Is there a gnostic element to the goals of Buddhism?

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Is there a gnostic element to the goals of Buddhism?

Postby Lazy_eye » Mon Apr 29, 2013 2:35 pm

All,

During some recent discussions, I was reminded of a question brought up by Ven. Paññāsikhara in reference to nibbana/nirvana. Specifically, "is there a gnostic aim of Buddhism, i.e. an object of knowledge which is the goal, or is it sheer destruction of afflictions"?

When we look at the Buddha's accounts of his awakening, as described in the suttas, the answer appears to be yes. At all three watches of the night, the Buddha gains "knowledge".

"I remembered my manifold past lives in their modes & details...This was the first knowledge I attained in the first watch of the night. Ignorance was destroyed; knowledge arose; darkness was destroyed; light arose — as happens in one who is heedful, ardent, & resolute.

"I discerned how they [beings] are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma. This was the second knowledge I attained in the second watch of the night..."

"I discerned that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'... This was the third knowledge I attained in the third watch of the night..."

To what extent do you see the path in terms of gnosis?
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Re: Is there a gnostic element to the goals of Buddhism?

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Apr 29, 2013 7:22 pm

Thanks for pointing out that excellent discussion, Lazy Eye...

:anjali:
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Re: Is there a gnostic element to the goals of Buddhism?

Postby PadmaPhala » Tue Apr 30, 2013 5:18 am

in a way yes, so that there's no more ignorance.
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Re: Is there a gnostic element to the goals of Buddhism?

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Apr 30, 2013 9:54 am

Lazy_eye wrote: Specifically, "is there a gnostic aim of Buddhism, i.e. an object of knowledge which is the goal, or is it sheer destruction of afflictions"?
To what extent do you see the path in terms of gnosis?


IMO the suttas do describe a gnostic goal - and MN4 strongly suggests it is this knowledge which leads to the destruction of the afflictions and awakening.

For example in MN4: "I saw - by means of the divine eye, purified and surpassing the human..."

And in SN56.11: "(Likewise,) in me, bhikkhus, in regard to things unheard before, there arose vision, knowledge, wisdom, true knowledge and light..."
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Re: Is there a gnostic element to the goals of Buddhism?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Apr 30, 2013 10:04 am

porpoise wrote:
Lazy_eye wrote: Specifically, "is there a gnostic aim of Buddhism, i.e. an object of knowledge which is the goal, or is it sheer destruction of afflictions"?
To what extent do you see the path in terms of gnosis?


IMO the suttas do describe a gnostic goal - and MN4 strongly suggests it is this knowledge which leads to the destruction of the afflictions and awakening.

For example in MN4: "I saw - by means of the divine eye, purified and surpassing the human..."

And in SN56.11: "(Likewise,) in me, bhikkhus, in regard to things unheard before, there arose vision, knowledge, wisdom, true knowledge and light..."
But what is it knowledge of?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Is there a gnostic element to the goals of Buddhism?

Postby Mr Man » Tue Apr 30, 2013 11:03 am

tiltbillings wrote:
porpoise wrote:
Lazy_eye wrote: Specifically, "is there a gnostic aim of Buddhism, i.e. an object of knowledge which is the goal, or is it sheer destruction of afflictions"?
To what extent do you see the path in terms of gnosis?


IMO the suttas do describe a gnostic goal - and MN4 strongly suggests it is this knowledge which leads to the destruction of the afflictions and awakening.

For example in MN4: "I saw - by means of the divine eye, purified and surpassing the human..."

And in SN56.11: "(Likewise,) in me, bhikkhus, in regard to things unheard before, there arose vision, knowledge, wisdom, true knowledge and light..."
But what is it knowledge of?


cessation?
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Re: Is there a gnostic element to the goals of Buddhism?

Postby Coyote » Tue Apr 30, 2013 11:11 am

Avijja is one of the afflictions, so the two goals are one and the same.
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
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Re: Is there a gnostic element to the goals of Buddhism?

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed May 01, 2013 9:40 am

tiltbillings wrote:
porpoise wrote:IMO the suttas do describe a gnostic goal - and MN4 strongly suggests it is this knowledge which leads to the destruction of the afflictions and awakening.
For example in MN4: "I saw - by means of the divine eye, purified and surpassing the human..."
And in SN56.11: "(Likewise,) in me, bhikkhus, in regard to things unheard before, there arose vision, knowledge, wisdom, true knowledge and light..."


But what is it knowledge of?


Probably we'll never know - this sutta suggests that what the Buddha taught was only a small fraction of what he "discovered": http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
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Re: Is there a gnostic element to the goals of Buddhism?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed May 01, 2013 9:56 am

porpoise wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
porpoise wrote:IMO the suttas do describe a gnostic goal - and MN4 strongly suggests it is this knowledge which leads to the destruction of the afflictions and awakening.
For example in MN4: "I saw - by means of the divine eye, purified and surpassing the human..."
And in SN56.11: "(Likewise,) in me, bhikkhus, in regard to things unheard before, there arose vision, knowledge, wisdom, true knowledge and light..."


But what is it knowledge of?


Probably we'll never know - this sutta suggests that what the Buddha taught was only a small fraction of what he "discovered": http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Well, the only knowledge that is of any real importance is that which liberates, but I think we need to keep in mind that the Dhamma is not about accumulation.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Is there a gnostic element to the goals of Buddhism?

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed May 01, 2013 10:14 am

tiltbillings wrote:
porpoise wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:But what is it knowledge of?


Probably we'll never know - this sutta suggests that what the Buddha taught was only a small fraction of what he "discovered": http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


Well, the only knowledge that is of any real importance is that which liberates, but I think we need to keep in mind that the Dhamma is not about accumulation.


It seems that the Buddha made a pragmatic decision to teach the bits that were most conducive to liberation. I'm not sure I understand your point about accumulation - it seems to me that awakening means seeing things as they really are, the big picture, a radical transformation of perception and consciousness.
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Re: Is there a gnostic element to the goals of Buddhism?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed May 01, 2013 10:48 am

porpoise wrote: I'm not sure I understand your point about accumulation - it seems to me that awakening means seeing things as they really are, the big picture, a radical transformation of perception and consciousness.
And all this is in the context of letting go.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Is there a gnostic element to the goals of Buddhism?

Postby reflection » Wed May 01, 2013 11:05 am

We could find suttas which seem to point that understanding is a goal, but it is always understanding that leads to freedom. Then there are also various quotes that say the path is taught with the freedom of nibbana as its only goal. In a way wisdom and liberation are the same, but if we look upon it with a wrong view, they are not.

Some people may see the accumulation of knowledge as if it is their knowledge. Something new to attain or become. To become a wise person, able to share their views. It's not hard to get stuck in such an idea. On the other hand, those who are not interested in reality at all, might not investigate it enough. So it's the ground between those two where it's best to walk, I think. Training wisdom for the sake of letting it all go, wisdom itself included.

At certain points in my practice I had to convince myself it was better to investigate a state of mind, to get to see its source. At other points, I wanted to understand "it" in such a way that only caused more craving and restlessness. This happens when I wanted to understand it without having the clearer picture of why. It's not understanding to just know, it's understanding to be a bit more liberated. Also, I think it's wise not try to understand something outside our own experience, but always reflect back on our own meditation to understand that. The four noble truths are right there.

:anjali:
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Re: Is there a gnostic element to the goals of Buddhism?

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed May 01, 2013 1:23 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
porpoise wrote: I'm not sure I understand your point about accumulation - it seems to me that awakening means seeing things as they really are, the big picture, a radical transformation of perception and consciousness.


And all this is in the context of letting go.


Could you say what you mean by "letting go"?
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Re: Is there a gnostic element to the goals of Buddhism?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed May 01, 2013 1:59 pm

porpoise wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
porpoise wrote: I'm not sure I understand your point about accumulation - it seems to me that awakening means seeing things as they really are, the big picture, a radical transformation of perception and consciousness.


And all this is in the context of letting go.


Could you say what you mean by "letting go"?
To start:


    If I stood still, I sank; If I struggled, I was carried away.
    Thus by neither standing still nor struggling, I crossed the flood.
    SN 1 1

    He who has nothing
    -- in front, behind, in between --
    the one with nothing
    who clings to no thing:
    he's what I call
    a brahman.
    Dhp 421

    Gone to the beyond of becoming,
    you let go of in front,
    let go of behind,
    let go of between.
    With a heart everywhere let-go,
    you don't come again to birth
    & aging.
    Dhp 348

    "Herein, Bahiya, you should train yourself thus: 'In the seen will be merely what is seen; in the heard will be merely what is heard; in the sensed will be merely what is sensed; in the cognized will be merely what is cognized.' In this way you should train yourself, Bahiya. "When, Bahiya, for you in the seen is merely what is seen; in the heard merely what is heard; in the sensed merely what is sensed, in the cognized is merely what is cognized, then, Bahiya, there is no you in terms of that. When there is no you in terms of that, there is no you there. When there is no you there, you are neither here nor beyond nor in between the two. Just this is the end of suffering." Ud 10
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Is there a gnostic element to the goals of Buddhism?

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu May 02, 2013 12:24 pm

tiltbillings wrote:Gone to the beyond of becoming,
you let go of in front,
let go of behind,
let go of between.
With a heart everywhere let-go,
you don't come again to birth
& aging.
Dhp 348


Interesting quote. You seem to be pointing to "letting go" as a method of practice, but the OP seems more about the nature of the goal of practice, ie awakening - or am I missing the point?
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Re: Is there a gnostic element to the goals of Buddhism?

Postby kirk5a » Thu May 02, 2013 1:43 pm

With full release, there is the knowledge, 'Fully released.'

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Is there a gnostic element to the goals of Buddhism?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu May 02, 2013 4:01 pm

kirk5a wrote:
With full release, there is the knowledge, 'Fully released.'

"Seeing thus, the instructed disciple of the noble ones grows disenchanted with form, disenchanted with feeling, disenchanted with perception, disenchanted with fabrications, disenchanted with consciousness. Disenchanted, he becomes dispassionate. Through dispassion, he is fully released. With full release, there is the knowledge, 'Fully released.' He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'"
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Is there a gnostic element to the goals of Buddhism?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu May 02, 2013 4:19 pm

porpoise wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:Gone to the beyond of becoming,
you let go of in front,
let go of behind,
let go of between.
With a heart everywhere let-go,
you don't come again to birth
& aging.
Dhp 348


Interesting quote. You seem to be pointing to "letting go" as a method of practice, but the OP seems more about the nature of the goal of practice, ie awakening - or am I missing the point?
Since one cannot willfully "let go," I do not read "letting go" in this passage as a practice; rather, it is in the insight that arises from the causes and conditions cultivated by one's practice that the letting go happens. But the idea of letting go certainly can be a guide for practice.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Is there a gnostic element to the goals of Buddhism?

Postby Viscid » Thu May 02, 2013 9:06 pm

Buddhist gnosis is fundamentally pragmatic: if it is a gnosis which leads to liberation, then it's valuable. Knowledge of becoming-- the causes and conditions of things-- which includes dependent origination and is realized through jhana, is such a pragmatic gnosis.
tiltbillings wrote:But the idea of letting go certainly can be a guide for practice.

I'd say the experienced result of 'letting go' is the guide for practice, more so than the mere idea of letting go.
"What holds attention determines action." - William James
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Re: Is there a gnostic element to the goals of Buddhism?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu May 02, 2013 10:10 pm

Viscid wrote:Buddhist gnosis is fundamentally pragmatic: if it is a gnosis which leads to liberation, then it's valuable. Knowledge of becoming-- the causes and conditions of things-- which includes dependent origination and is realized through jhana, is such a pragmatic gnosis.
tiltbillings wrote:But the idea of letting go certainly can be a guide for practice.

I'd say the experienced result of 'letting go' is the guide for practice, more so than the mere idea of letting go.
Yes to all of what you said, but, of course, one must start from where one is.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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