Dispute between Abhidharma and Mahayana?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
zan
Posts: 794
Joined: Sun Aug 28, 2016 1:57 pm

Dispute between Abhidharma and Mahayana?

Post by zan » Thu Dec 19, 2019 4:05 am

In the commentary by Mark Siderits and Shoryu Katsura to their translation of the Mulamadhyamakakarika it is stated that the Abhidharmikas believed that only the person is empty and disputed the Mahayana view that all things are empty (full quote below). I assume they mean "empty" as in "dependently originated" as opposed to the sutta defined "empty" (SN 35.85) which is defined as lacking a self, rather than specifically as dependently originated.

What this points to is related to something that has been troubling me: If DO applies to all there are possibly strange consequences (see my other thread on this). I believe that DO only applies to beings, not all things, and that all things are empty in that they all lack a self, and of course that all things but nibbana are impermanent. I think this is supported in the suttas and it seems to me the Theravada system is built around this assumption, however I've been unable to find any direct support for this idea within the Theravada commentary tradition.

This issue presented in the above referenced work seems to support my understanding, however the "Abhidharmikas" is not a term I'm entirely familiar with and I'm not sure if it would include the Theravada or not.

Does anyone have any further information?

Full quote:
7. In "The Instructing of Katyayana" both "it exists" and "it does not exist" are denied by the Blessed One, who clearly perceives the existent and the nonexistent.

The reference is to the Sanskrit parallel of Kaccayanagotta sutta (S II.17, III.134-35). There the Buddha tells Katyayana that his is a middle path between the two extreme views of existence and nonexistence. Abhidharmikas interpret this text as rejecting two views about the person: that there is a self, so that persons exist permanently; and that since there is no self, the person is annihilated or becomes nonexistent after (at the end of a life, or even at the end of the present moment). The middle path is that while there is no self, there is a causal series of skandhas that is conventionally designated as a person.

Nagarjuna holds that while the Abhidharma claim about persons is not incorrect, there is a deeper meaning to the Buddha's teaching in the sutra. This is that there is a middle path between the extremes of holding that there are ultimately existing things and holding that ultimately nothing exists. And as all the commentators make clear, to call the doctrine of emptiness a middle path is to say that one can deny each extreme view without lapsing into the other. How one does this is a matter of some dispute. But Candrakirti quotes the Samadhiraja Sutra:

"It exists" and "it does not exist" are both extremes; "pure" and "impure" are both extremes.
The wise man, avoiding both extremes, likewise does not take a stand in the middle. (LVP p.270)

This suggests that the Madhyamaka middle path is not a "moderate" or compromise position lying on the same continuum as the two extremes. Instead it must inolve rejecting some underlying presuposition that generates the continuum.

This disagreement over the interpretation of the sutra is a variant on the dispute between Abhidharma and Mahayana over emptiness. Is it of all dharmas, or only of persons? The Abhidharmika claims that if all dharmas were empty, then the absurd consequence of nihilism (universal nonexistence would follow. Nagarjuna may be seen as here responding to that charge.
-Mulamadhyamakakarika, Siderits, Mark and Katsura, Shoryu, Wisdom Publications, 2013, pages 159-60
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.

char101
Posts: 336
Joined: Wed Nov 04, 2009 1:21 am

Re: Dispute between Abhidharma and Mahayana?

Post by char101 » Thu Dec 19, 2019 4:56 am

I believe in abhidhamma/commentary tradition, emptiness is defined as lacking sabhava (own characteristic) [1]. So for example, the element of hardness (pathavi) is not empty because it has its own characteristic which is hardness, while a person lacks its own characteristics, and instead is an aggregation of elements. Thus a person is only a concept (pannati) while the elements of hardness is something that really exists (dhamma).

Anyway, its is funny that this conflict of interpretation between scholars is caused (in my opinion) because they lack practice, and rather too much reading and thinking. The true understanding of emptiness if any, is to be found inside, not outside.

[1] https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/abhidharma/ point 4.

zan
Posts: 794
Joined: Sun Aug 28, 2016 1:57 pm

Re: Dispute between Abhidharma and Mahayana?

Post by zan » Thu Dec 19, 2019 5:11 am

char101 wrote:
Thu Dec 19, 2019 4:56 am
I believe in abhidhamma/commentary tradition, emptiness is defined as lacking sabhava (own characteristic) [1]. So for example, the element of hardness (pathavi) is not empty because it has its own characteristic which is hardness, while a person lacks its own characteristics, and instead is an aggregation of elements. Thus a person is only a concept (pannati) while the elements of hardness is something that really exists (dhamma).

Anyway, its is funny that this conflict of interpretation between scholars is caused (in my opinion) because they lack practice, and rather too much reading and thinking. The true understanding of emptiness if any, is to be found inside, not outside.

[1] https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/abhidharma/ point 4.
Thanks! Do you know if this is the understanding of the Theravada Abhidhamma or commentary school?
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.

char101
Posts: 336
Joined: Wed Nov 04, 2009 1:21 am

Re: Dispute between Abhidharma and Mahayana?

Post by char101 » Thu Dec 19, 2019 5:17 am

zan wrote:
Thu Dec 19, 2019 5:11 am
Thanks! Do you know if this is the understanding of the Theravada Abhidhamma or commentary school?
It is mentioned in the patisambhidhamagga [1] and in the commentary by Buddhaghosa (I remember reading it but don't remember where specifically) [2]. AFAIK abhidhamma does not uses the concept of emptiness. Emptines is a paradox in the first place: it exists but empty? Thus it is conceptual. Abhidhamma only deals with the absolute: paramattha-dhamma which are citta, cetasika, rupa, and nibanna. Since these are absolute (paramattha-dhamma) they are not empty or conceptual.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patisambhidamagga
[2] https://books.google.co.id/books?id=JjF ... va&f=false
Last edited by char101 on Thu Dec 19, 2019 5:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
Posts: 22093
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Contact:

Re: Dispute between Abhidharma and Mahayana?

Post by retrofuturist » Thu Dec 19, 2019 5:18 am

Greetings Zan,

Whether it's just the way you've worded it or not, you will come unstuck here...
zan wrote:
Thu Dec 19, 2019 4:05 am
I believe that DO only applies to beings, not all things
... because you appear to be saying that there are things, they are real, they exist in their own right, and that they come about [for some reason you leave undefined].

That is not the Buddha's presentation on how things (dhammas) come to be. What you are regarding as "things", is not what the Buddha spoke of as "things" (dhammas).

In the Buddha's Dhamma, dhammas are fabricated, because of ignorance. They are conceived, imagined, constructed. Ignorance create things, all "things", and one of the "things" it creates is the sense of "self" which underpins the notion of "beings". Beings are things.

Until you comprehend that, your understandings of the various positions will be compromised, and you will merely be comparing one set of misrepresentations with another. Such papanca serves no purpose. I do not question your sincerity, so suggest only that you're looking at the matter from a perspective which isn't going to lead to insight. Keep adjusting, refining and challenging your perspective...

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)

“Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” (Flannery O'Connor)

zan
Posts: 794
Joined: Sun Aug 28, 2016 1:57 pm

Re: Dispute between Abhidharma and Mahayana?

Post by zan » Thu Dec 19, 2019 5:48 am

char101 wrote:
Thu Dec 19, 2019 5:17 am
zan wrote:
Thu Dec 19, 2019 5:11 am
Thanks! Do you know if this is the understanding of the Theravada Abhidhamma or commentary school?
It is mentioned in the patisambhidhamagga [1] and in the commentary by Buddhaghosa (I remember reading it but don't remember where specifically) [2]. AFAIK abhidhamma does not uses the concept of emptiness. Emptines is a paradox in the first place: it exists but empty? Thus it is conceptual. Abhidhamma only deals with the absolute: paramattha-dhamma which are citta, cetasika, rupa, and nibanna. Since these are absolute (paramattha-dhamma) they are not empty or conceptual.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patisambhidamagga
[2] https://books.google.co.id/books?id=JjF ... va&f=false

Your second link completely and utterly confirms my understanding of Theravada! Thank you so much!
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.

User avatar
DooDoot
Posts: 6889
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:06 pm

Re: Dispute between Abhidharma and Mahayana?

Post by DooDoot » Thu Dec 19, 2019 5:56 am

char101 wrote:
Thu Dec 19, 2019 4:56 am
I believe in abhidhamma/commentary tradition, emptiness is defined as lacking sabhava (own characteristic) [1].

[1] https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/abhidharma/ point 4.
Sorry but I could not find what was posted in the link provided. I could not find where the link says: "emptiness is defined as lacking sabhava".

For example, in the Abhidhamma below, Nibbana is said to be both "sabhava" (having inherent nature) & "sunnata" (empty).
Attachments
sabhava & sunnata.png
There is always an official executioner. If you try to take his place, It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood. If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.

https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/paticcasamuppada
https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/anapanasati

char101
Posts: 336
Joined: Wed Nov 04, 2009 1:21 am

Re: Dispute between Abhidharma and Mahayana?

Post by char101 » Thu Dec 19, 2019 6:10 am

DooDoot wrote:
Thu Dec 19, 2019 5:56 am
[1] https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/abhidharma/ point 4.
Sorry but I could not find what was posted in the link provided. I could not find where the link says: "emptiness is defined as lacking sabhava".
It is my own interpretation. The link I provided only explains what is meant by sabhava. Since sabhava can be taken as "has own existence", thus the lack of sabhava means conceptual or empty.
For example, in the Abhidhamma below, Nibbana is said to be both "sabhava" (having inherent nature) & "sunnata" (empty).
I believe that is different emptiness from the emptiness meant by the OP. This is from the 3 types of nibanna which is correlated with anicca, dukkha, and anatta.

User avatar
DooDoot
Posts: 6889
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:06 pm

Re: Dispute between Abhidharma and Mahayana?

Post by DooDoot » Thu Dec 19, 2019 6:26 am

char101 wrote:
Thu Dec 19, 2019 6:10 am
Since sabhava can be taken as "has own existence", thus the lack of sabhava means ... empty.
No it doesn't. "Sabhava" simply means "inherent nature". It does not mean "own" or "ego" nature. Nibbana has the inherent nature of coolness because it is cool. Earth element has the inherent nature of hardness because it is hard. The world has the inherent nature of disintegration because it disintegrates. You appear to be imputing Mahayana definitions upon the Theravada Abhidhamma.
char101 wrote:
Thu Dec 19, 2019 6:10 am
I believe that is different emptiness from the emptiness meant by the OP.
Again, you appear to be imputing Mahayana definitions upon the Theravada Abhidhamma. Emptiness does not mean "dependently originated" in Theravada or Abhidhamma.
There is always an official executioner. If you try to take his place, It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood. If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.

https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/paticcasamuppada
https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/anapanasati

SteRo
Posts: 964
Joined: Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:27 am

Re: Dispute between Abhidharma and Mahayana?

Post by SteRo » Thu Dec 19, 2019 12:29 pm

zan wrote:
Thu Dec 19, 2019 4:05 am
In the commentary by Mark Siderits and Shoryu Katsura to their translation of the Mulamadhyamakakarika it is stated that the Abhidharmikas believed that only the person is empty and disputed the Mahayana view that all things are empty (full quote below). ...
What Abhidharmikas? Usually these scholars who spend most of their time investigating Mahayana sources talk of Sarvastivadin Abhidharmikas not Theravadin Abhidharmikas simply because Theravada was completely unknown to Indo-tibetan Mahayana thinkers/writers.

I think this thread should be shifted to "Connections to Other Paths".

User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
Posts: 22093
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Contact:

Re: Dispute between Abhidharma and Mahayana?

Post by retrofuturist » Thu Dec 19, 2019 9:02 pm

Greetings,
SteRo wrote:
Thu Dec 19, 2019 12:29 pm
I think this thread should be shifted to "Connections to Other Paths".
I've thought about it, but the crux of the topic seems to be the OP's 2nd paragraph, which is just about Theravada. We'll see where it goes...

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)

“Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” (Flannery O'Connor)

SteRo
Posts: 964
Joined: Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:27 am

Re: Dispute between Abhidharma and Mahayana?

Post by SteRo » Fri Dec 20, 2019 7:18 am

zan wrote:
Thu Dec 19, 2019 4:05 am
...
What this points to is related to something that has been troubling me: If DO applies to all there are possibly strange consequences (see my other thread on this). I believe that DO only applies to beings, not all things, and that all things are empty in that they all lack a self, and of course that all things but nibbana are impermanent. I think this is supported in the suttas and it seems to me the Theravada system is built around this assumption, however I've been unable to find any direct support for this idea within the Theravada commentary tradition.
DO only applies to life, life energy or living beings because DO applies to the dependent origination of dukkha. I think this is what DooDoot stresses all the time and I would aggree with that interpretation of DO.
However dependent arising applies to both living beings and things. Dependent arising merely describes the arising of phenomena dependent on other phenomena.

As to the dependent arising of living beings and things (here a 'chariot') there is e.g. the following sutta quote:
Just as, with an assemblage of parts,
The word 'chariot' is used,
So, when the aggregates are present,
There's the convention 'a being.'
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .bodh.html

Now one might reduce that to mere linguistic practices but that would fall short of the arising of perception of 'this (named phenomenon) or that (named phenomenon)' dependent on / conditioned by linguistic practices.

The analytical principle displayed by the sutta quote above may be applied to all things extended in space and/or time. Why? Because all these things have parts, either spatial or temporal or both.

So things are empty in two ways:
1. they are empty of inherent nature since they arise in perception depending on parts but do not have independent existence
2. they are empty of self of persons since they can be said to exist only through arising as percept or perception but as we all know the aggregates incl. perception are not me, do not belong to me, are not my self etc.

So this my commentary based on sutta but I can't speak for "Theravada commentary tradition".

User avatar
anthbrown84
Posts: 409
Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2015 6:59 am

Re: Dispute between Abhidharma and Mahayana?

Post by anthbrown84 » Fri Dec 20, 2019 7:28 am

char101 wrote:
Thu Dec 19, 2019 4:56 am
I believe in abhidhamma/commentary tradition, emptiness is defined as lacking sabhava (own characteristic) [1]. So for example, the element of hardness (pathavi) is not empty because it has its own characteristic which is hardness, while a person lacks its own characteristics, and instead is an aggregation of elements. Thus a person is only a concept (pannati) while the elements of hardness is something that really exists (dhamma).

Anyway, its is funny that this conflict of interpretation between scholars is caused (in my opinion) because they lack practice, and rather too much reading and thinking. The true understanding of emptiness if any, is to be found inside, not outside.

[1] https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/abhidharma/ point 4.
:goodpost: :goodpost: :goodpost:

Sadhu indeed
"Your job in practise is to know the difference between the heart and the activity of the heart, that is it, it is that simple" Ajahn Tate

User avatar
DooDoot
Posts: 6889
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:06 pm

Re: Dispute between Abhidharma and Mahayana?

Post by DooDoot » Fri Dec 20, 2019 9:00 am

SteRo wrote:
Fri Dec 20, 2019 7:18 am
So things are empty in two ways:
Not in Theravada.
There is always an official executioner. If you try to take his place, It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood. If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.

https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/paticcasamuppada
https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/anapanasati

User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
Posts: 22093
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Contact:

Re: Dispute between Abhidharma and Mahayana?

Post by retrofuturist » Fri Dec 20, 2019 9:10 am

Greetings,
SteRo wrote:
Fri Dec 20, 2019 7:18 am
DO only applies to life, life energy or living beings because DO applies to the dependent origination of dukkha. I think this is what DooDoot stresses all the time and I would aggree with that interpretation of DO.
However dependent arising applies to both living beings and things. Dependent arising merely describes the arising of phenomena dependent on other phenomena.
This also sounds like fake news, vis-a-vis Theravada.

Theravada differentiates between dependent origination and dependently originated things.... but there is no differentiation between dependent origination and dependent arising - these are just two different English renderings of the same Pali word, paticcasamuppada.

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)

“Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” (Flannery O'Connor)

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Ceisiwr, dhammapal, Majestic-12 [Bot] and 310 guests