The negative language of Theravada.

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Individual
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The negative language of Theravada.

Postby Individual » Mon Jan 26, 2009 4:30 am

Somewhat related to the discussion in this thread, I have to ask: Is it absolutely necessary to speak of the dhamma in terms of the negative, in order for the teaching to be clear?

What I mean is, I have a preference for more positive language in a way that, to me, seems to carry the same meaning but approaches the extinction of ego from a different angle that feels safer and more comfortable.

"Storehouse consciousness" instead of "all mental processes stop."

"Expanding infinitely in all directions," instead of "being extinguished".

True life and abiding happiness, not merely the "deathless" and the "cessation of suffering."

...That Nirvana is true self, Emptiness is true self, Buddha-nature is one's true nature... Are these ideas just different ways of stating Theravada Buddhist teachings or are they completely contrary to the Pali canon?
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Re: The negative language of Theravada.

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Jan 26, 2009 4:36 am

Greetings Individual,

Yes, I think it is necessary, because otherwise the teachings would just point to the heavenly realms, and that's not what the Dhamma is about.

I see no reason though to think of them as negative (in a qualitative sense) simply because they negate something.

Renunciation is the key.

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: The negative language of Theravada.

Postby Ben » Mon Jan 26, 2009 4:40 am

Hi Individual

I would ask you, are you talking about the same things?
One of the reasons that Nibbana is described with terms of negation is that it is so far removed from mundane human experience that the most precise method of describing nibbana is by defining it by negating what we know and experience.

Also, if you look at the canon and look at how the Buddha describes liberation, the translators have used the same linguistic conventions. Be careful that you do not associate negation as being morally or emotionally negative. Also be careful in substituting 'positive' synonyms, that you do not dilute the meaning of what is being said!
Metta

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in mountain clefts and chasms,
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Re: The negative language of Theravada.

Postby Jechbi » Mon Jan 26, 2009 4:41 am

Individual wrote:I have a preference for more positive language in a way that, to me, seems to carry the same meaning but approaches the extinction of ego from a different angle that feels safer and more comfortable.

I'm not sure if we can get to the extinction of ego in a manner that is safe and comfortable.
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.

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Re: The negative language of Theravada.

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Jan 26, 2009 4:43 am

Greetings Jechbi,

Jechbi wrote:I'm not sure if we can get to the extinction of ego in a manner that is safe and comfortable.

Not without positing the kind of "universal self" or "unity with Brahma" that the Buddha rejected.

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


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)

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Re: The negative language of Theravada.

Postby Individual » Mon Jan 26, 2009 5:00 am

What do you think about Nagasena's description of Nibbana in the Milinda-Panha?

Like the wishing jewel, Nirvana grants all one can desire, brings joy, and sheds light.
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Re: The negative language of Theravada.

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Jan 26, 2009 5:06 am

Greetings Individual,

Individual wrote:What do you think about Nagasena's description of Nibbana in the Milinda-Panha?

Post canonical ;)

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


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)

Element

Re: The negative language of Theravada.

Postby Element » Mon Jan 26, 2009 5:49 am

Individual wrote:True life and abiding happiness, not merely the "deathless" and the "cessation of suffering."

In the Dhammapada, the Buddha states:
Sankharam paramam dukkham
Nibbanam paramam sukkham

Concocting is the supreme suffering
Nibbana is the supreme happiness

Buddhadasa once said this is to entice the youngsters.

Element

Re: The negative language of Theravada.

Postby Element » Mon Jan 26, 2009 5:54 am

Individual wrote:Somewhat related to the discussion in this thread, I have to ask: Is it absolutely necessary to speak of the dhamma in terms of the negative, in order for the teaching to be clear?

Individual

The answer to your question is "yes". Buddha taught:
I teach only dukkha and the cessation of dukkha.

To study Dhamma in the right way is to comprehend those things that are dukkha so they can be abandoned or foresaken. In Buddhism, the genuine "positive state" arises from the removal of the negative state.

For example, when a car has rust there are two choices. Remove the rust or simply mask it by painting over it. Buddha recommended to remove the rust. Underneath the rust there is shiny metal or luminous original mind.

E

Element

Re: The negative language of Theravada.

Postby Element » Mon Jan 26, 2009 6:09 am

Individual wrote:"Storehouse consciousness" instead of "all mental processes stop."

"Expanding infinitely in all directions," instead of "being extinguished".

However, I have offered on numerous occassions previously the right comprehension of the five aggregates as emptiness.

The practise of satipatthana is seeing "form is form, feeling is feeling....consciousness is consciousness". To paraphrase the Buddha in MN 121, the practitioner must see what is there before seeing what is not there.

To see consciousness as merely consciousness, to examine it clearly with insight as to see no 'self' abiding within the consciousness element, is the same as seeing voidness. Form is voidness, voidness is form. To comprehend this, the practitioner must examine the form itself rather than reaching for the moon of voidness. The tree is to be climbed from the bottom and not from the top.

When Siddharta was the bodhisatta, searching for enlightenment, he practised the very same practises the Mahayana and Zennies hold to be enlightenment. Siddharta, practising the immaterial jhanas, was practising stopping all mental processes. Siddharta's enlightenment arose when he ceased stopping all mental processes but instead, examined the very nature of the body-mind. Buddha used his mind as a microscope to examine closely and clearly the true nature of phenomena rather than stopping all mental processes.

This distinction is that of concentration and insight. Concentration is the stopping of mental processes and insight is seeing the true nature of the five aggregates.

It is not Theravada that has negative language but those miscomprehending. This occurs from trying to climb the tree from the top. When the tree is climbed from the bottom, it is done so by practising the satipatthana, by seeing 'what is what'. Buddha always taught about the five aggregates yet many seem to think enlightenment is free of the five aggregates.

With metta

Eleemment

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Re: The negative language of Theravada.

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Jan 26, 2009 8:47 am

if something stops and ends it stops and ends
saying it is stored is saying it doesn't end.

interpreting things in an opposing way is not always possible
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."

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Re: The negative language of Theravada.

Postby Individual » Mon Jan 26, 2009 4:16 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Individual,

Individual wrote:What do you think about Nagasena's description of Nibbana in the Milinda-Panha?

Post canonical ;)

Metta,
Retro. :)

Even post-canonical works are often beautiful expressions of clarity.

Heaven by Rupert Brooke

Fish (fly-replete, in depth of June,
Dawdling away their wat'ry noon)
Ponder deep wisdom, dark or clear,
Each secret fishy hope or fear.
Fish say, they have their Stream and Pond;
But is there anything Beyond?
This life cannot be All, they swear,
For how unpleasant, if it were!
One may not doubt that, somehow, Good
Shall come of Water and of Mud;
And, sure, the reverent eye must see
A Purpose in Liquidity.
We darkly know, by Faith we cry,
The future is not Wholly Dry.
Mud unto mud! -- - Death eddies near -- -
Not here the appointed End, not here!
But somewhere, beyond Space and Time.
Is wetter water, slimier slime!
And there (they trust) there swimmeth One
Who swam ere rivers were begun,
Immense, of fishy form and mind,
Squamous, omnipotent, and kind;
And under that Almighty Fin,
The littlest fish may enter in.
Oh! never fly conceals a hook,
Fish say, in the Eternal Brook,
But more than mundane weeds are there,
And mud, celestially fair;
Fat caterpillars drift around,
And Paradisal grubs are found;
Unfading moths, immortal flies,
And the worm that never dies.
And in that Heaven of all their wish,
There shall be no more land, say fish.


Element wrote:For example, when a car has rust there are two choices. Remove the rust or simply mask it by painting over it. Buddha recommended to remove the rust. Underneath the rust there is shiny metal or luminous original mind.

Yes, but would the Buddha have to express it as, "There is rust everywhere. My teaching is for the removal of rust"?

Could he not also say, "Everywhere, there is luminosity, luster, shining light, only hidden by rust. My teaching is for the realization of this hidden luminosity"?

With metta :heart:,
Individual
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The Diamond Sutra

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Re: The negative language of Theravada.

Postby genkaku » Mon Jan 26, 2009 5:33 pm

If it seems relevant, the medical profession adheres to the injunction, "Do no harm." It does not adhere to the injunction, "Do a lot of good." Why? My guess is that we invariably do harm of one kind or another and it behooves us to be on our toes. Further, once we utter the word "good," the world fills up with endless interpretations, many of them leading to a good deal of harm.

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Re: The negative language of Theravada.

Postby Individual » Mon Jan 26, 2009 5:42 pm

genkaku wrote:If it seems relevant, the medical profession adheres to the injunction, "Do no harm." It does not adhere to the injunction, "Do a lot of good." Why? My guess is that we invariably do harm of one kind or another and it behooves us to be on our toes. Further, once we utter the word "good," the world fills up with endless interpretations, many of them leading to a good deal of harm.

You are right, Genkaku. However, with the strict and cold maxim, "Do no harm," you do not create doctors like Patch Adams. :)

With metta :heart:,
Individual
The best things in life aren't things.

The Diamond Sutra

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Re: The negative language of Theravada.

Postby rowyourboat » Mon Jan 26, 2009 6:24 pm

i think no one can guarantee permanant happiness- that would be a lie- as happiness itself is impermanant- the only truth is the cessation of suffering (it almost goes without saying- but it has been said clearly by the buddha that he is not leading his bikkhus towards suffering but to calm, mindful, blissful mental states- but even these arise and pass away- no doubt more frequently). Saying 'I teach more frequent happiness' doesnt quite have the same ring to it for me.
to talk of positives or negatives in terms of nibbana would be a falacy- at least talkng of nibbana in the negative is closer to the truth
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Re: The negative language of Theravada.

Postby kc2dpt » Mon Jan 26, 2009 6:28 pm

Individual wrote:...That Nirvana is true self, Emptiness is true self, Buddha-nature is one's true nature... Are these ideas just different ways of stating Theravada Buddhist teachings or are they completely contrary to the Pali canon?

They seem to me expressions of eternalism and thus completely contrary to the Pali Canon.
The desire to exist for ever and ever is, I think, a very basic desire in all of us.
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.

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Re: The negative language of Theravada.

Postby Individual » Mon Jan 26, 2009 6:50 pm

rowyourboat wrote:i think no one can guarantee permanant happiness- that would be a lie- as happiness itself is impermanant- the only truth is the cessation of suffering (it almost goes without saying- but it has been said clearly by the buddha that he is not leading his bikkhus towards suffering but to calm, mindful, blissful mental states- but even these arise and pass away- no doubt more frequently). Saying 'I teach more frequent happiness' doesnt quite have the same ring to it for me.
to talk of positives or negatives in terms of nibbana would be a falacy- at least talkng of nibbana in the negative is closer to the truth

If you aren't looking for abiding happiness (or an even more deep, more profound sense of equanimous inner peace and clarity), why are you practicing Buddhism? Numbness to suffering? Numbness and death?

Peter wrote:
Individual wrote:...That Nirvana is true self, Emptiness is true self, Buddha-nature is one's true nature... Are these ideas just different ways of stating Theravada Buddhist teachings or are they completely contrary to the Pali canon?

They seem to me expressions of eternalism and thus completely contrary to the Pali Canon.
The desire to exist for ever and ever is, I think, a very basic desire in all of us.

Peter... An inference based on the Pali canon.

The Dhamma is eternal (SN 47.13), precisely the reason it's a secure refuge:

"But, Ananda, when he attained total Unbinding, did Sariputta take the aggregate of virtue along with him? Did he take the aggregate of concentration... discernment... release... the aggregate of knowledge & vision of release along with him?"

"No, lord, when he attained total Unbinding, Ven. Sariputta didn't take the aggregate of virtue... concentration... discernment... release... the aggregate of knowledge & vision of release along with him.


The Buddha's body is the Dhamma (SN 22.87):
Enough, Vakkali. Why do you want to see this filthy body? Whoever sees the Dhamma sees me; whoever sees me sees the Dhamma.

Now, if the Dhamma is eternal... And the Buddha is the Dhamma... Then this logically means... hmmm? Could anyone here finish the inference for me? :)

Back to SN 47.13, in that passage, the Buddha said (also elsewhere), "...each of you should remain with your self as an island, your self as your refuge, without anything else as a refuge."

Refuge in a self that can't be found among any of the five aggregates of clinging, a self that can't be found here or elsewhere, a self that is not simply the earth or in the universe, or any realm beyond. Hmm.

It is too easy to merely suggest that this was just a "conventional" expression with no meaning, considering it being repeated in various places, and the entire chapter in the Dhammapada on the self, which uses the more positive language about self.

With metta :heart:,
Individual
The best things in life aren't things.

The Diamond Sutra

Element

Re: The negative language of Theravada.

Postby Element » Mon Jan 26, 2009 8:18 pm

Individual wrote:Yes, but would the Buddha have to express it as, "There is rust everywhere. My teaching is for the removal of rust"?

Could he not also say, "Everywhere, there is luminosity, luster, shining light, only hidden by rust. My teaching is for the realization of this hidden luminosity"?


Buddha did say that. Buddha said his teaching has one purpose: "Unshakeable freedom of mind". (MN 29 & 30)

However, the essence of what you are saying Individual is not according to the Dhamma.

Your view is one of seeking the positive rather than having insight into the negative.

The power to practise comes from insight into the negative or unsatisfactoriness rather than lust for the positive.

Your view is without dispute wrong view according to the dhamma.

Buddhadhamma is not like shopping in a supermarket: "This sounds great. Let me try it!"

It does not work that way. Like a Quoting Bimbo, one can quote and quote but never find the path.

The path starts with seeing dukkha & dispassion rather than inspiration.

Buddha said the condition for faith was dukkha.

Best wishes

Element

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Re: The negative language of Theravada.

Postby kc2dpt » Mon Jan 26, 2009 9:49 pm

Individual wrote:An inference based on the Pali canon.

The Dhamma is eternal (SN 47.13), precisely the reason it's a secure refuge:

This passage doesn't say the Dhamma is eternal. It says that just because Sariputta died doesn't mean the teachings died with him. The Buddha was reminding Ananda that it is the teaching which matters, not any particular teacher; Ananda could still develop the Path even though Sariputta had died.

The Buddha's body is the Dhamma (SN 22.87):

This passage is saying pretty much the same thing as the last passage: the teaching is more important that the teacher. In this case Vakkali wasn't even developing the Path a little bit; he just followed the Buddha around and stared at him.

These seem to me very ordinary passages about the relationships between students and teachers. That you are interpreting them to be making claims about an eternal self seems to me to be stretching quite a bit.

Back to SN 47.13, in that passage, the Buddha said (also elsewhere), "...each of you should remain with your self as an island, your self as your refuge, without anything else as a refuge."

Yet another passage saying you develop the Path yourself; a teacher can't do it for you.

Really, Individual, these arguments of yours are so old. I'm sure you've read plenty of refutations of them over on E-S. If you are still convinced the suttas teach an eternal self perhaps you would rather go find the Dark Zen folks and study under them; I recall they have their own forum over at Beliefnet.
- Peter

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Re: The negative language of Theravada.

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Jan 26, 2009 10:06 pm

Greetings Individual,

Individual wrote:The Buddha's body is the Dhamma (SN 22.87):
Enough, Vakkali. Why do you want to see this filthy body? Whoever sees the Dhamma sees me; whoever sees me sees the Dhamma.

Now, if the Dhamma is eternal... And the Buddha is the Dhamma... Then this logically means... hmmm? Could anyone here finish the inference for me? :)

Whether intentionally or not, you are completely misrepresenting the relationship between the Buddha and the Dhamma. The purpose of that sutta quote is to demonstrate that only someone who sees the Dhamma can properly understand and comprehend the Buddha's attainments, and spiritual attainments cannot be seen simply by walking along behind him and looking at form which not-self, not his, not Buddha.

As for your speculation on "self", are you a puggalavadin?

Puggalavāda Buddhist Philosophy
http://www.iep.utm.edu/p/pudgalav.htm

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


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)


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