retrofuturist wrote: ↑
Fri Oct 13, 2017 9:45 pm
An excellent selection of quotes above... much appreciated.
I find this an interesting selection of idiosyncratic ideas by Bhante Sujato worthy of close scrutiny.
Well, when we come back to the roots of the word rūpa it is, of course, also used in the sense of "sight, something that is seen". And it seems that this is a very old sense. The basic idea seems to be that it refers to the manifest physical world; that is, the world as it appears to the senses. In fact, "appearance" is a possible translation.This contrasts greatly with the western conception of matter as being an underlying substance. This is why we really can't translate rūpa with "matter" or any similar English word.
Suttas such as MN 62 & SN 22.79 appear to support the view "rupa" is "physical matter"; referring to "rupa" as heart, lungs, body hairs, skin, etc, which are "deformed" (ruppatīti
) by cold, heat, insects, hunger, thirst, etc. Of course, "rupa" is also used in association with the visual or eye sense base however this seems to be another context; albeit related; given what is visually seen are not sounds, smells & tastes although "physical matter" can be touched.
About the terms "appearance" or "manifestation" (pātubhāvo
), these might be found in the condition of "birth" ("jati") in Dependent Origination rather than "nama-rupa" (unless relying on DN 15, which even Bhante Sujato has proposed, somewhere, is part of the DN composed for conversion of Brahmans).
For me, Bhante Sujato's views are the complete opposite of mine. Bhante Sujato often stresses "jati" is something physical yet seems to say "rupa" is "mental appearance". Where as my personal view is "rupa" is physical and "jati" is "mental appearance" (pātubhāvo
). In short, Sujato seems to be proposing "nama-rupa" ("mental appearance") somehow conditions the "physical" ("jati").
Since rūpa refers to the manifestation of physical phenomena in consciousness, the rūpakkhandha can be perceived not only via the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body, but also by the mind.
This seems to contradict what was previously said since Sujato is now referring to "physical" phenomena rather than the previous "appearance". Also, I personally doubt rupa can be perceived via the mind because the mind sense base can only cognize mental objects, such as an image of rupa. For example, if I close my eyes, I can no longer see the form of the computer but can only imagine it with the mind.
I know what you mean, but there's no such thing as an "object" in the Suttas. The words that are used to mean this in later Abhidhamma texts don't mean the same thing in the suttas. For the Buddha, all experience is interdependent. That means there is no such thing as "object". What can "object" mean, if not "things that exist objectively, independent of the observing mind"?
The literal translations of suttas say consciousness is dependent on sense organs & sense objects rather than sense organs & sense objects are dependent upon consciousness. Sujato gives the impression to me here of invoking some type of Brahma or God principles, that somehow there is a mind creating
sense objects. Regardless, I think this issue is not related to the core principles of Buddhism; and as such, a conservative & objective view takes sense objects as existing independent of mind (such as the nuclear fission existed independently before it was discovered by man) but mind cannot exist independent of sense objects. For example, SN 12.61 says this body composed of the four great elements is seen standing for a year, two years, three, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, a hundred years or more. But what's called 'mind,' 'intellect,' or 'consciousness' by day and by night arises as one thing and ceases as another
. I think SN 12.61 does not support Sujato's view.
But rūpa, like everything else in the suttas, is never spoken of in this way. Instead, consciousness arises in the conjunction (tinnaṁ saṅgati phasso) of the inner and outer sense fields. It's a subtle point, but it changes a lot about how you look at meditation.
Again, this is invoking subjectivity. In Nirodha Samapatti, consciousness ceases because there is no object for consciousness to land on or arise in conjunction with. Potential but unknown objects can exist, until they are discovered, such as when the Buddha discovered Nibbana or the truths he was previously unaware of. It seems the purpose of the tinnaṁ saṅgati phasso
is to negate an independent consciousness rather than to negate independent external phenomena. As previously mentioned, I sense the idea of a disembodied soul or consciousness raising its head in Sujato's ideas because, unlike the suttas, Sujato seems to be equating or even giving pre-eminence to the role of consciousness is sense experience rather than giving consciousness the subordinate or dependent position found in the suttas.
In early Buddhism there is no such thing as an object because there is no independent objective existence. Experience only occurs in the relationship between inner and outer. Introducing the language of "object", which is entirely absent from the suttas, may be convenient, but it opens the suttas to a range of philosophical and psychological problems that the Buddha carefully avoided.
The suttas are not in English therefore the word "object" is obviously absent. However, there are the words "internal ayatana" and "external ayatana". Regardless, as shown in MN 38, the suttas seem to only admonish the positing of an independent consciousness; which can easily construed as a self or soul. I doubt the Buddha was concerned about positing or denying the independence of physical phenomena, such as the independence of the Moon or planet Earth in relation to human mentality.
Later forms of Buddhism struggled with this, sometimes leaning to affirm an objective existence (Abhidhamma, especially Sarvastivada, but also Theravada) or denying it (late Yogacara aka cittamatra), while others tried to chart a "middle way" (Madhyamaka), which in my view is correct. Nagarjuna tried to combust this whole field of philosophy, but it keeps coming back.
In my view, Nagarjuna appears to not match the Pali suttas and, as I posted, also Sujato. Thus, it seems natural Sujato would align his views with Nagarjuna. The suttas are about suffering & its cessation. The goal of the suttas is to not take phenomena as "self", which includes the ideas of an independent consciousness found in MN 38. As I suggested, the independence or non-independence of a physical universe seems to me to be an irrelevant idea in the suttas. For example, in the very difficult SN 12.15, for which translation use the English words "existence" & "non-existence", the word "world" obviously refers not to the physical world, such as the planet Earth, but to the mental world produced by dependent origination, per SN 12.44.
When we use the English word "object" we lean on a whole history of Western philosophy, one that overwhelmingly regards the physical world as existing independently "out there". In such a scenario, a percept impinges on consciousness, but is itself unchanged by the fact (hence the scientific notion of the "neutral observer").
No. The suttas appear to take for granted the ayatana ("sense objects") and do not make a big deal about them. For example, suttas such as MN 38, SN 22.1 & MN 1 have dual scenarios where the ayatana (sense spheres) are experienced with ignorance and, alternately, with wisdom
. The sense spheres do not change here. The Buddha seems to take the position of a completely neutral observer
. The idea the mind creates the world is Brahmanism & Judaism (Genesis). The suttas appear only concerned with the mental reactions & responses to ayatana ("sense objects") rather than to the ayatana themselves (apart from their impermanence, selflessness, etc).
Consciousness and its objects therefore exist separately, and their conjunction is purely contingent. This leads directly to the greatest problem of western philosophy, the mind/body problem. If these things are essentially independent, how do they relate? From this (non-)problem comes the materialist dismissal of consciousness as a mere epiphenomenon of the brain, with all of the ethical and practical problems this entails.
I think it does not matter whether or not consciousness is a mere epiphenomenon of the brain because contact (meeting of organ, object & consciousness) would arise in exactly the same way. Again, Sujato here is sounding eerily like manufacturing an idea of a disembodied creator-god-like-Brahma consciousness. Also, the idea that western philosophy deems consciousness as an "independent epiphenomenon of the brain
" is not logical to me because consciousnesses as an "epiphenomenon of the brain" infers inter
dependence with the physical body & brain to me rather than independence, similar to how the compound "nama-rupa" infers inter
dependence of nama & rupa. I think if anything is engaged in the idea of an independent consciousness it is Bhante Sujato.
The word "object" draws us into this mire, whether we like it or not. The treatment of consciousness and experience in the Suttas is as fresh, radical, and powerful today as ever, and we need to step as carefully as the Buddha did to avoid getting stuck in unnecessary and harmful philosophical distractions. So far I've managed to translate half the suttas without using the word "object" in this sense. It can be done!
For me, it is this quote that draws into a mire & is getting stuck in unnecessary and harmful philosophical distractions.
It is obvious objects are independent of consciousness otherwise separation from these objects could not occur. If separation from objects did not occur, suffering would never occur. The non-reality of the non-duality Sujato seems to be suggesting here is the very reason why suffering occurs. Ignorance believes the mind & an object are one (such as believing husband & wife are one) and when the reality of separation inevitably occurs the evil dukkha occurs.
When we use the word "object", the only thing we can be saying is that it is something that exists "objectively". That is, whether the eye is there or not, whether consciousness perceives it or not, it remains just the same.
Correct. There a rolls of toilet paper in my bathroom and they will be essentially the same the next time I go to the bathroom as they were the last time I went to the bathroom. As was said in SN 12.61: his body composed of the four great elements is seen standing for a year, two years, three, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, a hundred years or more. But what's called 'mind,' 'intellect,' or 'consciousness' by day and by night arises as one thing and ceases as another.
If that's not what we're saying, why are we using the word "object"? Even if it's not what we mean to say, it's there in the connotations and assumptions that the word brings. The suttas carefully and consistently avoid making this assumption. What matters is the sight as perceived, which only appears in relation to consciousness.
Which suttas? What verses, exactly? The only "care" the suttas appear to take is to teach avoiding attaching to "objects". SN 22.59, for the purpose of full enlightenment, refers to the impermanence of consciousness and the five aggregates. It does not even refer to sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches & cognitions (ayatana).
To come back to the basic issue. As far as my own philosophical perspective goes, and how I see the suttas, I would argue that the suttas reject both "naive realism" and "idealism". That is to say, they do not accept that the world really exists objectively, independent of the observer...
In suttas such as SN 12.44, the term "the world" does not appear to refer to the physical world or even sense contact. The word "world" ("loka") in many suttas refers to the arising of suffering. In my opinion, the suttas are unconcerned with the idea of independence or non-independence of the observer but only concerned with not deeming the observer as "self".
But they also reject the idealist view that there is no outside world - all there is is the projection of the mind.
I think rejecting this is very wise. How can there even be the most basic moral emotion of "empathy" if it is believed there is no outside world and everything is only a projection of the mind. For example, I see a child drowning in the ocean and I just think like Brahma: "this is only a projection of my mind; the child is only a dream; a play of Maya
Like, I think, Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu, the suttas often occupy a dialectical space.
My view is the suttas do not occupy this space at all, as I have given my opinion on.
But whereas those philosophers are in a discussion with other contemporary Buddhists, the suttas depict the Buddha in discussion with non-Buddhists, who themselves might lean to the naive realist side (Jains, etc.) or the idealist side (Upanishadic brahmanism).
My impression is Bhante Sujato is falling into the idealist side (Upanishadic brahmanism).
Nagarjuna famously said that emptiness was nothing more than dependent origination.
I have not read this idea in the suttas. In the suttas, dependent origination is the arising of becoming (SN 12.2; SN 12.12) and emptiness is the absence of becoming (MN 121). Descartes famously said: "I think therefore I am" however this fame does not mean Descartes had right view.
And I think this points to a fundamentally important aspect of the Buddha's teachings. By rejecting naive realism and idealism, the Buddha is not rejecting knowledge or reality. Rather, he pointed to a more powerful, meaningful, accurate, and ultimately liberating view of reality: dependent origination. Rather than seeing the world as essentially objective or essentially objective, it is a relation.
Sure. This thread is about dependent origination but reference to D/O here does not necessarily make "rupa" mean "appearance" because in the suttas it seems that "jati" is "appearance" or "manifestation", namely, "pātubhāvo", which occurs with the "paṭilābho" ("transference"/"mimicking") of the "ayatana" (sense spheres).
This is based, not on philosophical reasoning, but on experience.
Experience or insight can be defiled; such as to believe consciousness & the sense spheres are "one" or "non-dual". In other words, the evidence points to consciousness having a passive role in experience. This is shown in Nirodha Samapatti, where consciousness cannot exist when a sense object does not exist or in how a mind can become unconsciousness while the physical body remains alive due to an accident or physical exhaustion. I can both look at & touch my computer and then close my eyes. The eye consciousness of computer disappears but the touch of the computer remains. It seems proper or logical to consider the relative permanence of the computer is more predominant.
Experience is a relation: "dependent on the eye and forms arises eye consciousness, the coming together of the three is contact …"
This does not say: "Dependent on eye consciousness arises the eye & forms
The primary experience is the relation, the mess of complexity, of things dependent on each other.
No. I write a will (legal document) in the common knowledge my physical property (house) will continue to exist after the passing of my consciousness. This is a logical deduction inferred from similar external experiences (even though the continuity of my house will never be a subjective experience). Regardless, these issues seem not related to suffering & cessation & fall outside of Buddhism.
As far as rūpa goes, the problem here is that matter is read in the west as absolutely objective.
Rupa seems to be relatively objective, as was taught in SN 12.61. Unless a mind is color blind or impaired, the sky is blue in color (light waves) to most & the Pyramids of Egypt are triangular in shape to most. To most, the words on this chatsite read as "Dhamma Wheel".
But this sense is clearly not intended by the Indic term.
Evidence? The suttas say head hairs, body hairs, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, tendons, bones, bone marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, membranes, spleen, lungs, large intestines, small intestines, contents of the stomach, feces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, oil, saliva, mucus, oil-of-the-joints, urine, what is eaten, drunk, chewed, & savored gets properly digested, up-going winds, down-going winds, winds in the stomach, winds in the intestines, winds that course through the body, in-and-out breathing
Regardless of one's position in the philosophical issues, it is obviously the case that Indic philosophies generally, and Buddhism in particular, have more of a subjective emphasis than western materialism. So the point here is not to take a position on the specific philosophy, but to accurately represent an important term in its context
"Subjective" = "self". Since Buddhism asserts "truth" ("sacca") and "law" ("niyama"), Buddhism seems hardly "subjective", since Buddhism insists all conditioned things are impermanent, unsatisfying & not-self; all suffering arises due to craving & becoming; and all rupa is comprised of earth, wind, fire & water.
My vote that nama-rupa is 'mind-body' or 'mentality-materiality' remains because, contrary to Bhante Sujato's viewpoint, it appears the suttas take a neutral position on the sense spheres ("objects") & sense contact and that the phenomena of subjective "appearance" ("pātubhāvo") occurs at "birth" ("jati") or, at the very earliest, after sense contact (conditioned by a mind-bodythat is defiled with ignorance). In other words, I think there cannot be any kind of "subjective appearance
" prior to sense contact.