Either Buddhism is pure nihilism or dependent origination must be reinterpreted?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
zan
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Either Buddhism is pure nihilism or dependent origination must be reinterpreted?

Post by zan » Sat Dec 07, 2019 3:56 pm

Rules for this thread:

1.) No invoking some quasi scientific interpretation of quantum mechanics to prove dependent origination is true. One could just as easily disprove it using the same method. Further the Buddha was not talking about the subatomic world. He literally never talked about this. He was not a scientist.

2.) No making nibbana the mind or source for things. The former is ruled out constantly in the suttas, the latter is ruled out in several places, definitively in MN 1. Nibbana exists but is the only thing that is not part of dependent origination and so is irrelevant to this discussion.

3.) Stay in the suttas. Using bizarre theories or science fiction are not allowed as they do not exist in the suttas.

4.) Making everything imaginary does not solve the issue as the mind, and therefore imagination, is dependently originated too, and so does not ultimately exist. Further the Buddha didn't teach that all is consciousness, and it is incompatible with dependent origination, even if it only applies in it's minimal function to describe beings. All as consciousness is one hundred percent an Upanishadic teaching, not Buddhist.

That said here we are:

If everything, without exception, is dependently originated, nothing has any independent existence, there is no single thing. Everything depends on something else to exist.

If there is no single thing then obviously there cannot be many things.

So literally nothing whatsoever exists: pure nihilism.

And, no, invoking oneness is no help here. Dependent origination doesn't allow for monism, nor plurality.

So either dependent origination proves itself out of existence and Buddhism is totally nihilistic or must be reinterpreted in some way or dialed back to not apply to literally everything.

I personally think Buddhism is not nihilism and will post my thoughts below.
Last edited by zan on Sat Dec 07, 2019 4:24 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Never read anything I write as an accurate statement about anything whatsoever. First, look to wiser ones than I. Look to wise texts. Unless you can confirm their accuracy from a reliable source, treat my writings like word games, nothing more.

zan
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Re: Either Buddhism is pure nihilism or dependent origination must be reinterpreted?

Post by zan » Sat Dec 07, 2019 4:09 pm

It almost seems like this is a wild extrapolation that the Buddha never intended and likely would have discouraged. I know of no sutta where the Buddha attempts to explain literally everything as part of dependent origination, itself directly focused on a being's existence and cessation.

How did it get applied to literally everything in existence when it only talks directly about a being's experience?

Look what happens when you apply it to everything:

We end up with a paradoxical conclusion that nothing exists at all.

Anicca, dukkha and anatta apply to everything, this is specifically stated in the suttas and this does not make everything non-existent, nor destroy itself and make Buddhism nonsense.

Today emptiness and dependent origination are considered as almost synonymous; everything is empty because everything is dependently originated. However in the suttas the Buddha said everything is empty because everything is empty of a self, he didn't say because everything is dependently originated.

I think dependent origination only applies to beings.

When asked why matter exists, the Buddha said because the four elements exist. He didn't say it was dependent origination and list the twelve links.

Or maybe it's the most perfect teaching? It forces the mind to have no position at all because it is locked in a paradox and so we reach Nirvana?

I don't believe the Buddha intended to create such a paradox. But maybe Nagarjuna did, and maybe it was a good idea and allowed for things that are impossible without first destroying Buddhism. For example the samurai and many other groups to be good Buddhists, some even enlightened, while also warriors. Maybe he was an absolute genius and created a new Buddhism that allows, or rather forces total freedom from itself?

Or maybe I'm wrong and dependent origination applies to all, and we are forced to either admit Buddhism as pure nihilism, or put our heads in the sand and simply refuse to admit that this is the truth of dependent origination applying to literally everything.

Or there's some other explanation that truly avoids this extreme. Truly, not just saying that extreme should be avoided, but solving the issue satisfactorily.
Last edited by zan on Sat Dec 07, 2019 4:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Never read anything I write as an accurate statement about anything whatsoever. First, look to wiser ones than I. Look to wise texts. Unless you can confirm their accuracy from a reliable source, treat my writings like word games, nothing more.

zan
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Re: Either Buddhism is pure nihilism or dependent origination must be reinterpreted?

Post by zan » Sat Dec 07, 2019 4:13 pm

Basically to restate the issue: dependent origination, if applied to everything invalidates dependent origination by making it non existent. It destroys itself and makes itself irrelevant.

If everything is dependently originated, dependent origination doesn't exist. It cancels itself out.

Buddhism is not nihilism. This cannot be correct.
Never read anything I write as an accurate statement about anything whatsoever. First, look to wiser ones than I. Look to wise texts. Unless you can confirm their accuracy from a reliable source, treat my writings like word games, nothing more.

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Re: Either Buddhism is pure nihilism or dependent origination must be reinterpreted?

Post by Bundokji » Sat Dec 07, 2019 4:28 pm

zan wrote:
Sat Dec 07, 2019 3:56 pm
If everything, without exception, is dependently originated, nothing has any independent existence, there is no single thing. Everything depends on something else to exist.
When you begin with a wrong assumption, everything you build on it would be equally wrong.

Where did the Buddha ever mentioned that "everything is dependently originated"? he seemed to introduce the teachings on DO as a response to such generalized statements:
"By & large, Kaccayana, this world is supported by (takes as its object) a polarity, that of existence & non-existence. But when one sees the origination of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'non-existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one. When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one.

"By & large, Kaccayana, this world is in bondage to attachments, clingings (sustenances), & biases. But one such as this does not get involved with or cling to these attachments, clingings, fixations of awareness, biases, or obsessions; nor is he resolved on 'my self.' He has no uncertainty or doubt that just stress, when arising, is arising; stress, when passing away, is passing away. In this, his knowledge is independent of others. It's to this extent, Kaccayana, that there is right view.

"'Everything exists': That is one extreme. 'Everything doesn't exist': That is a second extreme. Avoiding these two extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma via the middle: From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications. From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness. From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form. From name-&-form as a requisite condition come the six sense media. From the six sense media as a requisite condition comes contact. From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling. From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving. From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging/sustenance. From clinging/sustenance as a requisite condition comes becoming. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth. From birth as a requisite condition, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair come into play. Such is the origination of this entire mass of stress & suffering.
So, things (as opposite to the nonsensical notion of everything) arise due to conditions, and cease when the conditions necessary for their arising ceases. Where is the nihilism in that?
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

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Re: Either Buddhism is pure nihilism or dependent origination must be reinterpreted?

Post by santa100 » Sat Dec 07, 2019 4:44 pm

zan wrote:When asked why matter exists, the Buddha said because the four elements exist. He didn't say it was dependent origination and list the twelve links.

Or maybe it's the most perfect teaching? It forces the mind to have no position at all because it is locked in a paradox and so we reach Nirvana?
There's no paradox that I see. Matter or materiality/Rupa is part of the Nama-Rupa pair, which is already a component included in the DO (ignorance --> volitional formation --> consciousness --> nama-rupa -->....). Also, just because something conditions the arising of something else, doesn't mean that that thingy does not exist at all, at least on a conventional level (since you've been mentioning Nagarjuna quite often lately)
Last edited by santa100 on Sat Dec 07, 2019 4:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Sabbe_Dhamma_Anatta
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Re: Either Buddhism is pure nihilism or dependent origination must be reinterpreted?

Post by Sabbe_Dhamma_Anatta » Sat Dec 07, 2019 4:45 pm

zan wrote:
Sat Dec 07, 2019 3:56 pm
...
Further the Buddha was not talking about the subatomic world. He literally never talked about this.
...

Totally agreed.

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cappuccino
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Re: Either Buddhism is pure nihilism or dependent origination must be reinterpreted?

Post by cappuccino » Sat Dec 07, 2019 5:19 pm

zan wrote: treat my writings like word games, nothing more.
:shrug:

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Re: Either Buddhism is pure nihilism or dependent origination must be reinterpreted?

Post by Srilankaputra » Sat Dec 07, 2019 5:53 pm

zan wrote:
Sat Dec 07, 2019 4:13 pm
If everything is dependently originated, dependent origination doesn't exist. It cancels itself out.
Can you explain how your first statement "If everything is dependently originated" leads to the conclusion "dependent origination doesn't exist"?

I am guessing, in this view realising nothing exists is the escape from suffering. According to this teaching, if a person doesn't realise this what happens after death?
O seeing one,we for refuge go to thee!
O mighty sage do thou our teacher be!

Paccuppannañca yo dhammaṃ,
Tattha tattha vipassati

“Yato yato mano nivāraye,
Na dukkhameti naṃ tato tato;
Sa sabbato mano nivāraye,
Sa sabbato dukkhā pamuccatī”ti.

SamKR
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Re: Either Buddhism is pure nihilism or dependent origination must be reinterpreted?

Post by SamKR » Sat Dec 07, 2019 6:05 pm

zan wrote:
Sat Dec 07, 2019 3:56 pm

If everything, without exception, is dependently originated, nothing has any independent existence, there is no single thing. Everything depends on something else to exist.

If there is no single thing then obviously there cannot be many things.
In my opinion, this premise is correct (depending upon what you mean by 'thing'; I assume you mean inherently existing/independent/non-empty/unitary/absolute thing).
zan wrote:
Sat Dec 07, 2019 3:56 pm

So literally nothing whatsoever exists: pure nihilism.
But your conclusion that nothing exists is totally incorrect. That's what Kaccayanagotta Sutta addresses. Dependent arising negates both absolutes: absolute/independent existence and absolute non-existence. That's why it is called dependent arising, the Dhamma of the middle. If I may, I would suggest to contemplate more on this.

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Re: Either Buddhism is pure nihilism or dependent origination must be reinterpreted?

Post by equilibrium » Sat Dec 07, 2019 6:49 pm

zan wrote:
Sat Dec 07, 2019 4:09 pm

Or there's some other explanation that truly avoids this extreme. Truly, not just saying that extreme should be avoided, but solving the issue satisfactorily.
Teaching teaches via the “middle way” which avoids the extremes.....to allow one to escape.
To truly solve it, one must reach the unconditioned Nibbana.

Nibbana cannot be termed as exist because that would mean it would be temporary and would die!
Nibbana is unconditioned therefore it is permanent.....the unborn.

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Re: Either Buddhism is pure nihilism or dependent origination must be reinterpreted?

Post by DooDoot » Sat Dec 07, 2019 8:25 pm

Srilankaputra wrote:
Sat Dec 07, 2019 5:53 pm
I am guessing, in this view realising nothing exists is the escape from suffering.
SN 12.15 does not say this, as follows:
'Everything exists': That is one extreme. 'Everything doesn't exist [nothing exists]': That is a second extreme. Avoiding these two extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma via the middle:

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
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SarathW
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Re: Either Buddhism is pure nihilism or dependent origination must be reinterpreted?

Post by SarathW » Sat Dec 07, 2019 9:20 pm

Could you explain what "pure nihilism" means?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nihilism
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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DooDoot
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Re: Either Buddhism is pure nihilism or dependent origination must be reinterpreted?

Post by DooDoot » Sat Dec 07, 2019 9:24 pm

SarathW wrote:
Sat Dec 07, 2019 9:20 pm
Could you explain what "pure nihilism" means?
What about this?
‘The ascetic Gotama is an exterminator. He advocates the annihilation, eradication and obliteration of an existing being.’

venayiko samaṇo gotamo, sato sattassa ucchedaṃ vināsaṃ vibhavaṃ paññāpetī’ti.

https://suttacentral.net/mn22/en/sujato
venayika
masculine
1. a nihilist;

uccheda
masculine
cutting off or out; destruction, putting an end to; annihilation

vināsa
masculine
destruction; ruin; loss.

vibhava
masculine
non-existence cessation of life, annihilation
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cappuccino
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Re: Either Buddhism is pure nihilism or dependent origination must be reinterpreted?

Post by cappuccino » Sat Dec 07, 2019 9:34 pm

Blessed One wrote:As I am not as I do not teach, so have I been baselessly, vainly, falsely and wrongly accused by some ascetics and brahmans thus: 'A nihilist is the ascetic Gotama; He teaches the annihilation, the destruction, the non-being of an existing individual.'

What I teach now as before, O monks, is suffering and the cessation of suffering.
Alagaddupama Sutta

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Re: Either Buddhism is pure nihilism or dependent origination must be reinterpreted?

Post by daveblack » Sat Dec 07, 2019 10:18 pm

zan wrote:
Sat Dec 07, 2019 3:56 pm
That said here we are:

If everything, without exception, is dependently originated, nothing has any independent existence, there is no single thing. Everything depends on something else to exist.

If there is no single thing then obviously there cannot be many things.

So literally nothing whatsoever exists: pure nihilism.
But where did this interpretation of dependent origination even come from? I read it as only related to why you (you being generic) are reborn; because you're still ignorant and therefore crave embodied existence, you are reborn into the world. I don't see any text saying that dependent origination is supposed to explain how the universe came into being; only how we end up being reborn. So to me, its obvious that the statement that "everything, without exception, is dependently originated, nothing has any independent existence, there is no single thing" is not even an interpretation of dependent origination as found in the suttas, but is an entirely new doctrine.

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