Buddhism in context: Anatta

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Re: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby Shonin » Wed May 19, 2010 3:32 pm

Right. I'm not saying that understanding the Upanishads is needed to become an Arahant or a Stream Enterer or any such thing. However, in order to not be confused by some of the arguments (e.g. the ones I pointed out) Buddha makes, we need to understand something about the view that those arguments are directed at.

In brief, without understanding that Buddha was talking to people who believed in an Atman which is meant to be an inherently unchanging, permanent, blissful and conscious self then reading that phenomena are impermanent and thus unsatisfactory and thus not an Atman-type self and that seeing this we should become dispassionate about them doesn't make sense.
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Re: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby Aloka » Wed May 19, 2010 5:29 pm

Please forgive me if I've been rude and jumped into the thread suddenly - but I saw a book which looked interesting and which explores different interpretations of anatta. Its called "Early Buddhism : A New Approach - The I of the Beholder " by Sue Hamilton. Has anyone read it ?
There's some of it available to read at Google books here:

http://books.google.com/books?id=duPnlu3plIAC&printsec=frontcover&dq=EARLY+BUDDHISM+:+A+New+Approach&source=bl&ots=jdDrm_TwGQ&sig=kSDvvybz9HOKFe0-yB-UDhtpUN8&hl=en&ei=HR70S_zVL5q60gS69bCfDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CCAQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q&f=false
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Re: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby Freawaru » Thu May 20, 2010 6:41 am

Hi Shonin,

Shonin wrote:
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.


A second consciousness, yes, he talks about this.

There is the case where an instructed disciple of the noble ones...His form changes & is unstable, but his consciousness doesn't — because of the change & instability of form — alter in accordance with the change in form. His mind is not consumed with any agitations born from an alteration in accordance with the change in form or coming from the co-arising of (unskillful mental) qualities. And because his awareness is not consumed, he feels neither fearful, threatened, nor solicitous.
(and same for feeling, perception, fabrication, and even consciousness):
His consciousness changes & is unstable, but his consciousness doesn't — because of the change & instability of consciousness — alter in accordance with the change in consciousness.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


Say, your FORM changes - for example in a dream, first you have a human form and then the dream changes and you have a gargoyle form - but this second consciousness does not alter with the change of form. Feeling changes, perception changes, fabrication change and even consciousness changes but THIS second consciousness does not alter when they do.

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.


No, that is not what I talk about at all. I mean perspective (point of view, outlook) not perception and I have not talked about an entity (being). Let us clarify this please: I think here you discern between perception and perceived and perceiver, say, I (Freawaru) aka perceiver look (perception) at an apple (perceived). Is this correct? Or do you mean something else?

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?


Are we talking about an AI experiencing jhana ?
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Re: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby Freawaru » Thu May 20, 2010 6:56 am

Greetings Bhante,

Paññāsikhara wrote: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.


Okay, let me rephrase my question: You quoted (emphasis mine):

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.


What else does this article say about the Vedic definition of atman regarding fire ?

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:


:smile:
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Re: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby Shonin » Thu May 20, 2010 4:57 pm

Freawaru,

From the perspective of Buddhism, you are making a fundamental error of attributing an Atman/Self where there is no such thing to be found. The quote you gave has been taken out of context and misunderstood. Buddha does not teach any kind of Atman, True Self or Second Consciousness. Buddhism (especially early/Pali Buddhism) is unambiguous about the matter of non-self and that includes the kind of viewpoint you are expressing. I don't really have time to go through this point by point now and it is clearly a tangent to the original post. I suggest you find a good book on Theravadan and/or early Buddhism and work through it.

This one would be ideal if you can get hold of it:
The Three Signs - Anicca, Dukkha & Anatta in the Buddha's Teachings by Ven. Phra Brahmagunabhorn (P.A.Payutto) and Suriyo Bhikkhu
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Re: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby beeblebrox » Fri May 21, 2010 1:53 am

Shonin wrote:The Nikayas are largely very coherent and systematic. However, if we look at the key text that describes Anatta, Anatta-lakkhana Sutta: The Discourse on the Not-self Characteristic , we find an argument for it, which doesn't appear to make much sense.

    Bhikkhus, form is not-self. Were form self, then this form would not lead to affliction, and one could have it of form: 'Let my form be thus, let my form be not thus.' And since form is not-self, so it leads to affliction, and none can have it of form: 'Let my form be thus, let my form be not thus.'

    Bhikkhus, feeling is not-self...
    (and so on for the other skandhas)

If form (matter, the body) was self it would not lead to affliction.
Why if form was self could it not lead to affliction? Surely if it was one's nature to lead to affliction then self could lead to affliction.

If form was self we could decide it's nature
Again, why? Many people are not in control of themselves so why would we necessarily be able to control form if it was our self.


I think it's straightforward, myself. (I could be wrong, maybe my own interpretation is mistaken.) The following is a simplified way of how I look at it:

For something to be a self, you have to own it right? Not someone else, or something else (or some kind of government), of course, or else it wouldn't have been your self.

When you own something, such as a body, you should have some control over it. It technically should do what you want (such as giving you no pain at any time). When it doesn't, then apparently you don't have some control over it? Then this body starts to fall apart... because apparently some germs have been partying right inside it all along, like they're the owners of the place, not you.

This causes you some frustration, or in other word, dukkha. Then it follows that you really shouldn't view this body as your own (absolute) self, act like that you're able to control it (beyond your own means), or at least expect to after your own process of training, or to be under the delusion that you have an absolute ownership over it in the first place, to save yourself some unnecessary trouble. Too bad that fixing isn't as easy as disowning your own body.

About the kundalini (did I read that right? on this forum?)... it's just another map for the mind to use. The mind's experience of its own consciousness is trained through this, using the body (or chakras) as a reference. The result is an illusion of being liberated.

You really shouldn't underestimate the power of a self-constructed illusion to sway you from the path. It's just another delusion that is superimposed right over what is there already. It's still subject to anicca.

Nibbana is supposed to be traceless. Kundalini is an uncoiled snake, for god's sake. :P I think the King of Death would just laugh at this.
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Re: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby Shonin » Fri May 21, 2010 5:46 am

I think you're right beeblebrox. According to the Three Signs book I mentioned above 'uncontrollability' or 'nonconformance to one's desires' is an aspect of the nature of Dukkha. So, the logic follows. On the other hand, most people in the west would look puzzled at the suggestion that things might be other than 'not absolutely under our control'. Surely it is only when the notion of an Absolute Self is prevalent that this observation has much relevance? - since it is because Atman is absolute Self (at microcosmic and macrocosmic level) that Atman is supposed to be the opposite of Dukkha - Bliss. Buddha and his audience would have been quite familiar with these ideas.
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Re: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby Sanghamitta » Fri May 21, 2010 12:38 pm

On the contrary, the Buddhadhamma starts with the realisation that there is absolutely nothing that we need to control apart from our selves.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

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Re: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby Jason » Fri May 21, 2010 2:48 pm

Self (atta), in the philosophical sense as opposed to it's conventional usage, is defined as that which is "permanent, stable, eternal, not subject to change" (SN 24.3). Our sense of self, the ephemeral "I," on the other hand, is merely a mental imputation, the product of what the Buddha called a process of "I-making and my-making."

In the simplest of terms, the Buddha taught that whatever is inconstant is stressful, and whatever is stressful is not-self—with the goal being to essentially take this [analytical] knowledge, along with a specific set of practices such as meditation, as a stepping stone to what I can only describe as a profound psychological event that radically changes the way the mind relates to experience. That doesn't mean, however, that the teachings on not-self are understood to deny individuality (MN 22) or imply that the conventional person doesn't exist (SN 22.22). The way I understand it, they merely break down the conceptual idea of a self — i.e., that which is satisfactory, permanent and completely subject to our control — in relation to the various aspects of our experience that we falsely cling to as "me" or '"mine'" (SN 22.59).

So in essence, the Buddhist teachings on not-self aren't merely assertions that we have no self; they are a method for deconstructing our false perceptions about reality, as well as an important tool in removing the vast net of clinging that gives rise to suffering.

This may be a bit of nonsense, but in one of the ways I like to look at it, the conventional viewpoint (sammuti sacca) explains things through subject, verb and object whereas the ultimate viewpoint (paramattha sacca) explains things through verb alone. In essence, things are being viewed from the perspective of activities and processes. This, I think, is incredibly difficult to see, but perhaps what happens here is that once self-identity view (sakkaya-ditthi) is removed, the duality of subject and object is also removed, thereby revealing the level of mere conditional phenomena, i.e., dependent co-arising in action. This mental process is "seen," ignorance is replaced by knowledge and vision of things as they are (yatha-bhuta-nana-dassana), and nibbana, then, would be the "letting go" of what isn't self through the dispassion (viraga) invoked in seeing the inconstant (anicca) and stressful (dukkha) nature of clinging to false refuges that are neither fixed nor stable (anatta).
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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Re: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby Jason » Fri May 21, 2010 3:01 pm

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.


This also reminds me of what I read recently in Bertrand Russell's A History of Western Philosophy. While discussing Heraclitus’ doctrine of perpetual flux [which is similar to the Theravadin samsara], he goes to discuss how "science, like philosophy, has sought to escape from the doctrine of perpetual flux by finding some permanent substratum amid changing phenomena… Unfortunately it seemed that protons and electrons could meet and explode, forming, not new matter, but a wave of energy spreading through the universe with the velocity of light. Energy had to replace matter as what is permanent. But energy, unlike matter, is not a refinement of the common-sense notion of a "thing" [which can be compared to the notion of selfhood (atta)]; it is merely a characteristic of physical processes (emphasis mine). It might be fancifully identified with the Heraclitean Fire, but it is the burning, not what burns. 'What burns' has disappeared from modern physics.” Compare that with what the Buddha says in SN 12.35.
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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Re: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby Shonin » Fri May 21, 2010 3:43 pm

Jason wrote:the Buddhist teachings on not-self aren't merely assertions that we have no self; they are a method for deconstructing our false perceptions about reality, as well as an important tool in removing the vast net of clinging that gives rise to suffering.


Nicely put.
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Re: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby Jason » Fri May 21, 2010 5:30 pm

Shonin wrote:
Jason wrote:the Buddhist teachings on not-self aren't merely assertions that we have no self; they are a method for deconstructing our false perceptions about reality, as well as an important tool in removing the vast net of clinging that gives rise to suffering.


Nicely put.


Thanks. :)
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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Re: Buddhism in context: Anatta

Postby Shonin » Mon May 24, 2010 8:26 pm

This seems pertinent here:

The Buddhist argument against the doctrine of atman is twofold. In the first place the Buddha takes various aspects of the personality and contends that none of them can be identified with the atman since they do not have characteristics of the atman. Thus, the question is asked (e.g., in M I 232 ff ): Is the body (the physical personality) permanent or impermanent? The answer is: It is impermanent. Is what is impermanent sorrowful or happy? Sorrowful. Of what is impermanent, sorrowful and liable to change, is it proper to regard it as ’This is mine, this I am, this is my soul?’ It is not. The canonical commentary, the Patisambhidamagga (I 37), adds that rupa etc., is not self in the sense that it has no core (sara).

The same argument is repeated for the other aspects of the personality such as feeling (vedana), perception or ideation (sañña), dispositions or tendencies (sankhara) and consciousness (viññana).

A similar procedure is attributed to Prajapati in the Chandogya Upanishad (8 7-12) but there is a very great difference in the attitudes of the two questioners. Prajapati assumes the existence of an atman and, when he fails to identify it with any of the aspects of the person-personality, continues to assume that it must exist within it, somewhere, somehow, in spite of its failure to show up in a purely empirical investigation. The Buddha, on the other hand, accepts, the definition of the atman, without assuming its existence or non-existence; and when the empirical investigation, fails to reveal any such atman, He concludes that no such atman exists because there is no evidence for its existence.

The second argument of the Buddha is that belief in a permanent self would negate the usefulness of the moral life. More of this later. In the first discourse, the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, given after his Enlightenment, the Buddha set out the Four Noble Truths. In the second, the Anattalakkhana Sutta, [2] He stated the characteristics of his doctrine of the not-self (anatta). Here He begins by emphasizing that if there were a self it should be autonomous, but no such thing is to be found. Matter (rupa) is not the self. Were matter self, then the body would not be subject to affliction, one should be able to say to it ’Let my body be thus. Let my body be not thus.’ But this is not possible; the body is shifting and ever in change and, therefore, ever accompanied by misery and affliction. Accordingly, it cannot be the self. The same is repeated for the other aspects of the personality. The conclusion is, therefore, reached that all these things, whether past, future or presently arisen, in one self or external, gross or subtle, inferior or Superior, far or near, are all to be viewed thus: ’This is not mine, this is not what I am, this is not my self.’ Then it is added, when a man realises that all these things are not the self he turns away from them and by the extinction of desire he attains release. Here we find for the first time indication of the Buddha’s purpose in enunciating His doctrine. All misery, in His view, arises from the delusion of self which causes man to strive to profit himself, not to injure others. The most effective therapeutic against the folly of seeking to gratify longings is the realization that there is no truth in the doctrine of a permanent self.

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