Inner goodness

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Inner goodness

Postby greggorious » Sun Sep 16, 2012 11:59 pm

In Therevada, is there an innate goodness within each of us, is there an original nature, is there original mind, Buddha nature? What is there? Are we just completely empty beings with nothing going for us and enlightenment is some far off dream that most of us will never attain?
"The original heart/mind shines like pure, clear water with the sweetest taste. But if the heart is pure, is our practice over? No, we must not cling even to this purity. We must go beyond all duality, all concepts, all bad, all good, all pure, all impure. We must go beyond self and nonself, beyond birth and death. When we see with the eye of wisdom, we know that the true Buddha is timeless, unborn, unrelated to any body, any history, any image. Buddha is the ground of all being, the realization of the truth of the unmoving mind.” Ajahn Chah
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Re: Inner goodness

Postby Jason » Mon Sep 17, 2012 12:58 am

greggorious wrote:In Therevada, is there an innate goodness within each of us, is there an original nature, is there original mind, Buddha nature? What is there? Are we just completely empty beings with nothing going for us and enlightenment is some far off dream that most of us will never attain?


The answer to that depends on a number of factors, such as what teachings one accepts and how one interprets those teachings, personal experience, etc. Some, for example, would say that there's no original or pure state of being per se, while others would say that our minds are originally pure. As for myself, I don't know. I don't have an kind of personal, awakening insight in this area, so much of my ideas are based on things I've read, my own reflection, etc., and I don't have a firm opinion one way or the other.

I supposed if I were pressed on the matter, though, I'd say that it's ultimately an irrelevant question from a practical standpoint, and the idea of an originally luminous mind or inherently good nature is only useful insofar as it refers to a potentiality, i.e., the mind or state of being that the meditator is trying to develop, free from defilements. In this, I agree with Thanissaro Bhikkhu, who writes in his note to his translation of AN 1.49-52:

    A more reasonable approach to understanding the statement [i.e., "Luminous, monks, is the mind"] can be derived from taking it in context: the luminous mind is the mind that the meditator is trying to develop. To perceive its luminosity means understanding that defilements such as greed, aversion, or delusion are not intrinsic to its nature, are not a necessary part of awareness. Without this understanding, it would be impossible to practice. With this understanding, however, one can make an effort to cut away existing defilements, leaving the mind in the stage that MN 24 calls "purity in terms of mind." This would correspond to the luminous level of concentration described in the standard simile for the fourth jhana: "And furthermore, with the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — he enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither-pleasure-nor-pain. He sits, permeating the body with a pure, bright awareness. Just as if a man were sitting covered from head to foot with a white cloth so that there would be no part of his body to which the white cloth did not extend; even so, the monk sits, permeating the body with a pure, bright awareness. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by pure, bright awareness." From this state it is possible to develop the discernment that not only cuts away existing defilements but also uproots any potential for them to ever arise again. Only in the stages of Awakening that follow on those acts of discernment would "consciousness without feature" be realized.

If we happen, in the process of our practice, to realize our 'true mind,' which is intrinsically pure and free from defilements, or simply remove the defilements from a mind that's not intrinsically pure, but now luminous and free from defilements, I don't think it really matters. Either way, our minds will be liberated and we'll discern that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for the sake of this world.'
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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Re: Inner goodness

Postby matais » Mon Sep 17, 2012 1:20 am

greggorious wrote:In Therevada, is there an innate goodness within each of us, is there an original nature, is there original mind, Buddha nature? What is there? Are we just completely empty beings with nothing going for us and enlightenment is some far off dream that most of us will never attain?

From the way you word your question, it seems this issue is bothering you quite a bit. You're not the first one though. In the suttas there are many instances of disciples approaching the Buddha and questioning him directly on various self-views, asking about the existence or non-existence of the soul in the past, present, future, about it's permanence or impermanence. But whenever this happened, the Buddha would remain silent. The reason for this was that, even if he told the answer, it would not lead to a better comprehension of suffering and its end. In fact, the opposite would be achieved: clinging to any self-view is itself a cause for further becoming, a cause of suffering, and therefore not at all conductive towards liberation.

MN2 wrote:"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?'

"As he attends inappropriately in this way, one of six kinds of view arises in him: The view I have a self arises in him as true & established, or the view I have no self... or the view It is precisely by means of self that I perceive self... or the view It is precisely by means of self that I perceive not-self... or the view It is precisely by means of not-self that I perceive self arises in him as true & established, or else he has a view like this: This very self of mine — the knower that is sensitive here & there to the ripening of good & bad actions — is the self of mine that is constant, everlasting, eternal, not subject to change, and will stay just as it is for eternity. This is called a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views. Bound by a fetter of views, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person is not freed from birth, aging, & death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair. He is not freed, I tell you, from suffering & stress.

(http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html)

It can be very tempting to philosophize about the nature of the human condition, but it is important to remember that no satisfactory answer can be found merely by thinking about the question a lot. Trying to solve this question in this way can only lead to further suffering. To know the truth, you'll have to follow the Noble Eightfold Path.

As for 'nothing going for us', consider this: We are born in a time where the Buddhadhamma has not yet been lost, where in fact many of the Buddha's teachings are but a few clicks away to those with internet access. Not only that, but apparently you have an interest in these matters, are naturally inclined towards finding the truth. So you actually have a lot going for you. Having access to these teachings and being in contact with others here who practice this path, I'd say the conditions for your enlightenment are quite favorable. However, it will ultimately depend on your practice.
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Re: Inner goodness

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Sep 17, 2012 6:27 am

Greetings Greg,

greggorious wrote:In Therevada, is there an innate goodness within each of us, is there an original nature, is there original mind, Buddha nature? What is there?

All formations are anatta (not-self), anicca (impermanent), and dukkha (a basis for suffering).

This talk of "innate", "original nature", "original mind", "Buddha nature" points to some thing that is not anicca (i.e. to something permanent)... whereas the Buddha did not proclaim any thing to be permanent.

There is no more "inherent goodness" than there is "inherent badness" or "inherent (anything)"... these are just words with no parallel to any discernable phenomena.

greggorious wrote:...nothing going for us...

What we have "going for us" is the extent to which we cultivate the eight factors of the Noble Eightfold Path.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Inner goodness

Postby Sam Vara » Mon Sep 17, 2012 8:37 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Greg,

greggorious wrote:In Therevada, is there an innate goodness within each of us, is there an original nature, is there original mind, Buddha nature? What is there?

All formations are anatta (not-self), anicca (impermanent), and dukkha (a basis for suffering).

This talk of "innate", "original nature", "original mind", "Buddha nature" points to some thing that is not anicca (i.e. to something permanent)... whereas the Buddha did not proclaim any thing to be permanent.

There is no more "inherent goodness" than there is "inherent badness" or "inherent (anything)"... these are just words with no parallel to any discernable phenomena.

greggorious wrote:...nothing going for us...

What we have "going for us" is the extent to which we cultivate the eight factors of the Noble Eightfold Path.

Metta,
Retro. :)


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Re: Inner goodness

Postby greggorious » Mon Sep 17, 2012 4:11 pm

"About this mind... In truth there is nothing really wrong with it. It is intrinsically pure. Within itself it's already peaceful. That the mind is not peaceful these days is because it follows moods. The real mind doesn't have anything to it, it is simply (an aspect of) Nature. It becomes peaceful or agitated because moods deceive it. The untrained mind is stupid. Sense impressions come and trick it into happiness, suffering, gladness and sorrow, but the mind's true nature is none of those things."

Ajahn Chah

The parts in bold sound an awful lot like Buddha nature to me.
"The original heart/mind shines like pure, clear water with the sweetest taste. But if the heart is pure, is our practice over? No, we must not cling even to this purity. We must go beyond all duality, all concepts, all bad, all good, all pure, all impure. We must go beyond self and nonself, beyond birth and death. When we see with the eye of wisdom, we know that the true Buddha is timeless, unborn, unrelated to any body, any history, any image. Buddha is the ground of all being, the realization of the truth of the unmoving mind.” Ajahn Chah
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Re: Inner goodness

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Sep 17, 2012 7:35 pm

Hi Greggorious,

Here are some discussions of Buddha Nature in the context of quotes such as the one you give:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=12817
Including one you started some time ago:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=11429
I suggest you continue with this discussion of those issues on one of those threads, or start a new one outside of Discovering Theravada.

:anjali:
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