Is there a real world out there?...

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Spiny Norman
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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.
"My religion is very simple - my religion is ice-cream."
Dairy Lama

santa100
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

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


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reflection
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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.

chownah
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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?
chownah

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

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


Higher than lordship over all earth,
Higher than sojourning in heavens supreme,
Higher than empire over all the worlds,
Is Fruit of Entrance to the Dhamma Stream.
—Dhammapada

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mikenz66
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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:
Mike

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kirk5a
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

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

"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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mikenz66
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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:
Mike

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kirk5a
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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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retrofuturist
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

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

"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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

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

"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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kirk5a
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

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

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

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

"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

SarathW
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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!” ;) :)
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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kirk5a
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

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

"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

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

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


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mikenz66
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

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


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mikenz66
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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:


:anjali:
Mike

Sylvester
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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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