Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
PeterB
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Post by PeterB » Wed Jul 14, 2010 2:09 pm

Shonin old bean. I thought I was clear. Obviously not.
I had a long period of maceration in the "source material" I don't believe I am misunderstanding it. I eventually rejected it as having no connection at all with Buddhadhamma.

Your conclusion that I have misunderstood Madhyamika and Nagarjuna generally stems from my refusal to enter discussion of it on its terms.
The day was when I could and did at length. I was propounding my thoughts on Nagarjuna before you were born. One of my former teachers was and is a leading scholar in the field of Nagarjuna's philosophy. ( Thrangu Rinpoche chief tutor to the present Karmapa.)

I seems necessary to repeat, so I will..
1) The Buddha did not discuss duality/nonduality.
2) Therefore any discussion of duality/non duality of necessity equals papanca. Unless you are of the view that The Buddha, like Bhikkhu Bodhi, did not understand the issue either.
3) I don't care if you agree...I don't want you to hold a different view from the view you hold. I don't want to persuade you regarding my view.
The entire subject imo is a total irrelevance as far as Buddhadhamma is concerned.
I answered Lazy Eyes OP. My replies subsequently were to distance myself from the papanca that followed . Not to come up with a form of words that will establish common ground. Because there isn't any. Not on this subject.
All of the Mahayana view of material/idealistic duality/non duality represents a misunderstanding of the true radicalism of the Buddhas teaching on D.O.as found in the Pali Canon. Your starting position Shonin is that the end of Buddhist practice is an experience of non duality. Well in those meditative disciplines that relate to the Theravada it simply isn't....repeat, is not.
The goal of Vipassana is not to experience non duality for example. It does not even feature to any degree as a goal.
Why dont you do a Vipassana course or two and then discuss on a Theravada forum what the goal of Buddhadhamma might be ?
I have no idea what the goal of Zazen practice is. And after a period spent trying to find out from ZFI I have less idea now than when I started...there doesnt appear to be any consensus. Which is somehow turned into a virtue and proof of authenticity..But I sure as hell am not going to go on to ZFI and tell them that I can explain their Buddhism to them as long as they accept my model as normative. :smile:

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Lazy_eye
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Post by Lazy_eye » Wed Jul 14, 2010 3:15 pm

Ñāṇa wrote: Ven. Bodhi's paper... simply misrepresents Indian Mahāyāna mādhyamaka and then critiques this misrepresentation. It's a straw man argument.
Hi Geoff,

Just for clarification, are you saying that a) there is a difference between Mahayana and Theravada perspectives, and Bhikkhu Bodhi misrepresents it, or b) there is no difference?

If there are differences, how would you describe them? What do you take to be the goal(s) of Theravada practice?

Consider the following well-known statements by Seng-Ts'an. Are they compatible with Theravada, and how so?
Dualistic constructs don't endure, so take care not to pursue them. As soon as positive and negative arise, the mind is lost in confusion. The two exist because of the one...Not disdaining the six senses is enlightenment itself...If you don't conjure up differences, all things are of one kind... Enlightenment entails no good or evil...Being is the same as nonbeing, nonbeing the very same as being. Any understanding short of this you sould definitely abandon...
And from Hui-Neng:
There is no demonstration or transmission; it is only a matter of seeing nature, not a matter of meditation or liberation...[Meditation and liberation] are not Buddhism; Buddhism is a non-dualistic teaching...Oneness is good, dualism is not good. The essential buddha nature is neither good nor not good; this is called non-duality...the wise realize their essential nature is not two. The nondual nature is the buddha-nature.
Not to mention:
Ordinary mortals are themselves buddhas; affliction is itself enlightenment
Isn't the "the validity of conventional dualities" being rather emphatically denied?

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tiltbillings
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Post by tiltbillings » Wed Jul 14, 2010 6:22 pm

Non-duality is dog poop that people step in then track into the house, stinking up the place. Mahayana non-duality is one of a number of not very skillful ideas that have to be very, very, very carefully understood otherwise it becomes, like buddha-nature, a Frankenstein concept, and add to that non-duality is as conceptually dual as one can possibly get. Fortunately, the teachings of the Pali suttas are neither dual or non-dual.

Non-duality is also a basis for misunderstanding one's experience, given that there is much we can experience that can seem non-dual - ah, a non-dual state, I have arrived.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

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

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

Shonin
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Post by Shonin » Wed Jul 14, 2010 6:48 pm

tiltbillings wrote:Non-duality is dog poop that people step in then track into the house, stinking up the place. Mahayana non-duality is one of a number of not very skillful ideas that have to be very, very, very carefully understood otherwise it becomes, like buddha-nature, a Frankenstein concept,
I'm not sure that it's any more problematic than Nonself, which is widely misunderstood too.

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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Post by Shonin » Wed Jul 14, 2010 7:24 pm

Hi Peter,

Yes I'm aware that you spent a fair amount of time in a tradition that you became disillusioned with due to it's excessively metaphysical interpretations of Buddhadharma - a Tibetan tradition wasn't it? And it's completely understandable that your whole view of Mahayana was tainted by that experience. It's also entirely reasonable for you to want to have nothing at all to do with it and - as far as your own practice goes - to throw out the entire bath along with the bathwater and any babies that might happen to be in it. I imagine I might feel the same way.

However, you're representations of the teachers and concepts in question are off-target. You say "I don't believe I am misunderstanding it." but in the context of a rational debate that is worth diddley-squat. As is your statement that you've "had a long period of maceration in the "source material" ". Unless you actually provide sound evidence to support you position this is next to worthless. And it's just not good form to keep making these allegations and innuendos unless you're prepared to back them up. As the saying goes 'Put up or shut up'.
PeterB wrote:1) The Buddha did not discuss duality/nonduality.
True - in a narrow sense. These are not concepts he used. However he did describe the constructed nature of the sense of self ('the conceit 'I am''), and the means to end this conceit. He also asserted that the world is empty of a self and anything pertaining to a self. The world can be experienced without the imposition of this sense of self on it and this is nibbana. If this is true, it is not merely a doctrinal, philosophical point for Buddhists to believe in, but is true for all peoples at all times. And indeed there are other traditions which describe the very same experience, except that it is described as the falling away of the distinction between self and other and is called 'Nonduality'. Some formulations are certainly more useful than others, however don't get too hung up on terminology or dogmas and formulations - it's the experience that counts the most.
One who perceives non-self eliminates the ‘I am’ conceit. He attains nirvana here and now.
- Meghiya Sutta
Last edited by Shonin on Wed Jul 14, 2010 7:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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tiltbillings
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Post by tiltbillings » Wed Jul 14, 2010 7:33 pm

Shonin wrote:
I'm not sure that it's any more problematic than Nonself, which is widely misunderstood too.
The difference is that the Buddha taught anatta and we have to the suttas to work with to get an intellectual understanding and as a guide to practice. Non-duality is a later construct that the Buddha did not teach.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

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

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

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tiltbillings
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Post by tiltbillings » Wed Jul 14, 2010 7:37 pm

Shonin wrote: it's the experience that counts the most.
That is kind of the problem, innit? There are claims of experiences of non-duality all over the place, which if are true reduces to the Buddha's teaching to nothing special.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

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

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

PeterB
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Post by PeterB » Wed Jul 14, 2010 7:40 pm

As "putting up" means stepping in the doogy doo , in order to refute the idea that it isnt doggy doo...I will shut up Shonin...the floor is yours.
I can live with the knowledge that you dont accept that I actually know rather a lot about Nagarjuna etc. :smile:
If evr E Sangha gets resurrected or at least its files, you will find me a fully paid up Nagarjuna Wallah under the name Karma Gedun....But that was then.

Shonin
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Post by Shonin » Wed Jul 14, 2010 7:45 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Shonin wrote:
I'm not sure that it's any more problematic than Nonself, which is widely misunderstood too.
The difference is that the Buddha taught anatta and we have to the suttas to work with to get an intellectual understanding and as a guide to practice. Non-duality is a later construct that the Buddha did not teach.
Earlier construct... later construct. Actually it is even later than Mahayana. It's not a Mahayana term at all in fact. Nonduality is a modern, Western term. Nonduality is a quality that is described by both Theravada terms such as Anatta and by Mahayana terms such as Sunyata. There are plenty of Mahayana descriptions of Sunyata which are largely very consistent. However, I do agree that Theravada has a more clear and coherent theoretical framework than Mahayana.

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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Post by Shonin » Wed Jul 14, 2010 7:58 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Shonin wrote: it's the experience that counts the most.
That is kind of the problem, innit? There are claims of experiences of non-duality all over the place, which if are true reduces to the Buddha's teaching to nothing special.
Is being special what is important to you? If the Buddha spoke the truth, it was a universal truth. He was not the only one to see Dukkha, nor Anicca, so why is it so unexpected that other dharmic traditions including later Buddhist traditions should encounter insight into Anatta?

Also, having a nondual experience is not by itself enough to end suffering permanently. It has to produce insight into the constructed nature of self, and thus undermine the habits of clinging identification that produce the sense of self, and suffering. If the experience is a one-off whizz-bang experience that leads to no maturity of understanding, or if it leads to all sorts of metaphysical interpretations then it is perhaps less likely to end suffering.
Last edited by Shonin on Wed Jul 14, 2010 8:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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tiltbillings
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Post by tiltbillings » Wed Jul 14, 2010 7:59 pm

Shonin wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Shonin wrote:
I'm not sure that it's any more problematic than Nonself, which is widely misunderstood too.
The difference is that the Buddha taught anatta and we have to the suttas to work with to get an intellectual understanding and as a guide to practice. Non-duality is a later construct that the Buddha did not teach.
Earlier construct... later construct. Actually it is even later than Mahayana. It's not a Mahayana term at all in fact. Nonduality is a modern, Western term. Nonduality is a quality that is described by both Theravada terms such as Anatta and by Mahayana terms such as Sunyata. There are plenty of Mahayana descriptions of Sunyata which are largely very consistent. However, I do agree that Theravada has a more clear and coherent theoretical framework than Mahayana.
It depends upon which term you are using here. There is, of course, the tendency to conflate the
Hindu term advaita with the Mahayanist term advaya, which actually point to very different things. The use of the term "non-duality" for Buddhist things, be it Mahayana and especially Theravada, is very sloppy, and I certainly would not agree with: "Nonduality is a quality that is described by . . . Theravada terms such as Anatta . . . ." either on an experiential basis or an intellectual basis. Do we want to go into this in detail?
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

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

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

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tiltbillings
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Post by tiltbillings » Wed Jul 14, 2010 8:07 pm

Shonin wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Shonin wrote: it's the experience that counts the most.
That is kind of the problem, innit? There are claims of experiences of non-duality all over the place, which if are true reduces to the Buddha's teaching to nothing special.
Is being special what is important to you?
And if it were?
Also, having a nondual experience is not by itself enough to end suffering permanently. It has to produce insight into the constructed nature of self, and thus undermine the habits of clinging identification that produce the sense of self, and suffering. If the experience is a one-off whizz-bang experience that leads to no maturity of understanding, or if it leads to all sorts of metaphysical interpretations then it is perhaps less likely to end suffering.
It might be of importance here that "non-duality" for Buddhists be define by those who hold to it and contrasted with the Hindu variety, if any contrast is to be found.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

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

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

Shonin
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Post by Shonin » Wed Jul 14, 2010 8:23 pm

tiltbillings wrote:Do we want to go into this in detail?
Well, I've already spent quite a lot of time making this case. I'm not sure I can spend much more. Basically - and this is confirmed experientially for me as well as being an intellectual position - the disappearance of the sense of self is not annihilation or oblivion or an experience of loss. Rather, it is an intimacy with (or 'non-separation' from) all phenomena. The sense of self and the sense of not-self/other are mutually dependent. They arise and vanish together. The end of the conceit 'I am' necessarily ends the notion/sense of that which is 'not-I', in other words, it is the duality of self/other which ends.

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tiltbillings
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Post by tiltbillings » Wed Jul 14, 2010 8:32 pm

Shonin wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:Do we want to go into this in detail?
Well, I've already spent quite a lot of time making this case. I'm not sure I can spend much more. Basically - and this is confirmed experientially for me as well as being an intellectual position - the disappearance of the sense of self is not annihilation or oblivion or an experience of loss. Rather, it is an intimacy with (or 'non-separation' from) all phenomena. The sense of self and the sense of not-self/other are mutually dependent. They arise and vanish together. The end of the conceit 'I am' necessarily ends the notion/sense of that which is 'not-I', in other words, it is the duality of self/other which ends.
Okay. Taking this as being an accurate reflection of of insight, why saddle this with a term - non-duality - that is so over-loaded with all sort of things that have not a thing to do with this sort of experience?
Let me give a description of this sort of thing:
During a three month vipassana retreat I was suffering from muscle spasms in my back. Very, very painful, and having struggled with it greatly, I went to one of the teachers there, Joseph Goldstein, who said that I should use the pain as the object of awareness. Damn, the obvious is stated, but sometimes being told the obvious is all that is needed.

My next chance to sit was during the evening Dharma talk. As usual the pain started as I assumed my sitting posture. I had all I could do to keep from bolting out of the room to get away from the pain of the posture. With no small effort I was able to bring attention to the pain. As the pain became the object of my attention, everything else was blocked out.

Intense, deep concentration. I heard nothing, was aware of nothing going on around me. There was just pain. Once I was able to establish awareness on – in – the pain, I was able to relax into it. The mindfulness became clear and very precise.

The pain which had been a solid rock like thing became a play of sensation changing at an incredible rate, and the closer I attended to the change the clearer it became. There was no thinking about this, just attending to what was happening. As the muscles spasmed, sending out a paroxysm of pain, there was contracting from the pain – it was not as I wanted it to be - I was suffering.

As the attention become more precise, the pain and suffering were seen as separate but inter-related things, the "I" was an add-on to the pain giving it the sense of suffering and the contracting from that – I do not want this pain.

In the simple act of attending to the pain, this whole dynamic concatenation became clear and obvious, and with that insight the next spasm was not painful. It was, rather, a play of very, very rapidly changing sensations that was empty of a sense of "I". It was even empty of the sense of the concept of pain. The sense of "I" that arose was changing in response the changing conditions, and it, in its arising and changing, was seen as empty of any solidity.

With that there was no resistance, no more contraction. There came a remarkable relaxation of my body, and my attention became very broad and open, attentive to the rise and fall of whatever came into its purview.

The limitations of my body became transparent, there being no inside, no outside. It was all very ordinary: there was the Dharma talk that was happening, the coughing, shuffling of the other students, and the stuff happening "inside" of me. All just stuff happening with incredible rapidity and incredible clarity. It just was, empty, clear rising and falling. Suchness. Openness.
Nowhere in this do I see "non-dual" and all its baggage as being applicable. All "non-dual" would do is add a conceptual coloration that has no place here.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

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

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

Shonin
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Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Post by Shonin » Wed Jul 14, 2010 8:59 pm

If you have experienced such things yourself you will know that at those times, neither 'I' not 'not-I' are created. Rather things just 'are'. The split that dominates most of our human experiences, the constructed existential division between self and other disappears along with the angst that goes with it.

And Goldstein is describing this.
... a play of very, very rapidly changing sensations that was empty of a sense of "I".
The limitations of my body became transparent, there being no inside, no outside...
It just was, empty, clear rising and falling. Suchness. Openness.
Nice quote. This is a classic description of what in some traditions might variously be called Samadhi, Sunyata, Suchness or Non-duality.
tiltbillings wrote:why saddle this with a term - non-duality - that is so over-loaded with all sort of things that have not a thing to do with this sort of experience?
tiltbillings wrote:All "non-dual" would do is add a conceptual coloration that has no place here.
Nothing can be expressed without concepts - it seems that much of the baggage attached to 'Nonduality' for you, you have brought here yourself. The Buddha taught according to the concepts familiar with his audience - including concepts like 'Brahman' and 'Brahma-realms'. This seems like a wise strategy - not getting too hung up on terminology but expressing wisdom expediently through whatever terms are familiar.

If 'non-duality' is problematic for you then simply don't use it. However, misrepresenting what it means in a Buddhist context and then attacking that misrepresentation is unneccessary as well as cultivating harmful sectarian strife.

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