The Infinity problem – BIG doubt

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    • #13801
      C. Saket
      Participant

      Hii everyone

      May the blessings of the Triple Gem be with you always !

      First some brief introduction.

      I was born in India. I grew up in the city of Vārānasi or Bārānasi (ancient Kāsi kingdom) situated at the banks of Gangā river. It is just 7 miles away from Isipatana – the place where Lord Buddha gave his first discourses after his enlightenment (Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta, Anattalakkhana Sutta, etc).

      As a kid I used to go to Isipatana but I didn’t knew much about Buddha Dhamma at that time (because I grew up in a Hindu family).

      I have read that a Sotapanna has unshakable faith in the Buddha, Dhamma & Sangha.

      In my case, I have 99.99 % faith in the Triple Gem. However a slight bit of doubt still remains in me. I still feel that I have not attained the Sotapanna stage yet.

      I am still a young boy, so please accept my apologies if my question seems to be ridiculous.

      My doubt is like this :

      There are infinite number of sentient beings in this Sansara and all sentient beings have been in this Sansara from beginning-less past. So we all must have been in each & every one of the 31 realms infinite number of times ! Hence we all have had infinite number of births in the human realm also.

      It means that this is NOT THE FIRST TIME that we are exposed to Buddha Dhamma (or Tilakkhana). In fact we all have been a monk (bhikkhu) in our past lives infinite number of times. Therefore we must have heard Dhamma discourses from a Buddha (or any Ariya person) in the past infinite number of times !

      Take the example of our Lord Buddha Gotama. It is said that during the time period when he was a Bodhisattva, he had seen 512,000 Buddhas. So it is obvious that he also must have heard Tilakkhana from many of the Buddhas or even from their disciples (Arahants).

      I also feel that this is not the first time that I have heard Buddha Dhamma. I must have heard the Tilakkhana in infinite number of past lives.

      So my question is – why didn’t I attain any magga-phala till now if I have heard Tilakkhana infinite number of times in the past ?

      If I have been a monk (bhikkhu) infinite number of times in the past then why didn’t I attained the Sotapanna stage at that time ?

      If I was unable to attain any magga-phala in the past then how can I say that I will attain magga-phala in this life or in future lives ?

      By applying the logic of infinity, if Samsara has no beginning (time is infinite) and if I have been born as a human infinite number of times then I must have had attained Nibbana in at least one of those infinite number of past lives. But I am still stuck here in Samsara.

      So this leads to a very scary conclusion which I don’t want to write here.

      I have thought a lot about this but didn’t get any satisfactory answer.

      It is shocking to see that no one asked this very “obvious question” to Lord Buddha. Is there any answer to this question somewhere in the Tipitaka ?

      This single question has been hurting me for a long time and it is making me restless. This question is also creating doubts in my mind. I am afraid to say.

    • #13820
      Akvan
      Participant

      Hi Saket,

      With regard to us hearing the arya dhamma; yes, I agree that we would have heard it numerous number of times. But just because one hears it doesn’t mean that he will understand it. And it is the proper understanding that is necessary and not merely hearing it. Think of all the people who hear this sa-dhamma even today but cannot understand it or merely don’t want to try to understand it or even just shun it aside and look down upon and insult it. So, all of us would have done such things in our past lives and hence even if we heard the dhamma we may not have been in a state to comprehend it.

      To understand the dhamma one needs to have pragna and through samsara each one of us would have been cultivating pragna to different levels and ultimately peak when (if) one becomes an arahanth. I think this also refers to paramitha that one cultivates.

      So to your question of why we didn’t attain any magga pala even though we may have heard the dhamma earlier, it would have been because our pragna may not have been developed to the required level.

      This or a similar question was asked from the Buddha. According to paticcha samuppada the reason for the samsara is avijja. So, after avijja is taken off completely then there could be no reason for samsara. I cannot recall the sutta though.

      On a personal note if there was a possibility that one could return to sansara after one attains nibbana, there would have been no point in the Buddha teaching all this. It is such a comprehensive solution to all problems that if such a possibility was there, I’m sure it would have been taken into account by him.

      Just because one couldn’t attain any magga pala in the past doesn’t mean that he cannot attain it now or in the future. However only a Buddha will know whether someone has the potential to understand the dhamma and if so how far and what level of magga pala he can attain in this life. So we should not be discouraged and try as much as possible to understand the aniccha, dukka, anatta nature and attain magga pala. And if we have attained a magga pala to keep on going until we attain arahanth.

      But even if someone doesn’t attain any magga pala in this life the effort will not be invain, as this effort will help grow ones pragna (paramitha) so that he can attain magga pala in a future life. There are also examples of instances where people attained various magga pala at their dying moments. So even if one has not attained anything yet, we have to keep that effort going.

    • #13823
      C. Saket
      Participant

      Dear Akvan Sir,
      Theruvan saranai

      Thanks a lot for your encouragement. I truly appreciate your help.

      Yes, you said it right – “Just because one couldn’t attain any magga pala in the past doesn’t mean that he cannot attain it now or in the future.”

      I also agree when you said – “But just because one hears it doesn’t mean that he will understand it. And it is the proper understanding that is necessary and not merely hearing it.”

      But when you said – “So to your question of why we didn’t attain any magga pala even though we may have heard the dhamma earlier, it would have been because our pragna may not have been developed to the required level.”

      This is the point where my doubt is.

      I mean, on one hand it is said that we all have been to all the apayas, in all the deva lokas, in all the brahma lokas (even in the highest arupa lokas) infinite number of times in this beginning-less sansara. We even have been born human (and have heard the Buddha Dhamma) infinite number of times in the past.

      But on the other hand it is said that we are still here in sansara because we have NEVER attained any magga-phala in any of our infinite number of past lives.

      Isn’t it strange that I have not been able to develop the required level of “panna” for attaining the Sotapanna stage in any of my infinite number of past lives ?

      Isn’t it shocking that I have not fulfilled the conditions of becoming a Sotapanna in any of my infinite number of past lives ?

      I mean how is it possible ?

      For me, this point is very hard to believe. It is very difficult to digest.

      But I have no choice. I have to believe this strange “assumption”, otherwise my mind will not be able to focus on the path.

      Anyways, thanks again for your help.

      MAY ALL BEINGS ATTAIN NIBBANA !!!

    • #13824
      C. Saket
      Participant

      Also can you please kindly give some suggestions about my present situation.

      I think I have some basic understanding of Aniccha, Dukkha, Anatta but still something is preventing me from crossing the threshold of the Sotapanna stage.

      Its may be because of my gathi or may be because of my mental defilements.

      Or may be my mind is not in a suitable condition right now to attain a magga-phala.

      Also I have this desire of becoming a Samma Sambuddha lingering somewhere in the back of my mind.

      Initially when I started searching about Buddhism on the internet, I was first exposed to Mahayana Buddhism (I didn’t knew about Aniccha, Dukkha, Anatta at that time). So I cultivated the aim of becoming a Samma Sambuddha in the future.

      I want to help MAXIMUM number of sentient beings in attaining Nibbana and that can be done only by becoming a Samma Sambuddha. And for that I have to cultivate the perfections of the 10 paramis.

      Also right from my childhood I had this mindset of becoming the best in the world, the highest in the world. (may be because of my ego)

      So after hearing about Aniccha, Dukkha, Anatta there is a conflict going in my mind.

      Can you please help as to how to get out of this dilemma.

    • #13830
      sybe07
      Spectator

      Hi,

      Maybe it is not really what you are looking for C. Saket, but these sutta’s deal with the question why some people attain Nibbana and others not:

      https://suttacentral.net/en/sn35.118
      https://suttacentral.net/en/an4.179
      https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.107.horn.html

      In general, sutta’s mention there are really many things which are not conducive for realising Nibbana and those are, in fact, quit normal things, like beings longing for and involvement in sense-pleasures or even subtle mental states. But also immoral behaviour in thoughts, verbally and in deeds. Holding on to speculative views and wrong views. How many lives did we had the right mundane views? Attachment to equanimity. Shamelessness. No fear for wrong doing. Enjoying personal existence (love for samsara?). The five nivarana’s. Regarding Nibbana as mine or as who i am, etc.

      A very nice sutta, i find is SN35.241. It gives a beautiful simile of the great log: https://suttacentral.net/en/sn35.241

      it shows how a great log in the River Ganges can lead all the way to the sea (nibbana) but can also not arrive there. In a very nice way it shows what are the obstacles for realising Nibbana.

      Hang in there!

      Siebe

    • #13831
      Lal
      Keymaster

      C.Saket had asked me this question via email sometime back, and I published a post at that time giving some ideas:”The Infinity Problem in Buddhism“.

      But I need to revise that post when I have time.

      The key point is that there are many philosophical questions out there. While it OK to contemplate on such things if one has time, one needs to decide whether it is fruitful to spend a lot of time on them.

      One example is Zeno’s paradox. People have wasted time debating that. Google “Zeno’s paradox” and read about it if you are not familiar with it. It seems like an impressive mathematical problem, until you realize that it can be solved by experience in a minute. It is said that Socrates, for example, when told about the paradox, just drew line in the sand and walked across it without saying a word.

      Another thing to think about is that the Buddha said that a Buddha is there to teach how to get rid of suffering, and to explain things about this world, some of which are not graspable by a normal human mind. He explained this to a bhikkhu names Malunkyaputta who threatened to give up the monastic life if the Buddha did not explain him about the beginning of the world, etc. See;”Cūḷa­māluk­ya sutta (MN 63)“. A reasonable translation at”The Shorter Discourse to Mālunkyāputta (MN 63)“.

      But discussions like this do have some use, so I will post a revised version of my original post when I get time. If others point out any other relevant issues to address, or other relevant facts, I can incorporate those too.

    • #13841
      Akvan
      Participant

      Hi Saket,

      Yes, we may have been in all these realms (except arupi realms that anagami’s go) and even the Buddha has been in all these as well. However, it is said that beings spend most of their lives in the apayas. As for me, it is very easy to see my-self being in the apayas, as opposed to the deva and brahma realms due to the gathi I have / had. So even though we would have heard the Dhamma, the number of times we heard it, might be very miniscule in contrast to our whole samsara.

      You said: “Isnt it strange that I have not been able to develop the required level of panna for attaining the sotapanna stage in any of my infinite number of past lives”.

      Isn’t it strange that some people are not even willing to listen to this dhamma when it is right in front of them? Don’t you think we would have done similar things in the past? Then how many people actually insult the dhamma. Don’t you think we would have done the same things in the past? And each time someone insults the Dhamma his level of panna will decrease.

      Yes, it can be a bit depressing, but look at it this way. Imagine what a lot of luck we have that we are exposed to this Dhamma. The Buddha gives different similes to explain the probability of one being born a human. That probability in itself is unfathomable. Then take the likelihood of one being born a human during the time the Dhamma is exposed to the world. The statistical probability is virtually zero. Don’t you think we would have done something right sometime in the past to be born a human in a time like this? And then take the probability of being exposed to the Dhamma. How many of this 7 billion population are exposed to this?

      On a personal note: I was exposed to the Dhamma while trying to find a solution to the world’s problems. My dream was to eradicate poverty and have a better world for all beings. But now I understand that the most permanent and complete solution (to all the worlds’ problems) could only be obtained through the understanding of the Dhamma. And even this has to be done by each person by him-self and cannot be forced on anyone. And the old proverb is very apt here “you can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”. However, I am also trying to help all beings in my own way by cultivating the arya metta bhvana, and as Lal has mentioned this is all one could do.

      If you want to become the best in the world, achieve the highest level attainable in this life, there is only one option as I see it; becoming an arahanth. So, if you really want to be the highest, then strive to be an arahanth in this life itself.

    • #13843
      C. Saket
      Participant

      Thank you so much to everyone for your kind help.

      I am grateful for your comments and your encouragement.

      It is because of Kalana Mitta (Noble friends) like you that I have seen the right path. Thank you for guiding me in the right direction.

      I am indebted to you all for your Noble support.

      MAY ALL BEINGS ACHIEVE NIBBANA !!!

    • #13890
      Lal
      Keymaster

      This topic turns out to be an excellent one since it forces us to think deeper into the question of “self”.

      C. Saket said: “I also feel that this is not the first time that I have heard Buddha Dhamma. I must have heard the Tilakkhana in infinite number of past lives.”

      When he first pointed out this problem to me via email (before the discussion forum started), he pointed out this problem to have its origin in the infinite monkey theorem, which states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare.

      So, the analogy is that “a person trying to attain Nibbana” can be compared to “a monkey trying to type the complete works of Shakespeare with a typewriter”.

      The key to resolving this problem is to realize that the solution lies in the question itself (due to the Buddha’s contention that it is not correct to say whether a “person exists” OR “a person does not exist”).

      We have discussed this at length (and Saket himself started a new topic “Wrong English translations of Aniccha, Anatta, Sakkaya ditthi… etc”). It was recently discussed under another topic “Anatta” where I provided more clear evidence from the Tipitaka that the Buddha rejected both views of “a person exists” OR “a person does not exist”.

      In reality, there is “no person” travelling samsara trying to attain Nibbana.

      Even though even the Buddha said that he had been so and so in previous lives, that is just like saying “I am doing this” or “John went home”. We need to do that to communicate.

      However, at a deeper level, there is no “person” or a “satta” that lives and sees, hears, smells, tastes, touch things, and thinks AT THE SAME TIME.

      There is only a series of events that occur ONE AT A TIME. When we see, we can only see; when we hear we can only hear, etc. But each of such “events” comes in as only a brief signal at a time, and is analyzed by a single citta vithi.

      So, for example, suppose person X sees person Y and he is saying “mom”. There are thousands of citta vithi running through X’s mind within a second while he is seeing Y and hearing him say “mom”: “m” sound comes separately from “a” sound and that is also separated from the last “m” sound. In between them, there are visual snapshots of Y coming in through the eyes.

      It is the manasikara cetasika (one of the six universal cetasika in a citta) put it all together with help of other universal cetasika, especially cetana, sanna, and vedana. This is discussed via many posts at the “Abhidhamma” section.

      However, we can get an idea about how this happens by analyizing what happens in playing a movie. A movie is a collection of static pictures that are projected on a screen at a fast rate. Even though they show individual pictures (just like our mind taking a series of snapshots of seeing and hearing), when they are processed at a fast rate, IT APPEARS TO BE continuous.
      Thus, the Buddha described the fastest quantum process, the working of the mind, in Abhidhamma.

      This aspect of the similarity to a movie projection is discussed in detail in the post:”Citta and Cetasika – How Vinnana (Consciousness) Arises”. Please watch the youtube animation video there. That is helpful in getting the basic idea.

      If one needs to get a good idea of why the Buddha rejected both “self” and “no-self” views, this is a good way to analyze it at a deeper level.

      By the way, this wrong perception of a “me” is due to the “ghana sanna“, i.e., the perception that “I am a solid living entity” that does this and that. In reality, one’s physical body just an inert shell; it is being controlled by an unbelievably small “almost mental entity” called gandhabba. And that gandhabba itself changes moment-to-moment (by changing gati), and drastic changes in gandhabba occur when the human bhava ends and a different bhava (deva, animal, etc) is grasped.

      I invite all to ask questions (if something is not clear) since it is important to discuss this and get the basic ideas. That will help getting rid of sakkaya ditthi. It is not possible to give details in a single post, but I direct to appropriate posts or make comments if a new issue is pointed out.

    • #13895
      C. Saket
      Participant

      Ven. Lal Sir,

      I get the idea of what you are trying to explain.

      It is also very well demonstrated in this video :

      Please see – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MEgEJ0Uyt6Y

      You said : “However, at a deeper level, there is no “person” or a “satta” that lives and sees, hears, smells, tastes, touch things, and thinks AT THE SAME TIME.
      There is only a series of events that occur ONE AT A TIME. When we see, we can only see; when we hear we can only hear, etc. But each of such “events” comes in as only a brief signal at a time, and is analyzed by a single citta vithi.”

      Yes, I agree with you. These statements are true.

      In fact Ven. Bahiya Daruciriya became an Arahant just by listening to a single discourse by Lord Buddha ! Other monks were shocked as to how a person can become an Arahant in such a short time just by listening to a single discourse.

      Please see – https://suttacentral.net/pi/ud1.10

      Actually Ven. Bahiya Daruciriya had high level of “panna” from his previous life. That is why he was able to become an Arahant in such a short time ( within minutes ! ).

      But my point is not this. I think my original question was something different.

      I am unable to see the link between your answer and my question. What is the connection between these two ?

      Can you kindly please elaborate ?

    • #13896
      Lal
      Keymaster

      @ C.Saket: There is a presumed monkey typing on a typewriter for an eternity (in the analogy). There is no “person” (C. Saket) travelling in samsara for an eternity.

    • #13899
      C. Saket
      Participant

      @ Ven. Lal Sir,

      You said : “There is a presumed monkey typing on a typewriter for an eternity (in the analogy). There is no “person” (C. Saket) travelling in samsara for an eternity.”

      Lord Buddha rejected both “self” and “no self” views. Right ?
      So it is NOT correct to say that:

      (1) “there is a person”

      OR

      (2) “there is no person”

      Everyone has a distinct set of 5 khandhas which are different for each sentient being. And also all these 5 khandhas are in flux, i.e., they are dynamic, always changing.

      For example, I had a different personality when I was a kid (different set of 5 khandhas). Similarly, I was not the same person when I was a teenager, but when I read/heard the Dhamma, I have now become a different person altogether i.e., the set of 5 khandhas for my teenage was not the same as the set of 5 khandhas at the present time.

      HOWEVER, the present set of 5 khandhas for me has come (as a result) from my past set of 5 khandhas (toddler – kid – teenager – now) i.e., they are “causally related.”

      The same is true for each and every rebirth process that is going on from beginning-less time (infinity).

      Take another example, if I touch a vessel (which is very hot) then there will be a burning sensation at my hand. The set of 5 khandhas before touching the hot vessel was different from the set of 5 khandhas after touching the hot vessel BUT they both are “causally related”.

      In very simple words – There was no painful sensations at my hand before touching the hot vessel. The burning sensation (painful vedana) arose because I decided to touch that hot vessel.

      I hope you got what I am trying to say.

      So it is not appropriate to say that “there is a person” OR “there is no person”.

    • #13900
      C. Saket
      Participant

      Anyways, I think this “infinity problem” is not going to take us anywhere.

      So it is better not to focus on things which are not conducive to our goal (Nibbana).

      So I have settled on the conclusion that this rebirth process has not ended for me (even after infinite amount of time) because I have not truly followed the Noble 8-fold path yet.

      As long as I continue to take it lightly (and not seriously follow the Noble 8-fold path), until then this rebirth process will continue to exist for me.

      Thank you so much for all your answers Ven. Lal Sir.
      I am really grateful to you.

      MAY ALL BEINGS ACHIEVE NIBBANA !!!

    • #13902
      Lal
      Keymaster

      C. Saket said: “So I have settled on the conclusion that this rebirth process has not ended for me (even after infinite amount of time) because I have not truly followed the Noble 8-fold path yet.”

      Yes. I am glad you came to that conclusion. The Buddha always emphasized that there are many “puzzles” in this world, but it is not worth while to spend too much time on them, unless we can learn something relevant to pursuing the Path.

      I realized recently that this particular issue is a good opportunity to point out the deeper analysis of why both “there is a self” and “there is no self” are wrong.

      By the way, the above statement should really read as: Both views “there is a self” and “there is no UNCHANGING self” are wrong.

      The reason is that a being exists only momentarily in a given precise state. Each moment of existence arises due to cause and effect or paticca samuppada (PS), here the pavutti PS. Drastic changes normally occur with uppatti PS, but in some cases like in attaining magga phala, drastic changes can also occur via pavutti PS.

      A good analogy of a “momentarily changing self” is a “circle of fire” illusion created by rapidly moving a ball of fire in circular motion. We know that really there is no “circle of fire” there; in reality the fire is located at one place at a given time. If we slow down the rotation, we can actually see that to be true. (And even the fire at the burning point arises at each moment!) But we cannot say that a circle fire does not exist as long as the rapid movement is there (especially to a child watching it).

      We are like those children, who may not really “see” the true nature of “a circle of fire”. In reality a living being is sort of like that circle of fire. We think that we talk, see, smell, etc in parallel (at the same time), but that is not case.

      If the mind can be slowed down, one would be able to “see” that those are the results of billions of separate actions taking place one at a time (each one taking a citta vithi that lasts only a billionth of a second; no two events can take place at the same time; when the mind deals with seeing, it cannot hear, etc). But that can be “seen” only by a Buddha. The Buddha said that mind is the fastest entity in the whole world!

      So, this is a good opportunity to comprehend that aspect, especially for those who are interested in detailed explanations. But it is not necessary for others.

      As you pointed out “In fact Ven. Bahiya Daruciriya became Arahant just by listening to a single discourse by Lord Buddha! Other monks were shocked as to how a person can become an Arahant in such a short time just by listening to a single discourse.
      Please see – https://suttacentral.net/pi/ud1.10
      Actually Ven. Bahiya Daruciriya had high level of “panna” from his previous life. That is why he was able to become an Arahant in such a short time ( within minutes ! ).”

      Yes. Ven. Bahiya became an Arahant when the Buddha explained (in a single verse!), this dynamic process which we normally attribute to a “person”. But it is really not a “person” engaged in seeing, hearing, etc. It is really the cumulative effect of rapid actions taking place via paticca samuppada or cause and effect at each thought moment!

      Again, this process can be fully comprehended only by an Arahant. But getting the basic idea can help remove sakkaya ditthi. I recommend carefully reviewing the post: “Citta and Cetasika – How Vinnana (Consciousness) Arises“. Even if one does not fully comprehend it, it is good to get the basic idea.

      Also, this again points to the fact that our mental body (gandhabba) is much more important that our physical body, as I mentioned earlier.

    • #13906
      sybe07
      Spectator

      The above talk between Lal and C. Saket refers to Udana 1.10. A fragment from this sutta;

      “In that case, Bāhiya, you should train yourself thus: In what is seen there must be only what is seen, in what is heard there must be only what is heard, in what is sensed there must be only what is sensed, in what is cognized there must be only what is cognized. This is the way, Bāhiya, you should train yourself”.

      I agree (on points) with Lal. But in my own words (please comment if you see any mistakes):

      I belief the Buddha does explain in this fragment that in the heard, seen, cognised etc. there must not be the impression of an “I” who is hearing, seeing, cognising etc. There must be only the pure awareness, as it were.

      This is contra-intuitive because together with (almost) any sense-contact there arises the impression that a subject (I am conceit) sees, hears, etc.
      This impression of a subject who experiences one can also call ‘ego’ or self-view of self-belief. The sutta’s talk about “I am” desire, “I am” conceit and “I am” underlying tendency.

      This subject/ego/self has it’s own needs. It want to be fed with sense-pleasures, feel comfortable. It want to be fed with attention, with love, with compliments, respect, status, with subtle jhana, with all kinds of things it wants to be fed.

      Sometimes this socalled entity does not want to live anymore while it experiences much suffering. So it has also its own suffering such as the suffering of being not respected enough, being lonily, being puffed up, being not understood, not loved etc.

      The Buddha called this insatible hunger of this subject, ego or “I am” conceit ‘tanha’, craving. He saw that this desire of ego, this “I am” desire and conceit, are in fact troubling the mind constantly.

      While other religions take a moral position and Judge the ego negative, the Buddha was so compassionate and wise that he saw that in fact beings are troubled by this ego-conceit and ego-centric habits, ego centric needs, ego-centric way of living.

      He saw this is not because beings are immoral or inherently bad but being are deluded because they belief this ego or I am conceit is there real identity or the real nature of mind. The Buddha saw this was the real burdon for beings, this ego or “I am” desires and conceit.

      Because the Buddha was such an expert in calming the mind, in calming all formation, he was able to see, the Great One, the Wise and Compassionate one, that this ego-conceit although experienced as mind itself, is just a strong adventitious defilement of the mind. It can end. It’s not the nature of mind.

      The unawakened mind does not know the total ending of this identity. It has the constant perception ‘mind-as-a-subject’. It lives with the sanna that mind IS a subject. It takes that subject-like-character of the mind to be the inherent or the absolute nature of mind.

      I belief the Buddha had seen that this is not true. The conceit “I am” which colours the mind with the impression it is a subject which experiences, can end totally. I belief the Buddha saw that this subjective way of experiencing ‘the world’ is mostly due to vinnana. Vinnana is distorting the mind with it’s typical subject-object duality, i.e. a perceiver which perceives a certain object.

      What is the nature of mind when mind is not a subject?

      On this point i tend to mahayana. I do not think, at this moment, the nature of mind are citta vitthi’s running very vast, nor a gandhabba, but the nature of mind is Nibbana, unborn ultimate peace. This is also called supreme emptiness and Dhamma.

      Anything that relates to movement, running, arising, existing a while, transforming, ceasing, changing etc, that does not really describe who or what we are. It might be reflections/phenomena created by the mind but it is not the nature of mind.

      Grasping at conditioned phenomena or processes as ‘mine’ or as ‘who i am’ seems to be the basic mistake we have made in many many lives.

      I feel like the Buddha teaches that in the end the nature of mind is indestructable, unborn, uncreated, ultimate refuge, not me, not you, unborn peace, Nibbana.

      Siebe

      • #13911
        C. Saket
        Participant

        Dear Siebe Sir

        Thanks for your comments.

        You said : “I belief the Buddha does explain in this fragment that in the heard, seen, cognised etc. there must not be the impression of an “I” who is hearing, seeing, cognising etc.”

        Yes, I agree with you on this.
        However this underlying perception of “I” or “me” i.e., “asmi mana” is removed only at the Arahant stage.

        May you attain Nibbana in this life itself !

    • #13910
      Dr. J Chakma
      Participant

      Hi Saket
      With my little understanding of Buddha Dhamma from this website (I have been born Buddhist, but hardly had any true idea about what really is Buddhism), here is my explanation to your question/doubt.
      You (and we all, the sentient beings) have been born and exposed to Buddha and Buddha Dhamma, infinite number of times, even we all got exposed to true Tilakkhana. However, none of us, who are still in sansara could attain Nibbana, because whenever we were born during Buddha Sasana or even during time when Buddha was alive, because
      (a) we all (including you) most likely had dihetuka birth and could not grasp the meaning of Talakkhana and we did not put enough effort to change our gathi to be born tihetuka in next life.
      (b) When we had Tihetuka birth and was also exposed to pure Buddha Dhamma and true Tilakkhana, we did not put adequate effort in this.
      I have a small advice too that might be beneficial. You should not worry about this problem and concentrate on niramisha sukha or cooling the mind and getting to peace of mind and give your best possible effort in practicing and learning pure Dhamma.

      • #13912
        C. Saket
        Participant

        Dear Dr. J Chakma Sir

        Thank you so much for your thoughtful answer. Yes, I agree with you on both of your points (a) and (b). I had also come to a similar conclusion.

        Also, thanks a lot for your important advice. Yes you said it right.
        We should not worry and waste our time on these questions. We should follow Lord Buddha’s Dhamma with our best possible efforts.

        May you attain Nibbana in this life itself !

    • #13980
      Akvan
      Participant

      Hi Saket,

      The following suttas give reasons as to why one may not attain a magga pala even when when listening the true Dhamma.

      https://suttacentral.net/en/an6.86
      https://suttacentral.net/en/an6.87
      https://suttacentral.net/en/an6.88

      I have listed them down below:
      He is endowed with a kamma obstruction, a defilement obstruction, a result-of-[past]-kamma obstruction(kamma-vipaka); he lacks conviction, has no desire [to listen], and has dull discernment, and while listening he does not listen well, does not give ear, does not apply his mind to gnosis, grabs hold of what is worthless, rejects what is worthwhile, and is not endowed with the patience to conform with the teaching.

    • #13983
      sybe07
      Spectator

      Akvan has listed above possible reasons why one may not attain magga phala even when listening to the true dhamma, refering to the sutta’s.

      I wanted to reaction on: “However this underlying perception of “I” or “me” i.e., “asmi mana” is removed only at the Arahant stage”. (Saket)

      Yes, i have understood this too. At the same time, correct me if i am wrong, this does not mean that even for a normal person, not a sotapanna yet, that this conceit “I am” or “me” is Always present in the mind. Like anything (except Nibbana) it arises and ceases momentarily. I belief a sotapanna knows this.

      This “I am” conceit seems to have different strenghts too. For example, imagine you are falsely accused of something. Well, probably at such moments there is a very strong sense of “me”. Maybe while your taking a walk in the Woods this becomes less strong.

      I also think it might be somewhat obscure what this conceit “I am” refers too. I think we call this self-awareness or awareness of a self. I have seen this also explained as ego-conceit. I have the impression this is right.
      Do you agree?

      Siebe

    • #13988
      y not
      Participant

      When it is said that beings have been in sansara from a ‘beginingless time’, I take it to mean that any individual being living now has been in sansara from a beginingless time, and not with reference to ‘this humanity’,though that too, in its collectivity, has ever been before. When we read that whales, for instance, have been around for millions of
      years, it is with reference to the species and certainly not to any individual specimen alive now. For any being here now there is then eternality in the past, and on attaintment of Nibbana there will be eternality in the future following that attainment.The one who has suffered up to now without a beginning is the one who stops the suffering and is also the one who will reach Nibbana and abide there
      or in that State for ever after. How then can it be said that there is no abiding entity? There is no UNCHANGING entity – that much is granted.
      Some have been trying to forcibly and uselessly convince themselves: there is no Self, I am not ,all is illusion…thereby throwing themselves into more illusion leading to utter delusion. The one who suffers is the one who strives, and the one who strives is the one who attains. There IS a ‘One’, and moreover an abiding One. Why try to deny this? The illusion is ‘ I as I am’ am abiding. Calling it a being, an entity, a manifestation, a self, a lifestream, a gandhabba or whatever, the fact of a core persistence in the being cannot be denied.When Vaccha asked the Self-Perfected One: Now then, Is there a Self?.. Is there then No-Self? “atthatta’ti ? …..n’atthatta’ti? ,the idea intended to be conveyed , as I see, was: Is this, I as I am, of any true essence, of any ultimate meaning, of any intrinsic existence, valuable ,worthy of clinging to, to safeguard and cherish? If a Yes answer were given, Vaccha would have been led to think he was already atta, and had no need.to strive any longer ……….if a No answer were given, he would have been confused thus: formely I had essence, I was valuable , I had meaning, now I am no longer that – I am nothing! The reality is that we as we are, trapped in a gross material body ridden with aches, diseases and mental defilements and all leading only to death, as we are also not yet perfected in the higher realms, are anatta; on attainment of Nibbana we become atta. So either a Yes or a No answer to the two questions as put was impossible to give.

    • #13991
      C. Saket
      Participant

      Dear Akvan Sir,

      Theruwan saranayai !

      Thanks a lot for the Sutta reference.

      Yes, of-course there are several reasons that one has not been able to attain a magga-phala even after listening to Tilakkhana many times in one’s past lives. After all, nothing happens without causes & conditions.

      But my question was not that. I was trying to ask something else.

      From the Sutta reference you gave :

      “Endowed with these six qualities, a person is incapable of alighting on the lawfulness, the rightness of skillful mental qualities even when listening to the true Dhamma …”

      My original question was something like this :

      We all have heard Tilakkhana in MANY MANY of our past lives. So this is NOT the first time that we are hearing Tilakkhana.

      Suppose a person “X” has attained Sotapanna stage in this life after hearing about Tilakkhana. So it means that in all those infinite number of past lives in which he heard Tilakkhana, he was endowed with those six “bad qualities” (or obstructions) that prevented him from attaining magga-phala.

      However, following the logic of infinity, if samsara has no beginning then there must have been AT LEAST ONE past life of X (among his infinite number of past lives as a human) in which he was NOT endowed with those six “bad qualities”. Hence he should have attained the Sotapanna stage back then, when he heard Tilakkhana (in that past life).

      But this does not seems to be true. Since X attained Sotapanna stage in this present life, which implies that in all those infinite number of past lives (in which he heard Tilakkhana) he was endowed with the six “bad qualities” which prevented him from attaining magga-phala in the past.

      So this is the contradiction that I was talking about. I hope you got my point.

      So to avoid this contradiction we have to “assume” that – this is the FIRST TIME (among his infinite number of past lives as a human) when X is NOT endowed with those six “bad qualities” at the time of a Buddha sasana. And hence X was able to attain the Sotapanna stage in this present life after listening Tilakhhana.

      So it seems that this is the most fortunate (luckiest) time for X (among all of his infinite number of past lives as a human).

    • #13992
      sybe07
      Spectator

      Replying y not:

      1. The idea that an arahant or tathagata exist after death (parinibbana) is, as far as i know, not answered with a “Yes” or “No” but put aside. I also do not know any sutta’s which makes clear what happens after death with an arahant or with the pure mind. Maybe someone can give some references?
      I have not read that parinibbana means, for example, that mind becomes totally free of any body and is, for ever and Always, happy and beyond samsara in some kind of realm with individuals which all attained Nibbana.
      Where can this be found?

      2. If there is no unchanging entity, how can the one who suffered in so many lives be the same as the one who will reach Nibbana one day, like y-not says?

      Siebe

    • #13993
      Lal
      Keymaster

      Siebe said: “ The idea that an arahant or tathagata exist after death (parinibbana) is, as far as i know, not answered with a “Yes” or “No”..”.

      In his first desana, the Buddha clearly stated the goal of Buddha Dhamma. Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (SN 56.11): “..Ñāṇañca pana me dassanaṃ udapādi: ‘akuppā me vimutti, ayamantimā jāti, natthi dāni punabbhavo’”ti.”

      Translation: “..The knowledge and vision arose in me: ‘Unshakable is my liberation. This is my last birth. There is no more renewed existence for me.”.

      How more clear can one be?
      And there are many more suttas stating this clearly.

      You need to stop pushing your philosophical ideas at this forum. That takes the focus away from useful discussions. I am going to delete posts like this in the future. If you have evidence to the contrary, you can state that and provide evidence from the Tipitaka.

      There is only one reliable source of Buddha Dhamma, and that is the Tipitaka. That is the sole basis for this website, and therefore, for the discussions at this forum.

      P.S. I do understand that “stopping rebirth” or “stopping existence” could be an unsettling thought for many people. That is the ultimate goal, but one who is starting on the Path (even a Sotapanna) should not contemplate on that. One could start at the stage where one does not even believe in rebirth. I have emphasized this point at the “Living Dhamma” section, and many other posts throughout the website.

      I also recommend listening to the discourse in, “Three Marks of Existence – English Discourses“.

    • #13996
      y not
      Participant

      Your point 2: Precisely! It seems you did not get me right. By ‘there is no unchanging entity’ I meant there is indeed an entity,and one that persists all through sansara and Nibbana taken as one unbroken stream of existence – but it is changing all the time, as yet, but will no longer do so on reaching Nibbana.
      As to your point 1: I have given a lot of thought to this too. Now if Nibbana exists, it must exist outside the 31 realms, necessarily implying that the ‘Sphere of Space’, as it were, is not infinite, for the realm of Nibbana would lie outside of it, and Infinity means that which comprises EVERYTHING, with no limit to it. Or otherwise, Infinity would comprise Nibbana as the outermost ‘shell’ enveloping the sphere of the 31 realms, much like the higher realms of any inhabited planet envelop those below them. A more difficult point to consider is your notion of’….with individuals who all attainded Nibbana’. It is said by some that individuality is lost on attainment of Nibbana, because it was individuality, the seperateness, the exclusivity of personalized existence which had given rise to the ego in the first place, and ego divides the one from the many…this is for the most part the fruit of Mahayanist literature, to be sure, but the point is: If all these Arahants, from beginingless time, attained Nibbana, then their number would be infinite, and if all had shed their individuality, their charachter, so to speak, there would be no distinction between one and another, they would the be more like inert, becuase devoid of any marked charachteristics, clones. No…individuality, the being as distict from any other being, must perist even into Nibbana.
      As to why their number must be infinte, even though an Arahant is difficult to come by, say one in a million years on this one planet:
      imagine a line of marbles,say,of infinite lenght. The number of marbles would be infinite. Now I colour one very 10 marbles black, or one every
      thousnad, or every million, or every highest number you can conceive of, and see that the number of all these uncoloured marrbles is not greater than the black ones – just because the line is infinite in lenght, both set of marbles are equal in number. Both are infinite. In mathametical parlance we could say that a fraction of infinity is equal to infinity itself.And just because of that, the number of those who have attained Arahantship, though it be the rarest of attainments indeed,must be infinite.

    • #13999
      y not
      Participant

      Saket: How is it that ‘following the logic of infinity, if samsara has no beginning then there must have been AT LEAST ONE past life of X (among his infinite number of past lives as a human) in which he was NOT endowed with those six “bad qualities”. I do not see how you arrived at this conclusion (i.e that there must have been AT LEAST ONE past life just because times stretches back infinitely.
      I would appreciate if you elaborate.

      Afterthought: I am pressing the Submit key only becuase the heading is specifically about Infinity; otherwise I would think better of it, being aware that the subject in itself is steering me, for one, away from the immediate and paramount task: that of striving only to prevent future suffering, and not in indulging in all this philosophical speculation, although it is related, but not diectly so, in my opinion.

      y not

    • #14005
      C. Saket
      Participant

      @ y not Sir/Madam (don’t know your name)

      May the blessings of the Triple Gem be with you always !

      I agree, infinity is really a mind boggling concept.

      For instance, “pi” is an irrational number with unending string of digits. These digits go on forever !

      So if you go on searching for your phone number in “pi” then you will SURELY GET IT SOMEWHERE down the line (if you search long enough) !

      In fact, if you search long enough then you will find your phone number not only one time or two times but INFINITE NUMBER OF TIMES in “pi” !

      For reference, please see – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjVpqiCvD4w

      Also please see this – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infinite_monkey_theorem

      Since samsara has no beginning and we all had infinite number of past lives, so it means that we all have been born as a human INFINITE NUMBER OF TIMES ! (and we should have heard Tilakhhana infinite number of times as well)

      And among those infinite number of human births, there should be infinite number of “fortunate” births as well where we should have fulfilled the conditions of becoming a Sotapanna. So why didn’t we attain the Sotapanna stage back then ?

      I know, if we arrive at the above conclusion then it will lead to a contradiction.

      So that’s why I said in my previous post that we have to “assume” that if someone has attained the Sotapanna stage in this present life then it means that this is the FIRST TIME (among his infinite number of past lives as human) that he has fulfilled the conditions of becoming a Sotapanna !

      And for someone who has yet not achieved the Sotapanna stage, we have to “assume” that he has NEVER fulfilled the conditions of becoming a Sotapanna in his infinite number of past lives as human !

      I have wasted a lot of my time in thinking about infinity and other stuffs. Lord Buddha said that one can go mad if one continues to ponder over these questions.

      So I think we should not waste our precious time (in this human life) and we should only focus on things which are relevant – understanding and realising Aniccha, Dukkha, Anatta and following the Noble 8-fold path. After all, our goal is to end all kinds of suffering by attaining Nibbana !

      I wish you all the best !

      MAY ALL BEINGS ACHIEVE NIBBANA !!!

    • #14006
      Lal
      Keymaster

      I think everyone has agreed that it is better to spend time discussing other more important issues.

      However, it has been a useful discussion, and I thank C. Saket for bringing it up for discussion.

      I have provided a link to this topic under the old post “The Infinity Problem in Buddhism“, to bring it up-to-date.

      I am closing this topic. I can re-open it if someone has an important relevant issue to bring up on the topic. Please send me an email at [email protected].

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