Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue Jul 13, 2010 4:04 pm

Thanks Peter, maybe I'll drop him a line. I see he's on Facebook :)

Namaste,

LE
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby PeterB » Tue Jul 13, 2010 4:11 pm

:thumbsup:
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby Shonin » Tue Jul 13, 2010 4:14 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:My answer was that no, it is not substance dualism because according to Theravada, consciousness does not come into being on its own, but arises together with the other aggregates. Form and mind are mutually dependent. The last moment of past life consciousness takes place in a body, as does the first moment of present life consciousness. There's no point at which consciousness just "hangs in the air" all by itself.


Sounds about right. It isn't dualism. But beyond that (the ultimate nature of reality: mind, matter, some sort of Cosmic Oneness etc) is ontological speculation, which is 'beyond range' and irrelevant to the project of ending suffering.
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby beeblebrox » Tue Jul 13, 2010 9:09 pm

Shonin wrote:What you have described is not Non-dualism. You have described Monism.

Here's a rundown:
Dualism: There are two fundamentally different kinds of 'stuff'.
Monism: Fundamentally, there is only one kind of stuff - mind or matter. There are two types:
- Idealism: Everything is Mind - the appearance of physical things is a kind of illusion
- Physicalism: Everything is Physical - the appearance of mental things is a kind of illusion

Non-dualism is a rejection of Dualism without asserting a Monism. Mind and Matter are 'not two' - they arise together in some sense.


Actually, I think you raised some interesting points. :geek: Seems like there are different understandings of what the "non-dualism" really means (also "dualism"). Who defines these words anyway? Who is really the authority on these kind of stuff? This is just like there are different understandings of Buddhism.

Some of these understanding about non-dualism (i.e., as a variety of monism) indeed seems to go against what the Buddha taught. (Unless you're one of these certain Mahayanists who think that it's all mind.)

Some other understanding of non-dualism (i.e., that is not monistic, but still also rejects of the idea of two distinct, separate stuff (which in turn, would be based on some people's own understanding of what dualism is (which other dualists might disagree with, because these people might say that the dualism is really two things relying on each other, not distinctly separate (which would take us back to the square one)))) this kind of non-dualism (or say, mutual dualism) would then seem to agree with some of what the Buddha taught, like the dependence of namarupa and consciousness on each other. (Like a pair of reeds.)

If this kind of non-dualism, though, implies that these two things are always bound together (theoretically according to a yet different understanding)... then I think this would go against what the Buddha taught. The D.O. then is erroneously viewed as being eternally bounded together; there would be no escape, no nibbana, and therefore the Dhamma would be pointless.

Anyway... I think these different types of views about what the non-dualism and the dualism really means, is one of the reasons why the Buddha recommended against adopting any viewpoints (i.e., not is, not not is, not both, not neither, etc.) It leads to papañca, which would undermine one's practice.
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby Sobeh » Tue Jul 13, 2010 9:26 pm

As long as it is defined as somehow being Metaphysics, it's to be discarded as irrelevant. Non-dualism, however one details it, is still an ontological claim. If people want to talk meaningful philosophy, let's investigate Buddhist epistemology and metaethics.
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby Nyana » Tue Jul 13, 2010 11:53 pm

PeterB wrote:The appeal to the authority of Bhikkhu Bodhi is not to him as a philosopher. It is to him as one who in his life and teachings shows a consistant degree of Insight into the teachings of the Buddha as found in the Pali Canon.
Insight which has been gained through meditation practises, rather than on websites.

Hi Peter, Sobeh, and all,

Ven. Bodhi's paper Dhamma and Non-duality simply misrepresents Indian Mahāyāna mādhyamaka and then critiques this misrepresentation. It's a straw man argument. It in no way represents the view of the historical Nāgārjuna, Āryadeva, Buddhapālita, Candrakīrti, or Śāntideva. For example, Ven. Bodhi states:

    The validity of conventional dualities is denied....

No mādhyamika worth his or her salt would ever deny the soteriological validity of conventional designations or the practices which employ conventional designations. There is no path without such distinctions. Even a superficial perusal of Āryadeva's Catuḥśatikā (2nd-3rd century CE) or Śāntideva's Śikṣāsamuccaya (8th century CE) should make clear just how important conventional distinctions are to proper mental development and practice in the eyes of these mādhyamika-s. Just a couple of excerpts from Āryadeva's Catuḥśatikā will suffice to demonstrate the necessity of understanding and employing conventional distinctions:

    That which cuts craving for reward and honor,
    The best spur to practice with effort in seclusion,
    The excellent secret of all the scriptures,
    Is initially to remember death.

And:

    Thinking about the impermanence and uncleanness of the body,
    Understand the faults of attachment to it.
    Make effort to achieve unsurpassable enlightenment
    And give up pride in both “I” and “mine.”

PeterB wrote:A crucial part of the Theravadin understanding is that there is no a priori consciousness , either individual nor collective, no "Buddha Nature". That consciousness arises dependently together with everything else, as you say.
The Buddhadhamma of the Canon is ruthlessly radical.

It’s also crucial to the mādhyamaka view of the above mentioned authors that there is “no a priori consciousness , either individual nor collective” and that “consciousness arises dependently together with everything else.”

Mādhyamaka arose as a critique and corrective of Sarvāstivāda tenets. Because the Sarvāstivāda was a Nikāya school which didn’t accept the authority of any non-canonical sūtra-s, the Indian mādhyamika authors cited canonical statements which are common to the discourses of the Sanskrit āgama-s and the Pāḷi nikāya-s as scriptural support for their critiques. As such, the mādhyamaka view of these authors doesn’t deviate from that of the Pāḷi sutta-s and was never intended as a critique of the early Pāḷi Abhidhamma Piṭaka.

Sobeh wrote:As long as it is defined as somehow being Metaphysics, it's to be discarded as irrelevant. Non-dualism, however one details it, is still an ontological claim. If people want to talk meaningful philosophy, let's investigate Buddhist epistemology and metaethics.

Mādhyamaka doesn’t confuse or conflate epistemology and ontology.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby PeterB » Wed Jul 14, 2010 6:52 am

Thank you Nana. I will stick with Bhikkhu Bodhi thanks as its rooted in Theravada pragmatism rather abstract surmising. If I set any store by Nagarjuna et al. I wouldnt be on this forum.

:anjali:
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby Shonin » Wed Jul 14, 2010 7:01 am

Choosing not to follow a path is one thing. Spreading misrepresentations of it, is another.
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby PeterB » Wed Jul 14, 2010 7:04 am

Am I being accused of something Shonin ?
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby PeterB » Wed Jul 14, 2010 7:11 am

Well ?
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby PeterB » Wed Jul 14, 2010 7:25 am

I suppose really we should be grateful that you take time out to put us right with our confused Theravadin ways, It is actually altruistic of you to rephrase our answers in a way that better suits your pre existing Zen belief systems about emptiness and fingers and hands clapping etc.
Particularly in light of the fact that back on the forum of which you are Global Moderator there are the usual crop of posts from those who post repeatedly to say that they don't exist. There is a thread eulogising the cult leader Rajneesh. There is a regular poster with links to a site which proclaims the White Lions OF Africa to be incarnations of God and at least one individual who thinks that the Buddha is Jung's representative on earth. And that Buddha Nature IS Jung's Collective Unconscious. And that Dependant Origination starts there.
Given all that the true magnanimity of your actions in bringing the light to the heathen is that much more commendable.
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby PeterB » Wed Jul 14, 2010 7:28 am

PeterB wrote:Thank you Nana. I will stick with Bhikkhu Bodhi thanks as its rooted in Theravada pragmatism rather abstract surmising. If I set any store by Nagarjuna et al. I wouldnt be on this forum.

:anjali:

'king bump.
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby Nyana » Wed Jul 14, 2010 8:32 am

PeterB wrote:Thank you Nana.

Hi Peter,

You're welcome.

PeterB wrote:I will stick with Bhikkhu Bodhi thanks as its rooted in Theravada pragmatism rather abstract surmising.

Straw man argumentation has nothing whatsoever to do with pragmatism. And if you think that Theravāda commentary doesn't veer into "abstract surmising" I would suggest that you haven't looked closely enough.

Moreover, the difficulty with any modern misrepresentation -- be it Theravāda or Mahāyāna -- is that it retards the possibility of meaningful Theravāda Mahāyāna dialogue. This may seem utterly unimportant to you Peter, and that's fine, but that doesn't make it unimportant to others. It simply isn't excusable for any modern post-secondary educated western teacher to continue to promote inaccurate appraisals of other traditions. And this is equally true of any modern western Mahāyāna teachers who misrepresent the Pāḷi Nikāya-s or the Theravāda commentarial tradition. It's unacceptable.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby PeterB » Wed Jul 14, 2010 8:49 am

Yes we get it Nana...its unacceptable to you.
A perfunctory perusal of this thread will I think show a number of Theravadin students taking the same view as Bhikkhu Bodhi, i.e. that duality and non duality is simply not addressed by the Buddha.
Given the nature of the religious culture in which he was raised this is significant. A careful reading will show that what is being offered is not an alternative understanding of duality/non duality, rather a non engagement with the issue. Which given the prominent nature of the issue to many Mahayanists could be seen as an contrary position. From a Theravadin viewpoint the whole duality/non duality debate amounts to a strawman of vast proportions and gothic complexity.
The fact that later interpolations of Buddhadhamma both raised the issue and then addressed it to their own satisfaction is neither here nor there.
If I am to remain within the forum guidelines words cannot adequately convey the degree of indifference I hold towards the teachings of Nagarjuna.
Neither except at an individual level am I particularly interested in Theravada -Mahayana dialogue.
Nothing personal. Some of my best friends are Mahayanists.
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby Hoo » Wed Jul 14, 2010 9:42 am

PeterB wrote:....A perfunctory perusal of this thread will I think show a number of Theravadin students taking the same view as Bhikkhu Bodhi, i.e. that duality and non duality is simply not addressed by the Buddha....


:goodpost:

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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby Nyana » Wed Jul 14, 2010 10:02 am

PeterB wrote:A perfunctory perusal of this thread will I think show a number of Theravadin students taking the same view as Bhikkhu Bodhi, i.e. that duality and non duality is simply not addressed by the Buddha.

Actually, Ven. Bodhi states the following:

    [T]he merging of techniques grounded in incompatible conceptual frameworks is fraught with risk. Although such mergers may appease a predilection for experimentation or eclecticism, it seems likely that their long-term effect will be to create a certain "cognitive dissonance" that will reverberate through the deeper levels of the psyche and stir up even greater confusion.

And:

    The Mahayana schools, despite their great differences, concur in upholding a thesis that, from the Theravada point of view, borders on the outrageous. This is the claim that there is no ultimate difference between samsara and Nirvana, defilement and purity, ignorance and enlightenment.

Both of these statements are simply unsustainable. Regarding the fist, I personally know Theravāda monastics who wholeheartedly accept the mādhyamaka view as being entirely consistent with the view presented in the Pāḷi Nikāya-s. I also know others, who beyond this, practice Avalokiteśvara sādhana or Tārā sādhana. None of these individuals consider their practice to be a conflation of "incompatible conceptual frameworks" that creates any "cognitive dissonance" resulting in "even greater confusion."

Regarding the second statement, it is quite apparent that at the time of writing this paper Ven. Bodhi had little understanding of mādhyamaka. Throughout the paper he repeatedly critiques non-mādhyamaka, non-yogācāra, and non-Buddhist views as if they were representative of "the Mahāyāna schools." This displays all the philosophical subtlety of a jackhammer. It's fallacious argumentation based on misrepresentation. The bar needs to be raised.

PeterB wrote:A careful reading will show that what is being offered is not an alternative understanding of duality/non duality, rather a non engagement with the issue.

SN 12.15 Kaccānagotta Sutta represents the mādhyamaka view par excellence. Anyone who doesn't understand this isn't in any position to comment on mādhyamaka nonduality.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby PeterB » Wed Jul 14, 2010 10:17 am

I have no desire to comment on madhyamika non duality. My understanding of it is irrelevant either way.
Anymore than I log onto a Theravadin website to comment on Transubstantiation or The Twelve Hidden Imams or the principles of Christian Science , although I am sure that the adherents of those faiths could find Sutta verses which they could expand into a confirmation of their position.
I was tempted to look up the Sutta verse alluded to, in order to comment on it. but do you know what Nana ?
I really ...dont....care.
I guarantee one thing. I will not join any Mahayana forum that you belong to in order to argue the Theravada view. Because I don't actually care what you think...You are of course free to raise any bar you feel needs raising.
metta,

:anjali:
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby Nyana » Wed Jul 14, 2010 10:34 am

PeterB wrote:I have no desire to comment on madhyamika non duality.

That's fine.

PeterB wrote:I guarantee one thing. I will not join any Mahayana forum that you belong to in order to argue the Theravada view.

I don't belong to any Mahāyāna forums. And there is no such thing as "the Theravāda view." There are many examples, both historical and modern, of ppl who consider themselves to be very orthodox who disagree with others who consider themselves to be very orthodox. Not to mention the wide range of modern Theravāda teachers who maintain quite divergent views.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby PeterB » Wed Jul 14, 2010 10:51 am

Geoff please feel free to continue to count as many empty straws on as many non-dual shunyata strawmen as you wish. Cite as many authorities as you wish. To which I could cite an equal ( at least ) number of Theravadin authorities to refute all and any madhyamika formulation..
Whats the point ? Really ?

Just include me out.

:anjali:
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Postby Shonin » Wed Jul 14, 2010 1:39 pm

Hi Peter,

If you really have as much disinterest in all Mahayana thought as you say, and do not wish to discuss it, the sensible thing to do would be to refrain from making disparaging straw man arguments, comments and implications about it. I'm sure I've suggested this to you before.

Your criticisms of Nagarjuna, Madhyamaka, Sunyata and Non-duality are consistently off-target and unsupported by source material. Nagarjuna, for example, is abstract but very non-metaphysical. He has been compared in modern times to Wittgenstein, who was the leading figure in the Logical Positivist movement. That is about as non-metaphysical as you can get. Having said that, there are Mahayana concepts which really are very metaphysical or have been reinterpreted as such. Neither Emptiness nor Non-self mean non-existence, for example. Those misunderstandings are worth challenging I think. And that is what I try to do at least at times on ZFI. Just as your (and Bikkhu Bodhi's) misunderstanding of Non-duality as some sort of metaphysical theory about a Cosmic Absolute that is inconsistent with Buddhadhamma is worth challenging here.

There is, however no enforced orthodoxy of view on ZFI (Esangha had that and it wasn't pretty). Also, I'm not an active moderator there.

Also I'm not aware of having any 'pre existing Zen belief systems' . As I explained, Nonduality is an experience (of Nonself) not a belief. It is, however Zen terminology - but hey, Bikkhu Bodhi started it. I'm not a 'Zennist' or a 'Mahayanaist'. Zen just happens to be my main practice. I also sit with a Theravada group. Just last night I gave a talk there about Anatta. I'm just as comfortable with a Theravada theoretical framework - maybe even more so. One thing I greatly value about Theravada is the coherence of it's authoritative texts - especially the Nikayas - and in my experience so far, there may be less tendency towards misunderstanding. A coherent theoretical model is valuable.

Peace,
Shonin
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