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

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

Post by zan »

Bundokji wrote:
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?
Thanks! See I think we agree in spirit, but not in direct wording here.

The "things" vs "everything" idea doesn't work for me. If all things are such and such, then everything is such and such. "Things" can actually be used in the same way as "everything", albeit with a bit more ambiguity.

That said, what I see in the sutta you provided is exactly what I believe: The Buddha saw such discussions about everything existing or not as unhelpful. So he instead would redirect whoever was asking to DO, which seems to speak about a being, not about literally all things.

That said, some would argue that DO applies to absolutely everything. We end up in a weird area because the Buddha declared that the all was the six senses and their bases. The six senses are part of DO, however their bases are not mentioned. So perhaps this is the key? The six senses, of course, are dependently originated, but not necessarily their bases?

I don't know the suttas well enough to say for sure.
I am just a learner. Keep that in mind when you read my words.

Just to be safe, assume all of my words could be incorrect. Look to an arahant for total accuracy and confirmation.

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

Post by zan »

Srilankaputra wrote:
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?
Hi, thanks, sure: If everything is dependently originated then nothing exists independently, if nothing exists independently there is no single thing, if there is no single thing, there cannot be many things and so absolutely nothing exists. If absolutely nothing exists then neither does dependent origination.

As to your second question, I personally don't think this is a tenable position within the suttas, so the question cannot be answered. Once the suttas become interpreted as showing all to be non existent there is literally nothing to discuss.

I am searching for someone to prove this ludicrous interpretation wrong using the suttas.
I am just a learner. Keep that in mind when you read my words.

Just to be safe, assume all of my words could be incorrect. Look to an arahant for total accuracy and confirmation.

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

Post by zan »

SamKR wrote:
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.

Thank you! Please prove this wrong view of nothing exists as incorrect further. Contemplating a paradox is not going to help, I don't think. Buddhist thinkers, much wiser than I, have been doing it for thousands of years and many still teach, to varying degrees, that nothing exists.

It does not negate both absolutes, unless DO does not apply to everything. It avoids both absolutes if the Buddha meant that such views are unhelpful and to instead focus on what we know is dependently originated: each individual being. Thus reserving judgement about all things and focusing on only what is relevant. I think this is a reasonable reading of the sutta, particularly because the twelve links are clearly talking about a being, not all of reality. The all is the six senses and their bases. DO mentions only the senses.

But if we assume he meant avoid both extremes by going to the extreme of saying everything without exception is dependently originated then that means nothing exists.

This nothing exists interpretation is a wrong view. I hope you can disprove it further.
I am just a learner. Keep that in mind when you read my words.

Just to be safe, assume all of my words could be incorrect. Look to an arahant for total accuracy and confirmation.

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

Post by zan »

SarathW wrote:
Sat Dec 07, 2019 9:20 pm
Could you explain what "pure nihilism" means?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nihilism
Pure nihilism means absolutely nothing exists.
I am just a learner. Keep that in mind when you read my words.

Just to be safe, assume all of my words could be incorrect. Look to an arahant for total accuracy and confirmation.

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

Post by zan »

equilibrium wrote:
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.
Thanks.

Nibbana does exist according to the suttas. It is said to be a thing (dhamma). But since it is not part of DO, it does not solve the issue. If nothing exists but nibbana, we have all already reached nibbana, since that's all there is.

If you're correct and it can't be said to exist, then there's literally nothing left of the dhamma whatsoever.
I am just a learner. Keep that in mind when you read my words.

Just to be safe, assume all of my words could be incorrect. Look to an arahant for total accuracy and confirmation.

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

Post by zan »

DooDoot wrote:
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
Thank you. Apologies, I should have clarified. I meant nihilism in the modern usage where it can denote a philosophy that absolutely nothing exists, as opposed to the canonical definition.
I am just a learner. Keep that in mind when you read my words.

Just to be safe, assume all of my words could be incorrect. Look to an arahant for total accuracy and confirmation.

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

Post by zan »

daveblack wrote:
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.
I completely agree. However I think that the common understanding in all schools of Buddhism is that DO does apply to literally everything, the only exception being nibbana, and some schools even conclude that nibbana gets lost in the nothingness and declare it as identical with samsara.

Do you know of any suttas that definitively demonstrate that DO does not apply to everything? I think the Kaccayanagotta Sutta, SN 12.15 comes close. It can only be read as pointing to the idea that literally everything falls under DO if one extrapolates and interprets using other suttas. A close reading does not seem to include everything but denotes how a being comes to be.

One thing to note is that the all includes the six senses and their bases, DO only includes the six senses. So unless there is some other DO in the suttas, it seems to me that it cannot denote literally everything.

The suttas declare all, without exception as not self and all, with only nibbana as an exception as temporary. They do not ever, to my knowledge, specifically state that all is dependently originated. So, from here, everything works and it does not make everything non-existent.
I am just a learner. Keep that in mind when you read my words.

Just to be safe, assume all of my words could be incorrect. Look to an arahant for total accuracy and confirmation.

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

Post by Dhammanando »

zan wrote:
Mon Dec 09, 2019 3:20 pm
if nothing exists independently there is no single thing,
How does that follow?

The fact that, say, trees exist dependent on soil, water, sunlight, the seeds from which they grew, etc., surely doesn't mean that no single tree exists. It just means that no tree is its own cause and no tree exists independently.
“Keep to your own pastures, bhikkhus, walk in the haunts where your fathers roamed.
If ye thus walk in them, Māra will find no lodgement, Māra will find no foothold.”
— Cakkavattisīhanāda Sutta

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

Post by Dan74 »

Dhammanando wrote:
Mon Dec 09, 2019 4:09 pm
zan wrote:
Mon Dec 09, 2019 3:20 pm
if nothing exists independently there is no single thing,
How does that follow?

The fact that, say, trees exist dependent on soil, water, sunlight, the seeds from which they grew, etc., surely doesn't mean that no single tree exists. It just means that no tree is its own cause and no tree exists independently.
:goodpost:

It pays to investigate what we mean and what the Buddha said about 'existing'.

There is a view of the world as being composed of discrete entities, discrete selves, somehow interacting, but remaining separate. A view where there is a Dan who has such-and-such characteristics, such-and-such possessions and attainments, titles and honours.

And then there is a view of the world as a flux, a flow of interdependent phenomena, nothing separate, except in the language for convenience's sake. No actual Dan, since the phenomenon that goes by the name 'Dan' is ever-changing, originated in dependence on his parents, raised by myriad influences, continuing to depend on the nourishment and the chemicals in the body that is also not 'his', the milieu, even the chair that provides support and this keyboard that enables this post. Nor are any of the so-called possessions, but only due to conventions and beliefs, etc etc. Do you get the drift?

It seems to me the Buddha's main objective in this regard was to help us relinquish grasping onto 'me' and 'mine'. We can argue till we are blue in the face whether there is a soul or a self of some sort. That is kinda missing the point, which is to let go. The other was to understand how various phenomena come about dependently originated. Both require insight.
_/|\_

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

Post by SDC »

Dhammanando wrote:
Mon Dec 09, 2019 4:09 pm
zan wrote:
Mon Dec 09, 2019 3:20 pm
if nothing exists independently there is no single thing,
How does that follow?

The fact that, say, trees exist dependent on soil, water, sunlight, the seeds from which they grew, etc., surely doesn't mean that no single tree exists. It just means that no tree is its own cause and no tree exists independently.
Indeed. And isn't it also possible to distinguish between a leaf, a tree, a forest, the self, others, etc.? The identification of experience-as-a-whole does not negate the presence of that which is more particular. The fact that you can orientate between different layers of experience doesn't give priority to any position. It is ignorance of the implications of assuming the arrangement that gives priority to a subject, thus suffering. That seems to be what the Buddha is describing with DO.

Would suttas that describe "the all" without addressing DO be helpful?

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

Post by SteRo »

zan wrote:
Sat Dec 07, 2019 3:56 pm
Rules for this thread:

...

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.
Sorry but that "does not ultimately exist" reminds me of "the two truths". But staying in the suttas I cannot recall the Buddha teaching two truths.

zan wrote:
Sat Dec 07, 2019 3:56 pm
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.
This is your fabrication. The Buddha did not teach this. Remember? "Stay in the suttas"
The habit to grasp as realities the concepts arising from contacting words seems to be deep-rooted.

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

Post by sentinel »

zan wrote:
Sat Dec 07, 2019 4:13 pm
If everything is dependently originated, dependent origination doesn't exist. It cancels itself out.
If the sutta did stated , then this statement is correct . However , everything (regarded as dependent originated) according to the teachings meant experiences that arises not about something external or outside substance . Otherwise , Buddha would not say about suffering that arises and ceases .

According to nagarjuna , if you take a "thing" as something real , then that is an independent existence .
If there is No thing independently exists , then the so called "thing" is unreal . It is without a "core" by itself .
Sallekha Sutta.

“Meditate … do not delay, lest you later regret it.”

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

Post by Bundokji »

zan wrote:
Mon Dec 09, 2019 3:09 pm
That said, some would argue that DO applies to absolutely everything. We end up in a weird area because the Buddha declared that the all was the six senses and their bases. The six senses are part of DO, however their bases are not mentioned. So perhaps this is the key? The six senses, of course, are dependently originated, but not necessarily their bases?
I think the notion of "everything" is the other side of the coin of human obsession with the notion of "origin". This manifests itself in physicists attempts to come up with a "theory of everything" or finding the most elementary unit of existence whether it is the "Higgs Boson particle" or "God". I, as an unenlightened human being try to see the ways of the world in order to avoid them. It seems to me that our tendency to speculate has to do with the structure of our knowledge and our craving. Most arguments in the suttas that i have read, seem to present this tendency and the Buddha countering it through his teachings.

I don't understand the "all" in the loka sutta as an ontological position of what constitutes the real world, but more of how the world is experienced through the meditative-concentrated mind which is fitting for investigating the Buddha Dhamma. I doubt that a concentrated mind is able to experience "everything" hence it recognizes it as another thought that arises and passes away.
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.

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

Post by zan »

Dhammanando wrote:
Mon Dec 09, 2019 4:09 pm
zan wrote:
Mon Dec 09, 2019 3:20 pm
if nothing exists independently there is no single thing,
How does that follow?

The fact that, say, trees exist dependent on soil, water, sunlight, the seeds from which they grew, etc., surely doesn't mean that no single tree exists. It just means that no tree is its own cause and no tree exists independently.
Thank you Venerable. I understand it as you do. I am trying to find a way through this bizarre wrong view that will allow for that understanding to be correct.

That said, and to me it seems like the following must be incorrect, but it goes:

Because there is no thing that is independent, there cannot be several things depending on each other, as without one there cannot be many. This would mean that samsara doesn't even exist, only nibbana does, since it is the only thing that doesn't depend on anything else.

So the Buddha's teaching goes from thousands of pages of glorious text that lead one on a beautiful path toward nibbana, to:

nibbana.

Literally nothing exists but nibbana. The goal is already achieved, so what point is there for dhamma?

I am very disconcerted by this wrong view, yet cannot find a way around it.
Last edited by zan on Mon Dec 09, 2019 7:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
I am just a learner. Keep that in mind when you read my words.

Just to be safe, assume all of my words could be incorrect. Look to an arahant for total accuracy and confirmation.

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

Post by zan »

SDC wrote:
Mon Dec 09, 2019 4:41 pm
Dhammanando wrote:
Mon Dec 09, 2019 4:09 pm
zan wrote:
Mon Dec 09, 2019 3:20 pm
if nothing exists independently there is no single thing,
How does that follow?

The fact that, say, trees exist dependent on soil, water, sunlight, the seeds from which they grew, etc., surely doesn't mean that no single tree exists. It just means that no tree is its own cause and no tree exists independently.
Indeed. And isn't it also possible to distinguish between a leaf, a tree, a forest, the self, others, etc.? The identification of experience-as-a-whole does not negate the presence of that which is more particular. The fact that you can orientate between different layers of experience doesn't give priority to any position. It is ignorance of the implications of assuming the arrangement that gives priority to a subject, thus suffering. That seems to be what the Buddha is describing with DO.

Would suttas that describe "the all" without addressing DO be helpful?
I know of these suttas already. Thank you. And if we take them alone there is no problem. The only issue is this:

If no single thing exists independently, then there are not many things, as without one, there cannot be many. So nothing exists.

I do not like this! I think it is not what the Buddha taught but a wild extrapolation and misunderstanding of what he taught. Nonetheless, without reinterpreting DO to be less literal and all encompassing, I fail to see a way around it.
I am just a learner. Keep that in mind when you read my words.

Just to be safe, assume all of my words could be incorrect. Look to an arahant for total accuracy and confirmation.

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