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What does this fetter really refer to? Is it clinging to rites & rituals and thinking that these practises by their own can lead to liberation OR does it refer to clinging to precepts?

If it is the former, then most "rational" inclined people should have little to none of this fetter, no?

If it's the latter, then it's NOT about blindly believing a precept, but questioning it and seeing for oneself that it's helpful.

However, it appears to me that many rules in the vinyana are there to avoid social faux pax and unnecessary conflicts. If we take the not-eating-after-noon precept, we will see that the Buddha has reason for devising such precept; but do those reasons still hold true nowadays? I doubt it.

So if most monks just follow rules and precepts because the Buddha said so (or they are deemed to be effective), then this is called Silabbata Parāmāsa?

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The suttanipata is full of this stuff about how holy work is not right liberation.. Ex:

  1. On his (attaining the) bliss of (the right) view three things (dhammas) are left behind (by him): conceit and doubt and whatever he has got of virtue and (holy) works. He is released also from the four hells, and he is incapable of committing the six [39] deadly sins. This excellent jewel (is found) in the Assembly, by this truth may there be salvation. (230)

[154] 8. They do not form (any view), they do not prefer (anything), the Dhammas are not chosen by them, a Brāhmaṇa is not dependent upon virtue and (holy) works; having gone to the other shore, such a one does not return. (803)

THe problem with virtue and holy work is that puthujjanas take them as an end and claim that they are pure because they are good at doing holy work, pure because they see something, pure because they think this or that thought, pure by philosophizing (what is called knowing in Snp), instead of understanding which kills clinging. http://obo.genaud.net/dhamma-vinaya/ati/kd/snp/snp.4-04.than.ati.htm When puthujjanas make purity relies on philsophy, that gives disputes as explained here

http://obo.genaud.net/dhamma-vinaya/sbe/kd/snp/kd.snp.faus.sbe.htm#IV.12

http://obo.genaud.net/dhamma-vinaya/sbe/kd/snp/kd.snp.faus.sbe.htm#IV.13

But for the buddha, being pure means being an asekha, not some puthujjana who is good at sila from the perspective of right view, let alone a puthujjana who is good at sila form the perspective of some wrong view [because the meritorious actions, like dana, samadhi, can be sen either from right view or from wrong views]

Purity is not about what is seen, or thought, it is about the usual lack of clinging, craving, desire, thirst

Magandiya:

Sage, you speak without grasping at any preconceived judgments. This 'inner peace': what does it mean? How is it, by an enlightened person, proclaimed?

The Buddha:

He doesn't speak of purity in connection with view, learning, knowledge, precept or practice. Nor is it found by a person through lack of view, of learning, of knowledge, of precept or practice.[1] Letting these go, without grasping, at peace, independent, one wouldn't long for becoming.

Magandiya:

If he doesn't speak of purity in connection with view, learning, knowledge, precept or practice. and it isn't found by a person through lack of view, of learning, of knowledge, of precept or practice, it seems to me that this teaching's confused, for some assume a purity in terms of -- by means of -- a view.

The Buddha:

Asking questions dependent on view, you're confused by what you have grasped. And so you don't glimpse even the slightest notion [of what I am saying]. That's why you think it's confused.

Whoever construes 'equal,' 'superior,' or 'inferior,' by that he'd dispute; whereas to one unaffected by these three, 'equal,' 'superior,' do not occur.

or even

[200]3. 'All these Samaṇas and Brāhmaṇas,' — so said the venerable Nanda, — 'say that purity comes from (philosophical) views, and from tradition, and from virtue and (holy) works, and in many (other) ways. Did they, in the way in which they lived in the world, cross over birth and old age, O venerable man? I ask thee, O Bhagavat, tell me this.' (1078)

  1. 'All these Samaṇas and Brāhmaṇas, O Nanda,' — so said Bhagavat, — 'say that purity comes from (philosophical) views, and from tradition, and from virtue and (holy) works, and in many (other) ways; still they did not, in the way in which they lived in the world, cross over birth and old age, so I say.' (1079)

  2. 'All these Samaṇas and Brāhmaṇas,' — so said the venerable Nanda, — 'say that purity comes from (philosophical) views, and from tradition, and from virtue and (holy) works, and in many (other) ways; if thou, O Muni, sayest that such have not crossed the stream, who then in the world of gods and men crossed over birth and old age, O venerable man? I ask thee, O Bhagavat, tell me this.' (1080)

  3. 'I do not say that all Samaṇas and Brāhmaṇas, O Nanda,' — so said Bhagavat, — 'are shrouded by birth and old age; those who, after leaving in this world what has been seen or heard or thought, and all virtue and (holy) works, after leaving everything of various kinds, after penetrating desire, are free from passion, such indeed I call men that have crossed the stream.'[227] (1081)

But there are indeed duties for the bikkus

"I ask the kinsman of the Sun, the great seer, about seclusion and the state of peace. Seeing in what way is a monk unbound, clinging to nothing in the world?"

"He should put an entire stop to the root of complication-classifications: 'I am the thinker.'[1] He should train, always mindful, to subdue any craving inside him. Whatever truth he may know, within or without, he shouldn't get entrenched in connection with it, for that isn't called Unbinding by the good. He shouldn't, because of it, think himself better, lower, or equal. Touched by contact in various ways, he shouldn't keep conjuring self. Stilled right within, a monk shouldn't seek peace from another from anything else. For one stilled right within, there's nothing embraced, so how rejected? Nothing that's self, so from whence would there be against-self?[2]

As in the middle of the sea it is still, with no waves upwelling, so the monk -- unperturbed, still -- should not swell himself anywhere."

"He whose eyes are open has described the Dhamma he's witnessed, subduing danger. Now tell us, sir, the practice: the code of discipline and concentration."

"One shouldn't be careless with his eyes, should close his ears to village-talk, shouldn't hunger for flavors, or view anything in the world as mine. When touched by contact he shouldn't lament, shouldn't covet anywhere any states of becoming, or tremble at terrors. When gaining food and drink, staples and cloth, he should not make a hoard. Nor should he be upset when receiving no gains. Absorbed, not foot-loose, he should refrain from restlessness, shouldn't be heedless, should live in a noise-less abode. Not making much of sleep, ardent, given to wakefulness, he should abandon sloth, deception, laughter, sports, fornication, and all that goes with it; should not practice charms, interpret physical marks, dreams, the stars, animal cries; should not be devoted to practicing medicine or inducing fertility.

A monk shouldn't tremble at blame or grow haughty with praise; should thrust aside selfishness, greed, divisive speech, anger; shouldn't buy or sell or revile anyone anywhere; shouldn't linger in villages, or flatter people in hopes of gains.

A monk shouldn't boast or speak with ulterior motive, shouldn't train in insolence or speak quarrelsome words; shouldn't engage in deception or knowingly cheat; shouldn't despise others for their life, discernment, precepts, or practices. Provoked with many words from contemplatives or ordinary people, he shouldn't respond harshly, for those who retaliate aren't calm.

Knowing this teaching, a monk inquiring should always train in it mindfully. Knowing Unbinding as peace, he shouldn't be heedless of Gotama's message -- for he, the Conqueror unconquered, witnessed the Dhamma, not by hearsay, but directly, himself. So, heedful, you should always train in line with that Blessed One's message,"

                the Blessed One said.

http://obo.genaud.net/dhamma-vinaya/ati/kd/snp/snp.4-14.than.ati.htm

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Given that:

A little baby doesn’t even have a concept of ‘precepts’, so how could misapprehension of precepts and observances possibly arise in them? Yet the underlying tendency to misapprehension of precepts and observances still lies within them. --MN64

Your question might be about how misapprehension arises. MN64 explains how Identity View traps us in misapprehension:

That identity view is reinforced in them, not eliminated: it is a lower fetter. Their heart is overcome and mired in doubt, and they don’t truly understand the escape from doubt that has arisen. That doubt is reinforced in them, not eliminated: it is a lower fetter. Their heart is overcome and mired in misapprehension of precepts and observances,

Therefore, an example of a subtle misapprehension is if one says, "I am a person who does not kill." Compare with "let there be no killing here." The difference is identity view or the lack of it.

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Definitely the former. I suppose most people today wouldn't find that fetter necessarily challenging but instead would have to face down all of those impediments that often arise because of hyper-rationality (e.g. intellectualism, scholasticism, etc.). They cling to that instead! And it puts them a serious disadvantage in that they are less trusting of their own experience and rely too heavily on reason. Often what is remains subtle and can't really be appreciated or even so much as noticed by our discursive minds. Frankly, I'd be inclined to recommend rites and rituals to people like this just to pull them out of their friggin' heads! I mean, after all, the fetter is about clinging to rites and rituals. That doesn't mean that those practices can't be used to uproot some obstacles!

It's interesting that you mention the Buddha's injunction to avoid eating afternoon. I think that makes for a great example of where the lived experience of a practice is entirely different than accepted, rational reason for instating it. I mean, we can say that periods of not eating might be less of a burden on the laity. Hell, we might even say that they "build character" or are disciplines aimed at training the mind, blah blah blah. But does that really demonstrate how they really work within the context of our practice? Do those rational reasons really capture what it's like to sit at 9PM, having fasted for most of the day? Do they really express the experience of how the will is thwarted and the Way embraced? Do those rational reasons really teach us anything?

I think you can apply the same sort of thinking to the rote keeping of the precepts...something that your original post seems to do. You really have to dive into these things. Thinking about them is one thing. It's really only when you live them that you figure out how deep they go and how incredibly difficult they are to keep.

IDK. Like most of what the Buddha said, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We just end up ensnaring ourselves when we quibble about the recipe.

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What comes with a set relates to the other members. Sīlabbata can't come alone, so it's meaning already came in its context.

Depentent origination means aggregates' relation.

Taṇhā means craving, addict.

Upādāna means caving again and again.

Diṭṭhi means the mental habit of the misunderstanding in the aggregates' relation.

DiṭṭhiUpādāna means caving again and again of the misunderstanding in the aggregates' relation. This is only unwholesome.

Sīlabbata means doing verbal and physical habit, depending on Diṭṭhi. This is able to arise with wholesome, unwholesome, and neither wholesome nor unwholesome, e.g. the thinking "I want to be a Deva in heaven" is arising with SakkāyaDiṭṭhi (unwholesome) but next moment the doing giving a gift, follow that SakkāyaDiṭṭhi for going to heaven, is arising with wholesome.

SīlabbataUpādāna means caving again and again of doing verbal and physical habit, depending on Diṭṭhi.

See DN MahāNidānaSutta:

So it is, Ānanda, that feeling is a cause of craving. Craving is a cause of seeking. Seeking is a cause of gaining material possessions. Gaining material possessions is a cause of assessing. Assessing is a cause of desire and lust. Desire and lust is a cause of attachment. Attachment is a cause of possessiveness. Possessiveness is a cause of stinginess. Stinginess is a cause of safeguarding.

Owing to safeguarding, many bad, unskillful things come to be: taking up the rod and the sword, quarrels, arguments, and fights, accusations, divisive speech, and lies.

The Answers

What does this fetter really refer to?

It refers to SīlabbataUpādāna.

Is it clinging to rites & rituals and thinking that these practises by their own can lead to liberation OR does it refer to clinging to precepts?

It addicts to do follow to DiṭṭhiUpādāna again and again. So if the rites, rituals, practises, and precepts depending on DiṭṭhiUpādāna, it is SīlabbataUpādāna.

So if most monks just follow rules and precepts because the Buddha said so (or they are deemed to be effective), then this is called Silabbata Parāmāsa?

The mong who keep on 91,805,036,000 vinaya rules follow to Buddha because they trust the Buddha, who rightly understanding in the aggregates' relation, is not SīlabbataUpādāna. It is similar to when you are following an expert guide and you are going to arrive the right destination surely, no one can't say "you are going the wrong way" although you do not understand the map by yourself at first.

91,805,036,000 vinaya rules are keeping Tipitaka go on through 5,000 years, but some lazy buddhist people try to cut them off, while there are many monks still can do follow to all those rules. It is superficial thinking and killing Buddhism age because Theravāda Tipitaka still available nowadays by the Tipitaka Memorizer who did follow all those vinaya rules. And it is going like this until 5,000 years. The similitude is the chemist who has recited, memorized, and learned about the periodic table and the formulas from the past chemist generation to generation.

There were many Nikāya tried to cut some part of Tipitaka off, and now their canons already disappeared, right?

If it is the former, then most "rational" inclined people should have little to none of this fetter, no?

If it's the latter, then it's NOT about blindly believing a precept, but questioning it and seeing for oneself that it's helpful.

All ordinary people have SīlabbataUpādāna because they have DiṭṭhiUpādāna. They still have the mental habit of the misunderstanding in the aggregates' relation, DiṭṭhiUpādāna, so they still act follow to that habit, SīlabbataUpādāna.

However, it appears to me that many rules in the vinyana are there to avoid social faux pax and unnecessary conflicts. If we take the not-eating-after-noon precept, we will see that the Buddha has reason for devising such precept; but do those reasons still hold true nowadays? I doubt it.

It may be not important for 21th century, but it may be important for 22th century. The Buddhist age is for 5,000 years, not only for 100 years. Tipitaka should lose after Buddha's death for 1-200 years without 91,805,036,000 Vinaya rules, but it still going on because of the Vinaya rules. Who can understand entire chemist canons without the chemist expert, right?

By my experience with Burmese monks (stickest on rules), Thai monks (sticker), and the westerner monks (not stick), the Burmese monks can understand the whole Pali Canon deeply, while the Thai and westerner monks often distort the Pali Canon by their own opinion then say "Pali Canon is conflicting with each other". For example, the fabrication of MN 44 is talking about Jhāna, and SN 12.2 is talking about Vipassanā by each Sutta's context. But the Thai and the westerner monks mix them together then say "they are conflicting with each other." It is like that because many, almost all, Thai and the westerner monks are lazy to recite and memorize Tipitaka follow to Vinaya rules "the monk can't live without Tipitaka Memorizer Teacher if he has not enough Tipitaka memory, and it is counted as a defense each date, 10 dates 10 offenses."

I understand Tipitaka without cutting any part of Tipitaka off because I always support the monks who doing follow entire Vinaya rules.

How can one understand the action and its effects when one never do follow them all?

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  • There were many Nikāya tried to cut some part of Tipitaka off, and now their canons already disappeared, right? – Bonn Feb 15 '19 at 4:24

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