Buddhist (& Sarvāstivāda?) Metaphysics

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 897
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:55 pm

Re: Buddhist (& Sarvāstivāda?) Metaphysics

Postby Coëmgenu » Thu Dec 29, 2016 10:42 pm

Split from this thread in classical Theravāda, concerning the Paccayasutta (SN 12.20), which this thread is also about.

Javi wrote:With the commentary it seems to make sense to me. The "law" of patticasamuppada is just something that can be said to be stable.

Of course you wouldn't say that that "law" is some kind of ontological thing, just like you wouldn't say that the laws of physics are some ontological existing thing. It's just that the patterns of causality are repeatedly observed to be stable. You drop a ball again and again and it falls. You observe death again and again and it is conditioned by birth.


Bakmoon wrote:
CecilN wrote:
Javi wrote:Of course you wouldn't say that that "law" is some kind of ontological thing...

Is this a crime or sin? What is the relevance of this "ontological thing" to Buddhism?

Javi wrote:just like you wouldn't say that the laws of physics are some ontological existing thing.

Please explain more?

Javi wrote: It's just that the patterns of causality are repeatedly observed to be stable.

But the sutta states the patterns of causality exist independent of observation.

Javi wrote:You drop a ball again and again and it falls. You observe death again and again and it is conditioned by birth.

But the sutta states the patterns of causality exist independent of observation; that is, independent of the enlightenment of a Buddha. When not one person in the universe penetrates the reality of 'not-self' (anatta), everything in the universe is still anatta.

Javi is saying that dependent origination is not an entity or substance that somehow inheres inside dhammas, but is a description of how dhammas behave. The idea that dependent origination could somehow be an entity or substance is very strange indeed I think, because dependent origination is a set of causal links. If DO were somehow a substance, it would absurdly follow that each dhamma has tucked up inside of it all twelve of the links of DO.
The Pali literature calls the "law" of paṭiccasamuppāda "unchanging/permanent" more or less. And that is sufficient for setting up a "first principal" of metaphysics based on the Pali.

The secondary point that has come up (and this one relates solely to Sarvāstivāda metaphysics so is less directly relevant to practitioners as it is simply academic curiousity) in this discussion on the Paccayasutta and its āgama parallels (SN 12.20, SA 296, SF 163) (of which, I believe SA296 argues from a Sarvāstivāda POV vis-à-vis Dhamma-Theory) is whether or not the "unchanging/permanent" element/nature/quality (dhātu, in the Pali) is an integral part of the dhammas themselves or is seperate from the dhammas themselves. If the dhātu is an intrinsic element to the dhammas then the nature of being a dhamma necessitates that dhammas have a particular dhātu that is permanent (which would be the nature of being a dhamma) even if any specific dhamma was not permanent individually.

Its not the most relevant to practice however, hence why I put the discussion in "Connections to Other Paths".

A heresy in Dhamma-Theory may lead to eventual mispractice, but mainstream Buddhism does not support svabhāva Dhamma-Theory, so its a non-issue for a practitioner.
Bhagavā arahaṃ sammasāmbuddho:
Svākkhāto yena bhagavatā dhammo / Supaṭipanno yassa bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho
Tammayaṃ bhagavantaṃ sadhammaṃ sasaṅghaṃ / Imehi sakkārehi yathārahaṃ āropitehi abhipūjayāma.
(Dedication of Offerings)
此等諸法,法住、法空、法如、法爾,法不離如,法不異如,審諦真實、不顛倒。These many dharmāḥ, the residence of these dharmāḥ, the emptiness of these dharmāḥ, these dharmāḥ self-explain, these dharmāḥ are thus, these dharmāḥ do not depart from their self-explaining, these dharmāḥ are not different than their self-explaining, judged as truly real, not delusional. (SA 296, 因緣法)
揭諦揭諦,波羅揭諦,波羅僧揭諦,菩提薩婆訶

CecilN
Posts: 210
Joined: Sun Dec 25, 2016 9:31 am

Re: Buddhist (& Sarvāstivāda?) Metaphysics

Postby CecilN » Fri Dec 30, 2016 1:13 am

Coëmgenu wrote:The Pali literature calls the "law" of paṭiccasamuppāda "unchanging/permanent" more or less.

Yes.

Coëmgenu wrote:And that is sufficient for setting up a "first principal" of metaphysics based on the Pali.

No.

The leap to "metaphysics" does not necessarily apply from the premise of "unchanging/permanent". The logic here is flawed.

Coëmgenu wrote:A heresy in Dhamma-Theory may lead to eventual mispractice, but mainstream Buddhism does not support svabhāva Dhamma-Theory, so its a non-issue for a practitioner.

No.

To hold all things are always permanently absolutely unchangingly 'not-self' ('anatta') does not lead to eventual mispractise. It is the very opposite that leads to mispractise. Only certain Buddhist sects or cults deny the 'sabhava' nature of anatta.

In the Pali, only conditioned phenomena (sankhara) are impermanent. The laws of Dhamma are permanent/sabhava.

User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 897
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:55 pm

Re: Buddhist (& Sarvāstivāda?) Metaphysics

Postby Coëmgenu » Fri Dec 30, 2016 1:36 am

CecilN wrote:The leap to "metaphysics" does not necessarily apply from the premise of "unchanging/permanent". The logic here is flawed.
I direct you to the definition of metaphysics I put at the OP of the thread:
Metaphysics: a branch of inquiry that deals with the first principles of things, including abstract concepts such as being, knowing, substance, cause, identity, time, and space.


CecilN wrote:
Coëmgenu wrote:A heresy in Dhamma-Theory may lead to eventual mispractice, but mainstream Buddhism does not support svabhāva Dhamma-Theory, so its a non-issue for a practitioner.

No.

To hold all things are always permanently absolutely unchangingly 'not-self' ('anatta') does not lead to eventual mispractise. It is the very opposite that leads to mispractise. Only certain Buddhist sects or cults deny the 'sabhava' nature of anatta.
The ramifications of the Sarvāstivāda misconception, in practice, are seen here, if Ven Dhammanando will forgive me my quoting of him here:
Dhammanando wrote:The supposed transformation of passions posited by Tantric Buddhists (as opposed to the abandoning of them taught by the Buddha) is premised upon the Sarvāstivādin conception of dharmas, i.e. that dharmas are entities that persist through the three periods of time. If they didn't persist in this way there would be no possibility of grasping hold of a nasty dharma, so to speak, and transforming it into a nice one. However, since the Sarvāstivādin conception of dharmas was soundly refuted by Moggalliputtatissa at the Third Council we may safely dismiss the Vajrayāna’s preaching.
In the Sarvāstivāda-related sub-discussion, the subject matter concerns svabhāva-dhamma, the notion that the dhammas themselves have an element that is svabhāva, not the svabhāva of paṭiccasamuppāda, which is well-established in the Pali Canon (SN 12.20, the sutta that inspired this article).
Bhagavā arahaṃ sammasāmbuddho:
Svākkhāto yena bhagavatā dhammo / Supaṭipanno yassa bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho
Tammayaṃ bhagavantaṃ sadhammaṃ sasaṅghaṃ / Imehi sakkārehi yathārahaṃ āropitehi abhipūjayāma.
(Dedication of Offerings)
此等諸法,法住、法空、法如、法爾,法不離如,法不異如,審諦真實、不顛倒。These many dharmāḥ, the residence of these dharmāḥ, the emptiness of these dharmāḥ, these dharmāḥ self-explain, these dharmāḥ are thus, these dharmāḥ do not depart from their self-explaining, these dharmāḥ are not different than their self-explaining, judged as truly real, not delusional. (SA 296, 因緣法)
揭諦揭諦,波羅揭諦,波羅僧揭諦,菩提薩婆訶

CecilN
Posts: 210
Joined: Sun Dec 25, 2016 9:31 am

Re: Buddhist (& Sarvāstivāda?) Metaphysics

Postby CecilN » Fri Dec 30, 2016 1:43 am

Coëmgenu wrote:I direct you to the definition of metaphysics I put at the OP of the thread:
Metaphysics: a branch of inquiry that deals with the first principles of things, including abstract concepts such as being, knowing, substance, cause, identity, time, and space.

Dependent origination is about how suffering arises (and how suffering can be ended). To quote:
Now this has been said by the Blessed One: “One who sees dependent origination sees the Dhamma; one who sees the Dhamma sees dependent origination.” And these five aggregates affected by clinging are dependently arisen. The desire, indulgence, inclination, and holding based on these five aggregates affected by clinging is the origin of suffering. The removal of desire and lust, the abandonment of desire and lust for these five aggregates affected by clinging is the cessation of suffering.’ MN 28

Where as your definition of metaphysics could apply to just about anything.


Coëmgenu wrote:All experiences in the sensory world are in fact expressions of the Dhamma, and therefore contain the key to enlightenment.

The experience of sex-drugs-rocknroll does not contain the key to enlightenment. That is why George Michael died unenlightened.

The key to enlightenment is all conditioned experienced has an inherent impermanent, unsatisfactory & not-self sabhava nature that ordinary experience is blind to & does not discern.

Enlightenment sees what has always been there but has always been missed due to the blindness of ignorance & craving.

Coëmgenu wrote:Keeping in mind the assumption that all experiences are fundamentally experiences of suffering, of samsara, in one way or another.

The experience of enlightenment & Nibbana is not suffering nor samsara.

User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 897
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:55 pm

Re: Buddhist (& Sarvāstivāda?) Metaphysics

Postby Coëmgenu » Fri Dec 30, 2016 1:50 am

CecilN wrote:
Coëmgenu wrote:I direct you to the definition of metaphysics I put at the OP of the thread:
Metaphysics: a branch of inquiry that deals with the first principles of things, including abstract concepts such as being, knowing, substance, cause, identity, time, and space.

Dependent origination is about how suffering arises (and how suffering can be ended). To quote:
Now this has been said by the Blessed One: “One who sees dependent origination sees the Dhamma; one who sees the Dhamma sees dependent origination.” And these five aggregates affected by clinging are dependently arisen. The desire, indulgence, inclination, and holding based on these five aggregates affected by clinging is the origin of suffering. The removal of desire and lust, the abandonment of desire and lust for these five aggregates affected by clinging is the cessation of suffering.’ MN 28

Where as your definition of metaphysics could apply to just about anything.
Well that is what metaphysics is, like it or leave it. Its a broad area of inquiry that is largely unescapable.

CecilN wrote:
Coëmgenu wrote:All experiences in the sensory world are in fact expressions of the Dhamma, and therefore contain the key to enlightenment.

The experience of sex-drugs-rocknroll does not contain the key to enlightenment. That is why George Michael died unenlightened.
The point here, expressed better by the formal terminology of "all contact at the sense bases is tathātā, therefore analysis of that contact at the sense base holds the key to realization of tathātā" is that through analysis of "sex-drugs-rocknroll", from a perspective rooted in the Buddhadhamma, one can see the arising of "sex-drugs-rocknroll", one can see the falling of "sex-drugs-rocknroll". One can see the impermanence of "sex-drugs-rocknroll". One can see the suffering inherent in "sex-drugs-rocknroll".

CecilN wrote:
Coëmgenu wrote:Keeping in mind the assumption that all experiences are fundamentally experiences of suffering, of samsara, in one way or another.

The experience of enlightenment & Nibbana is not suffering.
In my quote, the intended meaning was "all experiences referred to here are fundamentally experiences of suffering, of samsara", but I was insufficiently clear, my apologies.
Bhagavā arahaṃ sammasāmbuddho:
Svākkhāto yena bhagavatā dhammo / Supaṭipanno yassa bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho
Tammayaṃ bhagavantaṃ sadhammaṃ sasaṅghaṃ / Imehi sakkārehi yathārahaṃ āropitehi abhipūjayāma.
(Dedication of Offerings)
此等諸法,法住、法空、法如、法爾,法不離如,法不異如,審諦真實、不顛倒。These many dharmāḥ, the residence of these dharmāḥ, the emptiness of these dharmāḥ, these dharmāḥ self-explain, these dharmāḥ are thus, these dharmāḥ do not depart from their self-explaining, these dharmāḥ are not different than their self-explaining, judged as truly real, not delusional. (SA 296, 因緣法)
揭諦揭諦,波羅揭諦,波羅僧揭諦,菩提薩婆訶

Bakmoon
Posts: 613
Joined: Sat Mar 10, 2012 3:14 pm

Re: Buddhist (& Sarvāstivāda?) Metaphysics

Postby Bakmoon » Fri Dec 30, 2016 2:44 am

Coëmgenu wrote:The Pali literature calls the "law" of paṭiccasamuppāda "unchanging/permanent" more or less. And that is sufficient for setting up a "first principal" of metaphysics based on the Pali.

I think we need to be very careful and very clear with how we use the word metaphysics, because it has a variety of distinct meanings and senses. Often it is used synonymous with ontology because ontology is often regarded as the core sub-discipline of metaphysics, but metaphysics is broader than that. Often by metaphysics we mean that we are talking about the most fundamental principles by which things operate, and this is distinct from questions of existence as such. Cosmology, for example, is a sub-discipline of metaphysics, but not ontology, for example.

I don't think that anyone disagrees that DO is metaphysical in the broader sense of the term.
Coëmgenu wrote:The secondary point that has come up (and this one relates solely to Sarvāstivāda metaphysics so is less directly relevant to practitioners as it is simply academic curiousity) in this discussion on the Paccayasutta and its āgama parallels (SN 12.20, SA 296, SF 163) (of which, I believe SA296 argues from a Sarvāstivāda POV vis-à-vis Dhamma-Theory) is whether or not the "unchanging/permanent" element/nature/quality (dhātu, in the Pali) is an integral part of the dhammas themselves or is seperate from the dhammas themselves. If the dhātu is an intrinsic element to the dhammas then the nature of being a dhamma necessitates that dhammas have a particular dhātu that is permanent (which would be the nature of being a dhamma) even if any specific dhamma was not permanent individually.

That's the part I'm having difficulty understanding. I can't see how DO can be a dhātu in the sense of substance literally adhering to a dhamma, because DO is a set of principles about causation. I can see how one can imagine dhammas of fire having a fire-dhātu that is some kind of internal potency or essence, but I can't see how anyone could imagine the twelve links being a dhātu in that sense.
The non-doing of any evil,
The performance of what's skillful,
The cleansing of one's own mind:
This is the Buddhas' teaching.

User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 897
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:55 pm

Re: Buddhist (& Sarvāstivāda?) Metaphysics

Postby Coëmgenu » Fri Dec 30, 2016 10:42 pm

Bakmoon wrote:I don't think that anyone disagrees that DO is metaphysical in the broader sense of the term.
You would be surprised how many people think the proper definition of metaphysics is "rumination on what does not exist".

Bakmoon wrote:
Coëmgenu wrote:The secondary point that has come up (and this one relates solely to Sarvāstivāda metaphysics so is less directly relevant to practitioners as it is simply academic curiousity) in this discussion on the Paccayasutta and its āgama parallels (SN 12.20, SA 296, SF 163) (of which, I believe SA296 argues from a Sarvāstivāda POV vis-à-vis Dhamma-Theory) is whether or not the "unchanging/permanent" element/nature/quality (dhātu, in the Pali) is an integral part of the dhammas themselves or is seperate from the dhammas themselves. If the dhātu is an intrinsic element to the dhammas then the nature of being a dhamma necessitates that dhammas have a particular dhātu that is permanent (which would be the nature of being a dhamma) even if any specific dhamma was not permanent individually.

That's the part I'm having difficulty understanding. I can't see how DO can be a dhātu in the sense of substance literally adhering to a dhamma, because DO is a set of principles about causation. I can see how one can imagine dhammas of fire having a fire-dhātu that is some kind of internal potency or essence, but I can't see how anyone could imagine the twelve links being a dhātu in that sense.
I don't think that the svabhāva-dharma view was about DO being a "substance". After all "dhātu" does not necessarily mean "material component". It simply means "nature/quality/element", without needing to be substantial.

What I think is being argued from the āgama is that there is an innate inner nature that all dhammas share, that all dhammas are, on one fundamental level, the same and unchanging, on account of the svabhāva-dhātu. Where this misconception, from a mainstream Buddhist POV, leads one to go off-track on terms of worldview is when one ascents to the notion that there is a svabhāva-dhātu in dhammas, and knows also that nibbana is also a dhamma. What is the dhātu allegedly shared between "dhammas arised by causal condition" and "Nibbana"?

I suspect this is the origin of some tathātā(truth/reality)-teachings in Mahāyāna Buddhism particularly East Asian Madhyamika-Tiāntái. That is, in what I have been exposed too from the Madhyamika-Tiāntái school, svabhāva-dharma-dhātu would be called tathātā, but I need to do more research.
Bhagavā arahaṃ sammasāmbuddho:
Svākkhāto yena bhagavatā dhammo / Supaṭipanno yassa bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho
Tammayaṃ bhagavantaṃ sadhammaṃ sasaṅghaṃ / Imehi sakkārehi yathārahaṃ āropitehi abhipūjayāma.
(Dedication of Offerings)
此等諸法,法住、法空、法如、法爾,法不離如,法不異如,審諦真實、不顛倒。These many dharmāḥ, the residence of these dharmāḥ, the emptiness of these dharmāḥ, these dharmāḥ self-explain, these dharmāḥ are thus, these dharmāḥ do not depart from their self-explaining, these dharmāḥ are not different than their self-explaining, judged as truly real, not delusional. (SA 296, 因緣法)
揭諦揭諦,波羅揭諦,波羅僧揭諦,菩提薩婆訶

Bakmoon
Posts: 613
Joined: Sat Mar 10, 2012 3:14 pm

Re: Buddhist (& Sarvāstivāda?) Metaphysics

Postby Bakmoon » Sat Dec 31, 2016 10:33 pm

Coëmgenu wrote:What I think is being argued from the āgama is that there is an innate inner nature that all dhammas share, that all dhammas are, on one fundamental level, the same and unchanging, on account of the svabhāva-dhātu. Where this misconception, from a mainstream Buddhist POV, leads one to go off-track on terms of worldview is when one ascents to the notion that there is a svabhāva-dhātu in dhammas, and knows also that nibbana is also a dhamma. What is the dhātu allegedly shared between "dhammas arised by causal condition" and "Nibbana"?

I suspect this is the origin of some tathātā(truth/reality)-teachings in Mahāyāna Buddhism particularly East Asian Madhyamika-Tiāntái. That is, in what I have been exposed too from the Madhyamika-Tiāntái school, svabhāva-dharma-dhātu would be called tathātā, but I need to do more research.

I think taking the passage in that sense is to conflate the term Dhatu with the idea of a substance or essence, which doesn't really make sense in context. I think contextually the term Dhatu means property/attribute/quality, namely the fact that DO is true. It remains eternally true that with ignorance as a condition formations arise, etc... That doesn't mean that all dhammas partake of an essential with-ignorance-as-a-condition-formations-arise-ness though.
The non-doing of any evil,
The performance of what's skillful,
The cleansing of one's own mind:
This is the Buddhas' teaching.

User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 897
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:55 pm

Re: Buddhist (& Sarvāstivāda?) Metaphysics

Postby Coëmgenu » Thu Jan 05, 2017 12:35 am

Bakmoon wrote:
Coëmgenu wrote:What I think is being argued from the āgama is that there is an innate inner nature that all dhammas share, that all dhammas are, on one fundamental level, the same and unchanging, on account of the svabhāva-dhātu. Where this misconception, from a mainstream Buddhist POV, leads one to go off-track on terms of worldview is when one ascents to the notion that there is a svabhāva-dhātu in dhammas, and knows also that nibbana is also a dhamma. What is the dhātu allegedly shared between "dhammas arised by causal condition" and "Nibbana"?

I suspect this is the origin of some tathātā(truth/reality)-teachings in Mahāyāna Buddhism particularly East Asian Madhyamika-Tiāntái. That is, in what I have been exposed too from the Madhyamika-Tiāntái school, svabhāva-dharma-dhātu would be called tathātā, but I need to do more research.

I think taking the passage in that sense is to conflate the term Dhatu with the idea of a substance or essence, which doesn't really make sense in context. I think contextually the term Dhatu means property/attribute/quality, namely the fact that DO is true. It remains eternally true that with ignorance as a condition formations arise, etc... That doesn't mean that all dhammas partake of an essential with-ignorance-as-a-condition-formations-arise-ness though.
I read the "dhātu" in "ṭhitāva sā dhātu dhammaṭṭhitatā dhammaniyāmatā idappaccayatā" as referring to paṭiccasamuppāda itself, as in, paṭiccasamuppāda is a dhātu with "persistence". I am not an expert in any of this though.

It makes me wonder if the saupādisesa ca nibbānadhātu (Nibbana-dhātu with residue) spoken of in the Nibbānadhātusutta (Iti 44) is the "persistence" of the persistent paṭiccasamuppāda dhātu spoken of in the Paccayasutta, assuming of course that the Paccayasutta does indeed label paṭiccasamuppāda as a dhātu, it may well not.
Bhagavā arahaṃ sammasāmbuddho:
Svākkhāto yena bhagavatā dhammo / Supaṭipanno yassa bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho
Tammayaṃ bhagavantaṃ sadhammaṃ sasaṅghaṃ / Imehi sakkārehi yathārahaṃ āropitehi abhipūjayāma.
(Dedication of Offerings)
此等諸法,法住、法空、法如、法爾,法不離如,法不異如,審諦真實、不顛倒。These many dharmāḥ, the residence of these dharmāḥ, the emptiness of these dharmāḥ, these dharmāḥ self-explain, these dharmāḥ are thus, these dharmāḥ do not depart from their self-explaining, these dharmāḥ are not different than their self-explaining, judged as truly real, not delusional. (SA 296, 因緣法)
揭諦揭諦,波羅揭諦,波羅僧揭諦,菩提薩婆訶


Return to “Connections to Other Paths”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 30 guests

Google Saffron, Theravada Search Engine