Where is the philosophy of 'materialism' found in Buddha teachings?

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Roz
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Where is the philosophy of 'materialism' found in Buddha teachings?

Post by Roz »

I have read the term 'materialism' used on this forum many times, in a derogatory way. Where is the the philosophy of 'materialism' found in Buddha scripture teachings to show Buddha disapproved if it? Thanks

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Nicolas
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Re: Where is the philosophy of 'materialism' found in Buddha teachings?

Post by Nicolas »

The Buddha uses the term "annihilationism" to encompass materialism:
Brahmajāla Sutta (DN 1) wrote: Herein, bhikkhus, a certain recluse or a brahmin asserts the following doctrine and view: ‘The self, good sir, has material form; it is composed of the four primary elements and originates from father and mother. Since this self, good sir, is annihilated and destroyed with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death, at this point the self is completely annihilated.’ In this way some proclaim the annihilation, destruction, and extermination of an existent being.

Garrib
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Re: Where is the philosophy of 'materialism' found in Buddha teachings?

Post by Garrib »

Roz wrote:I have read the term 'materialism' used on this forum many times, in a derogatory way. Where is the the philosophy of 'materialism' found in Buddha scripture teachings to show Buddha disapproved if it? Thanks
Sometimes the word "materialistic" is used to refer to a person who is overly invested in the 'things' of the world. I suspect that what you are referring to, however, is the view that everything is reducible to matter - sub-atomic particles, or whatever.

According to this view, the body is the primary fundamental thing that 'lives', and the mind/consciousness is just an epiphenomena (something that arises from a functioning material brain, but doesn't actually have any causal power of its own). Generally the materialist views death as the end of subjective experience - so they don't really believe in kamma/rebirth, and they wouldn't really see the point to devoting yourself to spiritual development, or abandoning desire, etc...

Accd. to Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Wings to Awakening:

"There was, however, a Samaṇa school of hedonist materialists, called Lokāyatans, who denied the existence of any identity beyond death and insisted that happiness could be found only by indulging in sensual pleasures here and now."

Here is a section from DN2 (fruits of the contemplative life) - describing a unsatisfactory teaching:

'Annihilation
"...Another time I approached Ajita Kesakambalin and, on arrival, exchanged courteous greetings with him. After an exchange of friendly greetings and courtesies, I sat to one side. As I was sitting there I asked him: 'Venerable Ajita, there are these common craftsmen... They live off the fruits of their crafts, visible in the here and now... Is it possible, venerable sir, to point out a similar fruit of the contemplative life, visible in the here and now?'

"When this was said, Ajita Kesakambalin said to me, 'Great king, there is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed. There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions. There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings; no brahmans or contemplatives who, faring rightly and practicing rightly, proclaim this world and the next after having directly known and realized it for themselves. A person is a composite of four primary elements. At death, the earth (in the body) returns to and merges with the (external) earth-substance. The fire returns to and merges with the external fire-substance. The liquid returns to and merges with the external liquid-substance. The wind returns to and merges with the external wind-substance. The sense-faculties scatter into space. Four men, with the bier as the fifth, carry the corpse. Its eulogies are sounded only as far as the charnel ground. The bones turn pigeon-colored. The offerings end in ashes. Generosity is taught by idiots. The words of those who speak of existence after death are false, empty chatter. With the break-up of the body, the wise and the foolish alike are annihilated, destroyed. They do not exist after death.'

"Thus, when asked about a fruit of the contemplative life, visible here and now, Ajita Kesakambalin answered with annihilation. Just as if a person, when asked about a mango, were to answer with a breadfruit; or, when asked about a breadfruit, were to answer with a mango. In the same way, when asked about a fruit of the contemplative life, visible here and now, Ajita Kesakambalin answered with annihilation. The thought occurred to me: 'How can anyone like me think of disparaging a brahman or contemplative living in his realm?' Yet I neither delighted in Ajita Kesakambalin's words nor did I protest against them. Neither delighting nor protesting, I was dissatisfied. Without expressing dissatisfaction, without accepting his teaching, without adopting it, I got up from my seat and left....'

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Please read the whole Sutta if you have the time. The Buddha rejected the worldview held by Ajita Kesakambalin - and it is basically a materialists view.

Metta-Karuna,

Brad

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Sam Vara
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Re: Where is the philosophy of 'materialism' found in Buddha teachings?

Post by Sam Vara »

The Buddha didn't seem too bothered with formal expositions of philosophical positions, but was more concerned with how particular sets of beliefs might help or impede practice. Modern commentators have often identified the theory of "annihilationism" or ucchedavada with a type of materialism. Basically, that we are merely material objects moving through space and time, and nothing more; such that our mind, consciousness, or identity is an emergent property or epiphenomenon of that material body, and will cease utterly when we die and that material substrate breaks up. This is obviously incompatible with any post mortem effects of kamma, so the Buddha criticised it as a view.

This sutta:http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .wlsh.html is one of several examples, and you might want to have a look at Walshe's note #3.

Also, the Buddha's standard descriptions of Wrong View seem to be about a materialist outlook regarding morality and kamma:
And what is wrong view? 'There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed. There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions. There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings; no brahmans or contemplatives who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.' This is wrong view...

Roz
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Re: Where is the philosophy of 'materialism' found in Buddha teachings?

Post by Roz »

Nicolas wrote:The Buddha uses the term "annihilationism" to encompass materialism:
Brahmajāla Sutta (DN 1) wrote: Herein, bhikkhus, a certain recluse or a brahmin asserts the following doctrine and view: ‘The self, good sir, has material form; it is composed of the four primary elements and originates from father and mother. Since this self, good sir, is annihilated and destroyed with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death, at this point the self is completely annihilated.’ In this way some proclaim the annihilation, destruction, and extermination of an existent being.
Thanks but this quote does not answer my question. It looks like your own idea & not the Buddha.
Garrib wrote:Sometimes the word "materialistic" is used to refer to a person who is overly invested in the 'things' of the world. I suspect that what you are referring to, however, is the view that everything is reducible to matter - sub-atomic particles, or whatever.

According to this view, the body is the primary fundamental thing that 'lives', and the mind/consciousness is just an epiphenomena (something that arises from a functioning material brain, but doesn't actually have any causal power of its own). Generally the materialist views death as the end of subjective experience - so they don't really believe in kamma/rebirth, and they wouldn't really see the point to devoting yourself to spiritual development, or abandoning desire, etc...

Accd. to Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Wings to Awakening:


Please read the whole Sutta if you have the time. The Buddha rejected the worldview held by Ajita Kesakambalin - and it is basically a materialists view.
Thanks but my question did not ask for your personal ideas or Accd. to Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
Sam Vara wrote:The Buddha didn't seem too bothered with formal expositions of philosophical positions, but was more concerned with how particular sets of beliefs might help or impede practice. Modern commentators have often identified the theory of "annihilationism" or ucchedavada with a type of materialism
Thanks. According to you, the Buddha never spoke about a wrong philosophy called "materialism". Buddha only referred to "annihilationism" which looks like the belief in a "self" that will forever die. Based on the answers so far, it looks like those that use the word "materialism" are only posting their own ideas. If Buddha really used the word "materialism" I would like to see a real quote rather than the ideas of other people. I searched and could not find an answer. Thanks

binocular
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Re: Where is the philosophy of 'materialism' found in Buddha teachings?

Post by binocular »

Roz wrote:I have read the term 'materialism' used on this forum many times, in a derogatory way. Where is the the philosophy of 'materialism' found in Buddha scripture teachings to show Buddha disapproved if it? Thanks
Define what you mean here by "materialism."

Garrib
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Re: Where is the philosophy of 'materialism' found in Buddha teachings?

Post by Garrib »

Hello friend,

The word materialism means different things in different contexts. The Buddha did not speak English (or if he did, none of his English discourses are preserved, as far as I know... :tongue: ) - so he never used the word "materialism." As to whether there is some Pali word found in the Suttas that sometimes gets translated to "materialism," I can't say. However, your question seems to suggest that you wanted to know what people on this forum, for instance, might mean when they refer to/critique materialism from a 'Buddhist perspective.' In that case, I think that my post and those of others are appropriate. I did, in fact, provide a Sutta quotation, by the way...

Materialism as a worldview suggests that consciousness ends at death. The Buddha taught otherwise. This can be backed up by endless sutta quotations, but it is such an obvious point, IMO, that it shouldn't need endless citations to back it up...I'm sorry for responding to your question using my own words - in my opinion, it is wise to go back to the Suttas when discussing Dhamma, but it is also necessary to think about things deeply (beyond just the literal wording of the pali translations) and arrive at your own understanding of the teachings...that implies being able to discuss things in your own words.

Best,

Brad

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seeker242
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Re: Where is the philosophy of 'materialism' found in Buddha teachings?

Post by seeker242 »

Roz wrote:If Buddha really used the word "materialism" I would like to see a real quote rather than the ideas of other people.
Idea of interpreters of the Pali language, like Thanissaro Bhikkhu, are likely the only thing that you are going to find because the Buddha didn't speak English. I'm no pali scholar but I would bet there is no direct translation for the English word "materialism" in Pali.

Roz
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Re: Where is the philosophy of 'materialism' found in Buddha teachings?

Post by Roz »

Garrib wrote:Materialism as a worldview suggests that consciousness ends at death. The Buddha taught otherwise.
You seem to be very persistent imputing your personal ideas upon the Buddha. I doubt a Buddha would teach it is wrong to believe consciousness ends when life ends. Please provide the evidence because in the quotes presented here I read only say it is wrong to believe a self ends at death . Thanks

Roz
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Re: Where is the philosophy of 'materialism' found in Buddha teachings?

Post by Roz »

seeker242 wrote:Idea of interpreters of the Pali language, like Thanissaro Bhikkhu, are likely the only thing that you are going to find because the Buddha didn't speak English. I'm no pali scholar but I would bet there is no direct translation for the English word "materialism" in Pali.
Thank you for your straightforward confirmation.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Where is the philosophy of 'materialism' found in Buddha teachings?

Post by Sam Vara »

Roz wrote: I doubt a Buddha would teach it is wrong to believe consciousness ends when life ends. Please provide the evidence because in the quotes presented here I read only say it is wrong to believe a self ends at death .
Can there be a self without consciousness?

Roz
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Re: Where is the philosophy of 'materialism' found in Buddha teachings?

Post by Roz »

Sam Vara wrote:Can there be a self without consciousness?
Can there be a consciousness without a self?

Thanking everyone for the answers here. I think this topic has now been concluded! :thanks:

Caodemarte
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Re: Where is the philosophy of 'materialism' found in Buddha teachings?

Post by Caodemarte »

Sam Vara wrote:
Can there be a self without consciousness?
Can there be a self?

Garrib
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Re: Where is the philosophy of 'materialism' found in Buddha teachings?

Post by Garrib »

Okay..I apologize if my comment seemed overly confident. I have heard of unconscious devas- in that case I suppose consciousness would cease temporarily with death?

I may have been too imprecise with my words - materialists believe that there is no subjective experience after death. the Buddha taught rebirtb, and the ending od rebirth. Correct not rebirth of a self, but nonetheless a continuity. You can see these worldviews are contradictory. Again my phrasing leaves much to be desired, and I'm sorry for that, but the basic point seems like it should be uncontroversial.

Or do you believe that the Buddha did not teach about rebirth?

Caodemarte
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Re: Where is the philosophy of 'materialism' found in Buddha teachings?

Post by Caodemarte »

Garrib wrote:...I have heard of unconscious devas- in that case I suppose consciousness would cease temporarily with death?... the Buddha taught rebirtb, and the ending od rebirth. Correct not rebirth of a self, but nonetheless a continuity. You can see these worldviews are contradictory.....Or do you believe that the Buddha did not teach about rebirth?


The problem here is that Buddhism does not posit a self. Therefore the question if " self" has or does not have anything, exists, does not exist, continues after death or does not continue is often compared with asking about a rabbit's horns. So if somebody asks you how long are a rabbit's horns, do they fall off after death or continue forever, is there a continuity of horns that is reborn, are the horns in a state of permanent or temporary existence or non-existence, are they illusory or real, etc. you will understand something of the Buddha's silence.

Hence my question in response to the questions "can there be a consciousness without a self or a self without a consciousness" was "can there be a self?" If you posit a definite self (or any permanent substance) it is possible to discuss its existence or absence and the qualities it has or does not have.

So "rebirth" can be used in the sense we understand a candle lighting another candle and that candle being used to light another and so on. Does the flame die, survive, go out and relight,or is there some invisible continuity of the flame? None of these questions really make sense. Perhaps it is possible to say that similar causes produce similar effects, but anything else would seem to depend on false assumptions or an inability to observe fire. :candle:
That is how I understand it anyway and perhaps you can get a more sophisticated answer than these ancient homey parables.
Last edited by Caodemarte on Tue Jul 25, 2017 2:16 am, edited 4 times in total.

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