Friday, May 6, 2016

To Be An Island Unto Yourself (sutra)

Maurice O'Connell Walshe (trans.), Amber Larson, Dhr. Seven (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly, Attadipa Sutra, "An Island to Oneself" from the Pali Text Society's Feer edition (SN 22.43)
"Meditators, be islands unto yourselves (1); be your own guide (refuge), having no other.
  • 1. Atta-dipa: dipa means both "island" and "lamp" (Sanskrit dvipa and dipa). The meaning "island" is well-established here. "Self" refers to the pronoun "oneself" (cf. SN 3.8, n. 1).
"Let the Dharma be an island and a guide to you, having no other.

"Those who are islands unto themselves...should investigate to the very heart of things (2):
  • 2. It is necessary to withdraw, to be "an island to unto oneself," at least for a time (as any meditator knows), not because it is "selfish" but precisely to make a profound introspective investigation. Buddhists in another sense would, of course, agree with John Donne that "No man is an island."
"'What is the source of disappointment, lamenting (crying), pain, grief, and despair (hopelessness)? How do they arise?' [That is to say, What is their origin?]
"Here, meditators, the ordinary uninstructed worldling [continued as in SN 22.7].

"Change occurs in this person's body (form), and it becomes different. On account of this change and difference, disappointment, crying, pain, grief, and despair arise.

[The same is then said with regard to "feelings" (sensations), "perceptions," "mental formations," and "consciousness," which are the other Groups of Clinging].
"But seeing (3) the body's impermanence, its changeability, its waning (4), its ceasing, one says, 'Formerly, as now, all bodies were impermanent and unsatisfactory and subject to change.'
  • 3. Woodward remarks (in the Book of the Kindred Sayings, the PTS translation of SN, Vol. III, 1924) that one would expect to find here the words he inserts in the text: "The well-taught [noble] disciple," as in many passages. For if one in fact directly sees these things and reflects on them as stated in the text, one will cease to be an ordinary uninstructed "worldling" and become a noble (enlightened) disciple.
  • 4. Viraga, "dispassion" (SN 12.16, n. 2), is waning.
California's remote San Nicolas Island
"Thus, seeing this as it really is, with full insight, one abandons all disappointment, lamenting, pain, grief, and despair. 

"One is not worried at their abandonment, but unworried lives at ease, and thus living at ease one is said to be 'assuredly delivered'" (5). [The same is said with regard to "feelings," "perceptions," "mental formations," and "consciousness"].
  • 5. Tadanganibbuto means rather more than Woodward's "one who is rid of all that."

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