Thich Nhat Hanh: Dependant Co-arising & Inter-Being

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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Dependant Co-arising & Inter-Being

Postby beeblebrox » Mon Aug 30, 2010 4:13 pm

legolas wrote:The last line seems to say we are all one. Now I dont deny the beauty in TNH's writing but is this really what DO or emptiness is all about? It was only as I discovered that if you look hard enough you see the "happy" dhamma that the Buddha taught, the escape from suffering by seeing DO. Its still a joyful path but without any self delusion.


I think that's really the fault of a conventional language... and besides, that wasn't the way I understood it at all. It's basically saying that the paper only existed because of all the conditions in the universe.

It lacks the unique "paperness" that exists independently, so that would be Anatta. Cloud becomes a paper, that's Anicca at its extreme. If the paper thinks that it exists on its own, and that there will always be paper (or at least the ideal of it), it would lead to Dukkha.

Still sounds like Dhamma to me... except it's packaged differently. It's done in the so-called Mahayanist style. The thing here is to look past the "conventional language". Seems like some are able to look past this, but seems like most just aren't able to. That's probably because they're still wrapped up in their own viewpoints (which would be the first link in DO, leading to suffering and death).

Be it far from me to defend what TNH says, though (which it feels like I'm doing here), or to know what his own understanding of the Dhamma is actually like (he at least gets a benefit of doubt)... I only read one of his books in my lifetime (a poem book). I don't really follow him. His own teaching isn't my style at all... but I still understand what he's saying, anyway.

Whether this is only because I've been reading my own understanding into what he's said... or because he actually understands it himself, it really makes no difference. Maybe it's that "inter-being" stuff. :tongue:
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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Dependant Co-arising & Inter-Being

Postby IanAnd » Mon Aug 30, 2010 4:46 pm

legolas wrote:A few years ago I was attracted to TNH, because of his "happy" take on things and also because he's a nice guy. It was only with introspection that I realised that it was not what I was looking for. An example might be how TNH would describe interbeing...

http://efipaz.wordpress.com/2008/09/04/interbeing/

The last line seems to say we are all one. Now I don't deny the beauty in TNH's writing but is this really what DO or emptiness is all about?

It was only as I discovered that if you look hard enough you see the "happy" dhamma that the Buddha taught, the escape from suffering by seeing DO. Its still a joyful path but without any self delusion.

Thank you, legolas, for providing a context (in the link) for your statement. I think you have a point here. And if I'm reading it correctly, I agree with its basic premise. Yet it depends upon how the reader reads and understands what TNH is saying in his definition of inter-being. Taken one way, it can be seen as a creative contemporary restatement of dependent arising (albeit, one that leaves out some important details). Taken another way, it can be seen as a gross misstatement of what the Buddha taught.

Thick Nhat Hahn wrote:If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are. “Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter-” with the verb “to be,” we have a new verb, inter-be. . . .

If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact, nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. . . . When we look in this way, we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist.

The point you are making, if I am correct, is the same point I make when people want to conflate two seemingly similar ideas together and call them the same idea. The two similar ideas, in this case, are the idea that the Buddha expressed in the Pali suttas about two "conditioned phenomena" co-arising dependently, on the one hand. And the idea (albeit perhaps misguidedly, because he is not a native English speaker and therefore may not fully understand the nuances of the language when he is attempting to express himself) being expressed by Nhat Hahn that "without all these things" this or that cannot exist, on the other hand. Notice that he does not differentiate the cloud and the paper from substantiality in that he refers to them as "things." Had he brought into the statement the idea of the conditionality of the phenomena of the cloud and the paper, then the reader might not have any wiggle room to conflate this nuance with substantial beingness.

While Nhat Hahn may indeed correctly understand within his own mind dependent co-arising in what he is endeavoring to say, the way he is wording it in English is not quite the same and does not have the same connotation as the translated discourses. When understood correctly, the standard definition for dependent co-arising given by the Buddha reads as follows: "When this [conditioned phenomenon] exists, that [conditioned phenomenon] comes to be; with the arising of this [conditioned phenomenon], that [conditioned phenomenon] ceases. When this [conditioned phenomenon] does not exist, that [conditioned phenomenon] does not come to be; with the cessation of this, that ceases." (SN 12.37)

In another nearby sutta, the following is stated (in order to clarify my bracketed additions to the above quotation): "Bhikkhus, with ignorance as condition, volitional formations [come to be]; with volitional formations as condition, consciousness.... Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering." (SN 12.35; bracketed addition is that of the translator, Bhk. Bodhi) At another point in this same sutta, the following is stated: "If there is the view, 'The soul and the body are the same,' there is no living of the holy life; and if there is the view, 'The soul is one thing, the body is another,' there is no living of the holy life. Without veering towards either of these extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma by the middle: 'With birth as condition, aging-and-death.' "

This is not the same as saying "without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist." He seems to be talking about substantial "things" and their conventional deportment rather than conditioned phenomena which are "without self."

To that extent, I agree with the statement given by beeblebrox: "I think that's really the fault of a conventional language..." Although I don't agree that this is at all clear for the reader who has only the definitions of the words given to go on and not his own pre-conditioned understanding of dependent co-arising as is the case with beeblebrox.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV
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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Dependant Co-arising & Inter-Being

Postby christopher::: » Mon Aug 30, 2010 10:16 pm

Maybe i'm missing something, but i don't see how TNH's observations diverge from the Buddha's teachings in any way. He's just placing greater emphasis on the interdependence of phenomena, how no "thing" exists on its own, how the Universe is composed of compounded forms, empty of self nature. This is the flip side of the truth of anicca-dukkha-anattā. If you look out at Nature, its very clear.

When i read Ajahn Chah i find he makes the same point at times, he just doesn't employ a word for this interdependence, but its there if one looks at Nature, no? It fits with what Ajahn Chah calls Dhamma Nature, imo, truths about the way things are that we can learn by observing both our minds and the world around us carefully. Every thought or form is in flux, decaying and changing, and its all One event, interconnected...

With even a little intuitive wisdom, we will then be able to see clearly through the ways of the world. We will come to understand that everything in the world is a teacher. Trees and vines, for example, can all reveal the true nature of reality. With wisdom there is no need to question anyone, no need to study. We can learn from nature enough to be enlightened, as in the story of King Mahajanaka, because everything follows the way of truth. It does not diverge from truth.

Associated with wisdom are self-composure and restraint which, in turn, can lead to further insight into the ways of nature. In this way, we will come to know the ultimate truth of everything being ''anicca-dukkha-anattā''. Take trees, for example; all trees upon the earth are equal, are One, when seen through the reality of ''anicca-dukkha-anattā''. First, they come into being, then grow and mature, constantly changing, until they finally die as every tree must.

In the same way, people and animals are born, grow and change during their life-times until they eventually die. The multitudinous changes which occur during this transition from birth to death show the Way of Dhamma. That is to say, all things are impermanent, having decay and dissolution as their natural condition.

If we have awareness and understanding, if we study with wisdom and mindfulness, we will see Dhamma as reality. Thus, we sill see people as constantly being born, changing and finally passing away. Everyone is subject to the cycle of birth and death, and because of this, everyone in the universe is as One being. Thus, seeing one person clearly and distinctly is the same as seeing every person in the world.

In the same way, everything is Dhamma. Not only the things we see with our physical eye, but also the things we see in our minds. A thought arises, then changes and passes away. It is ''nāma dhamma'', simply a mental impression that arises and passes away. This is the real nature of the mind. Altogether, this is the noble truth of Dhamma. If one doesn't look and observe in this way, one doesn't really see! If one does see, one will have the wisdom to listen to the Dhamma as proclaimed by the Buddha.

Where is the Buddha?
The Buddha is in the Dhamma.
Where is the Dhamma?
The Dhamma is in the Buddha.
Right here, now!
Where is the Sangha?
The Sangha is in the Dhamma.

The Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha exist in our minds, but we have to see it clearly. Some people just pick this up casually saying, ''Oh! The Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha exist in my mind''. Yet their own practice is not suitable or appropriate. It is thus not befitting that the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha should be found in their minds, namely, because the ''mind'' must first be that mind which knows the Dhamma.

Bringing everything back to this point of Dhamma, we will come to know that, in the world, truth does exist, and thus it is possible for us to practice to realize it.

For instance, ''nāma dhamma'', feelings, thoughts, imagination, etc., are all uncertain. When anger arises, it grows and changes and finally disappears. Happiness, too, arises, grows and changes and finally disappears. They are empty. They are not any ''thing''. This is always the way of all things, both mentally and materially. Internally, there are this body and mind. Externally, there are trees, vines and all manner of things which display this universal law of uncertainty.

Whether a tree, a mountain or an animal, it's all Dhamma, everything is Dhamma. Where is this Dhamma? Speaking simply, that which is not Dhamma doesn't exist. Dhamma is nature. This is called the ''Sacca Dhamma'', the True Dhamma. If one sees nature, one sees Dhamma; if one sees Dhamma, one sees nature. Seeing nature, one know the Dhamma.

And so, what is the use of a lot of study when the ultimate reality of life, in its every moment, in its every act, is just an endless cycle of births and deaths? If we are mindful and clearly aware when in all postures (sitting, standing, walking, lying), then self-knowledge is ready to be born; that is, knowing the truth of Dhamma already in existence right here and now.

~Ajahn Chah
Dhamma Nature


Now definitely, Mahayana and Theravada teachers present these understandings in a different way, "spin it" differently, but the underlying truth of this matter is the same, and interdependence (co-arising) is as much an example of "Dhamma Nature" as anicca and anatta.

This is what i hear when reading either Ajahn Chah or TNH, while their style of presentation is different they are asking us to carefully observe both the world and our minds, to learn from our observations, imo. And to recognize that the truth of dhamma can be found everywhere.

dhamma follower wrote:I am not discouraging others from appreciating TNH's teaching, as I have a lot of respect for all the good things he brings to the world. But I don't choose him as my Teacher on the Path,as there good other ones that suits my own understanding better. I hope you are ok with that :tongue:



I respect your views and practice, D.F. As you say, the approach to the dhamma that you have taken is better for you, and that's the most important thing.

:anjali:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Dependant Co-arising & Inter-Being

Postby dhamma follower » Tue Aug 31, 2010 3:06 am

christopher::: wrote:Maybe i'm missing something, but i don't see how TNH's observations diverge from the Buddha's teachings in any way. He's just placing greater emphasis on the interdependence of phenomena, how no "thing" exists on its own, how the Universe is composed of compounded forms, empty of self nature. This is the flip side of the truth of anicca-dukkha-anattā. If you look out at Nature, its very clear.



Dear Chris,

IMHO, D.O as taught by the Buddha not only shows the selfless nature of the five aggregates, but also their entire functioning. It reveals how kilesas lead to suffering and to perpetuate samsara, and how wisdom puts an end to it. That is what his Teaching is all about : suffering and the way out of suffering. TNH's description of inter-being is poetic and can be inspiring, but I don't see this fundamental element (how kilesas lead to suffering and how wisdom puts an end to samsara) in it. TNH talks elsewhere about how ignorance, greed and hatred are the cause of suffering, but his model of inter-being doesn't successfully show it. One reason is, IMO, is that his model doesn't reflect the deeper aspect of D.O: the links between avija, sankhara, vinnana, phassa and vedanas. Another is that as he doesn't regconize dukkha as something inherent of what ever arises and pass away, (his three seals of Dharma is : impermanence, selfless, and Nibana), he doesn't explain well enough the relationship between the wisdom to see anicca, dukkha, anatta, and detachment. Among the three characterictics, one or another may be more obvious for each meditator, but when one of them is realized, so are the other two, so I don't understand why Ven wants to remove dukkha from it.
According to Theravada, the process of liberation starts truly only from vipassana nana: that is to say to see how conciousness arises and pass away together with the object. Inter-being doesn't deal at all with this deeper level of attachment: identication with the knower.

Regards,

D.F.
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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Dependant Co-arising & Inter-Being

Postby christopher::: » Tue Aug 31, 2010 5:51 am

Hi D.F. I think these may stem from fundamental differences in approach and view, between Theravada and Mahayana. Inter-being does deal with attachment, imo, in terms of dis-identication with the conventional self. The Diamond Sutra and other Mahayana texts go deeper, addressing the issue of the knower, but these are conceptual descriptions, models of how things are all around us. At the end of the day each practitioner has to observe (and come to understand deeply) these workings in our own minds and YES, for that the Buddha's original teachings (such as you have described) are primary.

In a sense i don't disagree with you, just think that not every one is ready to dive in directly- making the observation (and untangling) of their own mind central to practice. Many of the schools of Buddhism take a more circuitous route then Theravada, and even within Theravada you can find folk versions that bring up a lot of added things (ancestor worship, spirits, horoscopes, etc) which many practitioners here at DW would probably view as distractions and diversions.
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Dependant Co-arising & Inter-Being

Postby ground » Tue Aug 31, 2010 6:04 am

legolas wrote:
TMingyur wrote:
legolas wrote:The last line seems to say we are all one.

Funny. IMO it simply says that phenomena are interdependent or "Phenomena do not exist inherently" or "Phenomena are what we want them to be" :)

Kind regards



Hi,

A sheet of paper containing the whole world? Why not the universe in a tear drop, its very beautiful, but is it dhamma?


Well "Phenomena are what we want them to be" ... the same applies to "dhamma"

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