Dhammapada on Wikipedia: not great TBH

The current article on the Dhammapada on Wikipedia is … not great.

It’s scrappy: the intro says more about Buddhaghosa than it does about the text; the “history” section is a mess, and the whole thing really says little about the actual text. There are extensive quotes that bizarrely use the Muller English translation from 1881 (!) despite the existence of countless accurate, free modern translations.

Pali is quoted in Devanagari script; this is an old battle on Wikipedia. Basically, Pali has traditionally never been written in Devanagari, but Hindutva fanatics have defaced Buddhist articles all over the place, using Devanagari to try to insinuate that Buddhism is “really” just Hinduism and the Buddha was a Hindu. This kind of nonsense is all over the Buddhism articles on Wikipedia. Pali should be represented on Wikipedia with either the international romanized script, or with a selection of traditional Asian scripts such as Khmer, Thai, Myanmar, and Sinhala.

Moreover, there are two other articles that come up in a search for Dhammapada in Wikipedia: both are gushing and fully detailed analyses of translations … by Hindus. Neither is even vaguely impartial or even considers the suitability of presenting a Buddhist text primarily through a Hindu lens. Look, I’m all in favor of non-Buddhists translating Buddhist texts, but it’s not as if we’re lacking good translations by Buddhists.

If there are any aspiring Wikipedians here, go for it!

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So far no traction on this one, but if anyone is interested, well my gosh, the article on the Therigatha is even worse.

Astonishingly, for a much-studied text, it manages to get almost everything wrong bar the most basic of details. I mean:

The manner in which poems are introduced—“Cooled am I,” “calmed am I,” or “unbound”—indicate a lack of Enlightenment, a remaining attachment to the self.

What!?!

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This comes from Thanissaro B.'s article:

Another dramatic element in both the Theragāthā and Therīgāthā that differs from the earlier suttas is that in many of the autobiographical poems, the speaker proclaims his/her awakening in these terms: “Cooled am I”—or “calmed am I”— “unbound.” (See, for instance, Thag 4:10 and Thig 5:2.) These statements would make a dramatic impact if presented on stage. But, in the context of the early teachings, such an announcement, with its reference to “I,” was proof that the speaker was not really awakened. See for instance, the Buddha’s statement at MN 102, referring to a person announcing, “I am at peace, I am unbound, I am without clinging”: “The fact that he envisions that ‘I am at peace, I am unbound, I am without clinging!’—that in itself points to his clinging.” Or this statement in AN 6:49 about the proper way to proclaim gnosis, or the knowledge of full awakening: “Monks, this is how clansmen declare gnosis. The meaning is stated, but without mention of self.” This is one way in which the dramatic form of the poems distorts an important point in the training of the mind.

His point is about how the composition of the poems focuses on dramatic presentation over accuracy, and how one should proceed with caution in using them. That wiki article, in typical wiki fashion, abbreviates the point and takes it out of context.

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But, in the context of the early teachings, such an announcement, with its reference to “I,” was proof that the speaker was not really awakened.

I must say that the 2 references that Ven. Thanissaro gives to MN102 and AN6.49 are not really convincing evidence of his argument, while MN102 is clearly talking about “I” declarations, the sense seems to be that it is the regarding of ones self as being something that is problematic, not the form of language, that is to say it’s not what they are saying that is being criticised it’s what they are thinking;

And when they regard themselves like this:
Yañca kho ayamāyasmā:
‘I am at peace; I am extinguished; I am free of grasping,’ that’s also said to be grasping on their part.
‘santohamasmi, nibbutohamasmi, anupādānohamasmī’ti samanupassati tadapi imassa bhoto samaṇassa brāhmaṇassa upādānamakkhāyati.
‘All that is conditioned and coarse. But there is the cessation of conditions—that is real.’
‘Tayidaṁ saṅkhataṁ oḷārikaṁ atthi kho pana saṅkhārānaṁ nirodho atthetan’ti—
Understanding this and seeing the escape from it, the Realized One has gone beyond all that.
iti viditvā tassa nissaraṇadassāvī tathāgato tadupātivatto.

There is no reason to think that a monk or nun declaring “I am cooled” was in any way meaning that they though or regarded themselves as a being that is cooled, they could just be using language in a conventional sense, without delusion.

AN6.49 has

And then, not long after Khema had left, Sumana said to the Buddha:
Atha kho āyasmā sumano acirapakkante āyasmante kheme bhagavantaṁ etadavoca:

“Sir, a mendicant who is perfected—with defilements ended, who has completed the spiritual journey, done what had to be done, laid down the burden, achieved their own true goal, utterly ended the fetters of rebirth, and is rightly freed through enlightenment—does not think:
“yo so, bhante, bhikkhu arahaṁ khīṇāsavo vusitavā katakaraṇīyo ohitabhāro anuppattasadattho parikkhīṇabhavasaṁyojano sammadaññāvimutto tassa na evaṁ hoti:
‘There is no-one better than me, or equal to me, or worse than me.’”
‘natthi me seyyoti vā natthi me sadisoti vā natthi me hīnoti vā’”ti.

That is what Sumana said,
Idamavocāyasmā sumano.
and the teacher approved.
Samanuñño satthā ahosi.
Then Sumana, knowing that the teacher approved, got up from his seat, bowed, and respectfully circled the Buddha, keeping him on his right, before leaving.
Atha kho āyasmā sumano “samanuñño me satthā”ti uṭṭhāyāsanā bhagavantaṁ abhivādetvā padakkhiṇaṁ katvā pakkāmi.

And then, soon after Khema and Sumana had left, the Buddha addressed the mendicants:
Atha kho bhagavā acirapakkantesu āyasmante ca kheme āyasmante ca sumane bhikkhū āmantesi:
“Mendicants, this is how gentlemen declare enlightenment.
“evaṁ kho, bhikkhave, kulaputtā aññaṁ byākaronti.
The goal is spoken of, but the self is not involved.
Attho ca vutto attā ca anupanīto.
But it seems that there are some foolish people here who declare enlightenment as a joke.
Atha ca pana idhekacce moghapurisā hasamānakā maññe aññaṁ byākaronti.
Later they will fall into anguish.
Te pacchā vighātaṁ āpajjantīti.

They don’t rank themselves
Na ussesu na omesu,
as being among superiors, inferiors, or equals.
Samatte nopanīyare;
Rebirth is ended, the spiritual journey has been completed.
Khīṇā jāti vusitaṁ brahmacariyaṁ,
They live freed from fetters.”
Caranti saṁyojanavippamuttā”ti.

Again the message seems to be about not being conceited and thinking oneself superior, not that there is some particular set of banned pronouns being declared.

I have had some interesting experiences the last few days with arguments from the Ven. Analayo and the Ven Thanisarro where reading the actual sutta materials they refer to has left me scratching my head and wondering how such conclusions can be drawn from such dubious evidence. Ven. Thanissaro seems anxious to undercut the canonicity of the Thera and Theri gathas in order to defend a particular interpretation of the Nikaya material and I am not sure that he is convincing here.

Metta

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Oh come on. Even the Buddha referred to himself as “I” And responded strongly to those who accused him of hypocrisy for it.

AN 6:49 says nothing about a direct statement being “proof they aren’t really awakened” :roll_eyes: In fact, MN 112 envisions exactly this possibility that an arahant could declare “I understand… I know and see… I have eradicated ego”

The right response to such statements (ibid.) is to politely enquire further, not immediately snap a judgement: “ah! You didn’t word your statement in the form of a question! 10 points from Gryffindor!” :roll_eyes:

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Welcome fellow scratcher! If my head wasn’t already shaved I would have scratched all my hair off by now.

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Yeah, It’s funny how he’s extremely against the historical-critical method… until there’s a sutta he finds inconvenient. Then suddenly… “Hmmm… must be late.” :joy:

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True of some gāthās, though far from all. His analysis is problematic because of his treatment of aesthetic theory. I’m actually doing some research now and will write on this in more detail soon, but in brief: Thanissaro often refers to what he vaguely gestures at as “Indian aesthetic theory”. Nowhere does he give any references or cite any authorities. Or at least, so far as I know—please correct me if I have missed anything.

In fact there is one ancient thesis that this is based on, the Natyasastra, where the entire section on the rasa takes about ten pages in translation, or about 1000 words in Sanskrit. This text—a few short notes really—is legendarily attributed to a “Bharata” and is dated somewhere in the first half-millenium CE.

There are no further references to this text, and no acknowledgement that any of these ideas were known, until the commentary by Abhinavagupta maybe a millenium later. Abhinavagupta’s text is so difficult, and the extant manuscripts so flawed, that the modern editor declared that if Abhinavagupta himself descended from the heavens he would be unable to decipher it!

Now I have no problem with basing an argument on such flaky and insubstantial historical grounds—sometimes we just have to use what is there. Nor do i have a problem with the idea that such ideas were floating around long before they were committed to writing. Nor do I have a problem with using later theory as a lens to shed light on earlier texts. But I do have a problem with doing all of these things without acknowledging anything about the problematics of the whole process.

Thanissaro goes way beyond that even, suggesting that these texts were actively participating as innovators within an established body of theory: he says, “the Theragāthā and Therīgāthā may have been among the first conscious attempts to convey the calmed as a new savor”. But śantarasa wasn’t heard of until Abhinavagupta, around 1500 years after the Theragāthā and Therīgāthā. Well, they were certainly ahead of the curve!

Thank you! And regardless of the virtues of the theory, such a speculation has no place in wikipedia, unless it is part of a larger section discussing different views.

Worth noting that MN 102 is itself a quite flawed text and must be interpreted with care.

Also worth noting, in both those cases emphatic forms or wordplay are in use. MN 102 has santohamasmi, nibbutohamasmi, anupādānohamasmī, which is right out of the formula for not self (eso’hamasmi), which itself is an inversion of the brahmanical tad tvam asi. Literally it is “I am a peaceful one, I am an extinguished one, I am an ungrasping one”; it’s noun-orientated and affirms an absolute identity.

In all these phrases, the verb form “I am” (asmi, first person singular) is combined with the pronoun I (ahaṁ; the brahmanical version is the same, just in second person). In Pali (and Sanskrit) the person is already recorded in the verb form, so it is not necessary and is usually omitted unless to disambiguate or, as here, for emphasis. It’s the conjunction of the pronoun with verb, which is then repeated three times, that hammers home the sense of I AM.

In the Therigatha we find “I have become cooled” (sītibhūtāmhi), which lacks the pronoun and the repetition. And as you already noted, the context. It’s verb-orientated and speaks to the completion of a process.

All this should be unnecessary, as there are plenty of places where the arahants, not to mention the Buddha himself, speak quite straightforwardly about their own attainments. Take MN 27 for example:

For we used to claim that we were ascetics, brahmins, and perfected ones, but we were none of these things. But now we really are ascetics, brahmins, and perfected ones!

Am I missing something here? Thag 4.10 has no “I” phrases.

There’s a difference between ideologically-informed scholarship and ideologically-driven scholarship. When scholarship is informed by ideology or theory, it allows the scholar to make their own ideas conscious and reflect on how their perspective helps illuminate the subject. But when you are driven by ideology, all you see is your own ideas wherever you look; the subject is erased. The problem with ideologically-driven scholarship is that the people are who do it think everyone else is doing the same thing.

TBH I’d maybe think of arguing the exact opposite point. It is an established tendency within the Theravada to be very particular about the treatment of self and not-self. This is traced back at least as far as the Kathavatthu (i.e. Ashoka or later), but generally seems to have arisen in contest with the Puggalavadins. Given that, and given the otherwise problematic nature of MN 102, I’d be more inclined to think of passages that linguistically overdetermine terminology around not-self to be later, while texts that are more “ordinary language” about it, like the gāthās, are earlier. I’ll give it some thought, although I suspect it’ll be hard to establish this with any confidence.

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I translated this not long ago:

SN1.25:
“When a mendicant is perfected, proficient, with defilements ended, bearing the final body: would they say, ‘I speak’, or even ‘they speak to me’?”

“When a mendicant is perfected, proficient, with defilements ended, bearing the final body: they would say, ‘I speak’, and also ‘they speak to me’. Skillful, understanding the world’s conventions, they’d use these terms as no more than expressions.”

“When a mendicant is perfected, proficient, with defilements ended, bearing the final body: is such a mendicant drawing close to conceit if they’d say, ‘I speak’, or even ‘they speak to me’?”

“Someone who has given up conceit has no ties, the ties of conceit are all cleared away. Though that clever person has transcended identity, they’d still say, ‘I speak’, and also ‘they speak to me’. Skillful, understanding the world’s conventions, they’d use these terms as no more than expressions.”

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Thank you for sharing your thoughts, ven @sujato. I wasn’t aware of Thanissaro B.'s “Indian aesthetic theory” idea. I kinda assumed he just had an anti-poetry bias, of sorts.

Interesting….I’m curious to hear more about MN 102’s problems. I guess I interpreted MN 102 to mean that someone with clinging should not claim complete awakening. I didn’t interpret it to be about the language of the declaration. I guess that’s similar to what @josephzizys was saying.

Is he referring to Thag 4.9?

Then the realization
came upon me—
the danger became clear,
and I was firmly disillusioned.
Then my mind was freed—
see the excellence of the teaching!
I’ve attained the three knowledges
and fulfilled the Buddha’s instructions.

Good point!

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FWIW I made a minor edit to the Therigatha wiki by attributing the opinions in the “Authenticity” section to Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

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The Wikipedia page on namarupa is also dismal. In one paragraph it states that, in Buddhism, namarupa is referred to as the five skandhas and the next paragraph quotes SN 12.2, definitely not the five khandhas (only vedanā and sañña in both). Makes no sense. Do you think namarupa as the five khandhas is a Hindu formula?

From Wikipedia:
"This term is used in Buddhism to refer to the constituents of a living being: nāma refers to the mental, while rūpa refers to the physical. The Buddhist nāma and rūpa are mutually dependent, and not separable; as nāmarūpa, they designate an individual being.[a] Namarupa are also referred to as the five skandhas, “the psycho-physical organism”, “mind-and-matter,” and “mentality-and-materiality”.

Psycho-physical constituents[edit]

In the Pali Canon, the Buddha describes nāmarūpa in this manner (English on left, Pali on right):

"And what [monks] is name-&-form? Feeling, perception, intention, contact, & attention: This is called name. The four great elements, and the form dependent on the four great elements: This is called form. This name & this form are, [monks], called name-&-form."[1]"

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I’ll see what I can do at some point, its on my radar now. No promises!

I recently got a very strong speaking to because I was removing the devanagari from various pages. I don’t have the energy to keep doing that kind of fighting.

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Lol, if anything he loves poetry! And I mean, I like that he cares about the aesthetics.

Ven Bodhi has some footnotes on it. There are a couple of places in the text where it is corrupted beyond saving, and others where it is apparently disordered. Analayo goes into more detail in his comparative study.

Maybe, yes.

Unlikely, it’s probably just the standard Theravada view in this case. It’s not wrong to say that “Namarupa are also referred to as the five skandhas”, they often are, just not in the suttas.

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Ven Thanissaro mentions at least one of them in the essay you qoute,

Whatever ascetics and brahmins theorize about the future, and propose various hypotheses concerning the future, all of them propose one or other of these five theses.
Ye hi keci, bhikkhave, samaṇā vā brāhmaṇā vā aparantakappikā aparantānudiṭṭhino aparantaṁ ārabbha anekavihitāni adhivuttipadāni abhivadanti, sabbe te imāneva pañcāyatanāni abhivadanti etesaṁ vā aññataraṁ.

this quote very oddly occurs after only 4 of the theories have actually been discussed, 3 kinds of identity after death views and 1 kind of annihilationist view, skipping over the 5th listed in the start of the sutta, that is extinguishment views.

Just this is enough to show that the text is corrupt.

later in the discussion of progressively letting go of grasping we have;

Now, some ascetics and brahmins, letting go of theories about the past and the future, shedding the fetters of sensuality, go beyond the rapture of seclusion, spiritual bliss, and neutral feeling.
Idha pana, bhikkhave, ekacco samaṇo vā brāhmaṇo vā pubbantānudiṭṭhīnañca paṭinissaggā, aparantānudiṭṭhīnañca paṭinissaggā, sabbaso kāmasaṁyojanānaṁ anadhiṭṭhānā, pavivekāya pītiyā samatikkamā, nirāmisassa sukhassa samatikkamā, adukkhamasukhāya vedanāya samatikkamā:
They regard themselves like this: ‘I am at peace; I am extinguished; I am free of grasping.’
‘santohamasmi, nibbutohamasmi, anupādānohamasmī’ti samanupassati.

The Realized One understands this as follows.
Tayidaṁ, bhikkhave, tathāgato abhijānāti.
This good ascetic or brahmin, letting go of theories about the past and the future, shedding the fetters of sensuality, goes beyond the rapture of seclusion, spiritual bliss, and neutral feeling.
Ayaṁ kho bhavaṁ samaṇo vā brāhmaṇo vā pubbantānudiṭṭhīnañca paṭinissaggā, aparantānudiṭṭhīnañca paṭinissaggā, sabbaso kāmasaṁyojanānaṁ anadhiṭṭhānā, pavivekāya pītiyā samatikkamā, nirāmisassa sukhassa samatikkamā, adukkhamasukhāya vedanāya samatikkamā:
They regard themselves like this: ‘I am at peace; I am extinguished; I am free of grasping.’
‘santohamasmi, nibbutohamasmi, anupādānohamasmī’ti samanupassati;
Clearly this venerable speaks of a practice that’s conducive to extinguishment.
addhā ayamāyasmā nibbānasappāyaṁyeva paṭipadaṁ abhivadati.
Nevertheless, they still grasp at theories about the past or the future, or the fetters of sensuality, or the rapture of seclusion, or spiritual bliss, or neutral feeling.
Atha ca panāyaṁ bhavaṁ samaṇo vā brāhmaṇo vā pubbantānudiṭṭhiṁ vā upādiyamāno upādiyati, aparantānudiṭṭhiṁ vā upādiyamāno upādiyati, kāmasaṁyojanaṁ vā upādiyamāno upādiyati, pavivekaṁ vā pītiṁ upādiyamāno upādiyati, nirāmisaṁ vā sukhaṁ upādiyamāno upādiyati, adukkhamasukhaṁ vā vedanaṁ upādiyamāno upādiyati.
And when they regard themselves like this:
Yañca kho ayamāyasmā:
‘I am at peace; I am extinguished; I am free of grasping,’ that’s also said to be grasping on their part.
‘santohamasmi, nibbutohamasmi, anupādānohamasmī’ti samanupassati tadapi imassa bhoto samaṇassa brāhmaṇassa upādānamakkhāyati.

So we have brahmins who have “let go of theories about the past and the future, shedding the fetters of sensuality, go beyond the rapture of seclusion, spiritual bliss, and neutral feeling.”

but who " Nevertheless, they still grasp at theories about the past or the future, or the fetters of sensuality, or the rapture of seclusion, or spiritual bliss, or neutral feeling."

This cannot be right, either those things are let go or not, what seems to be implied here is that while such talk is the “right talk” we nevertheless infer that the Brahmins have not in fact let go of such grasping because of their “I am this” and “I am that” chest beating and pompousness.

The sutta is also a bit odd in it’s structure in that the Buddha is speaking the main body of the text but then the the Buddha quotes what they themselves are saying and says;

The Realized One understands this as follows.
Tayidaṁ, bhikkhave, tathāgato abhijānāti.

So the text is a sort of suttavibhanga type of analysis, where the parts of a well known text are expanded and explained, but here there is not a great deal of expansion, merely the phrase

‘All that is conditioned and coarse. But there is the cessation of conditions—that is real.’
‘Tayidaṁ saṅkhataṁ oḷārikaṁ atthi kho pana saṅkhārānaṁ nirodho atthetan’ti—
Understanding this and seeing the escape from it, the Realized One has gone beyond all that.
iti viditvā tassa nissaraṇadassāvī tathāgato tadupātivatto.

applied to each position, also the Buddha does not say , “that is what I said, but why did i say it” which is more usual for suttavibhanga suttas where the Buddha is the speaker.

the sphere of nothingness is also “squeezed in” to an analysis part but isn’t mentioned in the original exposition part.

There are probably a lot of other things that should cause alarm, but my Pali is too poor to see the not so obvious ones.

Fundamentally I think that when read in conjunction with MN1 and DN1 and DN2 and DN9 this sutta is part of the most fundamental philosophical bedrock of the Buddhas teaching, touching on the most subtle and profound aspects of anatta or conditionality by exploring how other philosophical positions give rise to difficulties and imperfections, but it is jumbled up, and difficult to decipher, so like @sujato says, it should be approached with caustion.

Metta

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Although I can’t resist mentioning that it does shed fascinating light on some aspects of ancient indian metaphysics, for example;

Now, the ascetics and brahmins who assert the annihilation, eradication, and obliteration of an existing being reject those who assert a self that is well after death, whether percipient or non-percipient or neither percipient non-percipient.
Tatra, bhikkhave, ye te samaṇabrāhmaṇā sato sattassa ucchedaṁ vināsaṁ vibhavaṁ paññapenti, tatra, bhikkhave, ye te samaṇabrāhmaṇā saññiṁ attānaṁ paññapenti arogaṁ paraṁ maraṇā tesamete paṭikkosanti, yepi te bhonto samaṇabrāhmaṇā asaññiṁ attānaṁ paññapenti arogaṁ paraṁ maraṇā tesamete paṭikkosanti, yepi te bhonto samaṇabrāhmaṇā nevasaññīnāsaññiṁ attānaṁ paññapenti arogaṁ paraṁ maraṇā tesamete paṭikkosanti.
Why is that?
Taṁ kissa hetu?
Because all of those ascetics and brahmins only assert their attachment to heading upstream:
Sabbepime bhonto samaṇabrāhmaṇā uddhaṁ saraṁ āsattiṁyeva abhivadanti:
‘After death we shall be like this! After death we shall be like that!’
‘iti pecca bhavissāma, iti pecca bhavissāmā’ti.

So here we have “annihilationists” being described as believers in reincarnation! They are not “annihilationists” because they believe a real existing being is destroyed at death, rather they are “annihilationists” because they reject the belief that after death there is some sort of permanent eternal unchanging soul.

So what is being annihilated in this annihilationist position is the past, it’s more like, “I won’t be this anymore, I will be that, I won’t have a body, I will be pure light, etc” so the mutability is sort of absolute here, and there is nothing like a “percipient being” existing forever after the physical body has died as in the earlier positions. Other annihilationists (for eg at DN2) are described as rejecting reincarnation and asserting that “when your dead your dead” but this version highlights how a more subtle version of the same error can allow for infinite rebirth.

Basically the Buddha rejects both the assertion and denial of absolute existent substance, because with the assertion no real change is possible and with the denial nothing exists to be the subject of change, seeing the incoherence in both extremes the Buddha teaches a way by the middle.

This is all a great example of why it is very important to keep an open mind and carefully read the suttas themselves before accepting any explanation given in academic or monastic settings, the explanations are usually true in as much as they are germaine and helpful and lead one on to higher understanding, but they often simplify things that turn out to be quite subtle and complex, such as the diversity and subtlety of the “eternalist” and “annihilationist” positions that the Buddha was contrasting his own position (or more accurately transcendence of positions) to.

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Thanks for the examples! Much more useful than the lazy answer I gave to TheSynergist.

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Yes, thank you @josephzizys for your in-depth analysis of MN 102!

As for your comments on Annihilationism — I’ve find myself increasingly disinclined to use that term because, like you point out, it could refer to a legion of contradictory viewpoints in the suttas.

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So basically eternalists believe in an unchanging “soul”, while annihilationists don’t?

Well, it’s pretty hard to decipher the full range of ancient indian positions but yes, I think that that is basically the case, at least here in MN102, but it’s not really just soul that is at stake, rather any kind of “existing” where existence is taken to be somehow substantial…

‘All exists’: this is one extreme.
‘Sabbamatthī’ti kho, kaccāna, ayameko anto.

‘All doesn’t exist’: this is the second extreme.
‘Sabbaṁ natthī’ti ayaṁ dutiyo anto.

Avoiding these two extremes, the Realized One teaches by the middle way:
Ete te, kaccāna, ubho ante anupagamma majjhena tathāgato dhammaṁ deseti:

‘Ignorance is a condition for choices.
‘avijjāpaccayā saṅkhārā;
Choices are a condition for consciousness. …
saṅkhārapaccayā viññāṇaṁ …pe…
That is how this entire mass of suffering originates.
evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa samudayo hoti.

When ignorance fades away and ceases with nothing left over, choices cease.
Avijjāya tveva asesavirāganirodhā saṅkhāranirodho;
When choices cease, consciousness ceases. …
saṅkhāranirodhā viññāṇanirodho …pe…
That is how this entire mass of suffering ceases.’”
evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa nirodho hotī’”ti.

SN12.15

So what is being said here is something like: “it is really real” is one extreme, “it is really unreal” is another extreme, but the buddha teaches a way of understanding “it”, whatever “it” is by conditionality, that is by recognising how whatever “it” is depends on other “its” to arise and to cease, and that all the “its” we ever actually experience are like this, contingent, dependant on other things, arising and ceasing depending on circumstances, and that we can therefore eradicate our dependance on all these conditioned things by turning our minds towards what is beyond all of them, the unconditioned.

something like that anyway, it gets notoriously hard to talk about these things because as the Buddha points out language itself is limited in this way, so often, as in MN102, language or conceptual based views are talked about but then moved beyond, and meditative attainments are taken up, as a sort of methodological way of showing that we can go beyond language and conceptual thought, and then beyond happiness and sadness, and then beyond pleasure and pain, and so on, as in the jhana formula mentioned in the Sutta.

Metta