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SN 22.85 says:

“What do you think, friend Yamaka, do you regard form, feeling, perception, volitional formations and consciousness taken together as the Tathagata?”—

“No, friend.”

“If, friend Yamaka, they were to ask you: ‘Friend Yamaka, when a bhikkhu is an arahant, one whose taints are destroyed, what happens to him with the breakup of the body, after death?’—being asked thus, what would you answer?”

“If they were to ask me this, friend, I would answer thus: ‘Friends, form is impermanent; what is impermanent is suffering [unsatisfactory]; what is suffering [unsatisfactory] has ceased and passed away. Feeling … Perception … Volitional formations … Consciousness is impermanent; what is impermanent is suffering [unsatisfactory]; what is suffering [unsatisfactory] has ceased and passed away.’ Being asked thus, friend, I would answer in such a way.”

“Good, good, friend Yamaka!

Are the two excepts above contradictory? What is the precise analysis of SN 22.85 & SN 22.86 here?

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  • Aren’t you going to give us a hint?
    – blue_ego
    Nov 29, 2023 at 2:50
  • No, Its a question for everyone. Nov 29, 2023 at 2:58

3 Answers 3

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My feeling is that tathagata is not an I so all those statements are reasonable.

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SN 22.86 says

In the past, as today, what I describe is suffering and the cessation of suffering.”

It is quite clear that form , feelings , perceptions, choices and consciousness are not me , mine or myself.

Further it also clear that it will be wrong to say that Self is apart form , feelings , perceptions, choices and consciousness. This is so because it assumes existence of absolute Self . First Self needs to be defined in order to deny or accept the form , feelings , perceptions, choices and consciousness as me , mine or myself or not me , mine or myself.

Only suffering and path leading to the end of suffering is described . Form is suffering, feelings are suffering, perceptions are suffering, choices are suffering and consciousness is suffering.

Why is it suffering? Because form is impermanent , perceptions are impermanent, feelings are impermanent, choices are impermanent and consciousness is impermanent.

Sabbe Dhamma Anatta , means , All conditioned and unconditioned phenomenon are not self. There is no absolute understanding of not self . It must be seen in the context of Dhamma. When someone says that there is Self or Atta then it must be asked , what do you call self ? Which Dhamma do you call as Self? And then it must be concluded that that Dhamma is not-self.

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  • why not take your own advice? don't define self -> define not-self
    – blue_ego
    Nov 29, 2023 at 17:27
  • @blue_ego Don’t define self doesn’t imply define not-self. Nov 30, 2023 at 1:16
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I believe the translator (Bhikkhu Bodhi) comments on that section as follows:

“What do you think, friend Yamaka, is form permanent or impermanent?” - “Impermanent, friend.”… - “Therefore … Seeing thus … He understands: ‘…there is no more for this state of being.’

“What do you think, friend Yamaka, do you regard form as the Tathāgata?” - “No, friend.” - “Do you regard feeling … perception … volitional formations … consciousness as the Tathāgata?” - “No, friend.”

“What do you think, friend Yamaka, do you regard the Tathāgata as in form?” - “No, friend.” - “Do you regard the Tathāgata as apart from form?” - “No, friend.” - “Do you regard the Tathāgata as in feeling? As apart from feeling? As in perception? As apart from perception? As in volitional formations? As apart from volitional formations? As in consciousness? As apart from consciousness?” - “No, friend.”

“What do you think, friend Yamaka, do you regard form, feeling, perception, volitional formations, and consciousness [taken together] as the Tathāgata?” - “No, friend.” [112]

“What do you think, friend Yamaka, do you regard the Tathāgata as one who is without form, without feeling, without perception, without volitional formations, without consciousness?” - “No, friend.”

Notes:

Spk: At the end of this teaching on the three characteristics Yamaka became a stream-enterer. Sāriputta asks the following questions to examine him and to get him to show that he has given up his wrong view.

Spk glosses tathāgata here as “a being” (satta), which I think does not quite hit the mark. I take the subject of the discussion to be, not a being in general, but the arahant conceived as a being, as a substantial self. Thus the catechism will show that Yamaka has abandoned his identity view (sakkāyadiṭṭhi) regarding the arahant, and therewith his view of the arahant as a self that undergoes annihilation. We find a similar transition from the arahant (vimuttacitta bhikkhu) to the Tathāgata at MN I 140,3-7 and I 486-88.

The first three alternatives—conceiving the aggregates individually as the Tathāgata, the Tathāgata as within the aggregates, and the Tathāgata as apart from the aggregates—correspond to the first three modes of conceiving in the Mūlapariyāya Sutta (MN I 1), which are set in relation to the sense bases at 35:30, 31. The fourth position conceives the aggregates collectively as the Tathāgata (perhaps a view of supervenience); the fifth conceives the Tathāgata as entirely transcendent, without any essential relation to the aggregates. These modes of conceiving can also be correlated with the twenty types of identity view.

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