My criticism of Nanavira and other "existentialist"

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Twilight
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My criticism of Nanavira and other "existentialist"

Post by Twilight »

Buddha said that questioning weather things exist or not, questioning how this very "existence" or "nonexistence" - exists or not exist. Getting lost in a forest of thoughts in this direction - will only lead to vexation and madness. All those who go in this direction, be them ancient thinkers like Nagarjuna or western existentialist philosophers - all who go in this dirrection eventually end up with: "nothing really exists" or "all is the same" etc. You end up in wrong views, dismissed by logic and a simple observation that things do exist.

Imagine there is a fire: A person might start to ask "does the fire really exists ? in what way it really exists ?" and just contemplate in this direction. Buddha said the solution is not to do this. Buddha said the solution is to see how the fire works (oxigen, fuel etc.). He said to understand the aggregates and how they actually work and interact with each other. He went in this direction. Questioning weather the fire exists or not is simply not the way to go. The fire (the 5 aggregates that make up a being) is there and continues to burn until no more fuel will be put in it. His "special insight" or "higher teachings" are about how this fire actually works and how to shut it down. It is not about questioning weather the fire exist or not and going in the existentialist direction.

It may seem intuitive that when it comes to questions as big as how the world works, it seems intuitive to go in such an existentialist direction with your thinking. The 3 main mundane views that have always existed in different forms are idealism, materialism and constructivism/postmodernism. These are the 3 directions one can look for an answer. It seems intuitive that in order to find out how things really are, one has to contemplate this very nature of existence and go in this direction with his thinking. Buddha solution was not this. He said this will only lead to vexation and madness and will solve nothing.

When Buddhism is introduced into a new space, it adapts to that kind of place. That is how in the west there has developed:

- secular buddhism where there is no rebirth
- meditation-zen-type of buddhism where you just "focus on the breath and magic wil happen if you do it long enough"
- existentialist buddhism

Existentialist Buddhism was developed by Nanavira Thera who tried combining western phenomenological existentialism with buddhist concepts such as dependent origination resulting in the 1-life interpretation of DO. And the focus is still on the existentialist side and in these kind of books, you will see like 50% of quotes coming from the suttas and 50% from Heigeld and Satre. Other famous followers of him are Nanamoli and Nanalanda witch present slightly different variations of existentialism combined with buddhist concepts.
Existentialism - noun, Philosophy.

a philosophical attitude associated especially with Heidegger, Jaspers, Marcel, and Sartre, and opposed to rationalism and empiricism, that stresses the individual's unique position as a self-determining agent responsible for the authenticity of his or her choices.


Buddha is by all means a realist and rationalist. He is the exact opposite of what these kind of thinkers are. He went into a completely different direction with his thinking and said there is nothing to found in the existentialist direction. The defining feature of existentialist/postmodernist is that after a while, they end up making no sense whatsoever, as the Sokal affair has shown: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sokal_affair

In these kind of writings, you will find elementary logical mistakes made at least every paragraph. And what do we do when there are like 10 elementary logical mistakes in a page of writing ? We just call them "a paradox". It sounds so much better when you say "a paradox". It sounds so much more easy to digest than "elementary logical mistake". And what do we do in general when we have such "paradox" problems ? We say "Buddha teachings are paradoxical, that is why so few understand them". We adopt an anti-logic attitude such as all existentialist before us.

We end up attacking logic and common sense. We end up believing in a thing that makes no sense, that is full of "paradoxes" and we don't ask questions about them. Why ? Because we do not even have a positive attitude towards logic and common sense in the first place. We always say "logic has it's limits" and after that you need to put faith. Faith in who ? Faith in Heidegger, Jaspers and Sartre. Not in the Buddha who said not to go in that direction with thinking otherwise we end up in vexation and madness.

PS: Buddha said his writing are complete, with nothing more to add to them. He said he has not taught the dhamma with a tight first. He said his dhamma is well expanded, clear, complete. This is why the Sutta Pitaka has 10.000 pages. It covers every single wrong interpretation a person might have about anything. Right view is not something interpretative. It is like a science book, not like a interpretative political book. The way this world works is very fixed, it's as non-interpretative as the engine of your car. No matter how you think about it, the aggregates and the world will work the same. "Even if there is a Buddha or not, all works the same." This is why in my opinion, adding very long existentialist books on top of what Buddha taught can only lead in the wrong direction.

So what are your opinions about this ? Can anything good come out of combining buddhism with phenological existentialism of Heidegger, Jaspers or Satre ?
Last edited by Twilight on Tue Jan 31, 2017 3:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
You'll have a better chance finding a moderate rebel in Ildib than finding a buddhist who ever changed his views. Views are there to be clung to. They are there to be defended with all one's might. Whatever clinging one will removed in regards to sense pleasures by practicing the path - that should be compensated with increased clinging to views. This is the fundamental balance of the noble 8thfold path. The yin and yang.
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Re: My criticism of Nanavira and other "existentialist"

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Twilight
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Re: My criticism of Nanavira and other "existentialist"

Post by Twilight »

mikenz66 wrote:Image
Not to mention the:
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You'll have a better chance finding a moderate rebel in Ildib than finding a buddhist who ever changed his views. Views are there to be clung to. They are there to be defended with all one's might. Whatever clinging one will removed in regards to sense pleasures by practicing the path - that should be compensated with increased clinging to views. This is the fundamental balance of the noble 8thfold path. The yin and yang.
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Consciousness and no-self explained in drawings: link
How stream entry is achieved. Mahasi / Zen understanding vs Sutta understanding: link

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Re: My criticism of Nanavira and other "existentialist"

Post by Mkoll »

That Matrix guy looks a bit like Keanu.

Image

:alien:
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: My criticism of Nanavira and other "existentialist"

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Re: My criticism of Nanavira and other "existentialist"

Post by Twilight »

And this is of course refuted by the Buddha:
At Savatthi. “Bhikkhus, I do not dispute with the world; rather, it is the world that disputes with me. A proponent of the Dhamma does not dispute with anyone in the world. Of that which the wise in the world agree upon as not existing, I too say that it does not exist. And of that which the wise in the world agree upon as existing, I too say that it exists.

“And what is it, bhikkhus, that the wise in the world agree upon as not existing, of which I too say that it does not exist? Form that is permanent, stable, eternal, not subject to change: this the wise in the world agree upon as not existing, and I too say that it does not exist. Feeling … Perception … Volitional formations … Consciousness that is permanent, stable, eternal, not subject to change: this the wise in the world agree upon as not existing, and I too say that it does not exist.

“That, bhikkhus, is what the wise in the world agree upon as not existing, of which I too say that it does not exist.

“And what is it, bhikkhus, that the wise in the world agree upon as existing, of which I too say that it exists? Form that is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change: this the wise in the world agree upon as existing, and I too say that it exists. Feeling … Perception … Volitional formations … Consciousness that is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change: this the wise in the world agree upon as existing, and I too say that it exists.

“That, bhikkhus, is what the wise in the world agree upon as existing, of which I too say that it exists.
https://suttacentral.net/en/sn22.9
You'll have a better chance finding a moderate rebel in Ildib than finding a buddhist who ever changed his views. Views are there to be clung to. They are there to be defended with all one's might. Whatever clinging one will removed in regards to sense pleasures by practicing the path - that should be compensated with increased clinging to views. This is the fundamental balance of the noble 8thfold path. The yin and yang.
----------
Consciousness and no-self explained in drawings: link
How stream entry is achieved. Mahasi / Zen understanding vs Sutta understanding: link

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Re: My criticism of Nanavira and other "existentialist"

Post by Coëmgenu »

Twilight wrote:PS: Buddha said his writing are complete, with nothing more to add to them. He said he has not taught the dhamma with a tight first. He said his dhamma is well expanded, clear, complete.
His "writings" eh? By his own hand?

I wonder why they aren't venerated anywhere. Maybe the British Museum stole them.

When Buddha says "my discourses are complete" or whichever quotation you interpreted as "My writings are complete", that doesn't actually necessarily establish anything important of value. All sorts of things could have been part of his discourses, such as the raw materials of the Abhidhamma, the explanations now preserved in the Great Commentary, the oral traditions of the monastics, all of these things can be considered "part of the Buddha's possible discourse".

The suttāni are not self-aware, they don't reference themselves clearly as "suttāni". There is talk in the suttāni about "the discourses" when certain things are said like "check X or Y against the discourses", but that could refer to literally anything that the Buddha said, or any conversations the Buddha started that were kept up my non-retrograding wisemen of Buddhist persuasion, or anything that the Buddha agreed with.
savi saghara aṇica di, savi saghara dukha di, savi dhama aṇatva di: yada paśadi cakhkṣuma tada nivinadi dukha eṣo mago viśodhia. ||| "All formations are inconstant," he said. "All formations are stressful," he said. "All phenomena are selfless," he said. When one sees this, one becomes adverse to stress, and this is the path of purity. ||| (Gāndhārī Dharmapada fragments)

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Re: My criticism of Nanavira and other "existentialist"

Post by Twilight »

Some good criticism of the 1-life interpretation theory. The fact that suttas refer to rebirth is quite clear:
• Dependent origination is all about showing the causal origination of suffering. This suffering is throughout the suttas equated with saṃsāric existence and hence rebirth.

• There are two suttas that give real life examples of dependent origination, DN 15 and MN 38. Both of these suttas speak of consciousness or a gandhabba entering the mother’s womb as a condition for the embryo to develop.

• Rebirth (jāti) is always defined as physical birth (e.g. at SN 12.2), and it is never used as a metaphor. The same is true for old age and death.

• The first three links of dependent origination are avijjā (delusion), saṅkhāra (willed activities), and viññāṇa (consciousness). If these three only spanned a single life, then consciousness would cease as soon as ignorance ceases, that is, the arahant would lose consciousness as soon as he reached awakening. We know from the suttas that this is not what happens.

• The second noble truth says that it is the craving that leads to rebirth which is source of suffering. Sometimes the whole sequence of dependent origination is used instead to illustrate the second noble truth. This means that dependent origination, too, must include rebirth.

• A number of the suttas in the Nidāna-saṃyutta (the connected discourses that deal with dependent origination) use vocabulary that refers to rebirth, such as: SN 12.19 (kāyassa bhedā kāyūpago hoti, “when the body breaks up, he goes to a body”); SN 12.38 (tasmiṃ patiṭṭhite viññāṇe virūḷhe āyatiṃ punabbhavābhinibbatti hoti, “when that consciousness has become established and come to growth, there is renewed existence in the future”); SN 12.59 (viññāṇassa avakkanti hoti, “consciousness descends”; this is a common way to express rebirth in the Nidāna-saṃyutta and elsewhere); and many others.

• There is no evidence that any of the early schools of Buddhism understood dependent origination as relating to a single life.

• The entire Pali commentarial tradition interprets dependent origination as spanning across lives.

• A passage in the Paṭiccasamuppādavibhaṅga of the Abhidhamma is sometimes interpreted to refer to a single life time. Even if this is correct, which is questionable, it is specifically said to relate only to the Abhidhamma and not to the suttas.
I am curious how fans of Nanavira writings could adress these points ...
You'll have a better chance finding a moderate rebel in Ildib than finding a buddhist who ever changed his views. Views are there to be clung to. They are there to be defended with all one's might. Whatever clinging one will removed in regards to sense pleasures by practicing the path - that should be compensated with increased clinging to views. This is the fundamental balance of the noble 8thfold path. The yin and yang.
----------
Consciousness and no-self explained in drawings: link
How stream entry is achieved. Mahasi / Zen understanding vs Sutta understanding: link

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Re: My criticism of Nanavira and other "existentialist"

Post by retrofuturist »

Greetings Twilight,

Life is too short for many of us to engage in "debate" with people who have already firmly made up their minds on matters before we even speak. As for myself, I've "been there, done that" with other members here more times than I care to remember.

If you were coming from a place of openness and willingness to genuinely reflect on alternative perspectives and exchange ideas in good faith then that would be one thing, but recent topics constructed in a similar manner to this one show that without opening your ears, you doggedly argue as if your fixed interpretations and mis-representations of others' positions are absolutely and undeniably correct.

As such, I deem there is no benefit to be derived from such a Dhamma "conversation". If you're genuinely interested in these matters, I suggest you read some older topics on Nanavira et.al, where genuine conversation was at least attempted by some participants. At one point SDC curated A Review of Ven. Ñānavīra's "Notes on Dhamma" - it's worth checking out.

All the best.

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

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

"Overcome the liar by truth." (Dhp 223)

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Re: My criticism of Nanavira and other "existentialist"

Post by Twilight »

Am I really the only one doing that ? What do you think about these arguments: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 76#p413354

Is there any reason to translate "javi" in the way Nanavira did ? Is it ever used in that way anywhere else in the suttas ? How about "old age and death" or "consciousness descending into the womb" or the "name" from the name&form ? And does a person lose consciousness when attaining arahanthip ?
You'll have a better chance finding a moderate rebel in Ildib than finding a buddhist who ever changed his views. Views are there to be clung to. They are there to be defended with all one's might. Whatever clinging one will removed in regards to sense pleasures by practicing the path - that should be compensated with increased clinging to views. This is the fundamental balance of the noble 8thfold path. The yin and yang.
----------
Consciousness and no-self explained in drawings: link
How stream entry is achieved. Mahasi / Zen understanding vs Sutta understanding: link

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mikenz66
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Re: My criticism of Nanavira and other "existentialist"

Post by mikenz66 »

Hi TL

I'm not sure you're readin RF's post carefully enough. We have had many discussions in Nanavira and many of us have aired some of the same criticisms. The difference is that we are not approaching it with the idea of "defeating" the Nanavirists. We are trying to deepen our undrstanding so that we can make up our own minds.

You might find some of the discussions interesting.


Mike

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Re: My criticism of Nanavira and other "existentialist"

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I have tried engaging in a discussion here today: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 49#p413349
But was told the topic is not meant for debating anything about the writings but only for the deepening of understanding of those interested in them. So I have created this topic where I was able to express my opinion and ask for clarifications.

I am honestly curious to see what response the existentialist could bring to this: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 69#p413354

So far, I do not think Nanalanda or anybody else has addressed any of such criticism. If there is an article where promonents of existentialism have tired addressing any criticism please post a link or try addressing it in this topic. As I said, I've never seen them address any criticism.

True dhamma always "rises to the surface in a debate". I do not see why the existentialist school of buddhism does not respond to any criticism. If they feel like they are making a compelling case based on the Nikayas, why did none of the couple of bhikkhus following this school address any kind of criticism ?
You'll have a better chance finding a moderate rebel in Ildib than finding a buddhist who ever changed his views. Views are there to be clung to. They are there to be defended with all one's might. Whatever clinging one will removed in regards to sense pleasures by practicing the path - that should be compensated with increased clinging to views. This is the fundamental balance of the noble 8thfold path. The yin and yang.
----------
Consciousness and no-self explained in drawings: link
How stream entry is achieved. Mahasi / Zen understanding vs Sutta understanding: link

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Re: My criticism of Nanavira and other "existentialist"

Post by Twilight »

As can be seen by the wikipedia page about critics of Heideger:
Rudolf Carnap accused Heidegger of offering an "illusory" ontology, criticizing him for committing the fallacy of reification and for wrongly dismissing the logical treatment of language which, according to Carnap, can only lead to writing "nonsensical pseudo-propositions."

The British logical positivist A. J. Ayer was strongly critical of Heidegger's philosophy. In Ayer's view, Heidegger proposed vast, overarching theories regarding existence, which are completely unverifiable through empirical demonstration and logical analysis. For Ayer, this sort of philosophy was a poisonous strain in modern thought. He considered Heidegger to be the worst example of such philosophy, which Ayer believed to be entirely useless.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_He ... #Criticism - he was even a Nazist to make matters worse

And this is my opinion too. I have been called too harsh for my criticism, but this is how I see it as a person who has not abandoned logic and common sense. When there is an elementary logical mistake (pardon me, I meant "a paradox" :quote: ) in every paragraph, what worth could such writings have for somebody who believes in logic and common sense ?
Critics of postmodernist in general have said the same thing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postmodernism#Criticisms

My criticism may seem harsh, but this is how it looks to any person believing in logic. And of course there is the big problem that the philosophy is self-refuting. If there is no need for logic and one can have "a paradox" :quote: on every paragraph, then on what does this philosophy itself rely on ???

When making claims that Buddha teachings have been misunderstood by everybody until Nanavira re-discovered the "true teachings" through combining them with western existentialism of Heidgger, Satre etc. - when making such claims one should not be surprised to encounter criticism. And to this day I have not seen any of the few bhikkhus following this school of taught addressing any of the criticism. True dhamma always rises to the surface and shines in a debate. Therefore, I do not understand why they simply refuse to address any criticism.
You'll have a better chance finding a moderate rebel in Ildib than finding a buddhist who ever changed his views. Views are there to be clung to. They are there to be defended with all one's might. Whatever clinging one will removed in regards to sense pleasures by practicing the path - that should be compensated with increased clinging to views. This is the fundamental balance of the noble 8thfold path. The yin and yang.
----------
Consciousness and no-self explained in drawings: link
How stream entry is achieved. Mahasi / Zen understanding vs Sutta understanding: link

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Re: My criticism of Nanavira and other "existentialist"

Post by Coëmgenu »

Twilight wrote:When making claims that Buddha teachings have been misunderstood by everybody until Nanavira re-discovered the "true teachings" through combining them with western existentialism of Heidgger, Satre etc. - when making such claims one should not be surprised to encounter criticism.
Does this sentiment help contextualize the negative reception you have encountered on this forum on occasion?

When making claims that Buddha teachings have been misunderstood by everybody until Twilight re-discovered the "true teachings" just by reading the SN etc. - when making such claims one should not be surprised to encounter criticism.
savi saghara aṇica di, savi saghara dukha di, savi dhama aṇatva di: yada paśadi cakhkṣuma tada nivinadi dukha eṣo mago viśodhia. ||| "All formations are inconstant," he said. "All formations are stressful," he said. "All phenomena are selfless," he said. When one sees this, one becomes adverse to stress, and this is the path of purity. ||| (Gāndhārī Dharmapada fragments)

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Re: My criticism of Nanavira and other "existentialist"

Post by mikenz66 »

Twilight wrote: So far, I do not think Nanalanda or anybody else has addressed any of such criticism. If there is an article where promonents of existentialism have tired addressing any criticism please post a link or try addressing it in this topic. As I said, I've never seen them address any criticism.
Nanananda shares some ideas with Nanavira, but not others. If you're interested in an analysis of his work, I suggest you tune into this course by Analayo, which is coming up soon:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?t=27940

Meanwhile, RF gave a link above:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?t=23332
where you'll see I raised a number of points where some other interpreters disagree with Nanavira, in particular his interpretation of sanditthika and akālika:
The Buddha has said (Majjhima iii,8 <M.i,191>) that he who sees the Dhamma sees paticcasamuppāda; and he has also said that the Dhamma is sanditthika and akālika, that it is immediately visible and without involving time (see in particular Majjhima iv,8 <M.i,265>)
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 40#p336030

However, I did get a clearer idea from that thread what this "structural" idea is, from the discussion from around here:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 40#p338602
and particularly some of Sylvester's posts.

:anjali:
Mike

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