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An interesting read on 'Own Nature' (Sabhava)

SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
edited January 2007 in Philosophy
This is a very interesting and thought-provoking thesis, from a D. Phil. student. I think that Jason/Elohim might find it particularly useful:

The Rise of the Concept of ‘Own-Nature’
(Sabh¯ava) in the Pat.isambhid¯amagga
Noa Gal
Wolfson College, Oxford


  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited January 2007

    Thank you for sharing this with us. When I have the time, I will sit down and read it, and then tell you what I think. Unfortunately, I have a busy day ahead of me, so I shall not have a chance today (as much as I wish I did). In the meantime, if you are interested, there was a discussion about this topic here. It makes think that I should get a copy of the Patisambhidamagga.

  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited January 2007

    I can understand the busy-ness. Time and quiet are certainly needed for reflection on this topic, particularly if, like me, your attention-span isn't what it used to be.

    Thank you for your link. Most interesting. I find it a little 'combative' but that is perhaps my reading. This held my attention:
    Also, concerning how the theory of own-nature represents a wrong turn by way of the methodology of clear seeing (vipassana) resulting in discernment (panna), what this notion of own-nature does is set up a substantialistic philosophy concerned with the never-ending analysis of conditioned phenomena. This approach effectively blocks the arising of the necessary attitude of nonfashioning (atammayata) required to surrender linear discernment altogether and remain with the nonlinear discernment of deathlessness which is the pathway to the fruition of the entire process that we call Dhamma. The own-nature approach, I believe, represents not only and illogical philosophy (i.e. the theory of own-nature is refuted by valid logical inference) rooted in non-Buddhist substantialism, it also represents an extremely unskillful (akusala) methodology concerning the functional efficacy of conditioned linear discernment which mistakenly views the fruition of the path (i.e. the unconditioned, Nibbana) in rigidly dualistic and ridiculously nihilistic terms.
    Some hours ago, working on Ichazo's notion of the "Holy Idea", I cut and pasted this to my work-book:
    The Pali term bhavana-maya panna means experiential wisdom. Bhavanabhavana is meditation through which wisdom (panna) is cultivated. In order to understand the essence of the term bhavana-maya panna and its relevance to vedana (sensation), we first need to understand the meaning of the term panna. Panna is derived from the root 'na' which means 'to know', prefixed by 'pa' meaning 'correctly'. Thus, the literal English translation of the word panna is 'to know correctly'. Commonly used equivalents are such words as 'insight', 'knowledge' or 'wisdom'. All these convey aspects of panna, but, as with all Pali terms, no translation corresponds exactly.

    In the ancient texts, panna is defined more precisely as yatha-bhutam-nana-dassanamyatha-bhuta-nana-dassanam, seeing things as they are, not as they appear to be. That is, understanding the true nature of anicca (impermanence), dukkha (suffering) and anatta (essencelessness) in all things. This realisation leads to the ultimate truth of nibbana. It may also be described as pakarena janati'ti pannapakarena janati ti panna-because it is understood through different angles it is panna. The Visuddhimagga elaborates on this explaining that the characteristic of panna is to penetrate the true nature of things. Its function is to dispel the darkness of ignorance, and prevent one from becoming bewildered by its manifestation. Its immediate cause is concentration (samadhi). Hence the words 'He whose mind is concentrated knows and sees things according to reality' (Visuddhi-Magga, Dhammasabhavapativedhalakkhana panna, dhammanam- sabhavapaticchadakamohandhakaravidhamsanarasa; assammohapaccupatthana; samahito yathabhutam janati passati-ti vacanato pana samadhi tassa padatthanam.)

    I should add that my study concerns yathabhutam.
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited January 2007

    Well, that was some pretty heady reading. I think that over-looking the typical wordiness associated with college papers, it was an interesting look at the Patisambhidamagga's place in the evolution of Buddhist philosophical thought. It seems to correspond to a point that Nyanaponika Thera makes in his Abhidhamma Studies in which he states that, "All these facts, and other reasons too, exclude the assumptions of later Buddhist schools, for example, the Sarvastivadins, that the dhammas or mental factors are a kind of Platonic ideas or psychic atoms in the literal sense of being indivisible. These schools have misunderstood the old grammarian's definition of dhamma (Skt Dharma)—attano sabhavam dharenti—as implying that each dhamma is the "bearer" of a single quality (sabhava) or of a single characteristic (lakkhana). But, in the true spirit of Buddhist philosophy, that definition means only that the dhammas are not reducible by further retrogression to any substantial bearers of quality. It does not imply that these dhammas themselves are such "substances" or "bearers", nor are they to be distinguished in any way from their qualities or functions, which in no phase of their existence can be said to have self-identity. (pg. 40-41)"

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