Did Ajahn Chah teach eternal citta or otherwise eternalism?

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Sam Vara
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Re: Did Ajahn Chah teach eternal citta or otherwise eternalism?

Post by Sam Vara »

Spiny Norman wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 1:15 pm
What's always present is the brain/CNS, a sentient biological process. Nothing mysterious about that.
I looked at the Wiki article on bhavanga, but it seems inconclusive to me - a type of citta?
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhavanga
The brain is "sentient" in the sense of being the necessary condition for awareness or knowing; but that doesn't mean that anything is aware or knows. There are no experiences during deep sleep. The brain doesn't have an experience of hearing a sound, and then decides to wake you up. There isn't a little homunculus in our mind which is conscious when we are not, any more than your phone is conscious of time passing and deciding to bleep when you set an alarm. When we don't know or are not aware, why would we talk of our brain doing these things? What sort of awareness is it when we are not aware of it?

Bhavanga could of course be a mental process, but it's not a conscious one. It's "the knower" being there which is puzzling, not that there are other processes, either mental or physical.
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Re: Did Ajahn Chah teach eternal citta or otherwise eternalism?

Post by Spiny Norman »

The brain having an "experience" of sound and then waking you up is exactly what does happen. It's really a survival response, alerting you to possible threats.
Though as mentioned earlier, I'd prefer to talk about the brain having awareness of sound while we're asleep.

Note that the sutta model of consciousness simply doesn't work in this scenario, since it only deals with waking consciousness.
It can't handle what happens while we're asleep, nor can it handle what the brain and mind get up to beneath the surface layer.
In other words, the sutta model of consciousness only has limited application. Its not designed to be comprehensive.

This is probably part of the reason that the Abhidhamma introduced the concept of bhavanga.
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Re: Did Ajahn Chah teach eternal citta or otherwise eternalism?

Post by DNS »

The quotes from Ajahn Gavesako are helpful, but it's still kind of vague. Ajahn Chah clearly said "no-self" however, he answers in the affirmative about a "primal self" and a "knower."

So what's the verdict? Do you guys think he did teach a subtle-self? A primal self, it's just that it is impermanent?
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Re: Did Ajahn Chah teach eternal citta or otherwise eternalism?

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The human mind, the mind which the Buddha exhorted us to know and investigate, is something we can only know by its activity. The true ‘original mind’ has nothing to measure it by, there’s nothing you can know it by. In its natural state it is unshaken, unmoving. When happiness arises all that happens is that this mind gets lost in a mental impression; there is movement. When the mind moves like this, clinging and attachment to those things come into being.
The purpose of the practice, then, is to seek inwardly, searching and investigating until you reach the original mind. The original mind is also known as the pure mind. The pure mind is the mind without attachment. It doesn’t get affected by mind-objects. In other words, it doesn’t chase after the different kinds of pleasant and unpleasant mind-objects. Rather, the mind is in a state of continuous knowing and wakefulness - thoroughly mindful of all it is experiencing.

When the mind is like this, no pleasant or unpleasant mind-objects it experiences will be able to disturb it. The mind doesn’t ‘become’ anything. In other words, nothing can shake it. Why? Because there is awareness. The mind knows itself as pure. It has evolved its own, true independence; it has reached its original state. How is it able to bring this original state into existence? Through the faculty of mindfulness, wisely reflecting and seeing that all things are merely conditions arising out of the influence of elements, without any individual being controlling them.

This is how it is with the happiness and suffering we experience. When these mental states arise, they are just ‘happiness’ and ‘suffering’. There is no owner of the happiness. The mind is not the owner of the suffering - mental states do not belong to the mind. Look at it for yourself. In reality these are not affairs of the mind, they are separate and distinct. Happiness is just the state of happiness; suffering is just the state of suffering. You are merely the knower of these. In the past, because the roots of greed, hatred and delusion already existed in the mind, whenever you caught sight of the slightest pleasant or unpleasant mind-object, the mind would react immediately - you would take hold of it and have to experience either happiness or suffering. You would be continuously indulging in states of happiness and suffering. That’s the way it is as long as the mind doesn’t know itself - as long as it’s not bright and illuminated. The mind is not free. It is influenced by whatever mind-objects it experiences. In other words, it is without a refuge, unable to truly depend on itself. You receive a pleasant mental impression and get into a good mood. The mind forgets itself.

In contrast, the original mind is beyond good and bad. This is the original nature of the mind. If you feel happy over experiencing a pleasant mind-object, that is delusion. If you feel unhappy over experiencing an unpleasant mind-object, that is delusion. Unpleasant mind-objects make you suffer and pleasant ones make you happy - this is the world. Mind-objects come with the world. They are the world. They give rise to happiness and suffering, good and evil, and everything that is subject to impermanence and uncertainty. When you separate from the original mind, everything becomes uncertain - there is just unending birth and death, uncertainty and apprehensiveness, suffering and hardship, without any way of halting it or bringing it to cessation. This is vatta.
Ajahn Chah is talking about the luminous mind and that is all. No more no less.
"Luminous, monks, is the mind.[1] And it is defiled by incoming defilements." {I,v,9}

"Luminous, monks, is the mind. And it is freed from incoming defilements." {I,v,10}

"Luminous, monks, is the mind. And it is defiled by incoming defilements. The uninstructed run-of-the-mill person doesn't discern that as it actually is present, which is why I tell you that — for the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person — there is no development of the mind." {I,vi,1}

"Luminous, monks, is the mind. And it is freed from incoming defilements. The well-instructed disciple of the noble ones discerns that as it actually is present, which is why I tell you that — for the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones — there is development of the mind." {I,vi,2}
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html

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Re: Did Ajahn Chah teach eternal citta or otherwise eternalism?

Post by zan »

Sabbe_Dhamma_Anatta wrote: Fri Nov 20, 2020 11:10 pm
form wrote: Fri Nov 20, 2020 12:04 am ...
...
When Ananda asked the Buddha is there is consciousness after Nibanna, the Buddha replied yes. Chah is talking about the same thing.



Would you please kindly illuminate me which sutta/s? Thanks.


:heart:
He's talking about a sutta where the Buddha is discussing arahataphalasamadhi or something similar. The sutta absolutely does not state that they're discussing parinibbana or nibbana after death. This is what Bhikkhu Sujato terms "sleight of hand": implying a discussion about nibbana is actually discussing parinibbana. There is no such sutta, as seems to be referenced, where parinibbana is stated to be consciousness after death.

We all agree an arahant has consciousness while alive lol! And nibbana is experienced by living, conscious arahants and stream winners, etc. So this is a moot point. We'd need a sutta stating that consciousness exists after the death of an arahant to demonstrate anything that would disprove the commentarial position, and no such sutta exists.
Last edited by zan on Sun Nov 22, 2020 5:50 pm, edited 2 times in total.
I am just a learner. Keep that in mind when you read my words.

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Re: Did Ajahn Chah teach eternal citta or otherwise eternalism?

Post by Sabbe_Dhamma_Anatta »

DNS wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 5:04 pm The quotes from Ajahn Gavesako are helpful, but it's still kind of vague. Ajahn Chah clearly said "no-self" however, he answers in the affirmative about a "primal self" and a "knower."

So what's the verdict? Do you guys think he did teach a subtle-self? A primal self, it's just that it is impermanent?

No.
None.
He was just in need of Classical Framwork to explain personal experiential things properly, imo.


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Re: Did Ajahn Chah teach eternal citta or otherwise eternalism?

Post by Sam Vara »

Spiny Norman wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 4:35 pm The brain having an "experience" of sound and then waking you up is exactly what does happen. It's really a survival response, alerting you to possible threats.
Though as mentioned earlier, I'd prefer to talk about the brain having awareness of sound while we're asleep.
The brain responds to stimuli, in the same way that a light or movement sensor responds to stimuli. Waking you up means that an experience happens, and awareness arises. I don't think it makes sense to talk of the brain in deep sleep being aware or having experiences. I understand the mechanism about threats, etc., but before the brain gives rise to consciousness, there is no subjective experience, no qualia. The issue here is not whether the brain (or some other thing) does that; it clearly does. The issue is whether that mechanism involves "the knower", experience, or awareness, prior to, and as a cause of, the waking up.

Given that we can't recall any such knowing, awareness, experience, etc., prior to being awakened; and given that we couldn't say what it was like (all experiences are in some respect like another experience, aren't they?) then why does this involve "the knower" or awareness, rather than something we might want to call "the insentient doer" or "physical process"? Saying the brain has awareness or experiences when we are unconsciously asleep is a metaphor. Like saying that the computer knows how to find files, or your phone is aware of how much charge it holds, or trees knowing when to drop their leaves. These, like the brain when unconscious, might be a form of "knowing", but they are all devoid of sentience, subjectivity, and the quality of being aware of experiences.

This is what makes Ajahn Chah's account problematic. Not the fact that there is some persisting substrate (bhavanga, or whatever we want to call it) which accounts for apparent personal continuity between periods of consciousness. Of course there is that. It's the apparent equating of this substrate or process with "the knower". If we don't know during sleep, why account for the persistence with a claim that a special sort of "knowing" fills in the gaps, rather than an insentient process?
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Re: Did Ajahn Chah teach eternal citta or otherwise eternalism?

Post by zan »

Sabbe_Dhamma_Anatta wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 5:50 pm
DNS wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 5:04 pm The quotes from Ajahn Gavesako are helpful, but it's still kind of vague. Ajahn Chah clearly said "no-self" however, he answers in the affirmative about a "primal self" and a "knower."

So what's the verdict? Do you guys think he did teach a subtle-self? A primal self, it's just that it is impermanent?

No.
None.
He was just in need of Classical Framwork to explain personal experiential things properly, imo.


:heart:
I agree from what little I know. I'm basing this on the quote from my op, which seems to rule out the common misapprehension of terms like "original mind" or "luminous mind" and one provided by Bodom (explained below) and everything else I've heard about Ajahn Chah.

That said, obviously I don't know for sure! Hence this thread.
Through the faculty of mindfulness, wisely reflecting and seeing that all things are merely conditions arising out of the influence of elements, without any individual being controlling them.
-Ajahn Chah
He's nearly quoting the commentaries there it seems:

...the Ancients said:

There is no doer of a deed
Or one who reaps the deed’s result;
Phenomena alone flow on—
No other view than this is right.

-Vism XIX.20
That said, I share DNS hesitancy in assuming he didn't teach eternalism, or a temporary self, because of these "primal self" and other statements. But, then, maybe Ajahn Chah would have responded the same as the op quote to questions about these terms, too?
Last edited by zan on Sun Nov 22, 2020 6:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
I am just a learner. Keep that in mind when you read my words.

Just to be safe, assume all of my words could be incorrect. Look to an arahant for total accuracy and confirmation.
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Re: Did Ajahn Chah teach eternal citta or otherwise eternalism?

Post by Sam Vara »

DNS wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 5:04 pm The quotes from Ajahn Gavesako are helpful, but it's still kind of vague. Ajahn Chah clearly said "no-self" however, he answers in the affirmative about a "primal self" and a "knower."

So what's the verdict? Do you guys think he did teach a subtle-self? A primal self, it's just that it is impermanent?
As I suggested earlier, it's probably a bit hopeful to expect something like doctrine or a considered, well worked-out position from a Q&A session. Ajahn certainly takes pains to point out that what he is talking about is emphatically not a self. But he does seem to be talking about a persistent (or maybe timeless?) consciousness or awareness, as opposed to an object of that consciousness or awareness. Whether we would want to call such a thing a "self" is, of course, another matter entirely.
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Re: Did Ajahn Chah teach eternal citta or otherwise eternalism?

Post by zan »

Sam Vara wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 6:01 pm
DNS wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 5:04 pm The quotes from Ajahn Gavesako are helpful, but it's still kind of vague. Ajahn Chah clearly said "no-self" however, he answers in the affirmative about a "primal self" and a "knower."

So what's the verdict? Do you guys think he did teach a subtle-self? A primal self, it's just that it is impermanent?
As I suggested earlier, it's probably a bit hopeful to expect something like doctrine or a considered, well worked-out position from a Q&A session. Ajahn certainly takes pains to point out that what he is talking about is emphatically not a self. But he does seem to be talking about a persistent (or maybe timeless?) consciousness or awareness, as opposed to an object of that consciousness or awareness. Whether we would want to call such a thing a "self" is, of course, another matter entirely.
I see your point, and would agree, but the quote from my op sounds like someone misunderstood him in exactly this way and he firmly rebuked it and clarified.
Q: Is this mind you are talking about called the 'Original Mind'?

Ajahn Chah: What do you mean?

Q: It seems as if you are saying there is something else outside of the conventional body-mind (five khanda). Is there something else? What do you call it?

Ajahn Chah: There isn't anything and we don't call it anything -- that's all there is to it! Be finished with all of it. Even the knowing doesn't belong to anybody, so be finished with that, too! Consciousness is not an individual, not a being, not a self, not an other, so finish with that -- finish with everything! There is nothing worth wanting! It's all just a load of trouble. When you see clearly like this then everything is finished.

-Q and A with Ajahn Chah from Seeing the Way.
I am just a learner. Keep that in mind when you read my words.

Just to be safe, assume all of my words could be incorrect. Look to an arahant for total accuracy and confirmation.
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Re: Did Ajahn Chah teach eternal citta or otherwise eternalism?

Post by Sam Vara »

zan wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 6:06 pm
Sam Vara wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 6:01 pm
DNS wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 5:04 pm The quotes from Ajahn Gavesako are helpful, but it's still kind of vague. Ajahn Chah clearly said "no-self" however, he answers in the affirmative about a "primal self" and a "knower."

So what's the verdict? Do you guys think he did teach a subtle-self? A primal self, it's just that it is impermanent?
As I suggested earlier, it's probably a bit hopeful to expect something like doctrine or a considered, well worked-out position from a Q&A session. Ajahn certainly takes pains to point out that what he is talking about is emphatically not a self. But he does seem to be talking about a persistent (or maybe timeless?) consciousness or awareness, as opposed to an object of that consciousness or awareness. Whether we would want to call such a thing a "self" is, of course, another matter entirely.
I see your point, and would agree, but the quote from my op sounds like someone misunderstood him in exactly this way and he firmly rebuked it and clarified.
Q: Is this mind you are talking about called the 'Original Mind'?

Ajahn Chah: What do you mean?

Q: It seems as if you are saying there is something else outside of the conventional body-mind (five khanda). Is there something else? What do you call it?

Ajahn Chah: There isn't anything and we don't call it anything -- that's all there is to it! Be finished with all of it. Even the knowing doesn't belong to anybody, so be finished with that, too! Consciousness is not an individual, not a being, not a self, not an other, so finish with that -- finish with everything! There is nothing worth wanting! It's all just a load of trouble. When you see clearly like this then everything is finished.

-Q and A with Ajahn Chah from Seeing the Way.
Yes, I agree. These things are so subtle that there is a lot of potential for misunderstanding and misrepresentation.
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Re: Did Ajahn Chah teach eternal citta or otherwise eternalism?

Post by Pulsar »

In the Q&A session, taking an excerpt, it reminds me of the questions and answer sessions we have in Parayanavagga.
Q: It seems as if you are saying there is something else outside of the conventional body-mind (five khanda). Is there something else? What do you call it?
Ajahn Chah: There isn't anything and we don't call it anything -- that's all there is to it!
In the ParayanaVagga Buddha insists to the brahmin Mettagu, "whatever you discern above and below or all around there is nothing there".
These brahmins of the "Way to the Beyiond" had meditated for many years, had their own followings, revered by many, were puzzled by Buddha's statements, just as much as some are puzzled by Ajhan Chah's answer.
Chah says
"Be finished with all of it. Even the knowing doesn't belong to anybody, so be finished with that, too!"
Elsewere Buddha says "kill the consciousness" it is the culprit, it expresses itself via feeling, perception, and mental disposition or Papanca. Basically this consciousness is a conduit to suffering.
Chah says
Consciousness is not an individual, not a being, not a self, not an other, so finish with that -- finish with everything! There is nothing worth wanting! It's all just a load of trouble. When you see clearly like this then everything is finished.
Remember the sutta on "The burden"?, Sutta writes "unload the burden"
Buddha advices Mettagu in Parayanvagga "Let not your consciousness abide in being"
implying "Don't offer a house to your consciousness. Make it homeless." I don't find Ajhan Chah's
response any different. Certainly the wording is different.
With love :candle:
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Re: Did Ajahn Chah teach eternal citta or otherwise eternalism?

Post by Pulsar »

Spiny Norman wrote
In other words, the sutta model of consciousness only has limited application. Its not designed to be comprehensive.

This is probably part of the reason that the Abhidhamma introduced the concept of bhavanga.
perthaps Buddha had a reason, he only touched upon those aspects of consciousness that brought about suffering, the meditator only needs that much information to tweak it and be done with suffering. The method is given in the instructions for 8-fold path terminating in Samma Sati and the 4 buddhist jhanas (Samma Samadhi)
Abhidhammikas' job is to analyze the Dhamma intellectualy, that kind of expertise does not free one from suffering. Perhaps it gives rise to temporary intellectual satisfaction.

What happens during sleep is not relevant to the 8-fold path. In fact there is a sutta where Buddha is asked about his sleep. Buddha's answer 'the sleep for the Arahant is something like the folding of the petals of a water lily'. This implies to me that, when the body is tired the biochemical mechanisms make sure that it gets some rest.
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Re: Did Ajahn Chah teach eternal citta or otherwise eternalism?

Post by Mr Man »

DNS wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 5:04 pm The quotes from Ajahn Gavesako are helpful, but it's still kind of vague. Ajahn Chah clearly said "no-self" however, he answers in the affirmative about a "primal self" and a "knower."

So what's the verdict? Do you guys think he did teach a subtle-self? A primal self, it's just that it is impermanent?
He taught cessation.
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Re: Did Ajahn Chah teach eternal citta or otherwise eternalism?

Post by Ceisiwr »

Ajahn Chah and the TFT was my first entry into Buddhism. I read them less these days but I don’t recall detecting any eternalism in Ajahn Chah’s teachings. I’ve always read “the one who knows” as a teaching device, one that he clearly stated wasn’t any kind of self.
Saññāvirattassa na santi ganthā,
Paññāvimuttassa na santi mohā;
Saññañca diṭṭhiñca ye aggahesuṃ,
Te ghaṭṭayantā vicaranti loke”ti.


“For one detached from perception, there exist no ties,
for one by wisdom freed, no delusions are there,
but those who have grasped perceptions and views,
they wander the world stirring up strife."


Māgaṇḍiya Sutta
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