"Thou art that"

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"Thou art that"

Postby VeganLiz » Thu Jan 27, 2011 3:58 pm

In my Eastern Philosophy class my professor wrote on the board "Thou art that." He left us to ponder over the meaning, next class it is our topic of discussion.

Supposedly it has something to do with meditation but in all honesty, it doesn't make any sense to me.

Has anyone ever come across the saying "Thou art that"? Does it mean anything significant to you?
"My actions are my only true belongings." Thich Nhat Hanh
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Re: "Thou art that"

Postby andre9999 » Thu Jan 27, 2011 4:07 pm

I always like an opportunity to say not-self in any thread!

So I'd guess that. We're all connected. See also:

Sister Khema
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/khema/bl095.html

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kB_mOfvDPU
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Re: "Thou art that"

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Thu Jan 27, 2011 4:11 pm

Hi VeganLiz,

You're probably not going to get much of a response because the maxim "Tat Tvam Asi" (Thou art that) comes straight from the Hindu yogic philosphies. The Buddhadhamma teaches that there is no unchanging self to be found (hence the not-self doctrine of anatta). I'd suggest googling Sanatana Dharma if you're interested in finding out more about your original question. Be well.
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Re: "Thou art that"

Postby plwk » Thu Jan 27, 2011 4:18 pm

I suspect it comes from the Sanskrit "Tat Tvam Asi"
For myself, the answers to that may range from this... Ananda Sutta & Anatta-lakkhana Sutta to this...
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .budd.html
Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought.
If with an impure mind a person speaks or acts suffering follows him like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox.

Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought.
If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts happiness follows him like his never-departing shadow.


Have fun :tongue:
Bhikkhus, if you develop and make much this one thing,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.
What is it? It is recollecting the Enlightened One.
If this single thing is recollected and made much,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.

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Re: "Thou art that"

Postby meindzai » Thu Jan 27, 2011 4:27 pm

This is "tat tvam asi" (sanskrit) from the Upanishads, which represent one of the prevailing doctrines in the time of the Buddha. In most basic terms it relates "thou/you" with some eternal divinity/God/Brahman.

You can think of it as the reaction to our everyday notions about reality, where there is an "I" walking around in some world consisting of things (outside ourself). Mysticism in general (Hindu, Sufi, some Christian Mysticism) essentially says that there is no such separation and that "everything is one," or "we are one with God." The concept of enlightenment in such traditions is that you stop identifying with a small "self" and identify with the totality.

Buddhism is more like "thou art not that." You can think of it as a reaction to the above, or such a doctrine taken one step further. Instead of saying that there some kind of "self" that merges with an "other," Buddhism says that it's the identification with an idea of "self" that causes suffering. But this includes any concept of self whatsoever, including a cosmic or divine one.

You can roughly identify the concept of "thou art that" with Eastern philosophies, except for Buddhism, which teaches no-self or "anatta," instead. Hopefully your eastern philosophy teacher knows this, but a surprisingly large number of people do not, and lump all eastern philosophy together as teaching this sort of philosophy.

As for any personal interpretation of the meaning, I feel that anyone who can identify with some sort of cosmic, universal self, divinity, etc. then they are what I might consider an accomplished mystic or spiritually advanced or whatever, but they do not have the level of realization that the Buddha had, since he went much further to drop even this notion of a self.

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Re: "Thou art that"

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Jan 27, 2011 6:33 pm

Perhaps the the view of Buddhist practice could be summarised "Thou art not that".
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: "Thou art that"

Postby kirk5a » Thu Jan 27, 2011 6:36 pm

Nice summary meindzai. It's funny because the Buddha explicitly taught the practice of 'This is not me, this is not my self, this is not what I am.' Then we have other people teaching "this is me, this is what I am" or "I am the universe." Hm. Amounts to "the same thing in different words"? Nope I don't think so.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: "Thou art that"

Postby VeganLiz » Thu Jan 27, 2011 7:25 pm

I don't understand the concept of "no self"

What exactly does it imply?
"My actions are my only true belongings." Thich Nhat Hanh
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Re: "Thou art that"

Postby kirk5a » Thu Jan 27, 2011 7:34 pm

Maybe this article will help frame "anatta" more usefully than "there is no self"

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... self2.html
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: "Thou art that"

Postby VeganLiz » Thu Jan 27, 2011 7:40 pm

kirk5a wrote:Maybe this article will help frame "anatta" more usefully than "there is no self"

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


Danke. I will read that after class tonight...

Just wanted to add that I just finished my Eastern Philosophy class for today and you're right poster from a while ago...it is concerning Hinduism.
"My actions are my only true belongings." Thich Nhat Hanh
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Re: "Thou art that"

Postby meindzai » Thu Jan 27, 2011 10:09 pm

VeganLiz wrote:
kirk5a wrote:Maybe this article will help frame "anatta" more usefully than "there is no self"

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


Danke. I will read that after class tonight...

Just wanted to add that I just finished my Eastern Philosophy class for today and you're right poster from a while ago...it is concerning Hinduism.


It's actually a good thing your professor didn't lump Buddhism in there with it, as some people do, including even academics, and Buddhists themselves who have not studied the teachings.

Briefly on Anatta - The Buddha stated that all forms identification with a self would be a cause for suffering. Vedic literature states something sorta-kinda similar, in that it says that identifying with a *separate* self is a cause for suffering, and once that separate self merges into the whole there will be no problem. This is the whole "one with the universe" bit.

But the Buddha states that even in this state there is some (however small from our perspective) self-identification going on here. Instead of identifying with a separate self, one identifies with a larger totality, but one is still identifying. Instead of "I am a little self" it's "I am a big cosmic self." The Buddha is saying that until we drop *ALL* forms of self-identification, there will be a subtle clinging involved, and thus dukkha (suffering/stress) as a result.

Buddhists on message boards and elsewhere endlessly debate about whether the Buddha was trying to state ontologically that "no self exists," or whether he was just talking about a "strategy of non-identification" (Thanissaro Bhikkhu's view) and that ontological arguments were something the Buddha avoided.

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Re: "Thou art that"

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Thu Jan 27, 2011 10:14 pm

It sounds like an Eastern version of "I think therefore I am." Buddha responds, "No you don't; and no you aren't." :D

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Re: "Thou art that"

Postby Kenshou » Thu Jan 27, 2011 10:20 pm

That article by Ven Than may clear things up, but I think it is important to say 2 things about anatta right from the start. These are the two issues that I've encountered when talking about anatta with people interested in Buddhism:

Anatta does not mean that "everything is an illusion" in an ontologically nihilistic way, that all this stuff is not actually occurring. "No-self" is sort of a misnomer that can lead to this idea, I think. "Not-self" being the preferred term. Since we tend to naturally identify with our experiences, when we hear that there is no self, we then think, "Oh, then everything is an illusion?" But that logic is based in a false assumption, that these things are "us".

The things you experience are really happening (a term I'm using to avoid a dichotomy of is/is not real/actually existent/true etc.), it is the conceptual overlay of self and the related concepts of I/me/mine that are said to be false, because in the flow of our experience there is no self-existent nugget of selfhood that can be found. Larger metaphysical statements of knowledge of selfhood-or-not are beyond the range of experience, but we can see in sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, and cognition, that there is not actually any "self" that we can pinpoint. So these things are not-self.

And on the other hand, anatta does not posit a kind of transcendental hivemind-esque conscious eternal monad that we are all a part of which is the real truth of ourselves (this relates to tattvamasi, I believe), that is taking things too far. It's just that there's no self that we can find. And yet continuing to habitually add a self into the mix causes us stress. Everything we experience is unreliable, impermanent, prone to bringing us dis-ease. When this is understood deeply, one stops craving for this or that, seeing the pointlessness of it. Being dis-en-passioned about things, one doesn't get tied up them, doesn't fight against them, no longer has conceptions of a "me" getting drug around in it all. Being like that, the mind isn't agitated or consumed by what is pleasant or unpleasant, and so is peaceful.

Hopefully what I've said makes sense and is not unhelpful blabber!
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Re: "Thou art that"

Postby David N. Snyder » Thu Jan 27, 2011 11:03 pm

Metta-4 wrote:It sounds like an Eastern version of "I think therefore I am." Buddha responds, "No you don't; and no you aren't." :D


:thumbsup:

Here are some counter-quotes to the Cartesian quote:

It is precisely because I think,
that I change,
that I cannot remain I.

(original author unknown)


I think, therefore I am not what I think I am

(http://paulgerhards.com/blog_thisisthat ... hink-i-am/)


Anyone know of some other good counter-quotes?
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Re: "Thou art that"

Postby Euclid » Fri Jan 28, 2011 12:23 am

Don't know if it's direct enough for you, but:

AN10.93 wrote:When this had been said, the wanderers said to Anathapindika the householder, 'We have each & every one expounded to you in line with our own positions. Now tell us what views you have.'

'Whatever has been brought into being, is fabricated, willed, dependently co-arisen, that is inconstant. Whatever is inconstant is stress. Whatever is stress is not mine, is not what I am, is not my self. This is the sort of view I have.'
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Re: "Thou art that"

Postby octathlon » Fri Jan 28, 2011 12:24 am

Goofaholix wrote:Perhaps the the view of Buddhist practice could be summarised "Thou art not that".

Or maybe, "That is not thou, That is not thine."
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Re: "Thou art that"

Postby octathlon » Fri Jan 28, 2011 12:34 am

David N. Snyder wrote:Anyone know of some other good counter-quotes?

I sink, therefore I swam.

I link, therefore I spam.

I oink, therefore I ham.
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Re: "Thou art that"

Postby VeganLiz » Fri Jan 28, 2011 1:55 am



Practicing "Not self strategy" seems pretty challenging.
"My actions are my only true belongings." Thich Nhat Hanh
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Re: "Thou art that"

Postby alan » Fri Jan 28, 2011 2:36 am

It's also possible your professor was an Alan Watts devotee.
That shtick has been used many, many times before.
I remember reading an interview with the founders of the Esalen institute where they talked about a teacher who did pretty much the same thing.
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Re: "Thou art that"

Postby kirk5a » Fri Jan 28, 2011 3:54 am

VeganLiz wrote:Practicing "Not self strategy" seems pretty challenging.

Yes. But, if we focus on this part -

"Am I suffering stress because I'm holding onto this particular phenomenon? Is it really me, myself, or mine? If it's stressful but not really me or mine, why hold on?"

then I think it's workable. Something we can use. Not TOO challenging (not beyond what we're able to do).
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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