Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby Sam Vara » Wed Aug 07, 2013 7:23 pm

Benjamin wrote:I would be quite lost without a living teacher. This is why Thanissaro, Brahm, Amaro, Chah, Sumedho, etc. are in my opinion indispensable. .


Your point is a very good one, but Ajahn Chah has been dead for over 20 years. The rest are apparently alive and in good health!
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby Zom » Wed Aug 07, 2013 7:33 pm

http://speculativenonbuddhism.com/2013/07/10/buddhism-as-the-opiate-of-the-downwardly-mobile-middle-class-the-case-of-thanissaro-bhikkhu/


Nice article, quite blunt, but true. 8-)
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby socratessmith » Wed Aug 07, 2013 8:34 pm

And you have something better to offer us than the pali canon???


Yes, Lyndon, the raw capacity for human thought. Human thought is infinitely superior to Buddhist thought. And I say that having practiced Buddhism very strictly for forty years. If you're unsure what I mean by this, and why I recommend thinking over Buddhist thought, have a look here:

http://speculativenonbuddhism.com/2011/10/25/buddhist-anti-intellectualism/
http://speculativenonbuddhism.com/2013/05/24/witchs-flight/

May you be free of subjugating systems such as Buddhism. Abandon the raft! What are you waiting for, bro?
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby Kusala » Wed Aug 07, 2013 8:46 pm

socratessmith wrote:
And you have something better to offer us than the pali canon???


Yes, Lyndon, the raw capacity for human thought.Human thought is infinitely superior to Buddhist thought. And I say that having practiced Buddhism very strictly for forty years. If you're unsure what I mean by this, and why I recommend thinking over Buddhist thought, have a look here:

http://speculativenonbuddhism.com/2011/10/25/buddhist-anti-intellectualism/
http://speculativenonbuddhism.com/2013/05/24/witchs-flight/

May you be free of subjugating systems such as Buddhism. Abandon the raft! What are you waiting for, bro?


"Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace".
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Homage to the Buddha
Thus indeed, is that Blessed One: He is the Holy One, fully enlightened, endowed with clear vision and virtuous conduct, sublime, the Knower of the worlds, the incomparable leader of men to be tamed, the teacher of gods and men, enlightened and blessed.

Homage to the Teachings
The Dhamma of the Blessed One is perfectly expounded; to be seen here and now; not delayed in
time; inviting one to come and see; onward leading (to Nibbana); to be known by the wise, each for himself.
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby socratessmith » Wed Aug 07, 2013 9:12 pm

"Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace".


Kusala: Better than the ventriloquized words of the phantom Buddha is your own unique expression.
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby Anagarika » Wed Aug 07, 2013 9:38 pm

May you be free of subjugating systems such as Buddhism. Abandon the raft! What are you waiting for, bro?


Socrates, the Buddha taught liberation, not subjugation. If you've experienced subjugation or oppression in your many years of practice, I am very sorry for that. One fault of Buddhism in the west is that it has taken on some forms that the Buddha would, in my estimation, have found abhorrent. I've not found anything in the practice that has oppressed me; rather is it life in the west that can be found to be oppressive, and the Buddhadhamma a practice that can provide release from this suffering and stress. Whatever path you choose that works for you, is the best one for you. Metta
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby Samma » Wed Aug 07, 2013 10:30 pm

I see the value of secular Buddhism in questioning myth, and so on. But some criticism not terribly well laid out out like accusing Thanissaro of faith in an eternal atman, self congratulation, rudeness, and the like, often seems to come from spec-non-bud. Thanks to those that have something substantial to offer on the translation and meaning front, rather than what seems to be largely grasping at straws or veering off into spec-non-land.

Certainly seems like some Buddhists assert reality of atman, such as thai dhammakaya:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C4%80tman_%28Buddhism%29

At nibanna, questions of self and not-self are put aside...probably the best thing I can say. If someone believed in soul they would say something like you reach your true self eh? Thanissaro said he uses word stress for dukkha, because typical translation of suffering does not make sense for more subtle forms of dukkha. Thats all, what is all this stuff about being essential part of this particular type of Buddhism, or that it assumes we are a core unified thing. The rest of the essay I'll leave alone like everyone else.
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby pulga » Wed Aug 07, 2013 11:50 pm

Given that whatever merit ”French Theory” has is derived from the thought of Heidegger, perhaps Ven. Ñanavira who handled such ideas in a much more thoughtful and focused way in his efforts to become enlightened through his practice and careful study of the Dhamma has something to offer those who are reluctant to jettison the Suttas in favor of their own independent line of thinking. The Suttas offer us a hermeneutical challenge to reconcile the historical preservation of the Buddha's teaching – however imperfect that preservation might be – and our own imperfect understanding of what it means to be enlightened.
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby SarathW » Wed Aug 07, 2013 11:52 pm

As you all know there are many words to describe Nirvana. But we all know that Nirvana should be experienced not one can be understood by words.
If Ven T wants to call it unestablished consciousness or unconditioned consciousness, I have no problem with that.
We all agree that there is Nirvana.
He never said that there is a person who attained unestablished consciousness.
I also have noticed that he uses his own words to express his understanding . For example he says stress for Dukkha it make me more sense.

But I personally like to call Nirvana as Nirvana.

:meditate:
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby Sylvester » Thu Aug 08, 2013 6:59 am

Mr Man wrote:
Sylvester wrote:
Ven T is too astute a translator to have misunderstood the Pali.


Hi Sylvester,
So why then would he mistranslate?


Hi Mr Man

That's a very loaded question, but I'll try to handle it as diplomatically as possible.

Firstly, "translation" is not an easy enterprise with Pali. A lot of interpretive techniques and tools are also involved, to say nothing of the ambient doctrine/views that closes off certain interpretive pathways or suggests others. So, it would perhaps be fairer to say that Ven T was not merely translating that passage, but interpreting it.

But the question "why" is an enquiry into motive as well. I don't know what sort of formative associations he has made in Thailand that may the "voice of another" informing his worldview. From his writings, he seems worshipfully devoted to his teacher Ajahn Fuang. What sort of influence was Ajahn Fuang on him, in terms of how Ven T now views certain topics, eg -

1. rumination in jhana? Was his mistranslation of a key passage in DN 9 that contradicts his position deliberate or accidental?
2. idappaccayatā? Of the attested forms and functions of the locative absolute in Pali grammar (plus potential/theoretical forms), why does he insist that the 1st and 3rd limbs of idappaccayatā fit into one of the attested forms but which is without the purported function he attributes to it?

These I cannot fathom, no more than I can fathom why he thinks the sutta speak of an unestablished consciousness that survives in a post-mortem happily ever after.

:anjali:
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby Mr Man » Thu Aug 08, 2013 7:58 am

Hi Sylvester
Sorry if the question seemed (over) loaded and thanks for the reply.
:anjali:
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby mal4mac » Thu Aug 08, 2013 9:30 am

Samma wrote:I see the value of secular Buddhism in questioning myth, and so on. But some criticism not terribly well laid out out like accusing Thanissaro of faith in an eternal atman, self congratulation, rudeness, and the like, often seems to come from spec-non-bud.


I also find them a bit rude, and often the criticism is not terribly well laid out & unclear, but they ask some good questions and make some telling points, now and again. Their suggestion that Thanissaro believes in a "kind-of-soul" has some justification. Do you disagree that Thanissaro pushes the idea of an "unconditioned consciousness"? I just read a translation of his that was very useful, to me, on "body meditation", and am always reading useful translations by him, so I certainly wouldn't support the rudeness, and general criticism, that spec-non-bud direct at him. But, on this one one point, I think Thanissaro might be obfuscating matters, although he makes things clearer many times more than he make things unclear... not many can say that...

Samma wrote:Thanks to those that have something substantial to offer on the translation and meaning front, rather than what seems to be largely grasping at straws or veering off into spec-non-land.


Seconded. Unless you think I'm one grasping at straws :) Thanks for the link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C4%80tman_%28Buddhism%29

One very good quote from there:

Candrakīrti: “Ātman is an essence of things that does not depend on others; it is an intrinsic nature. The non-existence of that is selflessness.”

Surely Candrakīrti is right here, that is, in implying that postulating the existence of ātman, or ‘unconditioned consciousness’, is undesirable? Doing so provides a basis for attachment and aversion, for feelings like “I must get this unconditioned consciousness”, when there is nothing to get. Not ‘unconditioned consciousness’, not anything else, everything must be let go...

From that Wikipedia article, it seems Paul Williams really likes the soulful "true self" doctrine. Perhaps not surprising, then, that he converted to Roman Catholicism...

Just Let Go,
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby mal4mac » Thu Aug 08, 2013 9:46 am

pulga wrote:Given that whatever merit ”French Theory” has is derived from the thought of Heidegger...


Keep reading the blog. They attack Heidegger, correctly in my opinion, pointing out that his thought led him to fascism. This is part of an attack on Stephen Batchelor, who has waffled on too much about Heidegger, while making many good points on other matters...

pulga wrote:, perhaps Ven. Ñanavira who handled such ideas in a much more thoughtful and focused way...


Shame he didn't make some effort to make them clearer! I've tried reading "Clearing", but gave up, it's tougher going than Kant's first critique, or Heideggers "Being"... Why not start a thread explicating some key views of Ven. Ñanavira that go against the grain? But please avoid "French speak" and "Hypehanted-Heideggerianisms", and stick to plain English.
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby mal4mac » Thu Aug 08, 2013 9:58 am

SarathW wrote:As you all know there are many words to describe Nirvana...


No... there aren't any...

SarathW wrote:If Ven T wants to call it unestablished consciousness or unconditioned consciousness, I have no problem with that.


I have. Wittgenstein said something like, "that of which you cannot speak, you should be silent", expressing succinctly a profound philosophical view that has echoed down the ages, and that Ven T should take on board. Using phrases like 'unconditioned consciousness' is not helpful to me... and I can't see how it would be helpful to others... Bodhi doesn't use the phrase, why should Ven T? It just complicates matters, spreading confusion, at least in my mind..

But I personally like to call Nirvana as Nirvana.


That's reasonable ... you need some kind of 'pointing finger' for something that is "not this, not that, not unconditioned consciousness...'

:meditate:


Good point. I try. I blame Socrates for my inability...
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby Mr Man » Thu Aug 08, 2013 10:29 am

mal4mac wrote:I have. Wittgenstein said something like, "that of which you cannot speak, you should be silent", expressing succinctly a profound philosophical view that has echoed down the ages, and that Ven T should take on board. Using phrases like 'unconditioned consciousness' is not helpful to me... and I can't see how it would be helpful to others... Bodhi doesn't use the phrase, why should Ven T? It just complicates matters, spreading confusion, at least in my mind..



I have no idea who Wittgenstein is but possibly your quote could mean something along the lines of Don't give instructions on how to fix a car if you don't know how to fix a car. Now possibly Ven. Thanissaro is coming from a tradition where they know how to fix the car? How are you trying to understand "'unconditioned consciousness' - now at that point we could interpret ""that of which you cannot speak, you should be silent" in another way
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby mal4mac » Thu Aug 08, 2013 11:08 am

Mr Man wrote:I have no idea who Wittgenstein is...


In the UK, at least, he's generally considered one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century. The quote I made was "from memory", and probably a very rough translation/interpretation. You can find more explanation here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_Wit ... _Tractatus

The key point I was trying to make was that language has an underlying logical structure that, "provides the limits of what can be said meaningfully, and therefore the limits of what can be thought. The limits of language, for Wittgenstein, are the limits of philosophy. Much of philosophy involves attempts to say the unsayable: "what we can say at all can be said clearly", he argues. Anything beyond that—religion, ethics, aesthetics, the mystical—cannot be discussed. They are not in themselves nonsensical, but any statement about them must be."

This view is central to my world view, so Thanissaro is committing a big-no-no in my world view.... he's speaking of something mystical, "unconditioned consciousness". For me this is big enough to call into question the entire Buddhist project, as Thanissaro is a major translator of the original canon. But I quite like meditating, when I can drum up the motivation, and I like many of the principles, so I don't want to dismiss Buddhism entirely without exploring it some more. Bodhi entirely avoids speaking of 'unconditioned consciousness' in the translation of the canonical passage I have looked at, which makes him compatible with my world view. So there's still a chance of finding a 'kind of' of 'primitive' Buddhism which agrees with my world view.

Thanissaro *might* be coming from a tradition where they know how to fix the car, but so might the Pope. But just as I can't believe in the Holy Ghost, I can't believe in 'unconditioned consciousness', it's committing the major sin (in my world view) of talking of that which cannot be spoken of.

I especially admire the sutta where the Buddha refuses to speak of that which cannot be spoken of! Wittgenstein in action. That's enough to keep me inquiring into the dhamma...
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby pulga » Thu Aug 08, 2013 1:27 pm

mal4mac wrote:
Keep reading the blog. They attack Heidegger, correctly in my opinion, pointing out that his thought led him to fascism.


I don’t think it necessarily leads to fascism: Hubert Dreyfus for instance is one of the leading Heideggarians in the world today and is not only leftist in his politics, but is Jewish as well. Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Derrida, Foucault, and a whole host of other leftists have admitted their indebtedness to Heidegger. Heidegger’s ideas just need to be handled with care in the same way that the Buddha warns us of our handling of the Dhamma in his simile of the snake (Alagaddupamasutta MN22).

mal4mac wrote: I've tried reading "Clearing", but gave up, it's tougher going than Kant's first critique, or Heideggers "Being"... Why not start a thread explicating some key views of Ven. Ñanavira that go against the grain? But please avoid "French speak" and "Hypehanted-Heideggerianisms", and stick to plain English.


The difficulty in discussing Ven. Ñanavira’s ideas on a forum such as this is that one needs a thorough Phenomenological orientation in making sense of his writings. And when there are so many excellent introductions to Phenomenology available to be read, one just wonders whether it is worth the effort to have to teach Phenomenology in order to explain the Notes.

I must admit that I find Phenomenology an absolutely fascinating field of study. I can understand how both Ñanavira and Ñanamoli were drawn into its web of ideas. ( I think it was a sign of Ven. Ñanamoli’s intellectual integrity that he could discountenance his impressive understanding of the Pali Commentaries in his effort to interpret the Suttas in accordance to the insights Phenomenology had to offer.)
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby pulga » Thu Aug 08, 2013 1:43 pm

mal4mac wrote:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_Wit ... _Tractatus

"The key point I was trying to make was that language has an underlying logical structure that, "provides the limits of what can be said meaningfully, and therefore the limits of what can be thought. The limits of language, for Wittgenstein, are the limits of philosophy. Much of philosophy involves attempts to say the unsayable: "what we can say at all can be said clearly", he argues. Anything beyond that—religion, ethics, aesthetics, the mystical—cannot be discussed. They are not in themselves nonsensical, but any statement about them must be."

This view is central to my world view, so Thanissaro is committing a big-no-no in my world view.... he's speaking of something mystical, "unconditioned consciousness". For me this is big enough to call into question the entire Buddhist project, as Thanissaro is a major translator of the original canon. But I quite like meditating, when I can drum up the motivation, and I like many of the principles, so I don't want to dismiss Buddhism entirely without exploring it some more. Bodhi entirely avoids speaking of 'unconditioned consciousness' in the translation of the canonical passage I have looked at, which makes him compatible with my world view. So there's still a chance of finding a 'kind of' of 'primitive' Buddhism which agrees with my world view.


In Phenomenology the world in its presence precedes spoken language:

...imagine that I ask you to look out of the window and tell me what you see. As you look at the scene in front of you, certain features leap out as the important ones to describe. As you start to describe it, the words come to you already made. You are responding in speech to the way the world presents itself as already speakable.
[Mark Wrathall, How to Read Heidegger, chapter 8.]


...ānāpānasati bhāvetabbā vitakk'upacchedāya ('Mindfulness of breathing should be developed for the cutting-off of thoughts') (Udāna iv,1 <Ud.37>
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby Mr Man » Thu Aug 08, 2013 3:05 pm

mal4mac wrote:
The key point I was trying to make was that language has an underlying logical structure that, "provides the limits of what can be said meaningfully, and therefore the limits of what can be thought.

This view is central to my world view, so Thanissaro is committing a big-no-no in my world view.... he's speaking of something mystical, "unconditioned consciousness". For me this is big enough to call into question the entire Buddhist project, as Thanissaro is a major translator of the original canon. But I quite like meditating, when I can drum up the motivation, and I like many of the principles, so I don't want to dismiss Buddhism entirely without exploring it some more. Bodhi entirely avoids speaking of 'unconditioned consciousness' in the translation of the canonical passage I have looked at, which makes him compatible with my world view. So there's still a chance of finding a 'kind of' of 'primitive' Buddhism which agrees with my world view.

Thanissaro *might* be coming from a tradition where they know how to fix the car, but so might the Pope. But just as I can't believe in the Holy Ghost, I can't believe in 'unconditioned consciousness', it's committing the major sin (in my world view) of talking of that which cannot be spoken of.


Hi mal4mac
If one has a perception that there is "something mystical" or a perception that there is a "that which cannot be spoken of" haven't you already created an idea that equals "unconditioned consciousness" in your mind? It has been thought but not consciously verbalised.

It's not a question of believing in an 'unconditioned consciousness'. As I understand it, terms like this are used to try and verbalize/transmit that which can be known here and now.

(apologies for chopping your original post for my quote)
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby Samma » Thu Aug 08, 2013 6:38 pm

I was looking for that passage on putting aside self and not-self:
"Where you don't draw a line to define self, there's no line to define not-self. Where there's no clinging, there's no need for the strategy of not-self. So strategies of self or not-self are put aside. At this point, the mind no longer has need for any strategies at all because it has found a happiness that's truly solid. It's not a phenomenon, its a happiness. That Buddha calls it a special form of consciousness that doesn't need to be experienced though the six senses, or what he calls "the all". Its directly experienced as total freedom. And at the moment of awakening, there's no experience of the six senses. However, after the moment of awakening, when the mind returns to the experience of the senses, this sense of freedom stays."

unconditioned consciousness = special form of consciousness that doesn't need to be experienced though the six senses. Now, I'm not going to pretend to understand this, being outside of time, but I'm also not going to jump to calling it a soul or core mind.

If that is too metaphysical perhaps:
Nibbana is asankhata, “unconditioned,” because there is no further conditioning - sankhata - by hatred, greed and ignorance.

There is the Unborn, Uncreated, Unconditioned and Unformed. If there were not, there would be no escape discerned from that which is born, created, conditioned and formed. - Ud 8.3, Iti 43

Ajahn Amaro, The Island:
It is significant that, when the Buddha makes such statements as these, he uses a different Pali verb ‘to be’ than the usual one. The vast majority of uses of
the verb employ the Pali ‘hoti’; this is the ordinary type of being, implying existence in time and space: I am happy; she is a fine horse; the house is small; the days are long. In these passages just quoted, when the Buddha makes his rare
but emphatic metaphysical statements, he uses the verb ‘atthi’ instead. It still means ‘to be’ but some Buddhist scholars (notably Peter Harvey) insist that there
is a different order of being implied: that it points to a reality which transcends the customary bounds of time, space, duality and individuality.
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