Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby socratessmith » Thu Aug 08, 2013 7:06 pm

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.


Of course, Samma: classic eel-wriggling (aka obfuscation).
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby Samma » Thu Aug 08, 2013 7:51 pm

Faith in an eternal dualist atman is one thing. I don't think he would agree with that or that buddhism is the same as vedanta or jainism as its core. And I would suggest being careful about putting words in someone elses mouth. A special form of consciousness/dimension is another thing. I'm not convinced they are the same. But hey, its up to the individual if they see this as a distinction without a difference. What is of substance here is how to interpret the texts, and if you believe it or not, that is up to you and your experience.
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby Anagarika » Thu Aug 08, 2013 11:20 pm

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.


Samma, this is helpful. Thank you. It gets me to a closer understanding of why Ven. Thanissaro speaks of this as the "not-self strategy." It's not a thing, an object, or a "soul;" it's a strategy or device for understanding what is not easily expressible in conventional time/space terms.
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby chownah » Fri Aug 09, 2013 3:21 am

There have been enlightened people I guess.....and those enlightened people could walk and talk and basically navigate the same world we live in I guess.....and they are aware of their surroundings I guess.....so they must have been conscious I guess...so there must have been some consciousness happening I guess.....and they have attained nibanna I guess......so.....is their consciousness of the same type as mine or might we say that my consciousness is conditioned in that fit arises relative to dependent origination and might we say that the Arahant's consciousness is unconditioned in that it does not arise relative to anything?

Seems too simple......my guessing must be wrong......please show me where.
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby SarathW » Fri Aug 09, 2013 3:34 am

The way I understand the consciousness will arise only with the five aggregate.
Even Deva and Peta are the result of one or more of the five aggregates.
The way I understand that Arhants do not have a consciousness after Parinibbana.
But it is wrong to say that Arahant exist or not exist.
:shrug:
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby Sylvester » Fri Aug 09, 2013 4:05 am

Samma wrote:I was looking for that passage on putting aside self and not-self:

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.



Tsk, tsk, tsk, tsk tsk. :rolleye:

Were this logic to hold true, it would entail by necessity the existence of defilements that transcend space and time and individuality. Witness -

Kathañca bhikkhave bhikkhu dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati?

1. Idha bhikkhave bhikkhu dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati pañcasu nīvaraṇesu. Kathañca bhikkhave bhikkhu dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati pañcasu nīvaraṇesu?

Idha bhikkhave bhikkhu santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ kāmacchandaṃ 'atthi me ajjhattaṃ kāmacchando'ti pajānāti. Asantaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ kāmacchandaṃ 'natthi me ajjhattaṃ kāmacchando'ti pajānāti. Yathā ca anuppannassa kāmacchandassa uppādo hoti, tañca pajānāti. Yathā ca uppannassa kāmacchandassa pahānaṃ hoti, tañca pajānāti. Yathā ca pahīnassa kāmacchandassa āyatiṃ anuppādo hoti, tañca pajānāti.(1) etc etc for the other hindrances

And how does a monk remain focused on mental qualities in & of themselves?

[1] "There is the case where a monk remains focused on mental qualities in & of themselves with reference to the five hindrances. And how does a monk remain focused on mental qualities in & of themselves with reference to the five hindrances? There is the case where, there being sensual desire present within, a monk discerns that 'There is sensual desire present within me.' Or, there being no sensual desire present within, he discerns that 'There is no sensual desire present within me.' He discerns how there is the arising of unarisen sensual desire. And he discerns how there is the abandoning of sensual desire once it has arisen. And he discerns how there is no future arising of sensual desire that has been abandoned. (The same formula is repeated for the remaining hindrances: ill will, sloth & drowsiness, restlessness & anxiety, and uncertainty.)

MN 10, among others.


Santa = present participle of atthi.

Sometimes, I just wish otherwise good monks do not volunteer themselves for such silliness. Basic Pali grammar would tell you just how flawed this argument is, and a basic knowledge of the Chandogya Upanisad would tell you the source of this fascination with those "as" root words such as Sat and asti that serve as metaphysical well-springs for the happily ever after.
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby mal4mac » Fri Aug 09, 2013 8:32 am

Samma wrote: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... 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...


Where, and from whom, does that passage come from? It seeems, rather obviously, non-sensical to me. The author does away with the self by merging it with non-self, so far so good. But then he immediately brings back the self in the form of mind! This seems a very good example of the obfuscations and falsities that occur when trying to talk about mystical experiences.

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 you don't understand it why do you use it? Why spread confusion? I agree that you shouldn't then make matters even worse by calling this 'thing beyond understanding' a soul.

If that is too metaphysical perhaps:


It's not "too metaphysical", it's nonsense.

Nibbana is asankhata, “unconditioned,” because there is no further conditioning - sankhata - by hatred, greed and ignorance.


That seems fine, although, to my ignorant mind, it perhaps needs unpacking a bit. Are you just using the word Nibbana to point to "what you get at the end of the path, when you have let go of all perceptions?"

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


Isn't Nibbana born when you let go of everything? OK I'm being a bit obtuse here, I guess Unborn means "not born in a chain of dependent origination, but born in the sense of 'coming about'". So Ud 8.3 is (perhaps) correct in meaning, but why use this language? it just obfuscates matters.

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.


So the above translates to "There is-in-another-reality the born-that-is-Unborn-in-this-reality..." Ouch! Too many dark nights in Sunderland methinks... gotta find some way to pass the time... why not indulge in some *really* obscure metaphysics based on a really obtuse reading of the Buddha. (Thanks Samma, you just saved me £20, I was thinking of buying his book... )
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby mal4mac » Fri Aug 09, 2013 8:51 am

Samma wrote:Faith in an eternal dualist atman is one thing. I don't think he would agree with that...


Of course he wouldn't agree with a sentence using Brahmanic terminology! But if it quacks like a duck...
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby mal4mac » Fri Aug 09, 2013 9:07 am

SarathW wrote:The way I understand that Arhants do not have a consciousness after Parinibbana.


Surely they must be conscious of things like food & stumps? They still eat, and (hopefully) don't bump into things. Can Arhants be conscious but not suffer from the demands of consciousness?
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby Samma » Fri Aug 09, 2013 12:13 pm

Peter Harvey mentions hoti/atthi on p.240-1 of The Self Less Mind for those of interest. Sylvester I take it you see Thanissaro as mistranslating and somewhat mistaken, but pali grammar is too far down in the weeds for me. http://books.google.com/books?id=rcNdDilzilMC

mal4mac considering this is on nature of nibbana, not being qualified to talk about that, best I remain silent and not spread confusion eh. But in the spirit of open conversation, I'll make some comments. Passage is from Thanissaro's selves and not-self. Why would mind necessitate self - repeatedly consciousness is referred to as not-self. I take it you would consider a lot in the pali cannon nonsense and confusion, not that I would necessarily disagree. Amaro's The Island is a free ebook anyway. Yes, the accusations of soul/atman seemed absurd on the face of it. So it requires a strong case, which I am just not seeing. Notably missing is talk of what soul/atman means (according to what?). Perhaps looking at that differences become noticeable, but if different enough is left up to you of course. Parinibbana means after death.
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby Mr Man » Fri Aug 09, 2013 12:25 pm

mal4mac wrote:
SarathW wrote:The way I understand that Arhants do not have a consciousness after Parinibbana.


Surely they must be conscious of things like food & stumps? They still eat, and (hopefully) don't bump into things. Can Arhants be conscious but not suffer from the demands of consciousness?


Parinibbāna = death
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby Sylvester » Fri Aug 09, 2013 1:04 pm

Samma wrote:Peter Harvey mentions hoti/atthi on p.240-1 of The Self Less Mind for those of interest. Sylvester I take it you see Thanissaro as mistranslating and somewhat mistaken, but pali grammar is too far down in the weeds for me. http://books.google.com/books?id=rcNdDilzilMC



Having read Prof Harvey's argument, respectfully, I would say that it falls on the same bed of nails as the defilements that atthi as Selfless, unsupported, and conditioned dhammas. His argument -

Nibbāna is said to 'exist (atthi)' (Ud.80), but 'hoti' is never applied to it.


does not makes sense in view of the function of hoti as a copula (is). When nominal sentences are constructed, you do not expect to see hoti pop up, since the early layer of Pali is generally zero-copula. This means that the hoti is there, simply unverbalised. You see an example here from Dh 203 -

nibbāṇaparamaṃ sukhaṃ

Nibbāna is the highest happiness.


The hoti is in there. Secondly, his point about atthi in Ud 80 misconstrues a point about the syntax. When atthi is placed right at the fore of the sentence, instead of the tail, it does not mean "Nibbāna exists". It means "There exists Nibbāna which is.....". I'm told that this sort of syntax is employed in Indian argument to make ontic commitments about things, rather than the ontological status of how they "are".

I think Ven T is misinterpreting, since his translation is good and makes sense, if the interpretation were correct.
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby mal4mac » Fri Aug 09, 2013 1:23 pm

Mr Man wrote:Parinibbāna = death


Oops! Thanks for keeping me straight. Like Shakespeare, I have little Latin, and less Pali :)

Then again, isn't parinibbana another "term too many", another term that propagates metaphysical obfuscation? How can we know what happens to a arahat after he dies? The living arahat can say he's in a state he's never experienced before, a state we might reach through following N8P, and call that state nibbana, but he can't say 'I'm in a state like nibbana, let's call it parinibbana' , 'cause he's dead (!)
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby Mr Man » Fri Aug 09, 2013 1:44 pm

mal4mac wrote:
Mr Man wrote:Parinibbāna = death


Oops! Thanks for keeping me straight. Like Shakespeare, I have little Latin, and less Pali :)

Then again, isn't parinibbana another "term too many", another term that propagates metaphysical obfuscation? How can we know what happens to a arahat after he dies? The living arahat can say he's in a state he's never experienced before, a state we might reach through following N8P, and call that state nibbana, but he can't say 'I'm in a state like nibbana, let's call it parinibbana' , 'cause he's dead (!)


It is just the death of an arahant. Not something to be conceived. Where is the metaphysical obfuscation?
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby mal4mac » Fri Aug 09, 2013 1:54 pm

Samma wrote:mal4mac ... Why would mind necessitate self - repeatedly consciousness is referred to as not-self.


If mind/consciousness is "let go of", because it is not-self, then how can you say "the mind no longer has need for any strategies at all because it has found a happiness...". You let mind go! How can it find 'a happiness'... and shouldn't any kind of happiness... even "a-mystical-super-happiness..." have been let go of as well?
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby Sylvester » Fri Aug 09, 2013 2:22 pm

mal4mac wrote:
Mr Man wrote:Parinibbāna = death


Oops! Thanks for keeping me straight. Like Shakespeare, I have little Latin, and less Pali :)

Then again, isn't parinibbana another "term too many", another term that propagates metaphysical obfuscation? How can we know what happens to a arahat after he dies? The living arahat can say he's in a state he's never experienced before, a state we might reach through following N8P, and call that state nibbana, but he can't say 'I'm in a state like nibbana, let's call it parinibbana' , 'cause he's dead (!)


To add to the complexity - viewtopic.php?f=16&t=14143&start=40#p209545
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby pulga » Fri Aug 09, 2013 2:25 pm

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.


Warder makes a similar distinction between the verbs as and in his Introduction to Pali. (cf. pgs 30-31)
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby daverupa » Fri Aug 09, 2013 2:37 pm

There may be a pertinent discussion on these points in Chapter Six of Andries Breunis' The Nominal Sentence in Sanskrit and Middle Indo-Aryan.

Probably some of these posts should hive off into the Pali subforum...
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby pulga » Fri Aug 09, 2013 3:09 pm

In the Suttas the present -- which is described as the manifestation of pancakhandha -- exists, the past and future do not exist (cf. Ánandasutta SN 22.38). But note the plasticity of the present, i.e. the thickness it has depending upon what is manifest (the 'present' moment, the 'present' minute, the 'present' hour, etc.). We're dealing with different orders of being. The present which transcends time is that of a higher order than the temporal parts that constitute it, and while the past and the future cannot be said to exist as particulars they get a footing in existence by being a part of something else - another set of pancakhandha - of just that higher order: a part to whole relationship. The present always exists: even when dealing with particulars within time, the present is equiprimordial with the past and the future: the present is "real", the past and future "imaginary" . And of course any whole is a part of something else of a yet higher order.

Thus there is an inherent transcendency that is inescapable in any experience, be it that of a puthujjana or of an arahat. But this transcendency does not imply a self - a subject – because although it is infinite its existence is founded upon the existence of a lived moment, i.e. the existence of the whole is dependent upon the existence of one of its parts -- the part present through what the Suttas refer to as phassa or contact.

If we take consciousness to be the presence of a thing, this is where Ven. Thanissaro's "unestablished consciousness" becomes superfluous to the Buddha's teaching of anatta. And I might add where the teaching becomes much closer to our own verifiable experience.
Last edited by pulga on Fri Aug 09, 2013 5:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Postby socratessmith » Fri Aug 09, 2013 3:17 pm

Jeebus Crikes, all of this text citation. All of these minute details. All of this classical Buddhist eel-wriggling. This rubric from Cruel Theory | Sublime Practice may be useful. I assume most of you will cry "too obscure!" or "too French!" or whatever. But maybe one or two of you will see the merit of the basic contention, and be thereby helped. (And before you accuse me of sour grapes: I am fluent in reading Pali.)

Exemplificative braggadocio. Also known as the x-buddhistic “detail fetish.” It refers to a form of behavior. It is a manner of argumentation in which minute details about x-buddhism are made load-bearing structures in arguments about various facets of reality. X-buddhist exemplificative braggadocio is a primary manifestation of x-buddhist faith in the principle of sufficient Buddhism. It is the way of x-buddhist commentators to cite as evidence for their position an example: sutta/sutra/tantra-a-b-c maintains x, y, z; buddhistic-school/teacher-a-b-c maintains x, y, z, etc. I could add, without exaggeration, that they cite their examples ad infinitum. For, exemplification is an essential feature of dharmic discourse. Given the long history and vast cultural-geographic range of the dispensation, there is virtually no end to the x-buddhists’ salvo of dharmic exemplification. That is why I say that x-buddhism is a world-conquering juggernaut from which nothing can escape: there is nothing under the sun for which x-buddhism cannot provide an example. The examples it proffers, moreover, derived as they are from buddhistic decision, ensure that “x-buddhist” names a person who, as Ray Brassier says of philosophers, “views everything (terms and relations) from above.” Like Wittgenstein his slabs and Heidegger his hammer, the x-buddhist is entranced by his examples.

Contrary to x-buddhism, non-buddhism sees the perpetual crowing of dharmic exemplification not as the specular instantiations of reality that those examples are meant to demonstrate (concerning mind, matter, consciousness, perception, sensation, etc.) but rather as symptomatic displays in need of analysis. It is, in fact, via an analysis of buddhistic exemplification that I arrived at my specific adaptation of Laruelle’s axiom of decision in relation to x-buddhism. Endless dharmic exemplification presents the most rigorous basis for the operation of decisional circularity, or what Laruelle calls “auto-position” (specularity), in all of x-buddhism. It is worth repeating Brassier again in this regard:

"[d]ecisional specularity ensures the world remains [x-buddhism’s] mirror. [Buddhistically theorizing] the world becomes a pretext for [x-buddhism’s] own interminable self-interpretation. And since interpretation is a function of talent rather than rigor, the plurality of mutually incompatible yet unfalsifiable interpretations merely perpetuates the uncircumscribable ubiquity of [x-buddhism’s] auto-encompassing specularity. Absolute specularity breeds infinite interpretation—such is the norm for the [x-buddhist] practice of thought." (26-27)

The illuminating irony of x-buddhists’ citing diverse examples to other x-buddhists is that, from a non-buddhist perspective, they are only exhibiting—meta-exemplifying!—the unity of buddhistic syntax. Doing so is all the more illuminating because their examples are not, as they purport to be, examples from and of reality, but from and of x-buddhism itself, and only itself.
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