Sutta Nippata Selections(2)

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1 Home » Library » Authors » Thanissaro | Index | Abbrev | Glossary | Help | The Atthaka Vagga (The Octet Chapter) An Introduction by Thanissaro Bhikkhu Source: Transcribed from a file provided by the author. (This text serves as an introduction to Ven. Thanissaro's translations of suttas from the the Atthaka Vagga , the fourth chapter of the Sutta Nipata . — ATI editor) Copyright © 1997 Thanissaro Bhikkhu Access to Insight edition © 1997 For free distribution. This work may be republished, reformatted, reprinted, and redistributed in any medium. It is the author's wish, however, that any such republication and redistribution be made available to the public on a free and unrestricted basis and that translations and other derivative works be clearly marked as such. The Atthaka Vagga1 is a set of sixteen poems on the theme of non-clinging. The poems cover all four types of clinging — clinging to sensuality, to views, to practices and precepts, and to doctrines of the self — with a special emphasis on the first two. They describe what constitutes the nature of the clinging in each particular case, the drawbacks of the clinging, the advantages of abandoning clinging, ways to abandon clinging, and the subtle paradoxes of what it means not to cling. This last point is touched on in many discourses in the Pali canon, as the Buddhist teachings on non-clinging all contain a central paradox: the objects of clinging that must ultimately be abandoned form part of the path to their abandoning. A certain amount of sensual pleasure is needed in the path to go beyond sensual pleasure; Right View is needed to overcome attachment to views; a regimen of precepts and practices is needed to overcome attachment to precepts and practices; a strong sense of self-responsibility is needed to overcome attachment to doctrines of the self. 2 Other passages in the Pali canon offer clear analogies to explain these paradoxes, often in terms of movement toward a goal — taking a raft across a river, walking to a park, taking a series of relay coaches from one city to another — in which the motive and means of transport are abandoned on reaching the goal. The Atthaka, however, sometimes presents these paradoxes in as mystifying a manner as possible. In fact, some of the paradoxes — particularly in the discussions of abandoning clinging to views — are stated in terms so stark that, on the surface, they are hard to reconcile with teachings in other Pali discourses or with other passages in the Atthaka itself. The question is thus whether these paradoxes should be taken at face value or further interpreted. Or, to put the question in terms used by the Buddha himself ( AN 2.25 ): Is their meaning, as stated, already fully drawn out or does it have to be inferred? Readers of the poems have offered arguments for both sides.
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