The Buddha's Annihilationist Beginnings

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and scriptures.
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Ceisiwr
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The Buddha's Annihilationist Beginnings

Post by Ceisiwr »

Spinning off from the Jhāna and the Formless topic, viewtopic.php?f=41&t=39491, some thoughts arose regarding annihilationism, Āḷāra Kālāma & Uddaka Rāmaputta and the Buddha. The question of what tradition Āḷāra Kālāma & Uddaka Rāmaputta practiced in shall, of course, never be definitively answered. I think, however, there are ways to narrow it down. Alexander Wynne in "The Origin of Buddhist Meditation" argues that these meditation masters were practicing in the Upanishadic tradition. There he sets out an argument that their method was an attempt to reverse the process of creation all the way back to Brahman, thus merging their Self with it. Ven. Sujato seems to agree in part with him. Here he sets out hints that they were from that tradition:
  • We don’t really know of many groups of yogis in the Buddha’s time. Alara and Uddaka don’t seem to have been part of the samaṇa movement. The structure of the bodhisatta’s practice pre-awakening seems designed to show how he practiced to the utmost of what was available at the time. Clearly the austerities are Jain-like, so by elimination, Upanishadic yogis are the most likely

    At least one of the key contexts, MN 26, is set in a brahmin’s hermitage.

    “Rāmaputta” sounds very much like a brahmin name. Uddaka (= Udraka) is the name of a brahmanical rishi 6.

    Uddaka’s saying criticized by the Buddha in DN 29, “one sees but does not see”, referring to a razor’s edge, is reminiscent of Upanishadic style teachings about the imminent Self; for example, Uddālaka’s teaching on the split banyan seed in the Chandogya.

    The students of Alara and Uddaka began by memorizing the texts (oṭṭhapa­hata­mat­tena lapi­talāpa­na­mat­tena). We don’t have any evidence for any religious texts other than the Brahmanical at this time. (The Jains and others may well have had texts, but we have no evidence for it.)

    The students were practicing within a lineage or tradition. We have reference to theravāda, sakaṃ ācariyakaṃ, as well as the detail that Rāmaputta is following in the footsteps of Rāma, his (spiritual or biological) father. Most of the samana movements claimed, like the Buddha’s, to have been established by their founders (Jainism being an exception.)

    The students learned the five faculties, a set of dhammas that have many connections with things in the Upanishads, and which are featured prominently in the (admittedly later and philosophically divergent) Yogasutra (śraddhāvīryasmṛtisamādhiprajñāpūrvaka itareṣām || YS_1.20 ||)

    Having mastered the five faculties, including jhana under samādhi, the highest teachings are the arupas. These have many affinities with Upanishadic teachings. And elsewhere, advanced brahmin yogis are cloesely associated with these, especially in the Parayanavagga.

    The Pali commentary seems to assume they were brahmins. I haven’t looked into this with any detail, but a quick glance at the commentary to MN 26 shows that they depict Alara as referring to the Marks of a Great Man, which of course was regarded as a brahmanical idea.

    As so often in these studies, no single criteria is decisive. But multiple independent criteria are all easily explained by a single, simple, and obvious hypothesis. Since there is, so far as I know, no counter-evidence or convincing alternative hypothesis, I regard this as probably the correct explanation.
https://discourse.suttacentral.net/t/a- ... ion/6210/5

This was of course a time when the Upanishads were beginning to be constructed, as some Brahmins moved from ritual and sacrifice to a more contemplative and philosophical spirituality. Now, as we know Āḷāra Kālāma & Uddaka Rāmaputta were masters in the formless attainments. A problem then arises in viewing them as followers of the Upanishads, as in DN1 and it's parallels we are told that the formless attainments are the basis for annihilationist views. This is also found in the parallels to the sutta, as Ven. Anālayo's findings show here:
DN 1 at DN I 37,1 and its parallels DĀ 21 at T I 93b20, T 21 at T I 269c22, a Tibetan discourse parallel in Weller 1934: 58,3 (§191), a discourse quotation in the *Śāriputrābhidharma, T 1548 at T XXVIII 660b24, and a discourse quotation in D 4094 ju 152a4 or Q 5595 tu 175a8. The same versions also attribute the arising of annihilationist views to the immaterial attainments (for Sanskrit fragments corresponding to the section on annihilationism see also Hartmann 1989: 54 and SHT X 4189, Wille 2008: 307).
https://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg ... o/ebms.pdf

Regarding the annihilationist doctrine we find a denial of atta, as shown here:

'I would not be, neither would there be what is mine. I will not be, neither will there be what is mine.'

This view is said to be close to non-clinging and out of all of the speculative metaphysics doing the rounds at the time, this is said to be the foremost view:
(8) “Bhikkhus, of the speculative views held by outsiders, this is the foremost, namely: ‘I might not be and it might not be mine; I shall not be, and it will not be mine.’ For it can be expected that one who holds such a view will not be unrepelled by existence and will not be repelled by the cessation of existence. There are beings who hold such a view. But even for beings who hold such a view there is alteration; there is change. Seeing this thus, the instructed noble disciple becomes disenchanted with it; being disenchanted, he becomes dispassionate toward the foremost, not to speak of what is inferior.
https://suttacentral.net/an10.29/en/bodhi

Two things in relation to this. First, we are told that upon his awakening the Buddha wanted to find Āḷāra Kālāma & Uddaka Rāmaputta, his former teachers, as they would easily grasp the Dhamma and awakening. Sadly, they had already died but the fact that he sought out Āḷāra Kālāma & Uddaka Rāmaputta first could perhaps be because they held the foremost view among the ascetics, namely the annihilationist doctrine. This would match the general character of the annihilationist doctrine, which is close to non-clinging, and would explain their use of the formless attainments. It is believable that an annihilationist would wish to turn away from conceptualisation and so would seek the gradual abandoning up conceptualisation (or perception, if you prefer), all the way to Nothingness or neither-conceptualisation-nor-non-conceptualisation. In MN 106 we are told the view/reflection of ""I don’t belong to anyone anywhere! And nothing belongs to me anywhere!’" can be an entry into Nothingness, which is perhaps a form of the annihilationist view. The commentaries themselves identify this as being a common non-Buddhist view of the time. If these dots match up and the theory is true then Āḷāra Kālāma & Uddaka Rāmaputta would have been Brahmins who eventually turned their back on the Upanishads in favour of annihilationism, being disgusted and repelled by existence and so seeking oblivion in the formless. The Buddha then would have started his career as an annihilationist who was seeking escape from dukkha via being repelled by existence and conceptualisation/perception, before he turned to more Jain like methods and, eventually, the 4 Jhānā.

If Āḷāra Kālāma & Uddaka Rāmaputta were Brahmins turned annihilationists it could also explain why other Brahmins treated at least Rāmaputta (or his father) with scorn:
This King Eḷeyya is a fool to be so devoted to Rāmaputta. He even shows him the utmost deference by bowing down to him, rising up for him, greeting him with joined palms, and observing proper etiquette for him. Yamaka, Moggalla, Ugga, Nāvindakī, Gandhabba, and Aggivessa—for they show the same kind of deference to Rāmaputta.’
AN 4.187

Thoughts?
“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.”


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Re: The Buddha's Annihilationist Beginnings

Post by auto »

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiranyagarbha wrote: Hiraṇyagarbha (Sanskrit: हिरण्यगर्भः ; literally the 'golden womb' or 'golden egg', poetically translated as 'universal womb') is the source of the creation of universe or the manifested cosmos in Vedic philosophy, as well as an avatar of Vishnu in the Bhagavata Purana.[1] It finds mention in one hymn of the Rigveda (RV 10.121), known as the Hiraṇyagarbha Sūkta, suggesting a single creator deity (verse 8: yo deveṣv ādhi devā eka āsīt, Griffith: "He is the God of gods, and none beside him."), identified in the hymn as Prajāpati. The concept of the "golden womb" is first mentioned in the Vishvakarma Sūkta (RV 10.82.5,6) which picturized the "primeval womb" as being rested set upon the navel of Vishvakarman the Supreme cosmic creator, that One wherein abide all things existing. This imagery was later transferred to Vishnu.

The Upanishad calls it the Soul of the Universe or Brahman,[2] and elaborates that Hiraṇyagarbha floated around in emptiness and the darkness of the non-existence for about a year, and then broke into two halves which formed the Svarga and the Pṛthvi.

In classical Purāṇic Hinduism, Hiraṇyagarbha is the term used in the Vedanta for the "creator". Hiraṇyagarbha is also Brahmā, so called because it is said he was born from a golden egg (Manu Smṛti 1.9), while the Mahābhārata calls it the Manifest.[3]

Some classical yoga traditions consider Hiraṇyagarbha as the originator of yoga, though this may also be a name for Rishi Kapila.[4][5]
Notice, 'floated in darkness of the non-existence for about a year'. Per tradition one needs live year long in penance and faith to make oneself receptive to get answers from the Guru.
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Re: The Buddha's Annihilationist Beginnings

Post by DooDoot »

Ceisiwr wrote: Sun Mar 07, 2021 2:22 pm Alexander Wynne in "The Origin of Buddhist Meditation" argues that these meditation masters were practicing in the Upanishadic tradition. There he sets out an argument that their method was an attempt to reverse the process of creation all the way back to Brahman, thus merging their Self with it. Ven. Sujato seems to agree in part with him.
Sounds like nonsense of a fertile imagination since the above ideas appear not mentioned in the suttas. If Gotama practised a specific Upanishadic doctrine about Brahman & Self, as the Buddha, he would have clearly given account of that. But he did not. Instead, in MN 26, it is said he said:
But it occurred to me: ‘This Dhamma does not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbāna, but only to reappearance in the base of nothingness. Not being satisfied with that Dhamma, disappointed with it, I left.’

MN 26
:alien:
Ceisiwr wrote: Sun Mar 07, 2021 2:22 pmIf these dots match up...
Sorry but the above sounds like heresy. The Buddha himself said:
Bhikkhus, the Dhamma well proclaimed by me thus is clear, open, evident, and free of patchwork.

MN 22
There is always an official executioner. If you try to take his place, It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood. If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.

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Re: The Buddha's Annihilationist Beginnings

Post by pitithefool »

Ceisiwr wrote: Sun Mar 07, 2021 2:22 pm

I think it's likely given the evidence you've provided that Kalama and Ramaputta were likely annihilationists. Also, the understanding that this brings to
meditation practice is also highly beneficial, especially from an analytic or scholarly perspective, and by proxy a pedagogical perspective.

I'm almost starting to think that the amount of controversy this stirs versus the benefit gained from discussing it might not be worth it at this point.

A lot of people want to fight this it seems and on solid grounds I might add. To hear that the Buddha may have at any point been an annihilationist, regardless of when, may just be too jarring for some people.

Like I've said though, what you've found here makes it more clear to me that the formless is the "yin" the jhanas' "yang" and I think that's a pretty invaluable insight.
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Re: The Buddha's Annihilationist Beginnings

Post by Ceisiwr »

Interestingly the parallel to SN 47.31 explicitly states that Uddaka Rāmaputta was an annihilationist:

"Uddaka Rāmaputta had this view and taught like this, “Existence is an illness, a tumour, a thorn. Those who advocate nonperception are foolish. Those who have realized [know]: this is tranquil, this is sublime, namely attaining the sphere of neither-perception-nor-nonperception.”

The Discourse on Uddaka [Rāmaputta] - MĀ 114
“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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Re: The Buddha's Annihilationist Beginnings

Post by DooDoot »

Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Apr 29, 2021 8:15 pm explicitly states
where? how? :shrug:
There is always an official executioner. If you try to take his place, It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood. If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.

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Ceisiwr
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Re: The Buddha's Annihilationist Beginnings

Post by Ceisiwr »

DooDoot wrote: Thu Apr 29, 2021 8:26 pm
Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Apr 29, 2021 8:15 pm explicitly states
where? how? :shrug:
Through him wanting to end existence which, unless we think otherwise, he viewed in terms of a self. In other words, annihilating the self through nevasaññānāsaññāyatana as a means to end existence which is dukkha.
“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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Re: The Buddha's Annihilationist Beginnings

Post by Lucas Oliveira »

Just to make it clear the Upanishads Tradition is not an Annihilationist.

Right?
नैव चिन्त्यं न चाचिन्त्यं न चिन्त्यं चिन्त्यमेव च ।
 पक्षपातिविनमुर्क्तं ब्रह्म सम्पद्यते तदा ॥

naiva cintyaṁ na cācintyaṁ na cintyaṁ cintyameva ca |
 pakṣapātavinirmuktaṁ brahma sampadyate tadā ||

"[Being] is not conceivable [because it is not an object]; nor is it inconceivable [because it does not fit in thinking].

Although it cannot be the object of thinking, one must meditate on it [as the source of Fullness].

The Being, free of concepts, is thus reached [known]. "

Amṛtabindūpaniṣad , 6
।

https://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upanixade

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Re: The Buddha's Annihilationist Beginnings

Post by Ceisiwr »

Lucas Oliveira wrote: Thu Apr 29, 2021 10:32 pm
...
Far from it. In thinking about the meditative states further it seems the eternalists could be found using any meditation whilst the annihilationists, which the Buddha’s first two teachers seem to have been, used the formless only.
“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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Re: The Buddha's Annihilationist Beginnings

Post by cappuccino »

Ceisiwr wrote: Sun Mar 07, 2021 2:22 pm The question of what tradition Āḷāra Kālāma & Uddaka Rāmaputta practiced in shall, of course, never be definitively answered.

Thoughts?
they practiced formless realm meditation


(arupa-loka)


which is far from annihilation
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Re: The Buddha's Annihilationist Beginnings

Post by cappuccino »

The inhabitants of arupa-loka are possessed entirely of mind.


Having no physical body
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Re: The Buddha's Annihilationist Beginnings

Post by pegembara »

Cessation of form, feeling, perception, formations and consciousness doesn't sound like annihilation to me, unlike saying he died.
“If, friend Yamaka, they were to ask you: ‘Friend
Yamaka, when a bhikkhu is an arahant, one whose heart is pure,
what happens to him with the breakup of the body, after death?’
– being asked thus, what would you answer?”

“If they were to ask me this, friend, I would answer thus:
‘Friends, material form is impermanent; what is impermanent is
unsatisfactory; what is unsatisfactory has ceased and passed
away.... so too with feeling... perception... mental formations...
consciousness...’ Being asked thus, friend, I would answer in
such a way.”

“Good, good, friend Yamaka!”
~ S 22.85
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
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Re: The Buddha's Annihilationist Beginnings

Post by ToVincent »

pegembara wrote: Fri Apr 30, 2021 6:54 am .....
Here is the parallel to SN 22.85 (full extract):
“But, friend, when the Tathagata is not apprehended by you as real and actual here in this very life, is it fitting for you to declare: ‘As I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One, a bhikkhu whose taints are destroyed is annihilated and perishes with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death’?”

“Formerly, friend Sāriputta, when I was ignorant, I did hold that pernicious view, but now that I have heard this Dhamma teaching of the Venerable Sāriputta I have abandoned that pernicious view and have made the breakthrough to the Dhamma.”

“If, friend Yamaka, they were to ask you: ‘Friend Yamaka, when a bhikkhu is an arahant, one whose taints are destroyed, what happens to him with the breakup of the body, after death?’—being asked thus, what would you answer?”

“If they were to ask me this, friend, I would answer thus: ‘Friends, form is impermanent; what is impermanent is suffering; what is suffering has ceased and passed away. Feeling … Perception … Volitional formations … Consciousness is impermanent; what is impermanent is suffering; what is suffering has ceased and passed away.’ Being asked thus, friend, I would answer in such a way.”

SN 22.85
Sāriputta asked again: “Yamaka, earlier you said: ‘[As] I understand the Dharma taught by the Buddha, an arahant, with the influxes being eradicated, will not exist anywhere after the body breaks up at the end of life’. Why are you now replying by stating that this is not the case?”

The monk Yamaka said: “Venerable Sāriputta, earlier I did not under­stand. Because of ignorance I generated and expressed an evil wrong view like this. Having heard what the venerable Sāriputta said, all that lack of understanding and ignorance have been completely aban­doned.”

[Sāriputta] asked again: “Yamaka, if you are further asked: ‘Monk, as you earlier declared an evil wrong view, knowing and seeing what has this now all been completely removed?’ What would you answer?”

Yamaka replied: “Venerable Sāriputta, if someone comes and asks, I would answer in this way: ‘The bodily form of an arahant, with the in­fluxes being eradicated, is impermanent. What is impermanent, is dukkha . What is dukkha has become tranquil and become cool, it has for­ever disappeared. Feeling, perception … formations … consciousness is also like this.’ [If] someone comes and asks, I would answer in this way.”
SA 104
Some working for the Mara's world; some for the Brahma's world; some for the Unborn.
.
Those who desire good are few, and those who desire evil are many.
Buddha
(And you just can't imagine how much goodness, those who desire evil, are ready to display - ToVincent).
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Re: The Buddha's Annihilationist Beginnings

Post by ToVincent »

At the time of Buddha, there were two major types of brahmins. The priests, and two orders of friars [hermits (tapasas) & wanderers (paribbajaka)]
(Karmandinas and Parasarinas? - the ones preoccupied by deeds; and the one preoccupied by the "essence" - who knows? ).

Buddha as a kshatriya, certainly did start with the aranyaka-hermit-tapasa-samana crowd — as evidenced by his early extreme austerities and body mortifications.
Later on, he became a wanderer — less "brahminic" in faith — with a belief in an undefiled and perfectible bliss after death (viz. "beyond breath": nibbana).
Buddha, although a wanderer, differed from the Brahminic paribbajakas - in that the bliss of nibbāna is not the bliss of the self in the "worlds", as in the Upanishadic belief of a self.
Buddha did not believe in a continuous, pervasive, and blissful self in the "world(s)", and particularly not in the "world" of senses (as defined in SN 35.82).

Note: There were Jain brahmins; as there were paribbajaka brahmins who became Buddhists (Sariputta, Moggalana, etc.) at the time of Buddha.

Buddha DID NOT believe in a self in paticcasamuppada (something the annihilationists did believe in their Dhamma) - and that is clearly stated in the suttas.
DN1 is far from being the proof that the higher attainments were an idiosyncratic feature of the annihilationists.

'I would not be, neither would there be what is mine. I will not be, neither will there be what is mine.'
SN 22.81
SA 57 states:
"but he further holds the view of annihilation, the view that becoming will be destroyed".

I would not call that a denial of atta in annihilationism - just that atta will be destroyed — for anyway, a "denial of self" by the annihilationists, would go against the definitions given in DN1:
https://legacy.suttacentral.net/en/dn1#84
(More like refering to: material form self vs divine self, to me).


If there is a great probability that Buddha did, at his beginnings, belong to the hermit/tapasas/... movement - there is no reason to believe that he continued with the annihilationists, before he expounded his own dhamma (where he could not find a blissful self in paticcasamuppada).
Note:
One deducts that:
The parallel to SN 47.31 explicitly states that Uddaka Rāmaputta was an annihilationist:
?!?!?!?©
- Firstly, the sutta is SN 35.103 (not 47.31)

- Secondly, no parallel for the following MA 114's extract per se, in the somewhat parallel in SN 35.103:
"Uddaka Rāmaputta had this view and taught like this, “Existence is an illness, a tumour, a thorn. Those who advocate nonperception are foolish. Those who have realized [know]: this is tranquil, this is sublime, namely attaining the sphere of neither-perception-nor-nonperception.”
The Discourse on Uddaka [Rāmaputta] - MĀ 114
- Thirdly, I have a hard time to see how this has to do with being an annihilationist (and a proof of it whatsoever).
?!?!?!? ©

What a mess!
To conclude that Āḷāra Kālāma & Uddaka Rāmaputta turned annihilationists, is really poor entailment - to be avoided at all costs, like a
.
.
Some working for the Mara's world; some for the Brahma's world; some for the Unborn.
.
Those who desire good are few, and those who desire evil are many.
Buddha
(And you just can't imagine how much goodness, those who desire evil, are ready to display - ToVincent).
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Re: The Buddha's Annihilationist Beginnings

Post by auto »

if person thinks what he have is ultimate, they won't want to hear about cessation of this good existence
https://suttacentral.net/iti49/en/sujato wrote:And how do some get stuck?
Kathañca, bhikkhave, olīyanti eke?
Because of love, delight, and enjoyment of existence, when the Dhamma is being taught for the cessation of existence, the minds of some gods and humans are not eager, confident, settled, and decided.
Bhavārāmā, bhikkhave, devamanussā bhavaratā bhavasammuditā tesaṁ bhavanirodhāya dhamme desiyamāne cittaṁ na pakkhandati na pasīdati na santiṭṭhati nādhimuccati.
That is how some get stuck.
Evaṁ kho, bhikkhave, olīyanti eke.
versus being disgusted by what one has. The cause is extreme disgust where they rejoice in the thoughts of not reborning into that existence anymore
https://suttacentral.net/iti49/en/sujato wrote:And how do some overreach?
Kathañca, bhikkhave, atidhāvanti eke?
Some, becoming horrified, repelled, and disgusted with existence, delight in ending existence:
Bhaveneva kho paneke aṭṭīyamānā harāyamānā jigucchamānā vibhavaṁ abhinandanti—
‘When this self is annihilated and destroyed when the body breaks up, and doesn’t exist after death:
yato kira, bho, ayaṁ attā kāyassa bhedā paraṁ maraṇā ucchijjati vinassati na hoti paraṁ maraṇā; Variant: attā → satto (si, mr); attho (pts-vp-pli1)
that is peaceful, that is sublime, that is reality.’
etaṁ santaṁ etaṁ paṇītaṁ etaṁ yāthāvanti.
That is how some overreach.
Evaṁ kho, bhikkhave, atidhāvanti eke.
buddha gave up his existence as a potential king because of certain drawbacks, he saw sickness, old age and death, not because of extreme disgust.
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