Saturday, August 5, 2017

Be an Island Unto Yourself (sutra)

Maurice O'Connell Walshe (trans.), Attadipa Sutra: "An Island to Oneself" (SN 22.43); Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson, Seth Auberon (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly; Gypsy Kings "Bem Bem Bem Maria"
(Gypsy Kings) "Bem Bem Maria" with slide photos of islands in Tahiti, Caribbean, and Polynesia

SUTRA: Be an Island Unto Yourself
"Meditators, be islands unto yourselves [Note 1], be your own refuge, having no other; let the Dharma be an island and a refuge to you, having no other.

"Those who are islands unto themselves...should investigate [this crucial question] to the very heart of things [2]:

"'What is the source of sorrow, disappointment, pain, grief, and despair? How do they arise?' [In other words, what is the origin of suffering?] Here, meditators, the uninstructed ordinary worldling...
When an island, take selfies of your island.
"Change occurs in this living body, and it becomes different [as by old age, sickness, and death]. On account of this change and difference, sorrow, disappointment, pain, grief, and despair arise.
  1. [The same, as with this body or form, is said with regard to:
  2. feelings
  3. perceptions
  4. mental formations
  5. consciousness [which in Buddhism are collectively referred to as the Five Aggregates of Clinging].
"But seeing [3] the body's [radical, moment-to-moment] impermanence, its changeability, its waning [4], its hurtling toward destruction, one says:

"'Formerly as now, all bodies were [utterly] impermanent and unsatisfactory and subject to change.'

"Thus, seeing things as they really are, with perfect insight, one abandons all sorrow, disappointment, 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 liberated [5].'"
  1. [The same, as with body, is said with regard to
  2. feelings
  3. perceptions
  4. mental formations
  5. consciousness].
NOTES: 1. Atta-dipa. Dipa means both "island" (Sanskrit dvipa) and "lamp" (Sanskrit dipa), but the meaning "island" is well-established here. The "self" referred to is, of course, the unmetaphysical pronoun "oneself": cf. SN 3.8, n. 1
2. It is necessary to withdraw, to be "an island unto oneself," at least for a time (as any meditator knows), not for any "selfish" reasons but precisely in order to make this profound introspective investigation. In another sense Buddhists would, of course, agree with John Donne that, socially speaking, "No man is an island." 
3. As Woodward remarks in KS [Book of the Kindred Sayings, translation of the Samyutta Nikaya, Vol. III, PTS 1924], one would expect to find here the words which he inserts in the text: "The well-taught Ariyan disciple," as in many passages. If one in fact sees these things and reflects as said in the text, one will cease to be a "worldling." 
4. Viraga: elsewhere translated as "dispassion" (SN 12.16, n. 2), also has this meaning. 
5. Tadanganibbuto means rather more than Woodward's "one who is rid of all that."

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