Tuesday, May 21, 2013

"Distortions of the Mind" (sutra)

Dhr. Seven, Wisdom Quarterly; Andrew Olendzki (Vipallasa Sutta translation, AN 4.49)

...O monastics, these four are distortions of perception, distortions of thought, distortions of view...
Sensing no change in the changing [ignoring impermanence],
Sensing pleasure in suffering [misconstruing the unpleasant as pleasant],
Assuming "self" where there is no self [failing to see the impersonal as impersonal],
Sensing the un-lovely [foul] as lovely --
Gone astray with wrong views, beings 
Mis-perceive with distorted minds. 
Bound in the bondage of Mara [defilements of the heart],
Those people are far from safety
They are beings who go on flowing:
Going again from death to birth.
But when in the world of darkness
Buddhas arise to make things bright,
They present this profound teaching 
Which brings [disappointment] to an end. 
When those with wisdom have heard this, 
They recuperate their right mind
They see change in what is changing [impermanent],
Suffering where there's suffering [unsatisfactoriness], 
"Non-self" in what is without self [impersonal],
They see the un-lovely as such. 
By this acceptance of right view, 
They overcome all suffering.
Translator's notes
These verses from The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha give the traditional list of the distortions (vipallasas). 
This Pali-Buddhist word is sometimes translated as "perversions" of the mind; I find this language too strong and prefer the expression "distortions" of the mind.
The term is composed of a prefix (vi-), which carries the sense of division, separation, or removal, another prefix (pari-) meaning around or complete (as in our related word peri-meter), and a verb (-as), which can be taken as meaning "to throw." Putting all this together, we have the image of the mind or heart taking something up, turning it around, and throwing it back down -- a perversion or distortion of reality by the perceptual and cognitive apparatus of the brain [or wherever the seat of consciousness may be located, more likely the whole body or physical heart]. More

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