Anatta Debate

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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dhammafriend
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Anatta Debate

Post by dhammafriend » Mon Aug 11, 2014 4:10 pm

Just read through the Dhammakaya Tipitaka topic. Its actually got some meat to it, but the Wat Dhammakaya angle seems to be raising tempers.

If the tilakhana are related why is nibbana an exception? dukkha relates to anicca which relates to anatta. They are three aspects of the same state. Can these 3 qualities exist independent of each other? If so, how? If they can, what is the point of teaching compounded & un-compounded phenomena? Why is this contrasted in Theravada Buddhism? And also why would there be 2 stages / phases of nibbana:

...."What, bhikkhus, is the Nibbana-element with residue left? Here a bhikkhu is an arahant, one whose taints are destroyed, the holy life fulfilled, who has done what had to be done, laid down the burden, attained the goal, destroyed the fetters of being, completely released through final knowledge. However, his five sense faculties remain unimpaired, by which he still experiences what is agreeable and disagreeable and feels pleasure and pain. It is the extinction of attachment, hate, and delusion in him that is called the Nibbana-element with residue left.

"Now what, bhikkhus, is the Nibbana-element with no residue left? Here a bhikkhu is an arahant ... completely released through final knowledge. For him, here in this very life, all that is experienced, not being delighted in, will be extinguished. That, bhikkhus, is called the Nibbana-element with no residue left.

"These, bhikkhus, are the two Nibbana-elements."

These two Nibbana-elements were made known
By the Seeing One, stable and unattached:
One is the element seen here and now
With residue, but with the cord of being destroyed;
The other, having no residue for the future,
Is that wherein all modes of being utterly cease.

Having understood the unconditioned state,
Released in mind with the cord of being destroyed,
They have attained to the Dhamma-essence.
Delighting in the destruction (of craving),
Those stable ones have abandoned all being.

[/i]

If there is an unconditioned state (nibbana without residue), how can a 'being' experience it? That would be impossible? A being is made up of the 5 aggregates, i.e. a being is nothing but the tilakhana.
If anyone's seen the movie Ladyhawk, think of sankhata & asankhata as the wolf & the hawk who can never meet due to the curse. By my logic (it may be deeply flawed, feel free to correct me) the compound and non-compound can never meet. I am not arguing for atta here, but there are huge problems with positing absolute anatta as a metaphysical position. Thoughts?

Metta
Dhammafriend
Metta
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Natthi me saranam annam buddho me saranam varam
For me there is no other refuge, the Buddha is my excellent refuge.
Etena saccavajjena vaddheyyam satthu-sasane
By the utterance of this truth, may I grow in the Master’s Way.

meindzai
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Re: Anatta Debate

Post by meindzai » Mon Aug 11, 2014 4:40 pm

My thought: The direction of the implication matters. The way I understand it is that all conditioned things are anicca, dukkha, therefore not self. Since a self implies some sort of permanence or stability.

Nibanna is not-self because it is extinction. All views of a self are gone.

Basically the "three characteristics" are about perception. There is really no-self to begin with. Which just see impermanent things as permanent, so we put a self on them. When we see through these false perceptions we realize "oh, there really isn't a self here." The suffering goes away because the perception has been corrected. Nibanna itself is "not impermanent" (you rarely here it talked about in the positive - as being permanant. I think this would give the wrong idea) because it is the final release of all such views, craving, etc. They don't come back.

Your questions about with/without residue are simpler really. Without residue/remainder just means parinibbana. i.e. one becomes an arahant while still alive, and so still lives out the remainder of their life, and on death achieves parinibanna.

Good quote from Robert Gethin: (Foundations of Buddhism)
Like the Buddha, any person who attains nirvāṇa does not remain thereafter forever absorbed in some transcendental state of mind. On the contrary he or she continues to live in the world; he or she continues to think, speak, and act as other people do—with the difference that all his or her thoughts, words, and deeds are completely free of the motivations of greed, aversion, and delusion, and motivated instead entirely by generosity, friendliness, and wisdom. This condition of having extinguished the defilements can be termed ‘nirvāṇa with the remainder [of life]’ (sopadhiśeṣa-nirvāṇa/sa-upādisesa-nibbāna): the nirvāṇa that comes from ending the occurrence of the defilements (kleśa/kilesa) of the mind; what the Pali commentaries call for short kilesa-parinibbāna.[f] And this is what the Buddha achieved on the night of his awakening.
Anyone please correct me if I'm wrong.

-Dave K

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Mkoll
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Re: Anatta Debate

Post by Mkoll » Mon Aug 11, 2014 10:20 pm

I'd say there's is a problem with positing any sort of absolute metaphysical position. That problem is clinging to views. Any sort of position must be supported by something else, other premises. And those supports must have their own supports in turn. And so on. Without the support of all those premises, the metaphysical position collapses. So not only does one have hold that metaphysical position, one also has to hold all of its supports as well.

It just leads to a lot of clinging to views, IMO.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

SarathW
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Re: Anatta Debate

Post by SarathW » Mon Aug 11, 2014 11:38 pm

We identify ourselves with seven properties.
Cessation of identification is Nirvana.
:shrug:
=======

At Savatthi. "Monks, there are these seven properties. Which seven? The property of light, the property of beauty,[1] the property of the dimension of the infinitude of space, the property of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, the property of the dimension of nothingness, the property of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, the property of the cessation of feeling & perception. These are the seven properties."


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

culaavuso
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Re: Anatta Debate

Post by culaavuso » Tue Aug 12, 2014 12:37 am

Mkoll wrote:I'd say there's is a problem with positing any sort of absolute metaphysical position. That problem is clinging to views.
MN 11: Cūḷasīhanāda Sutta wrote: 'But, friends, is that goal for one who favors and opposes, or for one who does not favor and oppose?' Answering rightly, they would answer: 'Friends, that goal is for one who does not favor and oppose, not for one who favors and opposes.'
...
Bhikkhus, there are these two views: the view of being and the view of non-being. Any recluses or brahmans who rely on the view of being, adopt the view of being, accept the view of being, are opposed to the view of non-being. Any recluses or brahmans who rely on the view of non-being, adopt the view of non-being, accept the view of non-being, are opposed to the view of being.
MN 18: Madhupiṇḍika Sutta wrote: If, monk, with regard to the cause whereby the perceptions & categories of objectification assail a person, there is nothing there to relish, welcome, or remain fastened to, then that is the end of the obsessions of passion, the obsessions of resistance, the obsessions of views, the obsessions of uncertainty, the obsessions of conceit, the obsessions of passion for becoming, & the obsessions of ignorance. That is the end of taking up rods & bladed weapons, of arguments, quarrels, disputes, accusations, divisive tale-bearing, & false speech. That is where these evil, unskillful things cease without remainder.
MN 72: Aggivacchagotta Sutta wrote: A 'position,' Vaccha, is something that a Tathagata has done away with.

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dhammafriend
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Re: Anatta Debate

Post by dhammafriend » Tue Aug 12, 2014 11:10 am

Thank you all for the insightful comments. I agree with you James on the issue of letting go of views, thats correct, but it's the end product of the Path. The Buddha took positions all the time in debates on many things.

Right view determines where we end up, so we can't detach from our views until they are purified. As I said the OP, most Theravadins claim that all things that have the tilakhana are subject to dukkha, but then turn around and say nibbana is free of dukkha when it is anatta. As if anatta is a separate quality from dukkha & anicca. Can no-one see the problem here?

My observations are this: Theravadins, in their fear of Mahayana doctrine, often overstate the anatta issue to the point of nihilism. Its interesting that anatta as a teaching has taken on a life of its own in English speaking Buddhist communities. As if we should use it as a lens to view all other dhammas he has given. My (speculative) fear is that this could be off the mark. The tilakhana are supposed to come as a 'set' in my view. If we look at the anattalakhana sutta the Buddha gives us a definition of anatta that is often overlooked:

"Bhikkhus, form is not-self. Were form self, then this form would not lead to affliction, and one could have it of form: 'Let my form be thus, let my form be not thus.' And since form is not-self, so it leads to affliction, and none can have it of form: 'Let my form be thus, let my form be not thus.'

So here (in my view) anatta implies lack of ultimate autonomy over objects the 'self' supposedly possesses. Anatta is the inherent lack of ultimate agency / autonomy of our lived experience. Rather than there being no self, the mundane constructed sense of self is real, but when we confuse that with agency / autonomy, we suffer. We over-extend our self's 'authority' so to speak. He's not denying a constructed mundane sense of self, but rather the metaphysical notions of a self that were prevalent in his society, and how those views were an obstacle to nibbana.

Metta
Dhammafriend
Metta
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Natthi me saranam annam buddho me saranam varam
For me there is no other refuge, the Buddha is my excellent refuge.
Etena saccavajjena vaddheyyam satthu-sasane
By the utterance of this truth, may I grow in the Master’s Way.

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Sokehi
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Re: Anatta Debate

Post by Sokehi » Tue Aug 12, 2014 11:49 am

Q: What is the biggest problem of your new disciples?

Answer: Opinions. views and ideas about all things. About themselves, about practice, about the teachings of the Buddha. Many of those who come here have a high rank in the community. There are wealthy merchants or college graduates, teachers and government officials. Their minds are filled with opinions about things. They are too clever to listen to others. It is like water in a cup. If a cup is filled with dirty, stale water, it is useless. Only after the old water is thrown out can the cup become useful. You must empty your minds of opinions, then you will see. Our practice goes beyond cleverness and beyond stupidity. If you think;"I am clever, I am wealthy, I am important, I understand all about Buddhism."; You cover up the truth of anatta or no-self. All you will see is self, I, mine. But Buddhism is letting go of self. Voidness, Emptiness, Nibbana.

Q: Are defilements such as greed or anger merely illusory or are they real?

Answer: They are both. The defilements we call lust or greed, or anger or delusion, these are just outward names, appearances. Just as we call a bowl large, small, pretty, or whatever. This is not reality. It is the concept we create from craving. If we want a big bowl, we call this one small. Craving causes us to discriminate. The truth, though, is merely what is. Look at it this way. Are you a man? You can say 'yes'. This is the appearance of things. But really you are only a combination of elements or a group of changing aggregates. If the mind is free, it does not discriminate. No big and small, no you and me. There is nothing: Anatta, we say, or non-self. Really, in the end there is neither atta nor anatta.
http://www.buddhanet.net/bodhiny2.htm
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meindzai
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Re: Anatta Debate

Post by meindzai » Tue Aug 12, 2014 2:59 pm

I believe the original poster asked a completely legitimate question in order to clarify his understanding of the dhamma.

-Dave K

vinasp
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Re: Anatta Debate

Post by vinasp » Tue Aug 12, 2014 5:56 pm

Hi dhammafriend,

I have not read about the Dhammakaya issue, but in my opinion there is a widespread misunderstanding of the Tilakhana. The following may be helpful to you, if not, then just ignore it.

My understanding of the Tilakhana is as follows:

The ordinary man is already seeing many things as permanent, a source of pleasure, and related to self. This way of regarding things has become habitual, and these habits are views. These views are mental constructed things.

The teachings instruct us to see things in the opposite way in order to gradually remove these views.

All the actual things which are said to be impermanent, suffering, and non-self, are all also present as views about these things. These views are mental constructed things.

The mental constructed things are impermanent because they can cease or vanish, this is their nature [they are dependently arisen].

The mental constructed things ARE suffering, this is their nature.

The mental constructed things are non-self, this is a truth about them.

These are three seperate truths about mental constructed things, there is no logical or causal relationship between them.

Regards, Vincent.

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Mkoll
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Re: Anatta Debate

Post by Mkoll » Tue Aug 12, 2014 9:14 pm

dhammafriend wrote:The Buddha took positions all the time in debates on many things.
He also declined to take a position on a few important questions, as in MN 63.

He also said there were some things, like the arahant, that one cannot speak of.
K.R. Norman's translation of Sutta Nipata 5.7, lines 1075-1076 wrote:1075. 'He who has gone out, does he not exist, or does he remain unimpaired for ever? Explain this to me well, sage, for thus is this doctrine known to you.'

1076. 'There is no measuring of one who has gone out, Upasīva,' said the Blessed One. 'That no longer exists for him by which they might speak of him. When all phenomena have been removed, then all ways of speaking are also removed.'
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: Anatta Debate

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Aug 12, 2014 9:37 pm

dhammafriend wrote:Thank you all for the insightful comments. I agree with you James on the issue of letting go of views, thats correct, but it's the end product of the Path. The Buddha took positions all the time in debates on many things.
He especially declared positions what is skilful and what is not:
http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f= ... 70#p305070

:anjali:
Mike

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dhammafriend
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Re: Anatta Debate

Post by dhammafriend » Wed Aug 13, 2014 12:22 pm

Thanks Vincent, not sure I'm totally clear on what you said, but i'll think it over. As for the dhammakaya meditation tradition, many english speaking Buddhists are unaware that as far as living Buddhism goes in SEAsia, mahayana & vajrayana teaching and practices are still very much alive and kicking.

The dhammakaya technique and its cosmology has obvious tantric influence. Their concept of nibbana is similar to a pure-land. All of this is based on the meditative and visionary experiences of Luang Poh Wat Paknam. Many temples aside from Wat Phra Dhammakaya teach in that lineage. They have a concept that is close to buddha-nature as well. And if you consider the many Thais of Chinese heritage involved in the tradition, this is not surprising.

K.R. Norman's translation of Sutta Nipata 5.7, lines 1075-1076 wrote:
1075. 'He who has gone out, does he not exist, or does he remain unimpaired for ever? Explain this to me well, sage, for thus is this doctrine known to you.'

1076. 'There is no measuring of one who has gone out, Upasīva,' said the Blessed One. 'That no longer exists for him by which they might speak of him. When all phenomena have been removed, then all ways of speaking are also removed.'

James, great quote, thanks.

Metta
Dhammafriend
Metta
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Natthi me saranam annam buddho me saranam varam
For me there is no other refuge, the Buddha is my excellent refuge.
Etena saccavajjena vaddheyyam satthu-sasane
By the utterance of this truth, may I grow in the Master’s Way.

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Re: Anatta Debate

Post by Dinsdale » Wed Aug 13, 2014 12:29 pm

vinasp wrote:The mental constructed things are impermanent because they can cease or vanish, this is their nature [they are dependently arisen].
Vincent, I'm not sure what you mean by "mental constructed things" here - do you mean the sankhara formation, or do you mean the aggregates as a whole? The suttas say that all 5 aggregates are subject to impermanence.
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vinasp
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Re: Anatta Debate

Post by vinasp » Wed Aug 13, 2014 1:10 pm

Hi Spiny,

I started a new thread: - Exploring the Three Marks.

I will reply on that thread.

Regards, Vincent.

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