Social Action

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Re: Social Action

Postby appicchato » Tue Jan 03, 2012 12:10 pm

Plunging the depths of the arahant's soul is no easy matter.


Which soul would that be?...
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Re: Social Action

Postby contemplans » Tue Jan 03, 2012 6:30 pm

manasikara wrote:Contemplans, according the the suttas, none of the five khandhas are self - not form, feeling, perception, formations or consciousness! Why single out the body alone?

But just because it is not self, doesn't mean we shouldn't treat it with care, love and respect. Yes, the body is not our possession; it belongs to Nature and will return there. But shouldn't we treat Nature with respect?

with metta.


I single it out just because of this teaching. Many teachings have posed the body as simply a tool, or a ship we pilot. Buddhism holds that we have had and perhaps will have many bodies. So the body is like today's clothing. That seems to indicate to me that outside of the golden chance to practice the dhamma there is nothing inherently valuable about our bodies. I am not saying I have the answer, but it just seemed to me that the attitude that this life is not it may effect how people minister to their neighbor. I am not saying the Buddha advocated that, but that it may be a common item of collateral damage from the doctrine of rebirth, and the natural tendency of people to let past karma do all the work which their present karma should be doing. I am just a little bit confused that there isn't a great reputation amongst Buddhists for ministering to their neighbor in a bodily way, or instructing others about the evils of killing children in the womb. Even if we divorce this from doctrine, everyone can see that no dhamma practice starts until the basic needs of the body are met. Somebody has to grow the food, somebody has to fill the bowl. Traditionally Christian culture did this as an actually part of its path to heaven, for those people called to public work. Buddhism adapted to allow someone to seek out a favorable rebirth, but that's not really essential to Buddhism.

As for the body, we know that it isn't the same as a collection of elements. It is different. And science hasn't discovered how to make humans. So while the body in itself is nothing special, an animated body is infinitely special.

appicchato wrote:
Plunging the depths of the arahant's soul is no easy matter.


Which soul would that be?...


The arahant's soul.
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Re: Social Action

Postby santa100 » Tue Jan 03, 2012 7:26 pm

Contemplans wrote:
I am not saying I have the answer, but it just seemed to me that the attitude that this life is not it may effect how people minister to their neighbor. I am not saying the Buddha advocated that, but that it may be a common item of collateral damage from the doctrine of rebirth, and the natural tendency of people to let past karma do all the work which their present karma should be doing.


Actually quite the contrary, beside setting up practicing models to achieve favorable rebirths and the ultimate goal of Nibbana, the Buddha went in great length to instruct the people how to practice for their own benefits and other people's benefit right in the here and now. (ref: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nara.html ). And as a direct benefit of the doctrine of rebirth, a person is fully aware that s/he is solely responsible for his/her own actions and that no higher power would be able to erase all his sins in one stroke. This is the most effective source of motivation and it could only strenghthen one's resolve to act, think, and speak responsibly right in the here and now knowing fully well that s/he is the sole heir to his/her own actions..
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Re: Social Action

Postby manas » Tue Jan 03, 2012 7:46 pm

Contemplans, you might find this very interesting:

Ministering to the Sick and the Terminally Ill

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... bl132.html


Here is a quote from it (but there is much more to see):

The Buddha has enumerated the qualities that should be present in a good nurse. He should be competent to administer the medicine, he should know what is agreeable to the patient and what is not. He should keep away what is disagreeable and give only what is agreeable to the patient. He should be benevolent and kind-hearted, he should perform his duties out of a sense of service and not just for the sake of remuneration (mettacitto gilanam upatthati no amisantaro). He should not feel repulsion towards saliva, phlegm, urine, stools, sores, etc. He should be capable of exhorting and stimulating the patient with noble ideas, with Dhamma talk (A.iii,144).


Caring for others - and yes that includes the bodies of others - is important on the Buddhist Path.

Regarding the idea that this body is a 'vehicle': this is leaning more towards Hinduism, who hold that there is a transmigrating 'soul or self' discarding old bodies, and accepting new ones (like clothing). As far as I know, this is not the right way to look at it, from a Buddhist perspective. But the Doctrine of the self-less-ness of the five khandhas is not easy to grasp without meditation; I heard Ajahn Chah say that 'if you only intellectualize about it, your head will explode'. So we can talk about it until we are all blue in the face, but you will be no closer to seeing it unless you contemplate it with a calmed mind. Personally, it took me years to stop being averse to it; then I began to investigate it, intellectually and via meditation, and this is an ongoing process. But as you will see above if you click on the link, the fact that the body also isn't self (along with feeling, perception, etc), in no way releases us from our duty to care for other beings. When we see suffering, we should act to relieve it whenever possible.

:anjali:
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Re: Social Action

Postby contemplans » Tue Jan 03, 2012 8:02 pm

santa100 wrote:Actually quite the contrary, beside setting up practicing models to achieve favorable rebirths and the ultimate goal of Nibbana, the Buddha went in great length to instruct the people how to practice for their own benefits and other people's benefit right in the here and now. (ref: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nara.html ). And as a direct benefit of the doctrine of rebirth, a person is fully aware that s/he is solely responsible for his/her own actions and that no higher power would be able to erase all his sins in one stroke. This is the most effective source of motivation and it could only strenghthen one's resolve to act, think, and speak responsibly right in the here and now knowing fully well that s/he is the sole heir to his/her own actions..


Or they could say mañana if they didn't fear eternal separation from love, burning in hell. Even the worst punishments envisioned in Buddhism are temporary, and, of course, depersonalized. I can trust that most Buddhists here, if not all, do not recall their previous ventures in hell, nor the sufferings they've undergone. I certainly don't. Both say you chose your present and future, but one says your actions have absolute values, and the other says your actions have relative values. Just to give you my viewpoint. A fervent Christian views their relationship with others as a relationship with Christ, God Himself. So someone who believes they are called to service to their neighbor, will go out and feed that person, and like actions. All of these actions have eternal value, that is, they form a part of your life's work, which is a one time moral act. It isn't a side-project which may even be an obstacle. See Dorothy Day as a modern vision of this type of love. The fervent Buddhist may indeed choose to serve the poor, but that is not their main thrust, and most probably would see it as something keeping them away from meditation time, which is the main vehicle to reach the goal. There is a conflict there, and since we have many lives, even if we are convinced of the preciousness of this human life, one of the things can be placed on the back-burner. So with this viewpoint, I see at least one reason why social action can be put off. I am also willing to admit that Christian's can become so involved in social action that they neglect the inner life, and become like social activists. I accept that every human venture has temptations.
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Re: Social Action

Postby contemplans » Tue Jan 03, 2012 8:14 pm

manasikara wrote:Regarding the idea that this body is a 'vehicle': this is leaning more towards Hinduism, who hold that there is a transmigrating 'soul or self' discarding old bodies, and accepting new ones (like clothing). As far as I know, this is not the right way to look at it, from a Buddhist perspective. But the Doctrine of the self-less-ness of the five khandhas is not easy to grasp without meditation; I heard Ajahn Chah say that 'if you only intellectualize about it, your head will explode'. So we can talk about it until we are all blue in the face, but you will be no closer to seeing it unless you contemplate it with a calmed mind. Personally, it took me years to stop being averse to it; then I began to investigate it, intellectually and via meditation, and this is an ongoing process. But as you will see above if you click on the link, the fact that the body also isn't self (along with feeling, perception, etc), in no way releases us from our duty to care for other beings. When we see suffering, we should act to relieve it whenever possible.

:anjali:


I understand it is an abstract and advanced teaching. I am not averse to the not-self teaching. I am averse to the no-soul teaching which seems to vie for attention in place of anatta. Catholics teach that the soul is pure form, that is, completely spiritual and in its essence outside of worldly understanding. But we also value analogic knowledge as a way to understand it in some way, so we can know that it exists and some of its qualities through our bodies in the way of analogy. Catholics don't even hold that the body and soul are two, but simply different principles of a single being (the determining and the determiner principles, or rather, the potential and the active principles). To say that some things are not the self, or not ultimately the self, is one thing. To say that we create selves is also okay. It is also within that tradition to say the soul is ineffable and basically to not reason about it (but we wouldn't deny it). It is another leap to say that nothing nowhere is the soul as many Buddhists seem to hold, and which seems to me to not be an orthodox Buddhist teaching. At the end of the day, experiential knowledge is greater than speculative reasoning. I do agree with that.
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Re: Social Action

Postby santa100 » Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:02 pm

Contemplans wrote:
Or they could say mañana if they didn't fear eternal separation from love, burning in hell.


Any Buddhist with decent amount of wisdom knows that saying mañana would be the last thing they'd want to do. Ask if anyone who'd want to be burned in Hell whether that's for a day, a week, a month, a year, or forever, and you'd get the same answer.

The fervent Buddhist may indeed choose to serve the poor, but that is not their main thrust, and most probably would see it as something keeping them away from meditation time, which is the main vehicle to reach the goal. There is a conflict there, and since we have many lives, even if we are convinced of the preciousness of this human life, one of the things can be placed on the back-burner. So with this viewpoint, I see at least one reason why social action can be put off.


Why should there be a conflict between serving the poor and meditation? Your awareness of impermanence isn't cut off while serving the poor. And you're most certainly still breathing while serving the poor. Well, that's vipassana and anapanasati meditation right there while serving the poor!
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Re: Social Action

Postby danieLion » Tue Jan 03, 2012 11:13 pm

contemplans wrote:To say that some things are not the self, or not ultimately the self, is one thing. To say that we create selves is also okay.... It is another leap to say that nothing nowhere is the soul as many Buddhists seem to hold, and which seems to me to not be an orthodox Buddhist teaching. At the end of the day, experiential knowledge is greater than speculative reasoning. I do agree with that.

Hi contemplans,
I like this a lot (I put the main point in bolds). Nowhere I'm aware of did the Buddha teach you couldn't believe in a/the soul but only implied that if there's a soul, it's not a permanent self (anatta, anicca).
Daniel :heart:
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Re: Social Action

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Jan 04, 2012 12:05 am

    Samyutta Nikaya III 144: "Bhikkhus [monks, the Buddha said, holding
    a fleck of dung on his palm], if even if that much of permanent,
    everlasting, eternal individual selfhood/metaphysical being [attabhāva],
    not inseparable from the idea of change, could be found, then this living
    the holy life could not be taught by me."

In the speck of dung discourse the key word is attabhāva, which could be simply translated as "self being." Atta, in Sanskrit Atman, in this context carries a heavy metaphysical connotation.

Even the smallest notion of self-existence, of which the notion of "soul" is a prime example, is a problem in that it holds us to the idea of attā/ātman, stopping us from eventually breaking the delusion of selfness under which we suffer.

Attabhāva is a compound word. As it stands it is not a strictly defined technical term. Its meaning varies by context. The CRITICAL PALI DICTIONARY gives as first meaning:

Attabhāva [literally, attā, self +bhāva, becoming]: 1. (abstract) existence of a soul …

It is worth noting that the CPD was started somewhat after the Pali Text Society’s Pali-English Dictionary, certainly building upon it and presenting an analysis of the language in far greater depth and breadth than the PTS dictionary. attabhāva can easily and appropriately be translated as “existence/being/nature of an atta," and it can be understood to encompass what is generally understood as "soul" -- a self-existent essence.

And let us not forget that the Buddha clearly stated:

    Monks, whatever contemplatives or priests who assume in various ways when assuming a atta, all assume the five clinging-aggregates, or a certain one of them. -- SN III 46
In other words the assumption of an atta, an unchanging and unconditioned being, a "soul" that we truly are, is one based upon misapprehension and delusion.
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: Social Action

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Jan 04, 2012 12:50 am

I thought I would be too late with this thought :tongue: but it follows Tilt's last post quite nicely.
contemplans wrote:
appicchato wrote:
Plunging the depths of the arahant's soul is no easy matter.


Which soul would that be?...


The arahant's soul.

Surely 'the arahant's soul' is a phrase no-one can use?
If anyone believes in an arahant, they don't believe in a soul.
If anyone believes in a soul, they don't believe in an arahant.
:shrug:

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Re: Social Action

Postby Buckwheat » Wed Jan 04, 2012 3:09 am

To make a rule that we can not use the word "soul" doesn't seem too far from saying we can't use the words "I/me/my/myself/mine". Just because they are not strictly in line with the teaching doesn't mean they don't represent a mental fabrication that makes for easier conversation. I don't believe in an Arahants Soul, but I know what the person is talking about when they say arahants soul. Is that such a crime?

Despite being an atheist turned Buddhist, the power of American culture has me occasionally referencing God. It's not because I believe in God, it's just a very convenient term for the amazing mystery that is life.
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.
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Re: Social Action

Postby contemplans » Wed Jan 04, 2012 3:16 am

Concerning, Samyutta Nikaya III 144 ...

This is stated in the context of the five aggregates, and sankhara (mental fabrications). Attabhava can be self-existence (or as Bhikkhu Bodhi puts it "individual existence"), but in this context it would probably be better rendered self-becoming, or as Thanissaro Bhikkhu puts it, "personal identity". It you look closely he isn't saying anything about the soul's existence or non-existence in se, but mental fabrication about the self. All the mental fabrications we have about ourselves are indeed impermanent, unstable, and subject to change. I agree. I, however, do not agree that belief in a self in se is an obstacle. The Buddha doesn't entertain this notion, I think, but I think this follows his policy of remaining quiet about things which are beyond. If there is indeed a true self, it would be over there.

Monks, whatever contemplatives or priests who assume in various ways when assuming a atta, all assume the five clinging-aggregates, or a certain one of them. -- SN III 46

In other words the assumption of an atta, an unchanging and unconditioned being, a "soul" that we truly are, is one based upon misapprehension and delusion.


I would assume so also. The Buddha seemed to not favor much at all analogical knowledge, that is, knowledge about ineffable things in terms of things we sense. Or, rather, speaking about ineffable things with reference to the five aggregates. Indirect speculative knowledge. So, for instance, God is eternal. But we don't experience eternity, so how can we say this? You either accept this knowledge, reject it outright (agnostics), or some resolve this by being "quiet", i.e., not saying anything either way. The Buddha kept quiet on most occasions (but not all), because he saw it as taking away from the fulfillment of the path (i.e., unskillful). Others think that analogical knowledge is helpful as a MEANS. Catholics hold that language is a useful means to truth, but not the END. When I say I believe in a soul, I believe it through my experience, but I know those are mental fabrications and pale understandings of truth. One can only tap into that reality through direct experience and knowledge. Catholics say God and soul and goodness etc. is all in that mystical direct experience. The Buddha said it is Nibbana, but he said very very little about that state. In fact what he says accords with Catholic mystical experience (or vice versa as the case may be). Peace, foremost ease/happiness, unborn, unbecome, unmade, unfabricated. So as a believing Catholic, I use this analogic working knowledge to come to direct experience. Some Catholic saints said that all analogic knowledge is bunk (Catherine of Genoa, for instance), so don't think that every Catholic must mentally fabricate about the self. But the Church teaches that indeed we have a soul, and that soul is what is called our "substantial form", that is, the principle that makes us different from merely being a collection of atoms, and by which we eat, grow, and procreate (which rocks and other inanimate things don't do). Eating, growing, and procreating is not the end at all, but we acknowledge that we are not the same as inanimate matter. The existence of the souls Catholics consider just as self-evident as rocks not getting up and talking to us. But beyond the teaching that we are all unique souls, theorizing about the soul is each person's prerogative. I hope that clarifies my views and my look on anatta. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof. For me, I side with those who say it is about the creations in our minds, not the creations outside of them.
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Re: Social Action

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Jan 04, 2012 3:59 am

Buckwheat wrote:To make a rule that we can not use the word "soul" doesn't seem too far from saying we can't use the words "I/me/my/myself/mine". Just because they are not strictly in line with the teaching doesn't mean they don't represent a mental fabrication that makes for easier conversation. I don't believe in an Arahants Soul, but I know what the person is talking about when they say arahants soul. Is that such a crime?

Despite being an atheist turned Buddhist, the power of American culture has me occasionally referencing God. It's not because I believe in God, it's just a very convenient term for the amazing mystery that is life.

Not a great crime, Buckwheat, but context does make a difference. In daily life, rough enough is good enough (as our Aussie idiom goes). In a more technical conversation, such as this, loose use of language can cause difficulties which are better avoided - and it is often as misleading to the writer as to the reader.

:namaste:
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Re: Social Action

Postby chownah » Wed Jan 04, 2012 4:02 am

What is a soul? What is a substantial form? However you describe it can you give us some evidence that it even exists at all? How long does it last?...is it permanent?
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Re: Social Action

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Jan 04, 2012 4:50 am

contemplans wrote:Concerning, Samyutta Nikaya III 144 ...

This is stated in the context of the five aggregates, and sankhara (mental fabrications).
And that is not a problem. As I already quoted:

    "All those ascetics and brahmins, who again and again in manifold ways believe is a self [atta], they all do so with regard to the five groups (heaps) of existence, or to one of them." Samyuttanikaya XXII 47

Attabhava can be self-existence (or as Bhikkhu Bodhi puts it "individual existence"), but in this context it would probably be better rendered self-becoming, or as Thanissaro Bhikkhu puts it, "personal identity". It you look closely he isn't saying anything about the soul's existence or non-existence in se, but mental fabrication about the self. All the mental fabrications we have about ourselves are indeed impermanent, unstable, and subject to change. I agree. I, however, do not agree that belief in a self in se is an obstacle. The Buddha doesn't entertain this notion, I think, but I think this follows his policy of remaining quiet about things which are beyond. If there is indeed a true self, it would be over there.
It would seem that reality is that if one does not look closely at the text in question, it is sort of is saying what contemplans wants it to say: “It you look closely he [the Buddha] isn't saying anything about the soul's existence or non-existence in se, but mental fabrication about the self.”

The text:

    Samyutta Nikaya III 144: "Bhikkhus [monks, the Buddha said, holding a fleck of dung], if even if that much of permanent, everlasting, eternal individual selfhood/metaphysical being [attabhava], not inseparable from the idea of change, could be found, then this living the holy life could not be taught by me."

The pivot here is “could be found.” This is not about mental fabrications, concepts, about an attabhava. “Could be found” shifts the emphasis to a directly experiential basis. While it maybe true that any assumption of self/soul [unique individual essence] an individual may have is rooted in the khandhas, SN III 144 points to no such unchanging individual essence can actually be found. If we were -- at our core -- an unchanging individual essence, a soul, the holy life could not be lived. How could what is unchanging change from ignorance to awakening?


“The Buddha doesn't entertain this notion, I think, but I think this follows his policy of remaining quiet about things which are beyond. If there is indeed a true self, it would be over there.”
True self? Over where? What would the true self do? How could it do anything? Can it feel? Can it see? Can it change? The point is, according to the Buddha, there is no true about which the Buddha needs to be silent.

The Buddha seemed to not favor much at all analogical knowledge, that is, knowledge about ineffable things in terms of things we sense. Or, rather, speaking about ineffable things with reference to the five aggregates. Indirect speculative knowledge.
Interestingly, the Buddha is not talking about “Indirect speculative knowledge” in SN III 144. He is, rather, talking about direct experience of an unchanging self-essence and is telling us such a thing is not to be found.

So, for instance, God is eternal. But we don't experience eternity, so how can we say this? You either accept this knowledge, reject it outright (agnostics), or some resolve this by being "quiet", i.e., not saying anything either way.
Accept this knowledge? Knowledge? Knowledge of what? Belief, certainly, but knowledge?

When I say I believe in a soul, I believe it through my experience, but I know those are mental fabrications and pale understandings of truth.
And the Buddha would say that what you are believing in is grounded in the khandhas. Show me otherwise.

One can only tap into that reality through direct experience and knowledge. Catholics say God and soul and goodness etc. is all in that mystical direct experience. The Buddha said it is Nibbana, but he said very very little about that state.
Actually, the Buddha said quite a bit about nibbana and I see absolutely no basis for your implied equation of nibbana with the conditioned beliefs in a soul and a god.

In fact what he says accords with Catholic mystical experience (or vice versa as the case may be). Peace, foremost ease/happiness, unborn, unbecome, unmade, unfabricated.
Assuming by unborn, unbecome, unmade, unfabricated you mean ajatam, abhutam, akatam, asankhatam, but these things have not a thing to do with any sort of god concept however rarified or abstract.

And that -- unborn, unbecome, unmade, unfabricated -- is the common sort of translation one will find, but it really does not hold up well to a carefull look.

What does this mysterious concatenation of words There is, monks, an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated mean? There is a reason why these "un" translations get pressed into service as a proof that there is a God notion in the suttas, but it does not have to do with how these words are actually used throughout the suttas.

These words - ajātaṃ [unborn] abhūtaṃ[unbecome] akataṃ [unmade] asaṅkhataṃ [unconditioned] - are adjectives, not nouns, but everyone of these "un" translations treats them as nouns, which is very, very misaleading.
The sentence in Pali reads: "Atthi [There is] ajaata.m, abhuuta.m, akata.m, asankhata.m." The noun that should follow “There is” is implied. There is what?

The immediate context, the sutta opens:

Thus have I heard. At one time the Lord was staying near Savatthi in the Jeta Wood at Anathapindika's monastery. On that occasion the Lord was instructing, rousing, inspiring, and gladdening the bhikkhus with a Dhamma talk connected with Nibbana, and those bhikkhus, being receptive and attentive and concentrating the whole mind, were intent on listening to Dhamma. Then, on realizing its significance, the Lord uttered on that occasion this inspired utterance: There is, bhikkhus, ajaata....

What we see right off the top is that the subject is nibbana. There is what? Nibbana. The four adjective modify, describe nibbana. So in the forms we have them above or in variations these four words are used to describe or characterize in the suttas nibbana or are synonyms of nibbana.

The most straightforward definition the Buddha gives of Nibbana is:

That which is the destruction of greed, hatred and delusion is nibbana. -- S.N. IV 251 and IV 321

And we see:

That which is the destruction of greed, hatred and delusion is asankhata. -- S.N. IV 359 and S.N. 362

Clearly nibbana and asankhata are equivalent terms, synonyms. Nibbana is asankhata, “unconditioned,” because there is no further conditioning - sankhata - by hatred, greed and ignorance. The prefix "a" in asankhata is a cognate of the English (Latin/Greek) prefix a as in, for example, asexual, without sexual characteristics, free of sexual characteristics. (And before a vowel, just as in English the Pali/Sanskrit privative a becomes an as in anatta/anatama.)

The privative a in Sanskrit/Pali needs not be, as unfortunately it so often is, limited to being translated as a tappurisa compound, giving us the "un," "not," or "non" translations -- “the unconditioned.” Asankhata, unconditioned, can be translated as a bahubbhiihi compound, giving us “free from conditions” (of hatred, greed, and ignorance), “without conditions,” or, “conditionlessness,” as so forth for the other words in question.

One of things that is often said is that nibbana is "the Unborn." Let us look at that usage where ajaata and nibbana are clearly synonyms:

Then the group of five monks, being thus exhorted, thus instructed by me [the Buddha], being liable to birth because of self, having known the perils in what is liable to birth, seeking the unborn [ajaata.m], the uttermost security from the bonds -- nibbana -- won the unborn, the uttermost security from the bonds -- nibbana...." -- from the PTS translation of the Majjhima Nikaya I 173

What is the "unborn?" What does it mean? Try this:

”Then the group of five monks, being thus exhorted, thus instructed by me [the Buddha], being liable to birth because of self, having known the perils in what is liable to birth, seeking freedom from birth, the uttermost security from the bonds -- nibbana -- won freedom from birth, the uttermost security from the bonds -- nibbana...."

Here there is a balance: being liable to birth and freedom from birth that actually tells us something useful and does not leave us with a mysterious - what the heck is it? - "unborn."

There is no philological reason that the four words in question must be translated as we generally see them translated: unborn, unconditioned, etc.

As was said above the line in Udana is a sentence without a noun but with a string of adjectives, which are essentially synonyms, or at least words with significant over lapping meanings that clearly define nibbana.

We might translate the "un" line so:

"There is [nibbana], free from birth, free from becoming, free from making, free from conditioning."

Translating ajaata.m etc, by "freedom from birth," etc. supplies the implied noun via the privative a as in asankhata.

We do not see in the Buddha's own commentary to this passage below (as found in the Itivuttaka, 37-8, which contains the Udana 80 line: "Atthi [There is] ajaata.m, abhuuta.m, akata.m, asankhata.m.") any reference to a Nibbana that is some sort of "unborn" thing, but we do see that "being freed of this" is a state of ease -- the "the conditions appeased (sankharupasamo)," a variation of asankhata, nibbana -- is reached. If the Buddha had wanted to teach a deathless, unborn “it,” we would have seen a very different sort of expression of the Dhamma.

This said by the Blessed One, the Worthy One, was heard by me in this way: "Monks, there is freedom from birth, freedom from becoming, freedom from making, freedom from conditioning. For, monks if there were not this freedom from birth, freedom from becoming, freedom from making, freedom from conditioning, then escape from that which is birth, becoming, making, conditioning, would not be known here. But, monks, because there is freedom from birth, freedom from becoming, freedom from making, freedom from conditioning, therefore the escape from that which is birth, becoming, making, conditioning is known."

[Here the Buddha, The Blessed One, offers his own verse
commentary on his statement.]

This meaning the Blessed One spoke, it is spoken here in this way:

That which is born, become, arisen, made, conditioned,
And thus unstable, put together of decay and death,
The seat of disease, brittle,
Caused and craving food,
That is not fit to find pleasure in.

Being freed of this, calmed beyond conjecture, stable,
Freed from birth, freed from arising, freed from sorrow,
Freed from passions, the elements of suffering stopped,
The conditioning
[of greed, hatred and delusion]appeased,
This is ease
[bliss].
-- Iti 37-8.


No god here, no absolute thing, just transformation and freedom from.
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: Social Action

Postby contemplans » Wed Jan 04, 2012 8:02 pm

chownah wrote:What is a soul? What is a substantial form? However you describe it can you give us some evidence that it even exists at all? How long does it last?...is it permanent?
chownah


What is Nibbana? What is its essence? However you describe it can you give us some evidence that it even exists at all? How long does it last?...is it permanent?


tiltbillings wrote:As I already quoted:

"All those ascetics and brahmins, who again and again in manifold ways believe is a self [atta], they all do so with regard to the five groups (heaps) of existence, or to one of them." Samyuttanikaya XXII 47


The "all those ascetics and brahmins" are his contemporaries, as pointed out in DN 1. In DN 1 he says, "Whatever recluses or brahmins, bhikkhus, are speculators ... do so on these sixty-two grounds or on a certain one of them. Outside of these there is none." But we know that there are views outside of these sixty-two as posited, so he is speaking only about contemporary teachers and doctrines. Certainly we can sift out the spirit of the teaching, as implicit in other places. I have no problem readily agreeing to these points: The soul or God cannot be known in their essense through human investigation. No matter how much we abstract we never arrive at anything like their essence. Since the first object of our human knowledge is material things, then immaterial things are only known through analogy to material things. But we do understand that we understand, which in Thomistic thought is predicated on an intellectual soul. Now this violates the not-self teaching, since this understanding is based on perception, which is itself a form of mental fabrication. But the path is filled with perceptions and mental fabrications which are deemed "skillful". It is clear then that the Buddha doesn't hold this knowledge to be very valuable, at least at an advanced stage of the path, because the soul as defined is beyond the scope of perception. But so is Nibbana, so what do we do? The teaching is trade less skillful views for more skillful views. I accept that my perceptions are not-self, but don't understand it fully yet, or see it directly. So in the mean time I cultivate a healthy sense of self. Surely the first point of a healthy sense of self is that I have one which is an owner of my actions, and heir to my actions. When I get to the point that I can drop that view, then I'll be very happy to see directly, instead of through a glass darkly.


The pivot here is “could be found.” This is not about mental fabrications, concepts, about an attabhava. “Could be found” shifts the emphasis to a directly experiential basis. While it maybe true that any assumption of self/soul [unique individual essence] an individual may have is rooted in the khandhas, SN III 144 points to no such unchanging individual essence can actually be found. If we were -- at our core -- an unchanging individual essence, a soul, the holy life could not be lived. How could what is unchanging change from ignorance to awakening?



Attabhava is indeed a mental fabrication (based on the perception of self). Bhava is becoming, which Thanissaro Bhikkhu says, "... in different contexts suggests that it means a sense of identity in a particular world of experience: your sense of what you are, focused on a particular desire, in your personal sense of the world as related to that desire. In other words, it is both a psychological and a cosmological concept." And, "The Buddha had a word for this experience of an identity inhabiting a world defined around a specific desire. He called it bhava, which is related to the verb bhavati, to 'be,' or to 'become.' He was especially interested in bhava as process — how it comes about, and how it can be ended. So 'becoming' is probably a better English rendering for the term than 'being' or 'existence,' especially as it follows on doing, rather than existing as a prior metaphysical absolute or ground. In other words, it’s not the source from which we come; it’s something produced by the activity of our minds." But how does a mental fabrication (not-self view) lead to the ending of mental fabrication? Thanissaro Bhiikhu continues, "... the not-self teaching was formulated in such a way as to counteract the act of clinging to any self-doctrine, regardless of how the self might be defined." And, "For this approach to work, though, there must be a particular type of becoming that can supply the mind with an appropriate identity in a particular location where it can develop dispassion for all types of kamma, clinging, and craving."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... coming.pdf
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


Unfortunately it seems that you take the concept of ineffability to mean non-existence (annihilationism). Annihilationism, from the history and development of Buddhism, and the context of our own time, is a more unskillful position than a healthy belief in self tempered with the understanding that analogical knowledge is not direct knowledge, and still feeds into the cycle of becoming. Annihilationism can lead too all sorts of crimes against our neighbor, because "there's nothing there", whereas sense of self or soul, even if based on weak delusion, can at least give us a basis to start to observe some form of virtue.
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Re: Social Action

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Jan 04, 2012 9:10 pm

contemplans wrote:
chownah wrote:What is a soul? What is a substantial form? However you describe it can you give us some evidence that it even exists at all? How long does it last?...is it permanent?
chownah


What is Nibbana? What is its essence? However you describe it can you give us some evidence that it even exists at all? How long does it last?...is it permanent?
These are wrongly put questions for they assume that nibbana is some-thing separate from the person who is nibbana-ized, the person free from greed, hatred, and delusion.

But we are still waiting to learn if the soul you are advocating can act, hear, think, etc. You are doing a lot of avoiding of that question.

The soul or God cannot be known in their essense through human investigation. No matter how much we abstract we never arrive at anything like their essence.
It is not a matter of abstracting. It is a matter of experience, and you neatly make my point. These things, soul and a god (an omniscient, permanent, independent, unique cause of the cosmos that acts within history) cannot be known in their essence. They are naught more than intellectual and emotional structures that are imposed upon reality. They are not necessary.

Since the first object of our human knowledge is material things,
Probably not. Likely the first thing known is: “I am hungry.” It may not be understood via those words, but unquestionably the “I” is central in that.

then immaterial things are only known through analogy to material things. But we do understand that we understand, which in Thomistic thought is predicated on an intellectual soul.
And the intellectual soul is naught more than a conceptual construct. What does it actually refer to?

because the soul as defined is beyond the scope of perception. But so is Nibbana,
Does the soul see? Does the soul hear? Does the soul act? Does the soul remember? Does the soul change?

As for nibbana, it is what is experienced with a mind free from greed, hatred, and delusion. The supposed soul, being beyond experience -- which is to say, it cannot be known --, carries no meaning other than in one’s imagination. But nibbana:

    Since he experiences the complete destruction of lust, hatred and delusion, in this way Nibbana is directly visible, immediate, inviting one to come and see, worthy of application, to be personally experienced by the wise. AN III, 55 (i 159)

I accept that my perceptions are not-self, but don't understand it fully yet, or see it directly. So in the mean time I cultivate a healthy sense of self. Surely the first point of a healthy sense of self is that I have one which is an owner of my actions, and heir to my actions. When I get to the point that I can drop that view, then I'll be very happy to see directly, instead of through a glass darkly.
Yes, on this we can agree.

tilt wrote:The pivot here is “could be found.” This is not about mental fabrications, concepts, about an attabhava. “Could be found” shifts the emphasis to a directly experiential basis. While it maybe true that any assumption of self/soul [unique individual essence] an individual may have is rooted in the khandhas, SN III 144 points to no such unchanging individual essence can actually be found. If we were -- at our core -- an unchanging individual essence, a soul, the holy life could not be lived. How could what is unchanging change from ignorance to awakening?
Attabhava is indeed a mental fabrication (based on the perception of self).
You keep trying this, but the point the Buddha is making in this passage is that within experience there is no unchanging essence that somehow we truly are. The text is quite clear: if something like that truly existed, the Buddha’s teachings of liberation would be meaningless.

Your “analysis” from Ven Thanissaro is not addressing this text. A discussion of bhava in the context he is looking at in those essays is not addressing attabhava in SN III 144, which is defined by the Buddha in the very text as permanent, everlasting, eternal. “Becoming” here does not cut it.

Unfortunately it seems that you take the concept of ineffability to mean non-existence (annihilationism). Annihilationism, from the history and development of Buddhism, and the context of our own time, is a more unskillful position than a healthy belief in self tempered with the understanding that analogical knowledge is not direct knowledge, and still feeds into the cycle of becoming. Annihilationism can lead too all sorts of crimes against our neighbor, because "there's nothing there", whereas sense of self or soul, even if based on weak delusion, can at least give us a basis to start to observe some form of virtue.
What an interesting set of conflations, but the problem is that your conceptualization of nibbana is simply and totally wrong. I am not advocating annihilationism. I am simply presenting the Dhamma accurately.
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: Social Action

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Jan 04, 2012 9:23 pm

And let me add:

contemplans wrote:whereas sense of self or soul, even if based on weak delusion, can at least give us a basis to start to observe some form of virtue.
The Buddha does not agree with this:

    Bhikkhus, you may well cling to that doctrine of self that would not arouse sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair in one who clings to it. But do you see any such doctrine of self, bhikkhus?” “No, venerable sir.” MN i 137
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: Social Action

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Jan 04, 2012 10:04 pm

Hi, Tilt and Contemplans,
You two seem to be having such a great old discussion that it's almost a shame to interrupt but I would like to make two quick comments.
tiltbillings wrote:And let me add:

contemplans wrote:whereas sense of self or soul, even if based on weak delusion, can at least give us a basis to start to observe some form of virtue.
The Buddha does not agree with this:

    Bhikkhus, you may well cling to that doctrine of self that would not arouse sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair in one who clings to it. But do you see any such doctrine of self, bhikkhus?” “No, venerable sir.” MN i 137

I think an everyday sense of self is useful in the way Contemplans suggests but I don't see any need to cling to it, and especially not to reinforce it.
Contemplans: Since the first object of our human knowledge is material things,
Tilt: Probably not. Likely the first thing known is: “I am hungry.” It may not be understood via those words, but unquestionably the “I” is central in that.

Can I suggest that you're both wrong? I believe the first thing known is 'hunger', not 'I am hungry'. The sense of self is thought not to develop until the age of 2 years or so, and develops in parallel with the knowledge that other people have internal lives like the infant who is interacting with them.
But Tilt's whole point is a bit of a red herring: how infants experience the world is not at issue. The real issue is how we can know, and what we can know, about immaterial things. 'Analogical thinking' seems to me to be dangerously close to wishful thinking. I'd love to hear how they can be distinguished.
Over to you :smile:

:namaste:
Kim
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Re: Social Action

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Jan 04, 2012 10:24 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:Hi, Tilt and Contemplans,
You two seem to be having such a great old discussion that it's almost a shame to interrupt but I would like to make two quick comments.
tiltbillings wrote:And let me add:

contemplans wrote:whereas sense of self or soul, even if based on weak delusion, can at least give us a basis to start to observe some form of virtue.
The Buddha does not agree with this:

    Bhikkhus, you may well cling to that doctrine of self that would not arouse sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair in one who clings to it. But do you see any such doctrine of self, bhikkhus?” “No, venerable sir.” MN i 137

I think an everyday sense of self is useful in the way Contemplans suggests but I don't see any need to cling to it, and especially not to reinforce it.
That I already agreed with. You have to start where you are and that means dealing with your sense of self. You can tell it where to get off, to go away, but it really won't. So, using the precepts, acts of generosity, lovingkindness. compassion and cultivating mindfulness and concentration one cultivates the self, and in time sees through it.

Contemplans: Since the first object of our human knowledge is material things,
Tilt: Probably not. Likely the first thing known is: “I am hungry.” It may not be understood via those words, but unquestionably the “I” is central in that.

Can I suggest that you're both wrong? I believe the first thing known is 'hunger', not 'I am hungry'. The sense of self is thought not to develop until the age of 2 years or so, and develops in parallel with the knowledge that other people have internal lives like the infant who is interacting with them.
But Tilt's whole point is a bit of a red herring: how infants experience the world is not at issue. The real issue is how we can know, and what we can know, about immaterial things. 'Analogical thinking' seems to me to be dangerously close to wishful thinking. I'd love to hear how they can be distinguished.
I don't do red herrings. The point I made was to a response to a specific point raised. As for when a sense of self develops at 2? Says who? The inchoate things an infant feels I would dare say extend beyond just bodily feelings, given that an infant recognizes others and responds. It may not say: "I am happy," but does it need to for there to be a sense of happiness and a preference for the same. Watch babies that are younger than two and when one is happily playing with something, take that something away from it. "I want" and "I do not want to be seperated from what pleases me" are there, albeit inchoately, but there nonetheless.
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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