Thursday, August 14, 2014

"All is Burning" (The Fire Sermon)

Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly; Ven. Nanamoli/Osbert John S. Moore (Āditta-pariyāya Sutra, Three Cardinal Discourses of the Buddha, Wheel No. 17,
LA is burning, Springs fire, LA Times cover (Mel Melcon/
Gayasisa, Gaya Head, or Brahmayoni Hill, where the Buddha delivered the Fire Sermon.
A world on fire (
English speakers might be familiar with the name of this discourse due to T.S. Eliot's titling the third section of his celebrated poem, The Waste Land, "The Fire Sermon." In a footnote, Eliot states that this Buddhist sutra "corresponds in importance to the Sermon on the Mount."
-Alexander W. Allison, Herbert Barrows, Caesar R. Blake, Arthur J. Carr, Arthur M. Eastman, and Hubert M. English, Jr. (1975, rev.), The Norton Anthology of Poetry, NY: W.W. Norton Co., p. 1042, Note 9.

The Sutra
Thus have I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was living at Gayā, at Gayāsīsa, together with 1,000 monastics. There he addressed them.

“Meditators, all is burning. And what is the 'all' that is burning?
“The eye [Note 20] is burning, forms [21] are burning, eye-consciousness is burning, eye-contact [22] is burning, also whatever is felt as pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant that arises with eye-contact as its indispensable condition, that too is burning!

Woman sets boyfriend on fire (splash)
"Burning with what? Burning with the fire of lust, burning with the fire of hate, burning with the fire of delusion. I say it is burning with birth, aging and death, with sorrows, with lamentations, with pains, with griefs, with despairs.
“The ear is burning, sounds are burning…
The Fire Sermon (Wiki graphic)
 “The nose is burning, fragrances are burning…

“The tongue is burning, flavors are burning…

“The body [23] is burning, tangibles are burning…

“The mind [24] is burning, ideas (mental objects) [25] are burning, mind-consciousness [26] is burning, mind contact is burning, also whatever is felt as pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant that arises with mind-contact as its indispensable condition, that too is burning.

Burning with what? Burning with the fire of lust, with the fire of hate, with the fire of delusion. I say it is burning with birth, aging and death, with sorrows, with lamentations, with pains, with griefs, with despairs.

What to do in the face of fire when all (Camarillo) is in flames? (
“Meditators, when a noble follower who has heard (the truth) sees thus, that person finds estrangement in the eye, finds estrangement in forms, finds estrangement in eye-consciousness, finds estrangement in eye-contact, and whatever is felt as pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant that arises with eye-contact as its indispensable condition, in that too one finds estrangement.
“One finds estrangement in the ear… in sounds…
“One finds estrangement in the nose… in fragrances…
“One finds estrangement in the tongue… in flavors…
“One finds estrangement in the body… in tangibles…
Brain (mind/heart) on fire (
“One finds estrangement in the mind, finds estrangement in ideas (mental objects), finds estrangement in mind-consciousness, finds estrangement in mind-contact, and whatever is felt as pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant that arises with mind-contact as its indispensable condition, in that too one finds estrangement.
“When one finds estrangement, passion fades out. With the fading of passion, one is liberated. When liberated, there is knowledge that one is liberated. One understands: ’Rebirth is exhausted, the supreme life has been lived out, what can be done is done, of this there is no more beyond.’”

That is what the Blessed One said. The meditators were glad, and they approved his words.

20. EYE [the sensitive portion of the eye], and so on: the six, beginning with the eye and ending with the mind (q.v.), are called the six “Bases for Contact (see Contact) in oneself,” and are also known as the six “Doors” for perception. Their corresponding objects are called “external bases.” (“Sense-organ” is both too material and too objective). This is because the emphasis here is on the subjective faculty of seeing, etc., not the associated piece of flesh seen in someone else or in the looking-glass, which, in so far as it is visible, is not “seeing” but “form” as the “external” object of the seeing “eye in oneself,” and insofar as it is tangible is the object of the body-base in oneself, and insofar as it is apprehended as a “bodily feature” is the object of the mind-base in oneself. Here the eye should be taken simply as the perspective-pointing-inward-to-a-center in the otherwise uncoordinated visual field consisting of colors, which makes them cognizable by eye consciousness, and which is misconceivable as “I.” The six Bases in Oneself are compared to an empty village, and the six External Bases to village-raiding robbers.

21. FORMS: the first of the six External Bases, respective objective fields or objects of the six Bases in Oneself (see EYE). The same Pali word rūpa is used for the eye’s object as for the first of the five categories, but here in the plural. Colors, the basis for the visual perspective of the eye (q.v.), are intended primarily. (See also under FORM [materiality]: Pali rupa (what appears, appearance). As the first of five categories (q.v.) it is defined in terms of the Four Great Elements [or material qualities], namely, earth (hardness), water (cohesion), fire (temperature), and air (distension and motion), along with the negative aspect of space (what does not appear), from all of which are derived the secondary phenomena such as persons, features, shapes, etc.: these are regarded as secondary because while form can appear without them they cannot appear without form. It is also defined as “that which is being worn away” (ruppati), thus underlining its general characteristic of instability).

22. CONTACT: the Pali word phassa comes from the verb phusati (to touch, sometimes used in the sense of to arrive at, or to realize), from which also comes the word photthabba (tangible, the object of the Fifth Base in oneself, namely, body-sensitivity). But here it is generalized to mean contact in the sense of presence of object to subject, or presence of cognized to consciousness, in all forms of consciousness. It is defined as follows: “Eye-consciousness arises dependent on eye and on forms; the coincidence of the three is contact (presence), and likewise in the cases of the ear, nose, tongue, body and mind. Failing it, no knowledge, no consciousness of any sort whatever, can arise at all.” This fundamental idea is sometimes placed at the head of lists of things defining Determinations (q.v.).

23. BODY: the Pali word kaya is used both for the physical body and for any group, as the English word “body” is. In Pali it is also used in the sense (a) for the physical frame, namely, “this body with its consciousness” in a general sense, sometimes called “old action,” and then it forms the subject of body contemplation as set forth in the Satipatthāna Sutra, the aim of which is to analyze this “conglomeration” into its motley constituents. Or else it is used in a strict sense, as here, namely (b) that “door” of the subjective body-sensitivity or tactile sense, the perspective-pointing-inwards-to-a-center in the otherwise uncoordinated tactile field of tangibles consisting of the hard, the hot-or-cold, and the distended-and-movable. (See also under EYE).

24. MIND: the Pali word mano belongs to a root meaning to measure, compare, coordinate. Here it is intended as that special “door” in which the five kinds of consciousness, arising in the other five doors (see under EYE), combine themselves with their objective fields into a unitive perspective-pointing-inwards-to-a-center, together with certain objects apprehendable in this mind-door, such as boundlessness of space, etc. (and names, fictions, etc.). Whatever is cognized in this door (see under Consciousness) is cognized as an idea (q.v.) as opposed to the bare objects of the eye uncognized by it as well. Here it makes this otherwise uncoordinated field of ideas cognizable by mind-consciousness (q.v.). And in the presence (with the contact) of ignorance (of the Four Noble Truths) it is misconceived as “I.” It is thus the fusing of this heterogeneous stuff of experience into a coherent pattern, when it also has the function of giving temporal succession and flow to that pattern by its presenting all ideas for cognition as “preceded.” In the Abhidharma, but not in the Sutta Collection, “the (material) form which is the support for mind” is mentioned (implying perhaps the whole “body with its consciousness”), but not further specified. This would place mind on a somewhat similar basis to the eye-seeing, as meant here in its relation to the objective piece of flesh (see under EYE). Later notions coupled it with the heart. Now fashion identifies it with the brain; but such identifications are not easy to justify unilaterally; and if they in any way depend upon a prior and always philosophically questionable assumption of a separate body-substance and a mind-substance, they will find no footing in the Buddha’s teaching where substances are not assumed.

25. IDEA [mind object]: the word dhamma [things, phenomena] is gerundive from the verb dharati (to carry, to remember); thus, it means literally a “carryable, a rememberable.” In this context of the six pairs of Bases it means the rememberables which form the mind’s special object; as distinct from the forms seen only with the eye, the sounds heard with the ear, the fragrances smelled with the nose, the flavors tasted with the tongue, and the tangibles touched with the body, ideas are what are apprehended through the mind-door (see under Eye, Forms and Mind, and also Contact). These six cover all that can be known. But while the first (see FORMS) are uncoordinated between themselves and have no direct access to each other, in the mind-door the five find a common denominator and are given a coordinating perspective, together with the mind’s own special objects. So the idea as a rememberable, is the aspect of the known apprehended by the mind, whether coordinating the five kinds of consciousness, or apprehending the ideas peculiar to it (see Mind), or whether apprehending its own special objects. This must include all the many other meanings of the word dhamma (Sanskrit dharma). Nirvana (nibbāna), insofar as it is knowable — describable — is an object of the mind, and is thus an idea. “All ideas are not-self.” What is inherently unknowable has no place in the Dharma (Teaching).

26. MIND-CONSCIOUSNESS: if it is remembered that each of the six pairs of Bases, the five consisting of eye, ear, nose, tongue, and body, being coordinated by mind, are open to anyone’s self-inspection; and that consciousness is considered here as arising dependently upon each of these six pairs of Bases and in no other way whatsoever (since no other description rejecting all six is possible without self-contradiction); then this notion of mind consciousness should present no special difficulty.

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