On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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kirk5a
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Post by kirk5a » Sun Jun 16, 2013 3:23 am

tiltbillings wrote: It is, rather, in dealing with the experiential process of what we are, we find no unchanging metaphysical self/thing within that experience.
Nor identification with that experiential process (where self= the experiential process)
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

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tiltbillings
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Post by tiltbillings » Sun Jun 16, 2013 3:37 am

kirk5a wrote:
tiltbillings wrote: It is, rather, in dealing with the experiential process of what we are, we find no unchanging metaphysical self/thing within that experience.
Nor identification with that experiential process (where self= the experiential process)
Yes. I was assuming that would be understood, but it does not hurt to spell it out.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Post by Gaoxing » Sun Jun 16, 2013 4:27 am

kirk5a wrote:
Gaoxing wrote:The Buddha spoke of himself as the Tathagata (One who thus is and the one who has thus gone). Here the word 'thus' is important. It's something dynamic and real. Without attachment or clinging, without transmigration and carnation or reincarnation. Alive and ever changing awake-ness.
Whatever is inconstant is dukkha.
No. Only what is inconstant due to ignorance, craving and clinging. Nibbana also changes. Nibbana is not stagnant or unchanging but it permanently lacks ignorance, craving and clinging. Nibbana is not dull.

Impermanence is an occasion for suffering rather than the cause of suffering because impermanence is only an occasion for suffering as long as ignorance, craving and clinging are present.

The Buddha said that whatever is impermanent and suffering is also not-self and this is existence. A river keeps flowing in Nibbana and you can never step in the same river twice and this is an excellent and wonderful thing when ignorance, aversion and clinging are not present.

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binocular
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Post by binocular » Sun Jun 16, 2013 7:05 am

tiltbillings wrote:The claim that is being made in these texts -- and I would say the suttas as a whole -- is that the experienced self, however one might imagine it, is a derived construct of our experiential process. A sense of self is an experience we are stuck with until awakening. It is not an issue in these texts of some sort of ontologically self-existing entity. The suttas are really not doing that kind of philosophy. It is, rather, in dealing with the experiential process of what we are, we find no unchanging metaphysical self/thing within that experience.
But why then do some Buddhists declare - and quite forcefully at that - that the Buddha taught there is no ontological self?

I haven't forgotten how a moderator at E-Sangha, who is also at this forum, verbally kicked my head in because I questioned how those suttas that talk about how form, feelings, perceptions etc. are not the self, supposedly state there is no ontological self.

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Post by tiltbillings » Sun Jun 16, 2013 7:31 am

binocular wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:The claim that is being made in these texts -- and I would say the suttas as a whole -- is that the experienced self, however one might imagine it, is a derived construct of our experiential process. A sense of self is an experience we are stuck with until awakening. It is not an issue in these texts of some sort of ontologically self-existing entity. The suttas are really not doing that kind of philosophy. It is, rather, in dealing with the experiential process of what we are, we find no unchanging metaphysical self/thing within that experience.
But why then do some Buddhists declare - and quite forcefully at that - that the Buddha taught there is no ontological self?
You will have to ask them.
I haven't forgotten how a moderator at E-Sangha, who is also at this forum, verbally kicked my head in because I questioned how those suttas that talk about how form, feelings, perceptions etc. are not the self, supposedly state there is no ontological self.
Maybe it was the way you went about it.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Post by Dinsdale » Sun Jun 16, 2013 9:29 am

Alex123 wrote: In MN2, "am I not" and "I have no self" are said to be wrong reflections.
Yes, it seems that all views about the existence or otherwise of self are subjects for inappropriate attention.
Buddha save me from new-agers!

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Post by Dinsdale » Sun Jun 16, 2013 9:31 am

tiltbillings wrote: It is, rather, in dealing with the experiential process of what we are, we find no unchanging metaphysical self/thing within that experience.
Presumably with the exception of the unconditioned, the Deathless?
Buddha save me from new-agers!

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Post by daverupa » Sun Jun 16, 2013 11:10 am

Spiny Norman wrote:
tiltbillings wrote: It is, rather, in dealing with the experiential process of what we are, we find no unchanging metaphysical self/thing within that experience.
Presumably with the exception of the unconditioned, the Deathless?
That's not an unchanging metaphysical thing.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Post by binocular » Sun Jun 16, 2013 11:15 am

tiltbillings wrote:You will have to ask them.
They refuse to answer.
The whole thing would be mostly irrelevant, were it not for the cases when such people hold positions of power and get to decide about the fate of others.

Maybe it was the way you went about it.
I don't think so, given that I was not the only target of such treatment.

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Post by Alex123 » Sun Jun 16, 2013 11:18 am

Gaoxing wrote:All I know is that the Buddha rejected sassatadiţţhi and natthikadiţţhi due to his teachings of sammādiţţhi.
Interesting thing is that the Buddha refused to answer other questions such as "is the world eternal or not, finite, or infinite". If the mistake was that those views somehow presupposed Atta (which Buddha also rejected to declare) then why didn't the Buddha explain so to the bhikkhus? Why didn't he tell them that "those views are wrong due to atta belief, and no self is true"?

Rather his explanation was that speculative metaphysical views are irrelevant (and perhaps an obstacle) to the actual path.
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Post by binocular » Sun Jun 16, 2013 11:33 am

Alex123 wrote:Interesting thing is that the Buddha refused to answer other questions such as "is the world eternal or not, finite, or infinite". If the mistake was that those views somehow presupposed Atta (which Buddha also rejected to declare) then why didn't the Buddha explain so to the bhikkhus? Why didn't he tell them that "those views are wrong due to atta belief, and no self is true"?
On a further note: If in the Buddhist traditions, there developed a doctrine that there is no ontological self, then how come that in a parallel manner, there didn't also develop similar hardline doctrines about other big metaphysical questions? For example, a doctrine that the cosmos is impermanent? Although some Buddhists do have the conviction that the Buddha taught there is no God.

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Post by Alex123 » Sun Jun 16, 2013 11:53 am

binocular wrote:On a further note: If in the Buddhist traditions, there developed a doctrine that there is no ontological self, then how come that in a parallel manner, there didn't also develop similar hardline doctrines about other big metaphysical questions?
The Buddha also said that "A beginning point is not evident," while later on, apparently the POV is that samsara is beginning-less.

Buddha refused to comment on "everything is oneness/manyness"-SN12.48 Today it seems to be standard teaching that reality is composed of many dhammas which exist, but the wholes such as self, trees, rocks, do not ultimately exist.

Also, even about past/future lives:
  • "This is how he attends inappropriately: 'Was I in the past? Was I not in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what was I in the past? Shall I be in the future? Shall I not be in the future? What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? Having been what, what shall I be in the future?' Or else he is inwardly perplexed about the immediate present: 'Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? Where has this being come from? Where is it bound?'MN2

Then came the Jatakas, and so on...

The various undeclared views the Buddha refused to answer because: "this reflection is not beneficial; it is not concerned with the fundamentals of the holy life; it does not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbåna."

What I remember reading in the commentaries was that various views were wrong because they presupposed Atta (etc) while in truth there is no self, only sabhava dhammas...
Last edited by Alex123 on Sun Jun 16, 2013 11:56 am, edited 1 time in total.
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Post by daverupa » Sun Jun 16, 2013 11:55 am

Alex123 wrote:Rather his explanation was that speculative metaphysical views are irrelevant (and perhaps an obstacle) to the actual path.
This has tended to be my reading of that section in MN 2, as well. In terms of anatta, the 'a-' seemed to be functioning as the 'a-' in atheism, such that it meant atta as a topic was wholly set aside, pro and con alike.

On the other hand... sakkaya-ditthi and asmimana are fetters, so if anatta is taken to cover these two fettering aspects of experience then I think we might want to consider anatta as covering more than a simple rejection of metaphysics.

In reading Greater Magadha by Bronkhorst, I find some interesting suggestions. He suggests that the twin ideas of [a] kammic retribution and rebirth were cultural aspects of Greater Magadha, and that the Buddha's renunciate contemporaries would have primarily been dealing with related soteriological issues.

Some folk took an approach that dealt with [a] kamma specifically, such as the Jains who felt that you had to burn up old kamma and stop new kamma. The Ajivikas (may have) agreed that kamma did have to come to an end, but that there was no practice as such that would change the timeline over which this happened; they seem to have encouraged patient endurance, if anything.

But others may have approached the problem of rebirth by saying that a special knowledge of a Self that was beyond kamma was the liberating notion, and coming to know the Self for oneself was the way beyond infinite rebirths. While this sort of talk is altogether absent from the Vedas, it forms important parts of the Upanisads. Bronkhorst builds up an argument for this idea, but it's not clear-cut.

Brahmins, by contrast, would have been concerned with ritual purity and other complex cosmological soteriologies, but without kamma and rebirth as central (or even present) ideas; perhaps this is why they come in for special ridicule, as their metaphysics were culturally distant as well as being non-Buddhist.

The Buddha additionally said that kamma was only one among many causative possibilities, while the other groups tended to think of kamma as the single responsible factor. He also described kamma in mental terms rather than in the prevailing physical context.

---

It may be the case that anatta as a term for us ought to refer to the twin fetters of sakkaya-ditthi and asmimana which are otherwise taken to be givens (Western phenomenology tends to treat them as such, at any rate).

Otherwise, the point of anatta seems to be that there is no Self that is apart from conditionality such that knowledge of that Self would free one from rebirth and kamma (conditional/-ing processes). But since almost no one talks like that these days in the West, some of the Canonical discussions about anatta may simply no longer be applicable, perhaps even unnecessarily confusing...
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Post by Zom » Sun Jun 16, 2013 11:57 am

Funny and strange thing how people keep searching bases to increase and develop their doubts 8-)

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Post by kirk5a » Sun Jun 16, 2013 1:03 pm

Gaoxing wrote:No. Only what is inconstant due to ignorance, craving and clinging. Nibbana also changes. Nibbana is not stagnant or unchanging but it permanently lacks ignorance, craving and clinging. Nibbana is not dull.
Yes.
"All conditioned things are unsatisfactory" — when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering. This is the path to purification.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .budd.html
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

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