On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby piotr » Fri Jan 13, 2012 8:08 pm

Hi,

Ñāṇa wrote:I don't have the time right now to critique Ven. Ṭhānissaro's views in detail. There are probably other threads which deal with some of these issues. Just one example (related to both anatta and consciousness): Ṭhānissaro's latent fire theory presented and elaborated in Mind Like Fire Unbound cannot be sustained. The fire metaphor most commonly refers to the three fires of passion, aggression, and delusion. If the Indian Buddhist understanding of fire was really that an extinguished fire goes into a "latent state," then these three fires could re-combust within an arahant's mind as long as there is fuel remaining (i.e. saupādisesa nibbānadhātu: nibbāna element with fuel remaining). Of course, this would render nibbāna quite meaningless


In his Intro to Mind Like Fire Unbound Ṭhānissaro actually argues against such interpretation of fire metaphor. He writes:

    The best-known metaphor for the goal is the name nibbāna (nirvāṇa), which means the extinguishing of a fire. Attempts to work out the implications of this metaphor have all too often taken it out of context. Some writers, drawing on modern, everyday notions of fire, come to the conclusion that nibbāna implies extinction, as we feel that a fire goes out of existence when extinguished. Others, however, note that the Vedas — ancient Indian religious texts that predate Buddhism by many thousands of years — describe fire as immortal: Even when extinguished it simply goes into hiding, in a latent, diffused state, only to be reborn when a new fire is lit. These writers then assume that the Buddha accepted the Vedic theory in its entirety, and so maintain that nibbāna implies eternal existence.

    The weakness of both these interpretations is that they do not take into account the way the Pali Canon describes (1) the workings of fire, (2) the limits beyond which no phenomenon may be described, and (3) the precise implications that the Buddha himself drew from his metaphor in light of (1) & (2). The purpose of this essay is to place this metaphor in its original context to show what it was and was not meant to imply.

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ire/1.html

It seems to me that you didn't represent his views accurately.
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby Nyana » Sat Jan 14, 2012 2:07 am

piotr wrote:In his Intro to Mind Like Fire Unbound Ṭhānissaro actually argues against such interpretation of fire metaphor.... It seems to me that you didn't represent his views accurately.

Sure I did. Mind Like Fire Unbound:

    The first chapter surveys ancient Vedic ideas of fire as subsisting in a diffused state even when extinguished. It then shows how the Buddha took an original approach to those ideas to illustrate the concept of nibbāna after death as referring not to eternal existence, but rather to absolute freedom from all constraints of time, space, & being....

    Now, although the Vedic texts contain several different theories concerning the physics of fire, there is at least one basic point on which they agree: Fire, even when not manifest, continues to exist in a latent form....

    But when we look at how the Buddha actually used the image of extinguished fire in his teachings, we find that he approached the Vedic idea of latent fire from another angle entirely: If latent fire is everywhere all at once, it is nowhere in particular. If it is conceived as always present in everything, it has to be so loosely defined that it has no defining characteristics, nothing by which it might be known at all. Thus, instead of using the subsistence of latent fire as an image for immortality, he uses the diffuse, indeterminate nature of extinguished fire as understood by the Vedists to illustrate the absolute indescribability of the person who has reached the Buddhist goal....

    This experience of the goal — absolutely unlimited freedom, beyond classification and exclusive of all else — is termed the elemental nibbāna property with no 'fuel' remaining (anupādisesa-nibbāna-dhātu). It is one of two ways in which nibbāna is experienced.... Thus the completely free & unadulterated experience we have been discussing is that of nibbāna after death.

And so Ṭhānissaro wants to have his cake and eat it too. According to him, an arahant's post-mortem state is a "completely free and unadulterated experience," yet we're supposed to believe that this assertion is somehow still immune from being a type of eternalist view.
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby piotr » Sat Jan 14, 2012 10:17 am

Hi Ñāṇa,

OK, let me put this in different way.

You've raised the objection, that “If the Indian Buddhist understanding of fire was really that an extinguished fire goes into a «latent state,» then these three fires could re-combust within an arahant's mind as long as there is fuel remaining.” Therefore you assumed that in this context Ṭhānissaro accepts Vedic fire theory in its entirety, i.e. fire is immortal “even when extinguished it simply goes into hiding, in a latent, diffused state, only to be reborn when a new fire is lit.”

But that's not so, since he precisely explains which points of Vedic fire theory, which points of the workings of fire apply here. He writes that the Buddha chose extinguishing of fires as metaphor for nibbāna in this life to show that non-agitated mind is released from dependencies, attachments, & bondage. Quote:

    To understand the implications of nibbāna in the present life, it is necessary to know something of the way in which fire is described in the Pali Canon. There, fire is said to be caused by the excitation or agitation of the heat property. To continue burning, it must have sustenance (upādāna). Its relationship to its sustenance is one of clinging, dependence, & entrapment. When it goes out, the heat property is no longer agitated, and the fire is said to be freed. Thus the metaphor of nibbāna in this case would have implications of calming together with release from dependencies, attachments, & bondage. This in turn suggests that of all the attempts to describe the etymology of the word nibbāna, the closest is the one Buddhaghosa proposed in The Path of Purification: Un- (nir) + binding (vāna): Unbinding.

Regardless of what you write, he doesn't claim that fires of greed, hatred and delusion go into latent state.
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby daverupa » Sat Jan 14, 2012 11:55 am

piotr wrote:Hi Ñāṇa,

OK, let me put this in different way.


The issue seems to be with the way Ven. Thanissaro is putting it...

"Thus the completely free & unadulterated experience we have been discussing is that of nibbāna after death." Tathagatas after death is a concern to be laid aside, so how are we to understand a sentence like this?
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby piotr » Sat Jan 14, 2012 12:52 pm

Hi,

What concerns me is mixing up of two separate issues of how Vedic fire theory applies to nibbāna with fuel remaining and to nibbāna without fuel remaining according to Ṭhānissaro. When Ñāṇa was trying to present Ṭhānissaro views he muddled up this two issues. No wonder that conclusions which Ñāṇa drawn are — as he put it — “meaningless”. Yes, they are meaningless but they don't represent actual views of Ṭhānissaro.
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby Nyana » Sat Jan 14, 2012 1:53 pm

piotr wrote:You've raised the objection, that “If the Indian Buddhist understanding of fire was really that an extinguished fire goes into a «latent state,» then these three fires could re-combust within an arahant's mind as long as there is fuel remaining.” Therefore you assumed that in this context Ṭhānissaro accepts Vedic fire theory in its entirety

No, I didn't assume that. I merely pointed out one absurdity of the latent fire theory, that is, it wouldn't preclude the three fires from re-igniting as long as there is fuel remaining (i.e. saupādisesa nibbānadhātu), regardless of Ṭhānissaro's convoluted appeals to qualifications and exemptions.

piotr wrote:What concerns me is mixing up of two separate issues of how Vedic fire theory applies to nibbāna with fuel remaining and to nibbāna without fuel remaining according to Ṭhānissaro.

Ṭhānissaro also thinks that his assertion of a post-mortem "unadulterated experience" of "absolute freedom from all constraints of time, space, and being" should somehow exempt him from getting entangled in wrong views. Well, it doesn't.
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby piotr » Sat Jan 14, 2012 2:43 pm

Hi Ñāṇa,

Your stubbornness to acknowledge your minor mistake makes impossible for me to discuss further this issue. Hopefully I've shown to others that what's often discussed here as “Ṭhānissaro's views” is just a distorted rendering of his actual views.
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby Nyana » Sat Jan 14, 2012 3:04 pm

piotr wrote:Your stubbornness to acknowledge your minor mistake makes impossible for me to discuss further this issue.

*Sigh* It's your conclusion that was mistaken Piotr. I never implied that that one statement was meant to be a detailed discussion on all of Ṭhānissaro's convolutions.

piotr wrote:Hopefully I've shown to others that what's often discussed here as “Ṭhānissaro's views” is just a distorted rendering of his actual views.

You haven't shown anything of the sort. Ṭhānissaro has been quoted verbatim throughout this thread. There has been no distortion of any of his statements.
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby piotr » Sat Jan 14, 2012 3:29 pm

Hi,

Ñāṇa wrote:*Sigh* It's your conclusion that was mistaken Piotr. I never implied that that one statement was meant to be a detailed discussion on all of Ṭhānissaro's convolutions.


Not only you distort views of others when you render them but you also ascribe never mentioned opinions to your interlocutors. Therefore I can only sustain the opinion that further discussion on this topic is impossible for me.
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby Nyana » Sat Jan 14, 2012 3:50 pm

Anyway, returning to the issues....

In Nirvana and Other Buddhist Felicities, Steven Collins correctly understands that any imposition of a Vedic theory of latent fire in the interpretation of Buddhist discourse only serves to fill in intentional silences with the views of the commentator who resorts to this interpretation, and thereby necessarily diverges from the radical message of the Buddhist discourses themselves. Moreover, any view asserting an analogy to the latent fire theory will result in rendering Buddhist soteriology impossible:

    In the majority of uses of fire-imagery in Buddhist texts the fires which go out or go down like the sun, are -- like the three fires of Greed, Hatred, and Delusion -- precisely what must be wholly eliminated for release to be possible. If these fires simply return to their "primitive, pure, invisible" state, then according to Buddhist logic and psychology, their invisible existence and potential reappearance would make release impossible.

    To concretize the fire-image into a conceptually specific doctrine ... is an example of what the last chapter described as filling Buddhist silences, vocalizing their meaning. Scholars who do this often have their own account of what Buddhism must really mean, one which is divergent with the discourse of Buddhism itself.

Also, in Nibbāna and the Fire Simile, Ven. Ñāṇananda correctly understands that this Vedic theory of latency contradicts Buddhist conditionality:

    'The fire has gone out.' How ridiculous it is to conclude that the fire goes somewhere when it goes out. If one asks whether the extinguished fire has gone to the East or West or North or South, it is a foolish question. If something exists depending on causes and conditions, when those causes and conditions are removed, it has to cease....

    There is a flush of Buddhist literature thriving in the West which attempts to interpret this fire simile in the light of the Vedic myth that the extinguished fire 'goes into hiding.' Though the Buddha succeeded in convincing the Brahmin interlocutors of the dependently arisen nature of the fire by the reductio-ad-absurdum method, these scholars seem to be impervious to his arguments. What is worse, misinterpretations have even sought refuge in blatant mistranslations of sacred texts.
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby Nyana » Sat Jan 14, 2012 10:18 pm

piotr wrote:Hopefully I've shown to others that what's often discussed here as “Ṭhānissaro's views” is just a distorted rendering of his actual views.

Let's be clear Piotr: Ṭhānissaro's imposition of a latent fire theory only serves to buttress his view of an arahant's post-mortem "unadulterated experience." Not only does this theory contradict Buddhist conditionality, it is inextricably entangled in the very thicket of views that we are instructed to avoid and abandon. It's an ill-conceived interpretive strategy that clarifies nothing, and proliferates mistaken assertions.
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby chownah » Sun Jan 15, 2012 3:26 am

My view is that to whatever extent Thanissaro Bhikkhu tries to describe post mortem experience he is wrong....(but then views are things to be abandoned).......other than any post mortem views that he might hold are there any other substantial issues raised here except for the usual quibbles about this or that.......
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby ancientbuddhism » Sun Jan 15, 2012 3:06 pm

Sujato’s Blog
Nibbana is not viññāṇa. Really, it just isn’t.

I’ve just read yet another assertion that tries to slip a ‘cosmic consciousness’ Nibbana into the Suttas. In these kinds of arguments the same mistakes are made again and again, and you should beware of them. One popular argument is based on the famous passage:
viññāṇāṁ anidassanaṁ anantaṁ sabbato pabhaṁ
‘Consciousness non-manifest, infinte, radiant all around.’


This is sometimes said to be a term for Nibbana, although since it is an obscure poetic passage of dubious meaning we should not infer any major conclusions from it.
This obscure passage has been often exalted to the revelation of the highest teachings of Nibbana. One of the arguments one hears is that viññāṇa normally means ‘separative consciousness’, and that this has been revalued to refer to an infinite awareness. This argument is wrong. ...
Katamo ca bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo: samatho ca vipassanā ca. Ayaṃ vuccati bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo.

“And what, bhikkhus, is the path leading to the unconditioned? Calm and insight. This, bhikkhus, is called the path leading to the unconditioned.” SN. 43.2 – Samathavipassanāsuttaṃ

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby Nyana » Sun Jan 15, 2012 5:06 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:Sujato’s Blog
Nibbana is not viññāṇa. Really, it just isn’t.

Indeed.
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Jan 16, 2012 1:36 am

Greetings,

Thanissaro Bhikkhu's teachings in relation to nibbana have clearly come under much scrutiny here... I'm interested to know if anyone believes these dubious nibbana teachings in any way impact or compromise his teachings on the subject of anatta?

Metta,
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby ancientbuddhism » Mon Jan 16, 2012 1:50 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Thanissaro Bhikkhu's teachings in relation to nibbana have clearly come under much scrutiny here... I'm interested to know if anyone believes these dubious nibbana teachings in any way impact or compromise his teachings on the subject of anatta?

Metta,
Retro. :)


I think it indicates the agenda behind his interpretation of anattā doctrine in his papers and talks on Not-self Strategy. These may seem to run on different tracks, but an eternalist view of nibbāna does compliment his claim that the Buddha never denied the Upaniṣadic ātman.
Katamo ca bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo: samatho ca vipassanā ca. Ayaṃ vuccati bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo.

“And what, bhikkhus, is the path leading to the unconditioned? Calm and insight. This, bhikkhus, is called the path leading to the unconditioned.” SN. 43.2 – Samathavipassanāsuttaṃ

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby piotr » Mon Jan 16, 2012 7:17 am

Hi,

ancientbuddhism wrote:[B]ut an eternalist view of nibbāna does compliment his claim that the Buddha never denied the Upaniṣadic ātman.


Quote from “Selves and not-self”:

    One misinterpretation is that the Buddha’s not-self teaching is aimed specifically at negating the view of self proposed in the Brahmanical Upanishads—that the self is permanent, cosmic, and identical with God—but the Buddha is not negating the fact that we each have an individual self. In other words, he’s saying, Yes, you have an individual self, but, No, you don’t have a cosmic/God self.

    The second misinterpretation is the exact opposite: The Buddha is negating the idea that you have a small, separate self, but he’s affirming the existence of a large, interconnected, cosmic self. In other words, he’s saying, Yes, you do have a connected self, but, No, you don’t have a separate self.

    The third misinterpretation is similar to the first, but it introduces the idea that a self, to be a true self, has to be permanent. According to this interpretation, the Buddha is affirming that the five aggregates are what you are, but these five aggregates don’t really qualify to be called a self because they aren’t permanent. They’re just processes. In other words, No, you don’t have a self, but, Yes, you’re a bunch of processes; the aggregates are what you are.

    (...)

    As for the second misinterpretation, that the Buddha is actually affirming the cosmic or interconnected self, the evidence I’ve already given you shows that that cannot be the case. There is also a passage in the Canon where he says specifically that the idea of a cosmic self is especially foolish [MN 22]. His argument is this: If there is a self, there must be what belongs to a self. If your self is cosmic, then the whole cosmos must belong to you. But does it? No. Does it lie under your control? No. Therefore it doesn’t deserve to be called yours.

    — Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby Nyana » Mon Jan 16, 2012 10:39 am

piotr wrote:
    One misinterpretation is that the Buddha’s not-self teaching is aimed specifically at negating the view of self proposed in the Brahmanical Upanishads—that the self is permanent, cosmic, and identical with God—but the Buddha is not negating the fact that we each have an individual self. In other words, he’s saying, Yes, you have an individual self, but, No, you don’t have a cosmic/God self.

    The second misinterpretation is the exact opposite: The Buddha is negating the idea that you have a small, separate self, but he’s affirming the existence of a large, interconnected, cosmic self. In other words, he’s saying, Yes, you do have a connected self, but, No, you don’t have a separate self.

    The third misinterpretation is similar to the first, but it introduces the idea that a self, to be a true self, has to be permanent. According to this interpretation, the Buddha is affirming that the five aggregates are what you are, but these five aggregates don’t really qualify to be called a self because they aren’t permanent. They’re just processes. In other words, No, you don’t have a self, but, Yes, you’re a bunch of processes; the aggregates are what you are.

This is just more convoluted double-speak that clarifies nothing. The bottom line is that no matter how hard you search you will never find a singular entity that fulfills the criteria of selfhood.

Ṭhānissaro thinks that because his assertion of an arahant's post-mortem "unadulterated experience" is qualified by being outside of time and space, this should exempt him from adhering to a mistaken view. Well, it doesn't.
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby piotr » Mon Jan 16, 2012 10:47 am

Ñāṇa wrote:This is just more convoluted double-speak that clarifies nothing. The bottom line is that no matter how hard you search you will never find a singular entity that fulfills the criteria of selfhood.

Ṭhānissaro thinks that because his assertion of an arahant's post-mortem "unadulterated experience" is qualified by being outside of time and space, this should exempt him from adhering to a mistaken view. Well, it doesn't.


Here we go...

Again it's not the point of the quote. Just for clarification: ancientbuddhism said that Ṭhānissaro states that the Buddha never denied the Upaniṣadic self. Here Ṭhānissaro explains why the Buddha criticized their idea.
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby chownah » Mon Jan 16, 2012 12:44 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
piotr wrote:
    One misinterpretation is that the Buddha’s not-self teaching is aimed specifically at negating the view of self proposed in the Brahmanical Upanishads—that the self is permanent, cosmic, and identical with God—but the Buddha is not negating the fact that we each have an individual self. In other words, he’s saying, Yes, you have an individual self, but, No, you don’t have a cosmic/God self.

    The second misinterpretation is the exact opposite: The Buddha is negating the idea that you have a small, separate self, but he’s affirming the existence of a large, interconnected, cosmic self. In other words, he’s saying, Yes, you do have a connected self, but, No, you don’t have a separate self.

    The third misinterpretation is similar to the first, but it introduces the idea that a self, to be a true self, has to be permanent. According to this interpretation, the Buddha is affirming that the five aggregates are what you are, but these five aggregates don’t really qualify to be called a self because they aren’t permanent. They’re just processes. In other words, No, you don’t have a self, but, Yes, you’re a bunch of processes; the aggregates are what you are.

This is just more convoluted double-speak that clarifies nothing. The bottom line is that no matter how hard you search you will never find a singular entity that fulfills the criteria of selfhood.

Ṭhānissaro thinks that because his assertion of an arahant's post-mortem "unadulterated experience" is qualified by being outside of time and space, this should exempt him from adhering to a mistaken view. Well, it doesn't.

Nana,
The example of Thanisarro's writing seems to me to be neither convoluted nor double speak. It is clearly just giving three examples of wrong views concerning the self. I don't accept this small portion of his writings to prove much of anything but it seems that you are slipping out of "intellligent discussion" mode and into "fist pounding" mode.....I'm sorry to see that as you have posted some really good stuff before but I really see nothing in this post which is to the point of the discussion.....perhaps you are too emotionally distraught by your views on his "post mortem" teachings to be able to focus on this new topic....I really can not see how your comments apply.....
My view is that to the extent that Thanisaro construes a docrine of self then he is teaching the wrong thing....I see nothing in this excerpt which points to him doing that but perhaps he does that elsewhere.....frankly his "post mortem" comments do sort of point to a doctrince of self in my view but I can forgive him his sillyness in this matter in that I'm relatively sure the if taken to task he would agree that his veiws are based on personal conjecture I think but I'm not sure.....but it sort of surprises me that he wouod make those statements...go figure!!!
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