Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby Mr Man » Wed Aug 07, 2013 7:07 am

pegembara wrote:

Now viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ is a reference to the nature of the released consciousness of an arahant. It does not reflect anything. To be more precise, it does not reflect a nāma-rūpa, or name-and-form. An ordinary individual sees a nāma-rūpa, when he reflects, which he calls 'I' and 'mine'. It is like the reflection of that dog, which sees its own delusive reflection in the water. A non-arahant, upon reflection, sees name-and-form, which however he mistakes to be his self. With the notion of 'I' and 'mine' he falls into delusion with regard to it. But the arahant's consciousness is an unestablished consciousness.

A non-ara­hant's consciousness is established on name-and-form. The unestablished consciousness is that which is free from name-and-form and is unestablished on name-and-form. The established con­sciousness, upon reflection, reflects name-and-form, on which it is established, whereas the unestablished consciousness does not find a name-and-form as a reality. The arahant has no attachments or en­tanglements in regard to name-and-form. In short, it is a sort of pene­tration of name-and-form, without getting entangled in it. This is how we have to un­ravel the meaning of the expression anidassana vinnnam.

Bhikkhu Nanananda
http://www.beyondthenet.net/calm/nibbana07.htm




Hi pegembara
Thanks for the above quotation. It is, in my opinion, useful. So the unestablished consciousness will fall away at death?
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby Mr Man » Wed Aug 07, 2013 7:17 am

Sylvester wrote:So, if this "unestablished consciousness" exists but is not-self, does it lead to affliction or not?

The problem with his "unestablished consciousness" translation is that it totally ignores a gigantic clue in SN 12.38 on the subject. In that sutta, the subject is patiṭṭhā viññāṇassa from this passage -

Ārammaṇe asati patiṭṭhā viññāṇassa na hoti.

There being no support, there is no establishment of consciousness.


The subject/noun is not consciousness, but the establishment of consciousness. This is glaringly obvious to anyone who's prepared to see that viññāṇa/consciousness has been inflected into a genitive case, which makes it subordinate to another noun via a case relation.

He's translating appatiṭṭha as if it were an adjective of consciousness, but the sutta leaves one in no doubt that the noun in question is not consciousness but "establishment", ie the process that leads to the rebirth potential being crystallised within a certain bhava.

All this needless proliferation.


Hi Sylvester,
Hopefully I have understood you correctly, Ven Thanissaro has misunderstood the pali and as a result the translation is not correct?

I wonder (if that is the case) if the mistranslation has come about because of an understanding of the term which comes from elsewhere. Do you have any idea on how this is translated/understood in Thailand?
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby Kusala » Wed Aug 07, 2013 7:35 am

BuddhaSoup wrote:
Personally I don't really care about venerable Thanissaro's view any more than the view of any other person on earth.


Respectfully, my only comment is that in a world of 'Buddhist' snake oil sales, phonies and fraudsters in western Buddhism, we really need dedicated people like Ven. Thanissaro. Most of us here have a really good head on our shoulders....however, could you imagine navigating the Suttas without accesstoinsight.org? Or Bhikkhu Bodhi's masterful translations, or the interpretations of Ajahn Brahm, Ven. Gunaratana, and others? I'm profoundly thankful for the tireless scholarship that Ven. Thanissaro provides. He writes with great energy, opens the windows and doors of this difficult area of Dhamma study to us, and then gives away for free these gems he has written. I'd be adrift in a sea of texts, suffering analysis paralysis were it not for the tomes that Ajahn Geoff has made freely available.

I'll throw in a high five for Dhamma Wheel, its founder and all of the members/contributors. My knowledge (or lack thereof) of Dhamma is light years ahead were I otherwise left to struggle alone with this stuff.


Amen. Sadhu.
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby Sylvester » Wed Aug 07, 2013 8:25 am

Mr Man wrote:
Hi Sylvester,
Hopefully I have understood you correctly, Ven Thanissaro has misunderstood the pali and as a result the translation is not correct?

I wonder (if that is the case) if the mistranslation has come about because of an understanding of the term which comes from elsewhere. Do you have any idea on how this is translated/understood in Thailand?


Ven T is too astute a translator to have misunderstood the Pali. Sorry, but I don't know how this is treated in Thai.

He could have translated appatiṭṭhita viññāṇa in one of 2 ways - ie nominally (where appatiṭṭhita is functioning as an adjective that qualifies viññāṇa) or adverbially (where appatiṭṭhita is with reference to a verb standing in a relation to viññāṇa). Let's take a look at a fuller section of SN 12.38, and you can decide which construction is correct -

Yato ca kho bhikkhave, no ceva ceteti, no ca pakappeti, no ca anuseti, ārammaṇametaṃ na hoti viññāṇassa ṭhitiyā.
Ārammaṇe asati patiṭṭhā viññāṇassa na hoti.
Tadappatiṭṭhite viññāṇe avirūḷhe āyatiṃ punabbhavābhinibbatti na hoti.
Āyatiṃ punabbhavābhinibbattiyā asati āyatiṃ jātijarāmaraṇaṃ sokaparideva dukkhadomanassupāyāsā nirujjhanti.

But, bhikkhus, when one does not intend, and one does not plan, and one does not have a tendency towards anything, no basis exists for the maintenance of consciousness.
When there is no basis, there is no support for the establishing of consciousness.
When consciousness is unestablished and does not come to growth, there is no production of future renewed existence.
When there is no production of future renewed existence, future birth, aging-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair cease.

BB's trans


Some prelim notes. You will actually not find the term appatiṭṭhita viññāṇa anywhere in the suttas. It's a concept that has actually been squeezed into existence out of those suttas where these phrases occur -

Appatiṭṭhitena ca, bhikkhave, viññāṇena godhiko kulaputto parinibbuto’’ti
However, bhikkhus, with consciousness unestablished, the clansman Godhika has attained final Nibbana.- SN 3.123

Tadappatiṭṭhite viññāṇe avirūḷhe āyatiṃ - SN 12.38 above


I've also indented the relevant sentences into separate lines, to lay bare the grammatical structure of each of the 3 sentences I've coloured red.

If you're not familiar with Pali, you'll have to either take it on faith in me :rolleye: or check the grammars that the 1st and 3rd sentences are locative absolute constructions. This means that the noun and the participle are both inflected in the locative case. The participle in these 2 sentences asati is the negation of sati, the locative form of santa, which is the present participle of atthi, the existential verb.

What then about the 2nd sentence where the verb/participle is not asati? Is there even any verb at all, or is appatiṭṭhite functioning nominally as an adjective?

To me, the answer is clear. When suttas present a sequence, you do not expect the thread underlying its structure to be interrupted by something extraordinary. Given that the 1st and 3rd sentences are employing the famous locative absolute construction of idappaccayatā, there is no reason to believe that the 2nd sentence is not also an example of the locative absolute at work. If this is correct, then appatiṭṭhite cannot be functioning nominally as an adjective, but is functioning adverbially ie in the context of a verb. This is consistent with the earlier clause in the 1st sentence that says patiṭṭhā viññāṇassa na hoti (there is no establishment of consciousness).

The "unestablished consciousness" is a non-existing thing. Take a look at AN 3.76 where you get a clear idea of what establishment of consciousness mean. It means the establishment of consciousness within any of the 3 dhātu that define bhava (existence).

There was a lengthier discussion of this issue here - viewtopic.php?f=23&t=12515
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby reflection » Wed Aug 07, 2013 10:43 am

Just for those interested, I opened a topic in the pali forum that came up because of this thread:
viewtopic.php?f=23&t=18244

:anjali:
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby mal4mac » Wed Aug 07, 2013 11:15 am

Sylvester wrote:... this is what Ven T has to say about the post-Awakening consciousness...


Thank's for that quote, Sylvester, it answers my question about 'consciousness without surface' and its relation to time.

Sylvester wrote:
"The Buddha... does not preclude the possibility that there is also a consciousness that lies beyond the six sense-media, is not dependently co-arisen, and is neither momentary nor eternal, as it stands outside the dimension of time." http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


As the soul, by definition, "survives death", then ''consciousness without surface' is not the soul because death, and the survival of it, take place in time. Therefore, Thanissaro Bhikku does not believe in the soul.
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby Sylvester » Wed Aug 07, 2013 11:35 am

I suspect the Upanisadic concept of "atman" is a lot more sophisticated than the theory of a postmortem soul.
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby Mr Man » Wed Aug 07, 2013 12:07 pm

Sylvester wrote:
Ven T is too astute a translator to have misunderstood the Pali.


Hi Sylvester,
So why then would he mistranslate?
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby mal4mac » Wed Aug 07, 2013 12:11 pm

Sylvester wrote:I suspect the Upanisadic concept of "atman" is a lot more sophisticated than the theory of a postmortem soul.


Geoff was accused of believing in a "soul" by Tom, so I really just wanted to sort that one out...
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby kirk5a » Wed Aug 07, 2013 12:29 pm

pegembara wrote:
Some controversy over viññanam anidassanam, a synonym for Nibbana, the unconditioned consciousness, non-temporal, the consciousness that is outside of everything and includes it all. Theravadin extremists argue that this leads to the idea of a soul and the god/creator thing we’re familiar with from church conditioning. I’m reminded that all the Teachings were intended to be tools to assist in our awakening. We don’t attach to them, develop a clear mind, let go and see for ourselves.

Aj Amaro- Attending to the Deathless
http://dhammafootsteps.wordpress.com/2013/02/

I think above are the words of the author of that blog, not Ajahn Amaro. The article "Attending to the Deathless" by Ajahn Amaro, can be found here: http://archive.thebuddhadharma.com/issu ... amaro.html
"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: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby Benjamin » Wed Aug 07, 2013 12:32 pm

It seems that there are people who will take anything other than absolute non-existence after parinibbana to be eternalism. I don't see why, for even before that there is little interest from the Buddha in "being" or "not being".

'Now, Anuradha, since a Tathagata is not to be found in this very life, is it proper for you to say: 'This noble and supreme one has pointed out and explained these four propositions:

A Tathagata exists after death;
A Tathagata does not exist after death;
A Tathagata exists and yet does not exist after death;
A Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist after death?'

'No, Sir.'

- Anuradha Sutta
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby chownah » Wed Aug 07, 2013 12:56 pm

Sylvester wrote:To be fair to those who grumble about Ven T's "unestablished consciousness", this is what Ven T has to say about the post-Awakening consciousness that lives happily ever after -

from footnote 2 to his translation of MN 38 - http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

The Pali here is, Nanu mayā moghapurisa anekapariyāyena paṭiccasamuppannaṃ viññāṇaṃ vuttaṃ, 'Aññatra paccayā n'atthi viññāṇassa sambhavoti?'
........
........
.........
Thus it is clear that the Buddha here is discussing dependently co-arisen consciousness in a way that does not preclude the possibility that there is also a consciousness that lies beyond the six sense-media, is not dependently co-arisen, and is neither momentary nor eternal, as it stands outside the dimension of time.


Sylvester,
You made bold the following:
there is also a consciousness that lies beyond the six sense-media, is not dependently co-arisen, and is neither momentary nor eternal, as it stands outside the dimension of time.

It is disappointing that what you bolded appears to mean that Thanissaro is asserting the existence of a consciousness that lies beyond the six sense media. It is disappointing that your emphasis on those words might give that false impression. I call this a false impression because the clear and obvious meaning of the sentence is that Thanissaro is asserting that THE BUDDHA's discussion in the text being considered DOES NOT PRECLUDE THE POSSIBILITY of this strange type of consciousness. In a similar fashion, the buddha's discussion does not preclude the possibility of snowballs in hell but that does not mean that I believe in snowballs in hell.
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby Benjamin » Wed Aug 07, 2013 1:02 pm

chownah wrote:
Sylvester wrote:To be fair to those who grumble about Ven T's "unestablished consciousness", this is what Ven T has to say about the post-Awakening consciousness that lives happily ever after -

from footnote 2 to his translation of MN 38 - http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

The Pali here is, Nanu mayā moghapurisa anekapariyāyena paṭiccasamuppannaṃ viññāṇaṃ vuttaṃ, 'Aññatra paccayā n'atthi viññāṇassa sambhavoti?'
........
........
.........
Thus it is clear that the Buddha here is discussing dependently co-arisen consciousness in a way that does not preclude the possibility that there is also a consciousness that lies beyond the six sense-media, is not dependently co-arisen, and is neither momentary nor eternal, as it stands outside the dimension of time.


Sylvester,
You made bold the following:
there is also a consciousness that lies beyond the six sense-media, is not dependently co-arisen, and is neither momentary nor eternal, as it stands outside the dimension of time.

It is disappointing that what you bolded appears to mean that Thanissaro is asserting the existence of a consciousness that lies beyond the six sense media. It is disappointing that your emphasis on those words might give that false impression. I call this a false impression because the clear and obvious meaning of the sentence is that Thanissaro is asserting that THE BUDDHA's discussion in the text being considered DOES NOT PRECLUDE THE POSSIBILITY of this strange type of consciousness. In a similar fashion, the buddha's discussion does not preclude the possibility of snowballs in hell but that does not mean that I believe in snowballs in hell.
chownah


In Thanissaro's defense, I think there is a greater possibility that the Buddha was mentioning unestablished consciousness than snowballs in hell.

(By the way, some Tibetan Buddhist descriptions of hell feature an equal number of hot and cold hells. Snowballs are not unlikely here.)
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby pegembara » Wed Aug 07, 2013 1:29 pm

Mr Man wrote:
pegembara wrote:

Now viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ is a reference to the nature of the released consciousness of an arahant. It does not reflect anything. To be more precise, it does not reflect a nāma-rūpa, or name-and-form. An ordinary individual sees a nāma-rūpa, when he reflects, which he calls 'I' and 'mine'. It is like the reflection of that dog, which sees its own delusive reflection in the water. A non-arahant, upon reflection, sees name-and-form, which however he mistakes to be his self. With the notion of 'I' and 'mine' he falls into delusion with regard to it. But the arahant's consciousness is an unestablished consciousness.

A non-ara­hant's consciousness is established on name-and-form. The unestablished consciousness is that which is free from name-and-form and is unestablished on name-and-form. The established con­sciousness, upon reflection, reflects name-and-form, on which it is established, whereas the unestablished consciousness does not find a name-and-form as a reality. The arahant has no attachments or en­tanglements in regard to name-and-form. In short, it is a sort of pene­tration of name-and-form, without getting entangled in it. This is how we have to un­ravel the meaning of the expression anidassana vinnnam.

Bhikkhu Nanananda
http://www.beyondthenet.net/calm/nibbana07.htm




Hi pegembara
Thanks for the above quotation. It is, in my opinion, useful. So the unestablished consciousness will fall away at death?




One discerns that 'With the break-up of the body, after the termination of life, all that is sensed, not being relished, will grow cold right here.'

"Whereas formerly he foolishly had taken on mental acquisitions and brought them to completion, he has now abandoned them, their root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising. Thus a monk so endowed is endowed with the highest determination for relinquishment, for this — the renunciation of all mental acquisitions — is the highest noble relinquishment.

"'He has been stilled where the currents of construing do not flow. And when the currents of construing do not flow, he is said to be a sage at peace.' Thus was it said. With reference to what was it said? 'I am' is a construing. 'I am this' is a construing. 'I shall be' is a construing. 'I shall not be'... 'I shall be possessed of form'... 'I shall not be possessed of form'... 'I shall be percipient'... 'I shall not be percipient'... 'I shall be neither percipient nor non-percipient' is a construing. Construing is a disease, construing is a cancer, construing is an arrow. By going beyond all construing, he is said to be a sage at peace.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


"Sensing a feeling of pleasure, he discerns that it is inconstant, not grasped at, not relished. Sensing a feeling of pain... Sensing a feeling of neither-pleasure-nor-pain, he discerns that it is inconstant, not grasped at, not relished. Sensing a feeling of pleasure, he senses it disjoined from it. Sensing a feeling of pain... Sensing a feeling of neither-pleasure-nor-pain, he senses it disjoined from it. When sensing a feeling limited to the body, he discerns that 'I am sensing a feeling limited to the body.' When sensing a feeling limited to life, he discerns that 'I am sensing a feeling limited to life.' He discerns that 'With the break-up of the body, after the termination of life, all that is sensed, not being relished, will grow cold right here.'
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby pegembara » Wed Aug 07, 2013 1:43 pm

kirk5a wrote:
pegembara wrote:
Some controversy over viññanam anidassanam, a synonym for Nibbana, the unconditioned consciousness, non-temporal, the consciousness that is outside of everything and includes it all. Theravadin extremists argue that this leads to the idea of a soul and the god/creator thing we’re familiar with from church conditioning. I’m reminded that all the Teachings were intended to be tools to assist in our awakening. We don’t attach to them, develop a clear mind, let go and see for ourselves.

Aj Amaro- Attending to the Deathless
http://dhammafootsteps.wordpress.com/2013/02/

I think above are the words of the author of that blog, not Ajahn Amaro. The article "Attending to the Deathless" by Ajahn Amaro, can be found here: http://archive.thebuddhadharma.com/issu ... amaro.html


I stand corrected. Here are the relevant passages.

“When the heart is released from clinging,” said the Buddha, “then consciousness does not land anywhere. That state, I tell you, is without sorrow, afflication or despair.” Ajahn Amaro on abiding in the consciousness that is completely beyond conditioned phenomena—neither supporting them nor supported by them.


In the Theravada teachings, the Buddha also talked about this quality in terms of "unsupported consciousness." This means that there is cognition, there is knowing, but it's not landing anyplace; it's not abiding anywhere. "Attending to the deathless" and "unsupported consciousness" are somewhat synonymous. They are like descriptions of the same tree, from different angles.

In describing unsupported consciousness, the Buddha taught:

Wherever there is something that is intended, something that is acted upon or something that lies dormant, then that becomes the basis for consciousness to land. And where consciousness lands, that then is the cause for confusion, attachment, becoming and rebirth, and so on.

But if there is nothing intended, acted upon or lying latent, then consciousness has no basis to land upon. And having no basis to land, consciousness is released. One recognizes, 'Consciousness, thus unestablished, is released.' Owing to its staying firm, the heart is contented. Owing to its contentment, it is not agitated. Not agitated, such a one realizes complete, perfect nibbana within themselves. (Samyutta Nikaya 12.38 and 22.53)


Also very useful are the phrases at the end of the passage just quoted, particularly where the Buddha says, "When consciousness ceases, all things here are brought to an end."


Only when we come to the cessation of the world, which literally means the cessation of its otherness or thingness, will we reach the end of dukkha, unsatisfactoriness. When we stop creating sense objects as absolute realities and stop seeing thoughts and feelings as solid things, there is cessation.
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby mal4mac » Wed Aug 07, 2013 3:05 pm

chownah wrote:Sylvester, You made bold the following:
there is also a consciousness that lies beyond the six sense-media, is not dependently co-arisen, and is neither momentary nor eternal, as it stands outside the dimension of time.

... Thanissaro is asserting that THE BUDDHA's discussion in the text being considered DOES NOT PRECLUDE THE POSSIBILITY of this strange type of consciousness. In a similar fashion, the buddha's discussion does not preclude the possibility of snowballs in hell but that does not mean that I believe in snowballs in hell.


Then why doesn't the Buddha, or Thannisaro, state explcitly that they do not believe in snowballs in hell? Here's the sentence referred to by the lengthy note 2 that Sylvester quoted:

"Worthless man... Haven't I, in many ways, said of dependently co-arisen consciousness, 'Apart from a requisite condition, there is no coming-into-play of consciousness'?"

Bodhi's translation excludes this 'strange form of consciousness' by simply not leaving any place for it to be conjured into existence:

"Misguided man, have I not stated in many ways consciousness to be dependently arisen, since without a condition there is no origination of consciousness?”

Why didn't Thanissaro adopt the same translation as Bodhi? It seems to make life simpler, and less stressful...
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby socratessmith » Wed Aug 07, 2013 5:04 pm

Then why doesn't the Buddha, or Thannisaro, state explcitly that they do not believe in snowballs in hell? Here's the sentence referred to by the lengthy note 2 that Sylvester quoted:

"Worthless man... Haven't I, in many ways, said of dependently co-arisen consciousness, 'Apart from a requisite condition, there is no coming-into-play of consciousness'?"


One quite possible reason, mal4mac, is that Geoff wants to believe in something like a unconditioned consciousness (aka. soul). Tom Pepper's essay http://speculativenonbuddhism.com/2013/07/10/buddhism-as-the-opiate-of-the-downwardly-mobile-middle-class-the-case-of-thanissaro-bhikkhu is arguing that this is indeed the case, among other things.

Again, we have no reliable record of the historical Buddha's teaching. All we have is a mish-mashed document that represents the views of numerous, often quite diverse, communities of Buddhists. The Pali canon is a Rube Goldberg machine. So, citing the texts to arrive at anything resembling certainty in human affairs is a sad, sad affair, indeed.
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby lyndon taylor » Wed Aug 07, 2013 5:28 pm

And you have something better to offer us than the pali canon???
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby Mr Man » Wed Aug 07, 2013 6:02 pm

socratessmith wrote:
One quite possible reason, mal4mac, is that Geoff wants to believe in something like a unconditioned consciousness (aka. soul).


Hi socratessmith
Why do you think he wants us to believe that? Do you have an interest in the practice of spirituality (for want of a better word)? Or are you just a debunker? Or an academic?
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby Benjamin » Wed Aug 07, 2013 6:10 pm

lyndon taylor wrote:And you have something better to offer us than the pali canon???


I think this touches on a good point. While I am a large supporter of reading through the canon and discovering the teachings within, I am certain that I would be quite lost without a living teacher. This is why Thanissaro, Brahm, Amaro, Chah, Sumedho, etc. are in my opinion indispensable. To hear words of advice from individuals who have already been walking this path for 20-30 years if not longer, is such a blessing.

But where do they teach from? Besides pointing out current experience and encouraging investigation (as Ajahn Chah was very known for doing), they teach via the Pali Canon. I think they are both important, and in a lot of ways rely on each other.

All of the emphasis and interest in Thanissaro's beliefs/interpretations probably comes from the fact that he is a large contributor to the very texts many of us look to as the Buddha's teaching.
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