Sectarian "pseudo-selves"

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.

Sectarian "pseudo-selves"

Postby EricJ » Sun Jul 11, 2010 8:46 am

Woot for alliterative titles. :D

I've been reading Buddhist Thought in India by Edward Conze (which I will be quoting liberally, so please forgive me). I'm not sure whether or not his scholarship is considered dated at this point in time, but I find his book very thought-provoking and informative. It certainly appeals to my speculative side, which might be a negative thing since speculative thoughts about kamma and rebirth within the context of anatta kept interrupting awareness of the breath. Luckily, I recovered quite well today and am looking forward to some serious time on the cushion for the uposatha.

This brings me to the point of my post. Conze's chapter on 'Doctrinal Disputes' among the 'Sthaviras' opens with a description of Puggalavada/Pudgalavada teachings. He explains reasoning that led this school to posit the existence of a real Self (puggala). [I have added numbers by the quotes to delineate each reason and I have omitted the reasons which don't relate to the topic I want to discuss]

Buddhist Thought in India, Part II, Chapter 2.1 wrote:1. To the Vatsiputriyas transmigration seemed inconceivable without a person...If there is no person, who then transmigrates? Who else could wander if not the person? For it is absurd to say that it is the Wandering (samsara) which wanders...

2. There are, further, in each individual a number of factors which outlast the fleeting moment...A similar reasoning [there must be an "I" which is the subject to "a number of factors which outlast the fleeting moment] may also be applied to karmic actions, and their retribution. It is the same person ["person" being puggala, the real Self] who first acts, and then reaps his reward or punishment. [kammic formations, both in terms of this life and future lives]
The non-Puggalavadin schools, and Conze himself, vehemently [and rightly, I think] rejected this self-view. However, Conze immediately moves on to another point, which is really what I want to discuss.

Buddhist Thought in India, Part II, Chapter 2.1 wrote:I sometimes suspect that their [the Puggalavadins'] main crime consisted in acting like the boy who honestly said that the emperor had no clothes on. Everyone else knew that this was so, but pretended that it was not.

The urge to deviate from the strict Abhidharma interpretation of anatta was felt in many sections of the Buddhist community, alike among Sthaviras, Mahasanghikas, and Mahayanists, and I do not see how one can avoid the conclusion that the Theravadin orthodoxy narrowed the original teaching so as to make it logically more consistent with itself. So strong indeed is the practical and theoretical need for the assumption of a permanent factor in connection with the activities of a 'person', that in addition to the Pudgalavadins other schools also felt obliged to introduce it more or less furtively in a disugised form, though the word 'self' remained taboo at all times...

Personal 'continuities' [as defined by Conze, "the activities, past, present and future, which in mutual causal interrelation, constitute a continuous and uninterrupted series, it is a stream of consciousness which remains identical with itself in spite of the perpetual change of its elements..."] perform at least two functions of 'self' in that (1) each continuity is separate from others and (2) is constantly there, though not permanent...they [Sthaviras] took great care that this chain of events, though continuously replacing constituents, should be constantly there, and that no interstices should interrupt the continous flow of causality...In order to definitely eliminate the disruptive effect of such gaps, the later Theravadins put forward the theory of 'life-continuum' (bhavanga) which is subconscous and subliminal...Likewise the Sautrantikas taught the 'continous existence of a very subtle consciousness' and also the Mahasanghikas had a basic (mula) consciousness and believed that karma matures in the subconscious mind where thought has no definite object.

The hankering after a permanent personality hardens still further when another sect, the Samkrantikas, teach that the skandhas transmigrate from one life to another. Or when the Mahisasaka distinguish three kinds of skandhas, those which are instantaneous, those which endure during one life, and those which endure until the end of samsara. Concepts like these were designed to escape from the straitjacket of the Abhidharma, and try to establish the equivalent not only of an empirical but also of a true self...

[Conze goes on to describe various consciousnesses and concepts which were proposed in various schools in order to explain in an impersonal, dhamma-centered way the issues the Puggalavadins 'explained' by proposing a person]

All these theoretical construction are attempts to combine the doctrine of 'not-self' with the almost instinctive belief in a 'self', empirical or true. The climax of this combination of the uncombinable is reached in such conceptual monstrosities as the 'store-consciousness' (alaya-vijnana) of Asanga and a minority of Yogacarins, which performs all the functions of a 'self' in a theory which almost vociferously proclaims the non-existence of such a 'self'...

It provides a substratum for the activities of a 'continuity' over some length of time, and acts as the bearer of 'psychic heredity'. In that it accounts for the cohesion between the causally interrelated moments of one 'continuity', it gives rise to the illusory notion of an 'individual' or 'person'. It also acts as a receptacle for all the seeds which will bring fruit at a future period...
I bolded the last part of this melange of excerpts because it seems like a nice summary of the reasoning behind the development of depersonalized, seemingly permanent dhammas performing the functions of supposed "selves." Mainly, it seems these schools wanted to explain the mechanism of becoming with relation to individual kamma production in the context of depersonalized samsaric existence.

One concept I find particularly confusing/strange is consciousness continuity. I have a few impressions (based on my limited knowledge) which seem to contradict the idea of consciousness continuities as separated from other khandas. I have read repeatedly that consciousness arises from the contact between sense base and sense organ. Upon death, contact ceases and therefore consciousness, with respect to one particular life/being, should cease. Consciousness continuity seems to imply that consciousness can exist without a base.

At the same time, I can see the other side of this issue based on the relationship between the nidanas. Consciousness arises as a result of sankharas, which are themselves conditioned by ignorance. In this case, the base for the arising of consciousness would be the sankharas. After consciousness, comes name and form. However, Conze, in his discussion of paticcasamupada, proposes that "what is more certain is that also the scholastics did not regard the links as merely consecutive, but as simultaneously present in one and the same experience." This seems to have some basis in the suttas.

Nalakalapiyo Sutta wrote:It is as if two sheaves of reeds were to stand leaning against one another. In the same way, from name-&-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness, from consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form...
Additionally, these 'continuities' as proposed by various schools (according to Conze) have the quality associated with self-view of being 'constantly there.' That seems to imply that consciousness is not arising or falling, just persisting. Can something truly be constantly there whenever it must be caused by something else before it can arise?

So, here are the issues I would like to address in this topic.

1) Is Conze correct in his assertion that most schools, including the Theravada (he specifically mentions bhavanga as well as the cross-sectarian notion of luminous mind as interpreted to the point of 'pseudo-selfhood'), have developed pseudo-selves?
2) If so, to what extent has the Theravada engaged in this type of speculation? How has the Theravada (both its sutta-based and Abhidhammic forms) 'answered' the questions brought up [in this topic at least] by the Puggalavadins?
3) Is consciousness continuity possible? How?
4) If consciousness continuity and pseudo-self is impossible or wrong view, what replaces it (conceptually) if anything?
5) Is the development of 'pseudo-selfhood' the natural result of trying to explain the process of kamma fruition, one of the unanswerables mentioned in the suttas?
6) Anything else you guys would like to add. :D



As a side note, after reading the 'Doctrinal Disputes' chapter, I started thinking about similes for samsara/individual kammic input which could avoid pseudo-self view. Here is what I came up with, and I'd like to know what you guys think:

Samsara/conditioned existence is a really, really complex rubix cube (conventionally, of course). Within the rubix cube, there are smaller rubix cubes (representing the conventional web of causes and conditions, of which we are a part) which are connected to and inseparable from the entire matrix. Kamma operates within this rubix cube matrix, and is this model's equivalent of the person who manipulates a rubix cube. Whenever we act in ways that produce kammic results, the rubix cube (in this case, one of the smaller rubix cubes within the matrix) is manipulated. It's face is turned this way, or that way, giving the rubix cube a new face (kammic result). At the same time, the movement of this particular rubix cube affects the entire rubix cube matrix, since everything is linked together as cause and condition. So, the smaller rubix cube (which is really not isolated from the rest of the matrix ultimately, but only by ignorant perception) acquires a new appearance. Or the rubix cube's components are shifted into various spaces within the matrix, and a new seemingly discrete, microrubix cube is formed based on the ignorant making of wholes (becoming). There was never an actual, discrete, smaller rubix cube outside of perception of it's place/appearance before it is affected. Nibbana, in my view could be a couple of different things.



Regards,
Eric
I do not want my house to be walled in on sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.- Gandhi

With persistence aroused for the highest goal's attainment, with mind unsmeared, not lazy in action, firm in effort, with steadfastness & strength arisen, wander alone like a rhinoceros.

Not neglecting seclusion, absorption, constantly living the Dhamma in line with the Dhamma, comprehending the danger in states of becoming, wander alone like a rhinoceros.
- Snp. 1.3
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Re: Sectarian "pseudo-selves"

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Jul 11, 2010 9:05 am

Greetings Eric,

EricJ wrote:1) Is Conze correct in his assertion that most schools, including the Theravada (he specifically mentions bhavanga as well as the cross-sectarian notion of luminous mind as interpreted to the point of 'pseudo-selfhood'), have developed pseudo-selves?

Well I agree with this assertion personally. The Buddha never taught this notion of bhavanga.

EricJ wrote:2) If so, to what extent has the Theravada engaged in this type of speculation? How has the Theravada (both its sutta-based and Abhidhammic forms) 'answered' the questions brought up [in this topic at least] by the Puggalavadins?

I think Theravada undertook speculation primarily for the purpose of explaining the mechanics behind kamma and transmigration... a concept the Buddha never gave a particularly detailed account of. As for "answering" the questions posed by the Puggalavadins, they do this in the Points Of Controversy. Both groups kind of "talk past each other", which is often the case when different people have different doctrinal bases.

EricJ wrote:3) Is consciousness continuity possible? How?

I don't think that thinking of "consciousness continuity" is profitable, lest we fall into Sati's error - see MN38. There is no need.

4) If consciousness continuity and pseudo-self is impossible or wrong view, what replaces it (conceptually) if anything?

Nothing. (well that would be my preference... is that what you're after?)

5) Is the development of 'pseudo-selfhood' the natural result of trying to explain the process of kamma fruition, one of the unanswerables mentioned in the suttas?

Yes. Explaining that which was never explained in the suttas somehow became more important than what was in the suttas themselves. In the process, key doctrines the Buddha taught repeatedly (i.e. anatta, dependent origination) were diminished in importance, and often misrepresented against later frameworks. Consider here Bhikkhu Bodhi's words, "I also believe that the Commentaries take unnecessary risks when they try to read back into the Suttas ideas deriving from tools of interpretation that appeared perhaps centuries after the Suttas were compiled. " (from A Critical Examination of ~Naa.naviira Thera's "A Note on Pa.ticcasamuppaada")

6) Anything else you guys would like to add. :D

Only to say that along similiar lines you might also like to read "Buddhist Sects In India" by Nalinaksha Dutt.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Sectarian "pseudo-selves"

Postby Lazy_eye » Sun Jul 11, 2010 11:58 am

EricJ wrote:One concept I find particularly confusing/strange is consciousness continuity. I have a few impressions (based on my limited knowledge) which seem to contradict the idea of consciousness continuities as separated from other khandas. I have read repeatedly that consciousness arises from the contact between sense base and sense organ. Upon death, contact ceases and therefore consciousness, with respect to one particular life/being, should cease. Consciousness continuity seems to imply that consciousness can exist without a base.


Quick question --

What about the oft-repeated objection that the formless realms demonstrate that consciousness can arise without physical form? How do the senses operate in this case, since there are no (physical) organs?

Just wondering how this works...
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Re: Sectarian "pseudo-selves"

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Jul 11, 2010 12:04 pm

Greetings Lazy Eye,

On that question, I'd recommend reading the first several posts in this topic...

On External world. Some interesting quotes
viewtopic.php?f=13&t=4936

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Sectarian "pseudo-selves"

Postby jcsuperstar » Sun Jul 11, 2010 12:09 pm

here is an interesting article about the Puggalavadins

http://www.iep.utm.edu/pudgalav/

admittedly i have always found the Puggalavadin argument a bit convincing. it's also interesting how some of their ideas have manifested in modern Thai Buddhism. I've even seen ajahn Thanissaro compared to them. it is also interesting that they were pretty much the largest school of Buddhism in India, maybe we are the unorthodox, and just by luck of history made it through the years. :juggling:
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Re: Sectarian "pseudo-selves"

Postby EricJ » Sun Jul 11, 2010 4:43 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:What about the oft-repeated objection that the formless realms demonstrate that consciousness can arise without physical form? How do the senses operate in this case, since there are no (physical) organs?

Just wondering how this works...
Well, I don't know much about the characteristics of the formless realms, but it seems that beings in the formless realms have functioning "mind organs" (although these organs are are not based in physical matter and processes), which could act as the base of consciousness.
I do not want my house to be walled in on sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.- Gandhi

With persistence aroused for the highest goal's attainment, with mind unsmeared, not lazy in action, firm in effort, with steadfastness & strength arisen, wander alone like a rhinoceros.

Not neglecting seclusion, absorption, constantly living the Dhamma in line with the Dhamma, comprehending the danger in states of becoming, wander alone like a rhinoceros.
- Snp. 1.3
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Re: Sectarian "pseudo-selves"

Postby EricJ » Sun Jul 11, 2010 4:49 pm

jcsuperstar wrote:here is an interesting article about the Puggalavadins

http://www.iep.utm.edu/pudgalav/

admittedly i have always found the Puggalavadin argument a bit convincing. it's also interesting how some of their ideas have manifested in modern Thai Buddhism. I've even seen ajahn Thanissaro compared to them. it is also interesting that they were pretty much the largest school of Buddhism in India, maybe we are the unorthodox, and just by luck of history made it through the years. :juggling:


Here's what Conze has to say...

Buddhist Thought in India, Part II, Chapter 2.1 wrote:All these arguments have the advantage of being easily understood. The Personalists seem to just reiterate the commonplace conceptions to which the ordinary wordling has become habituated. Prolonged meditation on the Dharma would, so the majority of the Buddhists believed, easily dispel their objections which would seem quite baseless on a higher level of philosophical profudnity and spiritual maturity. In that the reasoning of the Personalists makes no appreciable contribution to salvation, or to detachment from the world and its ways, we can appreciate why it was none too well received.
I do not want my house to be walled in on sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.- Gandhi

With persistence aroused for the highest goal's attainment, with mind unsmeared, not lazy in action, firm in effort, with steadfastness & strength arisen, wander alone like a rhinoceros.

Not neglecting seclusion, absorption, constantly living the Dhamma in line with the Dhamma, comprehending the danger in states of becoming, wander alone like a rhinoceros.
- Snp. 1.3
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Re: Sectarian "pseudo-selves"

Postby Kenshou » Sun Jul 11, 2010 5:30 pm

I feel like some of the scrambling around for something to classify a pseudo-self, in antiquity as in the present, is due to kind of missing the point and taking the tool of not-self out where it doesn't belong. I've never understood the teaching of the five aggregates to be necessarily talking about anything more than experience, and therefore leaving the workings of the overall process somewhat undefined. The point being that there is nothing within our experience which is constant, and so for the sake of the path, nothing that should be clung to as a self or of a self. However, as far as we know there could be something outside of our experience yet connected somehow to the process of the arising of beings, who the hell knows? But then, practice will reveal that there isn't any such mysterious thing within our experience, so from the practical Buddhist standpoint, it doesn't matter.

I'm not making any particular assertion with that line of thought, but I think anatta is sometimes drug outside of it's intended bounds. There are lots of factors in the world, we don't completely understand what the heck's going on with all that, and the dhamma isn't really trying to explain it to us.
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Re: Sectarian "pseudo-selves"

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jul 11, 2010 6:52 pm

Hi Eric,

This in an interesting issue that unfortunately is difficult for most of us to discuss due to lack of knowledge of the various abhidhammas/abhidharmas and commentaries of the early schools. It would be interesting to know the answers to questions such as the following (rather than discussion of members' opinions on the correctness or not of the views).

Were most other schools as explicit as the Theravada commentaries about the non-existence of any self anywhere?
"For there is suffering, but none who suffers;
Doing exists although there is no doer;
Extinction is but no extinguished person;
Although there is a path, there is no goer."

Visuddhimagga, XVI, 90.

Was there a lot of sympathy for the point of view that is expressed by Kenshou above and by some modern Theravada teachers (often those who dislike the Commentaries, such as Ven Thanissaro) that the Buddha only said that there was no self in the khandas, and so perhaps there is some sort of self elsewhere?

As I said, it's hard to know without being a scholar of early Buddhism.

Mike
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Re: Sectarian "pseudo-selves"

Postby Kenshou » Sun Jul 11, 2010 7:20 pm

Was there a lot of sympathy for the point of view that is expressed by Kenshou above and by some modern Theravada teachers (often those who dislike the Commentaries, such as Ven Thanissaro) that the Buddha only said that there was no self in the khandas, and so perhaps there is some sort of self elsewhere?


Well to clarify, I wasn't trying to say that. Though I think that anatta does not rule out the possibility of there being outside processes that we are not privy to which have an influence upon the larger supposed structure of birth and death, this supposed influence would be not-self just like everything else. Self designations are all artificial when you get down to it anyway. This is a fairly minor point in this discussion though, so I guess I will stop here.
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Re: Sectarian "pseudo-selves"

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jul 11, 2010 7:28 pm

Hi Kenshou,
Kenshou wrote:
Was there a lot of sympathy for the point of view that is expressed by Kenshou above and by some modern Theravada teachers (often those who dislike the Commentaries, such as Ven Thanissaro) that the Buddha only said that there was no self in the khandas, and so perhaps there is some sort of self elsewhere?


Well to clarify, I wasn't trying to say that. Though I think that anatta does not rule out the possibility of there being outside processes that we are not privy to which have an influence upon the larger supposed structure of birth and death, this supposed influence would be not-self just like everything else. Self designations are all artificial when you get down to it anyway. This is a fairly minor point in this discussion though, so I guess I will stop here.

Thanks for the clarification. As I said, I don't think it's particularly interesting if this thread turns into a discussion of "which interpretation is correct", I was just trying to point out that there are these variety of interpretations and it would be interesting to know more about how the various early schools expressed them.

Mike
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Re: Sectarian "pseudo-selves"

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jul 11, 2010 7:32 pm

Hi Eric,
EricJ wrote:1) Is Conze correct in his assertion that most schools, including the Theravada (he specifically mentions bhavanga as well as the cross-sectarian notion of luminous mind as interpreted to the point of 'pseudo-selfhood'), have developed pseudo-selves?

Would you (or someone else) like to elaborate on how Conze sees bhavanga as "pseudo-selfhood"? I recall Ven Huifeng posted some material about how bhavanga was partly an answer to how the "cessation of perception and feeling" attainment could work, which other schools dealt with using "storehouse consciousness". I'll see if I can locate that, but unfortunately it may have been an E-Sangha thread.

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Re: Sectarian "pseudo-selves"

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Jul 11, 2010 10:47 pm

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:...Ven Thanissaro) that the Buddha only said that there was no self in the khandas, and so perhaps there is some sort of self elsewhere?

Where did venerable Thanissaro make such a claim?

Thanks.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Sectarian "pseudo-selves"

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Jul 12, 2010 12:10 am

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:...Ven Thanissaro) that the Buddha only said that there was no self in the khandas, and so perhaps there is some sort of self elsewhere?

Where did venerable Thanissaro make such a claim?

Sorry, poor choice of words. What I should have said would be more along the lines:
"... the Buddha only said that there was no self in the khandas, but perhaps there is some sort of thingie elsewhere that he didn't talk about".

Ven Thanissaro clearly states that his position is different from that expressed by many others:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... tself.html
Books on Buddhism often state that the Buddha's most basic metaphysical tenet is that there is no soul or self. However, a survey of the discourses in the Pali canon — the earliest extant record of the Buddha's teachings — suggests that the Buddha taught the anatta or not-self doctrine, not as a metaphysical assertion, but as a strategy for gaining release from suffering: If one uses the concept of not-self to dis-identify oneself from all phenomena, one goes beyond the reach of all suffering & stress. As for what lies beyond suffering & stress, the Canon states that although it may be experienced, it lies beyond the range of description, and thus such descriptions as "self" or "not-self" would not apply.

In any case, it was not my intention to argue for or against any particular position. The intention was simply to provide a possible of example of how how some sort of "pseudo-self beyond the khandas", might be expressed in early Buddhism, which is the point of this thread, I think.

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Re: Sectarian "pseudo-selves"

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Jul 12, 2010 12:15 am

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:The intention was simply to provide a possible of example of how how some sort of "pseudo-self beyond the khandas", might be expressed in early Buddhism, which is the point of this thread, I think.

That's fine. I just didn't see any "pseudo-self" in Thanissaro Bhikkhu's teachings comments on the Dhamma, so was interested in clarifying what you may have seen in this space. Mind you, I've focused more on his writings on anatta than his writing on nibbana... so am speaking primarily in relation to the anatta material.

FWIW, I don't see any "pseudo-self" in the suttas either.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Sectarian "pseudo-selves"

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Jul 12, 2010 12:20 am

Here are some old discussion of Ven Thanissaro's views, by Ven Dhammanando and others:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... t=0#p12365
For example:
Dhammanando wrote:His presentation of the Dhamma is radically at variance with the Mahāvihāra Theravāda orthodoxy on several dozen minor points and three major ones. The major ones consist of his eel-wriggling interpretation of anattā as a strategy; his partial eternalist conception of nibbāna; and his failure to incorporate the Abhidhammic conception of dhammas into his exposition of wisdom-related teachings (elements, aggregates, sense-bases etc.).

Best wishes,
Grand Inquisitor Dhammanando


Which is, of course, the point of this thread. Different schools had/have different interpretations. It would be interesting to examine those different interpretations.

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Re: Sectarian "pseudo-selves"

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Jul 12, 2010 12:36 am

Greetings Mike,

Thanks for finding that. The Grand Inquisitor Dhammanando has a great sense of humour, which he has put to good effect in expounding what it objectionable about Thanissaro Bhikkhu's comments from a Mahavihara perspective.

Of course, "failure to incorporate the Abhidhammic conception of dhammas into his exposition of wisdom-related teachings (elements, aggregates, sense-bases etc.)" would in fact be seen as a positive advantage by most Buddhist schools (past and present) as well as those who give primacy to those materials accepted by Buddhist scholars as most likely representing Buddhavacana (namely, the first four nikayas of the Sutta Pitaka, with a nod-and-a-wink to the Chinese Agamas too). Again, more from Bhikkhu Bodhi... "I take as the sole ultimate authority for interpretation of the Dhamma the Buddha's discourses as found in the four main Nikaayas and in the older strata of the Khuddaka Nikaaya. I share with Ven. ~Naa.naviira the view that these books can be considered the most trustworthy record of the Buddha's teachings, and hence should be turned to as the final court of appeal for resolving questions about the correct interpretation of the Dhamma.". I agree with Bhikkhu Bodhi.

"Eel-wriggling interpretation of anattā as a strategy" would probably require a bit more detail if we were to take it any more seriously than Grand Inquisitor Dhammanando himself did. Does anattā as a "strategy" deny it as a "truth"? I don't think it does. The main point of difference vis-a-vis the Thanissaro and Sutta perspectives, in relation to the Mahavihara perspective is that the Mahavihara supposedly went as far as to extend "not-self" to a metaphysical assertion of "no self". From what I've picked up in my readings, this is probably in response to Puggalavada type views... so through opposing and discrediting one view, they went further in the other direction than the Buddha himself did. Despite accurately representing the Buddha's approach to anatta, Thanissaro Bhikkhu gets caught up in this historical sectarian cross-fire by refusing to put his stamp of approval on the metaphysical "no self" proposition. I believe he successfully draws upon Buddhavacana to explain and justify his position.

Back specifically to "pseudo-selves" for a moment, there's also concerns oftened levelled against the early Thai Forest tradition and their use of "citta" as "the one who knows".

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Sectarian "pseudo-selves"

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Jul 12, 2010 2:30 am

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote:Thanks for finding that. The Grand Inquisitor Dhammanando has a great sense of humour, which he has put to good effect in expounding what it objectionable about Thanissaro Bhikkhu's comments from a Mahavihara perspective.

Of course, "failure to incorporate the Abhidhammic conception of dhammas into his exposition of wisdom-related teachings (elements, aggregates, sense-bases etc.)" would in fact be seen as a positive advantage by most Buddhist school schools (past and present) as well as those who give primacy to those materials accepted by Buddhist scholars as most likely representing Buddhavacana (namely, the first four nikayas of the Sutta Pitaka, with a nod-and-a-wink to the Chinese Agamas too).

:jumping:
Presumably you mean: "Most Buddhist schools, apart from Theravada, ..."

Frankly, I have little interest in re-hashing arguments for or against particular points of view. This area of the Forum is presumably for discussion of the different points of view of the early Buddhist schools. Trying to prove some or all of them right or wrong would seem to me to be a pointless exercise. I think that it is more interesting to discuss what the points of view are and the nuances in what they imply.
retrofuturist wrote:"Eel-wriggling interpretation of anattā as a strategy" would probably require a bit more detail if we were to take it any more seriously than Grand Inquisitor Dhammanando himself did. Does anattā as a "strategy" deny it as a "truth"? I don't think it does. The main point of difference vis-a-vis the Thanissaro and Sutta perspectives, in relation to the Mahavihara perspective is that the Mahavihara supposedly went as far as to extend "not-self" to a metaphysical assertion of "no self". From what I've picked up in my readings, this is probably in response to Puggalavada type views... so through opposing and discrediting one view, they went further in the other direction than the Buddha himself did. Despite accurately representing the Buddha's approach to anatta, Thanissaro Bhikkhu gets caught up in this historical sectarian cross-fire by refusing to put his stamp of approval on the metaphysical "no self" proposition. I believe he successfully draws upon Buddhavacana to explain and justify his position.

Yes, clearly you and Ven Thanissaro disagree with the standard Theravada model. There is quite a lot more discussion in the thread that I linked to but perhaps on this thread we could avoid yet another debate on modern vs traditional Theravada.
retrofuturist wrote:Back specifically to "pseudo-selves" for a moment, there's also concerns oftened levelled against the early Thai Forest tradition and their use of "citta" as "the one who knows".

Yes, that's another example of the kind of thing this thread it about.

As I said, it would be useful to know how these issues were discussed by the various early schools, and what the different models imply. It would be interesting to hear what Conze says about how bhavanga is interpreted as a pseudo-self, for instance.

Mike
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Re: Sectarian "pseudo-selves"

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Jul 12, 2010 2:47 am

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:Frankly, I have little interest in re-hashing arguments for or against particular points of view.

Frankly, I have little interest in you rehashing your batallion of off-topic meta-discussion quibbles every time you post either.

So many quibbles. :(

:focus:

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Sectarian "pseudo-selves"

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Jul 12, 2010 2:53 am

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:Presumably you mean: "Most Buddhist schools, apart from Theravada, ..."

No, I meant what I said, as I said it. The Mahavihara puts itself in the position of accepting a body of work (the books of the Abhidhamma) as the word of the Buddha despite the fact no other sect, past or present, makes this claim. There is nothing in the Abhidhamma Pitaka itself that makes this claim, suggesting that it's a late sectarian comment (i.e. late Theravada, not early "pre-Mahavihara" Theravada).

Any possible "psuedo-selves" that may one may allege exist in the Pali literature have arisen through the sectarian Abhidhamma Pitaka and Mahavihara commentaries. I do not allege this personally, as I remain uncommitted to either perspective. There is nothing I have seen raised which puts any "pseudo-self" in the Sutta or VInaya Pitakas themselves, despite the Puggalavadins effort to suggest there is.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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