Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.

Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby Gena1480 » Thu Oct 27, 2011 6:57 am

huge thanks for all forum members
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby cooran » Thu Oct 27, 2011 9:37 am

Hello all,

A little information for consideration:

Digha Nikaya trans. By Maurice Walshe
On p.31 in his Introduction, Walshe states:

EXCERPT:
"An important and often overlooked aspect of the Buddhist teaching concerns the levels of truth, failure to appreciate which has led to many errors (see n.220).
Very often the Buddha talks in the Suttas in terms of conventional or relative truth (sammuti- or vohaara-sacca), according to which people and things exist just as they appear to the naive understanding.
Elsewhere, however, when addressing an audience capable of appreciating his meaning, he speaks in terms of ultimate truth (paramattha-sacca), according to which 'existence is a mere process of physical and mental phenomena within which, or beyond which, no real ego-entity nor any abiding substance can ever be found' (Buddhist Dictionary under Paramattha).

In the Abhidhamma, the entire exposition is in terms of ultimate truth. It may also be observed that many 'Zen paradoxes' and the like realyl owe their puzzling character to their being put in terms of ultimate, not of relative truth.

The full understanding of ultimate truth can, of course, only be gained by profound insight, but it is possible to become increasingly aware of the distinction.
There would seem in fact to be a close parallel in modern times in the difference between our naive world-view and that of the physicist, both points of view having their use in their own sphere. Thus, conventionally speaking, or according to the naive world-view, there are solid objects such as tables and chairs, whereas according to physics the alleged solidity is seen to be an illusion, and whatever might turn out to be the ultimate nature of matter, it is certainly something very different from that which presents itself to our senses. However, when the physicist is off duty, he or she makes use of solid tables and chairs just like everyone else.

In the same way, all such expressions as 'I', 'self' and so on are always in accordance with conventional truth, and the Buddha never hesitated to use the word attaa 'self' (and also with plural meaning: 'yourselves', etc.) in its conventional and convenient sense. In fact, despite all that has been urged to the contrary, there is not the slightest evidence that he ever used it in any other sense except when critically quoting the views of others, as should clearly emerge from several of the Suttas here translated.

In point of fact, it should be stressed that conventional truth is sometimes extremely important. The whole doctrine of karma and rebirth has its validity only in the realm of conventional truth. That is why, by liberating ourselves from the view point of conventional truth we cease to be subject to karmic law. Objections to the idea of rebirth in Buddhism, too, are sometimes based on a misunderstanding of the nature of the two truths. As long as we are unenlightened 'worldlings', our minds habitually operate in terms of 'me' and 'mine', even if in theory we know better. It is not until this tendency has been completely eradicated that full enlilghtenment can dawn.

At Samyutta Nikaaya 22.89 the Venerable Khemaka who is a Non-Returner, explains how 'the subtle remnant of the 'I'-conceit, or the 'I'-desire, an unextirpated lurking tendency to think: 'I am', still persists even at that advanced stage."

DN9
"these are merely names, expressions, turns of speech, designations
in common use in the world, which the Tathagata uses without
misapprehending them.

A important reference to the two truths referred to in DA as ‘conventional speech’ (samuti-katha) and ‘ultimately true speech’ (paramattha-katha). See Introduction, p.31f. It is important to be aware of the level of truth at which any statements are made. In MA (ad MN5: Anangana Sutta), the following verse is quoted (source unknown): Two truths the Buddha, best of all who speak, Declared:
Conventional and ultimate – no third can be,
Terms agreed are true by usage of the world;
Words of ultimate significance are true
In terms of dhammas. Thus the Lord, a Teacher,
He
Who’s skilled in this world’s speech, can use
It, and not lie.

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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby daverupa » Thu Oct 27, 2011 12:13 pm

I linked DN 9 earlier since Karunadasa did so, which seems to be Walshe's point. That brings us to three Suttas, all of which were occasions for explaining two truths, but none of which actually seem to clearly do so.

The problem here, as I see it, is that whether or not this is something that logically, soundly, and without error can be extrapolated from the SuttaVinaya, it isn't already extant there. I anticipate an objection at this point:

tiltbillings wrote:So, if it is not clearly spelled out in the suttas, then drawing out any implication found in the suttas is an inappropriate thing to do, so it would seem.


This is obviously not correct. Indeed, if it is not clearly spelled out in the Suttas, drawing implication may in fact be wholly necessary. A Buddhist stance on abortion is one such example - there are innumerable others. The point here has nothing to do with extrapolating from the Dhamma - the point is that in the context of the two truths idea, I do not see a reason to begin the extrapolation.

With abortion, the ensuing discussion would strive to grapple with a challenging and complex ethical scenario while consistently cleaving to the Dhamma.

Here is why I asked the question I did earlier, but it can be rephrased to mirror the above statement, underlining thereby the issue at hand:

"With 'two truths', the ensuing discussion would strive to grapple with _________________ while consistently cleaving to the Dhamma."

The point tilt's objection highlights is whether or not the idea consistently cleaves to the Dhamma. To my way of thinking, however, there is as yet no clear indication why we should bother.

What goes in the blank?
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Oct 27, 2011 5:01 pm

daverupa wrote:What goes in the blank?
Be happy to give my opinion, but first tell us how you understand the two truth notion, so that we can see that we are on the same page, talking about the same thing.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby daverupa » Thu Oct 27, 2011 6:21 pm

tiltbillings wrote:I'll be happy to answer the question, but I asked you first...


tiltbillings wrote:Okay, then let mne simply say that I'll be happy to address your question when I understand what your objection is...


tiltbillings wrote:Be happy to give my opinion, but first...


:thinking:

tiltbillings wrote:You were asked as simple question, and I got dodge in response.


:shrug:

"With 'two truths', the ensuing discussion would strive to grapple with _________________ while consistently cleaving to the Dhamma."

What goes in the blank, tilt? Your thoughts on this matter would be greatly edifying.
Last edited by daverupa on Thu Oct 27, 2011 6:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Oct 27, 2011 6:21 pm

daverupa wrote:That brings us to three Suttas, all of which were occasions for explaining two truths, but none of which actually seem to clearly do so.

Sorry, I'm completely baffled by arguments such as this.

A key point of the Buddha's teaching, spelled out in hundreds or thousands of suttas (as I pointed out above), is that we can analyse our experience into the mere arising and falling of phenomena. And this is the key to awakening, seeing through the self-creating papanca.

So, as I understand it, the whole teaching revolves around aspects of the two-truths/paramattha issue.

Perhaps I'm missing something and this whole discussion is hinging on technicalities of particular definitions of "two truths". I'm concerned simply with the general concept, not such details.

:anjali:
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby daverupa » Thu Oct 27, 2011 6:25 pm

mikenz66 wrote:A key point of the Buddha's teaching, spelled out in hundreds or thousands of suttas (as I pointed out above), is that we can analyse our experience into the mere arising and falling of phenomena. And this is the key to awakening, seeing through the self-creating papanca.

So, as I understand it, the whole teaching revolves around aspects of the two-truths/paramattha issue.


These seem unrelated to me, at first blush. Yeah, there is arising, ceasing, change-while-standing, and there are the five aggregates or the six sense bases, and this is the All. One truth, so far...

What would you put in the blank, mikenz?
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Oct 27, 2011 6:29 pm

daverupa wrote: What goes in the blank, tilt? Your thoughts on this matter would be greatly edifying.
Of course it would edifying, but I asked you first and I shall await your answer before I give mine.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby daverupa » Thu Oct 27, 2011 6:36 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
daverupa wrote: What goes in the blank, tilt? Your thoughts on this matter would be greatly edifying.
Of course it would edifying, but I asked you first and I shall await your answer before I give mine.


:anjali:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Oct 27, 2011 6:37 pm

daverupa wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:A key point of the Buddha's teaching, spelled out in hundreds or thousands of suttas (as I pointed out above), is that we can analyse our experience into the mere arising and falling of phenomena. And this is the key to awakening, seeing through the self-creating papanca.

So, as I understand it, the whole teaching revolves around aspects of the two-truths/paramattha issue.


These seem unrelated to me, at first blush. Yeah, there is arising, ceasing, change-while-standing, and there are the five aggregates or the six sense bases, and this is the All. One truth, so far...

What would you put in the blank, mikenz?

The self and it's various accessories (body, etc), which may be alternatively seen as just arising and ceasing of phenomena...

Isn't this Dhamma 101?

:anjali:
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby daverupa » Thu Oct 27, 2011 6:54 pm

mikenz66 wrote:...Isn't this Dhamma 101?


Well, sure. However:

tiltbillings wrote:
ancientbuddhism wrote:A Note on Attā in the Alagaddūpama Sutta – By K.R. Norman
This is an excellent essay. Well worth the time to study.


I grabbed this from the resources thread in this subforum; I think an article such as this one explicates what the Buddha meant by atta very well, and that anatta is thereby clarified... and, interestingly, I notice that a two truths idea is not present. It isn't mentioned at all. Not by Norman, not by the Buddha.

So, it seems referring to a two truths idea isn't at all necessary when trying to understand what the Buddha meant by atta and anatta, contrary to what you claim.

Is there anything else we can put in that blank? It's not looking good...
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby acinteyyo » Thu Oct 27, 2011 7:28 pm

Excuse me guys but it seems I don't really get the point of this discussion? What is meant by "two truths"? Anyone so kind to clarify (in short if possible) for me?

best wishes, acinteyyo
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Both formerly, monks, and now, it is just suffering that I make known and the ending of suffering.
Pathabyā ekarajjena, saggassa gamanena vā sabbalokādhipaccena, sotāpattiphalaṃ varaṃ. (Dhp 178)
Sole dominion over the earth, going to heaven or lordship over all worlds: the fruit of stream-entry excels them.

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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby cooran » Thu Oct 27, 2011 7:46 pm

Hello all,

This might be of interest:

Two Truths in Buddhism
Professor N. A. de S. Amaratunga

Theravada Buddhism had described two Truths; Absolute Truth (Paramatha Sathya) and Conventional Truth (Sammuti Sathya). Nagarjuna Thera of the Mahayana Tradition also identified two truths, but his theory was different from that of Theravada Buddhism.
Are there, in fact, two types of Truth in Theravada Buddhism? Do these two Truths vary in degree? Is Absolute Truth superior in anyway to the Conventional Truth? Some Buddhists commit the mistake that Absolute Truth is superior to the Conventional Truth and some go to the extent of saying that Nirvana is the Absolute Truth.
On the basis of this premise, they arrive at new interpretations of Nirvana, which could be misleading. In fact, there is only one Truth in Buddhism, but there are two ways of presenting it. This will be explained briefly.
Buddha and also the Abhidhamic theorists who based their discussions on the Buddha’s preaching have categorically said that the Absolute Truth is not superior to the Conventional Truth and that there is no difference in degree between the two. More importantly, either of these two Truths could be made use of to gain insight and follow the path to Enlightenment. Buddha had used both in his preaching depending on the intellectual ability of the listener.
What then was the reason for identifying two Truths? In early Buddhist preaching, all phenomena of human existence, both mental and physical, had been analyzed according to five methods.
In the first method, they were analyzed into "nama" and "rupa", in the second into five aggregates (rupa, vedana, sangna, sankara and vingnana), in the third into six elements (earth, water, temperature, air, space, and consciousness), in the fourth into twelve avenues of sense perception and mental formation and in the fifth into eighteen "dhatus".
These derivatives were considered as the elements of all phenomena of human existence. When a particular phenomenon was explained in terms of these elements, the explanation was considered as the Absolute Truth. When the same phenomenon was explained in terms of general agreement it was considered as the Conventional Truth.
Later Abhidhamic theorists had recognized the need to analyze further the above mentioned elements and they arrived at irreducible ultimate factors, which were called Dhammas, a comprehensive list of which appears in the Abhidhamma Pitakaya. These Dhammas it is said, participate in the process of dependent co-origination. Though they are recognized as ultimate elements for purposes of understanding, they are not separate entities and each occurs in conjunction with several other Dhammas. Their occurrence is dependent on conditions and once created they too can act as conditions for the occurrence of others. All mental experiences and physical phenomena occur in this manner. An explanation of a phenomenon, mental or material, in terms of these Dhammas is said to be the Absolute Truth. When the same phenomenon is explained in terms of general agreement, that explanation is said to be the Conventional Truth. If for example, a human being is explained in terms of the five "skandhas", it is considered an Absolute Truth. On the other hand, if a human being is explained as a person who will goes through life and suffer and finally die in a process of endless "samsara", then it will be a Conventional Truth.

These definitions, however, do not mean there are two types of Truth in Theravada Buddhism, but rather two ways of presenting the Truth.
As mentioned earlier either could be made use of, as two ways of arriving at the path to Enlightenment. Thus there is only one Truth in Theravada Buddhism.
08 09 2008 - The Island
http://ipm.comxa.com/aloka/journal11.htm#J11.01

with metta
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---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby Goedert » Thu Oct 27, 2011 7:49 pm

The name people describe the illusion and awakening doesn't matter. The Buddha teached it, if not so... all would be a lie.

There is the noble truth and common truth.
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Oct 27, 2011 7:53 pm

daverupa wrote:Is there anything else we can put in that blank? It's not looking good...

It looks perfectly obvious to me.
acinteyyo wrote:Excuse me guys but it seems I don't really get the point of this discussion? What is meant by "two truths"? Anyone so kind to clarify (in short if possible) for me?

best wishes, acinteyyo

Here is one reasonably general way of putting it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two_truths_doctrine
The Buddhist doctrine of the two truths differentiates between two levels of truth (Sanskrit: satya) in Buddhist discourse: a "relative" or commonsense truth (Pāli: sammuti sacca), and an "ultimate" or absolute, spiritual truth (Pāli: paramattha sacca). This avoids confusion between doctrinally accurate statements about the true nature of reality (e.g., "there is no self") and practical statements that refer to things which, while not expressing the true nature of reality, are necessary in order to communicate easily and help people achieve enlightenment (e.g., talking to a student about "himself" or "herself").

It seems to me that those different levels of description are abundantly clear in the suttas, as I've pointed out above. The Buddha talked about conventional "beings" and son on. He also talked about phenomena in terms of khandhas, sense bases, and anicca, dukkha, anatta, etc.

I suspect that the labelling of these descriptions as "truths", and use of Abhidhamma words such as "paramattha" are where some members have objections, but it would be up to them to explain themselves.

:anjali:
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby cooran » Thu Oct 27, 2011 7:55 pm

Hello all,

A few more links for your consideration and reflection.

An interesting Retreat coming up at Plum Village:
The Sciences of the Buddha - A 21-day retreat for Buddhists and Scientists June 1st to 21st 2012
Plum Village, France

‘’In Buddhism there are two kinds of truth: conventional truth (S: samvṛti-satya C: 俗諦) and ultimate truth (S: paramārtha-satya, C: 真諦). In the framework of the conventional truth, Buddhists speak of being and non-being, birth and death, coming and going, inside and outside, one and many, etc… and the Buddhist teaching and practice based on this framework helps reduce suffering, and bring more harmony and happiness. In the framework of the ultimate truth, the teaching transcends notions of being and non-being, birth and death, coming and going, inside and outside, one and many, etc… and the teaching and practice based on this insight help practitioners liberate themselves from discrimination, fear, and touch nirvana, the ultimate reality. Buddhists see no conflict between the two kinds of truth and are free to make good use of both frameworks.’’
[more at http://www.plumvillage.org/news/309-the ... uddha.html ]

Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera - The Ultimate Truth
The Ultimate Truth can be found in the Teaching of the Buddhism.
Buddhism recognizes two kinds of Truth. The apparent conventional truth and the real or ultimate Truth. The ultimate Truth can be realized only through meditation, and not theorizing or speculating.
[Read article here ….. http://www.budsas.org/ebud/whatbudbeliev/56.htm ]

Conventional Truth (Sammuti Sacca) and Ultimate Truth (Paramattha Sacca)Two kinds of Truth are recognised in the Abhidhamma according to which only four categories of things namely, mind (consciousness), mental concomitants, Materiality and Nibbæna are classed as the Ultimate Truth; all the rest are regarded as apparent truth. When we use such expressions as ‘I’, ‘you’, ‘man’, ‘woman’, ‘person’, ‘individual’, we are speaking about things which do not exist in reality. By using such expressions about things which exist only in designation, we are not telling a lie; we are merely speaking an apparent truth, making use of conventional language, without which no communication will be possible.
But the Ultimate Truth is that there is no ‘person’, ‘individual’ or ‘I’ in reality. There exist only khandhas made up of corporeality, mind (consciousness) and mental concomitants. These are real in that they are not just designations, they actually exist in us or around us.
http://www.buddhanet.net/twotruth.htm

The Urban Dharma Newsletter... March 16, 2004
------------------------------
In This Issue: Ultimate and Relative Truth in Buddhism

0. Humor/Quotes...
1. The Two Truths ...Mark Whitley's home page - Mark's Musings
2. Relative Truth and Ultimate Truth ...Researched by Andrea Deschenes
3. Buddhism Introduces Absolute and Relative Truth ...Vairocana Monastery
4. Shunyata in Pure Land Buddhism ...Michio Tokunaga
5. The Curative Value of Egolessness and the Ethical Importance of Compassion in Buddhism ...Sharon Belfer
6. Emptiness, Concepts and the knowledge of Truth ...The White Lotus Center for Shin Buddhism
7. E-sangha, Buddhist Forum & Buddhism Forum - Truth?
8. Temple/Center/Website: A Season for Nonviolence
9. Book/CD/Movie: Appearance and Reality: The Two Truths in Four Buddhist Systems ...by Guy Newland
http://www.urbandharma.org/udnl2/nl031604.html

with metta
Chris
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby daverupa » Thu Oct 27, 2011 8:08 pm

So it's used a lot in the abhidhamma, and not at all in the SuttaVinaya, is that the gist? Karunadasa wrote as much, back in the essay linked in the second post, so that's nothing new. I still can't fathom why the abhidhammikas worried about it.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby Alex123 » Thu Oct 27, 2011 8:12 pm

acinteyyo wrote:Excuse me guys but it seems I don't really get the point of this discussion? What is meant by "two truths"? Anyone so kind to clarify (in short if possible) for me?

best wishes, acinteyyo


Ultimately conventional world and objects do not exist.
One has to study ultimate realities for insight and maggaphala rather than conventional reality that can at best be used only for samatha.
Whenever the Buddha talked conventionally, it was only conventional and one has to interpret what He meant in ultimate terms.

This is what I've meant.
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Oct 27, 2011 9:00 pm

acinteyyo wrote:Excuse me guys but it seems I don't really get the point of this discussion? What is meant by "two truths"? Anyone so kind to clarify (in short if possible) for me?
See the link I provided:

http://skb.or.kr/down/papers/094.pdf

Ultimately conventional world and objects do not exist.
One has to study ultimate realities for insight and maggaphala rather than conventional reality that can at best be used only for samatha.
Whenever the Buddha talked conventionally, it was only conventional and one has to interpret what He meant in ultimate terms.

This is what I've meant.
That is what you meant, but is it what the Theravada teaches?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Two truths theory. Did Buddha teach it?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Oct 27, 2011 9:02 pm

daverupa wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
daverupa wrote: What goes in the blank, tilt? Your thoughts on this matter would be greatly edifying.
Of course it would edifying, but I asked you first and I shall await your answer before I give mine.


:anjali:
That is typical: no answer.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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