On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby Nyana » Mon Jan 16, 2012 1:29 pm

chownah wrote:I don't accept this small portion of his writings to prove much of anything but it seems that you are slipping out of "intellligent discussion" mode and into "fist pounding" mode.

There's no need for "fist pounding." Again, the bottom line is that no matter how hard you search you will never find a singular entity that fulfills the criteria for selfhood.
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby ancientbuddhism » Mon Jan 16, 2012 2:14 pm

piotr wrote:Quote from “Selves and not-self”:

    One misinterpretation is that the Buddha’s not-self teaching is aimed specifically at negating the view of self proposed in the Brahmanical Upanishads—that the self is permanent, cosmic, and identical with God—but the Buddha is not negating the fact that we each have an individual self. In other words, he’s saying, Yes, you have an individual self, but, No, you don’t have a cosmic/God self.

    The second misinterpretation is the exact opposite: The Buddha is negating the idea that you have a small, separate self, but he’s affirming the existence of a large, interconnected, cosmic self. In other words, he’s saying, Yes, you do have a connected self, but, No, you don’t have a separate self.

    The third misinterpretation is similar to the first, but it introduces the idea that a self, to be a true self, has to be permanent. According to this interpretation, the Buddha is affirming that the five aggregates are what you are, but these five aggregates don’t really qualify to be called a self because they aren’t permanent. They’re just processes. In other words, No, you don’t have a self, but, Yes, you’re a bunch of processes; the aggregates are what you are.

    (...)

    As for the second misinterpretation, that the Buddha is actually affirming the cosmic or interconnected self, the evidence I’ve already given you shows that that cannot be the case. There is also a passage in the Canon where he says specifically that the idea of a cosmic self is especially foolish [MN 22]. His argument is this: If there is a self, there must be what belongs to a self. If your self is cosmic, then the whole cosmos must belong to you. But does it? No. Does it lie under your control? No. Therefore it doesn’t deserve to be called yours.

    — Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu


This is just more of Ṭhanissaro’s eel-wriggling. He proposes that what he considers are the misinterpretations of unnamed others should be looked at in detail, only to contradict himself by making claims that are mutually exclusive in such convoluted contexts that is not worth the time to ferret out.

I cannot imagine that anything Ṭhanissaro would say now is, in the last analysis, different from his NSS essays of ‘93/’96, which claims that the Buddha never denied the ‘Self’ as a ‘metaphysical or ontological position’.
Katamo ca bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo: samatho ca vipassanā ca. Ayaṃ vuccati bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo.

“And what, bhikkhus, is the path leading to the unconditioned? Calm and insight. This, bhikkhus, is called the path leading to the unconditioned.” SN. 43.2 – Samathavipassanāsuttaṃ

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby chownah » Mon Jan 16, 2012 2:25 pm

Nana,
I agree completely and in fact I go farther and say that you will never find even a group of entities that fulfills the criteria of selfhood......
While I think that nothing within my experience could be a self I am also of the view that I have no way of knowing if there are things outside of my experience that could be a self....it is out of my range and as such any belief I might have in that would be conjecture and speculation and the Buddha has pretty clearly indicated that it is best to not conjecture and speculate on such things in regards to self in his advise to have no doctrine of self whatever.....
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby ancientbuddhism » Mon Jan 16, 2012 2:28 pm

chownah wrote:The example of Thanisarro's writing seems to me to be neither convoluted nor double speak. It is clearly just giving three examples of wrong views concerning the self. I don't accept this small portion of his writings to prove much of anything but it seems that you are slipping out of "intellligent discussion" mode and into "fist pounding" mode.....I'm sorry to see that as you have posted some really good stuff before but I really see nothing in this post which is to the point of the discussion.....perhaps you are too emotionally distraught by your views on his "post mortem" teachings to be able to focus on this new topic....I really can not see how your comments apply.....
My view is that to the extent that Thanisaro construes a docrine of self then he is teaching the wrong thing....I see nothing in this excerpt which points to him doing that but perhaps he does that elsewhere.....frankly his "post mortem" comments do sort of point to a doctrince of self in my view but I can forgive him his sillyness in this matter in that I'm relatively sure the if taken to task he would agree that his veiws are based on personal conjecture I think but I'm not sure.....but it sort of surprises me that he wouod make those statements...go figure!!!
chownah


The excerpt given is taken from a series of talks he gave last year, there is a larger context to be taken into consideration if one cares to wade through all that.

What I consider 'emotionally distraught' are the displays of sycophantic defense of Ṭhanissaro's theories.
Katamo ca bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo: samatho ca vipassanā ca. Ayaṃ vuccati bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo.

“And what, bhikkhus, is the path leading to the unconditioned? Calm and insight. This, bhikkhus, is called the path leading to the unconditioned.” SN. 43.2 – Samathavipassanāsuttaṃ

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby piotr » Mon Jan 16, 2012 2:44 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:He proposes that what he considers are the misinterpretations of unnamed others should be looked at in detail, only to contradict himself by making claims that are mutually exclusive in such convoluted contexts that is not worth the time to ferret out.


Sorry, but I can't understand what you're saying.
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby Buckwheat » Mon Jan 16, 2012 4:25 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:Again, the bottom line is that no matter how hard you search you will never find a singular entity that fulfills the criteria for selfhood.

Yes, and Thanissaro would agree. His claim is that the Buddha didn't postulate anatta as a metaphysical claim, but as one of experience. His motive is to illustrate that the Buddha did not make many proclamations regarding metaphysics. Suffering, the five aggregates, sense bases... none of it is metaphysics. Dhamma is a commentary on experience and how to end suffering, so why should anatta be extended to a metaphysical statement?
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby ancientbuddhism » Mon Jan 16, 2012 5:08 pm

Buckwheat wrote: His claim is that the Buddha didn't postulate anatta as a metaphysical claim, but as one of experience.


"For him, the doctrine of not-self is a technique or strategy for liberation, and not a metaphysical or ontological position." (NSS)

This claim is simply not true, as the Buddha did deny the ontological position of the Upaniṣads.
Katamo ca bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo: samatho ca vipassanā ca. Ayaṃ vuccati bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo.

“And what, bhikkhus, is the path leading to the unconditioned? Calm and insight. This, bhikkhus, is called the path leading to the unconditioned.” SN. 43.2 – Samathavipassanāsuttaṃ

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Jan 16, 2012 10:00 pm

Greetings ancientbuddhism,

ancientbuddhism wrote:This claim is simply not true, as the Buddha did deny the ontological position of the Upaniṣads.

I don't think he did. However, he did deny the efficacy of such views...

Brahmajala Sutta wrote:This, bhikkhus, the Tathāgata understands. And he understands: 'These standpoints, thus assumed and thus misappre­hended, lead to such a future destination, to such a state in the world beyond.' He understands as well what transcends this, yet even that understanding he does not misapprehend. And because he is free from misapprehension, he has realized within himself the state of perfect peace. Having understood as they really are the origin and the passing away of feelings, their satisfaction, their unsatisfactoriness, and the escape from them, the Tathāgata, bhikkhus, is emancipated through non-clinging.

It's a fine distinction between "wrong view" and "factually false", but I think it's an important one in this regard, since it's that distinction which differentiates dukkha/nirodha from fact/fiction - the first directly connected to liberation, the second not so important.

For example, take the proposition that "A spider has ten legs". Factually false, not wrong view. Someone labouring under this false ontological belief about our arachnoid friends is not going to find it prohibitive in terms of liberation. The reason soul-beliefs are "standpoints, thus assumed and thus misappre­hended, lead[ing] to such a future destination" irrespective of their ontological truth or falsity, is because they are the basis for twenty forms of self-identification that give rise to contact, and the dependent origination nidanas (incl. dukkha) which follow.

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: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby ancientbuddhism » Tue Jan 17, 2012 1:14 am

retrofuturist wrote:
ancientbuddhism wrote:This claim is simply not true, as the Buddha did deny the ontological position of the Upaniṣads.


I don't think he did. However, he did deny the efficacy of such views...

The reason soul-beliefs are "standpoints, thus assumed and thus misappre­hended, lead[ing] to such a future destination" irrespective of their ontological truth or falsity, is because they are the basis for twenty forms of self-identification that give rise to contact, and the dependent origination nidanas (incl. dukkha) which follow.


Yes, these are misapprehended by the puthujjana. The noble disciple is not on the same footing.

When the Buddha did give instruction on views of self as held by the world, it was to a suitable audience informed with a contemplative understanding of dependent origination and of the habits of volitional processes which cause false reification of sentient experience. In other words, they understood what props-up the illusion of substantiality. Otherwise, just as you say, there would be no utility in simply denying the ‘Self’ to someone who is ignorant of causal processes and is only informed with the dogma of self, as this would only lead to vexation.
Katamo ca bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo: samatho ca vipassanā ca. Ayaṃ vuccati bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo.

“And what, bhikkhus, is the path leading to the unconditioned? Calm and insight. This, bhikkhus, is called the path leading to the unconditioned.” SN. 43.2 – Samathavipassanāsuttaṃ

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby robertk » Tue Jan 17, 2012 2:24 am

This is an old post from ven. Dhammanando that i liked
http://www.lioncity.net/buddhism/index. ... 3364&st=60
Citing the relevant suttas is unlikely to be persuasive to those who have fallen for Thanissaro's mystical drivel, for Thanissaro would simply interpret them differently or else would translate them differently so as to make them support his view. A good example of this is the following passage from the Alagaddūpamasutta, which is one of the starkest and most uncompromising assertions of the non-existence of self.... until Thanissaro gets his hands on it:

attani ca attaniye ca saccato thetato anupalabbhamāne
(MN. 22; also cited in the Kathāvatthu's debate on the puggalavāda, Kvu. 68)

And here are some extracts from an old article of mine discussing this phrase...

First I cite seven translations of it:


Dhammanando:
"...since in truth and reality there obtains neither self nor what belongs to self..."

Ñāṇamoli/Bodhi:
"...since a self and what belongs to a self are not apprehended as true and established..."

Thanissaro:
"...where a self or what belongs to self are not pinned down as a truth or reality..."

B.C. Law:
"...But both soul and that which belongs to soul being in truth, and forever, impossible to be known..."

I.B. Horner:
"But if Self and what belongs to Self, although actually existing are incomprehensible..."

Mahāmakut Tipiṭaka:
"...meua attā lae borikhān neuang duai attā bukkhon theu ao mai dai, doey khwām pen khong jing, doey khwām pen khong thae..."

Mahāchulalongkorn Tipiṭaka:
"...meua thang ton lae khong thii neuang kap ton ja yang hen mai dai, doey khwām pen khong jing, doey khwām pen khong thae..."


Then my comments:

Of the seven renderings above, those of Horner and Law are completely off the map, while the remaining five are more or less defensible so far as purely philological considerations go.

There are two key terms in the passage that give rise to disagreement: firstly, the participle "anupalabbhamāne"; secondly, the phrase "saccato thetato". How one conceives the meaning of these will determine how one interprets the passage; and how one interprets the passage will determine how one goes about translating it. The problem, of course, is that every translator's interpretation of the above phrases will be determined - or at least influenced - by his prior assumptions about the Buddha's teaching.

Let's start with anupalabbhamāne. This is the present participle of the passive form of the verb upalabhati, inflected in the locative case. In front of it is placed the negative particle na ('not'), which changes to an- in accordance with the rules of euphonic junction.

Upalabhati means to obtain, get or find. So in the passive voice it would mean to be obtained, gotten or found. With the addition of the negative particle 'na' the meaning would be "not to be found."

Here's one familiar example of the verb, to be found in every Indian logic textbook:

vañjhāya putto na upalabbhati.
"A son of a barren woman is not to be found."

(Or as western philosophers would phrase it, " 'Son of a barren woman' does not obtain."). Elsewhere the same will be predicated of "horns of a hare", "flowers in the sky", etc.

And here arises the first point of controversy among translators and interpreters of this sutta: does the phrase "not to be obtained" mean the same as "not exist"? Ñāṇamoli, Bodhi and myself would answer yes. A mystically-inclined monk like Thanissaro would answer no. Unsurprisingly Thanissaro has chosen a rendering ("not pinned down") that stresses the epistemic or cognitive, and would tend to imply that a self does (or at least might) exist, but one that is too inscrutable to say anything about.

To continue, when the verb na upalabbhati is made into a present participle, the meaning would be "non-obtaining" (or more precisely, a "not-being-obtained-ness"). When this present participle is inflected in the locative case, then various meanings are possible, and here arises the second point of controversy. What function does the locative have in this context? There are three possibilities:

Spatial or situational stipulative: "Where there is a non-obtaining of self..."
Temporal stipulative: "When there is a non-obtaining of self...."
Causative: "Because there is a non-obtaining of self..."

Ñāṇamoli, Bodhi and I of course favour the causative, for the other two would leave a loophole that there might be some time or place where self does obtain. Thanissaro of course favours a reading that will leave his mysticism intact. So here too it's a case of our prior assumptions determining how we translate.

Now for "saccato thetato". Sacca means true or a truth; theta means sure, firm, or reliable, or something that has these features. Adding the suffix -to turns these words into adverbs. Here I'm not really sure about the relative merits of the above translations, or even if there is a difference between "X does not obtain as a truth" or "X does not in truth obtain." Not that this matters greatly; the crux of the matter is obviously the word anupalabbhamāne. The difference between my old rendering and the Ñāṇamoli/Bodhi one is that I had taken saccato thetato to be an adverbial qualification of anupalabbhamāne, whereas Ñāṇamoli and Bodhi make it more like an adjectival qualification of "self and what belongs to self." I now think that their rendering is more likely to be correct. At least it seems to accord better with the Ṭīkā to this sutta.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby danieLion » Tue Jan 17, 2012 11:24 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:I cannot imagine that anything Ṭhanissaro would say now is, in the last analysis, different from his NSS essays of ‘93/’96, which claims that the Buddha never denied the ‘Self’ as a ‘metaphysical or ontological position’.

Hi ancient,
Imagine no longer:
Thanissaro wrote:Thus the process of self cross-examination must now turn to examine the activities of I-making and my-making to take them apart. In the terms of Ven. Khemaka’s analogy, now that the salt earth or lye or cow-dung has succeeded in washing the cloth, the cloth has to be put away in a perfumed hamper so that the lingering scent of the cleaning agents will fade away. As Ven. Khemaka says, this is done by focusing on the arising and passing away of the five clinging aggregates—the raw material both for concentrated states of mind and for the construction of any sense of self—in a way that removes any clinging around them.

The questions of self cross-examination designed to accomplish this task thus shift their framework to three perceptions—inconstancy, stress, and not-self—which are applied either to the aggregates [SN 22:59, MN 109] or to the sense media
[MN 147] as they are directly experienced. In the case of the aggregates, each aggregate is examined with questions in this order: “Is this constant or inconstant?” “Inconstant.” “And is that which is inconstant easeful or stressful?” “Stressful.” “And is it fitting to regard what is inconstant, stressful, subject to change as: ‘This is mine. This is my self. This is what I am’?” “No.” To see in terms of these perceptions ultimately leads to a total abandoning of clinging for any of the aggregates—including the perception-aggregate that accomplished this task—and the mind is released.

In the case of the sense media, the same questionnaire is applied to each sense medium, and to the events dependent on it, in this order: the internal sense medium (e.g., the eye), the corresponding external sense medium (e.g., forms), consciousness at that medium, contact at that medium, and anything that arises dependent on that contact as a mode of feeling, perception, fabrication, or consciousness. Because the five physical senses are instances of the form
aggregate, this version of the questionnaire—though focused on the sense media—manages to encompass all five aggregates as well.

Notice that although this level of cross-examination has dropped any reference to self, it has maintained the framework of skillful and unskillful action. The last question in the series does not demand the conclusion that there is no
self. Instead, it asks simply whether it is fitting—skillful—to identify an inconstant, stressful event as one’s self. In other words, the Buddha is not asking one to come to a metaphysical conclusion on the question, created by objectification, as to the existence or non-existence of the self. After all, as we saw in the discussion of SN 12:15 in Chapter Three, the mind on the verge of awakening doesn’t see the world in terms of existence or non-existence in any event, so the question of the existence or non-existence of the self would be irrelevant. Thus, instead of pushing the questioning into the realm of objectification, the Buddha is simply pushing the line of inquiry about skillful action to its subtlest level—the act of self-identification—at the same time raising the pragmatic standard of what counts as skillful so as to abandon all acts of self identification and attain total freedom (my emphases; hard copy, p. 314; pdf, p. 243: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... stions.pdf).

good-will
Daniel
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby danieLion » Tue Jan 17, 2012 11:30 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:...his claim that the Buddha never denied the Upaniṣadic ātman.

ancient,
WHERE did Thanissaro make this claim?
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby danieLion » Tue Jan 17, 2012 11:33 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:
Buckwheat wrote: His claim is that the Buddha didn't postulate anatta as a metaphysical claim, but as one of experience.


"For him, the doctrine of not-self is a technique or strategy for liberation, and not a metaphysical or ontological position." (NSS)

This claim is simply not true, as the Buddha did deny the ontological position of the Upaniṣads.

ancient,
Your not making any sense.
Thanissaro's saying the Buddha denied the Upanisadic ontology of atman, and you turn around and make a statement in complete agreement yet call it a contradiction???
What the hell?
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby danieLion » Tue Jan 17, 2012 11:37 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Thanissaro Bhikkhu's teachings in relation to nibbana have clearly come under much scrutiny here... I'm interested to know if anyone believes these dubious nibbana teachings in any way impact or compromise his teachings on the subject of anatta?

Metta,
Retro. :)

Dubious? Why? How? Wouldn't any teaching on nibbana be dubious as it would be a teaching about something beyond linguistic description?

And to your Q: No. They don't impact or compromise his anatta teachings. To wit, Nana derailed the topic with his nit-picky impositions about the sense-media.

good-will

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby danieLion » Tue Jan 17, 2012 11:40 pm

robertk wrote:Citing the relevant suttas is unlikely to be persuasive to those who have fallen for Thanissaro's mystical drivel....

What do you mean by "mystical"?
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Jan 17, 2012 11:49 pm

Greetings Daniel,

danieLion wrote:Dubious? Why? How?

Dubious, as in shrouded with doubt and skepticism. But my point wasn't to go into that - I was looking to re-rail the topic, and to focus "on Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings"

danieLion wrote:And to your Q: No. They don't impact or compromise his anatta teachings.

I don't think they do either, and I think what you just quoted from Thanissaro Bhikkhu above makes a lot of sense. We've heard ancientbuddhism's perspective on that question, but I'd still be interested to hear Nana's.

danieLion wrote:What do you mean by "mystical"?

That comment was made by venerable Dhammanando, not Robert K. Perhaps you might like to ask him yourself what he meant by it (though as he lives in the hills and infrequently comes down, you will need to be patient in waiting for a reply).

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: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby robertk » Wed Jan 18, 2012 8:09 am

danieLion wrote:
robertk wrote:Citing the relevant suttas is unlikely to be persuasive to those who have fallen for Thanissaro's mystical drivel....

What do you mean by "mystical"?
good-will
Daniel

It was from ven. Dhammanando .
I think what he meant by "MYSTCAL DRIVEL"(and although I have met the ven. several times, we never discussed Thanissara) was that the ven. Thanissaro's writings on nibbana, anatta, self strategy, the consciousness without whateer.. etc are all eel wiggling ideas based on his deep belief in an eternal self that resides somewhere free of the 5 khandas.
But i could be wrong.
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Jan 18, 2012 8:22 am

Mystical drivel. Alas. Has this thread run its course? (Rhetorical question not requiring an actual meta-discussion answer.)

Less with the "mystical drivel" and more with careful textual analysis supporting one's position. If all that has been exhausted, then time to move on to something else.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Jan 18, 2012 11:04 am

I have not followed this thread so wont contribute to much more than I am in this post.

but, I read Tan Ajahns new book selves &not-self a few weeks ago just befor this thread started and found it very reasonable, & worth the time to read.
his interpretation is certainly interesting and coherent with the teachings even if sometimes it is infered connection not directly found in the teachings :thumbsup: :thumbsup: two thumbs fresh
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Postby beeblebrox » Wed Jan 18, 2012 4:39 pm

[ . . . ] these are misapprehended by the puthujjana. The noble disciple is not on the same footing.


How should we make of the person who keeps on insisting that he sees "self" into what Ven. Thanissaro teaches?

If someone says that he doesn't see any "self" in what Ven. Thanissaro teaches... then what should we make of that person? One of them sees a self, and the other doesn't even see a self... which one has the correct view? (Regardless of what might be Ven. Thanissaro's intention or not?)

Is anyone aware that whatever we think we see into what Ven. Thanissaro teaches would be always filtered through the five conditions? (That is... the form which we attribute to the Ven. Thanissaro's appearance, our feelings towards it, our perceptions of what it says, the mental formations we use for that construction, and then the consciousness which arises out of that?) What does the Buddha have to say about that?

I believe that once someone's view of "self" is actually uprooted (I mean for real)... not even the brahmin's all-mighty Atman can even derail him from the peace. He would still see the non-self even in the all-mighty Atman, and then stop viewing that (and including whatever argument against it) as something permanent. The Atman would never be a source of dukkha for him again. Especially not for anyone around that person (not even the ones on an internet forum), regardless of what their beliefs are. There is nothing but nibbana.

So, what does that really say about someone who keeps on reading the "self" into places where it's not even explicitly mentioned? (That is, as opposed to where it's explicitly mentioned... such as in brahmin's Atman?) This seems to be the case with the people and their issues with Ven. Thanissaro?

:anjali:
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