An important question to BUDHISTS about BUDHISM

Discussion in 'Eastern Philosophy' started by shekhar1438, Jun 19, 2007.

  1. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member


    There is too much going on at work to read this whole thing, but a few things jumped out at me.

    So, you only have a cursory understanding of the Dhamma, but you are going to say how it can/should be interpreted as a naturalistic viewpoint? :bugeye:

    And this... just wrong.
    Kamma means action and necessarily implies the results of this action.
    Kicking a rock is not kamma, kicking a rock and hurting your toe as a result is kamma.

    Overall, I wasn't impressed with what I saw, but I haven't really explored it well.
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  3. swarm Registered Senior Member

    I've not read the whole thing so I can't comment, but your assessment doesn't seem unreasonable. As I noted, a general approach to the topic.

    Yes. Without a doubt it is also a strategy, but I cannot agree that it isn't a assertion. It is not only an assertion, its one of the three foundational assertions and cannot be lightly brushed aside as it forms the basis for all else.

    All is impermanent and without inherent essence and this is the cause of suffering.

    One of the ways this suffering manifests is in Buddhists trying to deny anicca and anatta by positing rebirth, souls, and other supernatural/metaphysical artifacts which imply that you aren't really impermanent after all.

    While we are on it, I tend to be sloppy and use reincarnation and rebirth interchangeably. This is technically incorrect. Buddhists who believe such things believe in rebirth, not in reincarnation.
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  5. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

    Anicca does not necessarily imply Anatta.

    I'm not saying that Siddhartha said there IS a transcendent soul, just that he did not say there is NOT one.

    What he said was that it really didn't matter.
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  7. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

    Still, rebirth is certainly possible within the concept of Anatta.
    Rebirth does not require a transcendent soul, as illustrated by the match and candle.
  8. swarm Registered Senior Member

    I see no problem with him saying he is a naturalist giving his impression of a naturalistic take on Buddhism.

    Um, I think he would agree: "that act is karma. Later on, if you suffer for it, that is the fruit of your karma."

    However I don't particularly agree here. We tend to think in terms of descrete acts and focus on what is significant to us as a point deliniation. But action is always there. Kicking,rock,hurting toe are not seperate and not karmically distinguishable either from each other or from before kicking and after hopping about. There is never a point where you can say "this is a result" in a meaningful way. All you can do is say, this moment in the chain of karma was significant to me. I think of it more as an unfolding or dance.

    Also the billard ball portrayal of karma is so overly simplistic as to be misleading. I like to consider it more like the stock market. If you invest in what you consider good actions then you are more likely to build a portfolio of what you consider good returns, but this is only a trend. There are windfalls, unexpected pitfalls, other people who skew things for their own purposes, in short real karma is choatic and not all about you personally. You have influence but so do others and the world itself. You don't reap just what you sow.

    People often cry about how they need karma and rebirth or there will be no morals, much the same as they do for gods.

    I feel the only basis of morality is that each of us knows what we do and we each have to live with it. If that isn't enough for one to seek out a moral life style, then nothing will be. Those who try to force people to be moral with threats and bribes do not bring morality about. The best such a system can hope for is compliance.
  9. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

    Neither do it, but I don't the value of it when discussing what Siddhartha's lessons could have meant.

    I couldn't agree more.
    You are exactly right, and this is why he is wrong.
    Kamma is not kicking and hurting toe is not fruits of kamma.
    Kicking and hurting toe is kamma, and everything that led you up to the point of kicking that rock is kamma and everthing you do after that is kamma and everything that anyone does who was in any way influenced by you or your actions is kamma and everything they do...
  10. swarm Registered Senior Member

    I would have to disagree. I find anicca sufficient and anatta just a clarification about the most common personal attempt at an exception to anicca.

    I disagree. I think he is clearly, specifically and purposefully saying there is not a soul when he says anatta lit. "no soul." How much clearer could he be?

    But it does matter. Clinging to the concept of personal soul is clearly a major source of suffering.

    Ooo quote fest...

    anatta sutta

    Extracts from the Samyutta-Nikaya Compiled and translated by Nyanatiloka Mahathera

    When certain things we find combined,
    We speak of "chariot," speak of "car."
    Just so when all Five Groups appear,
    We use the designation "man."
    'Tis naught but woe that does arise;
    And that exists and passes off.
    Nothing but suffering appears,
    Nothing but woe that vanishes.
    — SN 5.10

    "But who, Venerable One, is it that feels?"

    "This question is not proper," said the Exalted One. "I do not teach that there is one who feels.
    — SN 12.12

    The five groups of existence are impermanent, woeful, and egoless. And also the causes and conditions of the arising of these groups of existence are impermanent, woeful, and egoless. How could that which has arisen through something impermanent, woeful, and egoless as its root, be itself permanent, joyful, and an ego?

    — SN 22.18-20

    "Should someone asked me, what will become of the Holy One, I should answer thus: 'Corporeality, feeling, perception, mental formations, and consciousness are impermanent; and what is impermanent, that is woeful; and what is woeful, that will become extinguished and annihilated.'"

    — SN 22.85

    There is no corporeality, no feeling, no perception, no mental formation, no consciousness that is permanent, enduring, and lasting, and that, not subject to any change, will eternally remain the same. If there existed such an ego that is permanent, enduring, and lasting and not subject to any change, then a holy life leading to complete extinction of suffering will not be possible.

    — SN 22.96

    Of course thus I have heard...sutras are just the ashes of the past. If you find a soul, you might bring it 'round.
  11. swarm Registered Senior Member

    Sorry, I should have been more clear. I found it interesting as a naturalistic review.

    Wait! Is that allowed?

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  12. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

    Strike a match and a flame comes into being.
    The state of that flame is in constant flux, but every state is directly dependent upon the prior state (and other external factors, of course, but let’s keep that aside).
    While the flame is constantly changing, still it remains a flame.
    Use that match to light a candle, and blow out the match.
    The flame on the candle is not the same flame as the one that was on the match – it did not jump from one to the other – but the flame on the candle came about as a direct result of the flame on the match.
    The original flame has gone out, yet it’s kamma continues.
    The first flame has given rise to another flame, which could not have existed without the first.
    It is a quite elegant way to demonstrate that kamma and rebirth is possible with annata – that much is certainly true, this does not, however, imply that there is no atta – simply that it does not matter to samsara if there is an atta.

    Atta, keep in mind, means simply “self” and not necessarily “transcendent soul”. The flame, while it can be snuffed, still retains a flameness while it is a flame. Else, what distinguishes it from an elephant? What distinguishes you from me? We are both subject to anicca, yet I am me and you are you.
    I think Thanissaro elucidates it extraordinarily well – much better than I ever could – and, as I said, I agree with him whole-heartedly.
    Which makes anatta a skillful strategy.
    Anicca does not imply there is no atta – just that the atta, if one exists, is subject to anicca, just as everything else is – except perhaps satya.
    That’s different.
    I also have a naturalistic view of the Dhamma and kamma. This, however, is part of why I do not refer to myself as a Buddhist. My views, while greatly influenced by Siddhartha, are not in complete concordance with his teachings. I have also been influenced by Jesus, though I do not refer to myself as Christian, and likely never will.
    I think you’ll find we agree on more than you might think.
  13. swarm Registered Senior Member

    Until is fuel is exhausted, then "no flame."

    That is debatable. "The flame is constantly changing," there is continuity between the two and "flame" is not a descrete entity.

    Well actually it did when you lit the one with the other. If you wish you can keep the match proximate and it will continue as one flame the entire time.

    I think a child makes a better example. In particular it is easier to see that kamma continues, but there is no "its" no "yours." Kamma is not possessed. DNA is passed on, life/kamma continues but it is no more you than you are your father. There is no soul to transfer, nothing personal continues past your death and even life shall end when the planet is rendered inhospitable to life as the sun approaches nova. Annica Anatta Dukkha

    Not quite true. There is more than one way to skin a combustion.

    anatta means no soul. If saying no soul this does not imply that there is no soul what do think he is trying to say when he says no soul? No soul seems a strange thing for the Buddha to say if he ment yes soul. I guess today he would say "oh I was just jerking you around when I said no soul I really ment yes soul and just said no soul because I'm a pathalogical liar. My bad."

    Its my understanding that in Hinduism (which would have been the audience he was telling anatta to) the atta is a concept of a perminant transcendent soul which is reborn directly.

    That's fine. I feel he is trying to pretend away the obvious.

    Then sense there is no evidence of it surviving the body there is no reason to suppose it does. Its just your sense of self.

    I'm sure he would only heave a sigh of relief to hear it.

    See that's the problem. The people who are interesting to talk to always turn out to be reasonable and then we end up agreeing and the conversation gets really boring.
  14. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

    It would not be the same flame.
    If it were, kamma would be meaningless.

    No "self", not no "soul" and he never did say there was no self - as is well explained in Thanissaro's piece.
    What he said was that thinking of one as having a permanent, intrinsic self is not skillful because, as you pointed out, it can lead to clinging and attachment (though I don't personally believe it necessarily will). That which leads to clinging and attachment should be disgarded as unskillful because it will not lead to enlightenment. Thus, it is an effective stategy.
    That which will lead to enlightenment should be practiced - that which does not should be discarded.

    Again, not necessarily true.
    Atman, in the Hindu tradition, is that intrinsic, essentially unchanging essence of who you are. It is not necessarily a "transcendent soul". It is the part of you which says "I am".

    Transcendence of the atman is an important aspect of many Hindu belief systems, but atman does not imply transcendence.
    Just as in most Hindu belief systems kamma will follow you to your next life, but the concept of kamma does not necessarily imply reincarnation.

    We will have to disagree.
    That should make you happy.

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    Just because the self may not be transcendent, that does not mean it does not exist.
    I personally believe it exists, but I am not at all convinced it is transcendent.
    In my view, the sense of self can be broken down to three components; sensual, intellectual and the atman.

    Again, though, the Buddha did not claim anything either way.
    Consider this...
    Four of the fourteen unanswerable questions are regarding whether or not the Tathagata exists after death.

    He would not answer if you exist after you die, because it is unskillful to brood over such questions, as it can cause attachment to the atman.

    Thank you - maybe. :bugeye:
  15. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

    By the way...
    Regardless of whether anatta is a skillful strategy or a metaphysical truth, the word anatta would still be applicable.
  16. swarm Registered Senior Member

    I'm not sure what "same flame" would actually entail.

    Nah, its not so fragile a concept.

    I think we are starting to pick nits here. I don't agree with his conclution.

    there isn't one.

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    That's not my understanding, but I don't claim to be anexpert in Hinduism


    And in fact it exists as a transient thought form produced by the agregates that make up the person.

    Does he exist before death?
  17. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

    If any of teh preceeding factors were different kamma would necessarily dictate a different outcome.

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    In fact?
    I presume you mean in your best estimation.
    I'd like to hear why you think that.
    It seems we are getting away from discussing the dhamma and moving more towards personal interpretation of satya.
    I don't mind that if you don't.

    By the way...

    Did you read the 14 questions which Siddhartha refused to answer when asked directly?

    Two of them are:

    Is the self identical with the body?
    or is it different from the body?
  18. swarm Registered Senior Member

    Descriptions of the dhamma are not the dhamma.
    Descriptions of kamma are not kamma.

    If we have to adjust what we say to improve the description or reflect changes in language, that doesn't dictate a different outcome.

  19. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

    Of course.
    I'm not sure what prompted that.

    I have to differ.
    Our discussion of kamma will certainly affect each of us, therefore is part of kamma, but I think I understand your point.

    Of course it does. That is the very essence of Kamma.
    The Butterfly Effect is part and parcel to kamma.
    If you strike a match, or light it with another match, or light it with a magnifying glass in the sun, or light it 1 second later the result is different.
    It is Chaos Theory.
    It is kamma.

    Neuroscience is no where near as advanced as you seem to believe it is or at least portray it as and has proven no such thing.
    Have we proven where the dividing line between nature and nurtue is?
    Have you read many twin studies?
    Neuroscience is still in its infancy and there is still a great deal of supposition, speculation and extrapolation.
  20. swarm Registered Senior Member

    It took a bit but I figured out what really bothers me about Thanissaro's position. It is self defeating. Anatta is skillful means only if it is taken as fully true. By saying we need only pretend it is true and that "really" there is a permanent soul that survives the body, he defeats the purpose of anatta.

    So if it turns out that when you die there actually was something beyond the ken of our mortal knowledge, then fine - be surprised. But for here and now you have to go with what can be actually known and that is nothing we know of can be shown to survive the dissolution of the body. You get one shot, make it count and don't put off enlightenment for some other "rebirth."

    Strike now! The iron is hot.
  21. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

    That's not quite what he is saying.
    He is saying (remember this is his interpretation of Siddhartha's words), "There is no way we can know or prove whether or not the Atta exists, so the wise thing to do will be to assume it does not, because that line of thought and action is the one that will be most useful to us in attaining enlightenment. Dewlling on an unanswerable question is not only not beneficial, it is detrimental - so chose to live as if the answer is what is most beneficial to your path to nibbana."
  22. swarm Registered Senior Member

    I didn't get that from what I read and I would say that with this question in particular, "assuming" is too weak a stance to take.
  23. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

    But there is no proof, so anything less than assumption would be a lie.

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