Theravāda & Nāgārjuna

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Aloka
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Re: Theravāda & Nāgārjuna

Post by Aloka »

.

I came across this PDF book "Nagarjuna in Context" by Joseph Walser and thought I'd add it to the thread as I don't have time to do any extra reading at the moment.

From the introduction:
The traditional focus of Nágárjuna studies here shifts from viewing him as a philosopher to viewing him as an early champion of the nascent Maháyána movement. This shift draws the focus away from strictly doctrinal concerns and the logical
viability of his arguments to questions of the imprint of social and institutional forces on his works. The center of the work, then, is not so much Nágárjuna’s teaching on emptiness but the rather strange way that he goes about arguing for it.

http://dlia.ir/Scientific/e_book/Philos ... 000724.pdf
:anjali:
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Javi
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Re: Theravāda & Nāgārjuna

Post by Javi »

That Walser is an interesting book.

That Nagarjuna was an early proponent of the Mahayana might be true as argued by Walser here, though I know that there are some scholars (T. Vetter, Buston) which do not accept the Ratnavali and other similar texts as being his - and if this is the case, then the case for Nagarjuna being a Mahayanist is weak indeed. He might just as likely have been a Mahasamgika sravaka that was later taken up by the Mahayana.

That the Mahasamgika Abhidharma was focused on the idea of emptiness of dhammas can be seen by the Tattvasiddhi of Harivarman (3rd-4th century) as well as by the reported views of the Prajnaptivadins.

More sources on this topic (emptiness in early Buddhism):

Proto-Maadhyamika in the Paali canon By Luis O. Gomez
http://enlight.lib.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/ ... /gomez.htm

Choong; Annotated Translation of Sutras from the Chinese Samyuktagama relevant to the Early Buddhist Teachings on Emptiness and the Middle Way (2004; second edition, International Buddhist College, Thailand, 2010. https://www.une.edu.au/__data/assets/pd ... e-Way2.pdf
Last edited by Javi on Tue Jan 17, 2017 2:50 am, edited 1 time in total.
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā — All things decay and disappoint, it is through vigilance that you succeed — Mahāparinibbāna Sutta

Self-taught poverty is a help toward philosophy, for the things which philosophy attempts to teach by reasoning, poverty forces us to practice. — Diogenes of Sinope

I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind — Ecclesiastes 1.14
Bakmoon
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Re: Theravāda & Nāgārjuna

Post by Bakmoon »

Phena wrote:I don't recall a reference to the Cula-suññata Sutta being posted in the thread so far, but apologies if it has. These passages are taken from the end of the sutta, and I think this represents the early Buddhist position on emptiness quite definitively, particularly from a practice point of view.

  • "He discerns that 'Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the effluent of sensuality... the effluent of becoming... the effluent of ignorance, are not present. And there is only this modicum of disturbance: that connected with the six sensory spheres, dependent on this very body with life as its condition.' He discerns that 'This mode of perception is empty of the effluent of sensuality... becoming... ignorance. And there is just this non-emptiness: that connected with the six sensory spheres, dependent on this very body with life as its condition.' Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: 'There is this.' And so this, his entry into emptiness, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, pure — superior & unsurpassed.

    "Ananda, whatever contemplatives and brahmans who in the past entered & remained in an emptiness that was pure, superior, & unsurpassed, they all entered & remained in this very same emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed. Whatever contemplatives and brahmans who in the future will enter & remain in an emptiness that will be pure, superior, & unsurpassed, they all will enter & remain in this very same emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed. Whatever contemplatives and brahmans who at present enter & remain in an emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed, they all enter & remain in this very same emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed.

    "Therefore, Ananda, you should train yourselves: 'We will enter & remain in the emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed.'"
I don't think that the Cula-suññata Sutta is about emptiness in the sense of things being empty, but rather it is talking about different states of meditation under the name emptiness because the deeper stages of jhana are emptied out of the gross factors of the previous ones.
The non-doing of any evil,
The performance of what's skillful,
The cleansing of one's own mind:
This is the Buddhas' teaching.
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Javi
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Re: Theravāda & Nāgārjuna

Post by Javi »

Bakmoon wrote: I don't think that the Cula-suññata Sutta is about emptiness in the sense of things being empty, but rather it is talking about different states of meditation under the name emptiness because the deeper stages of jhana are emptied out of the gross factors of the previous ones.
While I think you're right here, I also think that if we use a phenomenological hermeneutic, there is not so much of a hard line between emptiness as a meditative dwelling and emptiness qua emptiness of dhammas.
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā — All things decay and disappoint, it is through vigilance that you succeed — Mahāparinibbāna Sutta

Self-taught poverty is a help toward philosophy, for the things which philosophy attempts to teach by reasoning, poverty forces us to practice. — Diogenes of Sinope

I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind — Ecclesiastes 1.14
Phena
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Re: Theravāda & Nāgārjuna

Post by Phena »

Bakmoon wrote:
Phena wrote:I don't recall a reference to the Cula-suññata Sutta being posted in the thread so far, but apologies if it has. These passages are taken from the end of the sutta, and I think this represents the early Buddhist position on emptiness quite definitively, particularly from a practice point of view.

  • "He discerns that 'Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the effluent of sensuality... the effluent of becoming... the effluent of ignorance, are not present. And there is only this modicum of disturbance: that connected with the six sensory spheres, dependent on this very body with life as its condition.' He discerns that 'This mode of perception is empty of the effluent of sensuality... becoming... ignorance. And there is just this non-emptiness: that connected with the six sensory spheres, dependent on this very body with life as its condition.' Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: 'There is this.' And so this, his entry into emptiness, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, pure — superior & unsurpassed.

    "Ananda, whatever contemplatives and brahmans who in the past entered & remained in an emptiness that was pure, superior, & unsurpassed, they all entered & remained in this very same emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed. Whatever contemplatives and brahmans who in the future will enter & remain in an emptiness that will be pure, superior, & unsurpassed, they all will enter & remain in this very same emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed. Whatever contemplatives and brahmans who at present enter & remain in an emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed, they all enter & remain in this very same emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed.

    "Therefore, Ananda, you should train yourselves: 'We will enter & remain in the emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed.'"
I don't think that the Cula-suññata Sutta is about emptiness in the sense of things being empty, but rather it is talking about different states of meditation under the name emptiness because the deeper stages of jhana are emptied out of the gross factors of the previous ones.
Yes, that's right. It's clearly not about emptiness of phenomena as such, but more importantly about how our experience of emptiness unfolds, which is why I said, "particularly from a practice point of view."
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aflatun
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Re: Theravāda & Nāgārjuna

Post by aflatun »

Javi wrote:That Walser is an interesting book.

That Nagarjuna was an early proponent of the Mahayana might be true as argued by Walser here, though I know that there are some scholars (T. Vetter, Buston) which do not accept the Ratnavali and other similar texts as being his - and if this is the case, then the case for Nagarjuna being a Mahayanist is weak indeed. He might just as likely have been a Mahasamgika sravaka that was later taken up by the Mahayana.

That the Mahasamgika Abhidharma was focused on the idea of emptiness of dhammas can be seen by the Tattvasiddhi of Harivarman (3rd-4th century) as well as by the reported views of the Prajnaptivadins.

More sources on this topic (emptiness in early Buddhism):

Proto-Maadhyamika in the Paali canon By Luis O. Gomez
http://enlight.lib.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/ ... /gomez.htm

Choong; Annotated Translation of Sutras from the Chinese Samyuktagama relevant to the Early Buddhist Teachings on Emptiness and the Middle Way (2004; second edition, International Buddhist College, Thailand, 2010. https://www.une.edu.au/__data/assets/pd ... e-Way2.pdf
Perhaps relevant in the same vein (he mentions Gomez) from Alexander Wynne:

https://www.academia.edu/19310135/Early ... -sunyavada
This article argues that the search for a metaphysical foundation to early Buddhist thought is futile. For if the world of experience is a cognitive construction, as implied in a number of early discourses, it follows that thought cannot transcend its limits, and cannot attain an objective picture of reality. Despite this sceptical anti-realism, the Buddha’s focus on the causes of suffering also suggests that phenomena – although constructed and ultimately unreal – follow a regular order, and so are in some sense objectively real. Two orientations to the Buddha’s Dhamma can thus be
identied, ‘anti-realism’ and ‘constructed realism’, which are roughly equivalent to what the canonical teachings term ‘no view’ and ‘correct
view’.
Wynne, like Sue Hamilton probably goes too far in the direction of transcendental idealism (Kant/Schopenhauer) for most but for what it's worth I find him compelling and lucid
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16
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Javi
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Re: Theravāda & Nāgārjuna

Post by Javi »

This article argues that the search for a metaphysical foundation to early Buddhist thought is futile. For if the world of experience is a cognitive construction, as implied in a number of early discourses, it follows that thought cannot transcend its limits, and cannot attain an objective picture of reality. Despite this sceptical anti-realism, the Buddha’s focus on the causes of suffering also suggests that phenomena – although constructed and ultimately unreal – follow a regular order, and so are in some sense objectively real. Two orientations to the Buddha’s Dhamma can thus be
identied, ‘anti-realism’ and ‘constructed realism’, which are roughly equivalent to what the canonical teachings term ‘no view’ and ‘correct
view’.
This is one of the most lucid and rational reconstructions of the Buddha's philosophy in the suttas.

I agree wholeheartedly.
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā — All things decay and disappoint, it is through vigilance that you succeed — Mahāparinibbāna Sutta

Self-taught poverty is a help toward philosophy, for the things which philosophy attempts to teach by reasoning, poverty forces us to practice. — Diogenes of Sinope

I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind — Ecclesiastes 1.14
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aflatun
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Re: Theravāda & Nāgārjuna

Post by aflatun »

Javi wrote:
This article argues that the search for a metaphysical foundation to early Buddhist thought is futile. For if the world of experience is a cognitive construction, as implied in a number of early discourses, it follows that thought cannot transcend its limits, and cannot attain an objective picture of reality. Despite this sceptical anti-realism, the Buddha’s focus on the causes of suffering also suggests that phenomena – although constructed and ultimately unreal – follow a regular order, and so are in some sense objectively real. Two orientations to the Buddha’s Dhamma can thus be
identied, ‘anti-realism’ and ‘constructed realism’, which are roughly equivalent to what the canonical teachings term ‘no view’ and ‘correct
view’.
This is one of the most lucid and rational reconstructions of the Buddha's philosophy in the suttas.

I agree wholeheartedly.
Isn't that gorgeous? I am very impressed with Wynne as of late! I know I have a bias as I've been a transcendental idealist of sorts for a long time (primarily vis-a-vis Schopenhauer, and to a lesser extent Kant, Husserl and Wittgenstein) but I really find him compelling.

That article responds to criticisms voiced here:

https://www.academia.edu/19291978/Was_t ... ti-Realist

Which addresses the ideas of Luis Gomez, Sue Hamilton, Noa Ronkin and Alexander Wynne.

These two from Wynne I also found very interesting:

https://www.academia.edu/9209365/The_āt ... st_thought

https://www.academia.edu/9209376/Early_ ... ond_Sermon
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16
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Javi
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Re: Theravāda & Nāgārjuna

Post by Javi »

aflatun wrote:
Javi wrote:
This article argues that the search for a metaphysical foundation to early Buddhist thought is futile. For if the world of experience is a cognitive construction, as implied in a number of early discourses, it follows that thought cannot transcend its limits, and cannot attain an objective picture of reality. Despite this sceptical anti-realism, the Buddha’s focus on the causes of suffering also suggests that phenomena – although constructed and ultimately unreal – follow a regular order, and so are in some sense objectively real. Two orientations to the Buddha’s Dhamma can thus be
identied, ‘anti-realism’ and ‘constructed realism’, which are roughly equivalent to what the canonical teachings term ‘no view’ and ‘correct
view’.
This is one of the most lucid and rational reconstructions of the Buddha's philosophy in the suttas.

I agree wholeheartedly.
Isn't that gorgeous? I am very impressed with Wynne as of late! I know I have a bias as I've been a transcendental idealist of sorts for a long time (primarily vis-a-vis Schopenhauer, and to a lesser extent Kant, Husserl and Wittgenstein) but I really find him compelling.

That article responds to criticisms voiced here:

https://www.academia.edu/19291978/Was_t ... ti-Realist

Which addresses the ideas of Luis Gomez, Sue Hamilton, Noa Ronkin and Alexander Wynne.

These two from Wynne I also found very interesting:

https://www.academia.edu/9209365/The_āt ... st_thought

https://www.academia.edu/9209376/Early_ ... ond_Sermon
Awesome stuff, thanks for sharing!

I was mainly convinced of this 'phenomenal' or 'anti-realist' interpretation by Sue Hamilton and that essay by Jayarava, but this one by Wynne is on another level.

I am going to have to read all the suttas he cites there and then re-read this bad boy. It's amazing.
:reading:
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā — All things decay and disappoint, it is through vigilance that you succeed — Mahāparinibbāna Sutta

Self-taught poverty is a help toward philosophy, for the things which philosophy attempts to teach by reasoning, poverty forces us to practice. — Diogenes of Sinope

I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind — Ecclesiastes 1.14
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aflatun
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Re: Theravāda & Nāgārjuna

Post by aflatun »

Awesome stuff, thanks for sharing!

I was mainly convinced of this 'phenomenal' or 'anti-realist' interpretation by Sue Hamilton and that essay by Jayarava, but this one by Wynne is on another level.

I am going to have to read all the suttas he cites there and then re-read this bad boy. It's amazing.
:reading:

My pleasure, enjoy and let us know how it goes. When I re read the Brahmajāla Sutta Wynne's ideas about "contact" in mind I felt like my head was going to explode (in a good way :) )
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16
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aflatun
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Re: Theravāda & Nāgārjuna

Post by aflatun »

I was just re-reading Professor Peter Harvey's The Selfless Mind today on a study break (break? lol!) and came across this passage. I thought I would post it for anyone still interested in this subject.

After a discussion of the various "signless meditations" and their relationship to Nibbana alluded to in the cannon, he notes:
The apprehension of nibbana as a signless emptiness by 'seeing through' empty phenomena is of course reminiscent of the Mahayana Madhyamaka school's view: of nibbana and the conditioned world being non-different, both being equally 'emptiness' (sunyata). Hints in this direction are in fact contained in the Patisambhiddmagga. This asserts that the Four Holy Truths are known by 'a single knowledge' (ekena nanena) for they are 'one' in their nature as being true (or 'thus': tatha) and being not-Self (Ps.II.l05). This suggests that dukkha (the first Truth), is known at the same time as nibbana, the cessation of dukkha (the third Truth). This could be taken to imply that they are the same thing, but seen in different ways. The Pali Canon contains no further hint in this direction, though. In any case, the above Madhyamaka-like perspective is only an approach to becoming an Arahat and attaining the full experience of nibbanic 'stopping', for it has been seen that the signless state is 'constructed' (Para.l1.25), albeit at a very subtle level. To fully realize nibbana, the unconstructed state, even the signless meditation must be transcended. Once nibbana is attained, the Arahat may, at a later time, either fully participate in it again, or simply take this timeless, signless realm as the object of his attention. Thus it is said that an Arahat's 'field of action (gocaro) is emptiness and signless liberation' (Dhp.92).
pg. 196-197

The kind of thing he is referring to (I surmise) would include Nagarjuna's statements like this:

Yuktiṣaṣṭikākārikā
10. When true knowledge sees the appearance conditioned by ignorance, no arising or ceasing is perceived

11. This is nirvāṇa and the seeing of reality in this very life, what is to be done has been done

...

48. What is born in dependence is unborn, said the best among knowers of reality
(Translated by Eviatar Shulman) (All emphasis mine)
https://www.academia.edu/7033642/Creati ... sciousness



More from Professor Harvey on signless meditations:
https://www.academia.edu/24988573/Signl ... i_Buddhism
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16
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dylanj
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Re: Theravāda & Nāgārjuna

Post by dylanj »

CecilN wrote:
Aloka wrote:...the coming into being of the world...
The word 'loka' or 'world' does not generally refer to the physical world, such as the planet earth. The planet earth does not arise via the process of dependent origination.
Yes it does. Dependent Origination does not equal the 12 Nidanas, which are just one example of Dependent Origination (& hence the Buddha not always giving the exact same formula).
Born, become, arisen – made, prepared, short-lived
Bonded by decay and death – a nest for sickness, perishable
Produced by seeking nutriment – not fit to take delight in


Departure from this is peaceful – beyond reasoning and enduring
Unborn, unarisen – free from sorrow and stain
Ceasing of all factors of suffering – stilling of all preparations is bliss
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