"Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

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SDC
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"Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Post by SDC »

Personal obligations have kept me away from DW for a while (and will likely continue to do so), but I just wanted to share what I believe to be a brilliant article by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli that was recently posted on the Path Press website.

I really like his style – right in my wheelhouse as far as I have come to understand and see dhamma, and just the way I like to see things discussed. Not to say that others haven’t presented a similar analysis, but there are very very few - in my opinion - who have been able to explain it as succinctly and with such ease.

My apologies if I do not return for several days. I hope you all enjoy the article.
"As fruits fall from the tree, so people too, both young and old, fall when this body breaks." - Raṭṭhapāla (MN 82)
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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Post by culaavuso »

Thank you for this post.
Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli wrote: The problem is, however, that if a common man denies that which is right in front of him in his day-to-day living, he denies the basic principles of his own experience.
This seems to echo the introduction of MN 61:
MN 61: Ambalatthika-rahulovada Sutta wrote: Rahula, whatever there is of a contemplative in anyone who feels no shame at telling a deliberate lie is turned upside down just like that.
The possibilities discussed in the article can lead to great discomfort when the idea of the world has been built up in opposition to those ideas. It can require a great commitment to honesty and authenticity to overcome that discomfort and to see clearly. This is perhaps why honesty is given such an important position in the discourse of MN 61. The later description of how to learn from mental activities can result in directly working with these notions.
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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Post by retrofuturist »

Greetings,

Awesome article - I've just shared it with a few friends here at work.

:reading:

Metta,
Retro. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"Why now do you assume 'a being'? Mara, have you grasped a view?" (SN 5.10)

"Overcome the liar by truth." (Dhp 223)
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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Post by SDC »

culaavuso wrote:The possibilities discussed in the article can lead to great discomfort when the idea of the world has been built up in opposition to those ideas. It can require a great commitment to honesty and authenticity to overcome that discomfort and to see clearly. This is perhaps why honesty is given such an important position in the discourse of MN 61. The later description of how to learn from mental activities can result in directly working with these notions.
Indeed. :smile:
"As fruits fall from the tree, so people too, both young and old, fall when this body breaks." - Raṭṭhapāla (MN 82)
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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Post by SDC »

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Awesome article - I've just shared it with a few friends here at work.

:reading:

Metta,
Retro. :)
Glad you liked it!
"As fruits fall from the tree, so people too, both young and old, fall when this body breaks." - Raṭṭhapāla (MN 82)
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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Post by SamKR »

Nice article. :thumbsup:
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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Post by acinteyyo »

Excellent article!

:twothumbsup:
Thag 1.20. Ajita - I do not fear death; nor do I long for life. I’ll lay down this body, aware and mindful.
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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Post by aflatun »

Greetings all, at SDC's recommendation I made my way through this article a few times and had some (maybe many!) questions. Rather than simply annoy SDC with my queries I figured I could share the love out here in public view, apologies in advance for any cognitive density you may perceived on my part :tongue:

Just a little about my philosophical background, I do have a significant reading-acquaintance with Husserl and Sokolowski (from years back) but I never quite had an honest go with Heidegger, Sartre, et al. So at times I think what's dogging my understanding is not having a solid sense of what words like "being" mean in this tradition.
So, with the mystical view on one end, and the objective, scientific one on the other, the recognition of one’s personal existence cannot arise. Because of these inauthentic attitudes, which are nevertheless normal attitudes of the puthujjana‘s everyday life, it would be correct to say that for him things don’t even exist, in a correct sense of that word. Only with the development of the rudimentary notions of authenticity, through the practice of mindfulness and restraint and reflection, can a puthujjana begin to notice, little by little, the nature of his experience as a whole—phenomena can start to appear. It is only in this way that one can understand what is meant by the ‘being’ of things, which is nothing fundamentally different than the ‘being’ of myself.
So the bolded area in particular is of interest to me, as a first question. What I understand him as saying based on the prior discussion is that for the puthujjana who constantly projects some "real thing" behind what he experiences, either as an object appropriated by a subject, or a subject, or both, things don't exist in the true sense...because the true sense in which they exist is as experiences, phenomena, etc. Is this correct? So is there an analogy between the puthujjana‘s experience and the "natural attitude" vs. the phenomenological reduction and seeing things authentically/appropriately?

I believe the subsequent passage confirms my reading but I'm not sure:

If a thing exists, that is because it appears; if it appears, that is it exists. Neither the appearance nor existence can be discerned or conceived without each other, and that is what is meant by “to be is to be perceived”—esse est percipi. At this phase, the assumption of a hidden reality behind the appearance is almost inconceivable. The puthujjana understands that if anything is to exist, it has to appear.
So to take a mundane example, if I'm looking at a chair and thinking about how repulsive it is, as a puthujjana I'm occupied with what I see standing behind the experience and appearing to me (and with the "me" that the thing is appearing to), and I am not then aware of the fact that both of these things are merely aspects of the entire experience as such?

On a related note then, what exactly is the "being of things" being referred to? Does he have "Bhava" in mind when he's saying this?
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16
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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Post by chownah »

aflatun wrote:Greetings all, at SDC's recommendation I made my way through this article a few times and had some (maybe many!) questions. Rather than simply annoy SDC with my queries I figured I could share the love out here in public view, apologies in advance for any cognitive density you may perceived on my part :tongue:

Just a little about my philosophical background, I do have a significant reading-acquaintance with Husserl and Sokolowski (from years back) but I never quite had an honest go with Heidegger, Sartre, et al. So at times I think what's dogging my understanding is not having a solid sense of what words like "being" mean in this tradition.
So, with the mystical view on one end, and the objective, scientific one on the other, the recognition of one’s personal existence cannot arise. Because of these inauthentic attitudes, which are nevertheless normal attitudes of the puthujjana‘s everyday life, it would be correct to say that for him things don’t even exist, in a correct sense of that word. Only with the development of the rudimentary notions of authenticity, through the practice of mindfulness and restraint and reflection, can a puthujjana begin to notice, little by little, the nature of his experience as a whole—phenomena can start to appear. It is only in this way that one can understand what is meant by the ‘being’ of things, which is nothing fundamentally different than the ‘being’ of myself.
So the bolded area in particular is of interest to me, as a first question. What I understand him as saying based on the prior discussion is that for the puthujjana who constantly projects some "real thing" behind what he experiences, either as an object appropriated by a subject, or a subject, or both, things don't exist in the true sense...because the true sense in which they exist is as experiences, phenomena, etc. Is this correct? So is there an analogy between the puthujjana‘s experience and the "natural attitude" vs. the phenomenological reduction and seeing things authentically/appropriately?

I believe the subsequent passage confirms my reading but I'm not sure:

If a thing exists, that is because it appears; if it appears, that is it exists. Neither the appearance nor existence can be discerned or conceived without each other, and that is what is meant by “to be is to be perceived”—esse est percipi. At this phase, the assumption of a hidden reality behind the appearance is almost inconceivable. The puthujjana understands that if anything is to exist, it has to appear.
So to take a mundane example, if I'm looking at a chair and thinking about how repulsive it is, as a puthujjana I'm occupied with what I see standing behind the experience and appearing to me (and with the "me" that the thing is appearing to), and I am not then aware of the fact that both of these things are merely aspects of the entire experience as such?

On a related note then, what exactly is the "being of things" being referred to? Does he have "Bhava" in mind when he's saying this?
I hope I am saying something which addresses your questions....sorry if it does not.
When you say "I'm looking at a chair" it might be good to consider just what is happening. First, if your looking is with your eyes open (and not only imagining a chair) then what you are "looking" at is patterns of colors of different intensities striking the retina of the eye. Your mind then construes the existence of a chair based on previous experience of having seen similar patterns of light in a similar context. The chair you see arises from mental process but generally people do not discern this but just say they see a chair and just think that there is a chair out there in the real world and that they see it. The knowledge that any chairness that they experience is a product of mental process based on patterns of light does not occur to them and if you point this out they are likely to think that you are being ridiculous.
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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Post by Twilight »

chownah wrote: I hope I am saying something which addresses your questions....sorry if it does not.
When you say "I'm looking at a chair" it might be good to consider just what is happening. First, if your looking is with your eyes open (and not only imagining a chair) then what you are "looking" at is patterns of colors of different intensities striking the retina of the eye. Your mind then construes the existence of a chair based on previous experience of having seen similar patterns of light in a similar context. The chair you see arises from mental process but generally people do not discern this but just say they see a chair and just think that there is a chair out there in the real world and that they see it. The knowledge that any chairness that they experience is a product of mental process based on patterns of light does not occur to them and if you point this out they are likely to think that you are being ridiculous.
chowah
There exists the external form element of the chair witch gives rise to perception of the chair. The element of the chair is one thing, the perception of the chair is another. If you are arguing that only perception of a chair exists, then that is not what Buddha taught.
At Savatthı. “Bhikkhus, it is in dependence on the diversity of
elements that there arises the diversity of perceptions
Also, the chair will exist there for other people even if you die, despite the fact that you will not perceive it and the chair will not manifest in your internal world.

Buddha is concerned mainly with the internal world. "The world" in Buddha dispensation is the internal world. But this does not mean that the chair will not exist there for other people after you die.
You'll have a better chance finding a moderate rebel in Ildib than finding a buddhist who ever changed his views. Views are there to be clung to. They are there to be defended with all one's might. Whatever clinging one will removed in regards to sense pleasures by practicing the path - that should be compensated with increased clinging to views. This is the fundamental balance of the noble 8thfold path. The yin and yang.
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Consciousness and no-self explained in drawings: link
How stream entry is achieved. Mahasi / Zen understanding vs Sutta understanding: link
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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Post by SarathW »

There exists the external form element of the chair witch gives rise to perception of the chair. The element of the chair is one thing, the perception of the chair is another. If you are arguing that only perception of a chair exists, then that is not what Buddha taught.
At Savatthı. “Bhikkhus, it is in dependence on the diversity of
elements that there arises the diversity of perceptions
:goodpost:

Say if there a mango.
I can eat when I am hungry. You can't say there is no mango.

the chair will exist there for other people even if you die
I am not sure of this. This is true only if you are a Puthujana.
If you think like that you can't attain Nibbana.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”
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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Post by mikenz66 »

Please keep this thread on the track of getting a better understanding of Ven NN's position, rather than picking up on soundbites and arguing with them. Read the whole article first.

Thanks!

:anjali:
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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Post by Twilight »

I am not sure of this. This is true only if you are a Puthujana.
If you think like that you can't attain Nibbana.
On the contrary, only a puthijhana would think his parents don't exist or that if he dies, there would be nobody to perceive anything cause nothing exist except his internal world.
Please keep this thread on the track of getting a better understanding of Ven NN's position, rather than picking up on soundbites and arguing with them. Read the whole article first.

Thanks!
Claiming your parents or other beings don't exist is not "a little soundbite". It's quite a fundamental thing. If somebody makes a case for his parents not existing, for the external world not existing etc. - that is simply philosophical idealism/postmodernism/constructivism and is not what Buddha taught. Buddha teaching is more subtle that that, otherwise every liberal arts collage professor would qualify as enlightened.
You'll have a better chance finding a moderate rebel in Ildib than finding a buddhist who ever changed his views. Views are there to be clung to. They are there to be defended with all one's might. Whatever clinging one will removed in regards to sense pleasures by practicing the path - that should be compensated with increased clinging to views. This is the fundamental balance of the noble 8thfold path. The yin and yang.
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Consciousness and no-self explained in drawings: link
How stream entry is achieved. Mahasi / Zen understanding vs Sutta understanding: link
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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Post by aflatun »

mikenz66 wrote:Please keep this thread on the track of getting a better understanding of Ven NN's position, rather than picking up on soundbites and arguing with them. Read the whole article first.

Thanks!

:anjali:
Mike
Thank you Mike! After talking to SDC I revived this thread thinking it would be the best way to pursue a conversation. I really don't want it to turn into a violent debate about whether NN was "right" or not, I just hope to understand *him* and those like him (i.e. Nanavira) better. I realize this is not entirely in my control. If you think this deserves a new thread or something else please let me know? As this one was about the paper I wanted to focus on for now I assumed it was most appropriate.

SarathW and Twilight:

While I appreciate all input I hope this thread remains about NN's understanding of things, not "how things really are." .

As I said above for my part, my questions (and future questions) are driven by the fact that I believe he and other writers of his ilk have something important to say that I have difficulty penetrating sometimes due to (I think) my incomprehension of some of their language, and I thought talking this out with like minded and interested individuals would be a worthwhile endeavor. Discussion of the veracity of his claims while undoubtedly creep in but I would love it if this wasn't the focus of the thread.

@chownah thank you kindly for trying to engage these issues! While I believe *some* version of what you're describing is actually correct and in line with what NN is saying (meaning, *some* version of transcendental idealism, though I take issue with both Kant and Schopenhauer on this in various ways, despite the fact that they're two of my main contemporary western philosophical influences), I'm not sure if what you said specifically answers my queries regarding NN language in the cited passages? It's OK if it doesn't of course, as I realize you were just trying to help and its much appreciated. But I don't want to totally misunderstand your post so feel free to elaborate or correct me!
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16
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Re: "Appearance and Existence" by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli

Post by SDC »

I'll definitely be stopping by to give some, hopefully useful, thoughts in a day or two. This sub forum has been too quiet. :smile:
"As fruits fall from the tree, so people too, both young and old, fall when this body breaks." - Raṭṭhapāla (MN 82)
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