Question of Questions of King Milinda

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Bhadantacariya
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Question of Questions of King Milinda

Post by Bhadantacariya » Sat May 17, 2014 6:34 am

There's something I don't get in the very beginning of the Questions of King Milinda. Nagasena begins, and Milinda answers.

How then did you come, on foot, or in a chariot?'
'I did not come, Sir, on foot. I came in a carriage.'
'Then if you came, Sire, in a carriage, explain to me what that is. Is it the pole that is the chariot?'
'I did not say that.'
'Is it the axle that is the chariot?'
'Certainly not.'
'Is it the wheels, or the framework, or the ropes, or the yoke, or the spokes of the wheels, or the goad, that are the chariot?'
And to all these he still answered no.
'Then is it all these parts of it that are the chariot?'
'No, Sir.'
'But is there anything outside them that is the chariot?'
And still he answered no.
'Then thus, ask as I may, I can discover no chariot.

If I were Milinda, I would have said 'yes' to the question in bold. Milinda says that the chariot he came in is not simply the aggregation of various parts that we associate with the chariot. How is it incorrect to say that the chariot is simply a collection of constituents? Or, if I were so lucky as to be Milinda, how would Nagasena have countered my assertion that, yes, the chariot is all of its parts together?

mikenz66
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Re: Question of Questions of King Milinda

Post by mikenz66 » Sat May 17, 2014 7:39 am

Hi Bhadantacariya,

As I'm sure you're aware, the questioning is aimed at the concept of self, which is clear from what precedes it, and by the sutta quote embedded into it:
You say that you are called Nāga­sena; now what is that Nāgasena? Is it the hair?”
“I don’t say that, great king.”

“Is it then the nails, teeth, skin or other parts of the body?”
“Certainly not.”

“Or is it the body, or feelings, or perceptions, or formations, or con­sciousness? Is it all of these com­bined? Or is it something outside of them that is Nāgasena?”

Still Nāgasena answered: “It is none of these.”

“Then, ask as I may, I can discover no Nāga­sena. Nāgasena is an empty sound. Who is it we see before us? It is a falsehood that your reverence has spoken.”

“You, sir, have been reared in great luxury as becomes your noble birth. How did you come here, by foot or in a chariot?”
“In a chariot, venerable sir.”

“Then, explain sir, what that is. Is it the axle? Or the wheels, or the chassis, or reins, or yoke that is the chariot? Is it all of these combined, or is it something apart from them?”
“It is none of these things, venerable sir.”

“Then, sir, this chariot is an empty sound. You spoke falsely when you said that you came here in a chariot. You are a great king of India. Who are you afraid of that you don’t speak the truth?” Then he called upon the Bactrian Greeks and the monks to bear witness: “This King Milinda has said that he came here in a chariot but when asked what it is, he is unable to show it. Is it possible to approve of that?”

Then the five hundred Bactrian Greeks shouted their approval and said to the king, “Get out of that if you can!”

“Venerable sir, I have spoken the truth. It is because it has all these parts that it comes under the term chariot.”
“Very good, sir, your majesty has rightly grasped the meaning. Even so it is because of the thirty-two kinds of organic matter in a human body and the five aggregates of being that I come under the term ‘Nāgasena’. As it was said by Sister Vajirā in the presence of the Blessed One, ‘Just as it is by the existence of the various parts that the word “Chariot” is used, just so is it that when the aggre­gates of being are there we talk of a being’.”
http://www.aimwell.org/milinda.html#r9
The highlighted quote is from the Samyutta Nikaya, SN 5.10
Why now do you assume 'a being'?
Mara, have you grasped a view?
This is a heap of sheer constructions:
Here no being is found.

Just as, with an assemblage of parts,
The word 'chariot' is used,
So, when the aggregates are present,
There's the convention 'a being.'


It's only suffering that comes to be,
Suffering that stands and falls away.
Nothing but suffering comes to be,
Nothing but suffering ceases.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .bodh.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
I guess the short answer to your question is that if King Milinda had answered differently, the punch line would not have come off... :D

:anjali:
Mike

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Re: Question of Questions of King Milinda

Post by Wayfarer » Sat May 17, 2014 8:10 am

Mike is pretty right. In some ways, the highlighted sentence is a contrivance. I think the intent is that if there really were such a thing as 'a chariot' then it couldn't be dissembled into various parts, the idea being that it is not something that is real independently of all the parts that comprise it, and so has no intrinsic reality. We call such and such a vehicle 'chariot' but in reality it is a collection of parts that performs a certain function and is designated by a particular name. But there is no 'intrinsic chariot' or 'real chariot' except for in that conventionally-designated sense; it doesn't exist apart from its components, and at the same time, none of its components are actually it.

I think it helps to recall the ancient debate on substances and 'real existents' which forms the background to these debates. For instance, in the Platonist view (and as 'King Milinda' was a Greco-Bactrian monarch, might even have been acquainted with such notions) any actual chariot was a mere semblance of the ideal which belonged to an altogether different realm, namely the realm of the forms. So a Platonist might also agree that no real chariot has been demonstrated - but he would do so on different grounds to Ven. Nagasena, i.e. the Platonist would say that the real chariot exists in the ideal realm, which the Buddhist would not say. But they are both dealing with the same question, albeit arriving at different explanations for it. In the case of Buddhist philosophical polemics, such as this, the primary disputants were of course the Brahmins who would insist that there were such things as 'real essences' which remained unchanged. So the argument is also to demonstrate that there is no such substance or essence which remains unchanged.

It is also interesting to recall that the Questions of King Milinda is historically very ancient. I think it pre-dates the Prajñāpāramitā Sutras (I am sure someone will correct me if I am wrong) and in some ways, it is like an early form of the arguments that would be later much elaborated by the Madhamikas regarding the absence of 'own-being' (svabhava) in particular objects. In their terminology, the chariot is empty of any 'real chariot-ness', it is only 'a chariot' because it is designated as such, and serves a particular purpose.

Steven Collins book 'Selfless Persons' has quite a good analysis of this dialogue from the viewpoint of Theravadin scholasticism. In his view, much of the rhetoric around this point is the consequence of what he calls 'a particular style of meditative self-analysis', and the need to avoid any notion of absolute essence or substance, which was, he says, 'a linguistic taboo in technical discourse’, because it ‘preserves the identity and integrity of Buddhism as an Indian system separate from Brahmanism’.
'Only practice with no gaining idea' ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Grigoris
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Re: Question of Questions of King Milinda

Post by Grigoris » Sat May 17, 2014 10:25 am

It also has to do with the fact that the sum of the parts is not necessarily the total. If you were to pull a chariot to pieces and then make a pile of the pieces (the sum of the parts) then you would not have a chariot.

In the same way the sum of the parts (the skhanda) does not make a self. It may appear as such, but under analysis there is no self there, like there is no chariot in the pile of the pieces.

We also have to take into account that the quoted statement is in regard to the Atman, which really is closer to the idea of the soul of the Abrahamic religions than it is to the psychological "self" or "ego". It is quite simple for a materialist to understand that there is no permanent, unchanging, essential "self" or "ego". These arguments were not directed at materialists (like the Carvakas) but at those that believed in a unchanging, permanent expression of "self" or "ego" that goes from life to life, body to body, etc...
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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Konchog1
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Re: Question of Questions of King Milinda

Post by Konchog1 » Sat May 17, 2014 8:48 pm

Bhadantacariya wrote:There's something I don't get in the very beginning of the Questions of King Milinda. Nagasena begins, and Milinda answers.

How then did you come, on foot, or in a chariot?'
'I did not come, Sir, on foot. I came in a carriage.'
'Then if you came, Sire, in a carriage, explain to me what that is. Is it the pole that is the chariot?'
'I did not say that.'
'Is it the axle that is the chariot?'
'Certainly not.'
'Is it the wheels, or the framework, or the ropes, or the yoke, or the spokes of the wheels, or the goad, that are the chariot?'
And to all these he still answered no.
'Then is it all these parts of it that are the chariot?'
'No, Sir.'
'But is there anything outside them that is the chariot?'
And still he answered no.
'Then thus, ask as I may, I can discover no chariot.

If I were Milinda, I would have said 'yes' to the question in bold. Milinda says that the chariot he came in is not simply the aggregation of various parts that we associate with the chariot. How is it incorrect to say that the chariot is simply a collection of constituents? Or, if I were so lucky as to be Milinda, how would Nagasena have countered my assertion that, yes, the chariot is all of its parts together?
Chandrakirti discusses this in detail. As does works based on his. Sherab Dorje gave one reason. The other is that if there is no chariot in the parts, and everything arises from causes, then how can a chariot arise from its parts?

Also, to enter Madhyamaka, there is no chariot but a chariot APPEARS to the mind based on the parts when the parts come together. It's important to know the difference between appearance and existence.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats

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Konchog1
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Re: Question of Questions of King Milinda

Post by Konchog1 » Sat May 17, 2014 9:55 pm

Here we are:
1. There is no chariot which is other than its parts
2. There is no chariot which is the same as its parts
3. There is no chariot which possesses its parts
4. There is no chariot which depends on its parts
5. There is no chariot upon which the parts depend
6. There is no chariot which is the collection of its parts
7. There is no chariot which is the shape of its parts
http://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?titl ... he_chariot" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
“When reasoning searches to whether the chariot intrinsically exists, it is not found in any of the seven ways. This is the case in terms of both of the two truths. But when reason fails to find it those seven ways, does this refute the chariot? How could it? Reasoning that analyses whether things intrinsically exist does not establish the assertion of the chariot; rather, leaving reasoned analysis aside, it is established by a mere unimpaired, ordinary, conventional—i.e., worldly—consciousness. Therefore, the way a chariot is posited is that it is established as existing imputedly; it is imputed in dependence upon its parts.”
-Lam Rim Chen Mo eng v03 pg. 283 tib pg. 725
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats

5heaps
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Re: Question of Questions of King Milinda

Post by 5heaps » Mon May 19, 2014 12:28 pm

Bhadantacariya wrote:How is it incorrect to say that the chariot is simply a collection of constituents? Or, if I were so lucky as to be Milinda, how would Nagasena have countered my assertion that, yes, the chariot is all of its parts together?
the easy answer is that the quality chariot which is seen in the collection cannot in fact be in the collection, because if it were anyone who were to see the collection must then necessarily see the chariot, even a dog, or someone who cannot conceive of a chariot

the hard answer is that the physical function of the chariot is not findable in the collection or its parts. this is somehow supposed to be very meaningful, but its very very difficult compared to the first answer

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Re: Question of Questions of King Milinda

Post by Virgo » Mon May 19, 2014 4:23 pm

“Then, explain sir, what that is. Is it the axle? Or the wheels, or the chassis, or reins, or yoke that is the chariot? Is it all of these combined, or is it something apart from them?”
“It is none of these things, venerable sir.”
- http://www.aimwell.org/milinda.html#

It is cannot be all of those things combined. How can it be a wheel, and an axle, and other parts, and it's own thing at the same time?

Kevin

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Re: Question of Questions of King Milinda

Post by Wayfarer » Thu May 22, 2014 1:20 am

It's all a question about what the meaning of 'is', is. :smile:
'Only practice with no gaining idea' ~ Suzuki Roshi

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