Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Postby Individual » Thu Jan 15, 2009 2:44 am

Anders Honore wrote:As for the Theravadin view, I don't think there's any inherent contradiction between the early sutras (that Theravada is based on) and the Mahayana view of emptiness.

I agree with this and a while ago, I compiled a short list of quotes on emptiness from the suttas to establish this point.

Phena Sutta

Form is like a glob of foam;
feeling, a bubble;
perception, a mirage;
fabrications, a banana tree;
consciousness, a magic trick —
this has been taught
by the Kinsman of the Sun.
However you observe them,
appropriately examine them,
they're empty, void
to whoever sees them
appropriately.


Sunna Sutta

"Insofar as it is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self: Thus it is said, Ananda, that the world is empty. And what is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self? The eye is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self. Forms... Eye-consciousness... Eye-contact is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self.

"The ear is empty...

"The nose is empty...

"The tongue is empty...

"The body is empty...

"The intellect is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self. Ideas... Intellect-consciousness... Intellect-contact is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self. Thus it is said that the world is empty."


Mogharaja-manava-puccha Sutta

View the world, Mogharaja,
as empty —
always mindful
to have removed any view
about self.

This way one is above & beyond death.
This is how one views the world
so as not to be seen
by Death's king.


Cula-suññata Sutta

"He discerns that 'Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of village are not present. Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of human being are not present. There is only this modicum of disturbance: the singleness based on the perception of wilderness.' He discerns that 'This mode of perception is empty of the perception of village. This mode of perception is empty of the perception of human being. There is only this non-emptiness: the singleness based on the perception of wilderness.' Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: 'There is this.' And so this, his entry into emptiness, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, & pure.


Maha-suññata Sutta

"But there is this (mental) dwelling discovered by the Tathagata where, not attending to any themes, he enters & remains in internal emptiness. If, while he is dwelling there by means of this dwelling, he is visited by monks, nuns, lay men, lay women, kings, royal ministers, sectarians & their disciples, then — with his mind bent on seclusion, tending toward seclusion, inclined toward seclusion, aiming at seclusion, relishing renunciation, having destroyed those qualities that are the basis for mental fermentation — he converses with them only as much is necessary for them to take their leave.

Notice the interpretation "mental" imposed on the text by the Theravadin translator.

"He attends to internal & external emptiness...

But it's not just mental, else the idea of "external emptiness" is pretty incoherent, plus obviously incorrect given the other quotes above where there isn't the explicit description that it's a strictly mental act. On the contrary, the Buddha describes reality itself as actual being empty, as emptiness being in accordance with "actuality".

So, as a very wise person and experienced meditator once said:

Element wrote:Thus form is voidness & voidness is form. If form is regarded as 'voidness', it is void. If form is regarded as 'form', merely form, it is also void. If it is void, it is free from dukkha. The efficacy of this we must understand through practise or experience. These realisations are one and the same.

And as the Heart Sutra says:

form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form; emptiness does not differ from form, form does not differ from emptiness; whatever is form, that is emptiness, whatever is emptiness, that is form, the same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses and consciousness.
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Postby Element » Thu Jan 15, 2009 3:34 am

Individual wrote:form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form; emptiness does not differ from form, form does not differ from emptiness; whatever is form, that is emptiness, whatever is emptiness, that is form, the same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses and consciousness.

:goodpost:
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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Thu Jan 15, 2009 3:43 pm

stuka wrote:Mahayana: "Everything is not inherently real". The world is a figment of your imagination.

I don't think this is accurate. According to Gelug negation of inherent existence is merely conceptual emptiness. Real emptiness is beyond the four extremes hence there is no "your" or "imagination". I.e. samsara is not an 'illusion' which dissolves when 'reality' appears. The illusion/reality duality ultimately doesn't apply.
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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Postby Karunika » Thu Jan 15, 2009 3:55 pm

Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:
stuka wrote:Mahayana: "Everything is not inherently real". The world is a figment of your imagination.

I don't think this is accurate. According to Gelug negation of inherent existence is merely conceptual emptiness. Real emptiness is beyond the four extremes hence there is no "your" or "imagination". I.e. samsara is not an 'illusion' which dissolves when 'reality' appears. The illusion/reality duality ultimately doesn't apply.

When discussing 'Mahayana,' it is good for everyone to remember that there are a variety of traditions and beliefs that fall within that label. It is often not accurate to sum up one belief as being 'Mahayana.' Even within Tibetan Buddhism, which is part of Mahayana, there are many different beliefs and interpretations of emptiness (among other things). Stuka's statement probably better reflects the mind-only school, but not being a student of that tradition, don't hold me to that.
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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Postby stuka » Thu Jan 15, 2009 6:10 pm

Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:
stuka wrote:Mahayana: "Everything is not inherently real". The world is a figment of your imagination.

I don't think this is accurate. According to Gelug negation of inherent existence is merely conceptual emptiness. Real emptiness is beyond the four extremes hence there is no "your" or "imagination". I.e. samsara is not an 'illusion' which dissolves when 'reality' appears. The illusion/reality duality ultimately doesn't apply.


Again, that is just an extension or exaggeration of the same thing. "Negation of inherent existence" is annihiliationism. The problem we see here is that the Buddha's phenomenological teaching of emptiness, which analyzes the way we perceive the world in order to understand the misconceptions and subsequent misery that arise through ignorance, has been misapprehended by the Mahayanists and the tibetan religions to be an existential declaration of the nature of the world itself. Unfortunately for them, such declarations, whether they claim to be on a "mundane" or an "ultimate" level, are inextricably mired in speculative view. Calling the world "samsara" as if "samsara" were a "thing", and the entire issue or question of a "illusion/reality duality", is a part of this misapprehension as well, irrelevant to what the Buddha was addressing, which was the causes and remedies for the problem of suffering.

Of course, you are always welcome to demonstrate the mundane and ultimate truth of your speculative view by banging your "non-existent" hand with a "non-existent" hammer until you and I both are convinced that there is no you, there is no hand, and there is no hammer.

I'll be sure to wear a bio-suit...
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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Postby stuka » Thu Jan 15, 2009 6:50 pm

Karunika wrote:
Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:
stuka wrote:Mahayana: "Everything is not inherently real". The world is a figment of your imagination.

I don't think this is accurate. According to Gelug negation of inherent existence is merely conceptual emptiness. Real emptiness is beyond the four extremes hence there is no "your" or "imagination". I.e. samsara is not an 'illusion' which dissolves when 'reality' appears. The illusion/reality duality ultimately doesn't apply.

When discussing 'Mahayana,' it is good for everyone to remember that there are a variety of traditions and beliefs that fall within that label. It is often not accurate to sum up one belief as being 'Mahayana.' Even within Tibetan Buddhism, which is part of Mahayana, there are many different beliefs and interpretations of emptiness (among other things). Stuka's statement probably better reflects the mind-only school, but not being a student of that tradition, don't hold me to that.


That there are many different beliefs and interpretations of sunnata in the tibetan religions clearly illustrates the fact that they are existential speculative views, rather than true understanding of the Buddha's empirical phenomenological analysis of the way we perceive (and interpret or mis-interpret) the world.

The Buddha negated such existential arguments over 2500 years ago. One has to wonder why such arguments and speculative views persist in religions that claim to be based in His teachings.
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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Thu Jan 15, 2009 7:35 pm

stuka wrote:"Negation of inherent existence" is annihiliationism.

Tsongkapa would say no, because conventional existence is not negated. Which is why it hurts plenty when I hit my hand with a hammer. And which is also why negation of inherent existence is merely conceptual emptiness. But ultimately there is nothing to affirm or negate.
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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Postby Element » Thu Jan 15, 2009 8:16 pm

Theravada teaching on emptiness is straightforward & unconvoluted, which is why it comes from a perfectly fully enlightened Buddha.
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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Postby stuka » Thu Jan 15, 2009 8:33 pm

Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:
stuka wrote:"Negation of inherent existence" is annihiliationism.

Tsongkapa would say no, because conventional existence is not negated. Which is why it hurts plenty when I hit my hand with a hammer. And which is also why negation of inherent existence is merely conceptual emptiness. But ultimately there is nothing to affirm or negate.


Tsonghapa would be resorting to convoluted double-talk in order to prop up his, again, speculative (and mis-appropriated) existential view.

Watching Mahayanists and adherents of the tibetan religions discuss existential-based speculative views of 'emptiness" is like watching people argue over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Or whether the flat earth goes on forever, or ends in a giant waterfall. All three are equally useless and irrelevant to addressing the problem of suffering.
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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Postby Individual » Thu Jan 15, 2009 9:07 pm

stuka wrote:
Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:
stuka wrote:"Negation of inherent existence" is annihiliationism.

Tsongkapa would say no, because conventional existence is not negated. Which is why it hurts plenty when I hit my hand with a hammer. And which is also why negation of inherent existence is merely conceptual emptiness. But ultimately there is nothing to affirm or negate.


Tsonghapa would be resorting to convoluted double-talk in order to prop up his, again, speculative (and mis-appropriated) existential view.

Watching Mahayanists and adherents of the tibetan religions discuss existential-based speculative views of 'emptiness" is like watching people argue over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Or whether the flat earth goes on forever, or ends in a giant waterfall. All three are equally useless and irrelevant to addressing the problem of suffering.

Papanca over sunatta is neither greater than nor lesser than papanca over the Five Skandhas, nor aversion to the previous two. :smile:
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Postby meindzai » Thu Jan 15, 2009 10:02 pm

If you feel like listening to Thanissaro Bhikkhu talk for about 6 hours, he has a very long (multi part, of course) talk on Emptiness from the Theravada perspective; http://audiodharma.org/talks/ThanissaroBhikkhu.html

There is also a shorter 1 hour version - but the 6 hour one covers a LOT of territory, including the Mahayana perspective. Or, probably better said, a Theravadans perspective of the Mahayana perspective. The Theravada bias is apparent, but understandable.

An article of his is here --> http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... iness.html
which covers a lot of the same territory, but doesn't go into the whole Nagarjuna/Mahayana etc. thing.

Personally, if I'm talking to a mahayanist or zennie friend, I just set my internal mental babelfish to translate it to "anicca, anatta, dukkha" and the conversation tends to progress pretty smoothly. "The Five Skhandas are Empty" (per the heart sutra) translates to "The Five Khandas are anicca, anatta, dukkha" which is absolutely true. When it gets sticky is when people want to talk about this myserious animal called "reality," at which point I try to quietly back out of the conversation, since the only realities I'm concerned with are dukkha and the cessation of dukkha.

-M
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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Postby Element » Thu Jan 15, 2009 10:22 pm

meindzai wrote:When it gets sticky is when people want to talk about this myserious animal called "reality," at which point I try to quietly back out of the conversation, since the only realities I'm concerned with are dukkha and the cessation of dukkha.-M

:goodpost: The emptiness that can end dukkha plus allow harmonious & empathetic living is the genuine emptiness.
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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Postby stuka » Thu Jan 15, 2009 10:52 pm

meindzai wrote:....since the only realities I'm concerned with are dukkha and the cessation of dukkha.

-M



:goodpost:

8-)
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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Postby Prasadachitta » Thu Jan 15, 2009 10:53 pm

Element wrote:
meindzai wrote:When it gets sticky is when people want to talk about this myserious animal called "reality," at which point I try to quietly back out of the conversation, since the only realities I'm concerned with are dukkha and the cessation of dukkha.-M

:goodpost: The emptiness that can end dukkha plus allow harmonious & empathetic living is the genuine emptiness.


Indeed... It is the same emptiness for each turn of the wheel. :thumbsup:
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332
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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Postby stuka » Fri Jan 16, 2009 12:54 am

gabrielbranbury wrote:
Indeed... It is the same emptiness for each turn of the wheel. :thumbsup:


The Buddha's teachings were complete and not in need of any further "improvement". The "wheel" has not stopped rolling, and has never been in any need of "re-turning".
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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Postby Karunika » Fri Jan 16, 2009 1:40 am

stuka wrote:
gabrielbranbury wrote:
Indeed... It is the same emptiness for each turn of the wheel. :thumbsup:


The Buddha's teachings were complete and not in need of any further "improvement". The "wheel" has not stopped rolling, and has never been in any need of "re-turning".

I can appreciate differences of opinion between and even within traditions, but I think your sect bashing of Mahayana is inappropriate. I understand this board may be primarily Theravada; however, in a thread discussing aspects of two different traditions, I don't think it helpful to disparage one over the other. That has been done elsewhere to many times already.

The facts are that there are differences between the various schools, but we do not need to put down other schools that we do not belong to or agree with. Sometimes there are true differences and sometimes it is a matter of explanation and terminology. For example, in Tibetan Buddhism there are a variety of traditions. Just because they all do not agree, or they explain things differently, does not mean that they are speculative. There are great scholars and masters in both the Theravada and Mahayana traditions. Sometimes understanding another tradition helps you to better understand your own - at the least, it helps you learn where other people are coming from and why they believe what they do.

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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Postby meindzai » Fri Jan 16, 2009 2:31 am

I think what people forget is that mahayana and Theravada have entirely different goals and idealss, and this is primarily where the differences come from. Theravada aspires to arahantship and Mahayana aspires to Buddhahood. Each is complete and logical with respect to it's respective goal.

No Mahayanist I know would argue that Theravada is incomplete WRT to arahantship. With regards to arahantship, no improvements can be made by mahayana becuase mahayanists do not aspire to be Arahants. What mahayana says is that mahayana is the path of the Bodhisattva - someone who aspires to Buddhahood. The mistake of forgetting this distinction is made by both people who wish to disparage one or the other philosophy, and also by people who attempt to reconcile them by saying "They're both two different interpretations of the same doctrines." They're different doctrines becuase the goals are different. The teachings on emptiness then follow different paths from there.

-M
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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Postby stuka » Fri Jan 16, 2009 2:50 am

Karunika wrote:
stuka wrote:
gabrielbranbury wrote:
Indeed... It is the same emptiness for each turn of the wheel. :thumbsup:


The Buddha's teachings were complete and not in need of any further "improvement". The "wheel" has not stopped rolling, and has never been in any need of "re-turning".

I can appreciate differences of opinion between and even within traditions, but I think your sect bashing of Mahayana is inappropriate.


This is not sect-bashing at all, friend. The view that claims that Theravada is somehow incomplete or in need of improvement is, in fact, sect-bashing. As is very the use of the term "Maha-yana", as it is used to elevate those sects above what it refers to as "Hina-yana", the "inferior vehicle".Pointing out the shortcomings of one philosophy or another is not anything like "sect-bashing". The Buddha did it all the time. What you are attempting here is philosophical extortion.

I understand this board may be primarily Theravada; however, in a thread discussing aspects of two different traditions, I don't think it helpful to disparage one over the other. That has been done elsewhere to many times already.


What you seem to defensively hold a "disparagement" is simple analysis of characteristics.


The facts are that there are differences between the various schools, but we do not need to put down other schools that we do not belong to or agree with.


...such as referring to the Buddha's teachings as "Hina-yana". Again, pointing out problems inherent to the speculative views of others is not "putting them down" in the perjorative sense to which you allude. The Buddha pointed out other philosophers' and teachers' shortcomings on a regular basis.

Sometimes there are true differences and sometimes it is a matter of explanation and terminology. For example, in Tibetan Buddhism there are a variety of traditions. Just because they all do not agree, or they explain things differently, does not mean that they are speculative.


It is being pointed out that the myriad speculative views of the tibetan religions are speculative because they are speculative. Many of them are also based on obvious superstitions as well. A great many of them go directly against the Buddha's own teachings. For example, the Buddha did not teach in the consultation of "oracles" and worship of "deities".

There are great scholars and masters in both the Theravada and Mahayana traditions. Sometimes understanding another tradition helps you to better understand your own - at the least, it helps you learn where other people are coming from and why they believe what they do.


Understanding the contradictions, shortcomings, and deviations of other traditions and distantly-related religions from the Buddha's teachings does indeed help us to better understand the teachings of the Buddha. It helps one to separate the wheat from the chaff.
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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Postby Ben » Fri Jan 16, 2009 2:55 am

Dear friends

Please keep in mind that while this is a forum for the discussion and discovery of the Theravada, it is intended that Dhammawheel becomes a haven for all sincere practitioners regardless of tradition.

It is hoped that practitioners from non-Theravadin traditions may share their view and thus help us all to gain a deeper perspective on the Dhamma.

Be mindful that personal views on the efficacy of Mahayanist or Vajrayanist doctrine do not breach the Terms of Service with regards to right speech. Please be respectful, especially to those who may have a differing view or opinion. Remember, that until we enter the stream, we are all still subject to the grosser and finer defilements that cloud our minds. None of us yet have pristine right view.
Thank you for your cooperation.
With metta,

Ben
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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Postby stuka » Fri Jan 16, 2009 3:08 am

meindzai wrote:I think what people forget is that mahayana and Theravada have entirely different goals and idealss, and this is primarily where the differences come from. Theravada aspires to arahantship and Mahayana aspires to Buddhahood. Each is complete and logical with respect to it's respective goal.


We are aware of what the Mahayana party line is. We do not hold to it. The Buddha taught that his Dhamma led to the absolute completion of the Holy Life, beyond which there was "no more to be done".

No Mahayanist I know would argue that Theravada is incomplete WRT to arahantship.


Many Mahayanists will argue that what they espouse improves upon what the Buddha taught could not be improved upon.


With regards to arahantship, no improvements can be made by mahayana becuase mahayanists do not aspire to be Arahants.


Again, we are fully aware of the Mahayana party line, and do not hold to it.

What mahayana says is that mahayana is the path of the Bodhisattva - someone who aspires to Buddhahood.


Mahayanists define "Bodhisattva", "Arahant", and "Buddha" (especially with respect to the Mahayanist idea of "Buddha-hood") differently than the Buddha did, in order to further their own self-view-serving agendas. The Buddha did not teach that we should aspire to become omniscient Gods.

The mistake of forgetting this distinction is made by both people who wish to disparage one or the other philosophy,


Image

That is a straw-man. No one here is unaware of the false distinction that Mahayanists make here. And again, pointing out inherent problems in any philosophy is not, in and of itself, "disparaging" it in the perjorative sense you are attempting to invoke, that of "sect-bashing". The Buddha did it all the time. What you are attempting here is philosophical extortion -- it is the same thing as if you were to claim that "anyone who does not vote for Barack Obama, or who voices disagreement with any of his political policies and ideas, is a racist". It's utter nonsense.

and also by people who attempt to reconcile them by saying "They're both two different interpretations of the same doctrines."


Nor do I know of any Theravadins who hold this view. 'Nuther Straw Man. Image

They're different doctrines becuase the goals are different. The teachings on emptiness then follow different paths from there.
-M


I do not disagree with this. However, the Buddha taught one goal -- the way to cessation of suffering -- which Theravada follows. That Mahayanists and followers of the tibetan religions have different goals and teach and follow something else that parts company with the Buddha's goal and teachings, is their own problem.
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