But the Buddha was not a butterfly collector
the abhidhammikas chose to sideline experience in deference to their theory
Reminds me of this recent NYBooks article on the modern “consciousness deniers”
What then is this mano? … ontological apartheid
The argument here is understanding “name” in a pre-verbal sense: rolling back “labeling” to signify the very basic level of object-recognition / signal processing performed by the senses and associative memory automatically. But this is an unnecessary level of specificity for the argument being made. Everyone seems to be agreeing that “namarupa” is pointing to the arising of duality. The only disagreement is where, precisely, we draw the boundary between the physical and mental, between subject and object, mind and body, etc. But whereever we draw that line, “reality” is clearly on the other side of that line from any “description” of it (obvious to everyone except them, including Abhidhamma descriptions).
To say all this is, of course, merely to rehash the early rejections of the Abhidhamma. Originally, the prajnaparamita stories were parodies making fun of the Abhidhammists (tongue-in-cheek comparing them to a happless Sariputa) exactly for “taking their jargon too seriously” etc. Of course, as happens with religious texts, humorous refutations were passed on, removed from their context, and eventually clung to as “ultimate expressions” themselves – despite their own insistence that any “Ultimate Expression” is an oxymoron! So while “ultimate reality” as an expression certainly became a misleading, polemical term, and the prajnaparamita became a whole genre of canonicalized word games, originally it was making the very same point as this essay. The essay would have been much stronger for nodding to its contemporaneous allies, and not unfairly painting the whole period with one, frustrated brush.
but I think all metaphysical theories absurd. But they were the norm in ancient times, and I fear the abhidhammikas were just following the flock
Not just in ancient times
‘Infinite Clear Light Non-dual Diamond Suffering’
phenomena come neatly labeled with their own name-tag – in Pali, of course.
sabhāvanirutti See! It even has a Pali name! It must be true!
a meditation system consisting in a labeling technique
If this is a cheap pot-shot at Mahasi I must take offense here. There’s nothing inherently silly about using a matra or mantra system to meditate. Mentally repeating words is, in fact, the prefered method in my own (Thai Forest) Tradition, and many other respected meditation schools. That techniques can be effective even if their doctrinal justifications are ludicrous should come as no surprise. In fact, as is so often the case, meditative effectiveness is likely why this silliness perseveres.
As long as the priest keeps the theory abstract enough that the followers do not really understand it – which is usually not so hard – the system works very well.