Buddhism in context: Anatta

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Re: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby Paññāsikhara » Wed May 19, 2010 2:06 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings bhante,

Interesting - thank you.

I wonder if that's related in any way to why the Mahanidana Sutta of the DN (the nikaya recognised by scholars as being the 'sales pitch' to other religionists) misses one of the nidanas which otherwise appears in all end-to-end analyses of dependent origination through the Sutta Pitaka. Generally speaking, the Mahanidana Sutta (perhaps even the title is significant?) teaches dependent origination with a slightly different bent to the rest of the canon.

:?:

Oh well, guess we'd better get...

:focus:

Metta,
Retro. :)


From pp. 100-101 of Jurewicz, "Playing with fire", in Journal of the Pali Text Society, XXVI, 2000:

It is surely significant that the locus classicus for the exposition of the pratityasamutpada is called the Mahanidanasutta. The word nidana appears in the cosmogonic context in RV 10.130.3: "What was the prototype, what was the counterpart and what was the connection between them?" (kasit prama pratima kim nidanam). In SB 11.1.6.3 pratima is the cosmos identified with the fire altar, in SB 11.1.8.3 pratima is sacrifice. The prama is Prajapati, the Creator, the nidana, the link between the Creator and the creation: their identity. Thus prama and pratima resolve themselves into nidana which guarantees and expresses their identity.
Nidana, denoting the ontological connection between different levels and forms of beings, also refers to the epistemology: it also gives the explanation of this connection. I presume that this is the first meaning of nidana in the title of the Buddha's sermon. It is really "a great explanation": there is no atman, the nidana of the cosmogony. The negation of the ontological nidana constitutes the Buddha's mahanidana.
... Let us imagine the Buddha enumerating all the stages of Vedic cosmogony only to conclude: "That's right, this is how the whole process develops. However, the only problem is that no one undergoes a transformation here!" From the didactic point of view, it was a brilliant strategy. The act of cutting off the atman - or rather, given his fiery nature, the act of blowing him - deprives all the hitherto well-defined concepts of their meanings and challenges the infallibility of all their associations, exposing the meaninglessness, absurdity even, of all the cosmogonic developments they express.
... To apply the doctrine of anatta here would be to deny the atman as the metaphysical basis of all cosmogonic transformations as well as its final forms as they successively appear in the stages of the process.
... And since fire is the intrinsic character of the atman, nirvana can mean not only the liberating recognition of the atman's absence, but also the refutation of the whole of Vedic metaphysics, which postulates the fire underlies, conditions, and manifests itself in the cosmogony.
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Re: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby Shonin » Wed May 19, 2010 5:44 am

Goofaholix wrote:Actually no, the first quotes may not be as explicit but they are presented as a process of reflection and understanding, not as a process of cause and affect, when read as a process of reflection and understanding they make more sense.

I think when interpreting the Buddhas teaching we need to bear in mind he was not telling us what to think but teaching us how to think, he was not giving us a list of things to believe but giving us a process towards awakening.


If so, that fits my argument even better - this would be an example of an 'argument' as per the other examples.

Goofaholix wrote:If those quotes are understood as a process of cause and affect and that because X is subject to unsatisfactoriness then X is not self then it would also follow that if by some strange turn of events X ceased to be subject to unsatisfactoriness then it would become a self. It also condradicts other teaching along the lines of unsatisfactoriness being caused by the delusion of self.


That's not really what I was saying. It's not that the unsatisfactoriness 'causes not-self' (etc). This makes it sound as if unsatisfactoriness and not-self are events, that follow one another in time. It's the perception/understanding of A conditions the perception/understanding of B. All phenomena are already impermanent, unsatisfactory and not-self, from the start.

Goofaholix wrote:IF X = NOT PERMANENT THEN X = NOT ATMAN demonstrates how one characteristic can be understood through undersanding another characteristic, it doesn't demonstrate that Not Permanant causes Not Self.


That's what I've been saying.
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Re: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby Goofaholix » Wed May 19, 2010 7:13 am

Shonin wrote:
Goofaholix wrote:IF X = NOT PERMANENT THEN X = NOT ATMAN demonstrates how one characteristic can be understood through undersanding another characteristic, it doesn't demonstrate that Not Permanant causes Not Self.


That's what I've been saying.


Sounds like we are on the same page then. So rather than "conditional statements rather than independent attributes" that you said they are independent attributes rather than conditional ones, any conditionality is in the process of understanding them, not in the interrelationship of the attributes themselves.
"Whenever we feel that we are definitely right, so much so that we refuse to open up to anything or anybody else, right there we are wrong. It becomes wrong view. When suffering arises, where does it arise from? The cause is wrong view, the fruit of that being suffering. If it was right view it wouldn't cause suffering." - Ajahn Chah
"Remember you dont meditate to get anything, but to get rid of things. We do it, not with desire, but with letting go. If you want anything, you wont find it." - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby Shonin » Wed May 19, 2010 8:31 am

Yes - we are on the same page.

On the other hand, I would say that the 3 characteristics cannot really be separated (I'm not even convinced they are characteristics). But exploring this will take us in quite an abstract :offtopic: direction.
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Re: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby retrofuturist » Wed May 19, 2010 8:43 am

Greetings bhante,

Very interesting stuff... once more the Buddha adopts or adapts the parlance of the day in order to teach the Dhamma.

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: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby Freawaru » Wed May 19, 2010 8:51 am

Hi Shonin,

thank you for this thread. So far I had been thinking that the Atman of the Upanishads and the Buddhist atta do not have anything in common but refer to two very different concepts. Because of this thread I try to change this. But I still have some doubts:

As far as I understand the teacher of Advaita Vedanta I talked to years ago the Atman (Self) in the Upanishads does refer to the perspective itself that we take. Say, at the moment I am absorbed in the character Freawaru but when I am absorbed in the jhana space I get another perspective, namely that of space. Atman, as in the Upanishads, does not refer to any specific perspective but to perspective itself. The specific perspective changes and can change from moment to moment but the fact that there IS a perspective is not changing. Whether taking the perspective of a hell being, a human, a deva or the World itself (Brahman) there always IS a perspective that differs from all other perspectives. So surely there IS Atman, right now, not in some theoretical sense but right here and now.

And this does not change by sampajanna or wisdom or even insight. When one is in an absorption or simply in absorption with a character such as Freawaru without sampajanna arising it is a perspective, and it is a different perspective when sampajanna arises. When wisdom is accessible it is a different perspective than when not, and vipassana is yet another perspective. All knowledge is a perspective, the recall of previous lives is a perspective, control of the various magical iddhis is a perspective. Nibbana itself is a perspective. And even more, it is possible to take several perspectives at once (it is one of the iddhis) - so as you see if I take Atman in this definition Buddhism is ALL about it.

The problem as far as I can see is that we have no control over the perspective we take. Kamma rules. If we could just intend to take the perspective of a deva or a hell being and then we would take it, intend to take the perspective of vipassana or not, intend to take the perspective of a Buddha or not the problem would be solved. Or to put it differently: If Atman (in the sense I defined it) was capable of controling itself our intention would be kamma. If Atman was aware of itself, awake, controling itself instead of dumbly following the stream of kamma, kamma would not rule us but we would rule kamma. If we would intend something it would happen and if we choose another intention the previous kamma would cease and a new one would arise.

The way to reach this is to discern perspective itself (Atman) from the specific perspective it takes at any given moment. To awaken it. By discerning "I am not this specific perspective, this is not what I am, because what I am can change from moment to moment". To analyse the specific perspective and separate it from the perspective itself, to see the change. So the practice of directly seeing an-atta actually leads to Atman.
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Re: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby tiltbillings » Wed May 19, 2010 8:57 am

Freawaru wrote:. . . .
The question is: What does all that really mean in the real world?
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: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby Freawaru » Wed May 19, 2010 9:04 am

Greetings Bhante,

Paññāsikhara wrote:
From pp. 100-101 of Jurewicz, "Playing with fire", in Journal of the Pali Text Society, XXVI, 2000:

It is surely significant that the locus classicus for the exposition of the pratityasamutpada is called the Mahanidanasutta. The word nidana appears in the cosmogonic context in RV 10.130.3: "What was the prototype, what was the counterpart and what was the connection between them?" (kasit prama pratima kim nidanam). In SB 11.1.6.3 pratima is the cosmos identified with the fire altar, in SB 11.1.8.3 pratima is sacrifice. The prama is Prajapati, the Creator, the nidana, the link between the Creator and the creation: their identity. Thus prama and pratima resolve themselves into nidana which guarantees and expresses their identity.
Nidana, denoting the ontological connection between different levels and forms of beings, also refers to the epistemology: it also gives the explanation of this connection. I presume that this is the first meaning of nidana in the title of the Buddha's sermon. It is really "a great explanation": there is no atman, the nidana of the cosmogony. The negation of the ontological nidana constitutes the Buddha's mahanidana.
... Let us imagine the Buddha enumerating all the stages of Vedic cosmogony only to conclude: "That's right, this is how the whole process develops. However, the only problem is that no one undergoes a transformation here!" From the didactic point of view, it was a brilliant strategy. The act of cutting off the atman - or rather, given his fiery nature, the act of blowing him - deprives all the hitherto well-defined concepts of their meanings and challenges the infallibility of all their associations, exposing the meaninglessness, absurdity even, of all the cosmogonic developments they express.
... To apply the doctrine of anatta here would be to deny the atman as the metaphysical basis of all cosmogonic transformations as well as its final forms as they successively appear in the stages of the process.
... And since fire is the intrinsic character of the atman, nirvana can mean not only the liberating recognition of the atman's absence, but also the refutation of the whole of Vedic metaphysics, which postulates the fire underlies, conditions, and manifests itself in the cosmogony.


I am no expert of the Vedas but this is the first time that I hear that fire is the intrinsic character of Atman. Yes, Atma-shakti (Energy of Atman) is a synonym of Kundalini (Serpent of Fire) but the whole point of tantric practice is to discern the two. As long as Atman can be in non-lucid absorption with Atma-shakti Liberation cannot happen. Atma-shakti is one of those very powerful elementals, temptation is strong and it is difficult to keep awareness (keep sampajanna) when in absorption with it. It draws one in, like coma.

Could you please explain how this interaction between Atman and Atma-Shakti is described in "Playing with fire"?
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Re: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby PeterB » Wed May 19, 2010 9:39 am

Why ?
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Re: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby Paññāsikhara » Wed May 19, 2010 9:47 am

Freawaru wrote:Could you please explain how this interaction between Atman and Atma-Shakti is described in "Playing with fire"?


Tilt sent me a PM with the above, saying: "Please!!"
I wondered, "Did I write that in a thread?"
Checking, apparently I did not.
In fact, I haven't mentioned "atma-shakti" at all.

I have a lecture with Prof Keown tonight, he's in HK for a bit. Will poke around and see what the article says, if anything, on the matter of "atma-shakti", tomorrow some time.
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Re: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby Shonin » Wed May 19, 2010 10:03 am

Freawaru wrote:As far as I understand the teacher of Advaita Vedanta I talked to years ago the Atman (Self) in the Upanishads does refer to the perspective itself that we take.


Yes, that is one version of Atman theory. And Buddha rejected such reification of 'perspective'/'consciousness'. For Buddha perspective / consciousness are ever-changing processes dependent on conditions - they not unchanging entities. Without something to have a perspective on, there is no perspective. Perspective is not a thing that exists by itself. Perspective by itself is never found - the idea of an unchanging thing called 'perspective' that is the ground for all perceptions is an abstraction, i.e. thinking.
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Re: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby Paññāsikhara » Wed May 19, 2010 10:06 am

Freawaru wrote:Greetings Bhante,

I am no expert of the Vedas but this is the first time that I hear that fire is the intrinsic character of Atman. Yes, Atma-shakti (Energy of Atman) is a synonym of Kundalini (Serpent of Fire) but the whole point of tantric practice is to discern the two. As long as Atman can be in non-lucid absorption with Atma-shakti Liberation cannot happen. Atma-shakti is one of those very powerful elementals, temptation is strong and it is difficult to keep awareness (keep sampajanna) when in absorption with it. It draws one in, like coma.

Could you please explain how this interaction between Atman and Atma-Shakti is described in "Playing with fire"?


From what I understand, "kundalini" is a much later idea, well after the Vedas, and also the Buddha too. Likewise Tantra. So, it really is well outside of the scope of Jurewicz essay, and Gombrich too (from which I referenced).

If one is talking about "atman" & "atma-shakti", then this is at least a Samkhya hybrid, if not some straight out Samkhya (with purusa & prakrtirenamed). That is another matter too.

And it it's Advaita, then that is yet another matter.
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Re: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby Paññāsikhara » Wed May 19, 2010 10:08 am

Retro, and anyone else for that matter. If you have Gombrich's new-ish "What the Buddha Thought", there are references to Jurewicz's studies:
Jurewicz, Joanna ix-x, 30, 32-3, 42, 116-19, 127, 133-9, 210, 218, 219-20.
He quotes some of the juicier stuff, there already.
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Re: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby Freawaru » Wed May 19, 2010 12:08 pm

Paññāsikhara wrote:
Freawaru wrote:Could you please explain how this interaction between Atman and Atma-Shakti is described in "Playing with fire"?


Tilt sent me a PM with the above, saying: "Please!!"
I wondered, "Did I write that in a thread?"
Checking, apparently I did not.
In fact, I haven't mentioned "atma-shakti" at all.


Not by name, no, but you quoted

... And since fire is the intrinsic character of the atman, ...


As far as I know there is just this one link between Atman and fire, namely that what is called Kundalini (atma-shakti) today. The ancients might have had another name for it, though.
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Re: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby Freawaru » Wed May 19, 2010 12:17 pm

Paññāsikhara wrote:
From what I understand, "kundalini" is a much later idea,


Kundalini is an experience or rather a ladder of experiences. They do not base on ideas or theories - just on concentration practice. Every practitioner who practices concentration will sooner or later touch it. If people at the time of the Buddha practiced concentration - and everything I know agrees to this - they will have known Kundalini even if not by this name.

well after the Vedas, and also the Buddha too. Likewise Tantra. So, it really is well outside of the scope of Jurewicz essay, and Gombrich too (from which I referenced).

If one is talking about "atman" & "atma-shakti", then this is at least a Samkhya hybrid, if not some straight out Samkhya (with purusa & prakrtirenamed). That is another matter too.

And it it's Advaita, then that is yet another matter.


I see, it is really confusing that most of us think that today's Hinduism has much to do with the religions at the time of the Buddha. :embarassed:
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Re: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby Freawaru » Wed May 19, 2010 1:09 pm

Hi Shonin,

Shonin wrote:
Yes, that is one version of Atman theory. And Buddha rejected such reification of 'perspective'/'consciousness'. For Buddha perspective / consciousness are ever-changing processes dependent on conditions


I think you misunderstood this, what I call "perspective" here is not identical to the vinnana that arises due to Ignorance. The inability to discern between the two is at the heart of the problem. It is called clinging in Buddhism.

Without something to have a perspective on, there is no perspective.


Yes, but that something is not identical to the perspective. There is "something" (aka dhamma) and perspective.

Perspective is not a thing that exists by itself.


I never said so.

Look, when you change your perspective, say, from one jhana to another, there has to be something that does not change or you could not be aware of this change.
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Re: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby Paññāsikhara » Wed May 19, 2010 2:15 pm

Freawaru wrote:
Paññāsikhara wrote:
From what I understand, "kundalini" is a much later idea,


Kundalini is an experience or rather a ladder of experiences. They do not base on ideas or theories - just on concentration practice. Every practitioner who practices concentration will sooner or later touch it. If people at the time of the Buddha practiced concentration - and everything I know agrees to this - they will have known Kundalini even if not by this name.


Sure, but that is quite a different matter from asking what an article by a scholar has to say about a teaching of a given name which is nowhere at all mentioned by the scholar in the article in question. If you can point out what exact statement or term Jurewicz uses to mean "kundalini", then maybe we'd have a place to start.

well after the Vedas, and also the Buddha too. Likewise Tantra. So, it really is well outside of the scope of Jurewicz essay, and Gombrich too (from which I referenced).

If one is talking about "atman" & "atma-shakti", then this is at least a Samkhya hybrid, if not some straight out Samkhya (with purusa & prakrtirenamed). That is another matter too.

And it it's Advaita, then that is yet another matter.


I see, it is really confusing that most of us think that today's Hinduism has much to do with the religions at the time of the Buddha. :embarassed:


Yeah, it happens to a lot of people, so I wouldn't be too worried about it. :console:
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Re: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby Shonin » Wed May 19, 2010 2:24 pm

Freawaru wrote:
Shonin wrote:Yes, that is one version of Atman theory. And Buddha rejected such reification of 'perspective'/'consciousness'. For Buddha perspective / consciousness are ever-changing processes dependent on conditions

I think you misunderstood this, what I call "perspective" here is not identical to the vinnana that arises due to Ignorance. The inability to discern between the two is at the heart of the problem. It is called clinging in Buddhism.


Where does the Buddha say that there is a second consciousness which is not a process, but something eternal and unchanging ie. an Atman? The Buddha very clearly rejected views about Atman.

Freawaru wrote:
Without something to have a perspective on, there is no perspective.
Yes, but that something is not identical to the perspective. There is "something" (aka dhamma) and perspective.


The perception is not identical to the perceived, would appear to be correct. However that doesn't mean that perception (perspective, consciousness call it what you will) is not a process but is an entity that is eternal and unchanging.

Freawaru wrote:
Perspective is not a thing that exists by itself.
I never said so.

Look, when you change your perspective, say, from one jhana to another, there has to be something that does not change or you could not be aware of this change.


There is reference to previous states due to information stored in the memory. A computer can do the same. Does a computer have an Atman too?
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Re: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby chownah » Wed May 19, 2010 2:44 pm

Shonin wrote:I recently read Richard Gombrich's 'What the Buddha Thought', which has really influenced some of my thinking about the meanings of the Buddha's teachings. Gombrich is a highly esteemed scholar of early Buddhism (recently retired). He sheds fresh light on some of the teachings by putting them back into their original cultural context, especially the early Upanishads which he persuasively argues that much of the Buddha's teachings are a response to and that only by seeing them in that context can we really understand them.


I think its a pretty big statement to say that "only by seeing them in that context can we really understand them." This might be true for some people but I think it is entirely possible that someone can "really understand them" having no knowledge of the Upanishads at all......is Gombrich saying that one must have knowledge of the Upanishads to become an arahant?....sounds like this would be a logical extension of his "only by seeing" notion. I think it is possible to really understand the Anatta idea by viewing the Buddha's teachings and seeing how modern scientific thought relates to it for example.
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Re: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby PeterB » Wed May 19, 2010 3:06 pm

I dont think that is what is being said...
I might be wrong, but rather than a suggestion that we need to have a personal knowledge of the Upanishads to understand Buddhism..which we clearly dont..I think what is being said is that in part at least the Buddha's teaching needs to be seen in the context of the Upanishadic world view THAT IT REJECTED or at least modified, in order to understand its developmental history.
We dont need that knowledge, that historical perspective to actually practice Buddhadhamma of course.

Its also remarkable that the Upanishadic view resurfaced within Buddhism by a change of nomenclature..
But the Theravada does not need to concern itself with that.
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