The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby PeterB » Wed Jun 09, 2010 2:40 pm

Just a suggestion but why not put the question on DHARMA Wheel, the sister forum to this, whose main focus is the Mahayana ?
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Jun 09, 2010 4:00 pm

Dexing wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:You are the one continually referring to the Theravada as "Small Vehicle" which is nothing more than a Chinese euphemism for hinayana.


I have explained what Small vs Large Vehicle refers to from this tradition. Small because it only deals with the non-existence of personal selfhood within the Five Aggregates. Large because it also deals with the non-existence of the Five Aggregates and phenomena themselves. And looking into Theravada doctrine I find that it is fitting.
You have not looked very hard. Again, "small" is a Chinese euphemism for what is an ugly Sanskrit word coined by the Mahayana.

So far, neither you nor anyone else, has been able to provide Sutta reference to prove this wrong.
So far, it has been a matter of trying to get you to carefully define your use of "illusion" and "exists" and so far, you have not done so. After, that I'll be delighted to provide sutta evidence to counter your misrepresentation of the Pali suttas.

Try dictionary.com then. No hidden meaning.
And again, avoiding the issue. You are refusing to give us in your own words a us carefully, clearly done definitions of "illusion" and "exists."

I wrote:And here, Dexing, is another one you have avoided:

tiltbillings wrote:
Dexing wrote:Now my point here is that the Bodhisattva path is not found within Theravada because it teaches a completely different view of phenomenal existence altogether- that of; "Three Realms Only Mind".

Perhaps if agreeable we can move forward from there.
And what about the Mahayanists who do not agree with your interpretation, such as, oh, say someone such as the Dalai Lama? By your argument, the bodhisattva path is not found in the Gelugpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, or any of the Indian lineage of Madhyamikas, it would seem.
you wrote:I haven't avoid this. My last post addresses it as well. I'm not afraid to share my understanding here, because what I have said is found explicitly across many many Mahayana Sutras. I have already provided references. It is just not accepted in Western culture yet.
Again, you have not dealt with this question; you are giving us your usual side-step. You have been giving us a "Yogachara" take on things, but the Dalai Lama comes out of a Prasangika Madhayamaka position that rejects the Yogachara as having any ultimacy and would reject the statement that "it is all illusion, stating at best the Yogachara is a "provisional" point of view, but not an ultimate point of view.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Jun 09, 2010 4:09 pm

Paññāsikhara wrote:Scholars must take extreme care never to transfer the conceptions of one “lineage” to another “lineage”, and never to explain Mādhyamika terms by anything else except Mādhyamika definitions, Yogācāra terms by anything else except Yogācāra definitions, and so for the Sarvāstivādins, Theravādins, Mahīśāsakas and all other sects. (Conze 1975: 204)

Conze, E. (1975). Further Buddhist studies : selected essays. Oxford [Eng.]; London: B. Cassirer ; Distributed by Luzac.

Bhante, Another Conze fan-boy. For scholars, that is quite true, but religionists tend not to give a rat's patooty about such things. As we have seen on the grey forum -repeatedly -, the evangelical Mahayanists there saw their poosition as the sole arbiter of what is what in Buddhism: the objective basis by which all esle is judged.
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.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby Shonin » Wed Jun 09, 2010 4:23 pm

Dexing wrote:When the Five Aggregates for example are observed by their three marks, as in Theravada doctrine, this type of practice will lead to disenchantment and detachment, which will in turn lead to liberation from suffering. That is the goal of the practice- to end suffering, attain Nibbana, Arahantship. (That's of course super simplified, but you get my point.)

However, as long as one does not break through the illusion of the Five Aggregates altogether, one cannot see the true face of reality. One is still under the impression that there are such aggregates albeit impermanent, unsatisfactory, and not-self. Although one no longer identifies with the Five Aggregates one cannot perceive their true nature while the Aggregates are taken for granted.

X

So the point of breaking through the illusion of the Five Aggregates and all phenomenal existence becomes extremely pivotal in the practice of the Bodhisattva path as taught in Mahayana traditions. It is the point of every Mahayana Sutra. It is the wisdom of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas which allows them to continually enter Samsara to save all beings. Only one who has seen reality can do that effectively.


You seem to have missed a step there - marked with an 'X'. What makes 'seeing the aggregates as illusion' pivotal? Seeing the 3 marks leads to disenchantment and Nibbana - OK. So why is an additional step of 'seeing aggregates as illusion' required? What does that lead to if recognising the 3 marks is enough to lead to disenchantment and Nibbana?

Or are you saying that this allows Mahayana practitioners to enter Samsara and save all beings? How? And surely since attaining Nibbana is 'salvation' and since seeing the 3 marks is enough to produce disenchantment and thus Nibbana, a Bodhisattva only has to encourage others to see the 3 marks - thus helping them to become disenchanted, and attaining Nibbana?

What does 'seeing the aggregates as illusion' add to the situation? Why is it required in order to help others? And how was it that Gotama Buddha was able to save other beings without teaching such a thing?

It seems to me that 'seeing the aggregates as illusion' is a remnant of grasping at self - Niratta: believing in no-self - positing an absolute essence of 'nothingness' to phenomena/reality.
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby Hoo » Wed Jun 09, 2010 5:39 pm

Dexing wrote:.... (From a posting on May 25, thanks Peter B for referring back to that date area)....I have made my case that the Bodhisattva's realization is the absolute unreality of the phenomenal world, not just Dependent Origination, Causes & Conditions, Impermanence, etc., but the non-existence of all phenomena, for example the Five Aggregates as having never been produced nor extinguished, not attributed to Causes & Conditions because they have never existed. They are illusory and unreal, not "existing but just temporary and interdependent, lacking an eternal substance".

Since this teaching doesn't appear in the Pali Suttas, I don't see that a follower of these scriptures can follow the Bodhisattva path.

Now if you want to take a position against this, you simply have to show that such a teaching does in fact exist within the Pali Suttas, since that is the basic realization of a Bodhisattva as taught all over Large Vehicle Sutras.

If you can find that, I will stand corrected.

But if you cannot find those teachings present in the Pali Suttas, then I rest my case and should withdraw from the topic. :namaste:


Dexing, I find one of your conclusions correct. I believe you should have withdrawn from the topic when you made this statement. I believe you haven't made your case for some reasons below. Please don't take offense at my observations, they are just views, like any others.

I take no offense to your views and have enjoyed reading them, but I do not see where you have made any case outside of demonstrating that you have firm convictions. That's cool, so do lots of people. But some of the Chan and Tibetans I have met take a somewhat different approach. If your view was the proven true view, it is not shared by all of the Mahayana. Why have they not all taken up your view?

You make a personal statement about a bodhisatva's realization - I believe it's not shared by all the Mahayana. You need to provide proof that universality is the case. To quote you from elsewhere, it's not enough to just say it is, or it is not.

You propose a proof that it is not in the Pali Suttas. Then you personalize again in that you don't see how a follower of the Pali Canon can follow the bodhisatva path (which definition is agreed on by all Mahayana, per you). I would suggest that bodhisattva has different connotations in different systems. Yours is not established as the definitive measure.

Then you place responsibility for proving your personal case, on another person who disagrees, in a Canon that does not support your personal view. Instructions that will certainly lead to a known conclusion.

In philosophy, it's known as a self-referential system. The definition is yours, the sources of proof are yours, the acceptability of sources are yours, instructions are yours, criterion for proof are yours, and by resting your case before getting the answer, you demonstrate that the verdict is yours as well - before the reply is made. Any combination of those yields only an exercise in logic, but cannot lead to a truth. Even if it starts with a truth, inserting self-referential processes defeats that truth.

Your convictions are admirable. I really have enjoyed your presentations of the Mahayana and the bodhisatva ideal. I do not agree with some of it, which is neither here nor there. My views are like noses - everyone has one :) I just thought I'd add this piece that I haven't seen in the thread so far....There are other systems that disagree with much of what you write, some that agree entirely, many may not even be relevant. But it is important to know when one is presenting a view and when one is presenting a supposed truth. My faded-glory contribution is that from the perspective of philosophy, the process of presentation undercut what you wished to convey. The case was not proven by the process used.

My personal bias is as relevant as any of those who have contributed so far. I began firmly in Theravada, began to see some value in Mahayana and Vajrayana, drifted into an acceptance of "one Dharma," and have landed briefly in an open mind :) With decades of philosophy and psychology under my belt, I can be accused of any bias one may choose. But I am unlikely to blindly accept such from anyone. I have only recently learned kindness and compassion and am still not good at either, so I appreciate instruction and demonstrations on those :)

Hope you take this in the spirit offered - kindness, and a wish to convey another view of the discussion.
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby Shonin » Wed Jun 09, 2010 6:34 pm

Dexing wrote:There has been no solid scriptural counter argument. It is also written explicitly in Mahayana Sutras, and taught in very minute detail in the Chinese lecture series from Buddhist University classrooms that I linked to.


What you have stated is - or is closely related to - the literalist interpretation of Yogacara, which indeed had significant influence on Chinese Buddhism. And by quoting such texts selectively it is possible to present this as being the orthodox understanding of Sunyata. This, however is simply not the case - the literal interpretation of Yogacara is very much a minority position in Mahayana - and I shall be posting a series of excerpts with which I hope to demonstrate this.

Here is the first:

Seventy Verses On Sunyata: Shunyatasaptati by Nagarjuna

1. Though the Buddhas have spoken of duration, origination, destruction, being, non-being, low, moderate, and excellent by force of worldly convention, [they] have not done [so] in an absolute sense.

4. Being does not arise, since it exists. Non-being does not arise, since it does not exist. Being and non-being [together] do not arise, due to [their] heterogeneity. Consequently they do not endure or vanish.

17. How can the non-existing have own-being, other-being, or non-being? Consequently, own-being, other-being, and non-being [result from] perverted views.

20. Without being there is no non-being. [Being] neither arises from itself nor from [something] else. This being so, this [being] does not exist: So there is no being, and [therefore] no non-being.

25. If nirvana [resulted] from cessation, [then there would be] destruction. If the contrary, [there would be] permanence. Therefore it is not logical that nirvana is being or non-being.

32. Composite and non-composite are not many [and] not one; are not being [and] are not non-being; are not being -- non-being. All [possibilities] are comprised within these limits.

67. Nothing exists by virtue of own-being, nor is there any non-being here. Being and non-being, born through causes and conditions, are empty.

72. One with faith who tries to seek the truth, one who considers this principle logically [and] relies [upon] the Dharma that is lacking all supports leaves behind existence and non-existence [and abides in] peace.
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby Shonin » Wed Jun 09, 2010 7:01 pm

Next...

Buddhanet: Teachings in Chinese Buddhism: Sunyata (Emptiness) in the Mahayana Context

Egolessness (non-self) implies the void characteristics of all existence. Egolessness (non-self) signifies the non-existence of permanent identity for self and existence (Dharma). Sunyata stresses the voidness characteristic of self and existence (Dharma). Sunyata and egolessness possess similar attributes. As we have discussed before, we can observe the profound significance of sunyata from the perspective of inter-dependent relationships. Considering dharma-nature and the condition of nirvana, all existences are immaterial and of a void-nature. Then we see each existence as independent of each other. But then we cannot find any material that does exist independent of everything else. So egolessness also implies void-nature!
...
For example, sunyata and the state of nirvana where there is no rising nor falling, are interpreted by most people as a state of non-existence and gloom. They fail to realise that quite the opposite, sunyata is of substantial and positive significance.

The sutras often use the word "great void" to explain the significance of sunyata. In general, we understand the "great void" as something that contains absolutely nothing. However, from a Buddhist perspective, the nature of the "great void" implies something which does not obstruct other things, in which all matters perform their own functions. Materials are form, which by their nature, imply obstruction. The special characteristic of the "great void" is non-obstruction. The "great void" therefore, does not serve as an obstacle to them. Since the "great void" exhibits no obstructive tendencies, it serves as the foundation for matter to function. In other words, if there was no "great void" nor characteristic of non-obstruction, it would be impossible for the material world to exist and function.

The "great void" is not separated from the material world. The latter depends on the former. We can state that the profound significance of sunyata and the nature of sunyata in Buddhism highlights the "great void’s" non-obstructive nature.

Sunyata does not imply the "great void". Instead, it is the foundation of all phenomena (form and mind). It is the true nature of all phenomena, and it is the basic principle of all existence. In other words, if the universe’s existence was not empty nor impermanent, then all resulting phenomena could not have arisen due to the co-existence of various causes and there would be no rising nor falling. The nature of sunyata is of positive significance!
http://www.buddhanet.net/cbp2_f6.htm
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby Shonin » Wed Jun 09, 2010 7:37 pm

Next...

When the boy said, “Because Buddha Nature is devoid, you therefore say
that It is beyond existence,” 14 he had put it clearly, for ‘being devoid’ does not
mean ‘being nothing’.
- Dogen, Shobogenzo

At the same time, when those who are commonplace and foolish hear about
what the Tathagata said—namely, that what is seen by those with bleary-eyed
vision are the flowerings in Unbounded Space—they assume that ‘bleary-eyed
vision’ refers to topsy-turvy vision in human beings. Because their own diseased
vision is already topsy-turvy, they believe that one experiences flowers in
Unbounded Space as something floating in an absolute void
. Being attached to this
understanding, they have concluded that the three worlds of desire, form, and
beyond form, the six worlds*of existence, the existence of Buddhahood, and the
state of going beyond Buddhahood, are all really non-existent but are mistakenly
seen as having existence
. They go about making their living by asserting that, if we
were to bring to a halt this bleary-eyed vision brought about by our delusions, we
would no longer see these flowers in the void since, from the beginning, the void is
devoid of flowers.
- Dogen, Shobogenzo
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby Dexing » Wed Jun 09, 2010 9:25 pm

dhamma follower wrote:
That's why I find it hard to comprehend how can it be said that dhammas (aggregates) are also illusory, which is what Dexing seems to be saying that a bodhisattva realizes. In other words, if concepts are an illusion, and dhammas (aggregates) are also an illusion - so they don't exist - then what is the object of citta during a moment when insight/wisdom occurs for a bodhisattva? I mean, if all he sees are illusions, then how can wisdom arise for him in the first place? I.e. by theravadin standards (I understand they might not apply in case of mahayana, but that's the only reference point I have at the moment), I just can't make sense of the statement.

What's insight in mahayana based on - what's the object of citta during a moment of insight when wisdom arises? Of course, I'd appreciate an answer according to any particular mahayana school, I just used the term "mahayana" in general, since I don't know the distinctions between different traditions. Thanks


Very well put question ! I'd like it to be addressed as well !


The answer to this is quite straightforward, but will take an understanding of the Eight Consciousnesses taught not only in Mahayana schools like Yogacara, but in many many Mahayana Sutras accepted in basically all Mahayana schools, including my lineage tradition- Chan.

The basic response is this;

An Ordinary Being uses consciousness to perceive objects of that consciousness, and functions from within the limited capability of this deluded consciousness. This is the meaning of the terms Cittamatra and Vijnaptimatra. An Ordinary Being's experience is consciousness-only.

A Buddha on the other hand does not function through such consciousness anymore. The Eight types of Consciousness of an Ordinary Being are transformed into Four types of Wisdom.

An Ordinary Being's consciousness is always slow and ignorant. But a Buddha's wisdom functions spontaneously for the benefit of all beings. There is no longer a duality of Subject and Object, Perceiver and Perceived, Consciousness/Citta and Object of Citta, etc..

:namaste:
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby Dexing » Wed Jun 09, 2010 9:35 pm

Shonin wrote:What you have stated is - or is closely related to - the literalist interpretation of Yogacara, which indeed had significant influence on Chinese Buddhism. And by quoting such texts selectively it is possible to present this as being the orthodox understanding of Sunyata.


I have quoted no Yogacara text thus far, but only very widely accepted Sutras in all Mahayana schools which say the same things explicitly. Namely I have quoted here the Shurangama Sutra and various Prajnaparamita Sutras.

This, however is simply not the case - the literal interpretation of Yogacara is very much a minority position in Mahayana - and I shall be posting a series of excerpts with which I hope to demonstrate this.


What each of your excerpts are saying is not in conflict with the "literal interpretation of Yogacara". If you really understand Yogacara teachings, it is saying the same thing in your excerpts.

That is, there is simply nothing to point to and say "this exists" or "this does not exist". If you attach to non-existence, saying something does not exist, then there is still "something" to not exist.

Yogacara teachings first of all teach that everything ordinary beings perceive is merely the object of a subjective consciousness and not objective existence. Once realizing this, then obviously "exist" or "does not exist" both do not apply.

:namaste:
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Jun 09, 2010 10:17 pm

A very simple question:

Dexing wrote:Yogacara teachings first of all teach that everything ordinary beings perceive is merely the object of a subjective consciousness and not objective existence. Once realizing this, then obviously "exist" or "does not exist" both do not apply.
And the Pali suttas do not teach that?

And another very simple question, which you have refused to answer and which is very much related to the over all question of this thread: Is an arahant (as understood in the Pali suttas {not the later Mahjayana redefinition}) tathagata?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Jun 10, 2010 12:40 am

Dexing wrote:Yogacara teachings first of all teach that everything ordinary beings perceive is merely the object of a subjective consciousness and not objective existence. Once realizing this, then obviously "exist" or "does not exist" both do not apply.


Why Obviously? It ain't obvious to me?

Just because all of my perceptions are objects of my subjective conciousness it does not follow that those perceptions are a total invention and there is nothing at all to perceive.

Rather knowing that my perceptions are corrupted by delusion I seek to be free from delusion so that my perceptions become accurate and based on reality.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby ground » Thu Jun 10, 2010 2:17 am

Dexing wrote:Yogacara teachings first of all teach that everything ordinary beings perceive is merely the object of a subjective consciousness and not objective existence. Once realizing this, then obviously "exist" or "does not exist" both do not apply.

The first and the second sentence are contradicting.
Also how does Yogacara explain two individuals sharing the same "object of subjective experience". e.g. two individuals seeing fire and burning their fingers after they put their fingers in the fire and are holding them there?
How does Yogacara explain sucessful human activity based on thought and perception of objects shared by different individuals (e.g. science, mathematics)?

Kind regards
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby dhamma follower » Thu Jun 10, 2010 3:02 am

An Ordinary Being uses consciousness to perceive objects of that consciousness, and functions from within the limited capability of this deluded consciousness. This is the meaning of the terms Cittamatra and Vijnaptimatra. An Ordinary Being's experience is consciousness-only.

A Buddha on the other hand does not function through such consciousness anymore. The Eight types of Consciousness of an Ordinary Being are transformed into Four types of Wisdom.

An Ordinary Being's consciousness is always slow and ignorant. But a Buddha's wisdom functions spontaneously for the benefit of all beings. There is no longer a duality of Subject and Object, Perceiver and Perceived, Consciousness/Citta and Object of Citta, etc..


Again here, what is the definition of Ordinary Being ? From what it's said above,anyone who is not a Buddha ? Then how can Bodhicitta arises in an Ordinary Being, since, according to you, the condition for it is realization of "all are illusions" belongs only to the Buddha ?

Do you see the contradiction in your presentation ? On the one hand you maintain that realization of the nature of reality as "all are allusions" is indispensable to the arousal of Bodhicitta. But when asked how the insight into this occurs exactly and how it relates to Bodhicitta, you say it only belongs to the Buddha's consciousness!!!! So far, even leaving aside what is actually the point of Theravada, you have not yet made your case according to which the Bodhisattva ideal can only be found in Mahayana. This would makes sense only if you can answer satisfactorily specific questions put forth by fellows here (that you have basically avoided). Otherwise, as some one has noticed, many of your points are merely convictions without a solid basis of investigation and actual experiences.

Btw, how do you understand the experience of Nibbana, as far as it can gets with words ? Do you think in the experience of Nibbana, there's a perceiver and the perceived ?

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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Jun 10, 2010 3:03 am

TMingyur wrote:
Dexing wrote:Yogacara teachings first of all teach that everything ordinary beings perceive is merely the object of a subjective consciousness and not objective existence. Once realizing this, then obviously "exist" or "does not exist" both do not apply.

The first and the second sentence are contradicting.
Also how does Yogacara explain two individuals sharing the same "object of subjective experience". e.g. two individuals seeing fire and burning their fingers after they put their fingers in the fire and are holding them there?
How does Yogacara explain sucessful human activity based on thought and perception of objects shared by different individuals (e.g. science, mathematics)?
Keep in mind that the Tibetan tenet system's interpretation of Yogachara and what Dexing is positing as Yogachara is not necessarily how Yogacharins saw themselves or understood themselves. It depends upon who you read and when and where, which is to say there are differing understandings.
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.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby ground » Thu Jun 10, 2010 4:13 am

tiltbillings wrote:Keep in mind that the Tibetan tenet system's interpretation of Yogachara and what Dexing is positing as Yogachara is not necessarily how Yogacharins saw themselves or understood themselves. It depends upon who you read and when and where, which is to say there are differing understandings.


Well of course I am only referring to Dexing's "assertions about". After all "Yogachara" is just a label and there seems to be a variety of views about what "Yogachara" "really" is.

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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby Shonin » Thu Jun 10, 2010 6:19 am

Next...

Emptiness is never a generalized vacuity, like an empty room, but always relates to a specific entity whose emptiness is being asserted... The necessary indiscoverability is the essence of emptiness of Mādhyamika. It is important to distinguish this emptiness from nihilism.

The Buddhist notion of emptiness is often misunderstood as nihilism. Unfortunately, 19th century Western philosophy has contributed much to this misrepresentation. However, the only thing that nihilism and the teaching of emptiness can be said to have in common is a skeptical outset. Nihilism concludes that reality is unknowable, that nothing exists, that nothing meaningful can be communicated about the world. The Buddhist notion of emptiness is just the opposite. It states that the ultimate reality is knowable, there is a clear-cut ontological basis for phenomena and we can communicate and derive useful knowledge from it about the world. Emptiness (śūnyatā) must not be confused with nothingness. Emptiness is not non-existence and it is not non-reality.

However, in Yogācāra (Vijñānavāda), emptiness is taught as the inability to think of an object apart from the consciousness which thinks of that object...
- RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EMPTINESS (ŚŪNYATĀ ) AND DEPENDENT ORIGINATION :ANKUR BARUA, N. TESTERMAN, M.A. BASILIO
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby Shonin » Thu Jun 10, 2010 6:33 am

Next...

What is emptiness? Thich Nhat Hanh explains the meaning of this word.

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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby Shonin » Thu Jun 10, 2010 6:50 am

Next...

One of the most important philosophical insights in Buddhism comes from what is known as the theory of emptiness. At its heart is the deep recognition that there is a fundamental disparity between the way we perceive the world, including our own experience in it, and the way things actually are.

In our day-to-day experience, we tend to relate to the world and to ourselves as if these entities possessed self-enclosed, definable, discrete and enduring reality. For instance, if we examine our own conception of selfhood, we will find that we tend to believe in the presence of an essential core to our being, which characterises our individuality and identity as a discrete ego, independent of the physical and mental elements that constitute our existence.

The philosophy of emptiness reveals that this is not only a fundamental error but also the basis for attachment, clinging and the development of our numerous prejudices. According to the theory of emptiness, any belief in an objective reality grounded in the assumption of intrinsic, independent existence is simply untenable. All things and events, whether ‘material’, mental or even abstract concepts like time, are devoid of objective, independent existence.

To intrinsically possess such independent existence would imply that all things and events are somehow complete unto themselves and are therefore entirely self-contained. This would mean that nothing has the capacity to interact with or exert influence on any other phenomena. But we know that there is cause and effect – turn a key in a car, the starter motor turns the engine over, spark plugs ignite and fuel begins to burn… Yet in a universe of self-contained, inherently existing things, these events could never occur!

So effectively, the notion of intrinsic existence is incompatible with causation; this is because causation implies contingency and dependence, while anything that inherently existed would be immutable and self-enclosed. In the theory of emptiness, everything is argued as merely being composed of dependently related events; of continuously interacting phenomena with no fixed, immutable essence, which are themselves in dynamic and constantly changing relations. Thus, things and events are 'empty' in that they can never possess any immutable essence, intrinsic reality or absolute ‘being’ that affords independence.
- Dalai Lama, The Universe in a Single Atom
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby Shonin » Thu Jun 10, 2010 6:57 am

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... voidness does not mean nothingness, but rather that all things lack intrinsic reality, intrinsic objectivity, intrinsic identity or intrinsic referentiality. Lacking such static essence or substance does not make them not exist —- it makes them thoroughly relative.
- Robert F. Thurman, Foreword of Mother of the Buddhas by Lex Hixon

A nihilistic interpretation of the concept of voidness (or of mind-only) is not, by any means, a merely hypothetical possibility; it consistently was adopted by Buddhism's opponents, wherever the religion spread, nor have Buddhists themselves been immune to it...
- Roger R. Jackson, Is Enlightenment Possible?
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