Ultimate Reality Vs Concepts

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Alex123
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Ultimate Reality Vs Concepts

Postby Alex123 » Wed Jul 21, 2010 1:08 am

Hello all,

The suttas seem to say interesting things about Ultimate Truth (paramattha sacca) vs concepts.

1) Nibbana is the Highest Paramattha Sacca and it is undeceptive by nature. -MN140 M III 245 Dhātuvibhaṅgasutta & Snp 3.12

2) The name & form (nāmarūpa) is deceptive by nature – it is not ultimate truth. It is mosadhamma, deceptive by nature while only Nibbāna is Amosadhamma. - Snp 3.12

3) Contact, feeling, perception, thinking (vitakka) are called paññatti (concept, designation, idea) in MN18. phassapaññattiṃ, vedanāpaññattiṃ, saññāpaññattiṃ, vitakkapaññattiṃ.


4)
“Form is like a glob of foam; feeling, a bubble; perception, a mirage; fabrications, a banana tree; consciousness, a magic trick — this has been taught by the Kinsman of the Sun. However you observe them, appropriately examine them (yo naṃ passati yoniso), they're empty, void (Rittakaṃ tucchakaṃ hoti) to whoever sees them appropriately.” – SN22.95



Any comments?


"Monk, this is the highest noble truth (paramaṃ ariyasaccaṃ), namely nibbāna.
Etañhi, bhikkhu, paramaṃ ariyasaccaṃ yadidaṃ – amosadhammaṃ nibbānaṃ.
M III 245, Dhātuvibhaṅgasutta.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Dvayatanupassana Sutta, Snp 3.12
PTS: vv. 724-765

“Undeceptive by nature is Nibbāna: that the noble ones know as true (sacca). They, through breaking through to the truth, free from hunger, are totally unbound.” ‘Amosadhammaṃ nibbānaṃ, tadariyā saccato vidū; Te ve saccābhisamayā, nicchātā parinibbutā’’ti.

“Entrenched in name & form, they conceive that 'This is true.' In whatever terms they conceive it it turns into something other than that, and that's what's false about it: changing, it's deceptive by nature."‘ Niviṭṭhaṃ nāmarūpasmiṃ, idaṃ saccanti maññati. ‘‘Yena yena hi maññanti, tato taṃ hoti aññathā; Tañhi tassa musā hoti, mosadhammañhi ittaraṃ.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


With metta,


Alex
"dust to dust...."

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Re: Ultimate Reality Vs Concepts

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Jul 21, 2010 1:21 am

Greetings Alex,

On this subject I tend to agree with what Nanavira Thera writes at...

Notes on Dhamma :: PARAMATTHA SACCA
http://nanavira.xtreemhost.com/index.ph ... &Itemid=63

I also think the Venerable Nanananda's "Concept And Reality in Early Buddhist Thought" (available through BPS) gives a much better way to understand and differentiate 'concepts' and 'reality', which is aligned with the suttas, as opposed to the scholastic Abhidhamma model, which is based on the notion of two-truths (which as your sutta quotes above point out, does not exist in such a form in Buddhavacana itself).

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)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Ultimate Reality Vs Concepts

Postby Goedert » Wed Jul 21, 2010 1:28 am

Alex123 wrote:Hello all,

The suttas seem to say interesting things about Ultimate Truth (paramattha sacca) vs concepts.

1) Nibbana is the Highest Paramattha Sacca and it is undeceptive by nature. -MN140 M III 245 Dhātuvibhaṅgasutta & Snp 3.12

2) The name & form (nāmarūpa) is deceptive by nature – it is not ultimate truth. It is mosadhamma, deceptive by nature while only Nibbāna is Amosadhamma. - Snp 3.12

3) Contact, feeling, perception, thinking (vitakka) are called paññatti (concept, designation, idea) in MN18. phassapaññattiṃ, vedanāpaññattiṃ, saññāpaññattiṃ, vitakkapaññattiṃ.


4)
“Form is like a glob of foam; feeling, a bubble; perception, a mirage; fabrications, a banana tree; consciousness, a magic trick — this has been taught by the Kinsman of the Sun. However you observe them, appropriately examine them (yo naṃ passati yoniso), they're empty, void (Rittakaṃ tucchakaṃ hoti) to whoever sees them appropriately.” – SN22.95



Any comments?


"Monk, this is the highest noble truth (paramaṃ ariyasaccaṃ), namely nibbāna.
Etañhi, bhikkhu, paramaṃ ariyasaccaṃ yadidaṃ – amosadhammaṃ nibbānaṃ.
M III 245, Dhātuvibhaṅgasutta.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Dvayatanupassana Sutta, Snp 3.12
PTS: vv. 724-765

“Undeceptive by nature is Nibbāna: that the noble ones know as true (sacca). They, through breaking through to the truth, free from hunger, are totally unbound.” ‘Amosadhammaṃ nibbānaṃ, tadariyā saccato vidū; Te ve saccābhisamayā, nicchātā parinibbutā’’ti.

“Entrenched in name & form, they conceive that 'This is true.' In whatever terms they conceive it it turns into something other than that, and that's what's false about it: changing, it's deceptive by nature."‘ Niviṭṭhaṃ nāmarūpasmiṃ, idaṃ saccanti maññati. ‘‘Yena yena hi maññanti, tato taṃ hoti aññathā; Tañhi tassa musā hoti, mosadhammañhi ittaraṃ.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


With metta,


Alex


There is ins't anything to comment on it, just to rejoice.

:anjali:

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Re: Ultimate Reality Vs Concepts

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jul 21, 2010 5:14 am

I think there is a tendency to over-interpret the term paramattha. I find it useful simply in the sense of classifications that experience can be broken down into. See, particular Ven Nyanaponika's comment below.

From other discussions of this issue, such as:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=1784
tiltbillings wrote:What kind of "ultimate things" are dhammas? Piatigorsky, in his studies of the Theravadin Abhidhamma Pitaka texts (THE BUDDHIST PHILOSOPHY OF THOUGHT 1984, 181) points out dharmas/dhammas are not substances; they are not 'things' in and of themselves:

We simpy cannot say that 'a dharma is... (a predicate follows)', because a dharma, in fact, 'is' no thing, yet [it is] a term denoting (not being) a certain relation or type of relation to thought, consciousness or mind. That is, dharma is not a concept in the accepted terminological sense of the latter, but a purely relational notion.

(Nyanaponika ABHIDHAMMA STUDIES @ page 41 BPS; page 42 Wisdom.)
By arranging the mental factors in relational groups a subordinate synthetical element has been introduced into the mainly analytical Dhammasangani. By so doing, the danger inherent in purely analytical methods is avoided. This danger consists in erroneously taking for genuine separate entities the “parts” resulting from analysis, instead of restricting their use to sound practical method with the purpose of classifying and dissolving composite events wrongly conceived as unities. Up to the present time it has been a regular occurrence in the history of physics, metaphysics, and psychology that when the “whole” has been successfully dissolved by analysis, the resultant “parts” themselves come in turn to be regarded as little “wholes.”


(Prof. Dr. Y. Karunadasa @ THE DHAMMA THEORY, page 9:)
In the Pali tradition it is only for the sake of definition and description that each dhamma is postulated as if it were a separate entity; but in reality it is by no means a solitary phenomenon having an existence of its own. . . . If this Abhidhammic view of existence, as seen from its doctrine of dhammas, cannot be interpreted as a radical pluralism, neither can it be interpreted as an out-and-out monism. For what are called dhammas -- the component factors of the universe, both within us and outside us -- are not fractions of an absolute unity but a multiplicity of co-ordinate factors. They are not reducible to, nor do they emerge from, a single reality, the fundamental postulate of monistic metaphysics. If they are to be interpreted as phenomena, this should be done with the proviso that they are phenomena with no corresponding noumena, no hidden underlying ground. For they are not manifestations of some mysterious metaphysical substratum, but processes taking place due to the interplay of a multitude of conditions. http://www.zeh-verlag.de/download/dhammatheory.pdf


(Harvey @ in his excellent INTRODUCTION TO BUDDHISM, characterizes the Theravadin position, page 87:)
"'They are dhammas because they uphold their own nature [sabhaava]. They are dhammas because they are upheld by conditions or they are upheld according to their own nature' (Asl.39). Here 'own-nature' would mean characteristic nature, which is not something inherent in a dhamma as a separate ultimate reality, but arise due to the supporting conditions both of other dhammas and previous occurrences of that dhamma."


(A.K. Warder @ in INDIAN BUDDHISM, page 323, discussing the Pali Abhidhamma commentarial literature, states:)
"The most significant new idea in the commentaries is the definition of a 'principle' or element (dharma): dharmas are what have (or 'hold', 'maintain', dhr. is the nearest equivalent in the language to the English 'have') their own own-nature (svabhaava). It is added that they naturally have this through conditions."

Dhammas in the Theravada Abhidhamma Pitaka are "ultimate things" only as a way of talking aspects about the relational flow of experience, not in terms of describing static realities. In other words, dhammas are empty of self.

Mike

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Re: Ultimate Reality Vs Concepts

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Jul 21, 2010 5:50 am

Greetings,

mikenz66 wrote:I think there is a tendency to over-interpret the term paramattha.

Indeed. There a certain danger in seeing it as ultimate

mikenz66 wrote:I find it useful simply in the sense of classifications that experience can be broken down into.

On that point, it's interesting to note that since it is at an individual-level that someone conceptualises and classifies experience (i.e. sankhata dhamma - formed dhammas) based on ignorance, the notion of some kind of objective, independent, conclusive/exhaustive set of ultimate dhammas is a bit odd. It would virtually be a celebration of our ignorant cognitive methods and conceptual proliferations. I therefore feel far more comfortable when dhammas are understood in the way Tilt (courtesy of Mike's re-posting above) quoted from other sources.

What are your thoughts, Alex? I know you've come across some who take paramattha dhammas to be quite ultimate indeed... so much so that some claim they actually "exist", despite the Buddha's instructions in suttas such as SN 12.15.

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: Ultimate Reality Vs Concepts

Postby Shonin » Wed Jul 21, 2010 5:55 am

mikenz66 wrote:I think there is a tendency to over-interpret the term paramattha. I find it useful simply in the sense of classifications that experience can be broken down into.


Indeed 'Ultimate dhamma' is itself a concept of course.

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Re: Ultimate Reality Vs Concepts

Postby Alex123 » Wed Jul 21, 2010 3:10 pm

Hello Retro,

retrofuturist wrote:What are your thoughts, Alex? I know you've come across some who take paramattha dhammas to be quite ultimate indeed... so much so that some claim they actually "exist", despite the Buddha's instructions in suttas such as SN 12.15.

Metta,
Retro. :)


I am examining this issue (I want to know the truth!). I've read two books by Ven. Nanananda and most (if not all) of his 25 Nibbana sermons. I have also read other, quite different points of view.

On another board a certain member seems to have said that MN18 talks about CONCEPT of phassa, vedanā, saññā & vitakka not that these are paññatti themself.

But in any case these (phassa, vedanā, saññā & vitakka) being part of nāmarūpa are mosadhamma (deceptive) while nibbana is amosadhamma and paramaṃ ariyasaccaṃ.

And why are they deceptive? Because they change and become otherwise (aññathā). snp 3.12.

One period of time the mind is happy, another period of time it is unhappy. New experiences may contradict the past experiences. Change brings uncertainty.

Nibbana on the other hand is cessation, and there is nothing there to change, alter or become otherwise.

I think that it is better to look through phenomena (as anicca, dukkha, anatta) rather than at them.


Idea of a car and idea of "vedana" are both ideas.


IMHO,


With metta,

Alex
"dust to dust...."

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Re: Ultimate Reality Vs Concepts

Postby SamKR » Wed Jul 21, 2010 4:44 pm

Shonin wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:I think there is a tendency to over-interpret the term paramattha. I find it useful simply in the sense of classifications that experience can be broken down into.


Indeed 'Ultimate dhamma' is itself a concept of course.


could you explain this a bit. Thanks.
Last edited by SamKR on Wed Jul 21, 2010 5:25 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Ultimate Reality Vs Concepts

Postby SamKR » Wed Jul 21, 2010 4:48 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

mikenz66 wrote:I think there is a tendency to over-interpret the term paramattha.

Indeed. There a certain danger in seeing it as ultimate

mikenz66 wrote:I find it useful simply in the sense of classifications that experience can be broken down into.

On that point, it's interesting to note that since it is at an individual-level that someone conceptualises and classifies experience (i.e. sankhata dhamma - formed dhammas) based on ignorance, the notion of some kind of objective, independent, conclusive/exhaustive set of ultimate dhammas is a bit odd. It would virtually be a celebration of our ignorant cognitive methods and conceptual proliferations. I therefore feel far more comfortable when dhammas are understood in the way Tilt (courtesy of Mike's re-posting above) quoted from other sources.

What are your thoughts, Alex? I know you've come across some who take paramattha dhammas to be quite ultimate indeed... so much so that some claim they actually "exist", despite the Buddha's instructions in suttas such as SN 12.15.

Metta,
Retro. :)

Me too. I have impression that three paramattha dhammas (citta, cetasika, rupa) are also ultimate, though different from the fourth (nibbana) of course. Could you explain me if this is wrong.

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Re: Ultimate Reality Vs Concepts

Postby Shonin » Wed Jul 21, 2010 6:40 pm

SamKR wrote:
Shonin wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:I think there is a tendency to over-interpret the term paramattha. I find it useful simply in the sense of classifications that experience can be broken down into.


Indeed 'Ultimate dhamma' is itself a concept of course.


could you explain this a bit. Thanks.


In Buddhism we sometimes talk about 'Ultimate reality' as distinguished from conventional reality (name-and-form, conceptualisation etc). And we can really get caught up in this idea and get into all sorts of unhelpful metaphysical speculation about 'Ultimate Reality' if we're not careful. However, the very distinction between ultimate reality and conventional/conceptual/worldly reality is itself a conventional/conceptual/worldly distinction - as all distinctions and designations are. It's all name-and-form. Only Nibbana itself is beyond. The concept of Ultimate Reality is not itself ultimate reality.

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Re: Ultimate Reality Vs Concepts

Postby ground » Thu Jul 22, 2010 2:24 am

Somehow "ultimate truth/reality" seems to be dependent on a "preliminary truth/reality" which seems to be kind of a hypothesis to work with. Can we specify "ultimate truth/reality" in a sense of affirmatively providing names for existing phenomena that are themselves "ultimate truth/reality"? Since names are linguistic conventions inextricably intermingled with concepts (universals) it seems impossible to find some ultimate which is not just conventional.
But if we can only specify "ultimate truth/reality" through saying what it is not then "ultimate truth/reality" is a mere negation. What does it negate? I guess it negates the "conventional" which is no different from names/concepts and the accompanying experiences in the moment of application of names by an individual. This "conventional" may be the "conventional" common in everyday life or the "conventional" of a philosophy or the "conventional" of buddhism.
It seems as if the differentiation "Ultimate Reality Vs Concepts" does not make much sense since there is no alternative to names/concepts in the sphere of communication. What does seem to make more sense is the differentiation "[unspecified] Reality Vs Concepts" because here we may be in a position to differentiate between conventional names/concepts which do refer to a directly perceptible correlate and mere names/concepts (or "fantasies") that are not so grounded on directly perceptible correlates.

Kind regards

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Re: Ultimate Reality Vs Concepts

Postby convivium » Thu Jul 22, 2010 2:36 am

if ultimate reality is nibbana than we can only say what it isn't. it isn't samsara, a state of mind which conditions the bigger world. "we" won't be able to know ultimate reality (non-dual) but we will be left w/it's impressions, conviction, and entire shifts in perception. for example when we know it then there won't be any questions like this (the fetter of uncertainty). does this differ w/dzogchen and ch'an methods?
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php

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Re: Ultimate Reality Vs Concepts

Postby Shonin » Thu Jul 22, 2010 6:37 am

In early Buddhism, Ultimate Truth/Nibbana is described exclusively or almost exclusively by negation. In Mahayana, there are two main schools of thought, one which speaks in positive terms and one that speaks in negative terms. Ch'an uses positive or negative according to circumstance and/or specific tradition, at best (IMO) treating such language as 'medicine' to cure a particular 'sickness', such as 'clinging to ideas of self', 'clinging to nothingness' etc. But this is the Theravada forum and we're going off-topic.

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Re: Ultimate Reality Vs Concepts

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Jul 22, 2010 6:44 am

convivium wrote:if ultimate reality is nibbana than we can only say what it isn't. it isn't samsara, a state of mind which conditions the bigger world. "we" won't be able to know ultimate reality (non-dual)
Non-dual, a not very meaningful term in any case, has no meaning within the Theravada tradition or the suttas. Also, there is no nibbana outside the individual nibbanized - that is, one freed from greed, hatred, and delusion.
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: Ultimate Reality Vs Concepts

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jul 22, 2010 10:40 am

Hi Shonin,
Shonin wrote:In early Buddhism, Ultimate Truth/Nibbana is described exclusively or almost exclusively by negation.

I don't think this is quite correct. Certainly, Nibbana is often described negatively:
"This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications, the relinquishment of all acquisitions, the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Nibbana."
— AN 3.32

"Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world."
— SN 22.59


But iit is also described in positive ways, either directly (I take "unborn", "unconditioned" as a positive statement, despite the "un"...).
Verily, there is an Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed. If there were not this Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed, escape from the world of the born, the originated, the created, the formed, would not be possible; Ud. VIII, 3.

or metaphorically:
The island, The shelter, The asylum, The refuge ...
http://www.dhammawiki.com/index.php?title=Nibbana

Mike

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Re: Ultimate Reality Vs Concepts

Postby Shonin » Thu Jul 22, 2010 11:13 am

mikenz66 wrote:But iit is also described in positive ways, either directly (I take "unborn", "unconditioned" as a positive statement, despite the "un"...).
Verily, there is an Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed. If there were not this Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed, escape from the world of the born, the originated, the created, the formed, would not be possible; Ud. VIII, 3.


Describing something in terms of being un-whatever is exactly to describe it in negative terms. 'I won't say what it is, but I will say something about what it isn't'.

mikenz66 wrote:or metaphorically:
The island, The shelter, The asylum, The refuge ...


Yes, that's true.

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Re: Ultimate Reality Vs Concepts

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Jul 22, 2010 5:36 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
Verily, there is an Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed. If there were not this Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed, escape from the world of the born, the originated, the created, the formed, would not be possible; Ud. VIII, 3.

Of interest:
tiltbillings wrote:
Paññāsikhara wrote:
If you want the latter, take that over-used quote from the Udana, and a host of Upanisadic literature, and the way 99% of people interpret the "unconditioned" as per the Dhammasangani and other post-Buddha literature.

Collins has come out with a shortened version of his book. As for the Udana, I don't think so. I'll go with Norman's, Johansonn's and my understanding of the Udana 80 and the Itivuttaka, 37-8 (quoted below). As for the 99%, it only goes to show how very radical the Buddha's teaching was that most people could not get beyond thinking in terms of thingness. And, of course, the Upanshadic literature gives a good idea of what the Buddha to reacting to by giving a radical twist to the terms involved.

This said by the Blessed One, the Worthy One, was heard by me
in this way: "Monks, there is freedom from birth, freedom from
becoming, freedom from making, freedom from conditioning.
For, monks if there were not this freedom from birth, freedom from
becoming, freedom from making, freedom from conditioning,
then escape from that which is birth, becoming, making,
conditioning, would not be known here. But, monks, because there
is freedom from birth, freedom from becoming, freedom from
making, freedom from conditioning, therefore the escape from that
which is birth, becoming, making, conditioning is known."


[Here the Buddha, The Blessed One, offers his own verse
commentary on his statement.]

This meaning the Blessed One spoke, it is spoken here in this way:

That which is born, become, arisen, made, conditioned,
And thus unstable, put together of decay and death,
The seat of disease, brittle,
Caused and craving food,
That is not fit to find pleasure in.

Being freed of this, calmed beyond conjecture, stable,
Freed from birth, freed from arising, freed from sorrow,
Freed from passions, the elements of suffering stopped,
The conditioning [of greed, hatred and delusion] appeased,
This is ease [bliss].


viewtopic.php?f=13&t=4396#p66445

viewtopic.php?f=13&t=4396#p66441
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: Ultimate Reality Vs Concepts

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jul 22, 2010 7:57 pm

Shonin wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:But iit is also described in positive ways, either directly (I take "unborn", "unconditioned" as a positive statement, despite the "un"...).
Verily, there is an Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed. If there were not this Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed, escape from the world of the born, the originated, the created, the formed, would not be possible; Ud. VIII, 3.


Describing something in terms of being un-whatever is exactly to describe it in negative terms. 'I won't say what it is, but I will say something about what it isn't'.

Well, I did address this. I agree with you up to a point, but the Suttas, and more so the Theravada abhidhamma and commentaries are reasonably clear about explaining nibbana as an unconditioned "reality" (at least an object of consciousness in Abhidhamma).

This reminds me of what Bhikkhu Bodhi says in one of his talks about "On the Buddha's Words". As he says, people tend to fixate on one or other view of nibbana:
1. It's just the cessation of other stuff (delusion, etc).
2. It's an actual "reality" (unconditioned, the farther shore, etc).
He joked that he expected half the class to not be there next week once he explained his position... :tongue:

Of course, fixating on either is not what they Buddha would have advised, since the former tends towards nihilism and the latter towards eternalism.

Mike

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Re: Ultimate Reality Vs Concepts

Postby Shonin » Thu Jul 22, 2010 9:05 pm

That sounds like a balanced 'middle way'.


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