Emptiness; Samsara; Reality

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation
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Dharma Atma
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Emptiness; Samsara; Reality

Postby Dharma Atma » Thu Jul 22, 2010 2:48 pm

I was always interested in such terms as Emptiness, Samsara and Reality. How they correspond to one another? I propose to discuss it from viewpoint of Theravada, for I myself being a buddhist of Dzogchen know very little of the Theravadian look at this.
Let's for the beginning discuss how correspond to one another such terms as "Samsara" and "Reality". Are they antonymes? Or maybe their correlations tend to be much more complicated?

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tiltbillings
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Re: Emptiness; Samsara; Reality

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Jul 22, 2010 5:13 pm

Please not from OP: I propose to discuss it from viewpoint of Theravada

We do not need long disquisitions on the the Mahayana or Vajrayana here. Please keep to the point of the OP.
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Dharma Atma
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Re: Emptiness; Samsara; Reality

Postby Dharma Atma » Thu Jul 22, 2010 6:05 pm

tiltbillings wrote:We do not need long disquisitions on the the Mahayana or Vajrayana here.

Joking?! Don't you find, dear sir, this phrase sounds a bit sectarian? Listen, I believe that there's no Mahayana or Theravada or something else. There's only truth or fault. For ex, if the number of planets in the Solar System is 9, then we can't say "It's Theravada" or "It's Mahayana". When we say "They are 9 in number" we pronounce "truth", not of any "Mahayana" or something else. Right?
So, if there exists any space with all the objects inside, we don't speak of Mahayana or Hinayana. No! We discuss a fact in nature or reject this fact. That's all.
And now I want to ask: is there in the Universe anything static, eternal and unchangeable? is there something real?

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Re: Emptiness; Samsara; Reality

Postby Aloka » Thu Jul 22, 2010 6:11 pm

Dharma Atma wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:We do not need long disquisitions on the the Mahayana or Vajrayana here.

Joking?! Don't you find, dear sir, this phrase sounds a bit sectarian? Listen, I believe that there's no Mahayana or Theravada or something else. There's only truth or fault. For ex, if the number of planets in the Solar System is 9, then we can't say "It's Theravada" or "It's Mahayana". When we say "They are 9 in number" we pronounce "truth", not of any "Mahayana" or something else. Right?
So, if there exists any space with all the objects inside, we don't speak of Mahayana or Hinayana. No! We discuss a fact in nature or reject this fact. That's all.
And now I want to ask: is there in the Universe anything static, eternal and unchangeable? is there something real?



" Mahayana or Hinayana" ?



.

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Re: Emptiness; Samsara; Reality

Postby Goedert » Thu Jul 22, 2010 6:13 pm

Ackowledge the mistake.

Referring to Op question.

It is difficult to assume a concept in Theravada about Ultimate reality or Final Reality. What we can find is the Doctrine of Paticcasamupada and Doctrine of Kamma and Vipaka.

Theravada promote the expirience not existence.

See this Bhikkhu Bodhi quote:

"When we investigate our experience exactly as it presents itself, we find that it is permeated by a number of critically important dualities with profound implications for the spiritual quest. The Buddha's teaching, as recorded in the Pali Suttas, fixes our attention unflinchingly upon these dualities and treats their acknowledgment as the indispensable basis for any honest search for liberating wisdom. It is precisely these antitheses — of good and evil, suffering and happiness, wisdom and ignorance — that make the quest for enlightenment and deliverance such a vitally crucial concern.

At the peak of the pairs of opposites stands the duality of the conditioned and the Unconditioned: samsara as the round of repeated birth and death wherein all is impermanent, subject to change, and liable to suffering, and Nibbana as the state of final deliverance, the unborn, ageless, and deathless. Although Nibbana, even in the early texts, is definitely cast as an ultimate reality and not merely as an ethical or psychological state, there is not the least insinuation that this reality is metaphysically indistinguishable at some profound level from its manifest opposite, samsara. To the contrary, the Buddha's repeated lesson is that samsara is the realm of suffering governed by greed, hatred, and delusion, wherein we have shed tears greater than the waters of the ocean, while Nibbana is irreversible release from samsara, to be attained by demolishing greed, hatred, and delusion, and by relinquishing all conditioned existence.

Thus the Theravada makes the antithesis of samsara and Nibbana the starting point of the entire quest for deliverance. Even more, it treats this antithesis as determinative of the final goal, which is precisely the transcendence of samsara and the attainment of liberation in Nibbana. Where Theravada differs significantly from the Mahayana schools, which also start with the duality of samsara and Nirvana, is in its refusal to regard this polarity as a mere preparatory lesson tailored for those with blunt faculties, to be eventually superseded by some higher realization of non-duality. From the standpoint of the Pali Suttas, even for the Buddha and the arahants suffering and its cessation, samsara and Nibbana, remain distinct.

Where I think the teaching of the Buddha, as preserved in the Theravada tradition, surpasses all other attempts to resolve the spiritual dilemmas of humanity is in its persistent refusal to sacrifice actuality for unity. The Buddha's Dhamma does not point us toward an all-embracing absolute in which the tensions of daily existence dissolve in metaphysical oneness or inscrutable emptiness. It points us, rather, toward actuality as the final sphere of comprehension, toward things as they really are (yathabhuta). Above all, it points us toward the Four Noble Truths of suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the way to its cessation as the liberating proclamation of things as they really are. These four truths, the Buddha declares, are noble truths, and what makes them noble truths is precisely that they are actual, undeviating, invariable (tatha, avitatha, anannatha). It is the failure to face the actuality of these truths that has caused us to wander for so long through the long course of samsara. It is by penetrating these truths exactly as they are that one can reach the true consummation of the spiritual quest: making an end to suffering"


There is an interesting quote from Karnel Wainer, in his Book Mysticism and Indian Spiritualty:

"Experience is ... the path most elaborated in early Buddhism. The doctrine on the other hand was kept low. The Buddha avoided doctrinal formulations concerning the final reality as much as possible in order to prevent his followers from resting content with minor achievements on the path in which the absence of the final experience could be substituted by conceptual understanding of the doctrine or by religious faith, a situation which sometimes occurs, in both varieties, in the context of Hindu systems of doctrine."

Sources:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ay_27.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... iness.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... iness.html

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Re: Emptiness; Samsara; Reality

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Jul 22, 2010 6:21 pm

Dharma Atma wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:We do not need long disquisitions on the the Mahayana or Vajrayana here.

Joking?! Don't you find, dear sir, this phrase sounds a bit sectarian? Listen, I believe that there's no Mahayana or Theravada or something else.
You may believe that, which is your choice, but the reality is that there are differing points of view associated with differing schools. Your opening msg made that very, very clear: I propose to discuss it from viewpoint of Theravada, All I asked is to keep the discussion focused. And so your complaint is what exactly?
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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EricJ
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Re: Emptiness; Samsara; Reality

Postby EricJ » Thu Jul 22, 2010 6:49 pm

Hi, Dharma Atma. I hope that Geoff (Nana) doesn't mind this, but I'd like to point you to his site, which covers the topic of emptiness as presented in the Pali suttas: http://emptyuniverse.110mb.com/ As far as I know, the site isn't based in the conclusions of classical Mahaviharin Theravada, but it certainly seems in line with and references the Pali suttas, which many Theravadins, along with personal experience of the Dhamma, take as the ultimate authority when arriving at conclusions about certain aspects of the Dhamma. I have found his site immensely helpful in understanding the place of emptiness within a sutta-based Theravadin practice. I especially recommend that you read his section on "Discernment."

Here are some suttas (all of which can be read online at Access to Insight) which seem to cover the question of emptiness and how we should approach "reality":

Kaccayanagotta Sutta (Samyutta Nikaya 12.15)
Assutava Sutta (Samyutta Nikaya 12.61)
Kalaka Sutta (Anguttara Nikaya 4.24)
Suñña Sutta (Samyutta Nikaya 35.85)
Mulapariyaya Sutta (Majjhima Nikaya 1)
Phena Sutta (Samyutta Nikaya 22.95)
Bahiya Sutta (Khuddaka Nikaya, Udana 1.10)

I would also recommend reading the Sutta Nipata of the Khuddaka Nikaya, which has many suttas which seem related to the experience of emptiness. Also, it seems like the works of Ven. Nanananda and Nanavira Thero are quoted a lot when talking about emptiness within the context of Theravadin practice, so, although I have no read their works in their entirety myself, I'd recommend looking in to books by these two authors.



Aside from the recommendations, I will give my interpretation. The Buddha repeatedly discouraged ontological speculation and useless philosophizing about whether phenomena outside of our range of experience (samsara experienced as the eighteen elements) are ultimately existent or nonexistent. This seems perfectly logical to me. We can't really know anything outside of our own experience until we are able to step outside of samsaric existence and directly understand (Nibbana). Samsaric existence itself is empty of self or anything pertaining to a self (that is, anything with an inherent, unchanging quality which can belong to a self). Nama-rupa are conascent samsaric experiences, and arise dependent on one another. Form can't said to be there for an "individual" unless consciousness and mental factors mediate and give the illusion of discrete, independent objects. Likewise, mental factors and consciousness cannot arise without form. With this, there is that. When this ceases, that ceases. I think this recognition of individual input in to what is taken as a discrete, objective reality is why Buddhist thought is often called phenomenological (in line with the European existentialist reorientation of philosophy towards individual experience) and I think that, for practical and soteriological purposes, it is the only "philosophizing" that we need.

Keep in mind, I haven't covered the views of classical, Mahaviharin Theravada thought, as I don't have much knowledge or experience with the tradition. I do know they have some other conclusions which I am not qualified to discuss.


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: Emptiness; Samsara; Reality

Postby Dharma Atma » Fri Jul 23, 2010 2:14 pm

Thank you, EricJ! You wrote perfectly what I wanted, your own opinion. I asked for someone's opinion but always got only quotes. When I'll have read the sources you recommended then I'll be able to discuss this theme more profound way. When I read those sutras, we'll be able to discuss it better and in terms of Theravada. But it will take time, for I have to find these texts in Russian, due to make understanding of them more clear.
Anyway, it was very interesting to read your own opinion, or "interpretation" as you said. Out of this it goes that our viewpoints are not so deep. And I can even say that I'm completely agree with the above-stated!
And what is "Mahaviharin Theravada"? Never heard of it.

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Re: Emptiness; Samsara; Reality

Postby EricJ » Sat Jul 24, 2010 3:59 am

Dharma Atma wrote:Thank you, EricJ! You wrote perfectly what I wanted, your own opinion. I asked for someone's opinion but always got only quotes. When I'll have read the sources you recommended then I'll be able to discuss this theme more profound way. When I read those sutras, we'll be able to discuss it better and in terms of Theravada. But it will take time, for I have to find these texts in Russian, due to make understanding of them more clear.
Anyway, it was very interesting to read your own opinion, or "interpretation" as you said. Out of this it goes that our viewpoints are not so deep. And I can even say that I'm completely agree with the above-stated!
And what is "Mahaviharin Theravada"? Never heard of it.
Hi, Dharma Atma. The translations on Access to Insight are fairly straightforward. There aren't that many difficult English words, and you also don't encounter many English idioms which could make the readings somewhat difficult for a person accustomed to a non-Anglophone language.

The Mahavihara was a monastery and doctrinal center of Theravada Buddhism which existed and thrived in Sri Lanka between c. 2nd century BCE and the early medieval period (the date of its destruction is still somewhat debated). The Mahavihara was the monastery where the traditional, commentarial orthodoxy of Theravada was developed. This wing of Theravadin thought reached its zenith with the works of Buddhaghosa. Mahavihara Theravadin thought (heavily reliant on the Abhidhamma Pitaka and its commentaries) has a variety of doctrines concerning the nature of dhammas which may or may not result in certain views which differ from those of various Theravadins who take the suttanta as the sole scriptural authority in matters of Dhamma. I am not really qualified to discuss these doctrines, so that's why I say "may or may not."
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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