Is there a real world out there?...

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Is there a real world out there?...

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Jun 27, 2013 12:25 pm

...or is it all "beyond range"?
Retro and I touched on this recently and I thought it might be interesting to explore this question in more detail. Below is an exchange between us which hopefully sets the scene ( copied in from the Contemplating Anicca thread ).
Your thoughts?


Spiny Norman:
Yes, the focus with Theravada vipassana is on experience, but that experience doesn't occur in a vacuum.

Retrofurist:
It occurs here...
SN 35.23:
"Monks, I will teach you the All. Listen & pay close attention. I will speak."
"As you say, lord," the monks responded.
The Blessed One said, "What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range."

Spiny Norman
But forms, aromas etc are external. And see for example SN35.4, the section headed "The external as impermanent", where is says: "Forms..sounds..odours...tastes..tactile objects..are impermanent".
And a distinction is made in the suttas between the internal and the external, for example repeatedly in the Satipatthana Sutta and in suttas decribing the elements.
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby santa100 » Thu Jun 27, 2013 1:53 pm

SN 22.56 ( http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html )provides the definition of forms:
And what, bhikkhus, is form? The four great elements and the form derived from the four great elements: this is called form. With the arising of nutriment there is the arising of form. With the cessation of nutriment there is the cessation of form.


The 4 great elements are water, earth, fire, air, and Piya Tan's info. on "derived" forms:
Derived form was mentioned in SN 22.56. Although the “derived forms” (upada, rupa, later Pali upadaya,rupa) are mentioned here, their analysis first appears in the Abhidhamma Pitaka(Dhs 596; Tkp 3, qu at Vism 535; Tkp 89, 109; Vism 444), according to which there are 24 “derived forms,” namely: (1-5) the five sense faculties (pasada,rupa): seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, body; (6-9) the four sense objects: form, sound, smell, smell, taste (touch being identical with three of the primary elements, viz earth, fire and wind); (10) femininity (itthatta/itth’indriya); (11) masculinity (purisatta/-puris’indriya); (12) physical base of the mind (hadaya,vatthu); (13) physical life (rupa,jivita); (14) material quality of food (ahara,rupa); (15) the space element (akasa,dhatu); (16) bodily intimation (kaya,vinnatti), (17) verbal intimation (vaci,vinnatti); (18) lightness (physical agility) (rupassa lahuta), (19) malleability (physical elasticity) (rupassa muduta), (20) wieldiness (physical adaptability) (rupassa kammannata); (21) physical growth (rupassa upacaya); (22) physical continuity (rupassa santati); (23) decay (rupassa jarata) and (24) impermanence (rupassa aniccata).8 The Abhidhammattha,sangaha lists 28 “material phenomena” by adding the 4 primary elements (earth, water, fire, wind) to the head of the list
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby reflection » Thu Jun 27, 2013 2:15 pm

You can never prove it, because whatever information you gather will always come through the six senses. If a sutta says there is an external world, does it make it true? Is it to be taken literal or as a teaching aid? Again you read it with your eyes, think about it with your mind, but it is not proof of something external. So you could take it is there, on faith or reasoning. Or, I decided that it doesn't matter.
Last edited by reflection on Thu Jun 27, 2013 4:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby chownah » Thu Jun 27, 2013 4:22 pm

Indeed it can not be proven as far as I have ever been able to find out. I have for a long time asked if anyone can describe even theoretically a way to prove or disprove the existence of a real world out there and so far no one has been able to come up with it......about as close as you can come is to just say that it sure SEEMS like there is a real world out there but of course this proves nothing....and really doesn't the phrase "beyond range" sort of mean the same thing as "unprovable" in this context?
chownah

P.S. take another look at the list that santa100 posted.....masculinity and femininity are listed as forms as is lightness....how much sense does this make in a discussion about the real world out there?
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby Mindstar » Thu Jun 27, 2013 8:12 pm

They once asked the Buddha:
What is the Cause of a Phenomenon?

He replied:
Attention (manasikara) is the cause of any phenomenon!
Why so?
When Attention is present, the Phenomenon appears...
When Attention is absent, the Phenomenon disappears!


A phenomenon is an experienced state! An appearance, an observed event, a conscious occasion!
Whether experienced as a mental object: Ex: An experienced thought, idea, feeling, mood etc.
or experienced as a physical object: Ex: An experienced sight, sound, smell, taste or touch;
the experience is just a mental ‘state’, which is what in Buddhism is called a ‘Dhamma’ , which
is a passing moment of conscious time… As such: Everything in any world is just a mental state!
No thing exists as an independent physical object, until it is observed by a mental experience…
Before and after this direct observation, this ‘thing’ remains just an ‘idea’ or ‘’imagination’ …
A mere potential possibility! Not quite as real anymore… Any phenomenon is an experienced
object, a neurally generated image, a mere representation, and not the object itself!
An image of an apple, is not the apple itself...
Wherever he goes, there he is unafraid.. Wherever he sleeps, there he is unalarmed!
The nights and days does neither touch nor burn him. He sees nothing in this world
that is to be kept or lost.. Therefore his mind dwells in goodwill and gentle kindness
towards all beings until he falls asleep.
SN I 110
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jun 27, 2013 9:02 pm

Interesting question Spiny,

I agree with Chownah and Reflection that all we have to work with is our experience, and speculation about whether or not there are external things, and/or how well can we know them are outside the scope of Buddha-Dhamma.

To me, any attempt to confirm or deny that there is a "real world" misses the point. That most of us, in ordinary life, or in more technical areas such as science, use a working model that there is something out there, and that is what we are measuring or experiencing, and use language that builds in that assumption. We don't necessarily take it seriously, but we don't waste time thinking:
"I will go into the laboratory and measure the wavelength of this light that may or may not be real with this apparatus that also may or may not be real. And, by the way, my very concept of wavelength is built on the assumption of ..."
I sometimes see criticisms that so-an-so ancient or modern teacher is making unfounded ontological assumptions. I think that such criticisms often arise from taking the language and working model too seriously, and can swing wildly in the opposite, just as beside-the-point, direction.

:anjali:
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby kirk5a » Thu Jun 27, 2013 10:44 pm

mikenz66 wrote:To me, any attempt to confirm or deny that there is a "real world" misses the point.

I don't know where this quotation is from, but I think it goes well into "denial" territory.
No thing exists as an independent physical object, until it is observed by a mental experience…
Before and after this direct observation, this ‘thing’ remains just an ‘idea’ or ‘’imagination’ …
A mere potential possibility! Not quite as real anymore…

I think whoever said this is proclaiming that my physical body is just an "idea" or "imagination" until that person would happen to be looking at it.
"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 real world out there?...

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jun 27, 2013 10:56 pm

Yes, that's the sort of thing I was thinking of. I don't see such speculation as having any use in a Dhamma sense.

:anjali:
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby kirk5a » Thu Jun 27, 2013 10:59 pm

Or heck, going by the logic presented here, there is no way to prove the existence of my own brain. When's the last time anyone saw their own pancreas? Anyone want to deny they have a brain or a pancreas?
"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 real world out there?...

Postby kirk5a » Thu Jun 27, 2013 11:02 pm

Anyone willing to say they are sincerely agnostic about whether their liver exists?
"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 real world out there?...

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Jun 27, 2013 11:04 pm

Greetings Kirk,

That quote, as it stands, would make more sense if it was talking about something being a "phenomena" rather than "existing".

Wikipedia definition of phenomenon wrote:A phenomenon (Greek: φαινόμενoν, from the Greek word "phainómenon" or "phaenómenon", from the verb "phanein", to show, shine, appear, to be manifest (or manifest itself)), plural phenomena, is any observable occurrence. Phenomena are often, but not always, understood as 'appearances' or 'experiences'.

There is also the possibility that they mean "independent physical object" in the sense of some discrete sub-set of the universe being object-ified as an "independent physical object" ... for example, a tree is only an "independent physical object" from the forest (or universe for that matter) if it is regarded as a tree.

It's hard to make too much of the quote without additional context.

Back to Spiny's intended line of questioning, I agree with Mike's statement that "any attempt to confirm or deny that there is a "real world" misses the point", although unlike Mike I would not bold the word "deny" because I do not find either possibility any more troublesome than the other. Same with liver.

SN 12.15 wrote:Dwelling at Savatthi... Then Ven. Kaccayana Gotta approached the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One: "Lord, 'Right view, right view,' it is said. To what extent is there right view?"

"By & large, Kaccayana, this world is supported by (takes as its object) a polarity, that of existence & non-existence. But when one sees the origination of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'non-existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one. When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby Prasadachitta » Thu Jun 27, 2013 11:05 pm

The question of whether or not there is a real world out there requires us to have a working definition of "real". To be honest I'm not clear on how I understand it. If we look at the translated quote
"This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain,"



I think it is helpful to point out that the Buddha is criticizing the rejection of experience as we know it with the declaration that there is some other "thing" or "reality" that is outside of or separate from it.

To infer that there are circumstances outside of but in some form of relationship to our experience is logical, often very helpful and indeed I think irrefutable. What we must come to terms with is that it still remains an inference which is both generally reliable and profoundly fallible.

Prasadachitta
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby kirk5a » Thu Jun 27, 2013 11:23 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Back to Spiny's intended line of questioning, I agree with Mike's statement that "any attempt to confirm or deny that there is a "real world" misses the point", although unlike Mike I would not bold the word "deny" because I do not find either possibility any more troublesome than the other. Same with liver.

Same with liver? So you're sincerely agnostic about whether you have a liver?
"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 real world out there?...

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Jun 27, 2013 11:35 pm

Greetings Kirk,

kirk5a wrote:Same with liver? So you're sincerely agnostic about whether you have a liver?

I would never have object-ified "liver" as an independent physical object if no one had ever told me about livers, their function, and so on.... I would have just regarded this lump as "body".

What about you? Would you have object-ified "liver" as an independent physical object if no one had ever told you about livers, their function, and so on.? Without that objectification would we be having this discussion?

All in all, it's less about agnosticism than it is about the fabrication of perceptions of existence/non-existence. When one sees the origination of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'non-existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one. When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby SarathW » Thu Jun 27, 2013 11:52 pm

Hi Spiny
Say I showed you a block of land with some timber.
Then you saw a wild rabbit hiding behind timber.
You said "Look, there is a rabbit hiding behind timber"
Say a week after I took you to the same place. Then you told me me “Oh, you built a house”
Then I said “No, it is just a pile of timber put them in order”
Then the rabbit came out and said. “Yes Spiny, you are right, Sarath destroy my house and build his own house!” ;) :)
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby kirk5a » Thu Jun 27, 2013 11:53 pm

retrofuturist wrote:I would never have object-ified "liver" as an independent physical object if no one had ever told me about livers, their function, and so on.... I would have just regarded this lump as "body".

What about you? Would you have object-ified "liver" as an independent physical object if no one had ever told you about livers, their function, and so on.? Without that objectification would we be having this discussion?

All in all, it's less about agnosticism than it is about the fabrication of perceptions of existence/non-existence. When one sees the origination of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'non-existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one. When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one.

Ok, that's cool. Talking about objectification and fabrication of perceptions is a bit different than saying there is complete uncertainty about whether physical objects have any existence other than what one sees, hears, and so on. Which is how I usually hear the topic framed. Because I don't think people actually have any uncertainty about whether their eyeballs exist when they aren't looking in the mirror. Or whether they have a brain. Or any doubt about whether one's friends have any existence other than your own seeing, hearing, etc. of them.

As far as my own liver goes, I take it on faith with a 100% confidence level that I do in fact have one. Whether I objectify it or not may be relevant to my state of mind, but is irrelevant to the proper functioning of this physical body.

Oh and there is a way to prove that my liver exists - an X-ray or ultrasound is more than sufficient. Philosophical skeptics have gotten ahold of the concept of "proof" and raised it to a standard which is far beyond what "prove" means in the first place, making the idea of proof meaningless.
"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 real world out there?...

Postby SamKR » Fri Jun 28, 2013 12:42 am

Real vs. unreal. Both are extremes. There is no sharp demarcation between real and unreal.
I like the Buddha's words in Kaccayanagotta sutta and Kalakarama sutta.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

"Whatever is seen or heard or sensed
and fastened onto as true by others,
One who is Such — among the self-fettered —
wouldn't further claim to be true or even false.

"Having seen well in advance that arrow
where generations are fastened & hung
— 'I know, I see, that's just how it is!' —
there's nothing of the Tathagata fastened."
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jun 28, 2013 1:44 am

retrofuturist wrote:All in all, it's less about agnosticism than it is about the fabrication of perceptions of existence/non-existence. When one sees the origination of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'non-existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one. When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one.

I agree, and I think that sutta (SN 12.15) is actually irrelevant to Spiny's question. It appears to be referring to the extremes of eternalism and annhilationism, not about whether "things exist".
See: viewtopic.php?f=25&t=11269#p170101

PS, the reason I bolded "deny" above, is that I have seen people criticise what they see as "ontological statements but which I interpret as merely "the language and working model" above http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=17726#p251240. For example yathābhūtadassana is often translated as "seeing things as they really are" as in:
"Disenchantment, monks, also has a supporting condition, I say, it does not lack a supporting condition. And what is the supporting condition for disenchantment? 'The knowledge and vision of things as they really are' should be the reply.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .bodh.html

But it really isn't talking about some philosophical position. See: viewtopic.php?f=23&t=9782

:anjali:
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jun 28, 2013 1:47 am

By the way, here's an old, related, topic:
Is Theravada "Realist"?

:anjali:
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby Sylvester » Fri Jun 28, 2013 1:50 am

One of Prof Gombrich's students, Sue Hamilton, suggests that if the suttas' ontology were to meaningfully described and classified (even if the Buddha was totally uninterested in the enterprise), it would probably best be termed "transcendental idealism". There are 2 parts to the name.

Hamilton's analysis of the suttas leads her to believe that the phenomenological focus of the Buddha was on the Aggregates as either "experience" or "experiential facilitators". Because the Aggregates arise only with contact/phassa, that accounts for the "idealism" in one part of the suttas' ontology.

The "transcendental" bit is to account for the other limb of experience, ie the external bases (bāhira āyatana) that make up one-third of contact. These are the sense objects. As these things are never known directly, but only through the mediation of contact, she says they are "transcendental". Not in the sense of supramundane or anything mystical as such, but simply in the sense that nobody (not even the Buddha) could transcend the subject-object duality inherent in contact.
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