The ‘world’ in the Kaccānagotta Sutta

Hi all, :slight_smile:

This is part of a series of draft essays related to the famous Kaccānagotta Sutta. One day I might collect all these into a book, so any feedback, questions, or critique is much appreciated. Other parts were on the Buddha declaring “only suffering”, on saññāvedayitanirodha as a temporary nibbana and on a seemingly paradoxical perception of nibbāna.


In the Kaccānagotta Sutta, a monk named Kaccāna asks the Buddha about right view. The Buddha’s answer starts as follows (my translation):

In order to interpret this answer correctly, we first have to understand what the origin and cessation of the world refer to. This does not refer to the beginning and end of the Earth or universe, of course. By ‘the world’ the Buddha meant something different. Some authors think it refers to a deluded conception of the external world, which enlightened beings are believed to have abandoned.1 Others take ‘the world’ to be everything experienced through the senses, the contents of consciousness, which they often call “the world of experience”.2 But both these interpretations are not exactly in line with the discourses.

The latter interpretation may be closer, but by ‘the world’ the Buddha meant not only what is perceived through the senses, but primarily the senses themselves. It refers to the entire being, in other words, not just its experiences. As Peter Harvey states, in the Kaccānagotta Sutta “‘world’ and ‘a being’ are equivalent”.3 This understanding is shared by other scholars,4 as there are a number of discourses that directly support it. In the following, Venerable Ānanda gives a clear definition:

Ānanda defines ‘the world’ as that with which you perceive the world, which refers to the six senses themselves, not their contents. The Buddha confirms this definition later in the same discourse. In a similar context, quoted in full below, he likewise says: “I declare ‘the world’ […] just with respect to5 this fathom-long body along with its mind and perception.” This definition too does not limit the world just to perceptions. It includes the body and mind as well, and hence it refers to the entire being with its sense faculties.

But why did the Buddha redefine ‘the world’ as such? The suttas don’t explain this explicitly, but they do give some indications. The reason, as with many of the Buddha’s teachings, is not metaphysical nor even particularly philosophical, but mostly pragmatic. In his day and age, many religions were interested in the makeup of the external world and sought for an end of suffering in it. The Upaniṣadic Brahmins, for instance, equated the world (i.e. universe) to a supreme essence, with which merging after death was considered to be the ultimate liberation. Others sought for the end of rebirth inside the physical world/universe in yet other ways, such as in heaven realms they considered to be permanent.

In the following exchange, the god Rohitassa represents such views. In reply, the Buddha explains in what “world” he found the end of rebirth.

Rohitassa’s quest for the physical end of the universe may seem unbelievable or silly, but I read this as a mythology which symbolizes ways in which beings may look for an alleviation of suffering in the external world. Rohitassa looked for a place in the universe where you do not get born, age, and die: probably some kind of eternal heaven realm. The Buddha explains that such a place doesn’t exist, but if you redefine ‘the world’ to mean just the body and mind along with their perceptions, when this “world” comes to an end, an escape from death and rebirth can actually be realized. His reply should be compared to a passage where he says that through understanding Dependent Arising he realized how to “escape from this suffering, this old age and death and so on”, so he would not “get born, age, die, pass on, and get reborn again”.6

The Buddha’s reply to Rohitassa is first and foremost pragmatical. He does not redefine ‘the world’ because Rohitassa has a fundamentally wrong concept about the external world or because all that can be talked about is “the world of experience”, as some interpreters understand the purpose of the Buddha’s redefinition. He redefines ‘the world’ because Rohitassa was trying to reach liberation in the wrong way, looking for the end of suffering in the wrong place. He looked for the end of the suffering in the external universe, while he should focus on his own body and mind instead. The world we should be concerned with is not the outer world but our own being, because it’s with the end of our personal existence that an end to suffering can be achieved. The Buddha redefined the term not to explain what the external world is or how we perceive it wrongly, but to shift our focus to what we need to understand in order to overcoming suffering.

A similar pragmatism is apparent in other definitions which like that of §2 are also said to apply “in the training of the Noble One”. This particular statement seems to inherently imply a playful use of language, where the meaning of a certain word or phrase in the training program of the Buddha (the Noble One) differs from its meaning in the training program of others. To illustrate, in the training of the Noble One, mother’s milk is called “blood”, disrobing is “death”, stopping unwholesome behavior is “the ending of one’s business”, refraining from impure actions is “revering the six directions”, and so forth.7 These are pragmatic definitions; there is nothing particularly metaphysical or phenomenological about them. More closely related to our discussion, the Buddha explains that to normal people the ocean simply is a body of water, but in the training of the Noble One the “ocean” is the six senses and their objects.8 This does not intend to tell us what the external ocean really is (i.e. metaphysics) or how we perceive it (i.e. phenomenology). It instead reminds us of what kind of dangerous “ocean” we should be concerned with. The definition of ‘the world’ in the training of the Noble One at §2 is very similar to this.

The Pāli commentary agrees with this general interpretation. It explains Rohitassa asked about the end of the world with respect to the world that is the universe, but the Buddha answered with respect to the world of the five aspects of existence (khandhas), which in the understanding of the commentary constitute the being.9 In other words, the Buddha is only concerned with a certain portion of the universe, the portion that make up one’s personal existence. This is why he declares ‘the world’ “just with respect to this fathom-long body along with its mind and perception”. The commentary further paraphrases the Buddha to say: “I do not declare these four truths with respect to [external] things like grass and wood but just with respect to this body made of the four elements”, where the last part must be an abbreviation which implies the mind to be included alongside the body. Either way, it is clear the commentary does not interpret ‘the world’ to refer to cognitive concepts of the external world or to conscious experiences but to the being more generally.

This is not just a theoretical difference in interpretation. It has very practical consequences. If we take these teachings on the world to be some form of metaphysics—for example, if we take them to be about the insubstantiality of matter—we are doing the exact thing the Buddha was trying to prevent. We are focusing on the makeup of the physical world, while he wanted us to focus on our own existence. And if we take these teachings to just be about our subjective experience of the world—for example, if we take them to say that the world and things within it are just concepts formed by the mind—we are still looking for the origin of suffering in the wrong place. We aren’t looking at the world the Buddha indented us to investigate and instead are still making assumptions about the physical world—namely, that it is not the way we perceive it. Modern science tells us it isn’t, but as long as we don’t take it to be permanent, true happiness, or a self, the exact makeup of the physical world is not a concern of the Buddha. As Venerable Bodhi annotated the Discourse with Rohitassa, in the Buddha’s teachings “the objective world is of interest only to the extent that it serves as the necessary external condition for experience. The world [defined by the Buddha] is identified with the six sense bases [i.e. the six senses] because the latter are the necessary internal condition for experience [i.e. they are part of the being] and thus for the presence of a world.”10

Venerable Bodhi’s last statement indicates that there is a certain phenomenological dimension to these teachings. That is to say, there is a connection to subjective experience. As Ānanda said at §2, the senses are that with which you perceive the world. When the six senses cease, all that is experienced ceases too, including all experiences of the external world. So in a way the end of one’s personal existence is, from one’s inner point of view, also the end of the external world. Conversely, it is through being reborn that we keep experiencing different worlds.11 It is therefore not totally incorrect to understand ‘the world’ to refer to what is experienced through the senses. It may even go a long way towards explaining why the Buddha redefined the term the way he did.

But this understanding is incomplete, as the following discourse also indicates. Here the senses themselves are again included in the explanation of ‘the world’, not just the experiences we have through them, which means these teachings go beyond just the contents of moment-to-moment experience and also address questions about life more broadly, particularly questions about birth and death.

That in this context ‘the world’ refers to the being is clarified by a parallel discourse which replaces ‘world’ with ‘being’ but is otherwise identical. The experiences of sights, smells, and so forth are included here too, because they cannot really be separated from the being, just like the world cannot really be separated from the senses:

Because enlightened beings also still have the six senses, the six types of consciousness, and so forth, the so-called world still exists for them too.12 The six senses start at each rebirth and only cease permanently when the enlightened being passes away. The Buddha therefore explains that the world originates through rebirth and disappears when existence ceases:

If we were to base our understanding of this discourse solely on the first two paragraphs, which describe the origination of the world, we might conclude the world originates with the arising of consciousness and sense impressions (or ‘contact’). This would give credence to interpretations where ‘the world’ is taken to refer just to experiences of the external world. But the last two paragraphs, which describe the disappearance of the world, also include the arising of consciousness and sense impressions. The difference between the world’s origination and disappearance is not found in the first half of the paragraphs, which describes consciousness and sense impressions. It is only found in the second half, which describes rebirth and existence.

Since the shared statements on the arising of consciousness and sense impressions play no part in the cessation of the world, we can also omit them from our analysis of its origination. What remains are five of the standard twelve factors of Dependent Arising: craving, taking up/fuel (upādāna), existence, birth, and old age & death. Taken together I have called these five factors the ‘craving sequence’. This sequence is frequently taught in isolation,14 so it serves as a complete explanation of the origin of suffering and hence of the so-called world. It is an expansion of the Buddha’s second truth,15 which says the origin of suffering is “the craving that leads to a next life”, the craving that leads to further existence.16

So with the origination and cessation of ‘the world’ the Buddha here refers to the being, since the physical world or subjective experiences of it are not reborn. As the commentary explains: “The origination and disappearance of the world refers to the ‘world’ of created things (or ‘formations’, saṅkhāras). It means the rebirth and [final] breaking up of the aggregates (khandhas).”17 When the Kaccānagotta Sutta mentions the origination and cessation of the world, this is what it refers to as well.

These teachings should also be placed in their historical context. While nowadays science and religion are two distinct disciplines, in the Buddha’s days theories about the external world were inherently spiritual.18 Many spiritual seekers were also scientists of sorts, being interested in the makeup of the world. Most prominent among them were probably the Brahmins who thought the self of the person was equal to the world/universe, but the Brahmajāla Sutta mentions various other views of a permanent self that somehow relates to the world.19 With his definition of ‘the world’, the Buddha indicated not only that such ideas are looking for the end of suffering in the wrong place, they are also inherently mistaken. The being or “world” does not contain a self but is just the six senses and the experiences that arise through them:

Other discourses speak of the impermanence of this same world “in the training of the Noble One”, indicating by means of a pun that the world (loka) disintegrates (lujjati).20 This refers not only to the impermanence of conscious experiences but also to the impermanence of life itself, for in each case the definition of ‘the world’, just as the above quotation, includes the senses and hence refers to the entire being including its experiences.

To prevent any possible misunderstandings, I should note that these creative redefinitions of ‘the world’ do not apply across the discourses. The term is used in conventional ways as well. Even Ānanda’s definition at §2 refers twice to the conventional world in the phrase, “that in the world with which you perceive and conceive of the world”. In the Kaccānagotta Sutta too, the expression “most of the world” simply refers to most people in the world.


Edit: In the discussion below we found direct confirmation of these ideas in a Chinese text. See The ‘world’ in the Kaccānagotta Sutta - #203 by Sunyo





That’s the end of the essay. I hope to soon turn to the terms atthitā and natthitā of the Kaccāyanagotta Sutta, usually translated as ‘existence’ and ‘nonexistence’. They refer to lasting existence after death (i.e. eternalism) and non-existence after a single life (i.e. annihilationism). Like most of the above, my ideas about this are not new. But inspired by Venerable Sujato’s rendition of atthi elsewhere, I suggest to translate the terms instead as ‘survival’ and ‘nonsurvival’, which I think reflects their meaning a bit better. Likewise, following Maurice Walshe,21 I translate atthikavāda as ‘the doctrine of survival’. Natthikavāda accordingly becomes ‘the doctrine of nonsurvival’, instead of ‘nihilism’, which is not really what this doctrine is about. With the perspective these translations provide, we can also better understand how the Buddha’s middle teaching avoid these two extremes. But that is for a future discussion. :slight_smile:


NOTES

  1. For example Ñāṇananda p.501, Amaro p.158.
  2. For example Johansson p.28, Cintita p.6, Anālayo Chapter I.3.
  3. Harvey p.30.
  4. For example Choong p.15: “[The Buddha] focuses on the ‘sentient being’ when looking at the world”. Vélez de Cea p.509: “the world […] is nothing other than the psychophysical world of beings”. Salvini p.83: “The sense of loka, moreover, oscillates between ‘world’ and ‘person’”.
  5. Imasmiṃyeva byāmamatte kaḷevare sasaññimhi samanake lokañca paññapemi […], ‘I declare “the world” […] just with respect to this fathom-long body along with its mind and perception’. Considering the definition of ‘the world’ as the six senses in §2, instead of “in this fathom-long body …”, the locative case here is more naturally interpreted as a locative of reference (that is, “with respect to …”). The Buddha’s so-called world is not just inside the mind and body, such as just being a perception. His world is the being with its mind and body. The commentary paraphrases the Buddha to say: “I do not declare these four truths with respect to external things like grass and wood, but with respect to this body made up of the four elements.” Here too the locative should not be interpreted as a literal ‘in’, for it is unlikely the commentators would have felt a need to explain that the four truths don’t exist inside external things like grass and wood, which is already obvious, especially for the fourth truth of the eightfold path. Likewise, the four truths don’t exist inside the body but refer to the body (along with the rest of the being). Compare also Attwood p.121: “I declare them [the four truths] only in (or with respect to) this body”.
  6. SN12.10.
  7. MN38; MN105; MN54; DN31. See further AN3.107, AN4.111, AN6.45, AN10.119, SN35.244.
  8. SN35.228–229.
  9. SN-A1.116 mentions the Buddha replied with respect to “the world of creations/formations” (saṅkhāraloka), which SN-A5.42 clarifies refers to the aspects of existence.
  10. Bodhi n.182 at SN2.26.
  11. See also Salvini p.83: “The sense of loka, moreover, oscillates between ‘world’ and ‘person’, and the link between the two is probably that this/the next world is, in the end, my world, depending on the situation of my (re)birth.” Also Bodhi n.182 at SN2.26: “As long as the six sense bases persist, a world will always be spread out before us as the objective range of perception and cognition. Thus one cannot reach the end of the world by travelling, for wherever one goes one inevitably brings along the six sense bases, which necessarily disclose a world extended on all sides. Nevertheless, by reversing the direction of the search it is possible to reach the end of the world. For if the world ultimately stems from the six sense bases, then by bringing an end to the sense bases it is possible to arrive at the end of the world.”
  12. Compare for example SN35.232, which says the Buddha still has the six senses. See also Vélez de Cea p.512: “The liberated one still has sensory fields but perceives them as empty of self and taints.”
  13. This standard line seems to have been inserted by accident here, as its counterpart is missing in the origination paragraphs.
  14. DN1, MN38, MN57, SN22.5, SN12.43–45, SN12.55–57, SN12.60, SN22.80, SN35.107, SN35.113. Some of these do include a few factors that are not part of the craving sequence, such as sensations (vedanā) and sense impressions (phassa), but none goes back to any of the first four factors of the twelvefold sequence.
  15. See also Choong p.19: “The statement of conditioned genesis with just five factors runs [from craving down to suffering]. This most concise formula corresponds directly to two of the four noble truths because [the last factor] is suffering (first truth) and craving is the origin of suffering (second truth). Since craving is itself a conditioned phenomenon, the series of causes can be expanded to as many as twelve factors.” For a further explanation see Sunyo Chapter 2.
  16. For example SN56.11.
  17. SN-A5.42.
  18. See Warder p.51.
  19. DN1.
  20. SN35.84, similar at SN35.82.
  21. Walshe DN2.

REFERENCES

  • Amaro: Catastrophe/Apostrophe: The Buddha’s Teaching on Dependent Origination/Cessation, Ajahn Amaro, 2021.
  • Anālayo: The Signless and the Deathless: On the Realization of Nirvana, Bhikkhu Anālayo, 2023.
  • Attwood: The Cessation of Sensory Experience and Prajñāpāramitā Philosophy in International Journal of Buddhist Thought & Culture vol.32.1, pp.111–148, Jayarava Attwood, 2022.
  • Bodhi: The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Saṃyutta Nikāya, Bhikkhu Bodhi (tr.), 2000.
  • Choong: The Notion of Emptiness in Early Buddhism, Choong Mun-keat (Wei-keat), 1999.
  • Cintita: Dependent Coarising: Meaning Construction in the Twelve Links, Bhikkhu Cintita, 2021.
  • Harvey: The Selfless Mind: Personality, Consciousness and Nirvāna in Early Buddhism, Peter Harvey, 1995.
  • Johansson: The Dynamic Psychology of Early Buddhism, Rune E.A. Johansson, 1979.
  • Ñāṇananda: Nibbāna, The Mind Stilled, Bhikkhu Kaṭukurunde Ñāṇananda, 2015.
  • Salvini: The Nidānasamyukta and the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā: Understanding the Middle Way Through Comparison and Exegesis in Thai International Journal of Buddhist Studies vol.1 pp.57–95, Mattia Salvini, 2011.
  • Sunyo: Seeds, Paintings and a Beam of Light: Similes for Consciousness in Dependent Arising, Bhikkhu Sunyo, 2024.
  • Vélez de Cea: Emptiness in the Pali Suttas and the Question of Nagarjuna’s Orthodoxy in Philosophy East and West vol.55.4, Abraham Vélez de Cea, 2005.
  • Walshe: The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Dīgha Nikāya, Maurice Walshe (tr.), 1995.
  • Warder: On the Relationship between Early Buddhism and Other Contemporary Systems in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, vol.18.1, A.K. Warder, 1956.
16 Likes

Thank you Venerable, I look forward to studying this more closely.
Much more recently, Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote in his Tractatus:

  • The world and life are one. (5.621)

    • Original German: Die Welt und das Leben sind Eins.
  • I am my world. (The microcosm.) (5.63)

    • Original German: Ich bin meine welt (Der Mikrokosmos.)
  • The subject does not belong to the world, but it is a limit of the world. (5.632)

    • Original German: Das Subjekt gehört nicht zur Welt, sondern es ist eine Grenze der Welt.
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Were all those teachers or sects about a search for ending suffering? Or were some searching for the Truth about life, regardless of the issue of suffering? Do you feel there is a difference?
For example: is the goal of a religion like Christianity about ending suffering ?

My impression is that the holy life is a search for what is pure. Or a calling to be pure. I think an aspect of this life is also that one has a certain basic and rudimentairy understanding of what is original and also what is not me, not mine, not my self, alien.

Knowing what is original does not mean a notion of atta, but more like knowing the difference between defiled and the orginal state of undefiled water.

I feel, the holy life is mostly about honouring purity. Even if this comes with problems, painful practices, difficulties. This is honouring what is straight, not corrupt, sincere, upright, not deceptive, non delusional. But without any recognition of all this, if this would all be empty meaningless words for us, we would be totally lost. And i do not believe it is like this.

The Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha recognised as purity is not really different from recognizing ones own original purity. That is the connection we make.

Oke, but we can also know we cannot take this literally.
Because it is not really that we perceive with the senses. We perceive and conceive with the mind. And at sleep or death there are still senses but we do not perceive with them. We never perceive with anything material.

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This gives away the game though. You attest that perhaps the kaccanagotta sutta was using the word in the conventional way. :pray:

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Even to use non-existence to refer to after the death of arahant, I think it’s possible due to the condition for non-existence view is gone for after parinibbāna, there is no more arising. Thus it’s valid to sort of use this concept of non-existence on after parinibbāna. Of course one can go the opposite and say no cessation left because nothing left to cease, so the condition to invalidate existence is not there. Existence can be used to describe parinibbāna. Existence of nothing :laughing:.

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I think Venerable Sunyo states as much with this, right?

Which reaffirms the view of personal existence → aka the self.

I’ve learned from @Jasudho that the view of mere cessationism does not contemplate personal existence, but rather impersonal processes that come to end. This seems to be in some tension with this essay.

No matter which way you wax it:

  • Impersonal processes
  • Personal existence
  • Individual existence
  • The ‘world’ as a being aka a person

This all seems to me inextricably tied up with a view of the self.

:pray:

PS: I’ve also learned from @Jasudho - who I think gives the most compelling argument for mere cessation even if I disagree with it - that it is experience that matters which is again in tension with this essay. This essay goes out of its way to state it isn’t just experience but the actual senses which are ‘the world.’

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Perhaps this has to do with one’s lens of seeing the words and concepts here rather than the dhamma itself.

Using red lens, we see all as shades of red.

Try to see using no self lens.

6 sense bases are not self.

Individuality is not self. No self doesn’t deny the individual/personal.

Individual as defined is that other people cannot see what I see with my eyes, unless we are just besides each other. Their kamma is not my responsibility to bear. Their liberation is not the same as my liberation.

We can analyse it via full experience mode and assuming an external world mode.

Full experience mode, even the senses are within experiences. So there’s no difference saying experience and senses.

External world mode: senses are bases for experiences, and when senses ceases, personal experiences ceases, the external world still goes on for other beings and they only see the corpse of arahant left behind.

With respect to the “person/arahant” who ceased, without experiences, there’s no internal or external world. Nothing left to even refer to a person.

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The individual and the person are just conventions. It is true that the Teacher did not intend to deny the merely conventional person. We seem to be in agreement on this.

The President of the United States is a convention. We agree on this as well. The ‘person’ or ‘individual’ has no more substantial existence than this, right?

However, what is described in this essay seems to go beyond this; to affirm the more substantial existence of the ‘world’ and the ‘person’ and the ‘individual’ as compared to the President of the United States.

It is this view that ends; the view of the substantial existence of the individual, person, world, etc; not the convention. This is what the Kaccānagotta is trying to convey.

Kaccāna, this world mostly relies on the dual notions of existence and non-existence.

These dual notions are of substantial existence and substantial non-existence. The belief that the person exists substantially or that there can be a substantial end to the person. But the person does not exist substantially and therefore can not substantially end.

Once one realizes the completely insubstantial, nebulous, illusionary, ephemeral, void, hollow, empty nature of the existence of the person, one can give up all views of the substantial arising and substantial ending of the person. No more desire towards the merely empty, void, hollow and insubstantial is generated; neither for its continued existence nor for its cessation.

:pray:

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I get lost when you just throw in the world subtantial.

You can agree on appearance of 6 sense contacts right? Don’t need to talk about existing or not existing. Just appearing.

When all 6 sense contacts do not appear anymore, ceases, without anymore arising in the future. That’s the end of the world.

It’s that simple. When you bring in extra philosophical baggage it becomes hard to discuss.

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This word is found throughout the suttas or at least many of Venerable @sujato’s translations contain it. In that sense, I don’t think I’m bringing in any “philosophical baggage” that the Teacher himself didn’t employ :joy:

I don’t intend any kind of special jargon when using the word substantial other than a common definition I guess?

Sure, given the idiosyncratic definition of the world discussed in this essay. However, it is an assumption that the Kaccānagotta Sutta intended that idiosyncratic definition rather than the more common one that this essay attests is possible.

:pray:

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Yes, and I see this message of the Buddha: we must know that cessation of contact, of vinnana, of all that is sensed, here and now. Not in some intellectual or philosophical way, not by way of conceiving ofcourse (conceiving is not true knowledge and an illness), not as some prospect or idea (is also conceiving and illness), but directly, and here and now, in this very body and very life touching stilling of all formations, relinquishing of all attachments, the destruction of craving, dispassion, cessation, Nibbana. Sutta’s in Itivutakka also describes how the nobles touch the stilling of formatons, cessation, Nibbana. I believe, we all do. We only do not yet see it and realise it.

This is not about after death. The Truth is seen here and now.

The end of the world is by the Buddha described here and now, in this very life, in this very body.
Dhamma is no philosophy in which the cessation of suffering refers to the prospect of not being born again. That is a mere philosphical idea of the cessation of suffering. Only conceiving.

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Hi Yeshe,

Indeed the senses are part of the world—as they are processes that lead to experiences, so to speak.

:pray:

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Hello @Jasudho,

Many times when we’ve spoken about mere cessation you’ve emphasized that we should focus on experiences of the world so as to not drag in any kind of metaphysical notion of ‘the world.’ This essay on the other hand explicitly says ‘the world’ is more than just experiences. This is what I was speaking of when I said the essay appears to be in tension with what you’ve recommended as a view of mere cessation. :pray:

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Thanks Yeshe,

I’ll have to reread the essay before possibly offering a response.
:blush::pray:

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Is this a subtle refutation of Madhyamika and Cittramatin/ Vijnanavada view?

First one stated: “all phenomena is empty”
Second stated: “the world is mind only”

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this passage written by Ven. Bodhi, quoted by Ven. Sunyo, sums up the whole situation very well:

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Yeah, that is a confusing quote to my mind. The “objective world” I suppose means the “external” world but it says this is only necessary to think about because it acts as a condition for positing the six sense bases - which I guess means they are external and by which the internal experience is known? But the Teacher says the six sense bases are internal while the sense contacts are external and that the former are empty, void and hollow.

The Teacher defines what is internal and what is external and the quote above seems to disagree with the Teacher’s definition to my mind. :pray:

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Yes, exactly- you got it.

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Ok, then I guess you’re saying the quote upholds the Teacher’s definition of internal and external? The Teacher also describes the internal and external form aggregate and the internal one includes the physical body. So we have at least one physical object in “the world” I guess?

Moreover, this internal form aggregate can act as a sense contact (read: external) for the internal six sense bases. At least I can experience my hand as an external sense contact even though it is the internal form aggregate.

It almost seems like what is internal and what is external is just a convention and that to believe there exists some fundamental dichotomy is an error that is predicated on the substantial view of the existence of a person in relation to the external world.
:pray:

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This is kind of how I see it as well. On a “schizo” level, to understand that there’s no internal and external difference, and the “entire world” is going to cease with nibbana.

Interestingly enough, this perspective is also compatible with mahayana bodhisatta vows I think - “Sentient beings are numberless; I vow to save them.” Since, all beings will be saved once there’s nibbana.

I’m sure this perspective has some logical issues, like, by this definition I can’t talk about there being a nibbana at all so far (?).

But perhaps these issues are caused by delusion and are only an illusionary problem.

1 Like