How to deny Atman - Help defending Buddhadhamma

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Re: How to deny Atman - Help defending Buddhadhamma

Postby christopher::: » Mon Jan 25, 2010 12:24 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:
christopher::: wrote:
The dhamma needs practicing, not defending, in situations like this.



It is not so much a case of "defending", but a case of correctly explaining what the Bhagavan taught.
If we do not do this, and fail to maintain the teachings in the face of wrong views, even correct understanding of the Dhamma will soon be lost.
Then, what shall we even practice?
Separating understanding of right view from "practice" fails to notice that understanding right view is part of the practice.
"This the the truth of the path, it is to be practiced" (Dhammacakka sutta).
That understanding come from hearing teachings about right view, and discussing it with others. This also includes seeing the differences between right view and wrong view. So, I think that the OPs question is a good one.


Hello, Venerable. But even among Buddhists there is disagreement about these issues. See for example the discussion here: One Dharma: Joseph Goldstein's Perspective. Goldstein describes the very different conceptions held by Theravadin and Mahayana Buddhists concerning the fundamental nature of the mind. Yes, it's good to discuss and explain, but there doesn't seem to be one agreed upon "right view." The conclusion Goldstein reached about this was to maintain an "I just don't know" attitude about certain beliefs/conceptions, and focus instead on method and practice.

Sanghamitta wrote:That isnt exactly the point I was trying to make Christopher. A) We can only practice properly when we have some understanding of the underlying basis of the teaching, and B) Not all religious views are equal. The point I was making is that we should understand and practice our own Dhamma, life is too short to correct wrong views when held by practitioners of others religions. Lets concentrate on our own Views and see if they are Right.



:anjali:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: How to deny Atman - Help defending Buddhadhamma

Postby Paññāsikhara » Mon Jan 25, 2010 2:21 am

christopher::: wrote:
Paññāsikhara wrote:
christopher::: wrote:
The dhamma needs practicing, not defending, in situations like this.



It is not so much a case of "defending", but a case of correctly explaining what the Bhagavan taught.
If we do not do this, and fail to maintain the teachings in the face of wrong views, even correct understanding of the Dhamma will soon be lost.
Then, what shall we even practice?
Separating understanding of right view from "practice" fails to notice that understanding right view is part of the practice.
"This the the truth of the path, it is to be practiced" (Dhammacakka sutta).
That understanding come from hearing teachings about right view, and discussing it with others. This also includes seeing the differences between right view and wrong view. So, I think that the OPs question is a good one.


Hello, Venerable. But even among Buddhists there is disagreement about these issues. See for example the discussion here: One Dharma: Joseph Goldstein's Perspective. Goldstein describes the very different conceptions held by Theravadin and Mahayana Buddhists concerning the fundamental nature of the mind. Yes, it's good to discuss and explain, but there doesn't seem to be one agreed upon "right view." The conclusion Goldstein reached about this was to maintain an "I just don't know" attitude about certain beliefs/conceptions, and focus instead on method and practice.



Hi Christopher:::

I'm quite aware of the differences in views amongst various schools about the nature of mind.
But what does that have to do with what I have posted here?
After all, the OP isn't about the nature of mind, it is about atmavada.
And, as I said, developing right view is part of the practice itself.

Just because Goldman can't come to his own conclusion, doesn't mean that everyone else can't either.
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Re: How to deny Atman - Help defending Buddhadhamma

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jan 25, 2010 3:28 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:
Just because Goldman can't come to his own conclusion, doesn't mean that everyone else can't either.

Having done several extended retreats with Goldstein as a teacher, I have no doubt that he, based upon his own experience, has drawn his own conclusions.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

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Re: How to deny Atman - Help defending Buddhadhamma

Postby christopher::: » Mon Jan 25, 2010 4:45 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:
Hi Christopher:::

I'm quite aware of the differences in views amongst various schools about the nature of mind.
But what does that have to do with what I have posted here?
After all, the OP isn't about the nature of mind, it is about atmavada.
And, as I said, developing right view is part of the practice itself.

Just because [Goldstein] can't come to his own conclusion, doesn't mean that everyone else can't either.


Hello Venerable,

Well, we may disagree but it seems like the same issues apply whether we are talking about Theravadan vs. Mahayanan views of mind or Hindu vs. Buddhist conceptions about the nature/existance of the Atman/Unborn. All views are ideas/concepts, and as such can be viewed as skillful means, not statements of absolute "truth"...

Goldstein:


What do you believe?

What I came to is that framing it in terms of who's right is the wrong question. That was the breakthrough for me. I began to see that all the teachings from all the traditions are best seen as skillful means for liberating the mind, rather than ultimate statements of truth. If you take them as ultimate statements of truth, then if there are differing views, one is right and one is wrong and one is higher and one is lower. But if you take them as skillful means, then the question is, What can I learn from this teaching? And I found that approach much more useful.

This all points to the limitation of concept. All these teachings are in words. Words are concepts and aren't the actual experience of truth itself.
It's like the famous example of fingers pointing at the moon. There could be many different fingers pointing in many different directions. If we look at the fingers we could get into a big conflict about which finger is right. We will start examining which is fatter and which is thinner, which is shorter which is longer. But if we take the finger and think of it as a skillful means for experiencing the moon, then we can learn from all of them. So that was my resolution of the conflict.

The second level of resolution was a mantra I came to for myself. With regard to the nature of the fully enlightened mind, my mantra is: Who knows? It's like, maybe there are people who know, but I didn't know. So rather than just ascribing to some belief system, I use that mantra to keep an open mind. That "Who knows?" isn't a "Who knows?" of confusion. It's a "Who knows?" of openness.


:anjali:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: How to deny Atman - Help defending Buddhadhamma

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jan 25, 2010 6:06 am

christopher::: wrote:
Well, we may disagree but it seems like the same issues apply whether we are talking about Theravadan vs. Mahayanan views of mind or Hindu vs. Buddhist conceptions about the nature/existence of the Atman/Unborn. All views are ideas/concepts, and as such can be viewed as skillful means, not statements of absolute "truth"...
So, something is an "idea/concept," does that mean because one idea or concept does not agree with another we can simply say: "Oh, they are just idea/concepts, don't worry about them." If that were really the case, Right View would really have no significance as a part of the practice of the Eightfold Path..

Also, your “Atman/Unborn” suggests that these are equivalent terms, which is not the case at all if you look at how they are used. If you are implying that they are, which is not uncommon among some tend to mush things together, you are then not looking at the actual context of these words, these are very different terms, used in very different ways. It is not enough to say: “They are just concepts.”
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: How to deny Atman - Help defending Buddhadhamma

Postby christopher::: » Mon Jan 25, 2010 6:52 am

Hey Tilt,

Well, we've had this conversation before, right? As i recall we never came to agreement. In my opinion Goldstein's stance on the differences between Mahayana and Theravada conceptions of mind can also be applied to the difference between Advaita and Buddhist conceptions of the nature of mind/conciousness.

That's my current opinion, and i'd actually be quite surprised if you ever agreed with me.

:smile:
Last edited by christopher::: on Mon Jan 25, 2010 6:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
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Re: How to deny Atman - Help defending Buddhadhamma

Postby Paññāsikhara » Mon Jan 25, 2010 6:54 am

Christopher,
Do you think we need to cultivate right view or not?
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Re: How to deny Atman - Help defending Buddhadhamma

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jan 25, 2010 6:57 am

christopher::: wrote:Hey Tilt,

Well, we've had this conversation before, right? As i recall we never came to agreement. In my opinion Goldstein's stance on the differences between Mahayana and Theravada conceptions of mind can also be applied to the difference between Advaita and Buddhist conceptions of the nature of mind/conciousness.

That's my current opinion, and i'd actually be quite surprised if you ever agreed with me.

So, you think the Hindu term atman is equivalent to/the same as the Pali sutta term ajata? Based upon what? What is the function of Right View? You think the Buddha was wrong to insist that his teachings be correctly represented?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: How to deny Atman - Help defending Buddhadhamma

Postby christopher::: » Mon Jan 25, 2010 7:02 am

Sorry tilt, we've been here before. I'm not going to argue with you about these issues that we clearly see differently. I've been reading and listening to Goldstein intensively for quite a few months now. I find his approach and teaching style to be sensible, flexible and extremely helpful. In line with that, questions/issues such as these are not something he spends much time worrying about.

“It all comes down to the mind free of clinging. That for me is an understanding of freedom."
~Joseph Goldstein

The Buddha's Song Of Enlightenment: Achieved Is The End Of Craving 64:13

"Liberation is about cutting, or dissolving, or letting go of, or seeing through-choose your image-the attachment to anything. The description of the mind of no-clinging may be different in the different schools, but the experience of the mind of no- clinging is the same."


:anjali:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: How to deny Atman - Help defending Buddhadhamma

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jan 25, 2010 7:21 am

christopher::: wrote:Sorry tilt, we've been here before. I'm not going to argue with you about these issues that we clearly see differently.
No need to argue. I am simply asking you a question: So you are saying that the Hindu Adviata atman is the same as the Pali sutta ajata?

“It all comes down to the mind free of clinging. That for me is an understanding of freedom."
~Joseph Goldstein
Sure; however, what is the role of Right View in the attainment of awakening?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: How to deny Atman - Help defending Buddhadhamma

Postby Paññāsikhara » Mon Jan 25, 2010 7:29 am

Is this where we quote the sutta from the Buddha where he says that he doesn't see any sort of "atman view" that doesn't lead to dukkha?
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Re: How to deny Atman - Help defending Buddhadhamma

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jan 25, 2010 7:32 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:Is this where we quote the sutta from the Buddha where he says that he doesn't see any sort of "atman view" that doesn't lead to dukkha?
But, but, but.... Those are just words, concepts; being enlightened he really did not mean it.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: How to deny Atman - Help defending Buddhadhamma

Postby christopher::: » Mon Jan 25, 2010 7:41 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:Is this where we quote the sutta from the Buddha where he says that he doesn't see any sort of "atman view" that doesn't lead to dukkha?


Hello Venerable. The atman views at the time of the Buddha differ from those of modern Advaita, which some believe has been strongly influenced by Buddhist thought. But this was all covered in the other thread, and few here seem to agree on that...

tiltbillings wrote:
christopher::: wrote:Sorry tilt, we've been here before. I'm not going to argue with you about these issues that we clearly see differently.
No need to argue. I am simply asking you a question: So you are saying that the Hindu Adviata atman is the same as the Pali sutta ajata?


I really don't know. I'm saying that a person might believe in something soul or atman-like and still be practicing in a way that leads them in the direction of awakening. I really cannot say. Which is why with other people i'm more concerned about their actions then beliefs.

There are many factors of awakening, and conceptions can be skillful if they help with the cultivation of these factors, imo...

“It all comes down to the mind free of clinging. That for me is an understanding of freedom."
~Joseph Goldstein


Sure; however, what is the role of Right View in the attainment of awakening?


I don't know the answer to that either. I'm with Goldstein, there are many factors that we need to cultivate which lead to awakening.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Fact ... ightenment

In Buddhism, the Seven Factors of Enlightenment are:

Mindfulness (sati) i.e. to be aware and mindful in all activities and movements both physical and mental
Investigation (dhamma vicaya) into the nature of dhamma
Energy (viriya)
Joy or rapture (piti)
Relaxation or tranquillity (passaddhi) of both body and mind
Collection (samadhi) a collected, intent state of mind
Equanimity (upekkha), to be able to face life in all its vicissitudes with calm of mind and tranquillity, without disturbance.


How Right View fits in (above) is unclear, to me. I would think it develops and deepens naturally as we practice mindfulness, develop samadhi and investigate into the nature of the dhamma.

But you both have studied this much more intensively, so what do you think?

:anjali:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: How to deny Atman - Help defending Buddhadhamma

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jan 25, 2010 8:04 am

christopher::: wrote:
Paññāsikhara wrote:Is this where we quote the sutta from the Buddha where he says that he doesn't see any sort of "atman view" that doesn't lead to dukkha?


Hello Venerable. The atman views at the time of the Buddha differ from those of modern Advaita,
Not necessarily

which some believe has been strongly influenced by Buddhist thought.
Sure; however, that does not mean that the teachings are the same.

But this was all covered in the other thread, and few here seem to agree on that...
Make a good case for your position.

you wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
christopher::: wrote:Sorry tilt, we've been here before. I'm not going to argue with you about these issues that we clearly see differently.
No need to argue. I am simply asking you a question: So you are saying that the Hindu Adviata atman is the same as the Pali sutta ajata?


I really don't know.
Then you cannot honestly claim or suggest that they are the same or even similar.

I'm saying that a person might believe in something soul or atman-like and still be practicing in a way that leads them in the direction of awakening. I really cannot say.
Possibly; however, it is interesting that the Buddha emphazied Right View.

Which is why with other people i'm more concerned about their actions then beliefs.
Though beliefs and actions are not necessarily differing things in terms of practice.

There are many factors of awakening, and conceptions can be skillful if they help with the cultivation of these factors, imo...
Sure, but beliefs may also limit one or misguide one's practice.

“It all comes down to the mind free of clinging. That for me is an understanding of freedom."
~Joseph Goldstein


you wrote:
I wrote:Sure; however, what is the role of Right View in the attainment of awakening?


I don't know the answer to that either. I'm with Goldstein, there are many factors that we need to cultivate which lead to awakening.
And Right View is one of them.

I would think it [Right View] develops and deepens naturally as we practice mindfulness, develop samadhi and investigate into the nature of the dhamma.
Sure; however, there is also a need for some degree of conceptual understanding, given that that can influence greatly one's practice.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: How to deny Atman - Help defending Buddhadhamma

Postby Paññāsikhara » Mon Jan 25, 2010 8:16 am

The old "belief" versus "action" one.

In all the Buddhist ways of thought that I am familiar with, belief is a cetana, a samskara. Which means that it itself is already an action, a mental action.

Just as cultivation of the path includes cultivation of right view, any discussion of action or practice includes what we believe.
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Re: How to deny Atman - Help defending Buddhadhamma

Postby christopher::: » Mon Jan 25, 2010 8:25 am

Good points, Venerable. I really have to say "I don't know" for much of this. And that i very much like the way Goldstein teaches and describes the essential factors that lead to awakening...

Conceptions have limitations, in his view.

"What I came to is that framing it in terms of who's right is the wrong question. That was the breakthrough for me. I began to see that all the teachings from all the traditions are best seen as skillful means for liberating the mind, rather than ultimate statements of truth. If you take them as ultimate statements of truth, then if there are differing views, one is right and one is wrong and one is higher and one is lower. But if you take them as skillful means, then the question is, What can I learn from this teaching? And I found that approach much more useful.

This all points to the limitation of concept. All these teachings are in words. Words are concepts and aren't the actual experience of truth itself. It's like the famous example of fingers pointing at the moon. There could be many different fingers pointing in many different directions. If we look at the fingers we could get into a big conflict about which finger is right. We will start examining which is fatter and which is thinner, which is shorter which is longer. But if we take the finger and think of it as a skillful means for experiencing the moon, then we can learn from all of them. So that was my resolution of the conflict.

The second level of resolution was a mantra I came to for myself. With regard to the nature of the fully enlightened mind, my mantra is: Who knows? It's like, maybe there are people who know, but I didn't know. So rather than just ascribing to some belief system, I use that mantra to keep an open mind. That "Who knows?" isn't a "Who knows?" of confusion. It's a "Who knows?" of openness."



:anjali:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: How to deny Atman - Help defending Buddhadhamma

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jan 25, 2010 8:29 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:The old "belief" versus "action" one.
I would not want to go the extreme of the Gelugs in the dfirection of "beliefs", but "belief" versus "action" comes out of an anti-intellectualism that certainly is prevalent in the USA and in some strands of Zen: Beliefs divide people and cause all sorts of problems and they are only concepts and we are supposed get beyond concept and . . . . (Christopher, I am not saying are or are not anti-intellectual.)

In all the Buddhist ways of thought that I am familiar with, belief is a cetana, a samskara. Which means that it itself is already an action, a mental action.

Just as cultivation of the path includes cultivation of right view, any discussion of action or practice includes what we believe.
And this is something that is often missed.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: How to deny Atman - Help defending Buddhadhamma

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jan 25, 2010 8:45 am

christopher::: wrote:Good points, Venerable. I really have to say "I don't know" for much of this. And that i very much like the way Goldstein teaches and describes the essential factors that lead to awakening...

Conceptions have limitations, in his view.

"What I came to is that framing it in terms of who's right is the wrong question.
It is, but it also depends. For me it is a question of what did the Buddha teach and how do I put that into practice. While I may be critical of the Mahayana on any number of counts, I do not dismiss it out of hand, given that one can see the fundamental teachings can be found, albeit gilded with rococo appliqués. I do not worry about differing mythic structures, but I am not going to dismiss the need for using conceptual structures. There is a reason why Right View is part of the path the Buddha outlined.

It is irresponsible to claim atman is somehow equivalent to ajata when you cannot make a reasonable case for that. While atma/ajata may seem nebulous, the reality is that on a very fundamental level belief carries over into practice, is an interdependent part of practice.

What can I learn from this [other] teaching?
Nothing until one has some degree of understanding it.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
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Re: How to deny Atman - Help defending Buddhadhamma

Postby Paññāsikhara » Mon Jan 25, 2010 8:57 am

It is interesting that he has the "view" that "concepts have limitations", don't you think?
And I'm not just trying to be smarty pants ironic, either.
If he totally rejected them, he wouldn't even say that.

(Can I tell my Dighanakkha story now? - "O Buddha! I don't hold any view!" "Well, Dighanakkha, do you hold that view (ie. that view that you hold no view)?" "Um ... er ...")

Nobody is arguing that views or beliefs don't have limits.
But that within those limits, they are very important.
And there seems to be a big difference between upholding any sort of atman view, versus not doing so.
At least according to the Blessed One, that is. (And probably Gaudapada or Sankara too, but in the opposite way for the opposite reasons.)
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Re: How to deny Atman - Help defending Buddhadhamma

Postby christopher::: » Mon Jan 25, 2010 12:48 pm

Hello gentlemen. Your positions are quite sensible, just not everyone sees things the same way. Does that mean one's practice will suffer, if they don't have "solid" metaphysical beliefs, or differing beliefs? Maybe, and maybe not.

There are many things we do need to have solid views about, and guidance with. How to practice mindfulness, express metta, cultivate compassion and concentration, how to meditate, how to cultivate the brahamaviharas, etc these are all practical considerations not dependent on metaphysical conceptions. And in my view (yes, a view) these are at the heart of dhamma practice, and more important then many of the metaphysical issues being debated here.

You may disagree, and in your practice certain ideas may be absolutely central. Cool. If that works for you, wonderful. You should gravitate towards what is most helpful for you in your practice.

As for Goldstein he presently says he just doesn't know about some things. As a sincere long-term practitioner he may come to a flash of deep unmistakable insight next Thursday, after which his position will change and he says he now "knows." Should we then trust what he has to say then, about the nature of mind? If he takes the Dzogchen position, you probably won't, if he lands firmly in Theravadin territory you probably will.

As someone without such deep wisdom myself i find his present attitude very helpful, much in line with the Zen mind, beginner's mind suggested by many Zen teachers. But everyone is different, you may have no need or comfort with such an "open minded" approach. Some of us find it helpful with our practice though, and so move in that direction.

:anjali:

P.S. Tilt- concerning the Hindu term atman and the Pali sutta term ajata i'm not sure why you think i am "claiming" them to be equivalent. If it sounded like i said that, either you misunderstood or i phrased something in a way that i hadn't intended. I have said "I don't know" and that I agreed with Goldstein that "All views are ideas/concepts, and as such can be viewed as skillful means, not statements of absolute "truth"..."

I never meant to make it sound like i believed they were equivalent. I really hadn't put a lot of thought into it, honestly and had to go look up the term ajata just now... Looks pretty different from atman, maybe some similarities to how the Diamond Sutra presents reality, but i just don't know and its not the kind of thing i intend to spend too much time thinking about...
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
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