Posts Tagged ‘suttas’

A Secular Understanding of Dependent Origination: #5 Use of the Six Senses

When Sariputta describes step #5 (from MN 9, as translated by Bhikkhus Nanamoli and Bodhi), we are clearly in the field:  There are these six bases: the eye-base, the ear-base, the nose-base, the tongue-base, the body-base, the mind-base…. This tells us nothing about how it relates to the process of dependent origination, it only tells…

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A Secular Understanding of Dependent Origination: #4 Name and Form

It is with this link in the chain that this secular understanding of dependent arising finds a deeper insight into the processes through which we create anatta, deeper insight than offered by the confusion of the traditional views of what’s going on. The Pali word for this step is namarupa — nama shares a root…

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A Secular Understanding of Dependent Origination: #3 Consciousness

We come into the world ignorant of the things we do that end up causing dukkha in our lives, and in particular ignorant of the drive for existence of our sense-of-self: that’s step #1: ignorance, and step #2: sankhara. Sankhara is simultaneously that natural tendency to develop and protect our sense-of-self taken to extremes, and…

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A Secular Understanding of Dependent Origination: #1 Ignorance

This post is the first in a series of twelve on dependent arising (the translation of paticca samuppada that I prefer over dependent origination, or co-dependent arising, or interdependent origination or any of the other variations). I plan to take each link in the classic chain of twelve and explain — in the plainest language…

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Playing With Pali: Poking Under the Hood

I was not good at grammar in grade school, and I got no better at it in high school. I found all the terms and the rules to be counter-intuitive, a lot like geometric axioms. In both cases, it seemed like these were rules applied on top of things that should be understood in some entirely other way (in one’s bones). I could understand them while I worked with them or when I was in the middle of a course of study, but they instantly disappeared from my memory the second I turned my back for a moment. How bad I am at grammar will come as no surprise to those who understand grammar and enough Pali to feel pain when observing my ongoing dabbling in translation via my personal blog. The question they must be asking themselves — and you may well ask, too — is “Why does she bother?”

The reason is this: however bad at grammar I am, with my cheat sheet and the free tools that are readily-available via the internet, there is no better way to check the integrity of the translations I’m looking at than to poke around in the Pali that is the closest we will get — short of time travel — to the Buddha’s actual words.

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What's Burning in the Fire Sermon?

Perhaps Gotama’s most famous discourse among Westerners is the one we call the Fire Sermon. It is included in most anthologies of “the Buddha’s sayings”; in that quintessential summary of Consensus Buddhism, the PBS documentary The Buddha, it’s one of the few discourses quoted at any length. On the show, professor of Asian cultures D. Max Moerman explicates it this way:

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Food and Fire in Dependent Origination

You wouldn’t know from the title of the sutta — “The Greater Discourse on the Destruction of Craving” — that this is one of the suttas that gives the most detail on dependent arising (aka dependent origination, interdependent co-arising, etc) but it is one in which the Buddha attempts to put across the concept that was the backbone of all his teachings. He describes it backwards (which is normal) and forwards (used almost as frequently). He covers arising, and he covers cessation (backwards and forwards). And then he describes it in terms of fire, in terms of nutriment, and in terms of one person’s life, as well as pointing out what we should and shouldn’t care about if we properly understand it (we would not, for example, have any reason to be wondering who we were in the past or who we will be in the future).(1)

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On "Nutriment" and Life As Process

One of the many little things I have discovered while studying the Pali texts over the last several years is that the people of the Buddha’s time were obsessed with food. You may laugh, if you like, but this is actually important. I hear all the time that, in interpreting these texts, we need to…

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