Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Lazy_eye
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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by Lazy_eye » Tue Aug 19, 2014 3:13 pm

Alex123 wrote:There is a counterpoint in achieving bliss of jhana. But, what are the chances for you to achieve them? What if for some people, one must be a bhikkhu for dozens of years prior to attaining Jhana?
Yes, agree that this is a key part of the question. The Buddhist path requires sacrifice, including abandonment of many things that bring temporary happiness. Is it worth it?

For example, say a young person decides to leave the household life and ordain. He or she spends a lifetime in the monastery and misses the chance to do something else that he/she might have enjoyed: become a musician, say, or play a sport, or get married and raise a family, or pursue some other meaningful worldly vocation. And say after all that time jhana doesn't occur. Then all there is to fall back on is the hypothetical possibility of rebirth, allowing for future progress. But all the evidence we have for that is in ancient texts dating from a time when people believed in a flat earth. Is it really a solid basis for making those kinds of life decisions?

Sorry if my question offends anyone -- I am just trying to articulate the issue in a straightforward way. In brief, is the Carvaka position -- or perhaps something in between Carvaka and the Buddha -- necessarily the more reasonable one if rebirth is not factored in?

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Anagarika
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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by Anagarika » Tue Aug 19, 2014 3:34 pm

I feel that a lot of this depends on the level of trust that you have in the Buddha's Dhamma. If you see this Dhamma as being subject to revision, dilution, or distrust its integrity, then, yes, you will perhaps go down other paths and take your chances on the outcome. There is a measure of faith in the idea that the Buddha "got it right," and that by following this prescription faithfully, we have an opportunity to eradicate the disease of dukkha and samsara, and the experience of endless rebirths.

The Buddha even mentioned to the Kalamas, who were not disciples of his, to test any path or teacher based on the result, and the wisdom and experience of the teacher.

"One's own preferences are not to be followed simply because they seem logical or resonate with one's feelings. Instead, any view or belief must be tested by the results it yields when put into practice; and — to guard against the possibility of any bias or limitations in one's understanding of those results — they must further be checked against the experience of people who are wise. The ability to question and test one's beliefs in an appropriate way is called appropriate attention. The ability to recognize and choose wise people as mentors is called having admirable friends. According to Iti 16-17, these are, respectively, the most important internal and external factors for attaining the goal of the practice. For further thoughts on how to test a belief in practice, see MN 61, MN 95, AN 7.79, and AN 8.53. For thoughts on how to judge whether another person is wise, see MN 110, AN 4.192, and AN 8.54." Thanissaro Bhikkhu, © 1994

Is the Carvaka argument the better path? That's for you to decide after following the advice of the Buddha's words to the Kalamas.

( This life = 100 baht). I know on whom I am placing my 100 baht bet.

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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by Lazy_eye » Tue Aug 19, 2014 3:44 pm

Anagarika, did you already believe in rebirth before you began practicing Buddhism? Or did you acquire/accept this belief after you began your practice, because of your trust in the Buddha?

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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by Unrul3r » Tue Aug 19, 2014 3:47 pm

clw_uk wrote:Although it has always struck me that the jhanas come across as just another form of hedonism, just more refined.
Indeed. If "the jhānas come across as just another form of hedonism", one would have to agree. It's a 'non-sensual' hedonism, if it could be called that.
DN 29 wrote:[Description of the four Jhānas]
...
'These [Jhānas] are the four kinds of life devoted to pleasure which are entirely conducive to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to tranquillity, to realisation, to enlightenment, to Nibbana. So if wanderers from other sects should say that the followers of the Sakyan are addicted to these four forms of pleasure-seeking, they should be told: "Yes", for they would be speaking correctly about you, they would not be slandering you with false or untrue statements.'
...
[Benefits of Jhānas]
:anjali:

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daverupa
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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by daverupa » Tue Aug 19, 2014 4:20 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:In brief, is the Carvaka position -- or perhaps something in between Carvaka and the Buddha -- necessarily the more reasonable one if rebirth is not factored in?
Whether factoring rebirth in or out, post-mortem certainty is going to be a problem for any argument. So if rebirth is not factored in, we ought to remove from consideration all speculative post-mortem assertions (including the assertion of a lack of meaningful continuity, and thus an ethical hedonism), and we're going to end up either looking at one or another sort of wager argument when that happens, else making dogmatic assertions.

Buddhism has a Wager, and its ability to build the Path from this agnostic place appears to me to be relatively unique. Does the Carvaka position have such a 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: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by Lazy_eye » Tue Aug 19, 2014 4:27 pm

Hi Dave,

I agree that the Carvaka position appears to be based on a premise of certainty regarding the afterlife. So it is open to criticism from a genuinely agnostic point of view. We have discussed this elsewhere, as you know, and your argument seems valid to me.

But I'm not sure I understand what you mean by the Wager. Could you elaborate? This is the "safe bet" presented in the Apannaka Sutta, or something more broadly true of the Dhamma?

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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by daverupa » Tue Aug 19, 2014 5:05 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:Wager. Could you elaborate? This is the "safe bet" presented in the Appannaka Sutta, or something more broadly true of the Dhamma?
I see a Wager as underlying the Appannaka Sutta as well as the discourse at Kesaputti.

MN 60 looks layered to me, with the addition of the "since there actually is..." component at A.ii & B.ii throughout. This looks to me to be apiece with other efforts in this direction at this textual layer, e.g. MN 117 and its 'with effluents' lines.

So I think the fourfold assurance of AN 3.65 is probably the earliest Wager formulation we have.

That the Wager approach is broadly true of the Dhamma is seen due to the fact that, even to the Kalamas, the Buddha was speaking in terms of idapaccayata - this leads to that, or lack of this leads to lack of that, and with this pattern in place, those people could apply appropriate attention while this good friend was nearby.

Everything was set up for the opening of the Dhamma Eye, for stream-entry, for those who had little dust in their eyes, and all this without asserting a post-mortem certainty.
  • "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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Anagarika
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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by Anagarika » Tue Aug 19, 2014 5:10 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:Anagarika, did you already believe in rebirth before you began practicing Buddhism? Or did you acquire/accept this belief after you began your practice, because of your trust in the Buddha?
Lazy Eye, my development on this issue might be similar to the experience of many others. I started practice many years ago, and had an intuition about what may develop after death of the body. The Buddha's core teachings, which, frankly took me many years to fully understand to a marginally competent degree, always resonated with me from a spiritual as well as practical level. As my confidence and trust in the 2600 year old Dhamma grew, this coincided with some of the science that developed about consciousness, quantum mechanics, and the science of rebirth that is currently being studied. I have also been fortunate to be in the company of some very good monastic teachers that I like and respect and trust, with whom the Buddha's teaching on rebirth, kamma, DO, not-self doctrine, etc are not in question. In other words, as the years passed, my trust in this "bet" grew stronger, not weaker. Put to the test of reason and science, my trust in this Dhamma has not wavered.

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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by Lazy_eye » Tue Aug 19, 2014 6:44 pm

daverupa wrote:
Lazy_eye wrote:Wager. Could you elaborate? This is the "safe bet" presented in the Appannaka Sutta, or something more broadly true of the Dhamma?
MN 60 looks layered to me, with the addition of the "since there actually is..." component at A.ii & B.ii throughout. This looks to me to be apiece with other efforts in this direction at this textual layer, e.g. MN 117 and its 'with effluents' lines.
I had another look at MN 60 the other day and noticed something that I hadn't registered before -- namely that rebirth-belief is referred to as a "doctrine of existence". What do you make of that?
"With regard to this, an observant person considers thus: 'If there is the next world, then this venerable person — on the breakup of the body, after death — will reappear in a good destination, a heavenly world. Even if we didn't speak of the next world, and there weren't the true statement of those venerable contemplatives & brahmans, this venerable person is still praised in the here-&-now by the observant as a person of good habits & right view: one who holds to a doctrine of existence.' If there really is a next world, then this venerable person has made a good throw twice, in that he is praised by the observant here-&-now; and in that — with the breakup of the body, after death — he will reappear in a good destination, a heavenly world. Thus this safe-bet teaching, when well grasped & adopted by him, covers both sides, and leaves behind the possibility of the unskillful.
Carvaka would be considered a "doctrine of non-existence" and is presented as such in DN 2. But my understanding is that doctrines of existence are ultimately to be abandoned as well.

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daverupa
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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by daverupa » Tue Aug 19, 2014 6:52 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:rebirth-belief is referred to as a "doctrine of existence". What do you make of that?
piotr had a comment about that, once:
You've confused “eternalism” (sassatavāda) with “doctrine of existence” (atthikavāda). These two are quite different and only the first is considered to be “distorted view” (micchā-diṭṭhi).
This is also discussed in Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge by Jayatilleke, where he mentions the Sutta arguments that acting in accord with atthikavāda/kiriyāvāda/hetuvāda is to be preferred, via Wager argumentation, over the relevant alternatives.
  • "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: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by Lazy_eye » Tue Aug 19, 2014 7:03 pm

Interestingly, though, the sometimes reliable Wikipedia claims the following:
The Buddha criticized two main theories of moral responsibility: the doctrine that posited an unchanging Self as a subject, which came to be known as "atthikavāda", and the doctrine that did not do so, and instead denied moral responsibility, which came to be known as "natthikavāda". He rejected them both on empirical grounds.[6] The Buddha was also careful not to allow an atthikavādin interpretation of his doctrine of causality.[7]
Maybe this is an instance of the confusion that Piotr was referring to.

(The cited source is David Kalupahana, Causality: The Central Philosophy of Buddhism. The University Press of Hawaii, 1975, page 13.)

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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by culaavuso » Tue Aug 19, 2014 7:34 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:Interestingly, though, the sometimes reliable Wikipedia claims the following:
The Buddha criticized two main theories of moral responsibility: the doctrine that posited an unchanging Self as a subject, which came to be known as "atthikavāda", and the doctrine that did not do so, and instead denied moral responsibility, which came to be known as "natthikavāda". He rejected them both on empirical grounds.[6] The Buddha was also careful not to allow an atthikavādin interpretation of his doctrine of causality.[7]
Maybe this is an instance of the confusion that Piotr was referring to.

(The cited source is David Kalupahana, Causality: The Central Philosophy of Buddhism. The University Press of Hawaii, 1975, page 13.)
In MN 60 the view is described as
MN 60: Apaṇṇaka Sutta wrote: Now, householders, of those contemplatives & brahmans who hold this doctrine, hold this view — 'There is what is given, what is offered, what is sacrificed. There are fruits & results of good & bad actions. There is this world & the next world. There is mother & father. There are spontaneously reborn beings; there are brahmans & contemplatives who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves'
It may be informative to compare this to the definition of right view with effluents (sammādiṭṭhi sāsavā) from MN 117:
MN 117: Mahācattārīsaka Sutta wrote: And what is the right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions? 'There is what is given, what is offered, what is sacrificed. There are fruits & results of good & bad actions. There is this world & the next world. There is mother & father. There are spontaneously reborn beings; there are contemplatives & brahmans who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.'
This seems consistent with MN 60's description of the person holding to a doctrine of existence:
MN 60: Apaṇṇaka Sutta wrote: sīlavā purisapuggalo sammādiṭṭhi atthikavādo ... sugatiṃ saggaṃ lokaṃ upapajjissati

a person of good habits & right view: one who holds to a doctrine of existence ... he will reappear in a good destination, a heavenly world.

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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by Mkoll » Tue Aug 19, 2014 7:44 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:But my understanding is that doctrines of existence are ultimately to be abandoned as well.
Yes, but you've said the key word already: ultimately. I think it comes at a very advanced stage of the path, as a natural product of diligent practice.

What I see is some folks trying to force the abandonment of views when their minds aren't ready for it. They may think that just by intellectually knowing that views must be abandoned, they can abandon views right then and there. I went through something similar to this for many years, before I seriously took up Buddhism, by attempting to abandon every view that arose in my mind. But really, I was only replacing one view with another, more seemingly subtle one and I wasn't perceptive enough to see that. It only lead to more delusion and suffering in my mind and I'd call it a form of emptiness sickness.

It would be unwise to abandon the raft one is on when in the middle of a raging river.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by Lazy_eye » Tue Aug 19, 2014 7:55 pm

I was looking around for an essay I read some years back that has some relevance to this thread. And here it is. Two salient points:
Sassatavada is the Buddhist term for all religions other than Buddhism which were current at the time of the Buddha. The second is that ucchedavada is the Buddhist term for all forms of materialism which reject all religions, including Buddhism. Thus the Buddhist critique of sassatavada and ucchedavada identifies Buddhism's position in relation to other world-views which were contemporaneous with it.
And...
It must also be mentioned here that, although Buddhism rejects both sassatavada and ucchedavada, it does so after making a critical assessment of them. According to this assessment, the Buddha was more sympathetic towards sassatavada and more critical of ucchedavada. This too is clear from the Buddha's first sermon, where he refers to the two extremes of sensual indulgence and self-mortification. Three of the terms used here in criticizing the former, which represents ucchedavada, are hina (inferior), gamma (rustic or vulgar) and pothujjanika (worldly). However, these three terms are conspicuously absent in the Buddha's assessment of self-mortification, which represents sassatavada. The implication seems to be that although sassatavada does not lead to the realization of the ideal of emancipation (anattha-samhita), nevertheless it does not lead to the collapse of the moral life. It is not subversive of the moral foundation of human society. As it recognizes a spiritual source in man, it also recognizes moral distinctions. In point of fact, according to Buddhism's assessment, all religions are different forms of kammavada, because they all advocate the supremacy of the moral life. On the other hand, ucchedavada, which represents the materialist theory, encourages a pattern of life which takes gratification in sensuality as the ultimate purpose in life.
(Emphasis added)

As to when it becomes appropriate to abandon views, I'll defer to those with greater knowledge than me. But my sense is that it is part of the work needed to attain nibbana, not simply something that occurs when the raft reaches the other shore. It seems to me -- and this is just off the cuff -- that following the Dhamma involves a fundamental transformation of thought, in which we start to view things in terms of conditionality, rather than in terms of self-narratives. The more we are able to view phenomena this way, the closer we are to the mind of an arahant. But again, I'd rather hear what others have to say about this.
Mkoll wrote:What I see is some folks trying to force the abandonment of views when their minds aren't ready for it. They may think that just by intellectually knowing that views must be abandoned, they can abandon views right then and there. I went through something similar to this for many years, before I seriously took up Buddhism, by attempting to abandon every view that arose in my mind. But really, I was only replacing one view with another, more seemingly subtle one and I wasn't perceptive enough to see that. It only lead to more delusion and suffering in my mind and I'd call it a form of emptiness sickness.

It would be unwise to abandon the raft one is on when in the middle of a raging river.
Yes, I see what you mean here.
Last edited by Lazy_eye on Tue Aug 19, 2014 8:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by Hieros Gamos » Tue Aug 19, 2014 8:19 pm

Mkoll wrote:What I see is some folks trying to force the abandonment of views when their minds aren't ready for it. They may think that just by intellectually knowing that views must be abandoned, they can abandon views right then and there. I went through something similar to this for many years, before I seriously took up Buddhism, by attempting to abandon every view that arose in my mind. But really, I was only replacing one view with another, more seemingly subtle one and I wasn't perceptive enough to see that. It only lead to more delusion and suffering in my mind and I'd call it a form of emptiness sickness.

It would be unwise to abandon the raft one is on when in the middle of a raging river.
:goodpost:

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