Soul theories and the Dhamma

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
binocular
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Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Post by 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
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Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Post by 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.

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Coëmgenu
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Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Post by 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.
如無為,如是難見、不動、不屈、不死、無漏、覆蔭、洲渚、濟渡、依止、擁護、不流轉、離熾焰、離燒然、流通、清涼、微妙、安隱、無病、無所有、涅槃。
Like this is the uncreated, like this is that which is difficult to realize, with no moving, no bending, no dying. Utterly lacking secretions and smothered in the dark, it is the island shore. Where there is ferrying, it is the crossing. It is dependency's ceasing, it is the end of circulating transmissions. It is the exhaustion of the flame, it is the ending of the burning. Flowing openly, pure and cool, with secret subtlety, and calm occultation, lacking ailment, lacking owning, nirvāṇa.
Asaṁskṛtadharmasūtra, Sermon on the Uncreated Phenomenon, T99.224b7, Saṁyuktāgama 890

Dinsdale
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Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Post by Dinsdale » 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.
Buddha save me from new-agers!

davidbrainerd
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Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Post by 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.

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cappuccino
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Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Post by cappuccino » Wed Sep 07, 2016 10:35 pm

The anatta doctrine is not a kind of materialism. Buddhism does not deny the existence of "immaterial" entities, and it (at least traditionally) distinguishes bodily states from mental states. Thus, the conventional translation of anatta as "no-soul" can be confusing. If the word "soul" simply refers to an incorporeal component in living things that can continue after death, then Buddhism does not deny the existence of the soul. Instead, Buddhism denies the existence of a permanent entity that remains constant behind the changing corporeal and incorporeal components of a living being.
From Wikipedia
Last edited by cappuccino on Wed Nov 23, 2016 8:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Coëmgenu
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Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Post by Coëmgenu » Wed Sep 07, 2016 11:07 pm

davidbrainerd wrote: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?
I've already supplied an extensive critique your materialist hermeneutic, or more accurately, your historical-materialist hermeneutic, in the "great anattā/anātman debate", so I think that critiquing it, in an in-depth manner, any further, would be futile and a waste of effort on my part, since when you respond to my hermenutical critiques it is evident that there is a dividing chasm in what we consider materialism, or more precisely historical materialism, to be, as in relates to hermeneutics.

Edit: Actually instead of just not addressing it, I guess I'll give this its own thread, since, in my opinion, misapplied hermeneutics are the chief cause of all of the anattā debates.
如無為,如是難見、不動、不屈、不死、無漏、覆蔭、洲渚、濟渡、依止、擁護、不流轉、離熾焰、離燒然、流通、清涼、微妙、安隱、無病、無所有、涅槃。
Like this is the uncreated, like this is that which is difficult to realize, with no moving, no bending, no dying. Utterly lacking secretions and smothered in the dark, it is the island shore. Where there is ferrying, it is the crossing. It is dependency's ceasing, it is the end of circulating transmissions. It is the exhaustion of the flame, it is the ending of the burning. Flowing openly, pure and cool, with secret subtlety, and calm occultation, lacking ailment, lacking owning, nirvāṇa.
Asaṁskṛtadharmasūtra, Sermon on the Uncreated Phenomenon, T99.224b7, Saṁyuktāgama 890

Dinsdale
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Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Post by Dinsdale » Thu Sep 08, 2016 6:17 am

cappuccino wrote:Buddha calls issue of soul a jungle of views, a fetter of views…
Strange then how people want to talk about it so much. ;)
Buddha save me from new-agers!

binocular
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Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Post by binocular » Thu Sep 08, 2016 7:22 am

davidbrainerd wrote:Why do you think that? If you are an eternal entity, how does a temporal institution have authority over you?
I don't know if I am an eternal entity!! That's the point! There are only some people telling me that I am an eternal entity, and there is an apparent benefit that _they_ get if I were to believe it: they can scare me into submission to them.
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.
No, as I am keeping in mind both a Hindu model with "God and individual souls have always existed and are both necessary beings" as well as the Christian model "God creates individual souls; of the two, only God is a necessary being."
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.
This is a horrible prospect! Where's the guarantee that once I do learn that sharks a dangerous, I won't forget all about it by next rebirth/incarnation?

The way the matter has been handled in ISKCON is very informative. Granted, they are a tiny religion, but very much into philosophy and much of their writing is available online, so we can trace the various arguments for and against.

Back in the seventies, when their founder acharya was still alive, he basically posited that one shouldn't wonder about how the original fall occured. But, people in ISKCON weren't happy with that, the discussion continued, a controversial book was published which tried to provide scriptural arguments that the soul never fell or that it fell out of ignorance. (Interestingly, a poster of Hindu origin chastised me for suggesting that souls rebelled against God.) Then the official hierarchy in ISKCON hit back, and this became their official teaching on the falldown: they say it is our fault that we fell, that it is our fault that we are in samsara, that we rebell against God.

Like I said, their references are useful because we can get a good scope of the problems associated with positing there is a soul and how come this soul suffers.
binocular wrote:If the soul can act, then how come it acted its way into samsara?
The metaphysical version of "curiosity killed the cat"?
That would be funny if suffering weren't so real!
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.
They address this with the doctrine of inconceivable one-ness and difference.

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.
But they were _his_ monks. Previously, they said they they go for refuge in the Buddha, so the Buddha was justified to expect things of them and to criticize them.
Which is different than the moralizing religious busybodies who demand that everyone submits to them.

binocular
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Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Post by binocular » Thu Sep 08, 2016 7:24 am

Spiny Norman wrote:
cappuccino wrote:Buddha calls issue of soul a jungle of views, a fetter of views…
Strange then how people want to talk about it so much. ;)
Present company included.
:jumping:

davidbrainerd
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Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Post by davidbrainerd » Thu Sep 08, 2016 6:50 pm

binocular wrote:
davidbrainerd wrote:Why do you think that? If you are an eternal entity, how does a temporal institution have authority over you?
I don't know if I am an eternal entity!! That's the point! There are only some people telling me that I am an eternal entity, and there is an apparent benefit that _they_ get if I were to believe it: they can scare me into submission to them.
People saying you don't really exist also demand submission. In fact, I would say Vedanta is saying you don't reaaly exist and this why they demand submission. There is zero difference in my mind between "there is no soul, you're only the body" and "you are just a piece of God, not truly an independent soul." Both are asserting that I'm not real. Vedanta is just more subtle. It asserts that I'm not real under the guise of asserting that I am.

binocular
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Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Post by binocular » Thu Sep 08, 2016 6:59 pm

davidbrainerd wrote:People saying you don't really exist also demand submission. In fact, I would say Vedanta is saying you don't reaaly exist and this why they demand submission. There is zero difference in my mind between "there is no soul, you're only the body" and "you are just a piece of God, not truly an independent soul." Both are asserting that I'm not real. Vedanta is just more subtle. It asserts that I'm not real under the guise of asserting that I am.
Well, yes. The problem with both those who promote a self view as well as with those who promote a no-self view is that usually they both appear to do so with some ulterior motive (and if they get their way, I always end up on the losing end).
Hence I'm skeptical of both camps.

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Coëmgenu
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Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Post by Coëmgenu » Thu Sep 08, 2016 7:17 pm

binocular wrote:
davidbrainerd wrote:People saying you don't really exist also demand submission. In fact, I would say Vedanta is saying you don't reaaly exist and this why they demand submission. There is zero difference in my mind between "there is no soul, you're only the body" and "you are just a piece of God, not truly an independent soul." Both are asserting that I'm not real. Vedanta is just more subtle. It asserts that I'm not real under the guise of asserting that I am.
Well, yes. The problem with both those who promote a self view as well as with those who promote a no-self view is that usually they both appear to do so with some ulterior motive (and if they get their way, I always end up on the losing end).
Hence I'm skeptical of both camps.
Being skeptical of both extremes is an orthodox Buddhist position to take.
如無為,如是難見、不動、不屈、不死、無漏、覆蔭、洲渚、濟渡、依止、擁護、不流轉、離熾焰、離燒然、流通、清涼、微妙、安隱、無病、無所有、涅槃。
Like this is the uncreated, like this is that which is difficult to realize, with no moving, no bending, no dying. Utterly lacking secretions and smothered in the dark, it is the island shore. Where there is ferrying, it is the crossing. It is dependency's ceasing, it is the end of circulating transmissions. It is the exhaustion of the flame, it is the ending of the burning. Flowing openly, pure and cool, with secret subtlety, and calm occultation, lacking ailment, lacking owning, nirvāṇa.
Asaṁskṛtadharmasūtra, Sermon on the Uncreated Phenomenon, T99.224b7, Saṁyuktāgama 890

binocular
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Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Post by binocular » Fri Sep 09, 2016 6:51 am

Coëmgenu wrote:Being skeptical of both extremes is an orthodox Buddhist position to take.
Then what are books like this: http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=27742 ?

Dinsdale
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Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Post by Dinsdale » Fri Sep 09, 2016 9:57 am

cappuccino wrote:If you say there is no soul, you go beyond what Buddha said.
So in which suttas does the Buddha teach that there is a soul?
Buddha save me from new-agers!

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