Unconditioned

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Ceisiwr
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Re: Unconditioned

Post by Ceisiwr »

coffeendonuts wrote: Fri Jan 15, 2021 10:22 pm I appreciate the lesson, but you might be taking this too literally. Atman or self are just indirect references to one's innermost awareness, it is what knows you are having this conversation on the message board. Why is "mind" or "citta" so acceptable in Buddhist circles but not "self" or "atman?" Genuinely curious.
"Atman or self are just indirect references to one's innermost awareness"

But I thought it cannot be directly experienced?

Why is "mind" or "citta" so acceptable in Buddhist circles but not "self" or "atman?" Genuinely curious.
Because A) It is poor reasoning and B) It stems from craving and clinging, with those two things being closely related in the Dhamma. The ascetics of DN 1 and others all essentially saw in line with what they wanted to see:

"I know. I see. That's just how it is!' —
Some believe purity's in terms of view.
But even if a person has seen,
what good does it do him?...

A person, in seeing,
sees name & form.

Having seen, he'll know
only these things.

No matter if he's seen little, a lot,
the skilled don't say purity's
in connection with that."


Mahābyūha Sutta

The Buddha clearly states here that those ascetics, those metaphysicians of his time, only see nāmarūpa.

Katamañca bhikkhave nāmarūpaṃ? Vedanā saññā cetanā phasso manasikāro, idaṃ vuccati nāmaṃ. Cattāro ca mahābhūtā, catunnaṃ ca mahābhūtānaṃ upādāyarūpaṃ, idaṃ vuccati rūpaṃ. Iti idañca nāmaṃ, idañca rūpaṃ, idaṃ vuccati bhikkhave, nāmarūpaṃ

"And what is name-&-form? Feeling, perception, intention, contact, & attention: This is called name. The four great elements, and the form dependent on the four great elements: This is called form. This name & this form are, [monks], called name-&-form."


We can leave aside the debate about if rūpa means "matter" or "appearance" for the moment. The key here is nāma. Nāma is defined as feeling, "perception" (I would rather say perception & appellation/conceptualisation based off the pali) along with intention and attention (we can leave aside contact too for the purposes of this discussion). So, when the Buddha says these ascetics only see name & form he means they only see in line with their feelings, concepts, intentions and what they want to pay attention to. They see exactly what they wanted. In other words, there is a psychological drive behind all synthetic a priori reasoning/views such as:

God exists.

Atman exists.

The universe is eternal.

The universe is not eternal.

and so on. In modern times we might call this "confirmation bias". What is true of the ascetics of DN 1 is true of all metaphysicians to this day.
“The mental and material are really here,
But here there is no human being to be found,
For it is void and merely fashioned like a doll—
Just suffering piled up like grass and sticks.”


Visuddhimagga
coffeendonuts
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Re: Unconditioned

Post by coffeendonuts »

You're brilliant for bringing up the ascetics, because my hunch is that the reason Buddhism early on set sail in the direction of no self is to market itself with a radical and unique teaching against the Brahminic religions that positively asserted a self.
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Ceisiwr
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Re: Unconditioned

Post by Ceisiwr »

coffeendonuts wrote: Fri Jan 15, 2021 10:52 pm You're brilliant for bringing up the ascetics, because my hunch is that the reason Buddhism early on set sail in the direction of no self is to market itself with a radical and unique teaching against the Brahminic religions that positively asserted a self.
Or the Buddha realised that what the Brahmins et al. were claiming was seriously flawed.
“The mental and material are really here,
But here there is no human being to be found,
For it is void and merely fashioned like a doll—
Just suffering piled up like grass and sticks.”


Visuddhimagga
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cappuccino
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Re: Unconditioned

Post by cappuccino »

Advaita leads to heavenly realms


hence not seriously flawed
coffeendonuts
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Re: Unconditioned

Post by coffeendonuts »

mikenz66 wrote: Fri Jan 15, 2021 10:36 pm You'll find plenty of criticism of "The eternal citta" if you look around...
If I've understood Alexander Wynne and Richard Gombrich correctly on this point, this cannot be attributed to the Buddha.
coffeendonuts
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Re: Unconditioned

Post by coffeendonuts »

Ceisiwr wrote: Fri Jan 15, 2021 10:56 pm
coffeendonuts wrote: Fri Jan 15, 2021 10:52 pm You're brilliant for bringing up the ascetics, because my hunch is that the reason Buddhism early on set sail in the direction of no self is to market itself with a radical and unique teaching against the Brahminic religions that positively asserted a self.
Or the Buddha realised that what the Brahmins et al. were claiming was seriously flawed.
Believe it or not, "no self" was likely not a teaching of the Buddha: https://ocbs.org/wp-content/uploads/201 ... atijbs.pdf

In reality, "no self" and "yes self"(?) are both not entirely correct.
Last edited by coffeendonuts on Fri Jan 15, 2021 11:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Ceisiwr
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Re: Unconditioned

Post by Ceisiwr »

coffeendonuts wrote: Fri Jan 15, 2021 11:02 pm
Ceisiwr wrote: Fri Jan 15, 2021 10:56 pm
coffeendonuts wrote: Fri Jan 15, 2021 10:52 pm You're brilliant for bringing up the ascetics, because my hunch is that the reason Buddhism early on set sail in the direction of no self is to market itself with a radical and unique teaching against the Brahminic religions that positively asserted a self.
Or the Buddha realised that what the Brahmins et al. were claiming was seriously flawed.
In reality, no self and "yes self"(?) are both not entirely correct.
I'll have a read and will post my thoughts, but be aware that it would be an extrodinary leap of logic to go from "The Buddha did not teach no-self" to "therefore, there is a Self/Atman".
“The mental and material are really here,
But here there is no human being to be found,
For it is void and merely fashioned like a doll—
Just suffering piled up like grass and sticks.”


Visuddhimagga
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Ceisiwr
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Re: Unconditioned

Post by Ceisiwr »

Oh, you edited and removed the link. Here is, if others are interested: https://ocbs.org/wp-content/uploads/201 ... atijbs.pdf
“The mental and material are really here,
But here there is no human being to be found,
For it is void and merely fashioned like a doll—
Just suffering piled up like grass and sticks.”


Visuddhimagga
coffeendonuts
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Joined: Thu Dec 17, 2020 6:26 pm

Re: Unconditioned

Post by coffeendonuts »

Ceisiwr wrote: Fri Jan 15, 2021 11:06 pm
coffeendonuts wrote: Fri Jan 15, 2021 11:02 pm
Ceisiwr wrote: Fri Jan 15, 2021 10:56 pm

Or the Buddha realised that what the Brahmins et al. were claiming was seriously flawed.
In reality, no self and "yes self"(?) are both not entirely correct.
I'll have a read and will post my thoughts, but be aware that it would be an extrodinary leap of logic to go from "The Buddha did not teach no-self" to "therefore, there is a Self/Atman".
It is really not anymore heretical to say the atman or self is liberated than to say there is nothing being liberated, but for one reason or another Buddhism has always tended to prefer the latter.
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Re: Unconditioned

Post by cappuccino »

coffeendonuts wrote: Fri Jan 15, 2021 11:10 pm It is really not anymore heretical to say the atman or self is liberated
neither self … nor no self …


rather not self
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Re: Unconditioned

Post by coffeendonuts »

cappuccino wrote: Fri Jan 15, 2021 11:12 pm
coffeendonuts wrote: Fri Jan 15, 2021 11:10 pm It is really not anymore heretical to say the atman or self is liberated
neither self … nor no self …


rather not self
Succinctly put. And yet...there is...something, for lack of a better term, and it has a personal quality to it. My question has been why gesturing in that direction has been taboo in Buddhism yet the other end of "no self" has been acceptable. Because of this, we see Buddhists talking about "mind" and "consciousness" when they're really itching to just say "self."
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Ceisiwr
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Re: Unconditioned

Post by Ceisiwr »

coffeendonuts wrote: Fri Jan 15, 2021 11:10 pm
...
From the Alexander Wynne article that you quoted:
2. Although this teaching denies the notion of a ‘self’, since the denial is focused on the lack of ‘self’ in the five aggregates, it would not seem to state that a person is without a true identity per se. 14 This is because the list of five aggregates is not an analysis of what a human being is made of. As Rupert Gethin has noted, this fivefold list is instead an analysis of conditioned experience:

15 The five khandhas, as treated in the Nikāyas and early abhidhamma, do not exactly take on the character of a formal theory of the nature of man. The concern is not so much the presentation of an analysis of man as object, but rather the understanding of the nature of conditioned existence from the point of view of the experiencing subject. Thus at the most general level rūpa, vedanā, saññā, saṃkhārā and viññāṇa are presented as five aspects of an individual being’s experience of the world…

Sue Hamilton has similarly written that the five aggregates are ‘not a comprehensive analysis of what a human being is comprised of… Rather they are factors of human experience’.16 This phenomenological understanding seems to make good sense of the textual evidence. If the five aggregates were not an analysis of the different ‘factors of human experience’, the following passage from the Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta would make no sense:

Here, bhikkhus, the bhikkhu contemplates: ‘Form is thus, its arising is thus, its fading away is thus; feeling is thus, its arising is thus, its fading away is thus; apperception is thus, its arising is thus, its fading away is thus; volitions are thus, their arising is thus, their fading away is thus; consciousness is thus, its arising is thus, its fading away is thus.’17

In this text the five aggregates are aspects of a person that can be observed. Since a person is made up of many things that cannot be observed in this way, it would seem that the list of five aggregates was devised precisely in order that a person could contemplate his phenomenal nature. According to this experiential understanding of the five aggregates, then, it would seem that the second anātman teaching denies only that a person lacks a true identity or self in conditioned experience, and not that there is no self per se: this is a ‘not-self’ rather than a ‘no soul’ teaching
I would agree with Sue Hamilton that the 5 aggregates are not what a human being is composed of, but about what we experience every day as human beings. For example, I would argue that rūpa means "image" rather than "matter" and so the rūpa-khandha is the experience of the body at contact. What I disagree with is his claim that this supports a "not-self" rather than "no-self" interpretation. The reason why I disagree is, once again, due to the Buddha's epistemology. Lets look at SN 12.15:
“This world, Kaccana, for the most part depends upon a duality—upon the notion of existence and the notion of nonexistence. But for one who sees the origin of the world as it really is with correct wisdom, there is no notion of nonexistence in regard to the world. And for one who sees the cessation of the world as it really is with correct wisdom, there is no notion of existence in regard to the world.

“This world, Kaccana, is for the most part shackled by engagement, clinging, and adherence. But this one with right view does not become engaged and cling through that engagement and clinging, mental standpoint, adherence, underlying tendency; he does not take a stand about ‘my self.’ He has no perplexity or doubt that what arises is only suffering arising, what ceases is only suffering ceasing. His knowledge about this is independent of others. It is in this way, Kaccana, that there is right view. “‘All exists’ [Sabbamatthī’ti]: Kaccana, this is one extreme. ‘All does not exist’ [‘Sabbaṃ natthī’ti]: this is the second extreme. Without veering towards either of these extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma by the middle: ‘With ignorance as condition, volitional formations come to be; with volitional formations as condition, consciousness…. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering. But with the remainderless fading away and cessation of ignorance comes cessation of volitional formations; with the cessation of volitional formations, cessation of consciousness…. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.”
Sabbaṃ can be translated as "All", "Whole" or even "Totality". See Olivelle's notes in his "The Early Upanishads":
4.9-10 the Whole: the exact sense of the term sarva, here translated as "the Whole," has been much debated. As Gonda 1955a has shown, the term in its earliest usage did not mean "everything" but carried the sense of completeness, wholeness, and health. It is, thus, opposed to what is partial, broken, sick, or hurt. In the Upanisads the term is used to indicate not all things in the universe but a higher-level totality that encompasses the universe. Gonda (1955a, 64) observes that the phrase sarvam khalv idam brahma at CU 3.14.1 does not mean "'Brahman is everything here,' but 'Brahman is the complete here, this whole (one),' or: 'Brahman is what is the whole, complete here, is what is entire, perfect, with no part lacking, what is safe and well etc., i.e. Completeness, Totality, the All seen as the Whole.'" Unless the context dictates otherwise, I translate sarvam throughout as "the Whole" and the phrase idam sarvam as "this whole world." To the English reader the term "whole" should evoke the senses of totality and completeness (all there is), as well as perfection, soundness, and wholesomeness.
The Buddha here is attacking this concept of "All". He is criticising the Upanishadic debates regarding the concept of Sarvām asti, which is closely tied with Brahman:
ब्रह्म वा इदमग्र आसीत्, तदात्मानमेवावेत्, अहम् ब्रह्मास्मीति । तस्मात्तत्सर्वमभवत्; तद्यो यो देवानाम् प्रत्यबुभ्यत स एव तदभवत्, तथार्षीणाम्, तथा मनुष्याणाम्; तद्धैतत्पश्यन्नृषिर्वामदेवः प्रतिपेदे, अहम् मनुरभवं सूर्यश्चेति । तदिदमप्येतर्हि य एवं वेद, अहम् ब्रह्मास्मीति, स इदं सर्वम् भवति, तस्य ह न देवाश्चनाभूत्या ईशते, आत्मा ह्येषां स भवति; अथ योऽन्यां देवतामुपास्ते, अन्योऽसावन्योऽहमस्मीति, न स वेद, यथा पशुरेवम् स देवानाम् । यथा ह वै बहवः पशवो मनुष्यम् भुञ्ज्युः, एवमेकैकः पुरुषो देवान् भुनक्ति; एकस्मिन्नेव पशावादीयमानेऽप्रियम् भवति, किंउ बहुषु? तस्मादेषाम् तन्न प्रियम् यदेतन्मनुष्याविद्युः ॥ १० ॥

brahma vā idamagra āsīt, tadātmānamevāvet, aham brahmāsmīti | tasmāttatsarvamabhavat; tadyo yo devānām pratyabubhyata sa eva tadabhavat, tathārṣīṇām, tathā manuṣyāṇām; taddhaitatpaśyannṛṣirvāmadevaḥ pratipede, aham manurabhavaṃ sūryaśceti | tadidamapyetarhi ya evaṃ veda, aham brahmāsmīti, sa idaṃ sarvam bhavati, tasya ha na devāścanābhūtyā īśate, ātmā hyeṣāṃ sa bhavati; atha yo'nyāṃ devatāmupāste, anyo'sāvanyo'hamasmīti, na sa veda, yathā paśurevam sa devānām | yathā ha vai bahavaḥ paśavo manuṣyam bhuñjyuḥ, evamekaikaḥ puruṣo devān bhunakti; ekasminneva paśāvādīyamāne'priyam bhavati, kiṃu bahuṣu? tasmādeṣām tanna priyam yadetanmanuṣyāvidyuḥ || 10 ||

10. Verily, in the beginning this world was Brahman. It knew only itself (atmanam): "I am Brahman!" Therefore it became the All. Whoever of the gods became awakened to this, he indeed became it; likewise in the case of seers (rsi), likewise in the case of men. Seeing this, indeed, the seer Vamadeva began:- I was Manu and the sun (surya)! This is so now also. Whoever thus knows "I am Brahman!" becomes this All; even the gods have not power to prevent his becoming thus, for he becomes their self (atman). So whoever worships another divinity [than his Self], thinking "He is one and I another," he knows not. He is like a sacrificial animal for the gods. Verily, indeed, as many animals would be of service to a man, even so each single person is of service to the gods. If even one animal is taken away, it is not pleasant. What, then, if many? Therefore it is not pleasing to those [gods] that men should know this.
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, verse 1.4.10

Despite attacking the Upanishadic definition of Sabbaṃ the Buddha did co-opt the idea, redefining it as:
At Savatthi. “Bhikkhus, I will teach you the all. Listen to that….

“And what, bhikkhus, is the all? The eye and forms, the ear and sounds, the nose and odours, the tongue and tastes, the body and tactile objects, the mind and mental phenomena. This is called the all.

“If anyone, bhikkhus, should speak thus: ‘Having rejected this all, I shall make known another all’—that would be a mere empty boast on his part. If he were questioned he would not be able to reply and, further, he would meet with vexation. For what reason? Because, bhikkhus, that would not be within his domain.”
Sabba Sutta (SN 35.23)

Given that this clearly harks back to debates that were occurring during the Buddha's time it is unlikely that these are late suttas. In the Upanishads Brahman is a Totality above the 12 āyatana but which encompasses them. The Buddha was opposed to this idea, for the epistemological and psychological reasons I have outlined already. Instead he borrowed the concept of a Totality but stripped it of Brahman and reframed it into an epistemological limit. In place of a world spirit that encompasses the 12 āyatana and the loka the 12 āyatana themselves then become the Totality, thus becoming the limit of what can be known beyond which nothing can be said and from which we create our individual worlds.

Now, this Totality and everything therein is repeatedly said to be empty of self or what belongs to a self. A self/Atta/Atman then can never be found. It can only be put forward as an analytic a priori statement which, as we have seen, can never be known to be true. Self and soul theories then become meaningless ideas or, as the Buddha would say, the prattle of fools. They are akin to asking how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. With all this said, none of this denies personality. Different unique behaviours exist, and so we can speak of personalities. As far as I am aware this has never been denied, so I'm unsure why Wynne suggests otherwise.
“The mental and material are really here,
But here there is no human being to be found,
For it is void and merely fashioned like a doll—
Just suffering piled up like grass and sticks.”


Visuddhimagga
coffeendonuts
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Re: Unconditioned

Post by coffeendonuts »

According to Wynne, this must be the oldest recording of the Buddha's awakening:
(M I.167.9ff, from the APS): O bhikkhus, being myself subject to birth, [but] understanding the danger in what is subject to birth, seeking the unborn, unsurpassed release from bondage that is nibbāna, I attained the unborn, unsurpassed release from bondage that is nibbāna…The knowledge and vision arose in me: ‘Unshakeable is my release, this is my last birth, there is now no more rebecoming.’"

Wynne, Alexander. The Origin of Buddhist Meditation (Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism) (p. 41). Taylor and Francis.
There is a very personal quality to it. He knows. Decidedly not the same as:
‘It is so for the venerable Sāriputta because the underlying tendency towards conceit in the notions ‘I’ and ‘mine’ has for a long time been destroyed. Therefore it does not occur to the venerable Sāriputta that he is attaining the first jhāna, or has attained the first jhāna, or has emerged from the first jhāna.’
How he even knew this to tell the tale is anyone's guess.
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Ceisiwr
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Re: Unconditioned

Post by Ceisiwr »

coffeendonuts wrote: Fri Jan 15, 2021 11:55 pm According to Wynne, this must be the oldest recording of the Buddha's awakening:
(M I.167.9ff, from the APS): O bhikkhus, being myself subject to birth, [but] understanding the danger in what is subject to birth, seeking the unborn, unsurpassed release from bondage that is nibbāna, I attained the unborn, unsurpassed release from bondage that is nibbāna…The knowledge and vision arose in me: ‘Unshakeable is my release, this is my last birth, there is now no more rebecoming.’"

Wynne, Alexander. The Origin of Buddhist Meditation (Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism) (p. 41). Taylor and Francis.
There is a very personal quality to it. He knows. Decidedly not the same as:
‘It is so for the venerable Sāriputta because the underlying tendency towards conceit in the notions ‘I’ and ‘mine’ has for a long time been destroyed. Therefore it does not occur to the venerable Sāriputta that he is attaining the first jhāna, or has attained the first jhāna, or has emerged from the first jhāna.’
How he even knew this to tell the tale is anyone's guess. The fact of the matter is anyone can attain the same with a hang over.
Using the word "I have" does not mean there is an atta. Being awakened doesn't mean you stop using language, you just stop being deluded by it. The suttas I gave above are likely old, and through them we can see that the Buddha places a very definite epistemological limit of what can be known. Within that limit no self can be found and nothing can be claimed to belong to a self. Anyone who then claims there is a self is simply engaging in mental masturbation, spinning views that can never be known to be true or not (the angels on the pin, dancing away).
“The mental and material are really here,
But here there is no human being to be found,
For it is void and merely fashioned like a doll—
Just suffering piled up like grass and sticks.”


Visuddhimagga
skandha
Posts: 248
Joined: Wed Oct 02, 2013 11:38 am

Re: Unconditioned

Post by skandha »

coffeendonuts wrote: Fri Jan 15, 2021 11:10 pm
Ceisiwr wrote: Fri Jan 15, 2021 11:06 pm
coffeendonuts wrote: Fri Jan 15, 2021 11:02 pm

In reality, no self and "yes self"(?) are both not entirely correct.
I'll have a read and will post my thoughts, but be aware that it would be an extrodinary leap of logic to go from "The Buddha did not teach no-self" to "therefore, there is a Self/Atman".
It is really not anymore heretical to say the atman or self is liberated than to say there is nothing being liberated, but for one reason or another Buddhism has always tended to prefer the latter.
Actually, something or nothing being liberated is not in the Buddhist paradigm. Instead it's all about the extinction of suffering. Similarly it's not about "who" suffers, it's about the craving within the five aggregates, the fuel of the five aggregates, the fuel of suffering.
Form is like a lump of foam, Feeling like a water bubble; Perception is like a mirage, Volitions like a plantain trunk, and consciousness like an illusion
- SN 22.95
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