Is there a real world out there?...

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby SamKR » Thu Mar 06, 2014 11:04 pm

Thanks, Retro, for the sutta. I had it in mind when writing my post.
From that sutta, about the sekha:
"He directly knows the seen as the seen. Directly knowing seen as the seen, let him not conceive things about the seen, let him not conceive things in the seen, let him not conceive things coming out of the seen, let him not conceive the seen as 'mine,' let him not delight in the seen. Why is that? So that he may comprehend it, I tell you.

Pali: Diṭṭhaṃ diṭṭhato abhijānāti. Diṭṭhaṃ diṭṭhato abhiññāya diṭṭhaṃ māmaññi. Diṭṭhasmiṃ māmaññi. Diṭṭhato māmaññi. Diṭṭhaṃ me'ti māmaññi. Diṭṭhaṃ mābhinandi. Taṃ kissa hetu? Pariññeyyaṃ tassā'ti vadāmi.


And a funny thing is that at the end of sutta:
That is what the Blessed One said. Displeased, the monks did not delight in the Blessed One's words.
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Mar 06, 2014 11:53 pm

retrofuturist wrote:
Mike wrote:I've yet to see a convincing argument as to why working with a provisional model that what we are sensing is "something out there" is in any way contradictory to the Dhamma as presented in the suttas, or a hindrance to progress in the application of the Dhamma.

If one's goal is merely to adopt the putthujana way of looking at the Dhamma (i.e. mundane right view) and maybe aim at rebirth in higher realms etc. then sure, there may not be a hindrance.

However, if one is seeking the nobility, holding to a materialist view is very much a hindrance, as suttas such as MN 1 and SN 12.15 clearly demonstrate.

Sure. If one was promoting a pure materialism that would be a problem. Who is advocating that?

Can you specifically point out and explain where the Buddha says that it's a hindrance to be open-minded about whether or not the external world exists, and that some of what we perceive may be due to an external world and some not? It seems to me that this is approach entirely consistent with the quotes you have given above. Are you suggesting that we should, instead, veer in the direction of idealism?

To me, Ven N's article does seem to incline in the direction of idealism, despite his claims to the contrary.
As ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli pointed out, "These views [i.e. materialism and idealism] differ from the Right View because as they are focused on developing and providing explanations of the nature of one's experience, while failing to see that fundamentally they are derived from it."

But perhaps I'm misunderstanding this rather convoluted sentence (and the rest of the article)...

For me, the problem with such arguments is that they assume that the task being pursued (in science, Dhamma, or whatever) is "providing explanations", or "discovering truth" and proceed to criticise such straw man that was never the point of the exercise in the first place.

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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:14 am

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:Can you specifically point out and explain where the Buddha says that it's a hindrance to be open-minded about whether or not the external world exists, and that some of what we perceive may be due to an external world and some not?

It's a problem only to the extent that it is perceived as such...
MN 1 wrote:The Blessed One said: "There is the case, monks, where an uninstructed run-of-the-mill person — who has no regard for noble ones, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma; who has no regard for men of integrity, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma — perceives earth as earth. Perceiving earth as earth, he conceives [things] about earth, he conceives [things] in earth, he conceives [things] coming out of earth, he conceives earth as 'mine,' he delights in earth. Why is that? Because he has not comprehended it, I tell you.

SN 12.15 wrote:Dwelling at Savatthi... Then Ven. Kaccayana Gotta approached the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One: "Lord, 'Right view, right view,' it is said. To what extent is there right view?"

"By & large, Kaccayana, this world is supported by (takes as its object) a polarity, that of existence & non-existence. But when one sees the origination of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'non-existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one. When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one.

"By & large, Kaccayana, this world is in bondage to attachments, clingings (sustenances), & biases. But one such as this does not get involved with or cling to these attachments, clingings, fixations of awareness, biases, or obsessions; nor is he resolved on 'my self.' He has no uncertainty or doubt that just stress, when arising, is arising; stress, when passing away, is passing away. In this, his knowledge is independent of others. It's to this extent, Kaccayana, that there is right view.

"'Everything exists': That is one extreme. 'Everything doesn't exist': That is a second extreme. Avoiding these two extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma via the middle....

Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli wrote:Either way, the puthujjana oscillates between the two

mikenz66 wrote:Are you suggesting that we should, instead, veer in the direction of idealism?

Erm, no...
Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli wrote:For example, in present times, a spiritual/mystical view of the hidden 'Reality' (one's 'true Self', or 'universal consciousness') would be a form of idealism, while the very common and prevalent scientific objectification of the experience would most certainly come under materialism. These two can serve as the two prominent poles of the Wrong View spectrum.

Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli wrote:Either way, the puthujjana oscillates between the two

SN 12.15 wrote:Avoiding these two extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma via the middle

mikenz66 wrote:But perhaps I'm misunderstanding this rather convoluted sentence (and the rest of the article)...

Quite probably, if you think it is promoting idealism rather than the Dhamma that the Tathagata taught via the middle...

mikenz66 wrote:For me, the problem with such arguments is that they assume that the task being pursued (in science, Dhamma, or whatever) is "providing explanations", or "discovering truth" and proceed to criticise such straw man that was never the point of the exercise in the first place.

Right. The "point of the exercise" is the pursuit of the Noble Eightfold Path, of which Right View is the forerunner... it's not to dismiss your beloved physical sciences.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Mar 07, 2014 1:18 am

Hi Retro,

As I said, my impression from his article (which isn't particularly clear to me) is that he inclines to a denial an external world (which I think we agree would be an error). Re-quoting all those suttas and a few of his sentences does not make it any clearer to me. It's clear that I am probably misunderstanding him. If you'd care to put in simple terms what he is actually trying to get at (no need to quote any more suttas) that would be helpful.

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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby SamKR » Fri Mar 07, 2014 1:32 am

Hi Mike,

Not answering your question to Retro, but expressing my opinions: The external world is not denied. What is denied is the idea of independent and inherent existence of the external world. We cannot say the external world does not exist when we see how the "external" world originates due to dependent origination (based on ignorance, etc.). And, we cannot say the external world exists when we see the "external" world ceases due to dependent cessation (based on cessation of ignorance, etc.).

So, there is external world or more accurately the sense-of-external world (and other conceivings like 'self') as long as there is ignorance, and there is not external world (and 'self') when ignorance and subsequent sankhara cease.

The statement "there is no real external world" is analogous to "there is no self".
The statement "there is a sense of world which is dependent upon ignorance" is analogous to "there is a sense of self which is dependent upon ignorance"
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby pulga » Fri Mar 07, 2014 1:45 am

mikenz66 wrote:In my view, the key thing about science is not whether or not it correctly represents "truth" or "reality". The key point is that it gives predictions that are testable, and, in some cases, have a utility. So, for example, Newton's laws of motion give a good enough approximation to the observed motion of objects of various sizes to enable engineering ranging from bicycles to lunar landings. Consequently, it makes sense to work on the provisional assumption that such theories will continue to give correct predictions.


I think you're correct. But though scientific theories are more intelligible, one needs to determine the source of that intelligibility, cf. Brahmajālasutta where phassa is the source of the "all-embracing net of views".

I don't want to force Heidegger on to anyone, but here's a worthwhile article that might provide the orientation to better understand Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli's essay. (Keeping in mind that "to be" means to be present, i.e. to be cognized.)

Heidegger expresses this same paradox, though cryptically, when he says, "When Dasein does not exist, ... it cannot be said that entities are, nor can it be said that they are not." The point here is not the trivial matter that if human beings did not exist, it could not be said that entities are, because there would be no one to do the saying. Rather, it could not - most accurately - be said that entities are, because this "are" is a modality of the being of the entities, and consequently is not apart from human beings. Yet, again, neither could it be said that entities are not; for even the negation of the to be is an expression of an understanding of being. We are left with the paradox, a paradox which is rooted in the nature of language and understanding. However, as long as we bear in mind these limitations, we do know that one of the ways something can be made intelligible by us is as present-at-hand-i.e., as that which "is" independently of us. Based on this understanding of presence-at-hand, we can say that even if we did not exist, natural objects would still continue to be. We simply need to remember that the being of these objects-and thus the to be-has its origin in human understanding. (emphasis added)

http://www.harvardphilosophy.com/issues ... panich.pdf
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby santa100 » Fri Mar 07, 2014 2:02 am

My post from another thread related to the "middle teaching" of the Buddha:
From SN 22.94:
Of that which the wise in the world agree upon as not existing, I too say that it does not exist. And of that which the wise in the world agree upon as existing, I too say that it exists...
...And what is it, bhikkhus, that the wise in the world agree upon as existing, of which I too say that it exists? Form that is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change: this the wise in the world agree upon as existing, and I too say that it exists. Feeling … Perception … Volitional formations … Consciousness that is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change: this the wise in the world agree upon as existing, and I too say that it exists

and Ven. Bodhi's comment:
This portion of the sutta offers an important counterpoint to the message of the Kaccanagotta Sutta (12:15). Here the Buddha emphasizes that he does not reject all ontological propositions, but only those that transcend the bounds of possible experience. While the Kaccanagotta Sutta shows that the “middle teaching” excludes static, substantialist conceptions of existence and nonexistence, the present text shows that the same “middle teaching” can accommodate definite pronouncements about these ontological issues. The affirmation of the existence of the five aggregates, as impermanent processes, serves as a rejoinder to illusionist theories, which hold that the world lacks real being.
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Mar 07, 2014 2:56 am

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:If you'd care to put in simple terms what he is actually trying to get at (no need to quote any more suttas) that would be helpful.

I don't think so - if that could have been done, it would have been done years ago.

(Nor would Zen masters have ever had to invent koans etc... they could have just put the nature of enlightenment "in simple terms" instead of talking about the sounds of one hand clapping, and questions about whether falling trees make a sound etc...)

Here's Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli's attempt to summarise...
Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli wrote:Now, with the Buddha's aid, a puthujjana can further see that actually the existence is not that which appears—it never was. It is the appearance that exists, by him assuming it (or by being ignorant in regard to it.) The existence, in order to be, requires maintaining (hence upādānapaccāya bhavo). In this way a new perspective has emerged on the relationship between existence and appearance, which reveals that, initially, the puthujjana had the whole picture upside-down. The further pursuit of this principle would simply carry further right through the center of puthujjana's being (who at that point would cease to be a puthujjana) and complete the ‘reversal’ of this inverted experience of his, in the same manner as one would turn a sleeve inside-out. At that point that individual's Being would cease without remainder.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Mar 07, 2014 9:10 am

Hmm, Ok, I'll put it aside for now. I find this sort of thing rather unintelligible.

Thanks santa100 for Bhikkhu Bodhi's comment. Bhikkhu Bodhi I can understand...

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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby kirk5a » Fri Mar 07, 2014 10:41 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hmm, Ok, I'll put it aside for now. I find this sort of thing rather unintelligible.

I go further than that - I detest that sort of thing. But I get some relief by letting it revert to a peaceful collection of silent, meaningless black squiggles on a tan background. :D
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby Dan74 » Fri Mar 07, 2014 11:34 pm

It's only to be expected that we approach it in different ways according to our dispositions. I guess to me it all just boils down to a sense of fundamental unknowing and recognition that all our "knowing" is provisional and useful for certain things, but nor to be clung to and reified.

When I sit if I let go of the knowing that "I am sitting", "I am breathing", "this is happening and that isn't", "this is what's going to happen and not other things" and indeed that "I am letting go of balh blah blah" then there is an emptying out of the formations, an openness without a centre. But it takes a great trust for this to happen, it seems.
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Mar 08, 2014 12:15 am

Greetings,

Dan74 wrote:... an emptying out of the formations, an openness without a centre. But it takes a great trust for this to happen, it seems.

:namaste:

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby SamKR » Sat Mar 08, 2014 2:34 am

retrofuturist wrote:
Here's Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli's attempt to summarise...
Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli wrote:Now, with the Buddha's aid, a puthujjana can further see that actually the existence is not that which appears—it never was. It is the appearance that exists, by him assuming it (or by being ignorant in regard to it.) The existence, in order to be, requires maintaining (hence upādānapaccāya bhavo). In this way a new perspective has emerged on the relationship between existence and appearance, which reveals that, initially, the puthujjana had the whole picture upside-down. The further pursuit of this principle would simply carry further right through the center of puthujjana's being (who at that point would cease to be a puthujjana) and complete the ‘reversal’ of this inverted experience of his, in the same manner as one would turn a sleeve inside-out. At that point that individual's Being would cease without remainder.


Elegantly said.
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby chownah » Sat Mar 08, 2014 7:21 am

mikenz66 wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:
Mike wrote:I've yet to see a convincing argument as to why working with a provisional model that what we are sensing is "something out there" is in any way contradictory to the Dhamma as presented in the suttas, or a hindrance to progress in the application of the Dhamma.

If one's goal is merely to adopt the putthujana way of looking at the Dhamma (i.e. mundane right view) and maybe aim at rebirth in higher realms etc. then sure, there may not be a hindrance.

However, if one is seeking the nobility, holding to a materialist view is very much a hindrance, as suttas such as MN 1 and SN 12.15 clearly demonstrate.

Sure. If one was promoting a pure materialism that would be a problem. Who is advocating that?

Can you specifically point out and explain where the Buddha says that it's a hindrance to be open-minded about whether or not the external world exists, and that some of what we perceive may be due to an external world and some not? It seems to me that this is approach entirely consistent with the quotes you have given above. Are you suggesting that we should, instead, veer in the direction of idealism?

To me, Ven N's article does seem to incline in the direction of idealism, despite his claims to the contrary.
As ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli pointed out, "These views [i.e. materialism and idealism] differ from the Right View because as they are focused on developing and providing explanations of the nature of one's experience, while failing to see that fundamentally they are derived from it."

But perhaps I'm misunderstanding this rather convoluted sentence (and the rest of the article)...

For me, the problem with such arguments is that they assume that the task being pursued (in science, Dhamma, or whatever) is "providing explanations", or "discovering truth" and proceed to criticise such straw man that was never the point of the exercise in the first place.

:anjali:
Mike

Mikenz66,
About being open minded about whether or not the world exists: do you think that it is possible to know if the external world exists?....or can it never be proven one way or the other?

Also, it seems to me that to jump into a discussion of experience, existence, internal, external, world, real, appearance, etc. will almost always lead to confusion because how people take these things differ hugely and the way I take the buddha's teachings on this amalgam of ideas tends to tie the usual thinking into knots. I find for me that my thinking is much clearer on this if I start from a first principles basis and then slowly develop my ideas. For me with regard to this I like to take as first principle that I do detect sensation at the eye, ear, nose, tongue, and body.....this is about as basic as I can think of as starters....I find this a convenient place to start although I do not think that it is a rock solid and unchallengeable basis but it is good enough from which to start in my view. I could start an elaboration from this first principle if you are interested in seeing where I take it but it is likely that you are really not interested so if you want me to continue please reply......or you could start from your own first principles and do your own elaboration.........I guess....
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Mar 08, 2014 9:30 am

Hi Chownah,

Your offer of building up from first principles sounds intriguing.

I did spend some time today reading the article that Retro referenced. When I strip away the pompous quotations from existentialist and phenomenologist philosophy (which I find mostly a distraction) I don't really disagree with how he describes the necessary development work in the Path. But, in the end I don't see it as saying anything that has any practical difference from any other exposition of the Dhamma: we need to work with our experience and examine it clearly in order see through the construction of concepts such as self. The argument is dressed up in terms of concepts of Reality and Truth, which I guess is natural for a student of philosophy. I can appreciate the elegance somewhat, but since I don't put a lot of weight on such concepts (Truth, Reality), I don't find that it adds much to my understanding of Dhamma. [I think that's actually what the author is arguing (that Truth and Reality are irrelevant), but since I thought that in the first place, it doesn't seem particularly novel.]

I note that the article uses "assuming" where other translators use "clinging". (If you've read the article, you'll know that the author puts a lot of emphasis on assumption...).

So the passage from MN 44:
"Is it the case, lady, that clinging is the same thing as the five clinging-aggregates or is it something separate?"

"Friend Visakha, neither is clinging the same thing as the five clinging-aggregates, nor is it something separate. Whatever desire & passion there is with regard to the five clinging-aggregates, that is the clinging there."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Becomes:
“The five assumed aggregates, friend Visākha, are not just assuming; but neither is there assumption apart from the five assumed aggregates. That, friend Visākha, in the five assumed aggregates which is desire-&-lust, that assumption is therein.” (MN 44/i,299-300)
http://pathpress.wordpress.com/2014/02/ ... existence/


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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby chris98e » Sat Mar 08, 2014 5:48 pm

Is this thread based on are there other worlds out there? If so yes, for example mars. If this thread is based on do we exist and do other planets we know are out there exist that's right up there with when did time begin. The dali lama says we exist and don't exist at the same time. I guess there are some aspects within ourselves that show that we exist, and there are some aspects within ourselves that show that we don't exist. But I think that we exist more than we don't exist. And round and around and around we go. :buddha2: :bow: :anjali:
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Mar 08, 2014 7:25 pm

Hi Chris,

The original post quoted suttas such as:
"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All.

The question, I think, revolves around the status of those objects of the senses (forms, sounds, and so on). Do those have an existence independent of our experience?

A key point of the Dhamma is how our perceptions are coloured by concepts (such as our concept of self), and it is seeing through these concepts that seems to me to be the point. Perhaps your comment about the Dalai Lama is related to that.

:anjali:
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby SamKR » Wed Mar 12, 2014 11:20 pm

"The world" or even "the real world out there" surely is - it arises. But it arises dependent upon ignorance.

"The world" that we regard as substantial and real is actually just an accumulation of forms, patterns, structures, and consistencies - which themselves are dependent upon conceiving and are impermanent, empty, substanceless and ungraspable. Grasping and giving substance to the appearance - and arising of salayatana - is due to ignorance.

The real question is: do these forms or patterns exist independently out there, in the absence of experiences-and-conceivings to formalize or patternize?
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby kirk5a » Fri Mar 14, 2014 1:35 pm

chownah wrote:I think that we mostly all agree that there is no proof one way or the other about the existence of the real world out there......

I don't agree with that, because it assumes the skeptic's meaningless definition of proof.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby Sam Vara » Fri Mar 14, 2014 1:39 pm

chownah wrote:I think that we mostly all agree that there is no proof one way or the other about the existence of the real world out there......so we each adopt a view as to which it is or the view that we do not know.

For those who adopt the view that it exists I ask in what way is this skillful?
For those who adopt the view that it does not exist I ask in what way is this skillful.
For those who adopt the view that they do not know I ask in what way is this skillful.

chownah


The third view is skillful to the extent that the proponents of the other two views are more inclined to leave you alone, seeing you as less of a challenge to their views. You also don't have to garner evidence in support of your view, leaving you with more time to meditate and be nice to cats, etc.
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