Ucchedavada (annihilationism) - what does it actually mean?

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Ucchedavada (annihilationism) - what does it actually mean?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:51 pm

Greetings,

Much of what I see in debates about rebirth is an underlying, yet often unnoticed debate, about what constitutes the view of "annihilationism" (ucchedavada).

In my mind, I already have a picture of what I consider the ucchedavada position to be, but I'd really like to open it up initially for debate amongst those who find themselves prone to participating in rebirth debates, either firmly on the 'for', 'against', 'ambivalent' or 'irrelevant' sides.

In the meantime, please find attached a definition of uccheda from the...

Pali Text Society's Pali-English Dictionary
http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philol ... :3375.pali

Uccheda

Uccheda [fr. ud + chid, chind, see ucchindati & cp. cheda] breaking up, disintegration, perishing (of the soul) Vin iii.2 (either after this life, or after kāmadeva life, or after brahmadeva life) D i.34, 55; S iv.323; Nd1 324; Miln 413; Nett 95, 112, 160; DA i.120.
-- diṭṭhi the doctrine of the annihilation (of the soul), as opp. to sassata -- or atta -- diṭṭhi (the continuance of the soul after death) S ii.20; iii.99, 110 sq; Ps i.150, 158; Nd1 248 (opp. sassati˚); Dhs 1316; Nett 40, 127; SnA 523 (opp. atta˚). -- vāda (adj.) one who professes the doctrine of annihilation (ucchedadiṭṭhi) Vin i.235; iii.2; D i.34, 55; S ii.18; iv.401; A iv.174, 182 sq.; Nd1 282; Pug 38. -- vādin = ˚vāda Nett 111; J v.244.


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)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Ucchedavada (annihilationism) - what does it actually mean?

Postby stuka » Wed Jan 07, 2009 8:22 pm

Annihiliationism holds the speculative view that when a person dies, nothing continues to any sort of "other life". It stands in opposition to the position of eternalists, who hold that there is some sort of inner entity that continues after death. Both positions are at extreme opposite ends of a spectrum.

Often a Straw Man argument is lodged by eternalilsts against persons who do not hold either view, that claims that this "holding no view" is a form of annihiliationism, or that it is "eel wriggling". The Buddha's Noble teachings, the path of discernment, set aside any need for such speculative views to base a moral code upon, rendering such arguments, either way, irrelevant to his moral code, and to his noble teachings and practice. The Buddha himself professed neither view, and the eternalists' straw man arguments paint the Buddha Himself as an annihiliationist, or as an "eel-wriggler", both of which were in fact claims made by eternalists toward Him in his day.
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Re: Ucchedavada (annihilationism) - what does it actually mean?

Postby stuka » Wed Jan 07, 2009 10:36 pm

Further, both the eternalist and the annihiliationist positions take a definite stance with respect to the speculative proposition of a "Self" or Atta":

"Ananda, if I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is a self — were to answer that there is a self, that would be conforming with those priests & contemplatives who are exponents of eternalism.


If I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is no self — were to answer that there is no self, that would be conforming with those priests & contemplatives who are exponents of annihilationism.


Either position is a declaration of a speculative view.

Again, the Buddha refused to declare adherence to either of the two speculative views.
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Re: Ucchedavada (annihilationism) - what does it actually mean?

Postby gavesako » Thu Jan 08, 2009 7:33 am

Here are some interesting suggestions from Nanavira-Nanamoli correspondence:

http://nanavira.blogspot.com/2008/09/el-119-1v1958.html
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Ucchedavada (annihilationism) - what does it actually mean?

Postby Element » Thu Jan 08, 2009 11:16 am

Is the following quote eternalist or annihiliationist?
"When a disciple of the noble ones has seen well with right discernment this dependent co-arising & these dependently co-arisen phenomena as they have come to be, it is not possible that he would run after the past, thinking, '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?' or that he would run after the future, thinking, '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 that he would be inwardly perplexed about the immediate present, thinking, 'Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? Where has this being come from? Where is it bound?' Such a thing is not possible. Why is that? Because the disciple of the noble ones has seen well with right discernment this dependent co-arising & these dependently co-arisen phenomena as they have come to be."

Paccaya Sutta
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Re: Ucchedavada (annihilationism) - what does it actually mean?

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Thu Jan 08, 2009 3:27 pm

gavesako wrote:Here are some interesting suggestions from Nanavira-Nanamoli correspondence:

http://nanavira.blogspot.com/2008/09/el-119-1v1958.html

Sassatavāda is very sobering when a man is drunk with sensual indulgence, and not at all welcome, and the gloomy self-mortifications of the earnest sassatavādin often give the impression that he does not 'enjoy life'—and this is true, precisely because 'enjoying life' and the eternalist view are incompatible. The ucchedavādin enjoys life; the sassatavadin is gloomy and does not ... but a sassatavādin can well have hate.

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Re: Ucchedavada (annihilationism) - what does it actually mean?

Postby stuka » Thu Jan 08, 2009 4:21 pm

Sassatavāda refers to the spiritualist ideologies of India that held the view of a duality between the soul and the body (‘duality principle’), and that on the basis of purporting the liberation of the soul (ie, the ‘metaphysical self’) through resisting the ‘gravitational pull’ of the worldly body (ie, sensual desire and in some cases biological need), constituted the ideological basis underlying the extremely harsh Indian aesthetic practices amounting to self-mortification (attakilamathānuyoga). In stark contrast with this position, the materialist view held that the body and the soul are one (identity principle/theory of the physical self), therefore denied the possibility of survival, and on the basis of this position promoted the enjoyment of temporal existence through unrestrained sensual indulgence (kāmasukhallikānuyoga). Seeking to avoid the extremes of self-mortification and self-indulgence inspired by these ideologies, the Buddha promoted a ‘Middle-Path’ (majjhimā-patipada) – known as the Eightfold Path, which purported that the way to spiritual liberation laid in practicing sensual restraint whilst avoiding bringing upon oneself the calamity of harsh and undue physical duress or injury.

In combating the unprofitable practices of self-mortification and uninhibited sensual indulgence, the Buddha had clearly perceived the fundamental need to respond to the ideological bases that underlined them. Thus just as the Buddha taught what he described as a ‘middle path’ (majjhima-paṭipada) for the negotiation of these extreme practices, so also did he promote a theoretical foundation for this path, known as the ‘middle doctrine’ (majjhima dhamma), that in a similar way would transcend the two extremes of belief in absolute permanent existence (ie, sassatavāda) and the notion of impending non-existence through annihilation (ucchedavāda). This so called ‘middle doctrine’ is itself non other than the theory of Dependant Origination (paṭicca samuppāda).


Dependant Origination and the Middle Doctrine in Early Buddhism

Prof. Y. Karunadasa and Corey Bell
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Re: Ucchedavada (annihilationism) - what does it actually mean?

Postby piper » Mon Jan 12, 2009 9:43 pm

stuka wrote:Annihiliationism holds the speculative view that when a person dies, nothing continues to any sort of "other life". It stands in opposition to the position of eternalists, who hold that there is some sort of inner entity that continues after death. Both positions are at extreme opposite ends of a spectrum.

Yeah, the argument seems to be highly polarized, understandably as it deals with ultimate meaning.

I've come to interpret it to mean essentially grasping & aversion, and unless I'm mistaken, everyone experiences grasping & aversion, and on a daily basis, so it makes no sense to pin anyone down to either side of the spectrum.
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Re: Ucchedavada (annihilationism) - what does it actually mean?

Postby Individual » Mon Jan 12, 2009 10:47 pm

I once remember hearing a Christian pastor criticizing Atheists' view of death.

He said something like, "When Atheists say you die, they say that's it. You're gone forever. You're basically just worm-dirt."

Annihilationism seems to be rooted in the delusional belief of materialism, in believing that the "self" arose out of matter and that once matter dissolves, self (including self-consciousnesses) ceases to exist... ever.
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Re: Ucchedavada (annihilationism) - what does it actually mean?

Postby Element » Mon Jan 12, 2009 11:43 pm

Individual wrote:Annihilationism seems to be rooted in the delusional belief of materialism, in believing that the "self" arose out of matter and that once matter dissolves, self (including self-consciousnesses) ceases to exist... ever.

If fact, it is you who hold this belief Individual. You appear to hold the 'self' is the five aggregates.

The self arises out of ignorant thinking. When ignorance ends, self view ends but the aggregates live on until death.

In Buddhism, there is no such thing as 'self consciousness'. There is eye, ear, tongue, nose, body & mind consciousness but not the 'self consciousness' you speak of.

The mind indeed is rooted in matter. This is why the Buddha used the co-joined term 'nama-rupa' as one.

When you find a mind not joined to matter, please be kind enough to show me. :shrug:
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Re: Ucchedavada (annihilationism) - what does it actually mean?

Postby Element » Tue Jan 13, 2009 4:57 am

Ahañcānanda, vacchagottassa paribbājakassa ‘natthattā’ti puṭṭho samāno ‘natthattā’ti byākareyyaṃ, ye te, ānanda, samaṇabrāhmaṇā ucchedavādā tesametaṃ saddhiṃ abhavissa.

If I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is no self — were to answer that there is no self, that would be conforming with those priests & contemplatives who are exponents of annihilationism.


‘‘Kathañca, bhikkhave, olīyanti eke? Bhavārāmā, bhikkhave, devamanussā bhavaratā bhavasammuditā tesaṃ bhavanirodhāya dhamme desiyamāne cittaṃ na pakkhandati na pasīdati na santiṭṭhati nādhimuccati. Evaṃ kho, bhikkhave, olīyanti eke.

‘‘Kathañca , bhikkhave, atidhāvanti eke? Bhaveneva kho paneke aṭṭīyamānā harāyamānā jigucchamānā vibhavaṃ abhinandanti – yato kira, bho, ayaṃ attā [satto (sī. ka.)] kāyassa bhedā paraṃ maraṇā ucchijjati vinassati na hoti paraṃ maraṇā; etaṃ santaṃ etaṃ paṇītaṃ etaṃ yāthāvanti. Evaṃ kho, bhikkhave, atidhāvanti eke.

‘‘Kathañca, bhikkhave, cakkhumanto passanti? Idha bhikkhu bhūtaṃ bhūtato passati; bhūtaṃ bhūtato disvā bhūtassa nibbidāya virāgāya nirodhāya paṭipanno hoti. Evaṃ kho, bhikkhave, cakkhumanto passantī’’ti. Etamatthaṃ bhagavā avoca. Tatthetaṃ iti vuccati –

Bhikkhus, held by two kinds of views, some devas and human beings hold back and some overreach; only those with vision see.

"And how, bhikkhus, do some hold back? Devas and humans enjoy being, delight in being, are satisfied with being. When Dhamma is taught to them for the cessation of being, their minds do not enter into it or acquire confidence in it or settle upon it or become resolved upon it. Thus, bhikkhus, do some hold back.

"How, bhikkhus, do some overreach? Now some are troubled, ashamed and disgusted by this very same being and they rejoice in (the idea of) non-being, asserting: 'In as much as this self, good sirs, when the body perishes at death, is annihilated and destroyed and does not exist after death — this is peaceful, this is excellent, this is reality!' Thus, bhikkhus, do some overreach.

"How, bhikkhus, do those with vision see? Herein a bhikkhu sees what has come to be as having come to be. Having seen it thus, he practices the course for turning away, for dispassion, for the cessation of what has come to be. Thus, bhikkhus, do those with vision see."

Iti 2.22; Iti 43
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Re: Ucchedavada (annihilationism) - what does it actually mean?

Postby Element » Tue Jan 13, 2009 5:06 am

If students would like to remember the specific technical terms, there are three. The first term is "attā": there is attā which is attā. The second term is anattā: there is attā that is not-self, that is anattā. The third term is nirattā: without any kind of attā at all, nothingness. One extreme of attā is that it exists fully. The other extreme is no attā at all. Anattā, the self which is not self, is neither extreme, and is correct. There are three words: attā, anattā, and nirattā. They're totally different. Understand the meaning of these three words, then you'll understand everything.

The first group is the positive extreme. They believe there is attā in the full meaning of attā .This is called sassatadiţţhi, the belief in full existence or being. The second sort is the middle. There is the thing which you call "attā" but it isn't really attā, it's anattā. This is the middle or correct view. It's called sammādiţţhi. Then the negative extreme holds that there is no existence of any kind. There's no attā in any sense. This is called natthikadiţţhi. sassatadiţţhi is full, unchanging existence; natthikadiţţhi isn't anything at all. In the middle is correct Buddhism. There exists the thing which you all call" attā." Something is there to be called "attā" or "anattā." That is, there is everything, but we don't call it or its constituent parts "attā." They are anattā. Right here is sammādiţţhi. This extreme is sassatā, which is wrong. That extreme is natthikā, which is wrong. In the middle are only the things which shouldn't be called attā, which are anattā. This is the point we must especially study and learn.

Here, I'd like to go ahead to tell you that this nothingness or nihilism (natthikadiţţhi) is another meaning. Don't confuse the nihilistic teaching with the Buddha's teaching of suññatā (voidness). The correct word, voidness, still has existence, but nothing existing as a self. Everything is void of self. There is a big difference between nothingness and suññatā which holds that things exist void of selfhood. To mix up and confuse natthikadiţţhi with suññatā is to misunderstand Buddhism even more. Please distinguish the one group of views as natthikadiţţhi and keep it separate.

To remember easily: nothingness, no thing at all, is called " natthikadiţţhi "; existence or being without attā is called "suññatā." With natthikadiţţhi there is nothing. Suññatā exists but is void of self. natthikadiţţhi and suññatā are not the same thing. You must understand this properly.

Once again, don't confuse natthikadiţţhi with anattā or suññatā. Don't take nihilism to be anattā. These are totally different matters. Anattā, suññatā, and tathatā are, they exist, but their beings are not-self. They are anattā.

Bhikkhu Buddhadasa
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Re: Ucchedavada (annihilationism) - what does it actually mean?

Postby stuka » Tue Jan 13, 2009 5:24 am

Element wrote:
Individual wrote:Annihilationism seems to be rooted in the delusional belief of materialism, in believing that the "self" arose out of matter and that once matter dissolves, self (including self-consciousnesses) ceases to exist... ever.

If fact, it is you who hold this belief Individual. You appear to hold the 'self' is the five aggregates.

The self arises out of ignorant thinking. When ignorance ends, self view ends but the aggregates live on until death.

In Buddhism, there is no such thing as 'self consciousness'. There is eye, ear, tongue, nose, body & mind consciousness but not the 'self consciousness' you speak of.

The mind indeed is rooted in matter. This is why the Buddha used the co-joined term 'nama-rupa' as one.

When you find a mind not joined to matter, please be kind enough to show me. :shrug:



Individual is carrying on about "atta-rupa" rather than examining the Buddha's teachings regarding nama-rupa.

<Sigh>....dig cotton out of ears...place in mouth...
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Re: Ucchedavada (annihilationism) - what does it actually mean?

Postby Element » Tue Jan 13, 2009 5:46 am

stuka wrote:Individual is carrying on about "atta-rupa" rather than examining the Buddha's teachings regarding nama-rupa.

Self arises in the mind. We must find the matter there, see the relevant matters there and deal with them there, namely, in the mind.
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Re: Ucchedavada (annihilationism) - what does it actually mean?

Postby stuka » Tue Jan 13, 2009 8:01 am

Element wrote:
stuka wrote:Individual is carrying on about "atta-rupa" rather than examining the Buddha's teachings regarding nama-rupa.

Self arises in the mind. We must find the matter there, see the relevant matters there and deal with them there, namely, in the mind.



Individual has reified this notion of "mind" in true mahavajra fashion, as if it were a "thing", an "entity" -- an eternal Atta -- rather than a constantly changing, impermanent collection of mental processes.
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Re: Ucchedavada (annihilationism) - what does it actually mean?

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Jan 13, 2009 9:37 am

Hi Stuka

stuka wrote:Individual has reified this notion of "mind" in true mahavajra fashion, as if it were a "thing", an "entity" -- an eternal Atta -- rather than a constantly changing, impermanent collection of mental processes.


You remind me of something a teacher I have mentioned before says

Michael Kewley wrote: It is a ever changing sequence of Thoughts, Moods, Feelings, and Emotions which we call the Mind
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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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: Ucchedavada (annihilationism) - what does it actually mean?

Postby clw_uk » Tue Jan 13, 2009 6:23 pm

Isnt annihilationism just a flase view that there is a self to be annihilated instead of seeing that there was no permanent self in the first place to be annihilated as all things are impermanent, dukkha and not-self and are dependent on conditions?
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Re: Ucchedavada (annihilationism) - what does it actually mean?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Jan 13, 2009 11:39 pm

Greetings clw_uk,
clw_uk wrote:Isnt annihilationism just a flase view that there is a self to be annihilated instead of seeing that there was no permanent self in the first place to be annihilated as all things are impermanent, dukkha and not-self and are dependent on conditions?

Precisely so... yet people often falsely accuse others of being annihilationists, simply because they deny literal rebirth or feel that literal rebirth is largely irrelevant to Buddhist practice. Such accusations are often levelled by those who have heavily invested in the truth of rebirth, such as those who have taken bodhisattva vows etc.

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: Ucchedavada (annihilationism) - what does it actually mean?

Postby Individual » Wed Jan 14, 2009 12:45 am

Element wrote:
Individual wrote:Annihilationism seems to be rooted in the delusional belief of materialism, in believing that the "self" arose out of matter and that once matter dissolves, self (including self-consciousnesses) ceases to exist... ever.

If fact, it is you who hold this belief Individual. You appear to hold the 'self' is the five aggregates.

The self arises out of ignorant thinking. When ignorance ends, self view ends but the aggregates live on until death.

In Buddhism, there is no such thing as 'self consciousness'. There is eye, ear, tongue, nose, body & mind consciousness but not the 'self consciousness' you speak of.

The mind indeed is rooted in matter. This is why the Buddha used the co-joined term 'nama-rupa' as one.

When you find a mind not joined to matter, please be kind enough to show me. :shrug:

I do not hold the self to be the five aggregates, but the illusion of self does manifest through them.

Your request towards the end of that post seems to be impossible to address, because it's contradictory. You're essentially asking, "If you find a mind not joined to matter, please be kind enough to show [the material for this mind] so that I can perceive it." If there were a mind without a body, the only way it could be perceived is if either you developed such a mind, or such a mind developed within you do to external factors. But once it's manifest into a lump of something that I can pull out and show you, it ceases to be a mind disjoined from a body. So, you're asking for tangible, empirical evidence of something that is by nature intangible.
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Re: Ucchedavada (annihilationism) - what does it actually mean?

Postby kc2dpt » Wed Jan 14, 2009 1:10 am

Trying to knock down a strawman with another strawman, retro? ;)

retrofuturist wrote:
Isnt annihilationism just a flase view that there is a self to be annihilated instead of seeing that there was no permanent self in the first place to be annihilated as all things are impermanent, dukkha and not-self and are dependent on conditions?
Precisely so... yet people often falsely accuse others of being annihilationists, simply because they deny literal rebirth

Are you suggesting these "others" you refer to are sotapanna? Remember, the Buddha teaches it is only with the attainment of sotapanna that one no longer takes the five aggregates as self. I would argue that just because one intellectually assents to the teaching of anatta does not mean they do not actually hold a view of self, even if they themselves may not be aware of it. I would bet that most rebirth-deniers you and I encounter do in fact hold a view of self.
- Peter

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