Confusion about eternally of "soul"

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Confusion about eternally of "soul"

Postby Nosta » Mon Apr 05, 2010 11:31 pm

Hello everybody!
This is my first topic here on the forum. I hope you may forgive my english (its not my mother tongue).

My question here is about a basic teaching on general buddhism, but still a hard one to understand completly: the existence of an eternal soul (the old atman and anatman problem).
Are we a continuum of existence? Are we a never ending process of conscience? I know that there is not exactly something we may call "i" or "myself" or "peter" or "i am maria", etc, but there is an "essence" behind all of that. Maria may die, but she will rebirth as a cat. The cat die and the "flame" will appear (rebirth) again as an horse, etc. The is something in common to Maria, to the cat and to the horse...there is a never.ending process of conscience, a "flame". From here i may ask:
1) Is that "flame"/essence/whatever eternal?
2) When we reach the ultimate nibbama, does that "flame" stop to exist?
3) If the answer to 2) is "no", may we conclude that, in somewhay, the soul (if we call "soul" to that flame) is eternal?

This questions are a little bit confusing to me. I hope you understand my questions. Please answer according to Theravada Buddhism view and compare it with Mahayana views please (i need that to understand properly what Buddhism -in general - says about such questions).

Thank you very much!
:-)
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Re: Confusion about eternally of "soul"

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Apr 06, 2010 1:17 am

Sounds like you are doing a school assignment, which - if that is the case - it would be better to be out front with it. We would be happy to help with this, but you would need to be the one doing the actual work (if it is the case - which it seems to be - that you are doing a school assignment).
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Re: Confusion about eternally of "soul"

Postby cooran » Tue Apr 06, 2010 7:18 am

Hello Nosta,

Welcome to Dhamma Wheel - your English is very good. :smile:

These articles and chapters in books may be helpful whether for an assignment or for your own edification:

NO INNER CORE - - ANATTA by Venerable Sayadaw U Sīlānanda
http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/Books ... ANATTA.htm

The Buddha's Teaching on Selflessness - Anattaa - An Essay, with extracts from the Sa.myutta-Nikaaya by Nyanatiloka Mahaathera

http://www.bps.lk/other_library/buddhas ... sness.html

What the Buddha Taught - The Doctrine of No Soul - Walpola Rahula
http://quangduc.com/English/basic/68wha ... ht-06.html

with metta
Chris
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Re: Confusion about eternally of "soul"

Postby Zom » Tue Apr 06, 2010 12:06 pm

Ajahn Thanissaro, as far as I understood, argues, that actually there IS a self.

Read footnotes 13 and 14 in this sutta (translated from pali by himself):

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... n.html#t-9
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Re: Confusion about eternally of "soul"

Postby Sobeh » Tue Apr 06, 2010 12:12 pm

Zom wrote:Ajahn Thanissaro, as far as I understood, argues, that actually there IS a self.

Read footnotes 13 and 14 in this sutta (translated from pali by himself):

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... n.html#t-9


Those footnotes describe how the Buddha refused to render an opinion one way or another on the ontological continuity of any being at all. Your conclusion about Ajahn Thanissaro does not follow.
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Re: Confusion about eternally of "soul"

Postby Zom » Tue Apr 06, 2010 12:20 pm

He points out that opinion "there is no self" is invalid. But acutally I think there are only 2 possibilites: either there is or there is not. As I understood, he says that arahant consciousness, freed from 5 aggregates, continues to be, and that is why opinion "there is no self" is wrong. So we can say (as mayahanists do) that this is our True Self. But I myself has no opinion if he is right, since there are also arguements against this position.
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Re: Confusion about eternally of "soul"

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Tue Apr 06, 2010 12:33 pm

Zom,

I would take more time to read and consider Venerable Thanissaro's writings on this subject as well as the suttas themselves lest you fall into Wrong View. Maybe this will help to give you a better grasp of what he's talking about: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/notself2.html

Metta,

Mike
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Re: Confusion about eternally of "soul"

Postby Zom » Tue Apr 06, 2010 12:56 pm

I read that already (as well as other his articles, books, comments), but it doesn't change the matter, that actually he is talking that there IS a self as an individual continuence of being after the perishing of the 5 aggregates (to say so.. a self that can't be classified in the terms of "The All" - also take a look at footnote N9 here - http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html). Otherwise, he would not use that point about "no self" in his explanations. And precisely because of the fear to adopt wrong view, I don't accept his opinion -) (as well as opposite opinions that are taught by other scholar monks, for example, Mahasi Sayadaw).
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Re: Confusion about eternally of "soul"

Postby Sobeh » Tue Apr 06, 2010 1:24 pm

Still no self; in the note you've cited, "consciousness without surface" is considered a synonym of Nibbana... and please note, the entire Sutta here is a debate between a classical Brahmin and the Buddha. Sid is using the terms that Baka the Brahmin is using because Baka has claimed as follows:

"The Blessed One said: "On one occasion recently I was staying in Ukkattha in the Subhaga forest at the root of a royal sala tree. Now on that occasion an evil viewpoint had arisen to Baka-Brahma: 'This is constant. This is permanent. This is eternal. This is total. This is not subject to falling away — for this does not take birth, does not age, does not die, does not fall away, does not reappear. And there is no other, higher escape.'"

As noted by Ajahn Thanissaro, this sort of equation between consciousness-without-surface and Nibbana occurs in this exact way only one other time, in the Digha Nikaya - the Nikaya most intended for use when debating with Brahmins. In this context the term takes on the flavor of upaya, 'skillful means'.

Don't let footnotes distract you from anatta, which is thoroughly attested throughout the Tipitaka.
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Re: Confusion about eternally of "soul"

Postby alan » Tue Apr 06, 2010 1:33 pm

I don't know, Zom, exactly what you are getting at. All the responses on this thread are sound.
I'm sure you have a good reason for asking the question...would you care to share that with us?
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Re: Confusion about eternally of "soul"

Postby Nosta » Tue Apr 06, 2010 2:16 pm

Thanks for some of the good links you guys gave me :-) - later i will read them carefully.

For now, i think my question is still not answered lol.I see discussions here that leads me to conclude that this is a hard question. Maybe its too much of a "philosophical" question, and so with no interest at all on the achievement of nibbana, in the practice itself. But i am still greatfull for the answers so far :-)

Maybe the answer to "what is nibbana?" may help us to find the answer. If nibbana is the complete liberation of suffering, the freedom from birth and death, maybe that means that the "essence" i spoke it will end. On the other hand, i think i remember to read somewhere that Buddha said that nibbana is no self and no no self: its both self and no self...thats an hard think to understand lol, maybe even harden than the study of quantic or relativity theories lol.
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Re: Confusion about eternally of "soul"

Postby meindzai » Tue Apr 06, 2010 2:23 pm

Zom wrote:I read that already (as well as other his articles, books, comments), but it doesn't change the matter, that actually he is talking that there IS a self as an individual continuence of being after the perishing of the 5 aggregates (to say so.. a self that can't be classified in the terms of "The All" - also take a look at footnote N9 here - http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html). Otherwise, he would not use that point about "no self" in his explanations. And precisely because of the fear to adopt wrong view, I don't accept his opinion -) (as well as opposite opinions that are taught by other scholar monks, for example, Mahasi Sayadaw).


I guess you skipped over all the parts where he quotes these types of passagse:

Although this last passage indicates that there is a sphere to be experienced beyond the six sensory spheres, it should not be taken as a "higher self." This point is brought out in the Great Discourse on Causation, where the Buddha classifies all theories of the self into four major categories: those describing a self which is either (a) possessed of form (a body) & finite; (b) possessed of form & infinite; (c) formless & finite; and (d) formless & infinite. The text gives no examples of the various categories, but we might cite the following as illustrations: (a) theories which deny the existence of a soul, and identify the self with the body; (b) theories which identify the self with all being or with the universe; (c) theories of discrete, individual souls; (d) theories of a unitary soul or identity immanent in all things. He then goes on to reject all four categories.



or

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 because of self that I perceive self...

or the view It is precisely because of self that I perceive not-self...

or the view It is precisely because 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 which is sensitive here & there to the ripening of good & bad actions — is the self of mine which is constant, everlasting, eternal, not subject to change, and will endure as long as eternity.


All quoted in The Not-self Strategy, which you seem to be claiming you read.

-M
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Re: Confusion about eternally of "soul"

Postby Zom » Tue Apr 06, 2010 2:27 pm

In this context the term takes on the flavor of upaya


As I see from Ajahn Thanissaro explanation in this footnote, he doesn't say that this is an "upaya". Оn the contrarу, here and in many other suttas in his comments it is seen that he develops a theory that this type of consciousness is actually nibbana itself (and that is why he states that that saying "there is no self" is invalid and even more - this is a wrong view of annihilationism).
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Re: Confusion about eternally of "soul"

Postby meindzai » Tue Apr 06, 2010 2:31 pm

Nosta wrote:Thanks for some of the good links you guys gave me :-) - later i will read them carefully.

For now, i think my question is still not answered lol.I see discussions here that leads me to conclude that this is a hard question. Maybe its too much of a "philosophical" question, and so with no interest at all on the achievement of nibbana, in the practice itself. But i am still greatfull for the answers so far :-)

Maybe the answer to "what is nibbana?" may help us to find the answer. If nibbana is the complete liberation of suffering, the freedom from birth and death, maybe that means that the "essence" i spoke it will end. On the other hand, i think i remember to read somewhere that Buddha said that nibbana is no self and no no self: its both self and no self...thats an hard think to understand lol, maybe even harden than the study of quantic or relativity theories lol.


Ok I'll bite, becuase I never got Buddhist homework and I feel left out. :)

There are two extreme views the Buddha rejects. One is called eternalism - that there is a soul tha persists from one lifetime to the next, and will go on forever. This is actuallyt he view of most theistic beliefs, like Christianity, the goal being that if you behave yourself and believe all the right things that you're soul will be joined with God/Brahma/Allah etc.

The other extreme view is called Annhiliationism. This requires two things. #1 it requires there to be some entity called a "self." And #2 that when you die, this "self" disappears.

The Buddha, avoiding extremes, and thus avoiding these views al together, taught not-self. He taught that all dhammas - including Nibanna - were not-self. It's not difficult to understand at all, but it is exceedingly difficult to achieve, due to our attachments. Not just material things mind you, but attachments to our views of our selves - our persistent belief in the idea that we exist and want to continue to exist, when the truth of the matter is that it's this belief that causes us to suffer.

The only thing that "ends" at Nibanna is suffering. There is no "essense" to speak of - none at all.

-M
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Re: Confusion about eternally of "soul"

Postby Ben » Tue Apr 06, 2010 2:35 pm

Dear Zom
Consciousness is not Nibbana. Consciousness (citta) takes Nibbana as an object. They are different paramattha dhammas.
To conflate consciousness as Nibbana is to reify consciousness and fall into the trap of eternalism.
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Re: Confusion about eternally of "soul"

Postby Zom » Tue Apr 06, 2010 2:44 pm

Consciousness is not Nibbana. Consciousness (citta) takes Nibbana as an object. They are different paramattha dhammas.
To conflate consciousness as Nibbana is to reify consciousness and fall into the trap of eternalism.


Yes, I know that point of view. But here Ajahn Thanissaro has another, and he stands on this sutta passage:

"And when the devas, together with Indra, the Brahmas, & Pajapati, search for the monk whose mind is thus released, they cannot find that 'The consciousness of the one truly gone (tathagata) [11] is dependent on this.' Why is that? The one truly gone is untraceable even in the here & now. [12]

"Speaking in this way, teaching in this way, I have been erroneously, vainly, falsely, unfactually misrepresented by some brahmans and contemplatives [who say], 'Gotama the contemplative is one who misleads. He declares the annihilation, destruction, extermination of the existing being.' But as I am not that, as I do not say that, so I have been erroneously, vainly, falsely, unfactually misrepresented by those venerable brahmans and contemplatives [who say], 'Gotama the contemplative is one who misleads. He declares the annihilation, destruction, extermination of the existing being.' [13]


And he explains it in this way:

Some have objected to the equation of this consciousness with nibbana, on the grounds that nibbana is no where else in the Canon described as a form of consciousness. Thus they have proposed that consciousness without surface be regarded as an arahant's consciousness of nibbana in meditative experience, and not nibbana itself. This argument, however, contains two flaws: (1) The term viññanam anidassanam also occurs in DN 11, where it is described as where name & form are brought to an end: surely a synonym for nibbana. (2) If nibbana is an object of mental consciousness (as a dhamma), it would come under the all, as an object of the intellect. There are passages in the Canon (such as AN 9.36) that describe meditators experiencing nibbana as a dhamma, but these passages seem to indicate that this description applies up through the level of non-returning. Other passages, however, describe nibbana as the ending of all dhammas. For instance, Sn V.6 quotes the Buddha as calling the attainment of the goal the transcending of all dhammas. Sn IV.6 and Sn IV.10 state that the arahant has transcended dispassion, said to be the highest dhamma. Thus, for the arahant, nibbana is not an object of consciousness. Instead it is directly known without mediation. Because consciousness without feature is directly known without mediation, there seems good reason to equate the two.
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Re: Confusion about eternally of "soul"

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Tue Apr 06, 2010 2:54 pm

Zom,

You seem to be convinced that Venerable Thanissaro is an eternalist. If you're unswayed by evidence to the contrary and you believe you've got the answer then why continue the discussion? It seems as if anything further will fall into the realm of samphappalapa. Anyway, I wish you well and hope you come to a satisfying answer to your question. Metta.
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Re: Confusion about eternally of "soul"

Postby meindzai » Tue Apr 06, 2010 2:57 pm

Zom,

There is certainly some controversey over this particular view of consiousness - and not everybody shares Thanissaro's view. However, I think your insistence that he is equating this with some kind of "self" is out of place. Thanissaro point has always been clear that any kind of self view is a cause for suffering. He has tried to point out that carrying around a "I have no self view" is also a kind of self-view that people tend to ignore in the Buddha's teaching, and for this has been accused of saying the Buddha taught there is a self. (You just can't please everybody). The thing is, he has always been very critical of such views including a cosmic self, Buddha nature, etc. He has given very in depth and lengthy talks about such topics. So please no more of this "TB is an eternalist" talk.

"Consiousness without feature" is another topic entirely. I know Ven Dhammanando has criticized it as a form of "consiousness mysticism" back in the E-sangha days. Still - not to be equated with any kind of self view.

-M
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Re: Confusion about eternally of "soul"

Postby Zom » Tue Apr 06, 2010 3:22 pm

I admit that Ajahn Thanissaro nowhere explicitly states that there is a some kind of High Self. But when talking about High Self he always mean any self, belonging to this world (that could exist in The All).

However, if he says that nibbana is this out-of-5-aggregates consciousness of an individual being, there a natural question arises - why this consciousness cannot be called a self? Well, one can answer - only for the purpose of non-clining. But then, in reality as a fact, it seems that this self does exist (even if we drop off all clining). And - so as I see it - that's why he argues with those teachers who say that there is no self in reality - it is clearly seen from his explanations that I quoted.

So please no more of this "TB is an eternalist" talk.


Well - actually I don't attack The Venerable - if you see it in this way. I'm interested only in that very theory that he offers. If it is better for you, I can remove all mentioning of his name, but will operate only with his explanations and ideas that come from these conceptions naturally =) I just mentioned him to show that this is not my personal theory.

So the question is - why this type of consciousness cannot be called a self if it will always be after enlightenment (not as a view to grasp to... but as a factual reality)?
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Re: Confusion about eternally of "soul"

Postby Sobeh » Tue Apr 06, 2010 3:43 pm

Because permanence of any sort isn't a factual reality. The Suttas, time and again, hammer this point home, and consciousness is no exception.
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