On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

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On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby danieLion » Sat Jan 07, 2012 12:09 am

ancientbuddhism wrote:
contemplans wrote:The Buddha refused to answer whether there was a self or not a self.


I won't engage in your muddle of Christian theology and Dhamma. But as for this claim, Ṭhanissaro is not the first to make this mistake (consider this post and the three that follow it). The Buddha’s answer to Ānanda about his silence to Vacchagotta’s questions is provisional to the Buddha’s concern for Vacchagotta, as this does not preclude the Buddha’s thoughts on the matter of an attā in the ontological sense as we find in the Upaniṣads where the audience is suitable to receive it, as mentioned above wrt MN.22.

In the context of all of Thanissaro's anatta teachings, this is inaccurate (you'll have to go outside of ATI to find all of them, but off the top of my head, there's one from Tricycle called "Hang On To Your Ego").
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Re: soul, do you have any?

Postby danieLion » Sat Jan 07, 2012 12:11 am

ancientbuddhism wrote:I am not at all surprised that a Christian identifies with Ṭhanissaro’s misguided theory.

How, exactly, do you find it misguided?
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soul, do you have any?

Postby ancientbuddhism » Sat Jan 07, 2012 3:41 am

danieLion wrote:In the context of all of Thanissaro's anatta teachings, this is inaccurate (you'll have to go outside of ATI to find all of them, but off the top of my head, there's one from Tricycle called "Hang On To Your Ego").


I doubt Ṭhanissaro is saying anything new and more revealing from ‘93/’96 on the matter no matter how many articles, talks and interviews he gives.

danieLion wrote:How, exactly, do you find it misguided?


Based on what I have given I can’t imagine why you ask.

If you have been following along here and there, I have given the broad-strokes of where Ṭhanissaro’s NSS is in error. Not much more need be said. That doesn’t mean that everything in these essays (The Not-self Strategy & No-self or Not-self?) is in error. But when its central thesis is that the Buddha never denied the ‘Self’ (= Upaniṣadic ātman), what to say of stating that nowhere is Buddha’s doctrine of anattā making a metaphysical or ontological claim; this does cast a shadow on anything that Ṭhanissaro says on a doctrine so central to the Dhamma.
Fingers walk the darkness down
Mind is on the midnight
Gather up the gold you've found
You fool, it's only moonlight.
If you try to take it home
Your hands will turn to butter
You better leave this dream alone
Try to find another. – Townes Van Zandt ‘Lungs’

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jan 07, 2012 4:22 am

Here is an old discussion which might clarify what the issues are:

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... t=0#p12365

:anjali:
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby ancientbuddhism » Sat Jan 07, 2012 5:53 am

Some academic background on the problem of scholarly interpretation of the place of Buddhism in Vedic culture, and the Buddha's understanding of vedic texts, is mentioned on dharmawheel here.
Fingers walk the darkness down
Mind is on the midnight
Gather up the gold you've found
You fool, it's only moonlight.
If you try to take it home
Your hands will turn to butter
You better leave this dream alone
Try to find another. – Townes Van Zandt ‘Lungs’

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby manas » Sat Jan 07, 2012 8:39 am

A thicket of wrong views

"There is the case where an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person... does not discern what ideas are fit for attention, or what ideas are unfit for attention. This being so, he does not attend to ideas fit for attention, and attends instead to ideas unfit for attention... This is how he attends inappropriately: 'Was I in the past? Was I not in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what was I in the past? Shall I be in the future? Shall I not be in the future? What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? Having been what, what shall I be in the future?' Or else he is inwardly perplexed about the immediate present: 'Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? Where has this being come from? Where is it bound?'

"As he attends inappropriately in this way, one of six kinds of view arises in him: The view I have a self arises in him as true & established, or the view I have no self... or the view It is precisely by means of self that I perceive self... or the view It is precisely by means of self that I perceive not-self... or the view It is precisely by means of not-self that I perceive self arises in him as true & established, or else he has a view like this: This very self of mine — the knower that is sensitive here & there to the ripening of good & bad actions — is the self of mine that is constant, everlasting, eternal, not subject to change, and will endure as long as eternity. This is called a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views. Bound by a fetter of views, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person is not freed from birth, aging, & death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair. He is not freed, I tell you, from suffering & stress.

"The well-instructed disciple of the noble ones... discerns what ideas are fit for attention, and what ideas are unfit for attention. This being so, he does not attend to ideas unfit for attention, and attends [instead] to ideas fit for attention... He attends appropriately, This is stress... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress... This is the way leading to the cessation of stress. As he attends appropriately in this way, three fetters are abandoned in him: identity-view, doubt, and grasping at precepts & practices."

— MN 2


These are the Buddha's words, not Ven. Thanissaro's!

If you read this sutta, then reread 'No-self or Not-self?' again, you will see that Venerable Thanissaro is right on track regarding anatta. I have never read him remotely suggesting that there is any kind of eternal upanishadic-style 'self' anywhere in existence, and I am surprised that anyone could think that!

Sabbasava Sutta: All the Fermentations:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

No-self or Not-self?:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... self2.html

with metta.

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby contemplans » Sat Jan 07, 2012 3:19 pm

He says quite plainly "don't ask". On his anatta retreat in 2009 he was pressed by a few of the participants "who is my real self", and he said that it is a worthless inquiry, and that you get tangled up in debates etc. So to suggest that he doesn't support the Buddhist teaching is not founded. I am not trying to place my views on him. I am, however, impressed by his balance and lack of fear. Common sense says we have a separate self, as stated in the Tricycle article "... the teaching on egolessness posits a fundamental error of perception: that despite our sense of a lasting, separate self, no such self really exists." How do we go beyond this common sense? Dropping self all together is just unhealthy, and I truly doubt anyone who does this has any substantial progress in insight. While Christians can be accused of grasping too hard at the self, Buddhists can be accused of letting go too quickly. And his article hits the nail on the head. If we were to place Western society in two camps of extremes, we have the prideful and the nihilistic. Try the case of John Lennon who went through Tim Leary's ego-death rituals. Now granted that the whole thing is drug related, and Tim Leary is no Buddhist sage. But John Lennon said it was one of the most destructive periods of his life. Our sick society has way too much baggage to be playing around like this. Think about all the unskillful behavior out there, and we say to those people to drop the ego. There is a lot of self-hatred in our society (not conscious, of course, for many), and our societies in general can be classified as on an auto-destructive path. This is why I support Thanissaro Bhikkhu's view. Not to somehow wrangle people into believing my strict position, but because he is countering a unique piece of baggage from our society that people bring to the practice. The only thing I would add to his thoughts are that we actually have these ideas native to us. Westerners are dysfunctional because they've all but dropped their own spiritual traditions, or perverted them so much that they are shadows of their former selves, literally. Just talk to the average Christian about their practice, and it is very ephemeral. I am not attempting to judge, just reading what I am seeing. The basic core of not-self is that as you ascend the ladder, you let go of one rung for another. You only let go of the ladder when you reach the top. If you refuse to hang on to the rungs of the ladder, or to climb, you're going nowhere. The ladder is the path. The rungs are the skills in development. You are the one ascending. Once you get to the top, the job is done, and there is no need to attend to a "you". Dropping that sense before the goal is spiritual suicide. But as you ascend, you focus more on the ladder, and not the self, and really the job at the end is not an ego battle, but just as simply as releasing from the ladder.
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby DarwidHalim » Sat Jan 07, 2012 5:11 pm

........The ladder is the path. The rungs are the skills in development. You are the one ascending. Once you get to the top, the job is done, and there is no need to attend to a "you". Dropping that sense before the goal is spiritual suicide. But as you ascend, you focus more on the ladder, and not the self, and really the job at the end is not an ego battle, but just as simply as releasing from the ladder.........

I have to say you are right.

EveryOne has his own pace of learning.

The notion of no self indeed can be dangerous when that person is not ready.

I think this is why Buddha himself never say about the notion of no self in first dharma wheel turning. It comes at the later stage.
I am not here nor there.
I am not right nor wrong.
I do not exist neither non-exist.
I am not I nor non-I.
I am not in samsara nor nirvana.
To All Buddhas, I bow down for the teaching of emptiness. Thank You!
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby ancientbuddhism » Sat Jan 07, 2012 6:11 pm

manasikara wrote:A thicket of wrong views...


If you had been following along, there is a context to ‘thicket of views’ that was mentioned here:

moth wrote:Recently read the introduction to Notes on Dhamma. I enjoyed his pointing out of how the Buddha put aside the existential question rather than answering it. I spent a lot of time alone recently, delving quite deeply into my thoughts, trying to find definitive answers to certain questions--specifically about the nature of my self. Eventually I gave up. I believe the Buddha called this 'the thicket of views' and warned us simply to drop it. He clearly avoided the basic logical stances: true, false, true and false, neither true nor false. Instead he introduced a new position: it depends , and called it the middle way.



ancientbuddhism wrote:The ‘thicket of views’ is with reference to those of the puthujjana, who wrongly considers a personal existence ‘for me’ – ‘Was I in the past? Was I not in the past? (ahosiṃ nu kho ahaṃ atītamaddhānaṃ, na nu kho ahosiṃ atītamaddhānaṃ) … ‘I have a self’ … I do not have a self’ (atthi me attā’ti … natthi me attā’ti) etc.. Ñāṇavira (Notes/CTP p. 8) is making a common mistake (see Ṭhanissaro’s NSS) of assuming the Buddha considered the question of ‘this world with its gods…’ views on ‘self and the world’ (= Upaniṣadic ātman) to be unanswerable. The Buddha did not set aside the issue of claims of self, including the Upaniṣadic ‘Self’, where instruction to the suitable audience was deemed necessary. He even mocked the notion of a universal self and what would belong to it as a ‘doctrine of fools’ (bāladhammo) in MN.22.


And here:

piotr wrote: But setting aside, or — as Ñāṇavīra puts it — “seeing that the questions [about attā] are not valid and that to ask them is to make the mistake of assuming that they are” is quite different from asserting the existence of attā. Don't you think?


ancientbuddhism wrote:Yes, to set aside the habit of the assutavā puthujjano, who ‘considers improperly (ayoniso manasi karoti) thus: ‘Was I in the past? Was I not in the past?...’ Here the puthujjana is raising the question of personal existence, ‘for me’, and is vexed. This is the context for setting aside views.

But Ñāṇavira does not simply stop at 'seeing that the questions [about attā] are not valid' he continues with the specious claim that many (Ṭhanissaro, Collins, Harvey et al) have leaned against the Ānanda Sutta (SN. 44.10), asserting that based on the Buddha’s silence to Vacchagotta, that the Buddha never denied ‘Self’ with reference to the ontological claims of ātman in the Upaniṣads. The Buddha most certainly did instruct his learned disciples on ‘positions on views’ (diṭṭhiṭṭhānāni), including notions of a universal self, and refuted these as non-existent (asat).


manasikara wrote:If you read this sutta, then reread 'No-self or Not-self?' again, you will see that Venerable Thanissaro is right on track regarding anatta. I have never read him remotely suggesting that there is any kind of eternal upanishadic-style 'self' anywhere in existence, and I am surprised that anyone could think that!


I have edited my comment here because I think some may misunderstand my critique of NSS as implying that Ṭhanissaro indicates a 'Self' by default, as contemplans had assumed in the original thread. Although there have been questions raised over the years (e.g. quoted of B. Santi/Kester here), as to whether Ṭhanissaro's special interpretations of nibbāna and viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ fills in the gap with the same, a discussion of this is best raised in another post.
Last edited by ancientbuddhism on Mon Jan 09, 2012 6:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Fingers walk the darkness down
Mind is on the midnight
Gather up the gold you've found
You fool, it's only moonlight.
If you try to take it home
Your hands will turn to butter
You better leave this dream alone
Try to find another. – Townes Van Zandt ‘Lungs’

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby Nyana » Sat Jan 07, 2012 7:20 pm

contemplans wrote:Think about all the unskillful behavior out there, and we say to those people to drop the ego.

In order to understand the recognition of anatta (anattasaññā) it's important to understand the object of negation. Anatta is negating the notion of a permanent Self which is not subject to affliction/dis-ease. It is not negating the utility of healthy, functional developmental processes with conditional self-agency (attakāra). Take SN 22.59 for example, as it is a central teachings on anatta. The Self which is being negated in SN 22.59 is a Self which would be:

    1. permanent
    2. satisfactory
    3. not subject to affliction/dis-ease

This "Self" is refuted: a permanent, satisfactory Self which is not prone to old age, sickness, and death. As SN 22.59 states:

    Bhikkhus, form... feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness is not-self. Were form... feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness self, then this form... feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness would not lead to affliction/dis-ease.

This criterion of affliction/disease is the context for the following statement that:

    none can have it of form... feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness: 'Let my form... feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness be thus, let my form... feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness be not thus.'

What is not negated is the developmental processes which are conditions for happiness or unhappiness, etc. In fact, there is great emphasis in Buddhism on learning to develop wholesome, skillful (kusala) developmental processes which lead to happiness and joy, and learning to abandon unwholesome, unskillful (akusala) developmental processes which lead to unhappiness, confusion, and conflicted emotions. This is why many contemporary insight meditation teachers have recognized that no significant progress can be made by employing the path of gradual training unless the student is in good mental health. Hence the well known phrase: "You have to be somebody before you can be nobody."
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby chownah » Sun Jan 08, 2012 2:01 am

I think that the Buddha taught that it is best to have no doctrine of self whatever.....to whatever extent you develop a concept of self you are not taking his advise......I guess....
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby Buckwheat » Sun Jan 08, 2012 8:45 am

Two point from one of Ajahn's recorded dhamma talks: 1) the view of no self is rooted in the very view of self, a denial of self, a destruction of self - I will see if I can find that talk so that I can elaborate 2) once you see the deathless, who cares if there is a self experiencing it or not?
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby Zom » Sun Jan 08, 2012 8:53 am

Two point from one of Ajahn's recorded dhamma talks: 1) the view of no self is rooted in the very view of self, a denial of self, a destruction of self - I will see if I can find that talk so that I can elaborate 2) once you see the deathless, who cares if there is a self experiencing it or not?


1) The first is true only in the case if your view is based on the self-idea. If your view is not based on self-idea, then view "there is no self" will not be rooted in a view of self.

2) Concerning the second - this is important, because it is counsciousness that experiences nibbana. And from this point Ven. Thanissaro posits "eternal consciousness", which is actually The Real Self, while it does not see itself as a self. So, finally, his view is: "There is a self". Btw, this "eternal consciousness" is a quite wide-spread idea in "thai forest tradition".
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby Buckwheat » Sun Jan 08, 2012 9:31 am

"How do I eliminate suffering?" It requires us to see the stories we tell about our selves, such as, "I am such and such and I deserve... I hurt... I have... I need... I want... I am... I was screwed... etc." Dropping those stories is what leads to liberation, although it must be in the right order so as to prevent decent into vice or madness. One wouldn't want to drop sense of moral responsibility until after you drop greed, anger, and delusion. This seems to me the main point of Thanissaro Bhikkhu's approach.

In all honesty, it's the only version of anatta that makes sense to me at this point in my practice. Maybe after I drop enough stories, no-self will come into focus. But for now, it just doesn't seem to be the thing that will lead me away from suffering. It only leads me to confusion and searching/clinging. The Not-Self Strategy approach gives me something to work with right now to develop long term welfare and happiness, and that's good enough for me at this point in my practice.
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby Nyana » Sun Jan 08, 2012 11:02 am

Buckwheat wrote:1) the view of no self is rooted in the very view of self, a denial of self, a destruction of self

Anatta is a recognition (anattasaññā) of the absence of self, and not a self-view (attadiṭṭhi; attānudiṭṭhi).
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby danieLion » Sun Jan 08, 2012 11:29 am

manasikara wrote:

If you read this sutta {MN 2], then reread 'No-self or Not-self?' again, you will see that Venerable Thanissaro is right on track regarding anatta. I have never read him remotely suggesting that there is any kind of eternal upanishadic-style 'self' anywhere in existence, and I am surprised that anyone could think that!

Precisely.
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby danieLion » Sun Jan 08, 2012 11:29 am

Ñāṇa wrote:What is not negated is the developmental processes which are conditions for happiness or unhappiness, etc. In fact, there is great emphasis in Buddhism on learning to develop wholesome, skillful (kusala) developmental processes which lead to happiness and joy, and learning to abandon unwholesome, unskillful (akusala) developmental processes which lead to unhappiness, confusion, and conflicted emotions. This is why many contemporary insight meditation teachers have recognized that no significant progress can be made by employing the path of gradual training unless the student is in good mental health. Hence the well known phrase: "You have to be somebody before you can be nobody."

Thanissaro agrees.
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby ancientbuddhism » Sun Jan 08, 2012 3:14 pm

Buckwheat wrote:1) the view of no self is rooted in the very view of self, a denial of self, a destruction of self’


Yes, the view of the puthujjana. You gave a good description of this in your next post:

Buckwheat wrote:"I am such and such and I deserve... I hurt... I have... I need...


The puthujjana identifies with these as substantial.

Buckwheat wrote:2) once you see the deathless, who cares if there is a self experiencing it or not?


Yes, and this falls in line with how things are seen by the noble disciple as unsubstantial as Ñāṇa mentioned.

aniccasaññā bhāvetabbā asmimānasamugghātāya. aniccasaññino hi, meghiya, anattasaññā saṇṭhāti, anattasaññī asmimānasamugghātaṃ pāpuṇāti diṭṭheva dhamme nibbāna”nti.

“ Perception of impermanence should be developed for the removal of the notion ‘I am’. Because of perception of impermanence, Meghiya, one is established in perception of non-self, with perception of non-self one comes to the removal of the notion ‘I am’ and knows the state of Nibbāna.” – Ud. 4.1
Fingers walk the darkness down
Mind is on the midnight
Gather up the gold you've found
You fool, it's only moonlight.
If you try to take it home
Your hands will turn to butter
You better leave this dream alone
Try to find another. – Townes Van Zandt ‘Lungs’

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby ancientbuddhism » Sun Jan 08, 2012 3:17 pm

danieLion wrote:
manasikara wrote:

If you read this sutta {MN 2], then reread 'No-self or Not-self?' again, you will see that Venerable Thanissaro is right on track regarding anatta. I have never read him remotely suggesting that there is any kind of eternal upanishadic-style 'self' anywhere in existence, and I am surprised that anyone could think that!

Precisely.
D :heart:


By congratulating manasikara’s misunderstanding of what I have said, you only confirm your own. Do you have any thoughts on the points I raised?
Fingers walk the darkness down
Mind is on the midnight
Gather up the gold you've found
You fool, it's only moonlight.
If you try to take it home
Your hands will turn to butter
You better leave this dream alone
Try to find another. – Townes Van Zandt ‘Lungs’

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby Buckwheat » Sun Jan 08, 2012 3:56 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
Buckwheat wrote:1) the view of no self is rooted in the very view of self, a denial of self, a destruction of self

Anatta is a recognition (anattasaññā) of the absence of self, and not a self-view (attadiṭṭhi; attānudiṭṭhi).


Please read above post: viewtopic.php?f=16&t=11079#p167491 (especially the bolded bits).
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.
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