Soul theories and the Dhamma

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
Posts: 17239
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Soul theories and the Dhamma

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Sep 06, 2016 9:56 pm

Greetings,

In the Buddha's time, wanderers of other sects struggled to understand how the Buddha-dhamma operated without reference to a soul/atman.

This topic serves as a place to explore such ancient encounters and their modern equivalents.

Please note also that any posts made elsewhere relating to soul theories may be moved into this topic at moderators' discretion.

Let's kick off with DN1: Brahmajala Sutta, the very first sutta in the Pali Canon... presumably put there because such soul-theories needed to be cleared away before anyone was ready to encounter and understand the Buddha's teaching.

Metta,
Paul. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

“One to whom it might occur, ‘I’m a woman’ or ‘I’m a man’. Or ‘I’m anything at all’— Is fit for Mara to address.” (SN 5.2)

plwk
Posts: 1447
Joined: Mon Mar 01, 2010 5:14 am
Contact:

Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Postby plwk » Wed Sep 07, 2016 12:34 am

Perhaps these... 1 2
Bhikkhus, if you develop and make much this one thing,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.
What is it? It is recollecting the Enlightened One.
If this single thing is recollected and made much,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.

Anguttara-Nikaya: Ekanipata: Ekadhammapali: Pañhamavagga
Buddhanussati SC VSM VMM BS

User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 1113
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:55 pm

Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Postby Coëmgenu » Wed Sep 07, 2016 1:18 am

The problem with this pseudo-Vedanta "this is the original Buddhism" reconstructionist conspiracy theory, that the sangha doctored Buddha's words to create an allegedly nihilistic religion, is a critical problem of hermeneutic on the parts of the reconstructionists.

They read the same suttas, but are unwilling to apply a non-materialist hermeneutic, similarly, they are unwilling to apply a hermeneutic that is not traceable to Classical Protestant anti-Catholic polemics that arose in the context of Catholic-Protestant sectarian warfare in Europe, that then spread and became formative of the Protestant hegemony in the New World.

This is an example of would-be converts bringing their cultural baggage in and refusing to drop it off with the coat-check boy.
Bhagavā arahaṃ sammasāmbuddho:
Svākkhāto yena bhagavatā dhammo / Supaṭipanno yassa bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho
Tammayaṃ bhagavantaṃ sadhammaṃ sasaṅghaṃ / Imehi sakkārehi yathārahaṃ āropitehi abhipūjayāma.
(Dedication of Offerings)
此等諸法,法住、法空、法如、法爾,法不離如,法不異如,審諦真實、不顛倒。These many dharmāḥ, the residence of these dharmāḥ, the emptiness of these dharmāḥ, these dharmāḥ self-explain, these dharmāḥ are thus, these dharmāḥ do not depart from their self-explaining, these dharmāḥ are not different than their self-explaining, judged as truly real, not delusional. (SA 296, 因緣法)
揭諦揭諦,波羅揭諦,波羅僧揭諦,菩提薩婆訶

davidbrainerd
Posts: 818
Joined: Fri Jul 01, 2016 3:12 am

Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Postby davidbrainerd » Wed Sep 07, 2016 2:23 am

Bolding is mine.

Coëmgenu wrote:The problem with this pseudo-Vedanta "this is the original Buddhism" reconstructionist conspiracy theory, that the sangha doctored Buddha's words to create an allegedly nihilistic religion, is a critical problem of hermeneutic on the parts of the reconstructionists.

They read the same suttas, but are unwilling to apply a non-materialist hermeneutic, similarly, they are unwilling to apply a hermeneutic that is not traceable to Classical Protestant anti-Catholic polemics that arose in the context of Catholic-Protestant sectarian warfare in Europe, that then spread and became formative of the Protestant hegemony in the New World.


Samkhya not Vedanta. And don't you mean I refuse to apply a materialist hermeneutic?

Coëmgenu wrote:This is an example of would-be converts bringing their cultural baggage in and refusing to drop it off with the coat-check boy.


I discovered Samkhya because I saw clearly Buddha was not a materialist saying "there is no self." I mean "form is not the self, neither is the self inside form" is the worst possible way to say what you guys want, i.e. "there is no self beyond form." He is obviously implying an extra-corporeal soul like what Samkhya teaches. Also, his reticence to speak positively about the self is obviously the result of later Buddhists not being philosophically educated enough to know that Samkhya even existed, since Vedanta took over, so they cut his positive statements out, and this ignorance persists today. Always Vedanta Vedanta Vedanta is the accusation. Geeze guys, I would think people who think they're the experts on what is and is not Buddhism would at least know the names of the two major Indian philosophies that preceded him.

User avatar
Spiny Norman
Posts: 4746
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 10:32 am
Location: Spam, wonderful spam

Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed Sep 07, 2016 6:46 am

davidbrainerd wrote:He is obviously implying an extra-corporeal soul like what Samkhya teaches.


Strange there is no mention of it in the suttas then.

davidbrainerd wrote:Also, his reticence to speak positively about the self is obviously the result of later Buddhists not being philosophically educated enough to know that Samkhya even existed, since Vedanta took over, so they cut his positive statements out, and this ignorance persists today.


So when do you reckon this happened?
"My religion is very simple - my religion is ice-cream."
Dairy Lama

binocular
Posts: 2330
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Postby binocular » Wed Sep 07, 2016 7:03 am

David --
I've asked this in the other thread, but you didn't address it, so I'm bringing it up again with some additions:

davidbrainerd wrote:From the realist position (that matter is real and individuation is real, i.e. Samkhya) the souls would just have always existed and either (1) they were always intermingled with matter, or (2) by ignorane of what it would mean to intermingle with matter, they did so and got stuck.

In the suttas, this formulation comes up many times:
From an inconceivable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on.
It seems that how exactly one got into this mess called samsara didn't matter much to the Buddha. However, if we do posit a soul/self, some problems come up:

binocular wrote:Either way, it seems that as soon as we posit a(n eternal) soul, we're faced with the problem of how this soul got into samsara out of which it now desperately tries to escape.


I.e. if Buddha was a Samkhyan, then saying that ignorance and craving causes reincarnation/rebirth makes perfect sense, because you have individual souls to be ignorant and crave. But with no soul, craving and ignorance exist with no self to crave or be ignorant, so craving and ignorance become Vedanta style corporate selves shooting forth false illusory individuations. No soul leads back to the non-realist school, back to corporate soul. Simple as that.

There is a problem though if we posit a self: To make such positing meaningful, we have to make some assumptions about this self's/soul's nature or identity, so that we have some idea of what it is that we're actually talking about (so that we don't talk about something that amounts to a mere placeholder).

Is this self/soul by nature good, or is it by nature bad?
What inherent characteristics does it have?
How does the self/soul act, do anything?
If it is by nature good, then how come it ended up in samsara?
If it is by nature good, then does it actually need anything to get out of samsara, or is it simply destined to get out of samsara and so doesn't actually need to do anything towards that end?
If it is by nature bad, then how can it hope to get out of samsara?
If it is neither good nor bad, then why bother with anything?
How come the soul is ignorant?
If ignorance is part of the soul's nature, an inherent characteristic -- then how can it ever hope to overcome it?

That doesn't mean that positing no self/no soul solves anything, though.

Positing a self/soul, while seemingly solving some problems, opens up a number of other problems.

binocular
Posts: 2330
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Postby binocular » Wed Sep 07, 2016 7:13 am

Coëmgenu wrote:The problem with this pseudo-Vedanta "this is the original Buddhism" reconstructionist conspiracy theory, that the sangha doctored Buddha's words to create an allegedly nihilistic religion, is a critical problem of hermeneutic on the parts of the reconstructionists.

They read the same suttas, but are unwilling to apply a non-materialist hermeneutic, similarly, they are unwilling to apply a hermeneutic that is not traceable to Classical Protestant anti-Catholic polemics that arose in the context of Catholic-Protestant sectarian warfare in Europe, that then spread and became formative of the Protestant hegemony in the New World.

This is an example of would-be converts bringing their cultural baggage in and refusing to drop it off with the coat-check boy.

This comparison doesn't hold, though:

Roman Catholic doctrine is strictly defined. There is also a living authority in doctrinal matters in Roman Catholicism.

But there appears to be an ongoing discussion as to what exactly is Buddhist doctrine, given that there are so many traditions that call themselves Buddhists, and which teach quite different things.

Buddhism is not like Roman Catholicism.

Trying to mold our understanding of what appear to be opponents to Buddhism by the model for understanding the Protestant opposition to Roman Catholicism is necessarily going to be misleading. (Leaving aside here for a moment the major issue that in Christianity, there is nothing to attain or to personally know.)

User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 1113
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:55 pm

Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Postby Coëmgenu » Wed Sep 07, 2016 7:25 am

binocular wrote:
Coëmgenu wrote:The problem with this pseudo-Vedanta "this is the original Buddhism" reconstructionist conspiracy theory, that the sangha doctored Buddha's words to create an allegedly nihilistic religion, is a critical problem of hermeneutic on the parts of the reconstructionists.

They read the same suttas, but are unwilling to apply a non-materialist hermeneutic, similarly, they are unwilling to apply a hermeneutic that is not traceable to Classical Protestant anti-Catholic polemics that arose in the context of Catholic-Protestant sectarian warfare in Europe, that then spread and became formative of the Protestant hegemony in the New World.

This is an example of would-be converts bringing their cultural baggage in and refusing to drop it off with the coat-check boy.

This comparison doesn't hold, though:

Roman Catholic doctrine is strictly defined. There is also a living authority in doctrinal matters in Roman Catholicism.

But there appears to be an ongoing discussion as to what exactly is Buddhist doctrine, given that there are so many traditions that call themselves Buddhists, and which teach quite different things.

Buddhism is not like Roman Catholicism.

Trying to mold our understanding of what appear to be opponents to Buddhism by the model for understanding the Protestant opposition to Roman Catholicism is necessarily going to be misleading. (Leaving aside here for a moment the major issue that in Christianity, there is nothing to attain or to personally know.)


Buddhism doesn't have to be "like" Protestantism *or* Catholicism to have a misapplied hermeneutic from hegemonic New World Protestant/post-Protestant anti-Catholic polemics levelled at its textual tradition.
Bhagavā arahaṃ sammasāmbuddho:
Svākkhāto yena bhagavatā dhammo / Supaṭipanno yassa bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho
Tammayaṃ bhagavantaṃ sadhammaṃ sasaṅghaṃ / Imehi sakkārehi yathārahaṃ āropitehi abhipūjayāma.
(Dedication of Offerings)
此等諸法,法住、法空、法如、法爾,法不離如,法不異如,審諦真實、不顛倒。These many dharmāḥ, the residence of these dharmāḥ, the emptiness of these dharmāḥ, these dharmāḥ self-explain, these dharmāḥ are thus, these dharmāḥ do not depart from their self-explaining, these dharmāḥ are not different than their self-explaining, judged as truly real, not delusional. (SA 296, 因緣法)
揭諦揭諦,波羅揭諦,波羅僧揭諦,菩提薩婆訶

davidbrainerd
Posts: 818
Joined: Fri Jul 01, 2016 3:12 am

Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Postby davidbrainerd » Wed Sep 07, 2016 7:36 am

binocular wrote:David --
I've asked this in the other thread, but you didn't address it, so I'm bringing it up again with some additions:

davidbrainerd wrote:From the realist position (that matter is real and individuation is real, i.e. Samkhya) the souls would just have always existed and either (1) they were always intermingled with matter, or (2) by ignorane of what it would mean to intermingle with matter, they did so and got stuck.

In the suttas, this formulation comes up many times:
From an inconceivable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on.
It seems that how exactly one got into this mess called samsara didn't matter much to the Buddha.


I don't think it matters so much whether it was always this way or there was time before, but its logical that there would be time before.

Now as to Buddha's position on the subject. Although some suttas may present Buddha as not caring one way or another, and some may present him as hostile to all creation stories or beliefs of any kind about cosmology, at least one sutta features him giving a creation story, Digha Nikaya 27. You'll have to read it for yourself because my summary is from memory, and would probably be fuzzy even if it wasn't. But essentially his creation story there is of heavenly beings of some sort coming down and eating some kind of very light food that was growing on earth, and this gave them a subtle body. Then due to greed that type of food disappeared, and rice replaced it. Originally they took enough rice for their breakfast, then came back in the evening to find it regrown and took enough for supper. Then the got greedy and started harvesting enough rice for all day in the morning, enough rice for two days, etc. Rice responds by not growing as fast. Their bodies get more gross due to eating grosser food, and they become more material, i.e. they become us. You have to read it for yourself. Its surprising consider the big "you're not allowed to think or take any position on anything" sutta that begins Digha Nikaya, that this creation story would come later in the same Nikaya.

binocular wrote:However, if we do posit a soul/self, some problems come up:

....

Is this self/soul by nature good, or is it by nature bad?


Good and evil are relative to interactions with others. The soul in its own soulness all alone prior to manifestion in the world can be neither because it is isolated.

binocular wrote:What inherent characteristics does it have?


Existence, sentience.

binocular wrote:How does the self/soul act, do anything?


Not sure.

binocular wrote:If it is neither good nor bad, then why bother with anything?


You'll have to explain what you mean on that one.

binocular wrote:How come the soul is ignorant?


Because it had no experiences.

binocular wrote:If ignorance is part of the soul's nature, an inherent characteristic -- then how can it ever hope to overcome it?


Its an interesting question. Remember all the "you can't have a permanent soul because permanent means unchanging" stuff? Well, technically classical Samkhya says the soul is only an observer, does not act, and never changes, so only the budhi or mahat (an intelligent principle made from matter which only reflects the consciousness of the soul) is the only actor. Jainism is essentially based on the same system, but changes that, makes the soul active. My own judgement would be that Samkhya as it survived only makes the soul a passive observer due to Vedanta influence (i.e. the soul is God, so it has to be perfect, and perfect means unchanging) so this corruption can easily be thrown out without a second thought.

I really think Vedanta screwed up both Buddhism and Samkhya. Samkhya ultimately gets transmitted to us by Vedantins, and I've noticed a serious tendency in modern books on it to try and obliterate the plurality of souls into the Vedantin Brahman, whereas older books are very clear that Samkhya disagreed with Vedanta on exactly that point. Vedanta was very powerful, still is, and nearly subsumed Samkhya, and corrupted Buddhism by making them go too far in opposition.

Coëmgenu will love what I'm about to say, but its true. And I don't see a reason to be ashamed of being raised in a rational tradition. Unlike the constant nihilism of "shut up, take no position" at least Protestantism and Catholicism make their points, and studying your way out of them teaches you how to logically analyze contradictory canons. I really think Buddhism suffers from its adherents largely lacking experience with logic or analysis of any kind because its even more frowned on than in Calvinism (which is saying something). Ok, back to what I was going to say: What happened to Buddhism with respect to Vedanta is exactly what happened to Protestantism with respect to Catholicism. Jesus taught baptism, its unquestionable, Mk 16:16, Matt 28 the last verse, etc. But because Catholicism extended baptism to infants which has no precedent in the Bible, Protestantism threw out the baptismal water with the baby baptism, and ends up taking the position that baptism is just some worthless extra, not important. And because Catholicism seems to them to teach "salvation by works," some Protestant movements (Calvinism) threw out free will entirely. In other words, their opposition took them too far. In similar manner, Buddhism in its furor to oppose the Vedantin corporate-self-god decided to throw out all selves, even the one Buddha taught goes to Nirvana. But please, just dismiss that by saying Dhammapada 323 is only poetry or whatever. :jumping:

binocular wrote:That doesn't mean that positing no self/no soul solves anything, though.

Positing a self/soul, while seemingly solving some problems, opens up a number of other problems.


Well, like you asked earlier "If it is neither good nor bad, then why bother with anything?" I would say that here: With no self, why bother? Just chant emptiness on your rosary 100 times and call it a day.
Last edited by davidbrainerd on Wed Sep 07, 2016 7:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

binocular
Posts: 2330
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Postby binocular » Wed Sep 07, 2016 7:45 am

Coëmgenu wrote:Buddhism doesn't have to be "like" Protestantism *or* Catholicism to have a misapplied hermeneutic from hegemonic New World Protestant/post-Protestant anti-Catholic polemics levelled at its textual tradition.

It's not clear how any of this applies.

For numerous variations of Christianity, it is orthodoxy that is central, since in those religions, there is nothing personal to attain or know for oneself.

Buddhism is, supposedly different, in that it proposes that things are to be known and attained by oneself, not merely believed.

davidbrainerd
Posts: 818
Joined: Fri Jul 01, 2016 3:12 am

Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Postby davidbrainerd » Wed Sep 07, 2016 7:46 am

oops quoted myself rather than edit....

Well sonce I have a post stuck here, might as well put this here: I find it interesting how denial of karma and rebirth is coddled but interpreting Dh 323 or any other such passage correctly as saying somone goes to Nibbana is viewed as if I were saying murder is ok (whereas the ppl basically saying murder is ok get a pass)...if that's not nihilism, I don't know what is.

binocular
Posts: 2330
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Postby binocular » Wed Sep 07, 2016 8:21 am

davidbrainerd wrote:I don't think it matters so much whether it was always this way or there was time before, but its logical that there would be time before.

If we posit that it is a soul that is in samsara, then the question of how a soul got into samsara does matter because it implies crucial issues of responsibility and efficacy for how the soul can get out of samsara.

This is why in several theistic traditions, the doctrine of the original fall is so important -- because this doctrine sets the whole plan for salvation and for all issues connected with it, and especially it informs the attitudes that the person is supposed to have toward the religion and towards themselves.

As far as I know the suttas, the Buddha there presents a way that elegantly skirts all the usual problems that soul-salvantionist doctrines usually have.

Since you know the Christian versions, here's a different one, from ISKCON:
On learning that the material world is not our real home, we naturally wonder, “How did we get here?”

When we hear that we live in this material world because we are “fallen souls,” it’s natural for us to ask, “Where have we fallen from?”

Srila Prabhupada says that as living souls we are all originally Krishna conscious. But what does that mean? Were we all originally with Krishna in the spiritual world? And if so, how could we ever have fallen? In Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna says, “Once you attain to that spiritual world, you never fall.” So how then could we have fallen from there to begin with?
/.../
Don’t Figure It Out—Get Out

Ultimately, Srila Prabhupada would stress, puzzling over when we fell or where we fell from won’t solve our problem. “The conclusion is that whatever may be our past, let us come to Krishna consciousness and immediately join Krishna.”
/.../
Still again: “Rather than taking account of how things happened that [we] came here, our best occupation is to get out of the scene by constantly chanting Hare Krishna and being engaged in the transcendental service of Lord Krishna.”
http://www.krishna.com/where-do-fallen-souls-fall


And this is where I see the problem: This teacher simply summons us to have faith in what he says and to think, feel, speak, and do as told.

All the doctrines that posit a soul seem to have this same approach: they demand of us to take them on faith and to think, feel, speak, and do as told.

As far as I know the Buddha's teachings, he didn't demand that of people. He proposed that there was actually things to know for oneself.


binocular wrote:However, if we do posit a soul/self, some problems come up:
Is this self/soul by nature good, or is it by nature bad?

Good and evil are relative to interactions with others. The soul in its own soulness all alone prior to manifestion in the world can be neither because it is isolated.

How do you explain how the soul ended up in samsara?

binocular wrote:How does the self/soul act, do anything?

Not sure.

This is the sort of thing to know, if one posits a soul, because knowing how the soul gets anything done is crucial for its ability or potential for getting out of samsara.

binocular wrote:If it is neither good nor bad, then why bother with anything?

You'll have to explain what you mean on that one.

I'll ask another question: If the soul is by nature neither good nor bad, then how can it experience suffering, how can it want to make an end to suffering?

binocular wrote:How come the soul is ignorant?

Because it had no experiences.

Why not?

binocular wrote:If ignorance is part of the soul's nature, an inherent characteristic -- then how can it ever hope to overcome it?

Its an interesting question. Remember all the "you can't have a permanent soul because permanent means unchanging" stuff? Well, technically classical Samkhya says the soul is only an observer, does not act, and never changes, so only the budhi or mahat (an intelligent principle made from matter which only reflects the consciousness of the soul) is the only actor.

If the soul is passive by nature, then what's the use of anything?

Jainism is essentially based on the same system, but changes that, makes the soul active. My own judgement would be that Samkhya as it survived only makes the soul a passive observer due to Vedanta influence (i.e. the soul is God, so it has to be perfect, and perfect means unchanging) so this corruption can easily be thrown out without a second thought.

If the soul can act, then how come it acted its way into samsara?

In similar manner, Buddhism in its furor to oppose the Vedantin corporate-self-god decided to throw out all selves, even the one Buddha taught goes to Nirvana.

I don't know about these things. My questions and concerns are contemporary.

To summarize: The doctrines that do posit an eternal/permanent self/soul demand from people a total submission to the religious institution/authority, and there seems to be nothing to know for oneself in those religions -- it all has to be taken on faith, in submission and obedience. To me, having to take things on faith like that, and to be submissive like that, is a recipe for insanity, this is why I am skeptical about soul-doctrines.

User avatar
Spiny Norman
Posts: 4746
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 10:32 am
Location: Spam, wonderful spam

Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed Sep 07, 2016 8:33 am

davidbrainerd wrote:Well sonce I have a post stuck here, might as well put this here: I find it interesting how denial of karma and rebirth is coddled but interpreting Dh 323 or any other such passage correctly as saying somone goes to Nibbana is viewed as if I were saying murder is ok (whereas the ppl basically saying murder is ok get a pass)...if that's not nihilism, I don't know what is.


So is the Bahiya Sutta "nihilism" too?

"When for you there will be only the seen in reference to the seen, only the heard in reference to the heard, only the sensed in reference to the sensed, only the cognized in reference to the cognized, then, Bāhiya, there is no you in connection with that. When there is no you in connection with that, there is no you there. When there is no you there, you are neither here nor yonder nor between the two. This, just this, is the end of stress."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Actually I don't see how "nihilism" is even relevant here. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nihilism
"My religion is very simple - my religion is ice-cream."
Dairy Lama

binocular
Posts: 2330
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Postby binocular » Wed Sep 07, 2016 9:01 am

Spiny Norman wrote:Actually I don't see how "nihilism" is even relevant here. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nihilism

You don't see a connection between asserting there is no self/soul, ever and the idea that life is meaningless, worthless?


Interestingly, though, historically, some philosophers and others who have reflected on nihilism have done so in an effort to overcome it, such as Kierkegaard and especially Nietzsche:

Nietzsche's relation to the problem of nihilism is a complex one. He approaches the problem of nihilism as deeply personal, stating that this predicament of the modern world is a problem that has "become conscious" in him.[37] Furthermore, he emphasises both the danger of nihilism and the possibilities it offers, as seen in his statement that "I praise, I do not reproach, [nihilism's] arrival. I believe it is one of the greatest crises, a moment of the deepest self-reflection of humanity. Whether man recovers from it, whether he becomes master of this crisis, is a question of his strength!"[38] According to Nietzsche, it is only when nihilism is overcome that a culture can have a true foundation upon which to thrive. He wished to hasten its coming only so that he could also hasten its ultimate departure.[26]

He states that there is at least the possibility of another type of nihilist in the wake of Christianity's self-dissolution, one that does not stop after the destruction of all value and meaning and succumb to the following nothingness. This alternate, 'active' nihilism on the other hand destroys to level the field for constructing something new. This form of nihilism is characterized by Nietzsche as "a sign of strength,"[39] a wilful destruction of the old values to wipe the slate clean and lay down one's own beliefs and interpretations, contrary to the passive nihilism that resigns itself with the decomposition of the old values. This wilful destruction of values and the overcoming of the condition of nihilism by the constructing of new meaning, this active nihilism, could be related to what Nietzsche elsewhere calls a 'free spirit'[40] or the Übermensch from Thus Spoke Zarathustra and The Antichrist, the model of the strong individual who posits his own values and lives his life as if it were his own work of art. It may be questioned, though, whether "active nihilism" is indeed the correct term for this stance, and some question whether Nietzsche takes the problems nihilism poses seriously enough.[41]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nihilism

User avatar
Spiny Norman
Posts: 4746
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 10:32 am
Location: Spam, wonderful spam

Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed Sep 07, 2016 9:08 am

binocular wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:Actually I don't see how "nihilism" is even relevant here. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nihilism

You don't see a connection between asserting there is no self/soul, ever and the idea that life is meaningless, worthless?


No, I don't, and I think it is a silly argument really. It is like claiming that life is meaningless for atheists.

To me believing in a soul is like believing in God, it is the same clutching at metaphysical straws, valuing comfort over truth.
"My religion is very simple - my religion is ice-cream."
Dairy Lama

binocular
Posts: 2330
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Postby binocular » Wed Sep 07, 2016 5:04 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:To me believing in a soul is like believing in God, it is the same clutching at metaphysical straws, valuing comfort over truth.

Could you state, for the sake of the discussion, your stance on the anatta issue: Do you eblieve there is a soul, do you believe there is no soul, ...?

binocular
Posts: 2330
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Postby binocular » Wed Sep 07, 2016 5:07 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:To me believing in a soul is like believing in God, it is the same clutching at metaphysical straws, valuing comfort over truth.

I think just the opposite: For me, it is the existence of a soul that would be scary.

The implications of the existence of souls are tremendous, because once we posit the existence of a soul, we have to explain how come this soul got into samsara, how come the souls suffers. And no scenario for that that I can think of is anything less than horrible.

Yes, there are proponents of soul-doctrines who would say that I thus value comfort over truth.

User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 1113
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:55 pm

Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Postby Coëmgenu » Wed Sep 07, 2016 5:09 pm

binocular wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:To me believing in a soul is like believing in God, it is the same clutching at metaphysical straws, valuing comfort over truth.

Could you state, for the sake of the discussion, your stance on the anatta issue: Do you eblieve there is a soul, do you believe there is no soul, ...?


Any Buddhist who wants to study actual Buddhism will say there is no soul. There is no self is a contentious issue because it has a more vague definition. But a soul is an incorporeal eternal unchanging higher self that is unaffected by death(s) or karma (cause-and-effect). Such a construct is not acceptable in any stream of Buddhism.
Bhagavā arahaṃ sammasāmbuddho:
Svākkhāto yena bhagavatā dhammo / Supaṭipanno yassa bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho
Tammayaṃ bhagavantaṃ sadhammaṃ sasaṅghaṃ / Imehi sakkārehi yathārahaṃ āropitehi abhipūjayāma.
(Dedication of Offerings)
此等諸法,法住、法空、法如、法爾,法不離如,法不異如,審諦真實、不顛倒。These many dharmāḥ, the residence of these dharmāḥ, the emptiness of these dharmāḥ, these dharmāḥ self-explain, these dharmāḥ are thus, these dharmāḥ do not depart from their self-explaining, these dharmāḥ are not different than their self-explaining, judged as truly real, not delusional. (SA 296, 因緣法)
揭諦揭諦,波羅揭諦,波羅僧揭諦,菩提薩婆訶

User avatar
Spiny Norman
Posts: 4746
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 10:32 am
Location: Spam, wonderful spam

Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed Sep 07, 2016 5:19 pm

binocular wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:To me believing in a soul is like believing in God, it is the same clutching at metaphysical straws, valuing comfort over truth.

Could you state, for the sake of the discussion, your stance on the anatta issue: Do you eblieve there is a soul, do you believe there is no soul, ...?


No, I don't believe in souls, or gods for that matter.
"My religion is very simple - my religion is ice-cream."
Dairy Lama

davidbrainerd
Posts: 818
Joined: Fri Jul 01, 2016 3:12 am

Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Postby davidbrainerd » Wed Sep 07, 2016 9:57 pm

binocular wrote:To summarize: The doctrines that do posit an eternal/permanent self/soul demand from people a total submission to the religious institution/authority, and there seems to be nothing to know for oneself in those religions -- it all has to be taken on faith, in submission and obedience. To me, having to take things on faith like that, and to be submissive like that, is a recipe for insanity, this is why I am skeptical about soul-doctrines.


Why do you think that? If you are an eternal entity, how does a temporal institution have authority over you? It seems to me that you're unconsciously injecting a creator god who created the souls concept in here, but that's a completely different model.

binocular wrote:I'll ask another question: If the soul is by nature neither good nor bad, then how can it experience suffering, how can it want to make an end to suffering?


You mean if not bad why were the souls punished by a creator god shoving them into samsara? You're injecting a creator god.

I think of it more like someone who had never seen a shark before going to the beach and seeing sharks in the water, but being ignorant that they're dangerous, just jumps right in. If you were a soul just sort of floating in your soulness and encountered matter, not knowing the consequences would be trapping your own self in a cycle of reincarnation for a long time, you may very well jump right in.

binocular wrote:If the soul can act, then how come it acted its way into samsara?


The metaphysical version of "curiosity killed the cat"?

binocular wrote:And this is where I see the problem: This teacher simply summons us to have faith in what he says and to think, feel, speak, and do as told.


The teacher you quote talks about "being engaged in the transcendental service of Lord Krishna" which is not what we're talking about. I assume he's Vedantin due to the mention of Krishna, but its instantly confusing because they say Krishna is Brahman but they also say you are Brahman, so if you do "transcendental service of Lord Krishna" are you serving Krishna as another entity or as yourself? Vedanta is too confusing. Its an attempt at having both a theistic religion and shramanic religion at the same time, that to me just does not work.

binocular wrote:All the doctrines that posit a soul seem to have this same approach: they demand of us to take them on faith and to think, feel, speak, and do as told.

As far as I know the Buddha's teachings, he didn't demand that of people. He proposed that there was actually things to know for oneself.


You've obviously not gotten to the suttas where he berates the monks who don't instantly stop eating at night or more than once a day when another monk tells them Buddha said so and then its reported to him that they refused and he summons them for a good tongue lashing.


Return to “Connections to Other Paths”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 11 guests

Google Saffron, Theravada Search Engine

cron