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A Buddha and a Rock: various rock similes

There is a quote out there (not from the EBTs) that goes essentially:

The difference between a Buddha and a rock
is that a Buddha has metabolism
and a rock does not have metabolism.

What do you think of the above quote?

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@Coemgenu That phrase caught my attention as well :slight_smile:
I’ll give it a bit of a go… Am really interested what others think as well

Buddha

  1. Not a person/no self
  2. Not subject to conditioning
  3. Not creating Kamma
  4. Has physical form
  5. Is subject to ageing
  6. Has metabolism
  7. Must sustain metabolism to remain alive
  8. Is subject to death

Rock

  1. Not a person/no self
  2. Not subject to conditioning
  3. Not creating Kamma
  4. Has physical form
  5. Is subject to ageing
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Is the Buddha “subject” to “death”? He seems to talk a lot about being free from it.

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They recently found rocks that had spontaneously agreed among themselves to create their very own nuclear reactor. And so they did. Also, my compost heap is very much full of dead stuff, but it certainly has a metabolism as well. Perhaps there is no difference between a Buddha’s body and a rock and this post–they all go… :thinking:poof

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How about this reframing of the OP:

Is this:

The difference between a Buddha and a rock
is that a Buddha has metabolism
and a rock does not have metabolism.

…a horrible misunderstanding of selflessness, or a correct understanding of selflessness?

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No more lives = No more deaths

A Buddha was born via dependent origination, and was doomed to not be born again via the same principle, having crossed the threshold of awakening.
What about a rock? :thinking:

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Well, you linked me to the Śālistambasūtra just recently on another thread there. That sūtra has all sorts of strangeness to say concerning what is and what isn’t (mostly what is) dependently originated.

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But that seem to be a sectarian abnormality, right?

Here’s what it says:

Furthermore,. this conditioned arising arises from two(principles). From what two (principles does it arise)? From a causal relation and a conditional relation. Moreover, it should be seen as two-fold: objective and subjective.

What, then, is the causal relation in objective conditioned arising? It is as when a sprout comes from a seed, from the sprout a leaf, from the leaf a shoot, from the shoot a stalk, from the stalk (a swelling, from the swelling)*a bud, from the bud (a calyx, from the calyx) a flower, and from the flower a fruit. When there is no seed, a sprout does not occur, and so on until: when there is no flower,a fruit does not occur. But when there is a seed, the development of a sprout occurs, and soon until: when there is a flower, the development of a fruit occurs. It does not occur to the seed, “I cause the sprout to develop.” Nor does it occur to the sprout, “I am developed by the seed”, and soon until: it does not occur to the flower, “I cause thefruit to develop”. Nor does it occur to the fruit, “I am developed by the flower”. But still, when there is a seed, the development, the manifestation of the sprout occurs, and so on until: when there is a flower, the development, the manifestation of the fruit occurs. Thus is the causal relation in objective conditioned arising to be seen.

How is the conditional relation in objective conditioned arising to be seen? As the coming together of six factors. As the coming together of what six factors? Namely, as the coming together of the earth, water, heat, wind, space and season factors is the conditional relation in objective conditioned arising to be seen.

There in, the earth-factor performs the function of supporting the seed. The water-factor waters the seed. The heat-factor matures the seed. The wind-factor brings out the seed. The space-factor performs the function of not obstructing the seed. Season performs the function of transforming the seed. Without these conditions, the development of the sprout from the seed does not occur. But when the objective earth-factor is not deficient, and likewise the water, heat, wind, space and season factors are not deficient, then from the coming together of all these, when the seed is ceasing the development of the sprout occurs.

It does not occur to the earth·factor, “I perform the function of supporting the seed”, and so on until: it does not occur to season, “I perform the function of transforming the seed”. Nor does it occur to the sprout, “I am born by way of these conditions”, But still, when there are these conditions, when the seed is ceasing the development of the sprout occurs. And this sprout is not self made, not made by another, not made by both, not made by God, not transformed by time,’ not derived from prakrti, not founded upon a single principle, (yet not arisen without cause). From the coming together of the earth, water. heat, wind,space and season factors, when the seed is ceasing the development of the sprout occurs. Thus is the conditional relation in objective conditioned arising to be seen.
(Śālistambasūtra)

What do you think of it? Twofold conditioned arising. The negation of both phenomenal and personal substantiality. It is very interesting. It reads like Madhyamaka.




It is a very bare metaphysics. “Even objective things are arisen causally. It doesn’t occur to their components to be self aware of their causation [being insentient].”




The most Madhyamaka-esque passage immediately follows the one above:

Therein objective conditioned arising is to be seen according to five principles. What five? Not as eternity, not as annihilation, not as transmigration (of any essence), as the development of a large fruit from a small cause, and as (a result) bound to be similar to that (its cause)

I am trying to remember where, but there is a passage in Venerable Candrakirtī’s Madhyamakāvatāra that has an emptiness-exegesis almost verbatim to the one above. It’s a commentary on Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, I wonder if Venerable Nāgārjuna was quoting the Śālistamba?




For further context, the Śālistambasūtra’s twofold conditioned arising, if one reads further along in the document, is not exceptionally irregular with regards to that which is subjectively dependently originated. That exposition has the familiar 12 nidānāni.

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can you explain what you mean by your statement that a rock is ‘Not subject to conditioning?’
To take a simple example, if you hit a rock with a hammer it may break, so it is obviously affected by external conditions to which it is subjected. Or do you mean something different by ‘Not subject to conditioning?’

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I strongly recommend checking SN22.85 on the topic of the OP:

“Reverend Yamaka, suppose they were to ask you: ‘When their body breaks up, after death, what happens to a perfected one, who has ended the defilements?’ How would you answer?”
“Sir, if they were to ask this, I’d answer like this:
‘Reverend, form is impermanent. What’s impermanent is suffering.
What’s suffering has ceased and ended. Feeling … perception … choices … consciousness is impermanent.
What’s impermanent is suffering. What’s suffering has ceased and ended.’
That’s how I’d answer such a question.”

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Being a bit of an ignostic, I looked up the word metabolism and found:

metabolism: the chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life.

So yeah, that is a fundamental difference between a rock and any living organism I guess. What the OP quote suggests then can be rewritten as:

The difference between a Buddha and a rock is that a Buddha is alive and a rock is not alive.

Well I guess that is a difference between a (pre-passed-away) Buddha and a (pre-disintegrated) rock.

For me, it gives us nothing new to reflect on. It doesn’t even scratch the surface of dhamma, or indeed biology. Where does it come from?

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So this is an interesting one for me. Does a Buddha not create kamma? Or is it that a Buddha always creates kamma that is neither-dark-nor-light? Has anyone got any sutta passages that address this?

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The kamma that is neither bright or dark is the eightfold path, and it leads to ending of kamma:

"And what are neither dark nor bright deeds with neither dark nor bright results, which lead to the ending of deeds(kamma)?
Right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right immersion.
These are called neither dark nor bright deeds with neither dark nor bright results, which lead to the ending of deeds. "

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“He is the Buddha, with defilements ended,
untroubled, with doubts cut off.
He has attained the end of all karma,
freed with the end of attachments.”

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“And what, bhikkhus, is the cessation of kamma?
When one reaches liberation through the cessation of bodily action, verbal action, and mental action, this is called the cessation of kamma.
“And what, bhikkhus, is the way leading to the cessation of kamma?
It is this Noble Eightfold Path; that is, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
“Thus, bhikkhus, I have taught old kamma, I have taught new kamma, I have taught the cessation of kamma, I have taught the way leading to the cessation of kamma."

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Perfect. Thank you @Gabriel_L

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Venerable Puññaji has a radical (?) interpretation of selflessness that calls into question the sentience and freewill of “sentient” beings. The quote is an adaption from him.

But one can see this discourse coming from more areas than Theravāda modernism. Zen Buddhism, as much as it can sometimes have a “Primordial Mind” or “True Mind” proto-heresy, sometimes interprets selflessness as mindlessness.

Consider Venerable Dōgen in his Shōbōgenzō. He also draws a parallel between the Buddha and the rocks, trees, and grass.

Some say that the Buddhas are like great good unthinking salvation machines, mechanically and reflexively laying out the pure dharmas of the path.

So the quote comes from Theravāda modernism, but it could easily also he a Zen quote.

For added context: two exegeses of the dependently originated by Venerable Puññaji. This is not an exegesis like we necessarily encounter in the early Buddhist texts:


This sound bite is shorter and far more audacious. I would strongly recommend putting him into his own context first by watching the first video. That will make second video less strange:

He makes some choices in how he a) understands certain Pāli terms and b) renders them into English that I imagine will not make him a popular teacher here, per se.

I would prefer this doesn’t become a “Ven Puññaji vs [orthodox interpretations of] the suttāni” thread, though. Comparative ventures in the subject though, are very fertile, so if people want to discuss the Venerable’s idiosyncrasies as compared to X or Y understanding of the suttāni, perhaps another thread would be better to do so in.

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Good spot Stu :smiley:
I suppose I replied in a light-hearted way. I was meaning not bright and not dark kamma… ie not adding any new kamma.

@Gabriel_L thanks for the thorough info :smiley:

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