What does it mean to exist?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

What does it mean to exist?

Postby chownah » Wed Jul 24, 2013 3:55 am

People talk about whether things exist or not as if they really know what it means to exist or not. They talk as if the only ambiguity involved is in understanding the thing whose existence is in question and seem to put little or no effort into questioning what it means to exist. Given that the Buddha defined The World and The All differently than what most people think of them, I think that it would be good to discuss what it means to exist or not.

I have nothing to start the discussion with as for me the term "to exist" defies definition.....I don't have much hope for this topic.

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Re: What does it mean to exist?

Postby SarathW » Wed Jul 24, 2013 4:21 am

I think this is a good topic.
This is how I understand it:
When you see objects with ignorance you see them as exist.
When you see objects with wisdom you realise that there is no absolute objects and they have a dependent origination. (Casually we say not exist)
When we say “not exist” with wisdom, what we say is that the conditions require for existence is not there.
Eg:
a)When we sick we say pain exist. When we cured we say pain does not exist.
b) We say that the five aggregate exist. When the conditions require for the existence of five aggregate cut off we say “Nibbana”
For a person who is living, “Nibbana” exist
For an Arahant Nibbana does not exist.
Because there is no five aggregate (so called person) to experience Nibbana.
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Re: What does it mean to exist?

Postby BlackBird » Wed Jul 24, 2013 4:37 am

When you see objects with ignorance you see them as exist.


Oh so for the arahant things do not exist? That's the implication of what you've said, such a notion has no support from the Suttas. Quite the contrary: It is because things are conditioned and impermanent that they exist at all. For if they were not impermanent they could not have come to be in the first place.

The idea that things only appear to exist because of ignorance is something quite akin to the doctrine of sunyata in Mahayana, but that's not what the Buddha of the Theravada taught.

with metta
Jack
Last edited by BlackBird on Wed Jul 24, 2013 4:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: What does it mean to exist?

Postby acinteyyo » Wed Jul 24, 2013 4:39 am

I think this would be a good start.

SN 12.15 wrote:Dwelling at Savatthi... Then Ven. Kaccayana Gotta approached the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One: "Lord, 'Right view, right view,' it is said. To what extent is there right view?"

"By & large, Kaccayana, this world is supported by (takes as its object) a polarity, that of existence & non-existence. But when one sees the origination of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'non-existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one. When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one.

"By & large, Kaccayana, this world is in bondage to attachments, clingings (sustenances), & biases. But one such as this does not get involved with or cling to these attachments, clingings, fixations of awareness, biases, or obsessions; nor is he resolved on 'my self.' He has no uncertainty or doubt that just stress, when arising, is arising; stress, when passing away, is passing away. In this, his knowledge is independent of others. It's to this extent, Kaccayana, that there is right view.

"'Everything exists': That is one extreme. 'Everything doesn't exist': That is a second extreme. Avoiding these two extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma via the middle: From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications. From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness. From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form. From name-&-form as a requisite condition come the six sense media. From the six sense media as a requisite condition comes contact. From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling. From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving. From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging/sustenance. From clinging/sustenance as a requisite condition comes becoming. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth. From birth as a requisite condition, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair come into play. Such is the origination of this entire mass of stress & suffering.

"Now from the remainderless fading & cessation of that very ignorance comes the cessation of fabrications. From the cessation of fabrications comes the cessation of consciousness. From the cessation of consciousness comes the cessation of name-&-form. From the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of the six sense media. From the cessation of the six sense media comes the cessation of contact. From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of feeling. From the cessation of feeling comes the cessation of craving. From the cessation of craving comes the cessation of clinging/sustenance. From the cessation of clinging/sustenance comes the cessation of becoming. From the cessation of becoming comes the cessation of birth. From the cessation of birth, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair all cease. Such is the cessation of this entire mass of stress & suffering."

Problems arise when one thinks that some kind of permanent thing comes into existence, exists for a while unchanged and then disappears. But I would say there rather is arising of a phenomena. "It changes while standing" until the circumstances for its arising finally vanish so that the phenomena ceases. This way, I think, 'non-existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one nor does 'existence' with reference to the world occur to one.

best wishes, acinteyyo
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Api cāhaṃ, āvuso, imasmiṃyeva byāmamatte kaḷevare, sasaññimhi samanake lokañca paññāpemi lokasamudayañca lokanirodhañca lokanirodhagāminiñca paṭipadan. (AN4.45)

:anjali:
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Re: What does it mean to exist?

Postby BlackBird » Wed Jul 24, 2013 4:42 am

acinteyyo wrote:Problems arise when one thinks that some kind of permanent thing comes into existence, exists for a while unchanged and then disappears. But I would say there rather is arising of a phenomena. "It changes while standing" until the circumstances for its arising finally vanish so that the phenomena ceases. This way, I think, 'non-existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one nor does 'existence' with reference to the world occur to one.

best wishes, acinteyyo


:goodpost:

To suggest that something 'permanent' can come into existence and summarily disappear is quite an oxymoron, a contradiction from start to finish. This is why for something to exist it must be impermanent - The necessity is structural in nature. Things are because they're impermanent.
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: What does it mean to exist?

Postby SarathW » Wed Jul 24, 2013 5:11 am

Hi Jack
I got the point.
I think Acinteyo gave a good quote from the Sutta.
Arahant’s see things as exist because they still have the old body conditioned by the old Kamma (which are result of ignorance) When that old body disintegrate they will not experience anything as exist.
I can’t say that an apple does not exist because when I eat it, my hunger (old Kamma) satisfied for some time. But I will not be able to find the apple any more. For everything in this world we just have a very small window of opportunity to experience it for which we call existence.
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Re: What does it mean to exist?

Postby BlackBird » Wed Jul 24, 2013 5:40 am

SarathW wrote:Hi Jack
I got the point.
I think Acinteyo gave a good quote from the Sutta.
Arahant’s see things as exist because they still have the old body conditioned by the old Kamma (which are result of ignorance) When that old body disintegrate they will not experience anything as exist.
I can’t say that an apple does not exist because when I eat it, my hunger (old Kamma) satisfied for some time. But I will not be able to find the apple any more. For everything in this world we just have a very small window of opportunity to experience it for which we call existence.


Being hungry for food is not usually going to be old kamma Sarath, nor is usually going to be vipaka. The Buddha explains that to suggest a certain vedana is the result of past kamma is wrong:

"There are cases where some feelings arise based on phlegm... based on internal winds... based on a combination of bodily humors... from the change of the seasons... from uneven[2] care of the body... from harsh treatment... from the result of kamma. You yourself should know how some feelings arise from the result of kamma. Even the world is agreed on how some feelings arise from the result of kamma. So any brahmans & contemplatives who are of the doctrine & view that whatever an individual feels — pleasure, pain, neither pleasure-nor-pain — is entirely caused by what was done before — slip past what they themselves know, slip past what is agreed on by the world. Therefore I say that those brahmans & contemplatives are wrong."

- http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

3. "What is old kamma? The eye is to be seen as old kamma, fabricated & willed, capable of being felt. The ear... The nose... The tongue... The body... The intellect is to be seen as old kamma, fabricated & willed, capable of being felt. This is called old kamma.

"And what is new kamma? Whatever kamma one does now with the body, with speech, or with the intellect. This is called new kamma.
"And what is the cessation of kamma? Whoever touches the release that comes from the cessation of bodily kamma, verbal kamma, & mental kamma: This is called the cessation of kamma.

"And what is the path of practice leading to the cessation of kamma? Just this noble eightfold path: right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. This is called the path of practice leading to the cessation of kamma."

"So, monks, I have taught you new & old kamma, the cessation of kamma, and the path of practice leading to the cessation of kamma. Whatever a teacher should do — seeking the welfare of his disciples, out of sympathy for them — that have I done for you. Over there are the roots of trees; over there, empty dwellings. Practice jhana, monks. Don't be heedless. Don't later fall into regret. This is our message to you."


- http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

metta
Jack
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: What does it mean to exist?

Postby pegembara » Wed Jul 24, 2013 6:02 am

Image

"Dependent on the eye & forms there arises consciousness at the eye. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as a requisite condition, there arises what is felt either as pleasure, pain, or neither pleasure nor pain. If, when touched by a feeling of pleasure, one relishes it, welcomes it, or remains fastened to it, then one's passion-obsession gets obsessed. If, when touched by a feeling of pain, one sorrows, grieves, & laments, beats one's breast, becomes distraught, then one's resistance-obsession gets obsessed. If, when touched by a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain, one does not discern, as it actually is present, the origination, passing away, allure, drawback, or escape from that feeling, then one's ignorance-obsession gets obsessed. That a person — without abandoning passion-obsession with regard to a feeling of pleasure, without abolishing resistance-obsession with regard to a feeling of pain, without uprooting ignorance-obsession with regard to a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain, without abandoning ignorance and giving rise to clear knowing — would put an end to suffering & stress in the here & now: such a thing isn't possible.
"Dependent on the ear & sounds...
"Dependent on the nose & aromas...
"Dependent on the tongue & flavors...
"Dependent on the body & tactile sensations...

"Dependent on the intellect & ideas there arises consciousness at the intellect. The meeting of the three is contact.
Chachakka Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
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Re: What does it mean to exist?

Postby sunyavadin » Wed Jul 24, 2013 8:07 am

chownah wrote:People talk about whether things exist or not as if they really know what it means to exist or not. They talk as if the only ambiguity involved is in understanding the thing whose existence is in question and seem to put little or no effort into questioning what it means to exist. Given that the Buddha defined The World and The All differently than what most people think of them, I think that it would be good to discuss what it means to exist or not.

I have nothing to start the discussion with as for me the term "to exist" defies definition.....I don't have much hope for this topic.

chownah


The way I interpret it hinges on the meaning of the word 'exist'. If you analyse the root of the word, it contains two particles: 'ex-', outside of or apart from; and 'ist' which, I think, means 'is'. So 'ex-ist' means 'to be separate, to be apart from'. Extrapolating from that, I also think it means 'to have an identity, to be this as distinct from that'.

Within this interpretation, the whole realm of 'phenomena' basically comprises 'what exists'. Another way of putting it is that 'what exists' is the object of study by the natural sciences. 'Things that exist' are things you can have an encounter with, or measure, or experience through the senses. In Buddhist terminology, everything that exists is the outcome of the process of dependent origination - it is caused to exist by the coming together of causes and conditions, and after some period of time, it will cease to exist.

But I think there is also a sense in which you can differentiate 'what exists' from 'reality', because 'the reality of a situation' includes factors other than those which can be simply be said to exist. That is why, I think, through the path of purification, you begin to see beyond, or through, what simply 'exists' into the realm of being-as-such. So you could say that this is a way of understanding 'higher truth' or 'higher perception' whereby you see what things really mean, or how things really are, rather than simply 'what exists', so the very act of perception is the realization of meaning.
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Re: What does it mean to exist?

Postby dhammapal » Wed Jul 24, 2013 10:35 am

Samyutta Nikaya 23.2
Satta Sutta: A Being
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu

I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Savatthi at Jeta's Grove, Anathapindika's monastery. Then Ven. Radha went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One: "'A being,' lord. 'A being,' it's said. To what extent is one said to be 'a being'?"

"Any desire, passion, delight, or craving for form, Radha: when one is caught up[1] there, tied up[2] there, one is said to be 'a being.'[3]
"Any desire, passion, delight, or craving for feeling... perception... fabrications...
"Any desire, passion, delight, or craving for consciousness, Radha: when one is caught up there, tied up there, one is said to be 'a being.'

"Just as when boys or girls are playing with little sand castles:[4] as long as they are not free from passion, desire, love, thirst, fever, & craving for those little sand castles, that's how long they have fun with those sand castles, enjoy them, treasure them, feel possessive of them. But when they become free from passion, desire, love, thirst, fever, & craving for those little sand castles, then they smash them, scatter them, demolish them with their hands or feet and make them unfit for play.

"In the same way, Radha, you too should smash, scatter, & demolish form, and make it unfit for play. Practice for the ending of craving for form.
"You should smash, scatter, & demolish feeling, and make it unfit for play. Practice for the ending of craving for feeling.
"You should smash, scatter, & demolish perception, and make it unfit for play. Practice for the ending of craving for perception.
"You should smash, scatter, & demolish fabrications, and make them unfit for play. Practice for the ending of craving for fabrications.
"You should smash, scatter, & demolish consciousness and make it unfit for play. Practice for the ending of craving for consciousness — for the ending of craving, Radha, is Unbinding."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

With metta / dhammapal.
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