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

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

Postby christopher::: » Sun Aug 29, 2010 4:36 am

It might also be worth keeping in mind the factors that influenced TNH as his ideas received international attention, in the 1960s. The war was going on, he himself knew friends and family back home who were suffering, killed. According to some accounts his initial work was in part a response to the self immolation of fellow monks back in Vietnam.

Yes, he has put a "positive" spin on the Dhamma (that doesn't appeal to everyone) but he's also had very direct experience of suffering. Perhaps he felt this approach was needed, and then when many people in the West responded positively (he was nominated for a Noble Peace Prize) he took that as a message that what he was saying and doing, his ideas and way of presentation, was something helpful to others.

Short account of his background here, from TIME magazine...

Thich Nhat Hanh: The suffering of the Vietnam War

"Few battlefields were as bloody as Vietnam, where France and then the U.S. fought nationalists and communists for more than three decades. Though part of a quietist tradition, Nhat Hanh couldn't help being drawn into the conflicts around him. He could see how urgent it was to assert the buddhistic importance of compassion in a culture growing increasingly violent. War, he believed, could be ended only by extinguishing the emotions—fear, anger, contempt, vengefulness—that fueled it.

In 1965, after yet another Buddhist self-immolation, Nhat Hanh wrote to the American civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. that "the monks who burned themselves did not aim at the death of the oppressors, but only at a change in their policy. Their enemies are not man. They are intolerance, fanaticism, dictatorship, cupidity, hatred and discrimination, which lie within the heart of man." Nhat Hanh led King, and, by extension, American public sentiment, to oppose the fighting in Vietnam. During the late 1960s, while living in the U.S. in exile, Nhat Hanh became one of the icons of the antiwar movement. His essays were published in such leading periodicals as the New York Review of Books, and his poems were sung, like songs of protest, to guitar accompaniment at college campuses. It's no exaggeration to say that Nhat Hanh helped force Washington's eventual withdrawal from Vietnam.

Nhat Hanh, now 80 years old and living in a monastery in France, has played an important role in the transmission of an Asian spiritual tradition to the modern, largely secular West. "Do not," he has written, "be bound to any doctrine, theory or ideology, even Buddhist ones. All systems of thought are guiding means, not absolute truth."
"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 » Sun Aug 29, 2010 7:11 am

christopher::: wrote:It might also be worth keeping in mind the factors that influenced TNH as his ideas received international attention, in the 1960s. The war was going on, he himself knew friends and family back home who were suffering, killed. According to some accounts his initial work was in part a response to the self immolation of fellow monks back in Vietnam.

Yes, he has put a "positive" spin on the Dhamma (that doesn't appeal to everyone) but he's also had very direct experience of suffering. Perhaps he felt this approach was needed, and then when many people in the West responded positively (he was nominated for a Noble Peace Prize) he took that as a message that what he was saying and doing, his ideas and way of presentation, was something helpful to others.



Dear Chris,

I'd not argue the usefulness (and skillfulness) of TNH's approach. Numerous people have benefited from what he offers. However, whether his approach is leading to dispassion is another story.
Beside, the Buddha Dhamma is timeless, the nature of reality being the same in the middle of the war or amidst the most peaceful era. The dukkha sacca that the Buddha has declared to the world goes further than being starved, tortured, raped or so on...
As for the method, let's see how the Buddha instructed the woman who deplored the death of her daughter in the cemetery : "There are 84000 of your daughters buried in this cemetery, which one are you crying for ?" The Buddha didn't try to make her feel better, he showed her the truth to wake her up.
This is not to deny all the goodness in the heart and deeds of the respectable Venerable...

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

Postby Shonin » Sun Aug 29, 2010 7:43 am

The Buddha expressed dhamma not rigidly and dogmatically, but flexibly and with sensitivity towards his audience. TNH does the same, as did Ajahn Chah I think.

Sometimes a negative teaching is helpful, sometimes a positive one. 'Non-self' and 'emptiness' are often misunderstood nihilistically. Certainly this has been the case with some early understandings of Buddhism in the West. A positive expression of emptiness can be a good medicine (as long as we don't overdose).

Interbeing is not really a new concept that TNH invented - it's an expression of the principle of conditionality idappaccayata of which Dependent Arising and reverse DO are examples or applications.

    When there is this, that is.
    With the arising of this, that arises.
    When this is not, neither is that.
    With the cessation of this, that ceases.

Conditionality is is a corrolary to Sunnata (emptiness). Sunnatta refers to the absence of an intrinsic nature or essence, but this is not non-existence since things do have a nature, a nature that arises dependently on other things, which is the principle of conditionality.
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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Dependant Co-arising & Inter-Being

Postby Paññāsikhara » Sun Aug 29, 2010 8:22 am

dhamma follower wrote:
I am vietnamese but not expert in Vietnamese Buddhism. What I can say is that before I got to know Ven TNH, I had never heard the word Tiếp Hiện, and without reading its english version "inter-being", I'd had no clue what it means. My guess is that it's a word entirely invented by the Ven, translated from the word "inter-being" (and not the other way around- it seems that this Order was founded when he was in the US in 1966- though I am not 100% sure), which is used to convey the idea of "continue to be" instead of "individuals" , in case of his Order of inter-beings. Note that when talking about birthdays, he uses the expression "continuation of birth".
...


The word comes from a term used in classical Chinese Buddhism. Not invented by Ven at all. Of course, this is a term that the average Buddhist-in-the-street will not have heard of, whether they are from China, Vietnam or anywhere else.
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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Dependant Co-arising & Inter-Being

Postby Paññāsikhara » Sun Aug 29, 2010 8:46 am

christopher::: wrote:
It sounds like "Inter-being" is not a direct translation of any specific phrase, but simply a new combination of English terms meant to draw attention to the interdependence of parts forming compounded things. It makes most sense when trying to explain sunyata to Westerners, as the idea doesn't translate well as simply "emptiness" in English. Many Western Zen Buddhists become confused (imo) when they have done that, simply translated sunyata as "emptiness." That's probably why TNH's contribution is appreciated in many Zen Circles, but not seen as relevant to others...

beeblebrox- i'm not familiar with those combinations of Chinese characters, they don't make sense in Japanese. Venerable Huifeng can probably translate then, but even then we run into the problem that D.F. has pointed out, that TNH may not have been trying to translate any one term, Vietnamese or Chinese.

Peter- yes, we can go in that direction, but i fear that the deeper we travel into Mahayana territory the less likely there will be any satisfactory conclusions reached.

Which is fine.


Okay, just to make things perfectly clear - my non-spoon-feeding method obviously hasn't worked - the term "inter-being" is Ven's translation of the Chinese characters and term 相即. The term was mainly used by the Huayan school. Like any terms, the meaning comes with a whole tradition, so simply looking at a couple of characters is insufficient. However, I think that we should at least look into these things before making claims about the term (and possibly) idea being a creation of Ven himself.

I can easily grab a lot of information about this term in Chinese, but I'll look for some in English, to paste here.
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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Dependant Co-arising & Inter-Being

Postby Paññāsikhara » Sun Aug 29, 2010 8:56 am

Lazy_eye wrote:Maybe it's also worth considering that Ven. Nhat Hanh is not only Mahayana, and not only Zen, but also part of the movement broadly known as "humanistic Buddhism". Ven. Paññāsikhara may have more to tell us about this. For now, let me just say that certain idiosyncracies (from a more traditionalist perspective) in TNH's approach might reflect humanistic Buddhism's emphasis on applying dharma to life in the world, and its de-emphasis -- comparatively speaking -- on the otherwordly or world-transcending aspects of dharma.


Excellent, Lazy-Eye, excellent indeed. In fact, using the term "Zen" may be rather off the track. Almost all these Vietnamese and Chinese traditions are institutionally Linji. But, that was literally centuries ago. Ven's movement is actually very similar to the same "humanistic Buddhism" 人生佛教 and later 人間佛教 that swept China during the 20th cty. This is also why he uses non-Mahayana teachings. He received quite some doctrinal influence by the likes of Yinshun, who gave much greater emphasis to the teachings of the Agamas (and Nikayas, in Jp trans), than almost any Chinese teacher since ... well, probably An Shigao (c. 2nd cty)! But this is now fairly common in a number of traditions now found in Taiwan, amongst the various "humanistic Buddhism" traditions.

My impression is that, within this specific context, TNH is pretty mainstream -- though with a better-than-average ear for Western sensibilities.


Yeah, he goes down a treat in south China / Taiwan. No big groups around him, though, because what he teaches is effectively taught just as well, if not better, to the Chinese audiences in these parts.

I'd also guess the "positive mode" mentioned above reflects the broader movement, not just this one teacher. Again, we see it with other 人間佛教 schools -- Ven Hsing Yun has a book, for instance, titled "Humanistic Buddhism: A Blueprint for Life." Likewise, he teaches about cultivating "affinity" with others and the environment around us. Sounds not too far off from Interbeing.


Indeed.

Now, one then needs to look into the background of this whole movement. This, however, is just part of why one would wish to portray a "positive" side to Buddhism, or d.o. in general. Another, is simply the ancient problem that has always dogged buddhism - how to present non-self / emptiness, without falling into annihilist views. That is the issue that the Huayan school, with it's notion of 相即 xiangji, was trying to deal with.
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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Dependant Co-arising & Inter-Being

Postby Paññāsikhara » Sun Aug 29, 2010 8:58 am

jcsuperstar wrote:just to be anal, i'm gonna point out that TNH is not Zen, but rather Thien which has a totally different history and it's own concepts


Yes, always much closer to developments in Chan. And his own take, is much in the vein of the "humanistic Buddhism" movement that is making major changes in Chinese Buddhism as a whole. And, institutionally at least, most of Chinese Buddhism is Chan.
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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Dependant Co-arising & Inter-Being

Postby Paññāsikhara » Sun Aug 29, 2010 9:04 am

Here goes the first, I'll use Ven's "inter-being" as a default translation for 相即 xiangji, here:

三諦相即

 指天台圓教之空、假、中三諦圓融不二,以別於別教三諦之隔歷。〔摩訶止觀卷三上〕(參閱「三諦」684)p685

Inter-being of the three truths:
Refers to the mutual inclusion and non-duality of the three truths of the Tiantai tradition - emptiness, nominal designation and the middle [path]. ... (From Greater Calming and Insight).
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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Dependant Co-arising & Inter-Being

Postby jcsuperstar » Sun Aug 29, 2010 9:08 am

you know i was gonna post that it reminds me of Huayan but didn't want to end up with my foot in my mouth if i turned out to be wrong about his influence... also was it Tsung-mi's influence on chan that brought in the huayan doctrines or was there more overlap?
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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Dependant Co-arising & Inter-Being

Postby Paññāsikhara » Sun Aug 29, 2010 9:19 am

jcsuperstar wrote:you know i was gonna post that it reminds me of Huayan but didn't want to end up with my foot in my mouth if i turned out to be wrong about his influence... also was it Tsung-mi's influence on chan that brought in the huayan doctrines or was there more overlap?


Well, actually looking further, it seems that the term appears in not just Huayan teachings, but also the Tiantai (as above), and the Sanlun schools, too.

One general point I do feel, from skimming some material, is that it was about the teaching of dependent origination and emptiness, but in an attempt to indicate that this did not mean absolute non-existence (the wrong view which some mistakenly derive from emptiness), or absolute existence either. It was a state of "being both mutually" (xiangji) dependently existent and empty of own nature.
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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Dependant Co-arising & Inter-Being

Postby christopher::: » Sun Aug 29, 2010 11:05 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:

One general point I do feel, from skimming some material, is that it was about the teaching of dependent origination and emptiness, but in an attempt to indicate that this did not mean absolute non-existence (the wrong view which some mistakenly derive from emptiness), or absolute existence either. It was a state of "being both mutually" (xiangji) dependently existent and empty of own nature.



Thanks so much for posting, Venerable. My eldest son and i did search for 相即 but couldn't make heads or tails out of the results...

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

Postby dhamma follower » Sun Aug 29, 2010 12:48 pm

Shonin wrote:The Buddha expressed dhamma not rigidly and dogmatically, but flexibly and with sensitivity towards his audience. TNH does the same, as did Ajahn Chah I think.



Could you please give some examples of positive mode that was used by the Buddha in the Pali Canon ? I doubt very much the Buddha ever said: life is full of wonders, enjoy each moment here and now.

A good teaching is one thing, a Teaching that leads to dispassion and Nibbana is another.
I've never questioned TNH's as far as the first case is concerned.

Sometimes a negative teaching is helpful, sometimes a positive one. 'Non-self' and 'emptiness' are often misunderstood nihilistically. Certainly this has been the case with some early understandings of Buddhism in the West. A positive expression of emptiness can be a good medicine (as long as we don't overdose)


Do you mean nihilistism should be counterbalanced by eternalism ?

Interbeing is not really a new concept that TNH invented - it's an expression of the principle of conditionality idappaccayata of which Dependent Arising and reverse DO are examples or applications.

    When there is this, that is.
    With the arising of this, that arises.
    When this is not, neither is that.
    With the cessation of this, that ceases.


What I meant as new invention by Ven TNH is the idea of "continuation to be, to manifest"...in the meaning of inter-being in the context of "Order of inter-being". But as I said, I am not 100% sure about it.

D.O and sunyata is not new, but inter-being as Ven's attempt to explain these key concepts is opened to arguments, as to many, this interpretation sounds too much eternalistic - especially sooo different from the Theravadin understanding of it; and too much "life-praising" for the First Noble Truth.

That's the reason why Therevadins often don't give much attention to his teaching, as mentioned in the O.P.

I shouldn't be talking for all Theravadins, it's just how I see it as a Theravada practitioner.

We are back to square 1 now :juggling: !

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

Postby christopher::: » Sun Aug 29, 2010 1:48 pm

Hi dhamma follower,

dhamma follower wrote:
Could you please give some examples of positive mode that was used by the Buddha in the Pali Canon ? I doubt very much the Buddha ever said: life is full of wonders, enjoy each moment here and now.


One could say that Buddha's descriptions of the 7 factors of Enlightenment emphasized the "postive" as do the teachings on the brahmaviharas (the four immeasurables). Happiness, metta, mudita (joy) and other positive mindstates are mentioned frequently, as essential and/or helpful if we seek true liberation and freedom from suffering.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Fact ... ightenment

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el006.html

Also, if you have the chance i'd suggest reading Ven. Paññāsikhara's most recent posts here. He knows quite a bit more about Chinese Chan Buddhism then most of us. Venerable's recent explanations regarding the Chinese roots of TNH's ideas are worth considering and reflecting upon, imo.

:smile:
"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 Nyana » Mon Aug 30, 2010 1:37 am

dhamma follower wrote:Could you please give some examples of positive mode that was used by the Buddha in the Pali Canon ? I doubt very much the Buddha ever said: life is full of wonders, enjoy each moment here and now.

A good teaching is one thing, a Teaching that leads to dispassion and Nibbana is another.
I've never questioned TNH's as far as the first case is concerned.

Hi dhamma follower,

Why should Ven. Hạnh's teachings need to conform to the sutta-s of the Pāḷi Canon? His tradition isn't based on the Pāḷi Canon and the bodhisattvayāna isn't explicitly taught in the Pāḷi Canon at all. (Hence Ven. Dhammapāla's use of the Bodhisattvabhūmi from the Yogācārabhūmiśāstra when composing his commentary on the Pāramī-s for Theravāda practitioners who wish to engage in the perfections and practice the mahābodhiyāna of bodhisatta-s.)

All the best,

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

Postby dhamma follower » Mon Aug 30, 2010 2:06 am

christopher::: wrote:Hi dhamma follower,

dhamma follower wrote:
Could you please give some examples of positive mode that was used by the Buddha in the Pali Canon ? I doubt very much the Buddha ever said: life is full of wonders, enjoy each moment here and now.


One could say that Buddha's descriptions of the 7 factors of Enlightenment emphasized the "postive" as do the teachings on the brahmaviharas (the four immeasurables). Happiness, metta, mudita (joy) and other positive mindstates are mentioned frequently, as essential and/or helpful if we seek true liberation and freedom from suffering.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Fact ... ightenment

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el006.html



Dear Chris,

The factors of enlightenment such as joy, calmness.... are the result of investigation and seeing deeply the three characteristics. It happens because of detachment, not because of seeing, hearing, touching...as it is often mentioned in TNH's books and talks.
The negative mode doesn't mean it excludes the four unlimited states. Actually, the true unlimited states arise naturally in a heart free from dosa, lobha, moha, which is again the result of wisdom to see things as they are: anicca, dukkha, anatta.

It is very different to have joy resulting from "all is one, I am you, you are me" and the one resulting from "this is impermanent, this is unsatisfactory, this is not me, not mine".

If you read the book " the heart of Buddha's Teaching" by TNH, you will find a whole section where Ven tries to prove that dukkha has a peripherical place in the Buddha's Teaching.

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:

Also, if you have the chance i'd suggest reading Ven. Paññāsikhara's most recent posts here. He knows quite a bit more about Chinese Chan Buddhism then most of us. Venerable's recent explanations regarding the Chinese roots of TNH's ideas are worth considering and reflecting upon, imo.


I've read his post, but don't know how the Chinese roots of a Mahayana monk should be relevant to a Theravadin, :tongue: For all my respect for TNH, for Ven Pannasikhara and the Chan tradition, still there are so many explorations of D.O in Theravada archives that are worth digging...question of priority you know...

Regards,

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

Postby dhamma follower » Mon Aug 30, 2010 2:12 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
dhamma follower wrote:Could you please give some examples of positive mode that was used by the Buddha in the Pali Canon ? I doubt very much the Buddha ever said: life is full of wonders, enjoy each moment here and now.

A good teaching is one thing, a Teaching that leads to dispassion and Nibbana is another.
I've never questioned TNH's as far as the first case is concerned.

Hi dhamma follower,

Why should Ven. Hạnh's teachings need to conform to the sutta-s of the Pāḷi Canon? His tradition isn't based on the Pāḷi Canon and the bodhisattvayāna isn't explicitly taught in the Pāḷi Canon at all. (Hence Ven. Dhammapāla's use of the Bodhisattvabhūmi from the Yogācārabhūmiśāstra when composing his commentary on the Pāramī-s for Theravāda practitioners who wish to engage in the perfections and practice the mahābodhiyāna of bodhisatta-s.)

All the best,

Geoff


Dear Geoff,

You are right, TNH's teaching doesn't need to conform to the Pali Canon. However as this is a Theravada forum, I think it is at least fair for a Therevadin to state why he doesn't take him as a teacher.

Regards,

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

Postby Nyana » Mon Aug 30, 2010 2:28 am

dhamma follower wrote:However as this is a Theravada forum, I think it is at least fair for a Therevadin to state why he doesn't take him as a teacher.

Yes, certainly.

All the best,

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

Postby legolas » Mon Aug 30, 2010 8:16 am

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

Postby ground » Mon Aug 30, 2010 2:24 pm

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

Postby legolas » Mon Aug 30, 2010 2:39 pm

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?
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