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Discussion of Bhante Sujato's An Introduction to Itivuttaka - week 1

The Dhammanet Learn four-week course An Introduction to the Itivuttaka with Bhante Sujato starts this weekend.

Each week there is a prerecorded video and a Zoom discussion. Not all of us will be able to make this live discussion. If you do it would be an act of generosity to share any interesting points you pick up in this thread. And please use this thread to discuss the video as well. :pray:

You can enrol in the whole four-week course and get the link to Zoom here, or watch this week’s video here on YouTube.

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It’s great to have these opportunities for discussion! I’ll just mention one of the aspects of the discussion. Note: this is not a record of the conversation, but my thoughts based on the video and discussion.

One thing discussed in the video, and in the discussion was that it is possible to interpret the many passages that start:

Abandon one thing, bhikkhus, and I guarantee you non-returning. What is that one thing? Greed is that one thing, bhikkhus. Abandon that and I guarantee you non-returning.”

in different ways:

  1. As a particular rhetorical style.
  2. That the things to be abandoned in the subsequent suttas are connected, so abandoning any one of them will necessitate the abandoning of the others.
  3. That if we think of the teachings as being personalised to a particular listener (rather than designed to be collected into a book) then for that person this might have been the one thing that needed work.
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I’m afraid I was one of the majority who just quietly listened to the discussion and the interesting questions asked (could think of no burning questions of my own :wink: ). I’ve being using Zoom quite heavily during the lockdown, but only locally, so a little bit surreal to see it work so well to link up with the other side of the world (the wonders of modern technology :slight_smile: ).

Good mix of questions from the more basic to the more advanced, and very interesting to listen to Bhante Sujato’s answers. I thought the general discussion about the dependency and connection between the various items of just “one thing” listed was interesting.

If I had realized there was a thread on this, I might actually have jotted down a few notes on what was discussed (on what was last night in this part of the world). At one point, the plausibility of the general backstory of the origination of the book was gone into. One good point in its favour was that it was actually slightly embarrassing to monks (that they had forgotten these teachings and it later had to be all recounted to them with a bunch of laywomen as source); evidence given in court that is embarrassing to the person telling it is often treated as more credible. Someone else had a question about whether it would be of a similar age to the Attavagga. No definitive answer was given but there was a fairly nuanced discussion of some of the various arguments for and against.

Some questions about some concepts from the Itivuttaka were also raised, e.g. someone asked about conceit and conceiving, which I thought was nice (the original first talk about went a little into conceit, which mentioned that this involved comparisons to others, another better than oneself, another worse than oneself, and also, interestingly, the case where one thinks one is equal to another).

There was other stuff, which escapes me now. Perhaps I should take a few quick notes to jog my memory next time! :slight_smile:

One line from Bhante Sujato did stand out for me. The discussion touched on samadhi for some reason at one point. He said that at one point (when he was in the US, I think he said) someone was asking him why their mind wouldn’t stay still. He said to them that there’s always some kind of wanting underling such thoughts (even if it isn’t maybe obvious what it is). Hope I’m paraphrasing that correctly, but I found that interesting food for thought!

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What was the answer if I may ask? All I heard was Bhante say it was complicated. Did I doze off…

You are right I think. I don’t recall a clear final answer. I just thought it was an interesting topic! :slight_smile:

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Thanks. Not sure how you can assume we are all equal to one another but I would hope for equal opportunity.

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This week Bhante dealt with The Ones. Seeing as the Itivuttaka has ones, twos, threes, and fours. Perfect for a four-week course!!! I look forward to finding out how the following sections are structured, as I must confess that I’ve never read the text.

From the recorded talk I enjoyed the analysis of structure and the mode of summarising. And of course the backstory. :smiley:

That was music to my feminist ears! :rofl:

That would be fabulously kind. :pray:

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Indeed it is. In Snp 4.9 we see a hint of the reasoning for abandoning all forms of conceit, including the one based on the notion of being equal:

Questioning repeatedly dependent on views,
grasped at again, you’ve arrived at delusion,
not having experienced even a tiny perception of peace,
so therefore you see this as very deluded.

Who as “equal” considers, “greater” or “less”,
conceiving others thus would dispute because of this;
but who by these three never is swayed,
“equal”, “superior” does not exist.

Why would this Brahmin declare “this is the true”,
with whom would he argue that “this is false”,
in whom there is not “equal”, “unequal”,
with whom would he join another in dispute?

With home let go, faring on in homelessness,
in villages the Sage having no intimates,
rid of sensual desires, having no preference,
would not with any arguments people engage.

Unattached, one wanders forth in the world,
a Nāga, ungrasping, would not dispute those,
just as the water lily, thorny-stemmed species,
sullied is not by water or mud,
even so is the ungreedy Sage proclaiming Peace,
unsullied by desires and pleasures in the world.

The Wise One’s not conceited by view or by intelligence,
for that one there is no “making-it-mine”;
and cannot be led by good works or by learning,
cannot be led away by mind-shelters of view.

For one detached from perception, there exist no ties,
for one by wisdom freed, no delusions are there,
but those who have grasped perceptions and views,
they wander the world stirring up strife.
–Snp 4.9 SuttaCentral

A fuller explanation is found at SN22.49:

And a similar analysis is presented in SN35.108:

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On the one hand we have the three conceits and on the other hand we have descriptions of disciples being “the foremost of …”, for example Sariputta was considered the foremost in wisdom.

I wonder if these various descriptions of disciples as “foremost” are a later addition? If not I’m wondering how they fit with the dhamma around conceit? The Buddha is surely comparing his disciples as better, worse, the same, in order to come to the conclusion of “foremost”. And that tone maybe acts as an inspiration for us to do the same?

I don’t think Ven Sariputta , as an arahant, really cared about being recognised as a foremost by the Buddha. :man_shrugging:

Speaking for myself, reading in the suttas about some disciples, fully awakened or not, being foremost in specific qualities only inspire me to seek to emulate their positive qualities.

As an unawakened being, of course, in doing so, there will be some level of conceit involved. But it is worth keeping in mind that conceit is a higher fetter and accordongly dropped at a later stage of the path, at the verge of fruition of perfection according to the EBT model.

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Nice. For me, even though I start out inspired with good intentions, it sometimes wanders into spiritual materialism before I know it. :blush:

Very good. Thanks Gabriel

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