Titthayathana Sutra: The Discourse on Sectarian Doctrines | Sunday Observer

Titthayathana Sutra: The Discourse on Sectarian Doctrines

Titthayathana Sutra (AN) describes three sectarian doctrines (Titthayathana) which were declared wrong by the wise.

“Monks, there are these three doctrines some recluses and Brahmins hold”, the Buddha preached.“However, all these when fully examined, investigated and discussed by the wise as wrong doctrines being of non- action (akiriyavada), they ignore such advice and continue to hold onto them.”

We need to examine these wrong views that the Buddha referred to closely,in such a way that it awakensYonisomanasikara (wise attention). Our aim and effort must not be to gain mere understanding but to abandon the self-view (sakkhayaditti) and develop the Right View (sammaditti) to embark on the path to Nibbana.

The Three Sectarian Doctrines

What are these three doctrines?

(a) There are, monks, some recluses and Brahmins who teach and hold this view, “Whatever a person experiences, whether pleasurable, painful or neutral, all that is caused by past action (pubbekata,hetu).

(b) There are, monks, others who teach and hold this view: “Whatever a person experiences…all that is caused by God’s creation (issara,nimmana,hetu)”’

(c) There are, monks, others who teach and hold this view: “Whatever a person experiences…all that is uncaused and unconditioned (ahetuappaccaya).”

We may think that we do not hold such views;however, many of us seem to do so.

If followed carefully, this coherent teaching should awaken Yonisomanasikara without accepting it on its face value as something that we already know.

The Buddha says,

(1) Now, monks, I approached those recluses and Brahmins who held that “Whatever a person experiences, whether pleasurable, painful or neutral, all that is caused by past action” and said to them:

“Is it true, as they say, that you teach and hold such a view?”

Being asked thus by me, they said, “Yes.”

Then I said this to them, “In that case, it is due to past action,

there will be those who harm life,

there will be those who take the not-given,

there will be those who are incelibate [i.e. who break the rule of celibacy],

there will be speakers of false speech,

there will be speakers of divisive speech,

there will be speakers of harsh speech,

there will be speakers of useless talk,

there will be the covetous,

there will be the malevolent,

there will be those with false views.

Furthermore, monks, one who falls back on past action as the decisive factor will lack the desire and effort for doing this and not doing that. Since one lacks true and real ground for doing or not doing something, one dwells confused and unwary —such a one will be denied being born in heavenly abode (Sugati) hence cannot with justice call oneself “recluse”.

One who takes no effort to refrain from the ten unwholesome courses of actions, as said above by the Buddha,relying on ending of kamma to do good deeds, cannot be called a recluse.

“This, monks, was my first refutation justified (in accordance with the Dhamma) of such teachings and views of those recluses and Brahmins.”

(2) Then, monks, I approached those recluses and Brahmins who held that “Whatever a person experiences…all that is caused by God’s creation” and said to them: “Is it true, as they say that you teach and hold such a view?”

Being asked thus by me, they said, “Yes.”

Then I said this to them, “In that case, due to God’s creation, there will be those who follow the ten unwholesome courses of actions.They will have no hesitation in doing such unwholesome deeds due to their belief that everything is a result of God’s creation.

Furthermore, monks, one who falls back on God’s creation as the decisive factor will lack the desire and effort for doing this and not doing that. Since one lacks true and real ground for doing or not doing something, one dwells confused and unwary—such a one cannot with justice call oneself “recluse”.

This, monks, was my second refutation justified (in accordance with the Dhamma) of such teachings and views of those recluses and Brahmins.

(3) Then, monks, I approached those recluses and Brahmins who held that “Whatever a person experiences…all that is uncaused and unconditioned” and said to them: “Is it true, as they say that you teach and hold such a view?”

Being asked thus by me, they said, “Yes.”

Then I said this to them, “In that case, with neither cause nor condition, there will be

those who follow the ten unwholesome courses of actions.

With the view that all that is uncaused and unconditioned, they tend to believe that all things arise by chance.

Furthermore monks, one who falls back on the notion that “there is neither cause nor condition” as the decisive factor will lack the desire and effort for doing this and not doing that. Since one lacks true and real ground for doing or not doing something, one dwells confused and unwary—such a one cannot with justice call oneself “recluse”.

This, monks, was my third refutation justified (in accordance with the Dhamma) of such teachings andviews of those recluses and Brahmins.

Worldly existence is about experiencing (feeling) pleasure, pain and neither pleasure nor pain. Existence cannot be free of these. In Kimmūlaka Sutta (AN), it is said that converging on feeling are all things (Vedanāsamosara āsabbedhammā). Those that hold the three subject doctrines, attribute these experiences of a person to Kamma, Ishvara (God) or chance (those that arise without causes).

Though all these are considered as non-action doctrines there seems to be a contradiction between the first and the third doctrines in that regard. When some say that all feelings result from Kamma it suggests a process of causation. Notwithstanding, it implies that a doer or a person who experiences is present hence is not a cause and effect process that removes the notion of taking as me (self-view).

Cause and effect phenomena revealed by the Buddha aims to remove the notion of taking as me - the self-view. Though the wise who examined and investigated these expressed that these doctrines are wrong, basis for their comments are far from the Buddha’s teaching which expounds the cause and effect phenomena.

The Dhamma Taught by the Buddha

The Buddha preached,

Now, monks, there is this Dhamma taught by me that is unrefuted, undefiled, blameless, uncensured by wise recluses and Brahmins. And what, monks, is this Dhamma…uncensured by wise recluses and Brahmins?

(a) They are the six elements (dhatu), in this Dhamma taught by me that is unrefuted, undefiled, blameless, uncensured by wise recluses and brahmins.

(b) They are the six bases of contact (phass’ayatana)….

(c) They are the eighteen mental examinations (mano,pavicara)….

(d) They are the four noble truths (ariya,sacca),

This is the Dhamma taught by me that is unrefuted, undefiled, blameless, uncensured by wise recluses and Brahmins.

(a) “These six elements are the Dhamma taught by me that is unrefuted, undefiled, blameless, uncensured by wise recluses and brahmins.” Thus it is said—on what account is this said?

(On account of) these six elements, namely,

The earth element;

The water element;

The fire element;

The wind element;

The space element;

The consciousness element.

These six elements are the Dhamma taught by me that is unrefuted, undefiled, blameless, uncensored by wise recluses and Brahmins.

Sutras such as the Dhatu Vibhanga Sutra, and the Maha Hatthi Padopama Sutra discuss elements in detail.

(b) “These six bases of contact are the Dhamma taught by me that is unrefuted, undefiled, blameless, uncensured by wise recluses and Brahmins.” Thus it is said—on whataccount is this said?

(On account of) the six bases of contacts, namely,

The eye as base of contact;

The ear as base of contact;

The nose as base of contact;

The tongue as base of contact;

The body as base of contact;

The mind as base of contact;

These six bases of contact are the Dhamma taught by me that is unrefuted, undefiled, blameless,uncensured by wise recluses and brahmins.

The six bases of contact are known as Chakkusampassaayathana, Sothasampassaayathana, Ghana sampassaayathana, Divhasampassaayathana, Kaya sampassaayathana and Mano sampassaayathana.

(c) Monks “These eighteen kinds of mental examinations are the Dhamma taught by me that is unrefuted, undefiled, blameless, uncensured by wise recluses and brahmins.” Thus it is said —on what account is this said?

(On account of) the eighteen mental examinations, namely,

Seeing a form with the eye, one examines the form as the basis for pleasure, or for pain, or for neither-pain- nor- pleasure;

Hearing a sound with the ear, one examines the sound…

Smelling with the nose, one examines the smell…

Tasting with the tongue, one examines the taste…

Feeling a touch with the body, one examines the touch…

Cognising a mental object with the mind, one examines the mental object as the basis for pleasure, or for pain, or for neither-pain-nor-pleasure….

These eighteen mental examinations are the Dhamma taught by me that is unrefuted, undefiled, blameless, uncensured by wise recluses and Brahmins.

Understanding the Dhamma

One can begin to search either through the six elements, the six bases of contact or through the eighteen mental examinations (mano-pavicara). However, the one who holds on to sectarian doctrines sees no purpose to search.

The elements, earth element (patavi) for instance, are not to be taken as external (as taken conventionally), but is to be considered as nature, or quality(say as hard,rough etc.), we think these are external (to me) but all are manifested in grasping, as said in the Teachings.

This nature or quality stems from the diversity of elements through six bases of contact. When a visual object is seen, for instance, the resultant sensation arising from contact causes mental examinations to experience, pleasurable, painful or neutral feelings.

There is an interesting dialogue between Arahath Sariputta and Samiddhi thero which explains the Dhamma that due to diversity of elements are eighteen kinds of mental examinations on feelings, arising through six bases of contacts.(Samiddhi Sutra - AN)

“With what as objects, Samiddhi, do thoughts and concepts

(sankappavitakkā) arise in a man?”

“With name-and-form as object, venerable sir.”

“But wherein, Samiddhi, do they assume diversity?”

“In the elements, venerable sir.”

“But from whence, Samiddhi, do they arise?”

“They arise from contact, venerable sir.”

“But on what, Samiddhi, do they converge?”

“They converge on feelings, venerable sir.”

Pleasure, for instance, results from the way the mind examines, i.e. the way one thinks. Hence, the person can have a desire and effort for doing this and not doing that. He will have a real ground for doing or not doing something as a recluse.

If for instance, when an ascetic experiences pain he is able to steer his mind away as he knows that the pain arises in accordance with the way one thinks and not caused by past action, created by God or by chance. He is aware of the outcome and hence can refrain from doing unwholesome courses of actions. This is the practice of a recluse.

The Buddha says,

“Monks, depending on the six elements…” That is to say, if there is a grasping of the six elements before the death of a person, there is a descent into a womb. If one grasps the six elements, there is a descent into the womb.

When there is a descent of consciousness into the womb, one can speak of name-and-form. Dependent on name-and-form, there are the six sense spheres. Dependent on six sense spheres, contact; and dependent on contact, feeling. Feeling is taken as the turning point to the Four Noble Truths (‘Vediyamānassabhikkhaveida dukkhantipaññapemi’). It is to one who feels that I make known ‘this is suffering’ etc. The formula branches off towards the Four Noble Truths, leading to the cessation of suffering. In this way, the law of Dependent Arising is conjoined to the Four Noble Truths.

Another profound Sutra where the Buddha explains dependent Arising (also known as dependent origination-paticcasamuppada) as the cause for feelings of pleasure, pain and neutral (neither pleasure nor pain), isTimbarukasuttra (SN).

A wanderer named Timbaruka approaches the Buddha while He is on an alms round and asks whether pleasure and pain are created by oneself, by another, by both, or by chance. Explaining why he rejects all these options, the Buddha asserts that suffering (dukkha) arises due to conditions. The Buddha rejects all and refers to the phenomenon of dependent origination as the cause. Hence pleasure, pain and neither pleasure nor pain is caused due to dependent origination, not due to kamma, God or by chance as taught in sectarian doctrines.

The Four Noble Truths

The truth of suffering, i.e. dukkha experienced by a person is birth, decay, death, sorrow, lamentation, (mental) pain, anguish and despair and so on. The Buddha preached the Four Noble Truths for the person who is experience,d to gain knowledge and insight.

Then Buddha says,

(d) “These four noble truths are the Dhamma taught by me that is unrefuted, undefiled, blameless, uncensured by wise recluses and Brahmins.” Thus it is said—on what account is this said?

Dependent on the six elements, bhikkhus, there is descent into the womb;

When there is descent, there is name-and-form;

With name-and-form as condition, there are six sense-bases;

With the six sense-bases as condition, there is contact;

With contact as condition, there is feeling.

Now, it is for one who feels that I make known:

i. This is suffering;

ii. This is the arising of suffering;

iii. This is the cessation of suffering;

iv. This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.

And what, monks, is the noble truth of suffering?

(1) birth is suffering,

(2) decay is suffering,

(3) death is suffering;

(4) sorrow, lamentation, (mental) pain, anguish and despair are suffering

(5) to be associated with the unpleasant is suffering;

(6) to be separated from the pleasant is suffering;

(7) not getting what one desires is suffering—

(8) In short, the five aggregates of clinging are suffering.

This, monks, is called the noble truth of suffering.

And what, monks, is the noble truth of the arising of suffering?

With ignorance as condition, there are (volitional) formations;

With (volitional) formations as condition, there is consciousness; With consciousness as condition, there is name-and-form;

With name-and-form as condition, there are the six sense-bases;

With the six sense-bases as condition, there is contact;

With contact as condition, there is feeling;

With feeling as condition, there is craving;

With craving as condition, there is clinging;

With clinging as condition, there is becoming;

With becoming as condition, there is birth;

With birth as condition, there arise decay, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain,

anguish and despair.

Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering. This, monks, is called the noble truth of the arising of suffering.

We may not have heard this before but in this Sutra, the Buddha declares that the cause for Dukkha is dependent origination.

The teaching guides the practitioner to begin with gaining mundane right view (laukika samma ditti), which is the knowledge of the world such as morality, immorality and rebirth, landing in the womb. As said above,with regard to one who is born in womb what occurs is name-matter growth and arising of sense bases where feelings originate. For one who has not reached the path (to spiritual liberation - lokottara) the repetitive existence in samsara continues,‘obstructed by ignorance, and ensnared by craving’.

Dependent Origination

When one begins to examine what dukkha is he sees Dhamma, the law of dependent origination. As said in Kaccayanagotta sutra (SN), knowing the law of dependent origination accomplishes the Right View.

In Mula Pariyaya Sutra (MN),it is said that the uninstructed with mundane right view sees elements (e.g. patavi) and the three worlds (Sensual, Material and Immaterial) as things that exist, which is known as imagining (Mannana) but the one who sees the Dhamma (seka person) sees them,however, knows how they originateand hence does not imagine.He sees the dependent origination and therefore is called the one who does not imagine (Ma-Manya).The Uninstructed conceives everything as existing within the sphere of time and space, as a person, due to not knowing the truth (Avidya).

The six elements of which the man is made up of include consciousness which due to effluents and Kamma,shapes the existence in Samsara (cycle of repetitive birth and death), which is the process of the name-matter growth. The sense bases that arise complete the person, one who experiences feelings, pleasurable, painful or neutral and therefore, dukkha.

As discussed, such a person can have a desire and effort for doing this and not doing that. He will have a real ground for doing or not doing something as a recluse not being unskillful but rather becoming skillful, though still not free from delusion.

Exalted practitioner and a spiritual teacher of the Buddha to be (Prince Siddhartha), Alarakalama was a recluse (sramana), who practiced meditation without holding on to the three doctrines; however,he was not able to abandon the self-view and therefore couldn’t attain Nibbana. Such great practitioners during Buddha’s time were able to suppress defilements of greed (raga)) and hatred (dvesha) and attain higher states of dhyana, however, were ignorant of the underlying delusion (moha).The Enlightened One realised and revealed to the world,the path to abandon delusion and the self-view.

The law of dependent origination describes that ignorance ends in dukkha and contact is the cause for feelings. Feelings, mentioned here are not pleasurable, painful or neutral but are related to sense bases, e.g. cakkusammpassatavedana, sotasampassatavedana etc. linked to the place of origin. As discussed above experiences whether, pleasurable, painful and neutral, are caused by mental examination of a person. It is to be noted that the law of dependent origination disproves a doer or a person.

Comprehending Dukkha and Cause for Dukkha

One who seeks the truth will see origination of formation (sankara), which is dependent origination. When one examines the cause and effect process, he sees five clinging aggregates, which the Buddha revealed as the dukkha. The person who examines five aggregates sees formation of dukkha.

The dukkha that we know and what we experience is tied to our self-view. We all like to escape from the dukkha that we are subjected to in our endless cycle of birth and death and therefore seek ways to liberate ourselves. In Dukkhatha Sutra, the Tathagata preached three forms of Dukkha. They are dukkha or pain (dukkha-dukkha); dukkha that arises due to impermanence or change (viparinama-dukkha); dukkha that arises due to conditioned states (sankhara-dukkha). The Practitioner can begin by searching the immediate cause for dukkha known as dukkhadukha and viparinamadukha as birth (jati) and recognise existence as the cause for birth. Existence (bhava) is dependent on clinging (upadana) which is dependent on craving (tanha) that arises upon feelings. Likewise, the person can trace back other causes in sequence,i.e. feelings dependent on contact, contact dependent on six sense faculties, the six sense faculties dependent on name- matter, name-matter dependent on consciousness, consciousness dependent onformation and finally formation dependent on ignorance.

In other words, by examining the two types of dukkha that we encounter and more familiar to us, we could trace their causes or conditionality which explains Sanskara Dukkha, ignorance being its root cause. It is Sanskara Dukkha that one has to comprehend, the dukkha that arises due to conditions. It is also defined as the formation of five aggregates of clinging,which are seen as impermanent and thus is dukkha, as they arise due to causes - or due to conditions.

As said the search for the origination of five aggregates of clinging leads to knowing dependent origination, ignorance being its origin. Ignorance is defined as not knowing what dukkha is, its origin, the cessation of dukkha and the path leading to its cessation (dukkheannanan, dukkhasamudayeannanan, dukkhanirodhayeannanan, dukkhanirodhagaminipatipadaveannanan)

Ending Dukkha and the Path leading to End Dukkha

Comprehending the origin of the five aggregates of clinging and its formation, uncovers what dukkha is, its origin, cessation and the path leading to its cessation, the four noble truths. Once these four truths are known ignorance gets abandoned and therefore, the formation of five clinging aggregates (dukkha ) ends. As ignorance, the cause for formation of dukkha is abandoned; there will be no further dukkha, which is the realisation of supreme Nibbana.

We like things that bring us pleasure but dislike those that bring pain, all these experiences occur in the six bases of sense contact i.e.where five aggregates of clinging are formed hence is the origin of dukkha. The person should see the origin in order to be free from dukkha, however, with wisdom not by thinking. To see Dukkha with insight one needs to examine the process of formation of the five clinging aggregates where,both the cause and the effect will become evident (Hetutasudittohotihetusamuppannadhamma:Atammaya Sutra- AN).

When one sees that formation of dukkha occurs due to not knowing the truth or ignorance (avidya)it awakens wisdom (vidya) which is knowing what dukkha is, its origin, the cessation and the path leading to its cessation, (dukkhe nana, samudaye nana,dukkha nirodhaye nana, dukkha nirodhagamini patipadave nana).With the awakening of wisdom (nana) the delusion or ignorance (annana) ceases.

This is not achieved merely by contemplating, but through realisation from beyond conviction, preference, tradition, reasoning through analogies and an agreement through pondering views (saddha, ruchi,anusawa, akaraparivirakkadittiniccanakanti–Kosambiya Sutra)

Pleasurable,painful and neutral feelings experienced by the world are caused due to ignorance (avidya). With the cessation of ignorance, each of the other links ceases to be.Therefore, the Truth of cessation (nirodha) is cessation of ignorance.

The teaching is,‘Avijjāyatvevaasesavirāganirodhā’, with the total destruction, detachment and cessation of ignorance, ‘saṅkhāranirodho’ formations cease. ‘Saṅkhāranirodhāviññā anirodho’, with the cessation of formations consciousness ceases. ‘Viññā anirodhānāmarūpanirodho’, with the cessation of consciousness, nameand-form cease. It goes on till the last link. ‘Jātinirodhā, jarāmara asokaparideva dukkha domanassa upāyāsānirujjhanti. Evametassakevalassadukkhakkhandassa nirodhohoti.’ “With the cessation of birth, it is obvious that decay, death, grief, lamentation, suffering and dejection also cease. In this manner, the entire mass of suffering comes to an end.”This is the reverse order.

“And what, monks, is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering?

With the utter fading away and cessation of this ignorance, (volitional) formations cease;

With the cessation of (volitional) formations, consciousness ceases;

With the cessation of consciousness, name-and-form cease;

With the cessation of name-and-form, the six sense-bases cease;

With the cessation of the six sense-bases, contact ceases;

With the cessation of contact, feeling ceases;

With the cessation of feeling, craving ceases;

With the cessation of craving, clinging ceases;

With the cessation of clinging, becoming ceases;

With the cessation of becoming, birth ceases;

With the cessation of birth, there cease decay, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, anguish and despair.

Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.

This, monks, is called the noble truth of the cessation of suffering. “

The world arises due to avidya, with nirodha world ceases. Knowing ignorance (avidya) is the right view (sammaditti), the forerunner of the path.

The Buddha preached to the world, the Eight Fold Path for cessation of Dukkha.

And what, monks, is the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering?

It is this very noble Eight Fold Path, that is,

i. right view,

ii. right thought,

iii. right speech,

iv. right action,

v. right livelihood

vi. right effort,

vii. right mindfulness,

viii. right concentration.

This, monks, is called the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering.

These Four Noble Truths, monks, are the Dhamma taught by me that is unrefuted, undefiled, blameless, uncensured by wise recluses and Brahmins. It is on this account that (all) this is said.

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