Don't be put off the Dhamma by anatta!

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manas
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Don't be put off the Dhamma by anatta!

Postby manas » Wed Apr 20, 2011 10:12 pm

Ok, I put that as the topic not for the majority here, but on the off chance that someone out in the virtual world might be enduring the same struggle I did many years ago - that of feeling a growing respect for the Buddha as a Teacher, and a liking for Buddhist meditation, but a problem with the 'doctrine of anatta' (in the way it is often espoused in the Buddhist world of today - please read below...) If this is you, don't despair; here is an article you should read about this issue:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... self2.html

If I had read this 20 years ago, my faith in the Dhamma might have been stronger due to a better grasp of the Teaching, and I might have avoided so much of the wasted time and often foolish acts of the last 20 years, struggling as I was to keep a firm faith due to a wrong grasp of the Teaching. I would not have inordinately (and sometimes anxiously) focussed on whether there 'is' a self, or 'is not' a self 'in actuality' (wrong kind of question, according to the Buddha)... I might have instead focused on what the Buddha asks us to focus on: Dukkha, it's Cause, Unbinding, and the Path leading to Unbinding.

I realize that the whole issue is probably a non-issue for most more experienced and/or firmly established in faith / insight folks here. I'm simply wishing to put that link there in the hope that someone out there might find it useful in a search for help on this issue...
Last edited by manas on Thu Apr 21, 2011 2:08 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Don't be put off the Dhamma by anatta!

Postby ground » Thu Apr 21, 2011 2:07 am

manasikara wrote: I might have instead focused on what the Buddha asks us to focus on: Dukkha, it's Cause, Unbinding, and the Path leading to Unbinding.


Well yes, but one aspect of Unbinding is exactly to cognize the thoughts "self", "I" and "mine" as being like the thought "the horn of the hare".

Kind regards

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Re: Don't be put off the Dhamma by anatta!

Postby manas » Thu Apr 21, 2011 2:41 am

TMingyur wrote:
manasikara wrote: I might have instead focused on what the Buddha asks us to focus on: Dukkha, it's Cause, Unbinding, and the Path leading to Unbinding.


Well yes, but one aspect of Unbinding is exactly to cognize the thoughts "self", "I" and "mine" as being like the thought "the horn of the hare".

Kind regards


But we (most practitioners) are not there yet...(totally unbound)...so while that line of thinking might not be a hindrance to one totally unbound, I think that what Ven. Thanissaro is pointing out (in the article) is that for those of us who are still striving, thinking about whether a self exists or not in an ontological sense is unhelpful:

Ven. Thanissaro wrote:If there's no self, what's the purpose of a spiritual life? Many books try to answer these questions, but if you look at the Pali canon — the earliest extant record of the Buddha's teachings — you won't find them addressed at all. In fact, the one place where the Buddha was asked point-blank whether or not there was a self, he refused to answer. When later asked why, he said that to hold either that there is a self or that there is no self is to fall into extreme forms of wrong view that make the path of Buddhist practice impossible. Thus the question should be put aside.

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Re: Don't be put off the Dhamma by anatta!

Postby ground » Thu Apr 21, 2011 2:54 am

manasikara wrote:
TMingyur wrote:
manasikara wrote: I might have instead focused on what the Buddha asks us to focus on: Dukkha, it's Cause, Unbinding, and the Path leading to Unbinding.


Well yes, but one aspect of Unbinding is exactly to cognize the thoughts "self", "I" and "mine" as being like the thought "the horn of the hare".

Kind regards


But we (most practitioners) are not there yet...(totally unbound)...so while that line of thinking might not be a hindrance to one totally unbound, I think that what Ven. Thanissaro is pointing out (in the article) is that for those of us who are still striving, thinking about whether a self exists or not in an ontological sense is unhelpful:


My remark did not refer to any "ontology" at all.


Kind regards

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Re: Don't be put off the Dhamma by anatta!

Postby manas » Thu Apr 21, 2011 3:01 am

TMingyur wrote:
My remark did not refer to any "ontology" at all.


Kind regards


Yes, I see now...my apologies if my misunderstanding of what you had said caused any offence.

Maybe I should not bother trying to do this...I really don't want to get into any kind of 'disputation' regarding this, I just wish to maybe save someone, somewhere, a whole heap of trouble.

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Re: Don't be put off the Dhamma by anatta!

Postby ground » Thu Apr 21, 2011 3:21 am

Well maybe I have to apologize because saying "to cognize the thoughts "self", "I" and "mine" as being like the thought "the horn of the hare" is an unskillful over-simplification provoking habitual wavering between extremes. Actually these two kinds of thoughts are different in some aspects and not different in other aspects.

But I will take up this statement of yours
I really don't want to get into any kind of 'disputation' regarding this, I just wish to maybe save someone, somewhere, a whole heap of trouble.

because when I would try to explain further I would be getting in trouble because I would necessarily have to resort to my personal wording that cannot be found as such in the Buddha's teachings.

Kind regards

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Re: Don't be put off the Dhamma by anatta!

Postby ancientbuddhism » Thu Apr 28, 2011 7:49 pm

"...he said that to hold either that there is a self or that there is no self is to fall into extreme forms of wrong view that make the path of Buddhist practice impossible."


Yes, for the puthujjana.
Anuvicca papañca nāmarūpaṃ
ajjhattaṃ bahiddhā ca rogamūlaṃ,
sabbarogamūlabandhanā pamutto
anuvidito tādi pavuccate tathattā
.

“Having known the naming of objects,
With its proliferation, its root in illness – within and without;
One is released from bondage to the root of all illness.
And thus is called the Knowing One – the Such.

– Sn. 3.6 (Sabhiyasuttaṃ)

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

A Handful of Leaves

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Re: Don't be put off the Dhamma by anatta!

Postby daverupa » Thu Apr 28, 2011 8:09 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:
"...he said that to hold either that there is a self or that there is no self is to fall into extreme forms of wrong view that make the path of Buddhist practice impossible."


Yes, for the puthujjana.


Well, also for the Sotāpanna, et al:

MN 2:
..."This is how he attends inappropriately: 'Was I in the past? Was I not in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what was I in the past? Shall I be in the future? Shall I not be in the future? What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? Having been what, what shall I be in the future?' Or else he is inwardly perplexed about the immediate present: 'Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? Where has this being come from? Where is it bound?'"

Furthermore:

"Even more controversial is SN 44.10, which addresses an issue not included in the standard list of ten undeclared questions: Is there a self? Is there no self? Many scholars have been uncomfortable with the fact that the Buddha leaves this question unanswered, believing that his statement that "all phenomena are not-self" implicitly states that there is no self. Thus they have tried to explain away the Buddha's silence on the existence or non-existence of the self, usually by pointing to the fourth of his reasons for not answering the question: his bewildered interlocutor, Vacchagotta, would have become even more bewildered. Had the Buddha been asked by someone less bewildered, these commentators say, he would have given the straight answer that there is no self. However, these commentators ignore two points. (1) The Buddha's first two reasons for not answering the questions have nothing to do with Vacchagotta. To say that there is a self, he says, would be siding with the wrong views of the eternalists. To say that there is no self would be siding with the wrong views of the annihilationists. (2) Immediately after Vacchagotta leaves, Ven. Ananda asks the Buddha to explain his silence. Had the Buddha really meant to declare that there is no self, this would have been the perfect time to do so, for bewildered people were now out of the way. But, again, he did not take that position."
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Don't be put off the Dhamma by anatta!

Postby pulga » Thu Apr 28, 2011 9:59 pm

daverupa wrote:
Well, also for the Sotāpanna, et al:

MN 2:
..."This is how he attends inappropriately: 'Was I in the past? Was I not in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what was I in the past? Shall I be in the future? Shall I not be in the future? What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? Having been what, what shall I be in the future?' Or else he is inwardly perplexed about the immediate present: 'Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? Where has this being come from? Where is it bound?'"


But the Sotápanna has acquired Right View, he understands why these questions are misguided and erroneous, and is encouraged not to think in this manner (Múlapariyáya Sutta, M1). The puthujjana can't help but think in this manner, whether or not he sets such questions aside.

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Re: Don't be put off the Dhamma by anatta!

Postby daverupa » Thu Apr 28, 2011 10:14 pm

pulga wrote:The puthujjana can't help but think in this manner, whether or not he sets such questions aside.


Asking those questions keeps one a putthujjana. Pursuing and waiting for answers to these questions prevents development of the Path.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Don't be put off the Dhamma by anatta!

Postby pulga » Thu Apr 28, 2011 10:56 pm

daverupa wrote:Asking those questions keeps one a putthujjana. Pursuing and waiting for answers to these questions prevents development of the Path.


Development of the Path? The puthujjana has yet to even embark upon the Path (Mahácattárísaka Sutta, M117).

The sutta in this passage is dealing with manasikára: I don't think it's just a matter of "asking those questions".

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Re: Don't be put off the Dhamma by anatta!

Postby daverupa » Thu Apr 28, 2011 11:46 pm

pulga wrote:
daverupa wrote:Asking those questions keeps one a putthujjana. Pursuing and waiting for answers to these questions prevents development of the Path.


Development of the Path? The puthujjana has yet to even embark upon the Path (Mahácattárísaka Sutta, M117).

The sutta in this passage is dealing with manasikára: I don't think it's just a matter of "asking those questions".


I get the feeling this is becoming semantic. The point, as pertains the OP, regards fretting over self v. non-self v. not-self v. no self... don't pursue these lines of inquiry, says MN 2. Here, there is this problem of suffering. The origin of suffering is craving. The cessation of craving is the cessation of suffering. The cessation of craving is brought about via the Noble Eightfold Path. Appropriate attention focuses on these four, not otherwise.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Don't be put off the Dhamma by anatta!

Postby chownah » Fri Apr 29, 2011 3:08 am

pulga wrote:
daverupa wrote:Asking those questions keeps one a putthujjana. Pursuing and waiting for answers to these questions prevents development of the Path.


Development of the Path? The puthujjana has yet to even embark upon the Path (Mahácattárísaka Sutta, M117).

The sutta in this passage is dealing with manasikára: I don't think it's just a matter of "asking those questions".

I read the Sutta you referenced but don't see how it supports your view that puthujjana have yet to even embark upon the Path.....can you explain?
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Re: Don't be put off the Dhamma by anatta!

Postby Kenshou » Fri Apr 29, 2011 3:12 am

Why is this even worth arguing about? If they're on the path, great, if they're not, are they going to get there by doing something other than practicing the noble 8 fold path the best they can?

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Re: Don't be put off the Dhamma by anatta!

Postby pulga » Fri Apr 29, 2011 3:33 am

Jànato aham bhikkhave passato àsavànam khayam vadàmi no ajànato no apassato. Kinca bhikkhave jànato kim passato àsavànam khayo hoti? Yoniso ca manasikàram ayoniso ca manasikàram. (M2) I.e. The ásavas are destroyed for one who knows and sees ayoniso manasikára and yoniso manasikára. The sutta goes on to describe how the puthujjana is trapped by ayoniso manasikára, unable to understand what is fit for attention and what is unfit for attention.

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Re: Don't be put off the Dhamma by anatta!

Postby pulga » Fri Apr 29, 2011 4:12 am

chownah wrote: I read the Sutta you referenced but don't see how it supports your view that puthujjana have yet to even embark upon the Path.....can you explain?
chownah


The Noble Eightfold Path commences with Right View, i.e. it is the ariya-puggala who have the understanding of the Buddha's teaching that enables them to follow the Ariya Atthangika Magga.

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Re: Don't be put off the Dhamma by anatta!

Postby Kenshou » Fri Apr 29, 2011 4:26 am

So, what are the practical implications of all this? I can't see any.

We're going to get right view by doing the practice, it's not going to walk up to us on it's own while we sit in the dirt and twiddle our thumbs.

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Re: Don't be put off the Dhamma by anatta!

Postby chownah » Fri Apr 29, 2011 7:36 am

pulga wrote:
chownah wrote: I read the Sutta you referenced but don't see how it supports your view that puthujjana have yet to even embark upon the Path.....can you explain?
chownah


The Noble Eightfold Path commences with Right View, i.e. it is the ariya-puggala who have the understanding of the Buddha's teaching that enables them to follow the Ariya Atthangika Magga.

Pulga,
I believe you are mistaken in saying that "The Noble Eightfold Path commences with Right View".....I think that a very common view is that there is no element that should be placed first....
Also, I don't know what your Pali means but it seems to me that anyone who sincerely is trying to understand the Buddha's teachings in on the path.....are you familiar with the term "kalyāna puthujjana"....I'm not familiar with it.....
chownah

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Re: Don't be put off the Dhamma by anatta!

Postby chownah » Fri Apr 29, 2011 12:49 pm

Pulga,
It seems that the Buddha taught the Noble Eight Fold Path to puthujjana.....it would seem very odd for the Buddha to teach the Path to people who could not follow it.....I guess.....
chownah

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Re: Don't be put off the Dhamma by anatta!

Postby JackV » Fri Apr 29, 2011 1:06 pm

Manasikara, thank you for this link. It always helps to re-read and go over issues and reaffirm subjects even if we are confident that we understand them fully.

Blessings
Here where a thousand
captains swore grand conquest
Tall grasses their monument.


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