

      The only difference from the colonoscopy experience was that during the colonoscopy (as well as in deep sleep), my mind (I should really say mana indriya) was turned off too.

      This is why the Buddha said that “our world” is just the six senses that we have and those things that we experience with those six senses.

      In the rupavacara brahma realms, they only have three senses, and in the arupavacara realms, just the mind. That is why they are increasingly more peaceful!

      In that way, the less things we experience, less would be the burden on the mind!

    • #21394
      y not

      I woke up woke one morning and was amazed to find that I had no idea where I was or who I was. You may also say I was amazed at not finding myself. I must have been in my late teens or early twenties.

      Everything around seemed new, unknown. My memory was gone completely: my name, my identity, my past….everything. A clean slate. So you may say that in this case only 5 senses were there, and the sixth…well, the memory section of that was gone. The thinking and evaluating part was still there.

      Inside 30 seconds or so ‘I’ was back.

    • #21395

      @Lal said “So, I would like to hear others’ ideas about this. There is a “world out there”, only when we are awake and our six senses can bring in sense inputs.”
      I went through the same medical experience.
      If the world is but our 6 senses then why talk about brahma realms or any other realm whatsoever different from ours? But on the other hand one admits that it is through Mind (via Jhana) that one can “see”/experiment the realms invisible to the naked eye.
      And what about manomaya kaya when one his in such a state of “deep unconsciousness” ? Yet the only thing which is unconscious whilst in such “deep sleep” is one’s everyday conscious, that is, our little everyday conscious “I”.
      The “lifestream” that one is, as you call it yourself (posts on the (non)self), remains active – remember how the Gotama described (summing up) certain advanced Jhanas : “the body is almost like a corpse however one is differently alive” and “the meditator loses conscience of his/her own body…”

    • #21396

      One point I was trying to make is that there is no “mind” that exists all the time.

      Instead of talking about a mind, it is better to say that citta (loosely translated as “thoughts”) arise when at least one thought object comes to any one of the six (not just five) senses.

      • #21410

        you’ll notice, if you didn’t notice already, that i mention 6 senses in my post.

        Now as for the speculation on the existence or non-existence of a kind of a “global” mind, it doesn’t matter how one calls it; something is there – a seat as you said – when we are in deep sleep, and that something might be the hadaya vatthu.

        Otherwise I agree that there is no individual mind.

        • #21412

          Yeos said: “you’ll notice, if you didn’t notice already, that i mention 6 senses in my post.”

          I was not responding to your post, Yeos. I was just making a point.

          Now, there is “individuality” there, when consciousness arises due to a sense input. One’s gathi affect the citta (thoughts) that arise.
          – These gathi are the same as anusaya, that are triggered by a strong sense input.

    • #21403
      Tobias G

      Within the last few weeks I also came to the point where the concept of a “mind” is just a worldly idea (pannatti). There is only rupa sensed by the citta/cetasika and corresponding sankhara are carried out. With this one can creep closer to a deeper understanding about existence and how useless it is to do (abhi)sankhara in order to achieve something in the world. Also any thinking about future or past will worry the “mind”. There can no peace be gained. But before reaching such a stage one has to analyse the dhamma and needs hints and proof to establish saddha/panna.

    • #21404
      y not

      One other observation about the mind, apart from there being ‘no mind’ at times (when the mid is ‘a blank’), and from the arising of citta ‘when at least one thought object comes to any one of the six (not just five) senses’ , is that no thought stream that arises is permanently there. To elucidate:

      Sometimes the attraction to either an object, a person or even an idea (Dhamma for instance) is so powerful that we identify with that to the extent that we think: ‘yes, this is what I want, I want to remain in this state along with these feelings. This is what I am. This is what I want to be forever.’ Yet after some time, it could be days, weeks or more, we find that we ‘are not that’anymore. The intensity of the attraction and the time that had been spent at it in the past serves, however, to bring it back again sooner or later, how sooner or how later again depending on how much of ourselves we had given to it previously. In this sense I feel that the mind is ‘a traitor’ because it will not hang on to what we wanted to hang on to. But it works the other way around as well: sometimes it seems impossible to stop thinking of an obnoxious person, for instance, and we fear that now we will remain stuck with that person in mind. But soon enough the mind is now’a liberator’ – all thoughts of that person are gone.

      Years ago I used to say: if the pleasant did not pass, nor would the unpleasant.

    • #21405

      The idea of a “mind” in particular “my mind” comes from our ability to recall the past. We can recall what we did yesterday, last year, many years ago. The mind is really in our our thoughts, and it exists only when thoughts arise; see, “What is Mind? How do we Experience the Outside World?“.

      Even if we cannot recall things in detail, we can see the continuity of “me”: I looked like this when I was ten, I got married x years ago, my first child was born xx years ago, etc.

      Of course, we NEED to have those memories in order to live the present moment. If we don’t remember where the bathroom is, for example, we will have a problem; see, “The Amazing Mind – Critical Role of Nāmagotta (Memories)“.

      But what I am trying to say is that UNLESS we experience a sense input with one of the six senses, we would not be aware of a “world existing”.

      Some people live for long periods of time without gaining consciousness. Where is their “mind” during that time?

      The only thing that does not ever cease to exist (until Parinibbana) is hadaya vatthu, where thoughts CAN arise (IF AND WHEN a sense input comes through one of the six sense faculties). Of course, the nature of that hadaya vatthu keeps changing from bhava to bhava. At the cuti-patisandhi moment, the old hadaya vatthu cease to exist and a new hadaya vatthu is created by kammic energy.

      Somethings to think about!

      P.S. I revised the post 2 hours later!

    • #21417

      Tobias wrote:
      “But before reaching such a stage one has to analyse the dhamma and needs hints and proof to establish saddha/panna.”

      I agree with this.

      I was one of the people who requested about this sutta. I’ll repeat some of what I said in the email for others:

      There are numerous origin stories of this world/humanity from various cultures around the world. I am the most interested in the Buddha Dhamma version. This is the one that counts in my opinion. This is the one that will probably make the most sense. That extra puzzle piece that could clarify a lot of questions.

      In honesty, I will remain curious about the true translation/interpretation/meaning of this sutta until I find it. Even Venerable Moggallana, after becoming an Arahant, seemed to have been curious and explored this universe. Key word being “curious” and “explore” and not “tanha/attachment”. It will not be end of the world if we never know, nor is it necessary. But if one can be curious and explore without attachment or with the least amount of tanha as possible, then I see this as no issue nor hindrance to the Path.

      It is a shame the correct translations/meaning/interpretation for this sutta is not available.

      Venerable Waharaka has talked about this sutta in a desana.
      Venerable Waharaka desana
      If anyone who is proficient in Sinhalese can translate his desana or anyone proficient in Pali can translate/interpret this sutta, even just the general layout please share in writing or even a desana. Myself and I’m sure many others would be thankful and be curious to read/listen to it. There is no private messaging system here, so can email me at [email protected].

    • #21426

      Upekkha100 wrote:”“But before reaching such a stage one has to analyse the dhamma and needs hints and proof to establish saddha/panna. I agree with this.”

      I agree with that too.
      But one does not need to learn about the beginning of the world to establish faith in Buddha Dhamma. One needs to feel the niramisa sukha by following the Eightfold Path to establish faith.
      – Investigating how the Earth was formed, is not something that can be described even in several posts.
      – In order to properly discuss the Agganna sutta will take a book.
      – Furthermore, it will take precious time away from focusing on more urgent needs. Each person should focus on getting release from the apayas first, in my opinion (and then getting released from the kama loka).

      Let me just say one thing about the sutta. The Buddha delivered that sutta to two brahmins, to explain that not only vedic brahmins but ALL LIVING BEINGS on this Earth came from the pabhassara brahma realm in the beginning (i.e., each and every living being on this was a brahma at the beginning).
      -Now you can see why there are going to be many questions.
      -There are more urgent things to discuss right now. From my recent experience at Dhamma Wheel discussion board, I am amazed at how little general public knows about the BASICS of Buddha Dhamma. There is much to do on that front.

    • #21444

      Lal wrote:
      “ALL LIVING BEINGS on this Earth came from the pabhassara brahma realm in the beginning (i.e., each and every living being on this was a brahma at the beginning). ”

      Even that tiny bit was very revealing. That does not seem far fetched to me, and would actually make sense.

      As I told Lal in the email, if such a book on the Agganna sutta was written I would read it.

      Lal, though I disagree with your views regarding this somewhat, I can see where you are coming from.

      Thanks for sharing a bit about the sutta.

    • #21453

      Hi Lal,

      I agree that we can’t waste our time talking about the beginning of the world, because this is one of the topic the Buddha didn’t want us to focus on.

      But I think having a post describe briefly about the true origin of human in each maha kappa according to what’s described in Agganna Sutta is quite beneficial. Because there is the common view that human species evolve from animal and inherit some instinct of animal.

      This view itself is very dangerous, people have this view rooted can just do whatever unskillful deed they want and then blame it to the animal instinct they are inherited, like uncontrolled sexual desire, unlimited greed, kill/lie/cheat/violent/wars due to survival instinct, etc.

      According to the current Agganna Sutta translations, I think, are just tell us about the devolution of human’s morality, if that’s what the Sutta intended, then it’s just fine. But if something wrong with translations of the sutta then we must take action to clarify it, and this is the time to uproot that harmful view about human evolution (at least among us – the community).

      So I think at least a post about Agganna Sutta is actually beneficial to ones who seek the truth.

      There are many misconceptions about the Buddha’s world view, like Jambudipa is India, … And many missing links, like Where is other 3 places beside Jambudipa, and and where is other manussa beside us, …

    • #21454
      y not

      There exist different levels of ‘truth’.

      The search for the origin of the world, of life and of man, through the study of astronomy, cosmology, cosmogony, anthropogenesis, theoretical physics and so on, noble as all that may sound, is still mundane. With new findings through direct observation or through new or modified views, the picture, ‘truth’, changes. It does not change in actual fact; it is only our perception of it that does.

      But when one KNOWS that one has at last come to the Ultimate Truth, or to the path leading to It as a start, then all these studies become of secondary importance. And here is the danger for those who are instinctively pulled toward ‘finding Reality’ – those studies risk becoming of PRIMARY importance. But once one has had at least a glimpse of Buddhadhamma,, one’s efforts become concentrated on eliminating future suffering. What more worthwhile goal can there be?

      The danger is passed only when one has acquired pasada in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha and made a resolve to do one’s best, as a result of that, to live as moral a life as possible (by eliminating defilements) with constant mindfulness. And there are many, most, who are not even Sotapannas anugami ! And now they will find themselves irresistibly investigating the Aganna sutta. This is what Lal is constantly pointing out – not that there is nothing ‘of truth’ in that Sutta,(even though the truth about it is constant, ever-recurring here and in other stellar systems and galaxies, eternal); only that there is nothing worth taking time off the MAIN OBJECTIVE for.

      One may not be able to or even be interested in developing jhanas and may not be certain what stage on the Path one is at (if any), but of pasada about the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha one can be sure of. The Path then lies clear ahead.

    • #21459

      I will try to post a regular post on Agganna sutta in the coming days. That will be easier than to keep writing here.

      Of course, it will be an outline only but hopefully will clarify how complex this whole issue is.

    • #21693

      @Lal said “I was made unconscious under the supervision of an anesthesiologist. They injected something and I was gone (unconscious) for over 30 minutes. I saw a black screen and I was gone”

      What about “you” as a gandhabba ? If it is still sheathed in the body of flesh at that moment, such equates to the presence of (a) mind, and it doesn’t matter if the body is temporarily out…

      For isn’t the gandhabba also a concentrated of mind ?

      From “Science of Consciousness Foundational”, AcademiaEdu :

      “The textbook: Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the
      21st Century, written by a whole team at Virginia University, ‘presents empirical evidence that reductive materialism is not only incomplete but false.’ The neural correlates of consciousness
      (NCC: minimal activity needed to generate consciousness), so-called, are themselves components of thorough inquiry, and the above label has proven a literal anathema in terms of meaningfulness: e.g. a multitude of cases have been investigated where brain functions have ceased yet continuity of experience is even more vividly emergent. Post-Dead Experiences: where brain functions have ceased yet continuity of experience is more vividly emergent. ”

      Such “continuity of experience” might be provided by the gandhabba…

    • #21696

      What person X experiences is experienced by X’s gandhabba (mental body). Specifically, it is the hadaya vatthu of the gandhabba where thoughts are generated. That hadaya vatthu overlaps the heart (not in the heart).

      In order to generate thoughts, the hadaya vatthu MUST first get a sense input from one of the six senses (five physical senses and the mana indriya that is located in the brain).

      Therefore, if the brain in not active, the hadaya vatthu does not get any sense input, and thus cannot generate any thoughts.

      When one is unconscious, one’s brain does not function. That is why one does not generate any thoughts while unconscious.

      During deep sleep also parts of the brain are inactive. That is why we don’t generate thoughts during sleep, especially while in deep sleep called the REM state.

      I have given an analogy to explain this in #8 and #9 of the following post:
      “Our Mental Body – Gandhabba”

      I see that the linking tool is not working. Here is the web address for that post:

      Our Mental Body – Gandhabba

    • #21706

      “What person X experiences is experienced by X’s gandhabba (mental body).”

      That which makes experiencing possible is the gandhabba,not the reverse. Otherwise one’s body wouldn’t perish once the gandhabba leaves it.

      OR: gandhabba makes experiencing possible as much as the body of flesh of a person with its sense doors.

      If we all come from brahmas then subtle engendering gross prevails upon the reverse , only afterwards gross has the possibility of engendering the subtle through Dhamma, til Nibanna.

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