Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby Sylvester » Thu Jul 15, 2010 3:09 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
Lazy_eye wrote:Just for clarification, are you saying that a) there is a difference between Mahayana and Theravada perspectives, and Bhikkhu Bodhi misrepresents it, or b) there is no difference?

Hi Lazy eye,

What I am saying is that Ven. Bodhi's paper Dhamma and Non-duality misrepresents Indian Mahāyāna mādhyamaka and then proceeds to critique this misrepresentation. It's a straw man argument. It in no way represents the view of the historical Nāgārjuna, Āryadeva, Buddhapālita, Candrakīrti, or Śāntideva.




Dear Geoff

To be fair to Bhikkhu Bodhi, his assertions are based on what is generally accepted scholarship into Madhyamaka (and its closely allied sutra tradition in the Prajnaparamita). I don't think he misrepresents Nagarjuna as being a proponent of "advaya", if the Bodhicittavivarana uses that term twice (paras 46 and 99). That text has been attributed traditionally to Nagarjuna, I believe.

Now, if it is shown that Bodhicittavivarana is definitely wrongly attributed to Nagarjuna, then I suppose that it would be fair to notify Bhikkhu Bodhi that early Indian Madhyamaka is bereft of "advaya" and should therefore be excluded from the "Mahayana" rubric.

With metta

P.S. I don't think Bhikkhu Bodhi would want to be dragged into a Y & M sectarian debate, given that the Bodhicittavivarana shows obvious traces of lateness in criticising the Alaya Vijnana.
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby Nyana » Thu Jul 15, 2010 6:12 am

Lazy_eye wrote:The heart of his assertion about Mahayana is that:

The Mahayana schools, despite their great differences, concur in upholding ... the claim that there is no ultimate difference between samsara and Nirvana, defilement and purity, ignorance and enlightenment.


Are you saying this is incorrect?

Hi Lazy eye,

Firstly, we need to understand what Nāgārjuna is refuting. He is refuting the Sarvāstivāda notion that all phenomena exist in the three times (past, present, future). Here, the notion of self-nature (svabhāva) is closely related to substance (dravya) and substantial existence (dravya-sat).

For Nāgārjuna, the thesis that phenomena ultimately exist by reason of a self-nature which substantially exists is contrary to dependent arising. Whatever is dependent and contingent can’t possess an atemporal and unchanging self-nature.

Moreover, for mādhyamika-s the individuation of particulars is necessarily epistemological and has no ontological implications. Hence, they maintain that all phenomena are nominal designations (prajñapti). They are individuated by the processes of cognition and there is no reason to impute any ontological claims concerning the processes of cognition and the contents of cognition. In regard to deluded cognition (dependent arising in its forward sequence), to impute ontological claims always involves conceptual proliferation (prapañca). Awakened cognition, on the other hand, is experienced as freedom from conceptual proliferation (niṣprapañca). It is peace (śānti). Both of these terms are canonical epithets for nirvāna. Hence there is no imputation of ontological claims from the perspective of awakened cognition either.

And so “saṃsāra” and “nirvāna” are also nominal designations, i.e. there is no ontological referent for these terms. And the only non-difference with regard to saṃsāra and nirvāna is this: they are both equally empty of any truly existent nature.

Lazy_eye wrote:I ask this because when Ven. Bodhi asserts that the "validity of conventional dualities is denied", it is with reference to prajnaparamita. This seems clear to me from the passage. He is not necessarily claiming that conventional designations have no place at all in Mahayana practice -- that would be absurd.

There is no path without conventional designations. For Nāgārjuna even “emptiness” is a nominal designation. Phenomena are empty of any independent self-nature, and emptiness is merely another designation which is also empty. When designations such as “substantial existence” are abandoned then the designation of “non-existence” is meaningless. Therein all notions such as “emptiness” and “non-arising” are also abandoned as they were merely means to counter notions of substantial existence (which is seen as a cognitive error that gives rise to craving, aversion, etc.).

Lazy_eye wrote:And if they ultimately must be abandoned, ultimately they have no truth-value (validity). This is the question of relative/absolute truth, no?

Of course they have truth value – but their value is always relational and contingent upon the needs of the individual at any given time on the path. This also pertains to the notions of “relative truth” and “ultimate truth.” The entire path is a means to remedy delusion which leads to craving and unsatisfactoriness. In terms of the arahant, when one attains awakening there is no more need for the path. The raft has served its purpose, and it would be useless to carry it around on one’s head.

Lazy_eye wrote:Isn't it true that, in all Mahayana schools, "the ultimate nature of all phenomena is emptiness?"

Emptiness is also empty. To reify emptiness is said to be more problematic than reifying a self. This is because reifying emptiness can (and does) lead to conceptually minimizing the consequences of one’s actions. This has been the downfall of many.

Lazy_eye wrote:So therefore I am wondering how you would compare the standpoints of the two traditions. Is there a difference, and if so, what is that difference?

You want me to step into that cyber minefield on an internet forum? In the words of Bartleby, “I would prefer not to.”

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby Nyana » Thu Jul 15, 2010 6:32 am

Sylvester wrote:To be fair to Bhikkhu Bodhi, his assertions are based on what is generally accepted scholarship into Madhyamaka (and its closely allied sutra tradition in the Prajnaparamita). I don't think he misrepresents Nagarjuna as being a proponent of "advaya", if the Bodhicittavivarana uses that term twice (paras 46 and 99). That text has been attributed traditionally to Nagarjuna, I believe.

Now, if it is shown that Bodhicittavivarana is definitely wrongly attributed to Nagarjuna, then I suppose that it would be fair to notify Bhikkhu Bodhi that early Indian Madhyamaka is bereft of "advaya" and should therefore be excluded from the "Mahayana" rubric.

P.S. I don't think Bhikkhu Bodhi would want to be dragged into a Y & M sectarian debate, given that the Bodhicittavivarana shows obvious traces of lateness in criticising the Alaya Vijnana.

Hi Sylvester,

His critique of “all Mahāyāna schools” necessarily includes both Indian Mādhyamaka and Yogācāra since these are the two Indian schools which are the sources of all Mahāyāna exegesis. And his critique is equally problematic in regard to Yogācāra if one wishes to approach Yogācāra on its own terms. The ālayavijñāna is a deluded individual momentary continuum which ceases upon awakening. For an arahant this is the end.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby Sylvester » Thu Jul 15, 2010 7:12 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
Sylvester wrote:To be fair to Bhikkhu Bodhi, his assertions are based on what is generally accepted scholarship into Madhyamaka (and its closely allied sutra tradition in the Prajnaparamita). I don't think he misrepresents Nagarjuna as being a proponent of "advaya", if the Bodhicittavivarana uses that term twice (paras 46 and 99). That text has been attributed traditionally to Nagarjuna, I believe.

Now, if it is shown that Bodhicittavivarana is definitely wrongly attributed to Nagarjuna, then I suppose that it would be fair to notify Bhikkhu Bodhi that early Indian Madhyamaka is bereft of "advaya" and should therefore be excluded from the "Mahayana" rubric.

P.S. I don't think Bhikkhu Bodhi would want to be dragged into a Y & M sectarian debate, given that the Bodhicittavivarana shows obvious traces of lateness in criticising the Alaya Vijnana.

Hi Sylvester,

His critique of “all Mahāyāna schools” necessarily includes both Indian Mādhyamaka and Yogācāra since these are the two Indian schools which are the sources of all Mahāyāna exegesis. And his critique is equally problematic in regard to Yogācāra if one wishes to approach Yogācāra on its own terms. The ālayavijñāna is a deluded individual momentary continuum which ceases upon awakening. For an arahant this is the end.

All the best,

Geoff


Dear Geoff

Many thanks.

How do you propose that Bhikkhu Bodhi should approach Nagarjuna on the latter's own terms when he used "advaya" in not just the Bodhicittavivarana, but also in the Yuktisastika in relation to his denial of the duality of Samsara and Nirvana? Was "advaya" used metaphorically, given its occurences were in verse, where lyrical and poetic licence should be tolerated?

I can fully understand Nagarjuna's enterprise in criticising the Sarvastivadin's theories of "sarvam asti" and "svabhava" as they pertain to "dharmas". But don't you think he might have over-extended the critique by treating Samsara (the sum of infinite dharmas) to also be a "dharma" amenable to advaya? Of course, that's not to say that the error may not have been the Sarvastivadins in the first place.

And here's the troubling bit. Of all the theses attributed to the Sarvastivadins in Nagarjuna's works, some have not actually been found in the early Sarvastivadin canon still extant. Where did those come from?

With metta

P.S. I wonder if the commentators in the Atthasalini might have been cognisant of the problem with the Sarvastivadin's "svabhava" thesis, when the Theravadins counter-proposed "dhamma" to include a kamma-sadhana (object denotation) definition which defines "dhamma" as that which is "borne by its conditions". Nothing substantial, ever ephemeral.
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby PeterB » Thu Jul 15, 2010 7:27 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
PeterB wrote:Whats the point ? Really ?

Hi Peter,

The point is simply this: If one is going to critique Indian mādhyamaka then one necessarily has to do so by approaching mādhyamaka on its own terms. Failure to do so just amounts to fallacious argumentation.

This doesn't mean that one needs to refer to Nāgārjuna, et al, in order to critique post-canonical Theravāda interpretations of the Pāḷi sutta-s. Ven. K. Ñāṇananda has shown that this can be done by relying on the sutta-s themselves without reference to any later hermeneutics.

And BTW, Ven. Thrangu Rinpoche's understanding of mādhyamaka is based on a controversial 14th century Tibetan interpretation of Nāgārjuna, et al. Whatever relevance this may have within the thought-world of Tibetan Buddhism, it can't be taken as an accurate interpretation of the writings of the historical 2nd century CE Nāgārjuna, or Āryadeva, Buddhapālita, Candrakīrti, Śāntideva, etc..

All the best,

Geoff

One isnt going to critique madhyamika on its or any other terms. One isnt going to critique JP Sartre or Caitanya Mahaprabhu or Steven Hawkins either. There is more than one variety of fallacious argument.
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby Shonin » Thu Jul 15, 2010 7:56 am

tiltbillings wrote:No. If you read this with any care, you would see that I am describing this; I am describing my own experience.


Ah, apologies. I misunderstood that. However my response still applies.

Nothing can be expressed without concepts - it seems that much of the baggage attached to 'Nonduality' for you, you have brought here yourself.
Are you sure you really want to say that? So, I have to pick and choose what concepts to velcro to "non-duality" and what to leave off, but never mind how others commonly view this term. It seems it would be better all together to leave that word aside, given that it is a concept that carries way, way more than is necessary for a discussion of things from and experiences derived from the suttas.


Feel free to do so. There are many Buddhist terms that are widely misunderstood, and may require some explanation. In my experience the two most commonly misunderstood terms are 'Anatta' and 'Sunyata' (which actually mean basically the same thing as I see it). Non-duality may be similar in this regard. However, the way it is used in Mahayana (or at least Zen circles) is non-philosophical as simply as another way of describing experience which is not characterised by division into self and other ie the same way that you are using 'suchness', 'openness' etc. In some circles however - a Theravada forum for example - it may indeed cause more confusion and upset that it's worth.

And given that the Buddha did not use the word "non-duality," giving it his own definition, it would be better not to use it, given that "non-duality" is mired in all sorts of traditions and conceptual stuff that have not a thing to do with what the Buddha taught.


So rather than learn from the Buddha's skillful means of harmonisation with pre-existing conceptual/linguistic frameworks we must constrain ourselves to the conceptual frameworks that he himself used? There is an advantage of more precise use of terms perhaps, however it turns Buddhism into something rather insular - or dhamma based on imitation or purely theoretical understanding rather than true, deep understanding which can be expressed in any number of ways. An Einstein or Stephen Hawking of this world can explain theoretical physics in any number of ways. Lesser minds are forced to imitate and to teach in parrot-fashion. The Buddha communicated with everyone on terms they could understand. He wasn't constrained by attachment to particular formulations. But you can do as you prefer. And I agree that precision is valuable at times.

"Non-duality" does not have a context within the Pali suttas or the Theravadin tradition. It is a later concept that is being read backwards into the suttas and the Theravada, and such a reading is foisting the idea of "non-duality" on to the Pali sutta experience and the Theravada tradition, and it is misrepresenting the suttas and the Theravada tradition causing, as we see here sectarian strife.


I agree that we would have a basis for challenging Vedanta-like reinterpretations of Buddhism as undermining the radical nature of Buddha's vision. There are various universalists who try to do this, and some interpretations of the Yogacara school take a similar view, however as the notion of some sort of Ultimate Essence (Nondual or not) would contradict the teachings of Anatta and Sunyata, this is not compatible with the mainstream Mahayana view. And even those Mahayanists who do take a 'Vedanta-like' position, usually argue that this 'truth' was not revealed in the Pali canon but is revealed only in certain Mahayana Sutras. The only serious Vedanta-like reinterpretation of the Pali Canon that I have heard of, was a Heterodox Thai school - an offshoot of Theravada. I can try to dig up the name if you're interested.

As for 'Non-duality' in the sense of Sunyata, it is again widely seen in Mahayana that this depth of understanding was not revealed until the Mahayana sutras. Again there is no revisionism of the Pali Canon. I'm not aware of anyone who is suggesting that the Pali Canon is teaching such things as 'Samsara and Nirvana are not different'. Where is this 'foisting'?

As for whether the Pali Canon supports the idea that 'all phenomena lack an absolute self' as opposed to more narrowly 'human beings have no absolute self' or 'we don't care whether people and things have an absolute self or not, but we're going to follow a Non-Self Strategy' - these are disagreements within Theravada Buddhism itself. There is certainly enough evidence in the Nikayas for the former position for me to find persuasive.

So I don't see any kind of large-scale distortion of the Pali Canon that Bodhi seems to imply. He also misrepresents what Non-duality really means in a Mahayana context. Non-duality in this regard means the same as Sunyata/Sunna: that phenomena don't have an Atman, an absolute, unchanging or independent essence. "The validity of conventional dualities is" NOT denied. It's just that they are conventional - conventionally things are distinct but ultimately nothing stands alone and distinct and exists independently from everything else. And this can been seen from the state of Samadhi that you described: everything just 'is'. There is little or no suffering. In the midst of a glimpse of Nibbana, there is only reality, suchness, no clinging to ideas about 'Nibbana' vs 'Samsara'. Even Nibbana is not and has no Atman - this too is just this matrix of dependent arising. Conventionally Samsara is not the same as Nirvana any more than up is the same as down. But they are not distinct essences just as up and down are not. Yet this fact alone is not enough to end human suffering. It has to be experienced and cultivated. And nor is Sunyata "a metaphysical zero".

The claimed Non-dual revisionism of the Pali Canon is not occuring to any significant extent. Rather Bodhi is just using this essay to bash Vedanta and Mahayana concepts that he disagrees with. Healthy criticism can be a good thing. Intolerance can be a source of strife.
Last edited by Shonin on Thu Jul 15, 2010 8:53 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby PeterB » Thu Jul 15, 2010 8:16 am

Good for Bhikkhu Bodhi. Sometimes that's the best way. The Buddhadhamma does not happen in a debating chamber.
As my wife once noted, one of the leading current Theravadin figures once said in conversation and off the record " even the best of the Mahayana represents the gilding of the lily ". And away from joint platforms celebrating Wesak, or public forums ,it is widely known that this represents the actual default position for much of the Theravada even though its un-pc to say so.
The fact is that the default position of the Mahayana is that it contains and subsumes the Theravada.
The default position of the Theravada is that the Mahayana represents an extraneous development that has led to the arising of a different religion with some shared vocabulary.
It would be more honest and much more likely to result in genuine reproachment if that were freely acknowledged instead of an attempted shotgun marriage by those demanding to be loved.
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby Shonin » Thu Jul 15, 2010 8:48 am

PeterB wrote:As my wife once noted, one of the leading current Theravadin figures once said in conversation and off the record " even the best of the Mahayana represents the gilding of the lily ". And away from joint platforms celebrating Wesak, or public forums ,it is widely known that this represents the actual default position for much of the Theravada even though its un-pc to say so.


You should hear what Mahayanists say about Theravada!

Are these good grounds for mutual understanding and acceptance or are they good grounds for sectarian strife?
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby PeterB » Thu Jul 15, 2010 9:02 am

I spent more than 20 years hearing what the Mahayanists ACTUALLY say about the Theravada Shonin. That's how I know that most Buddhist Ecumenicism is b.s. I have heard it from both sides and I know the real situation away from Buddhist forums and good intentions..
The real hope is for an honest acknowledgment of genuine differences, and for a reaching out in friendship in the face of those differences. Not attempting to cloak them or finding a form of words that superficially satisfies everyone but actually just papers over the cracks. Its not a matter of our champion/s against his champions..that's been done to death.
The actual possibility for real reproachment lies entirely within the experiential, and I don't mean the interpretation of the experiential. But the nuts and bolts..what actually happens in Zazen..what actually happens in Vipassana how do they differ or not experientially..That way there is hope for mutual understanding. But it will need to start with throwing the books away and leaving the scholars on an allegorical island to debate until they are blue in the face while the world goes on around them.
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby Shonin » Thu Jul 15, 2010 10:49 am

PeterB wrote:The real hope is for an honest acknowledgment of genuine differences, and for a reaching out in friendship in the face of those differences. Not attempting to cloak them or finding a form of words that superficially satisfies everyone but actually just papers over the cracks. Its not a matter of our champion/s against his champions..that's been done to death.


Agreed.

PeterB wrote:The actual possibility for real reproachment lies entirely within the experiential, and I don't mean the interpretation of the experiential. But the nuts and bolts..what actually happens in Zazen..what actually happens in Vipassana how do they differ or not experientially..That way there is hope for mutual understanding. But it will need to start with throwing the books away and leaving the scholars on an allegorical island to debate until they are blue in the face while the world goes on around them.


Yes, that's what is really important. And I think that the actual practices and experiences actually have a great deal in common. Theoretical frameworks are indispensible. Arguments about which theoretical framework is the best, less so. I think a lot of Mahayana vs Theravada arguments are pointless doctrinal disagreements.

Personally, although my practice is Zen, I find the theoretical framework found in the Nikayas to be very useful. I also find many Zen teachings to be very insightful. I'm also happy to draw wisdom from secular mindfulness practices.
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Jul 15, 2010 1:58 pm

Shonin wrote: . . . .
You certainly make no compelling argument here for using "non-duality" in refereince to the Theravada and the Pali suttas. Its use even within Mahayana circles is often impercise and at times very confused and confusing.

In some circles however - a Theravada forum for example - it may indeed cause more confusion and upset that it's worth.
Which is - simply - my point. There is no reason to back read a later Mahayana construct into the earlier texts.

Non-duality in this regard means the same as Sunyata/Sunna[ta]
Śūnyatā and Suññatā as to how they are used with their respective texts are not exactly the same terms in the meanings they are conveying, which - if we are going to look at things Theravada and Mahayana - need to be understood. Also, this strikes me as a highly stripped down meaning of "non-duality."

Also, keep in mind, I am not defending Ven Bodhi's essay. I have not read it it recently and do not recall its specifics.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby Nyana » Thu Jul 15, 2010 2:16 pm

Sylvester wrote:How do you propose that Bhikkhu Bodhi should approach Nagarjuna on the latter's own terms when he used "advaya" in not just the Bodhicittavivarana, but also in the Yuktisastika in relation to his denial of the duality of Samsara and Nirvana? Was "advaya" used metaphorically, given its occurences were in verse, where lyrical and poetic licence should be tolerated?

Which verse of the Yuktiṣaṣṭika are you referring to Sylvester?
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby Sylvester » Thu Jul 15, 2010 3:17 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
Sylvester wrote:How do you propose that Bhikkhu Bodhi should approach Nagarjuna on the latter's own terms when he used "advaya" in not just the Bodhicittavivarana, but also in the Yuktisastika in relation to his denial of the duality of Samsara and Nirvana? Was "advaya" used metaphorically, given its occurences were in verse, where lyrical and poetic licence should be tolerated?

Which verse of the Yuktiṣaṣṭika are you referring to Sylvester?


Dear Geoff

Sorry, but poor expression on my part. I was inferring that advaya was intended, from his Verse 5 rejection of the bifurcation of Samsara-Nirvana and extolling the vision of the one who sees reality sees neither.

With metta
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby Nyana » Thu Jul 15, 2010 5:35 pm

Sylvester wrote:How do you propose that Bhikkhu Bodhi should approach Nagarjuna on the latter's own terms when he used "advaya" in not just the Bodhicittavivarana, but also in the Yuktisastika in relation to his denial of the duality of Samsara and Nirvana? Was "advaya" used metaphorically, given its occurences were in verse, where lyrical and poetic licence should be tolerated?

Hi Sylvester and all,

It may be worth citing a few verses from the Yuktiṣaṣṭika and see if there is any canonical support for these verses:

    4. One is not freed by existence;
    One does not transcend samsara through non-existence;
    It’s through understanding existence and non-existence
    That the great beings are liberated.

    5. Those who do not see ultimate reality
    Grasp at samsara and nirvana;
    But those who see ultimate reality possess
    No pretentions of world and its’ transcendence.

    6. Both samsara and nirvana,
    Neither of these two exists;
    The thorough understanding of cyclic existence-
    This is referred to as “nirvana.”

    35. Inasmuch as the Conquerors have stated
    Nirvana is the sole truth,
    What learned person would imagine
    That the rest is not false?

Regarding verse four, there is Ud. 3.10:

    Whatever ascetics or brahmans say that emancipation from existence is by means of existence, all of them are not liberated from existence, I say. And whatever ascetics or brahmans say that escape from existence is by means of non-existence, all of them have not escaped from existence, I say.

Regarding verses five and six, there is Dhp 385:

    For whom there is neither a far shore,
    Nor a near shore, nor both,
    Who is undistressed and unfettered,
    Him I call a Brahmin.

And Sn 1.1:

    That bhikkhu who has not found any essence in existences,
    As one searching among fig trees (does not find) a flower,
    Leaves this shore and the far shore
    As a snake leaves its old worn out skin.

Ven. Ñāṇananda comments on this verse:

    The arahant has abandoned his attachment to existence. As such, he is free from the bondage of those conjoined terms in worldly usage. So the arahant looks at the worldly usage in the same way as a snake would turn back and look at the worn-out skin he has sloughed off....

    The monk, it seems, gives up not only this shore, but the other shore as well, even as the snake sloughs off its worn out skin. That skin has served its purpose, but now it is redundant. So it is sloughed off.... The transcendence of relativity involves freedom from the duality in worldly concepts such as 'good' and 'evil'. The concept of a 'farther shore' stands relative to the concept of a 'hither shore'. The point of these discourses is to indicate that there is a freedom from worldly conceptual proliferations based on duality and relativity....

    The term orapāraṃ, too, has many connotations. It stands for the duality implicit in such usages as the 'internal' and the 'external', 'one's own' and 'another's', as well as 'this shore' and the 'farther shore'. It is compared here to the worn out skin of a snake. It is worn out by transcending the duality characteristic of linguistic usage through wisdom. Why the Buddha first hesitated to teach this Dhamma was the difficulty of making the world understand. Perhaps it was the conviction that the world could easily be misled by those limitations in the linguistic medium. We make these few observations in order to draw attention to the relativity underlying such terms as 'this shore' and the 'other shore' and to show how Nibbāna transcends even that dichotomy.

And regarding verse thirty-five, there is MN 140:

    His release, being founded on truth, does not fluctuate, for whatever is deceptive is false; Unbinding -- the undeceptive -- is true. Thus a monk so endowed is endowed with the highest determination for truth, for this -- Unbinding, the undeceptive -- is the highest noble truth.

And Sn 3.12:

    Entrenched in name and form,
    They conceive that “This is true.”

    In whatever way (worldlings) conceive it,
    It turns out other than that.
    For that is what is false about it.
    Whatever is transitory certainly has a false nature.

    But nibbāna does not have a false nature.
    That the noble ones truly know.
    Through fully comprehending the truth,
    They are without hunger, quenched.

In Nibbāna Sermon 08, Ven. Ñāṇananda comments:

    [A practitioner] will realize that, as in the case of the dumb show, he is involved with things that do not really exist. This amounts to an understanding that the factors of the name group are dependent on the form group, and vice versa. Seeing the reciprocal relationship between name-and-form, he is disinclined to dabble in concepts or gulp down a dose of prescriptions. If form is dependent on name, and name is dependent on form, both are void of essence. What is essential here, is the very understanding of essencelessness.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby EricJ » Thu Jul 15, 2010 7:19 pm

I wasn't going to participate in this thread, due to my ignorance as a beginner. However, in reading Conze's Buddhist Thought in India (which may or may not reflect accurate Buddhist scholarship; I wouldn't know since I am not an expert in these matters), I came across a few points of his which seem pertinent to this discussion.

The first kind concerns the differences between the Mahayana and the "Sthaviras" (as Conze calls the non-Mahasanghika, non-Puggalavadin early schools, including Theravada) in approaching the path.

Buddhist Thought in India, Part III, Chapter 1.3 wrote:The Mahasanghikas and Mahayanists were, in a sense, 'mystics' opposed to the 'rationalism' of the Sthaviras...

The difference was really one between the rational mysticism of the Mahayana and the mystically tinged rationalism of the Theravadins or Sarvastivadins. They had much common ground on the middle ranges of the path where the ascetic strove for emancipation in a quite rational and businesslike manner. Neither side denied that below these there was the comparative irrationality of the popular religion, and above it the super-rationality of the higher stages of the path and of the top levels of samadhi and prajna. They differed only in the emphasis which they gave to these phenomena...

The author of an interesting and valuable book on the essentially rationalistic Buddhism of Burma sees the specifically religious element in the assumption of a 'thought-defying ultimate', i.e. of 'The Immortal', or Nirvana, which 'is marked by the paradox of affirmation and negation, of sustaining faith and halting language'. When they talk so much more freely than the Sthaviras about the Absolute and its immediate approaches, we need not necessarily assume that the Mahayanists were more familiar with them. Quite possibly the Sthaviras were perfectly contented with formulating only that which could be formulated with some ease, and deliberately left the remainder to look after itself. The Mahayanists, on the other hand, regarded it as a worthwhile task to combat all possible mistaken verbal formulations of the highest and most unworldly spheres of spiritual experience...

The Mahayana writings, and in particular the Prajnaparamita Sutras, are almost exclusively concerned with the problem of the Unconditioned, nothing but the Absolute over and over again...

Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. The lengthy writings on Perfect Wisdom are one long declamation in praise of the Absolute. Everybody knows of course that nothing can usefully be said about the Absolute. This had prompted the Sthaviras to keep silent, or at least nearly silent about it. The Mahayanists, on the other hand, consider everything that might be reasonably said about it, and expressly reject it as untrue and inadequate. In any case they observe the precaution of always cancelling out each statement by another one which contradicts it. Everywhere in these writings contradiction is piled upon contradiction. Whatever is said about the Absolute gives really no sense, but, on occasions, people feel impelled to say it...
Later on, he relates this idea of expressing experiental truth through contradiction and paradox to the dialectical methods (truth arises from the struggle between opposing ideas; associated with the Marxism when applied to history) of Mahayana 'Buddhist Logic' and to the idea of "nonduality" in Mahayana, which, I think, sheds some light on what the Mahayanists think of their negations of duality, the identification of samsara and nirvana, and why Bhikkhu Bodhi's article misapprehends this teaching.

Buddhist Thought in India, Part III, Chapter 4.1 wrote:As in the case of other dialectical systems, it is, of course, the introduction of the Absolute [as opposed to investigation and expression of conventional experience] which plays havoc with the rules of formal logic. The Absolute has about the same kind of effect on logical reasoning which a vast subterranean mass of iron would have on the magnetic needle of a compass. In its apparent illogicality the Mahayana aims at working out the principles of a logic of the Absolute. Our traditional logic is adapted to a world of relatives. It must lose its bearings where the relations between the relative and the Absolute are considered, between the conditioned and the unconditioned, between the world of becoming and Nirvana. Any relation into which the Absolute enters must ipso facto become an 'absolute relation', a contradiction in terms, a thing not easy to recognize, quite different in its behaviour from what is usually called a 'relation'. There is room for surprise in this field of 'absolute relations'. The Mahayana teaches that Nirvana is the same as this world of birth-and-death, that 'the very defilements are Nirvana'. The unconditioned is identified with the conditioned, the ever-changeless with the ever-changing, the pure with the defiled, the complete with the deficient. But, and this must be borne in mind, the identity thus postulated is an absolute identity and does not exclude an absolute difference. In a logic which identifies yes and no it is only logical that the identity of the world and of emptiness should lead to their complete separateness, and vice versa. It is fairly easy to understand why an absolute difference should be equivalent to an absolute identity; as follows: Nirvana and I are absolutely different. I cannot get it, and it cannot get me. I can never find it because I am no longer there when it is found. It cannot find me, because I am not there to be found. But Nirvana, the everlasting, is there all the time. 'Suchness is everywhere the same, since all dharmas have already attained Nirvana.' What keeps me apart from it, now, in me? Nothing real at all, since the self is a mere invention. So even now, in truth, there is no real difference at all between me and Nirvana. The two are identical.
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: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Jul 15, 2010 9:34 pm

EricJ wrote: However, in reading Conze's Buddhist Thought in India (which may or may not reflect accurate Buddhist scholarship;
Conze wrote beautifully and is considered an important pioneering scholar of Buddhism, but a lot of his scholarship has been superseded by more and better information. Also, he was a perennial philosophist who believed that Buddhism taught some sort of Absolute thngie, which at times colors how he saw things. There is value in reading Conze, but he should not be taken as the last word on any particular subject.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby Nyana » Thu Jul 15, 2010 9:42 pm

EricJ wrote:However, in reading Conze's Buddhist Thought in India (which may or may not reflect accurate Buddhist scholarship; I wouldn't know since I am not an expert in these matters), I came across a few points of his which seem pertinent to this discussion.

Hi Eric,

As Tilt suggests, Conze believed that the Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra-s are referring to a monistic Absolute. Anyone well trained in the Indo-Tibetan tradition cannot support such an interpretation. Also, when approached through mādhyamaka exegesis the Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra-s are entirely coherent and any supposed paradox or contradiction is merely superficial.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Jul 15, 2010 10:06 pm

Ñāṇa wrote: Conze believed that the Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra-s are referring to a monistic Absolute. Anyone well trained in the Indo-Tibetan tradition cannot support such an interpretation. Also, when approached through mādhyamaka exegesis the Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra-s are entirely coherent and any supposed paradox or contradiction is merely superficial.
Part of the problem was, of course, that Nagarjuna studies were almost non-existent when Conze wrote the above mentioned book, with T.V.R. Murti's book being the "authorative" take on Nagarjuna. Streng's excellent, but often overlooked, book did not come out until 1967, the same year as Conze book.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby Goedert » Fri Jul 16, 2010 12:55 am

All that expirience showed to me is:

1 - Non-Duality is dangerous, because one is not liberated and one live in a world full of duality, one can misunderstand it. That kind of thing are relevent to the work of 5 agreggates on 6 senses (How one is automatically identifying expiriencies as good and bad). But actually comprehend the term non-duality don't bring realesation of what is virtuos and is non-virtuos, what qualities bring discernement and mindfullness what qualities bring them not. We live in a word of dualism, we are in samsara because of duality and we need to get a way out of it cultivating the things that bring good qualities and cessation, if we try to use the non-duality (the phenomenas have being primordialy pure understanding) term we are imagineting things, we are beliving how the thing work, so why achive nibbana?

2 - Emptiness, this is a dangerous term also, one may comprehend that wrathful, harsh and bad acts is the same as loving-kindness, gentile and good acts. The Buddha teached anatta not emptiness, suffering exist, impermence exist, sense of I exist, they doesn't exist in nibbana.

Every term used from a conditioned mind, imersed in duality, trying to comprehend or describe the comprehension of nibbana is a foolish thing to do. Even the Buddha didn't do that.

"My" experience in Tibetan Buddhism put many wrong views in the mind, I could only realese them with theravadin method. Seeing the three caracteristics of existence: Dukkha, Anicca, Anatta; The occultation of three caracteristics: Iriyapatha, Santati, Gana.

If one don't see the three caracteristics he don't have the dhamma eye. When one see it he realese many wrong views.

After, one seen the Paticcasumuppada with pancanivarana, etc. In essence one realese there is nothing mistic, nothing from another world, it is HERE and NOW.

Kind regards,
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby EricJ » Fri Jul 16, 2010 7:59 am

Tilt and Geoff,

In reading his book, I was often a little puzzled at some of his language and some parts of the book seemed contradictory. For instance, I recall one of his criticisms of Western Buddhist scholars involved the tendency of these philosophers to superimpose Western philosophical conventions on Buddhist thought. He specifically mentions the label 'monism' which some of these scholars supposedly assigned to Buddhism. However, in his chapter on 'Doctrines Common to All Mahayanists' he claims that Mahayana shares 'immanentist' points-of-view with Christian mysticism, Sufism, and Vedanta. I can't help but wonder if he included these types of comparisons to keep his descriptions in line with one of the stated purposes of his book: expressing Buddhist thought in the terminologies and bases of Western philosophical tradition.

However, I still feel as if the passages I quoted are relevant to this topic and clearly demonstrate what is wrong with Bhikkhu Bodhi's essay on Mahayana/Madhyamaka thought. These passages certainly helped me clarify some concepts. I think that if we were to replace the word 'Absolute' with 'the experience of enlightenment' or 'Nibbana,' some of the monistic overtones disappear and we are left with a very clear understanding of what is meant by Madhyamika nonduality and the identification of samsara with Nibbana. I think [perhaps erroneously] that this identification of samsara with Nirvana is an attempt to talk about how enlightened beings experience Nibbana and how enlightened beings experience a world which is samsara for the unenlightened, as opposed to an absolute identification of the two as Bhikkhu Bodhi and many non-Mahayanists claim. Conze seems to be saying that the Mahayana/Madhyamaka believes that enlightened beings don't experience, define or 'think of' Nibbana as a duality between the experiences of samsara and enlightenment. I also found an aspect of this idea in a later part of his book, in which he claims that the tradition of Mahayana Buddhist Logic defined words as characterizations of conventional experience based on the exclusion of all that is not that word. Words are based on papanca. Nibbana is not experienced as everything that is not Nibbana, and it is certainly not experienced through the obscurations of papanca. Rather, it is experienced as it is, without reference to the conventional experience of samsara which could act as an oppositional concept. We can't say that the enlightened experience samsara, because that contradicts the truth of their enlightenment. Nor can we say that the enlightened even 'experience' Nibbana, because Nibbana is not an object which can be 'had' or 'experienced' by a falsely reified self.

This is my interpretation of Conze's views and of Madhyamaka. I don't know if this is correct or not. Personally, as a highly unenlightened being, I am content to let the enlightened be enlightened without trying to describe an experience I have never 'had' with words I get from others.
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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