How do you take "materialism"?

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How do you take "materialism"?

Postby clw_uk » Sun Sep 22, 2013 9:41 am

Two questions

First, what is your understanding of materialism, particularly Ajita Kesakambali view of it


Secondly, how do you understand it to be wrong view?


Renowned historian DD Kosambi, who elsewhere[3] calls Ajita a proto-materialist, notes[4] that he "preached a thoroughgoing materialist doctrine: good deeds and charity gained a man nothing in the end. His body dissolved into the primary elements at death, no matter what he had or had not done. Nothing remained. Good and evil, charity and compassion were all irrelevant to a man's fate." According to an early Buddhist source, Ajita Kesakambali argued that:

There is no such thing as alms or sacrifice or offering. There is neither fruit nor result of good or evil deeds...A human being is built up of four elements. When he dies the earthly in him returns and relapses to the earth, the fluid to the water, the heat to the fire, the wind to the air, and his faculties pass into space. The four bearers, on the bier as a fifth, take his dead body away; till they reach the burning ground, men utter forth eulogies, but there his bones are bleached, and his offerings end in ashes.


It is a doctrine of fools, this talk of gifts. It is an empty lie, mere idle talk, when men say there is profit herein. Fools and wise alike, on the dissolution of the body, are cut off, annihilated, and after death they are not.
“Happy is the man who has broken the chains which hurt the mind, and has given up worrying once and for all.” Ovid
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Re: How do you take "materialism"?

Postby Prasadachitta » Sun Sep 22, 2013 3:45 pm

Hi CLW,

This seems like an extension of the rebirth thread and I expect this discourse may belong there. I have been thinking about this issue of late though. Not because it is an important aspect of my own personal contemplation but because it seems to come up for friends of mine who tend to think in terms of a material world made of energy and matter.

It seems to me that there is a tendency to think in terms of a hierarchy where energy/matter is primary and all other phenomena arise out of or from it. What are these other phenomena; character or personality, culture, time, space, feeling, volition, consciousness to name a few. I think this hierarchical model is often taken for granted in a way that places a greater sense of value upon that sphere of experience which is easily reduced to or understood in terms of what is seen to be primary which in this case is matter/energy.

It is wrong view from the perspective of Buddhist practice to the degree that it distracts from....

This is suffering

This supports and sustains suffering

There is a ceasing of suffering

There is a way to cultivate cessation of suffering
............

Oh yes and suffering is also one of the phenomena which we could infer to be arising out of or from the primary reality of matter/energy.

Anyway, I know you well enough to be aware that this is probably terrain you are familiar with so I wonder what you expect to flush out through a discourse like this.

Take care...

Prasadachitta
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332
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Re: How do you take "materialism"?

Postby Samma » Sun Sep 22, 2013 5:03 pm

This is tied in with rebirth since the two wrong views were eternalism and annihilationism (alongside materialism).

Kesakambali was associated with Lokayata:
http://www.iep.utm.edu/indmat/#SH1b

1. How does rebirth work with materialism? So it is wrong view because they deny rebirth. Admittedly rebirth is a controversial topic, and perhaps it can be separated from the philosophical and ethical points bellow,
2. Another angle is that annahilsim has to do with a destruction of a self as aggregates. "proclaim the annihilation, destruction, and extermination of an existent being". (DN1). "Buddha says repeatedly that it’s not fitting to identify the aggregates as “what I am”" (Thanissaro)
3. The general negative moral attitudes easily held by materialists:
"Generosity is taught by idiots"
"‘There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed. There is
no fruit or result of good or bad actions." DN2
"There is no other world, there are no spontaneously reborn beings, there is no fruit or result of good or bad actions.’” — DN 23
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Re: How do you take "materialism"?

Postby SDC » Sun Sep 22, 2013 5:49 pm

clw_uk wrote:Secondly, how do you understand it to be wrong view?


Well in most cases if not all this way of thinking leads to a more self centered, self serving lifestyle. Which is fine if that is what you want. However in my experience this lifestyle creates an excessive amount of mental activity, mental responsibility and in turn, physical responsibility. When you accept a self centered approach you yield to more easily to the demands of your emotions, which under normal circumstances come at you non-stop, let alone in a situation where you are not questioning them. Over time this becomes habitual and you are complete slave to the "self".

On the other hand if you are concerned with the results of what you do, learn what they are and attempt to understand why they are important than you will be open to focusing on other people. This focus on others takes away from the constant mental responsibility that you face while being self centered. Over time this will reduce strength of those selfish demands - not only that, but also the entire idea of self will lose gas. This lack of self responsibility calms the body down and you are physically and mentally calmer - a calmness that is there without any immediate effort as opposed to the calm derived from a selfish lifestyle which must always be earned and never lasts.

Does this make it wrong view? I don't know. But it seems like a lot of unnecessary work.
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Re: How do you take "materialism"?

Postby equilibrium » Sun Sep 22, 2013 6:03 pm

clw_uk wrote:.....

1. Wrong view.
2. A man who is trapped by his own limited perceptions as he believes in what all he sees to be true.....delusion.
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Re: How do you take "materialism"?

Postby m0rl0ck » Sun Sep 22, 2013 8:11 pm

Actually i would like to see a discussion of materialism separate from rebirth. How it affects practice and realization for instance. Especially given that the underlying world view of the culture seems to be that we are all sort of biological robots conditioned by environment and controlled by brain function. How pervasive is that view in the individual? How does one get past that? Does one necessarily have to get past it or does practice done sincerely and according to method do that for you?
"Even if you've read the whole Canon and can remember lots of teachings; even if you can explain them in poignant ways, with lots of people to respect you; even if you build a lot of monastery buildings, or can explain inconstancy, stress, and not-self in the most detailed fashion ... The only thing that serves your own true purpose is release from suffering.

"And you'll be able to gain release from suffering only when you know the one mind."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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Re: How do you take "materialism"?

Postby SarathW » Mon Sep 23, 2013 12:35 am

The way I understand Buddha did not oppose to materialism.
What he said was to practice materialism without attachment and anger but with wisdom.
I think we need materialism until we die!
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Re: How do you take "materialism"?

Postby Sylvester » Mon Sep 23, 2013 5:42 am

clw_uk wrote:Two questions

First, what is your understanding of materialism, particularly Ajita Kesakambali view of it



But was Ajita's view really one of "materialism"? I'm not sure DD Kosambi's expertise lies in pre-Buddhist and early Buddhist "metaphysics" and there is a fairly clear pre-Buddhist understanding of rūpa that may better inform how we interpret Ajita's view. The classification of "materialism" is certainly valid under Abhidharmic methods, but that is not the only legitimate model.

Taking that translation offered -

.A human being is built up of four elements. When he dies the earthly in him returns and relapses to the earth, the fluid to the water, the heat to the fire, the wind to the air, and his faculties pass into space.


This comes from the Pali -

Cātummahābhūtiko ayaṃ puriso yadā kālaṃ karoti, paṭhavī paṭhavikāyaṃ anupeti anupagacchati. Āpo āpokāyaṃ anupeti anupagacchati. Tejo tejokāyaṃ anupeti anupagacchati. Vāyo vāyokāyaṃ anupeti anupagacchati, ākāsaṃ induyāni saṃkamanti.


The -ika suffix to cātummahābhūta functions as a relative adjective (qualifying purisa) to open up the relative clause ending in kālaṃ karoti. So, the translation above is straightaway defective. But small matter.

Does he correctly translate cātummahābhūtika as "is built up of the 4 elements"? Elsewhere in DN 2, we have this very standard pericope appear in the insight section -

ayaṃ kho me kāyo rūpī cātummahābhūtiko

This body of mine, with form, cātummahābhūtiko ...


Cātummahābhūtika is a pretty standard kind of bahubbīhi compound and -ika can serve any number of grammatical functions. The simplest way to parse it is to interpret it as a possessive suffix (rather than a constitutive reading), making it in line with the rūpī .

The 4 great bhūtas are not quite "material" thingies in the pre-Buddhist literature or as used in the suttas. See the standard pericopes defining them on the conceptual level, eg MN 28. There are the qualitative aspects that give one and one's experience a nameable dimension.

It all went downhill after the Sarvas messed up in SA 298 with a new conception of nāmarūpa that the older concept of "appearance" was displaced by a new concept of rūpa = "material" and nāma = "immaterial". The new definition of nāmarūpa is found not only SA 298, but make their appearance in these Skt texts -

http://suttacentral.net/sf303/skt/
http://suttacentral.net/sf155/skt/

In these Agama definitions, nāma = feeling, perception, formations and consciousness. There are however, other Agama sutras that follow the standard Pali definition.

So, we have 2 conflicting authorities - one exemplified by DN 15's usage of these terms to denote appearance and name of contact/experience, and another stream that use it to describe the "material" versus the "immaterial" constitution of a person.

Which do you think is more authentic, given that the alternative Agama definitions are not found in the Pali suttas?
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Re: How do you take "materialism"?

Postby Dhammanando » Tue Sep 24, 2013 3:47 pm

clw_uk wrote:Secondly, how do you understand it to be wrong view?


1. “Great king, there is no giving, no offering, no liberality.”

This is the doctrine of kammic inefficacy (akiriyavāda). These actions yield no fruit.

2. “There is no fruit or ripening of kammas well-done and ill-done.”

Also akiriyavāda.

3. “There is no present world.”

The doctrine of annihilation (ucchedavāda): for beings existing now there is no future world to be attained by kamma.

4. “No world beyond.”

Haphazardism / acausalism (ahetukavāda): the coming into existence of beings in the future will be causeless and not the result of kammas performed by beings existing now.

5. “No mother and no father.”

Akiriyavāda: the performance of right and wrong conduct towards one’s parents yields no fruit. This is according to the Dīgha commentary. Other texts identify it with moral nihilism (natthikavāda): there is no obligation for anyone to practise filial piety.

6. “No beings who have taken rebirth.”

Ahetukavāda. Reiterates #4 but applying the claim to beings in general, not just future ones.

N.B. Although many have translated “natthi sattā opapātikā” as “there are no beings of spontaneous arising”, in the present context the commentators take it to refer to the denial of rebirth in general and not just the denial of devas, petas, hell-beings, etc.

7. “In the world there are no samaṇas or brāhmaṇas of right attainment and right practice who explain this world and the world beyond on the basis of their own direct knowledge and realization.”

Ariyūpavāda (slandering of nobles). The Dīgha commentary doesn’t remark on this passage. The Vinaya commentary treats it as an expression of verbal misconduct rather than wrong view.

8. A person is made of the four great primaries. When he dies the earth [in his body] returns to and merges with the [external] body of earth; the water [in his body] returns to and merges with the [external] body of water; the fire [in his body] returns to and merges with the [external] body of fire; the air [in his body] returns to and merges with the [external] body of air. His sense faculties pass over into space. Four men carry the corpse along on a bier. His eulogies are sounded until they reach the charnel ground. His bones turn pigeon-coloured.”

Ucchedavāda.

9. “His meritorious offerings end in ashes.”

Akiriyavāda.

10. “The practice of giving is a foolish convention. Those who proclaim a doctrine of moral obligation speak only vain, empty prattle.”

Natthikavāda.

Commentary: “This practice of giving has been prescribed by fools and ignoramuses, not by the wise. Fools give, the wise take.”

11. “With the breaking up of the body, fools and sages alike are annihilated and utterly perish. Beyond death they exist no more.

Ucchedavāda.
____________________________________________

The commentary, discussing Ajita’s views in relation to those of Pūraṇa Kassapa and Makkhali Gosāla, remarks:

Among these, Pūraṇa, with his statement “By doing so there is no evil,” denies kamma [because of his doctrine of the inefficacy of action]. Ajita, with the statement “One is annihilated with the breakup of the body,” denies vipāka [because he completely rejects a future re-arising]. Makkhali, with his statement, “There is no cause [for the purification of beings],” etc., denies both.

By denying kamma one denies its vipāka [because there is no vipāka when there is no kamma]. By denying vipāka one denies kamma [because when there is no result, kamma becomes inefficacious]. Thus all these thinkers, by denying both kamma and vipāka, in effect espouse acausalism (ahetukavāda), the inefficacy of kamma (akiriyavāda), and moral nihilism (natthikavāda).

(adapted from Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation of the Sāmaññaphalasutta and commentary)

So although it’s the fashion to call Ajita a “materialist”, I think that from the commentarial point of view this designation —though not wrong— rather misses the point. Where a teacher espouses a plurality of wrong views, he will be most aptly denoted by whichever of these serves as the prōton pseudos. In the case of Ajita this clearly consists in his denial of vipāka, making “akiriyavādin” the fittest name for him.
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
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Re: How do you take "materialism"?

Postby clw_uk » Tue Sep 24, 2013 11:07 pm

Well in most cases if not all this way of thinking leads to a more self centered, self serving lifestyle. Which is fine if that is what you want. However in my experience this lifestyle creates an excessive amount of mental activity, mental responsibility and in turn, physical responsibility. When you accept a self centered approach you yield to more easily to the demands of your emotions, which under normal circumstances come at you non-stop, let alone in a situation where you are not questioning them. Over time this becomes habitual and you are complete slave to the "self".



Aren't all "wrong" views self centred, since they all operate around a sense of self?
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Re: How do you take "materialism"?

Postby clw_uk » Tue Sep 24, 2013 11:07 pm

Thanks bhante for that post, a lot to take in :)
“Happy is the man who has broken the chains which hurt the mind, and has given up worrying once and for all.” Ovid
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Re: How do you take "materialism"?

Postby SDC » Wed Sep 25, 2013 1:31 am

clw_uk wrote:
Well in most cases if not all this way of thinking leads to a more self centered, self serving lifestyle. Which is fine if that is what you want. However in my experience this lifestyle creates an excessive amount of mental activity, mental responsibility and in turn, physical responsibility. When you accept a self centered approach you yield to more easily to the demands of your emotions, which under normal circumstances come at you non-stop, let alone in a situation where you are not questioning them. Over time this becomes habitual and you are complete slave to the "self".



Aren't all "wrong" views self centred, since they all operate around a sense of self?


That's fair to say. However this one in particular provides no incentive to adopt any amount of real control over the mind in terms of morality (let alone anything else) because such a person would have no need to do so. So it is quite restrictive in terms of making any lifestyle changes.
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Re: How do you take "materialism"?

Postby chownah » Wed Sep 25, 2013 2:41 am

clw_uk wrote:
Well in most cases if not all this way of thinking leads to a more self centered, self serving lifestyle. Which is fine if that is what you want. However in my experience this lifestyle creates an excessive amount of mental activity, mental responsibility and in turn, physical responsibility. When you accept a self centered approach you yield to more easily to the demands of your emotions, which under normal circumstances come at you non-stop, let alone in a situation where you are not questioning them. Over time this becomes habitual and you are complete slave to the "self".



Aren't all "wrong" views self centred, since they all operate around a sense of self?

Don't all views operate around a sense of self?
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Re: How do you take "materialism"?

Postby clw_uk » Thu Sep 26, 2013 12:57 am

chownah wrote:
clw_uk wrote:
Well in most cases if not all this way of thinking leads to a more self centered, self serving lifestyle. Which is fine if that is what you want. However in my experience this lifestyle creates an excessive amount of mental activity, mental responsibility and in turn, physical responsibility. When you accept a self centered approach you yield to more easily to the demands of your emotions, which under normal circumstances come at you non-stop, let alone in a situation where you are not questioning them. Over time this becomes habitual and you are complete slave to the "self".



Aren't all "wrong" views self centred, since they all operate around a sense of self?

Don't all views operate around a sense of self?
chownah



Thats my point (which is my self view ;))
“Happy is the man who has broken the chains which hurt the mind, and has given up worrying once and for all.” Ovid
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