Continuing the discussion from Sense Consciousness arising one at a time:
This is a very interesting passage for sure, its from SA 273: 手聲喻—Choong Mun-keat (suttacentral.net) btw.
I was wondering if there are more passages from the EBTs that hint at the origin of the Abhidharma momentariness idea. Of course, the one that often gets trotted out for this is
“Bhikkhus, I do not see even one other thing that changes so quickly as the mind. It is not easy to give a simile for how quickly the mind changes. (AN.48).”
But it is not obvious that this passage is talking about momentariness in the Abhidhamma sense of mental phenomena rapidly arising and ceasing very quickly (in fractions of a second).
Interestingly, I was reading the Abhidharmakosa and came upon an interesting quote from the Mahavibhasa which quotes an unidentified “sutra”:
Some say: That is still coarse. That is not the measure of the kṣaṇa: the Bhagavat has not revealed the true measure. - How do we know that? - From the Sūtra that says: A certain bhikṣu came to the Fortunate One, greeted him, sat down to his side, and asked how fast the conditioning forces of the life force arise and perish. The Buddha said: “I could teach it but you would not be able to understand.” The bhikṣu then asked whether or not there would be a comparison to give him an idea of it. The Buddha said: "Yes, and I will tell you. Suppose four good archers stand back to back and facing in the four directions … " From this text we know that the Fortunate One did not reveal the true measure of the kṣaṇa. - Why did he not reveal it? - Because nobody is capable of understanding it. - Would even Sariputra not be capable of understanding it? - Although he would be capable of understanding it, this knowledge would be of no use, and that is why the Buddha, who does not teach anything in vain, did not explain it.
This is in the Gelong Lodro Sangpo translation, in an endnote on page 1250
Now, I did some digging and could not find a passage about a simile and four archers in the suttas (but I would love to know if someone has found it).
However I did find it in the Jatakas! Particularly, the Javana Hamsa Jataka has the following simile:
“Come, Goose,” etc.–This story the Master told at Jetavana about the Dalhadhamma Suttanta or the Parable of the Strong Men. The Blessed One said: “Suppose, Brethren, four archers to stand at the four points of the compass, strong men, well trained and of great skill, perfect in archery and then let a man come and say, “If these four archers, strong, well trained, and of great skill, perfect in archery shoot forth arrows from four points, I will catch those arrows as they are shot, and before they touch the ground”: would you not agree, sure enough, that he must be a very swift man and the perfection of swiftness? Well, Brethren, great as the swiftness of such a man might be, great as the swiftness of sun and moon, there is something swifter: great, I say, Brethren, as the swiftness of such a man might be, great as the swiftness of the sun and moon, and though the gods outfly sun or moon in swiftness, there is something swifter than the gods: great, Brethren, as the swiftness of that man (and so forth), yet more swiftly than the gods can go, the elements which make up life do decay. Therefore, Brethren, this ye must learn, to be careful; verily I say unto you, this ye must learn.”
Two days after this teaching, they were talking about it in the Hall of Truth: “Brethren, the Master in his own peculiar province as Buddha, illustrating the nature of what makes up life, showed it to be transient and weak, and smote with extreme terror Brethren and unconverted alike. Oh, the might of a Buddha!” The Master entering asked what they talked of. They told him; and he said, “It is no marvel, Brethren, if I in my omniscience alarm the Brethren by my teaching, and show how transient are life’s elements. Even I, when without natural cause I was conceived by a Goose, showed forth the transient nature of the elements of life, and by my teaching alarmed the whole court of a king, together with the king of Benares himself.”
source: Cowell, E. B. (ed.). Chalmers, Robert, W. H. D. Rouse, H. T. Francis, R. A. Neil, E. B. Cowell (trans.). 1895–1907. The Jātaka or Stories of the Buddha’s Former Births . 6 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. vol. IV, pp. 132-136.
Anyways, just thought I’d share as I thought it was an interesting find.
And I also wanted to see if anyone has other possible EBT sources for where the idea of momentariness might have been derived or developed from.