Thich Nhat Hanh: Dependant Co-arising & Inter-Being

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Thich Nhat Hanh: Dependant Co-arising & Inter-Being

Post by christopher::: » Fri Aug 27, 2010 2:43 am

There used to be a comprehensive discussion over at E-sangha on this topic, TNH's "controversial" ideas about Dependent Origination & Inter-being. People tended to gravitate to two sides on this, "wow, great stuff" vs. "that's not what dependent origination is about." I wanted to share (and perhaps discuss) this essay here, where he describes the Chinese sutras where his ideas came from.
The Sutras on Dependant Co-arising and Great Emptiness

Today is the 19th March and we are in the New Hamlet in the spring retreat. We have studied the Sutra on the Middle Way and at the same time we have looked at the Sutra on Dependent Co-arising and the Sutra on Great Emptiness. The Sutra on Dependent Co-arising is No. 296 in the Samyukta Agama. The word "Samyukta" is generally understood as "miscellaneous." This word gives us a rather negative first impression, as if items classed as "miscellaneous" were unimportant. The Samyukta Agama is, in fact, a collection of sutras which contain the essence of the Buddhadharma. If you look deeply into the sutras of the Samyukta Agama you will see the source of Buddhism, thus making it even greater than the other Agamas, like the Madhya Agama or the Dirgha Agama. These last two collections have been organised in a special manner; but in the Samyukta Agama, presentation is more natural. If you want to get close to the original teachings of the Buddha, examine the Samyukta Agama. It is a collection of short sutras containing the essence of the Buddhadharma. The Sutra on Dependent Co-arising, The Sutra on the Middle Way, and The Sutra on Great Emptiness are all there in the Samyukta Agama.
Links to the Samyukta Agama can be found at the very bottom of this page...
Samyutta Nikaya...

Parallel to the Samyutta Nikaya in Pali is the Samyukta Agama of the Sarvastivada school, preserved in the Chinese Buddhist Canon. This was translated from Sanskrit into Chinese by Gunabhadra in 435-445 CE. It contains approximately 1362 discourses, most of which have close counterparts in the Pali canon.
This one in particular seems to relate to TNH's ideas, a discussion between Ananda and Chanda...
勝妙法 (正見中道) The excellent dharma (Right view, the middle way). T 2, pp. 66b-67a, sūtra No. 262. (= Saṃyutta-nikāya 22. 90 Channa (vol. iii, pp. 132-135)

"O Chanda! an ignorant, ordinary person does not understand that material form is impermanent; that feeling, perception, activities, and consciousness are impermanent. All activities (compounded things) are impermanent; all dharmas (the nature of phenomena) are non-self; nirvāṇa is cessation.

"Now you are capable of receiving the most excellent dharma. Now listen carefully while I teach you."

At that time Chanda thought: "Now I am delighted to have attained the most excellent mind, to have obtained a joyful mind. Now I am capable of receiving the most excellent dharma."

Then Ānanda said to Chanda: "I heard this myself from the Buddha when he was teaching Mahā-Katyāyana:

"Worldlings are confused, depending on two extremes: either existence or non-existence.

"Worldlings become attached to all spheres, setting store by and grasping with the mind.

"Katyāyana! If one does not feel, nor attach to, nor dwell in, nor set store by self, then, when suffering arises, it arises; and when it ceases, it ceases.

"Katyāyana! If one does not doubt, is not perplexed, if one knows it in oneself and not from others, then that is right view, the teaching of the Tathāgata (the Buddha).

"Why is this so? Katyāyana! If one sees rightly, as it really is, the arising of the world, one will not have the annihilationist view of the world. If one sees rightly, as it really is, the cessation of the world, one will not have the eternalist view of the world.

"Katyāyana! The Tathāgata, avoiding these two extremes, teaches the middle way, namely: When this is, that is; this arising, that arises.

"That is to say: Conditioned by ignorance, activities arise, and so on ..., and thus arises the suffering of birth, old age, sickness, death, sorrow, and affliction.

"As for the saying, 'when this is not, that is not; this ceasing, that ceases', this is to say: Ignorance ceasing, activities cease, and so on ..., and thus ceases the suffering of birth, old age, sickness, death, sorrow, and affliction."

When the venerable Ānanda had taught this dharma, the monk Chanda became freed from defilement and stain and acquired the pure dharma-eye.

At that time, the monk Chanda saw dharma, attained dharma, knew dharma, realised dharma; transcended doubt [knowing it] not through another; in the dharma of the Great Teacher, he attained the state of fearlessness.

Respectfully saluting by joining palms, he said to the venerable Ānanda:

"It is just so! As it is the noble life of wisdom, a good friend teaches the discipline and the dharma.

"Now, I have heard the dharma from the venerable Ānanda thus: All activities are empty, tranquil, not to be grasped at; and the destruction of craving, the fading away of desire, cessation, is nirvāṇa.

"The mind is joyful, one dwells rightly in liberation, and there is no returning, no more seeing self; one sees only the true dharma." Then Ānanda said to Chanda:

"Now you have attained great benefit in the profound Buddha-dharma, you have attained the wisdom-eye."

Then the two noble ones, delighted with each other, rose from their seats, and returned each to his place.
Thich Nhat Hanh is interesting, imo, in that he's rare among popular Zen teachers, being one who reads and teaches from both the Mahayana sutras and the Pali Canon suttas extensively. If a Zen Buddhist wants to learn about the foundations of Mindfulness, the brahma-viharas and other topics taught in Theravada, TNH (along with Gil Fronsdal) are primary sources. He has great respect for Theravadan teachings, and has blended them into his understanding of Zen Buddhism and the Madhyamaka view of emptiness.

And yet, from the Theravada side, there seems to be little interest (or respect) for TNH, primarily because of how he presents Dependent Origination, focusing on the interdependence (inter-being) of things as a way of explaining the Buddha's teachings on emptiness and non-self.

So, i thought it might be interesting to look at this a bit more deeply, if anyone is interested.

Do his ideas hold water, are they helpful, are they grounded in the Buddha's dhamma?

:anjali:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Dependant Co-arising & Inter-Being

Post by Vepacitta » Fri Aug 27, 2010 3:17 am

That was interesting to see how the Agama reads vis a vis the Pali sutta.

I would say that samyutta means - connected or yoked - not miscellaneous - this is how Ven. Bodhi translates that word. And I trust Ven. Bodhi's translating skills over TNH's.

Y'know - I can't throw back tons of Pali suttas at you - but something about TNH's "inter-is" teaching just doesn't sit well with me. I certainly need to delve further into the Pali Canon, but that teaching just doesn't seem to jive with what is taught there (the P. Canon). I don't think (this is intuition here) that the Buddha was speaking of one great big melting pot of 'oneness' at all - which seems (to me at least) to be what TNH is positing in his particular teaching. TNH's teaching almost sounds like Vedic or Upanishadic texts I've read which implies a "oneness of the all" - or it reminds me of Marianne Williamson - A Course in Miracles Teaching "There is only ONE person here in this room".

I sometimes wonder if TNH isn't trying to 'adjust" Buddhism to suit Western audiences. I'm not accusing him of that - I'm just wondering ... His "Jesus and Buddha" as brothers (or something or other title) book really seems odd to - I don't think those two had anything in common. But it makes most mainstream Westerners happy when people try and "mind-meld" two very disparate systems. It just seems suspect to me. ":See? Buddhism is ok - it's not weird - see how Buddha and Jesus would have been friends. See - the two systems work together well - if you mash them together and conveniently ignore a lot of stuff".

TNH seems like a very nice guy though!

But that's just the view here from Mt. Meru,

V.
I'm your friendly, neighbourhood Asura

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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Dependant Co-arising & Inter-Being

Post by christopher::: » Fri Aug 27, 2010 4:06 am

Hi V, thanks for responding.

It may very well be that his emphasis on inter-being will never mesh well with Theravadan sensibilities. In a sense it's like the Mahayana concept of Buddha Nature, which is seen as an "add-on" by many Theravadans, and a distraction.

I've found these concepts most helpful on two fronts. First, in trying to understand non-self, anatta, emptiness conceptually, it provides another way of thinking about "compounded things." This is NOT how Buddha presented the dhamma, but i don't think it violates his teachings.

Buddha lived in a time and place where early Hindu thought, the Indian model of the Universe, was primary- the dominant conceptual paradigm for all those he was speaking to. His teachings were a response to that, in some sense, a critique, another view presented to the culture he was raised in.

What i think is potentially useful with TNH's teachings is that he is speaking to people in a different age, different cultures, where the socio-cultural self has been built up into something very solid, and science has provided us with a much more detailed understanding of how the Universe is organized, how things work.

The Judeo-Christian and Scientific models of the Universe are now primary, dominant, and i think TNH is addressing that.
"What is non-self, Anatta (Pali)? It means impermanence. If things are impermanent, they don't remain the same things forever. You of this moment are no longer you of a minute ago. There is no permanent entity within us, there is only a stream of being. There is always a lot of input and output. The input and the output happen in every second, and we should learn how to look at life as streams of being, and not as separate entities. This is a very profound teaching of the Buddha. For instance, looking into a flower, you can see that the flower is made of many elements that we can call non-flower elements. When you touch the flower, you touch the cloud. You cannot remove the cloud from the flower, because if you could remove the cloud from the flower, the flower would collapse right away. You don't have to be a poet in order to see a cloud floating in the flower, but you know very well that without the clouds there would be no rain and no water for the flower to grow. So cloud is part of flower, and if you send the element cloud back to the sky, there will be no flower. Cloud is a non-flower element. And the sunshine…you can touch the sunshine here. If you send back the element sunshine, the flower will vanish. And sunshine is another non-flower element. And earth, and gardener…if you continue, you will see a multitude of non-flower elements in the flower. In fact, a flower is made only with non-flower elements. It does not have a separate self.

A flower cannot be by herself alone. A flower has to "inter-be" with everything else that is called non-flower. That is what we call inter-being. You cannot be, you can only inter-be. The word inter-be can reveal more of the reality than the word "to be". You cannot be by yourself alone, you have to inter-be with everything else. So the true nature of the flower is the nature of inter-being, the nature of no self. The flower is there, beautiful, fragrant, yes, but the flower is empty of a separate self. To be empty is not a negative note. Nagarjuna, of the second century, said that because of emptiness, everything becomes possible.

So a flower is described as empty. But I like to say it differently. A flower is empty only of a separate self, but a flower is full of everything else. The whole cosmos can be seen, can be identified, can be touched, in one flower. So to say that the flower is empty of a separate self also means that the flower is full of the cosmos. It's the same thing. So you are of the same nature as a flower: you are empty of a separate self, but you are full of the cosmos. You are as wonderful as the cosmos, you are a manifestation of the cosmos. So non-self is another guide that Buddha offers us in order for us to successfully practice looking deeply. What does it mean to look deeply? Looking deeply means to look in such a way that the true nature of impermanence and non-self can reveal themselves to you. Looking into yourself, looking into the flower, you can touch the nature of impermanence and the nature of non-self, and if you can touch the nature of impermanence and non-self deeply, you can also touch the nature of nirvana, which is the Third Dharma Seal."

~Thich Nhat Hanh
The Island of Self
Image
Last edited by christopher::: on Fri Aug 27, 2010 4:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Dependant Co-arising & Inter-Being

Post by Lazy_eye » Fri Aug 27, 2010 4:32 am

Christopher,

I remember that thread over at E-sangha! And one thing that bothered me about it was that quite a few people seemed to completely overlook sunyata as a necessary context. It seems to me basically incorrect to view "interbeing" as a funky interpretation of dependent origination, and then fault TNH for misinterpreting the latter. Interbeing, as far as I can tell, is a synonym for Mahayana "emptiness". So we would have to assess it through that lens -- is it a valid restatement of prajnaparamita as conveyed in the Heart Sutra, etc.

As for the great melting pot of oneness, that brings us back to the argument about non-duality, right? It seems to be well-established that Theravada does not teach non-duality, and evidently Nagarjuna didn't either (see the duel over dualism at http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f= ... 6&start=20" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;).

Linji, on the other hand....

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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Dependant Co-arising & Inter-Being

Post by christopher::: » Fri Aug 27, 2010 4:51 am

Lazy_eye wrote:Christopher,

I remember that thread over at E-sangha! And one thing that bothered me about it was that quite a few people seemed to completely overlook sunyata as a necessary context. It seems to me basically incorrect to view "interbeing" as a funky interpretation of dependent origination, and then fault TNH for misinterpreting the latter. Interbeing, as far as I can tell, is a synonym for Mahayana "emptiness". So we would have to assess it through that lens -- is it a valid restatement of prajnaparamita as conveyed in the Heart Sutra, etc.
Yes! Exactly, TNH's ideas about inter-being are frequently taken out of context, by lots of folks, New Age, Christian, Buddhist, etc. And i agree with your assessment, the concept is really meant to be understood within that larger framework, where all these ideas "inter-be."

As for the concept of non-duality, i'd rather not touch that, if possible...

:tongue:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Dependant Co-arising & Inter-Being

Post by Fruitzilla » Fri Aug 27, 2010 5:29 am

christopher::: wrote:
Lazy_eye wrote:Christopher,

I remember that thread over at E-sangha! And one thing that bothered me about it was that quite a few people seemed to completely overlook sunyata as a necessary context. It seems to me basically incorrect to view "interbeing" as a funky interpretation of dependent origination, and then fault TNH for misinterpreting the latter. Interbeing, as far as I can tell, is a synonym for Mahayana "emptiness". So we would have to assess it through that lens -- is it a valid restatement of prajnaparamita as conveyed in the Heart Sutra, etc.
Yes! Exactly, TNH's ideas about inter-being are frequently taken out of context, by lots of folks, New Age, Christian, Buddhist, etc. And i agree with your assessment, the concept is really meant to be understood within that larger framework, where all these ideas "inter-be."

As for the concept of non-duality, i'd rather not touch that, if possible...

:tongue:
I'm just a dilletante as far as Mahayana history is concerned, but didn't the prajnaparamita originate in India, whereas TNH seems to get most of his inspiration (indirectly?) from China?
And seeing as Hua-yen is the only Chinese "metaphysical" school of buddhism, restating Indra's Net as interbeing just seems logical and natural?

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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Dependant Co-arising & Inter-Being

Post by PeterB » Fri Aug 27, 2010 7:19 am

As you say Chris TNH does not sit comfortably with a proportion of Theravadins. Something known to you for some time.
Those who are fans of TNH will see it as profound. Those who are not, wont...you know this.
So I have to wonder exactly what reaction you are looking for.
And why. We have got to know each others wee quirks quite well over the years and I think of you as a friend, I have also noticed that when you go "controversial" there is often a reason not directly obvious.

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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Dependant Co-arising & Inter-Being

Post by christopher::: » Fri Aug 27, 2010 8:20 am

Hi Peter. Have you seen the movie Inception? I ask because i was intrigued by the model they used in the film, with layers of dream consciousness. I know you're not a big fan of Jung or Freud, but i do think there is some truth to that, that motivations are not always conscious.

So in answer to your question, your observations ring true, but at the moment i'm not aware of what those deeper motivations (beyond what i've already stated) may be. I'll let you know if insight arises.
Fruitzilla wrote:
I'm just a dilletante as far as Mahayana history is concerned, but didn't the prajnaparamita originate in India, whereas TNH seems to get most of his inspiration (indirectly?) from China?
And seeing as Hua-yen is the only Chinese "metaphysical" school of buddhism, restating Indra's Net as interbeing just seems logical and natural?
Yes, good point, Fruitzilla. David Loy addressed that at the beginning of this paper...

Indra's Postmodern Net, David Loy
Philosophy East and West Vol. 43, No. 3

July 1993; p. 481-510; Copyright University of Hawaii Press

What we mean by the sutras is the entire universe itself, mountains and rivers and the great earth, plants and trees....
~Dogen

Indra's Net "symbolizes a cosmos in which there is an infinitely repeated interrelationship among all the members of the cosmos," according to Francis Cook. [1] Because the totality is a vast body of members each sustaining and defining all the others, "the cosmos is, in short, a self-creating, self-maintaining, and self-defining organism." It is also nonteleological: "There is no theory of a beginning time, no concept of a creator, no question of the purpose of it all. The universe is taken as a given." Such a universe has no hierarchy: "There is no center, or, perhaps if there is one, it is everywhere." [2]

That this textuality (literally, "that which is woven, web") extends beyond language means that right now you are reading more than the insights of Mahayana Buddhism, as interpreted by me: for in this page is nothing less than the entire universe. The Vietnamese Zen teacher (and poet) Thich Nhat Hanh makes this point well:

If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow, and without trees we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either....

If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the tree cannot grow. In fact, nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look, we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And we see the wheat. We know that the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger's father and mother are in it too.

You cannot point out one thing that is not here -- time, space, the earth, the rain, the minerals in the soil, the sunshine, the cloud, the river, the heat. Everything co-exists with this sheet of paper.... As thin as this sheet of paper is, it contains everything in the universe in it.
[3]

The implications of such interpenetration and "mutual identity" were developed in the Hua-yen tradition of Chinese Buddhism, most notably by its third patriarch and true founder Fa-tsang (A.D. 643-712). Indra's Net was only one, and evidently not the most important, of a number of similes used to demonstrate these difficult concepts. Within the Avatamsaka Sutra itself, Indra's jewels, although glittering like first-magnitude stars, are eclipsed by dust particles (Buddhas "perceive that the fields full of assemblies, the beings and aeons which are as many as all the dust particles, are all present in every particle of dust") and Sudhana's climactic vision of Vairocana's Tower ("within the tower there are hundreds of thousands of towers, each one as exquisitely adorned... and each one, while preserving its individual existence, at the same time offering no obstruction to all the rest"). [4]

Hua-yen treatises employ several other images, including water and waves ("the entire ocean is in one wave, yet the ocean does not shrink; a small wave includes the great ocean, and yet the wave does not expand") [5] and the ocean-mirror samaadhi (each thing in the universe is both a mirror, reflecting all, and an image, reflected by all). Fa-tsang taught Empress Wu using a hall of mirrors and a golden lion ("in each of the lion's eyes, in its ears, limbs, and so forth, down to each and every single hair, there is a golden lion.... Furthermore, each and every hair containing infinite lions returns again to a single hair"). [6] These and other similes are used in Hua-yen to illustrate the central teachings of Mahayana."


1. Francis H. Cook, Hua-yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1977), p. 2. Hua-yen is the Chinese translation of Avata.msaka. "Flower Garland."

2. Ibid.

3. Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of Understanding (Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1988), pp. 3-5.

4. In Paul Williams, Mahaayaana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 124, 125.

5. Fa-tsang, quoted in Garma C. C. Chang, The Buddhist Teaching of Totality: The Philosophy of Hua-yen Buddhism (London: Allen and Unwin, 1972), p. 146.

6. In Chang, The Buddhist Teaching of Totality, p. 229.
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Dependant Co-arising & Inter-Being

Post by PeterB » Fri Aug 27, 2010 8:27 am

I think that probably Lazy Eye is correct...Interbeing is actually TNH's take not on D.O. but on Sunyata. And as such represents what from a strictly Theravadin view verges on papanca.
Which means that what you are likely to get on Dhamma Wheel are the views of those sympatico to the Mahayana, and from the Theravadins..not so much.

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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Dependant Co-arising & Inter-Being

Post by christopher::: » Fri Aug 27, 2010 8:45 am

PeterB wrote:I think that probably Lazy Eye is correct...Interbeing is actually TNH's take not on D.O. but on Sunyata. And as such represents what from a strictly Theravadin view verges on papanca.
Which means that what you are likely to get on Dhamma Wheel are the views of those sympatico to the Mahayana, and from the Theravadins..not so much.
Had to look that one up...
Conceptual Proliferation (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

In Buddhism, Conceptual Proliferation or Self-Reflexive Thinking (Pali: papañca, Sanskrit prapañca) refers to the deluded conceptualization of the world through the use of ever-expanding language and concepts, all rooted in the delusion of self; it is intended to elucidate reality although it has the unexpected result of distorting it and\or creating a false perceptual reality.
The term is mentioned in a variety of suttas in the Pali canon, such as the Madhupindika Sutta (MN 18) and is mentioned in Mahayana Buddhism as well. When referencing the concepts derived from this dubious process, such concepts are referred to in Pali as "Papañca-sañña-sankha".

Aprapañca

Aprapañca is the diametrical opposition of prapañca.

Further reading

Nananda, Bhikkhu (1976). Concept And Reality In Early Buddhist Thought. Buddhist Publication Society. ISBN 9552401364.
Papañca-Saññā-Sankhā - An essay by Ven. Bhikkhu N. Ñāṇamoli.
And i liked the last part...
See also

Monkey mind
Touché, Peter!

:tongue:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Dependant Co-arising & Inter-Being

Post by PeterB » Fri Aug 27, 2010 9:19 am

On the similar thread that you posted on ZFI Chris the discussion swiftly involves concepts from The Heart Sutra and The Diamond Sutra , as it will in a Mahayana context.
It it is not too inaccurate to say that mainstream Theravada does not on the whole accept the authority of those Sutras in terms of their relationship to the historical Buddha.
There is therefore no Theravada hook on which to hang concepts like Sunyata. Clearly they have their origin in the concept of Anatta, but developed beyond what is deductible from the Canon. There are therefore widely seen in the Theravada as proliferation of ideas.

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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Dependant Co-arising & Inter-Being

Post by Paññāsikhara » Fri Aug 27, 2010 9:35 am

christopher::: wrote:There used to be a comprehensive discussion over at E-sangha on this topic, TNH's "controversial" ideas about Dependent Origination & Inter-being. People tended to gravitate to two sides on this, "wow, great stuff" vs. "that's not what dependent origination is about." I wanted to share (and perhaps discuss) this essay here, where he describes the Chinese sutras where his ideas came from.
The Sutras on Dependant Co-arising and Great Emptiness

Today is the 19th March and we are in the New Hamlet in the spring retreat. We have studied the Sutra on the Middle Way and at the same time we have looked at the Sutra on Dependent Co-arising and the Sutra on Great Emptiness. The Sutra on Dependent Co-arising is No. 296 in the Samyukta Agama. The word "Samyukta" is generally understood as "miscellaneous." This word gives us a rather negative first impression, as if items classed as "miscellaneous" were unimportant. The Samyukta Agama is, in fact, a collection of sutras which contain the essence of the Buddhadharma. If you look deeply into the sutras of the Samyukta Agama you will see the source of Buddhism, thus making it even greater than the other Agamas, like the Madhya Agama or the Dirgha Agama. These last two collections have been organised in a special manner; but in the Samyukta Agama, presentation is more natural. If you want to get close to the original teachings of the Buddha, examine the Samyukta Agama. It is a collection of short sutras containing the essence of the Buddhadharma. The Sutra on Dependent Co-arising, The Sutra on the Middle Way, and The Sutra on Great Emptiness are all there in the Samyukta Agama.
Links to the Samyukta Agama can be found at the very bottom of this page...
Samyutta Nikaya...

Parallel to the Samyutta Nikaya in Pali is the Samyukta Agama of the Sarvastivada school, preserved in the Chinese Buddhist Canon. This was translated from Sanskrit into Chinese by Gunabhadra in 435-445 CE. It contains approximately 1362 discourses, most of which have close counterparts in the Pali canon.
...

Thich Nhat Hanh is interesting, imo, in that he's rare among popular Zen teachers, being one who reads and teaches from both the Mahayana sutras and the Pali Canon suttas extensively. If a Zen Buddhist wants to learn about the foundations of Mindfulness, the brahma-viharas and other topics taught in Theravada, TNH (along with Gil Fronsdal) are primary sources. He has great respect for Theravadan teachings, and has blended them into his understanding of Zen Buddhism and the Madhyamaka view of emptiness.

And yet, from the Theravada side, there seems to be little interest (or respect) for TNH, primarily because of how he presents Dependent Origination, focusing on the interdependence (inter-being) of things as a way of explaining the Buddha's teachings on emptiness and non-self.

So, i thought it might be interesting to look at this a bit more deeply, if anyone is interested.

Do his ideas hold water, are they helpful, are they grounded in the Buddha's dhamma?

:anjali:
Just highlighted a couple of interesting points above. Why? Because the sutra named "The Sutra on Great Emptiness" which appears in the Sarvastivada Agamas, does not at all appear in the Pali Theravada suttas at all. One may wish to keep this in mind in the face of the claims made above.
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tiltbillings
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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Dependant Co-arising & Inter-Being

Post by tiltbillings » Fri Aug 27, 2010 2:44 pm

Paññāsikhara wrote: Just highlighted a couple of interesting points above. Why? Because the sutra named "The Sutra on Great Emptiness" which appears in the Sarvastivada Agamas, does not at all appear in the Pali Theravada suttas at all. One may wish to keep this in mind in the face of the claims made above.
Always wonder, however, about what has been edited and what has been edited out.
>> 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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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Dependant Co-arising & Inter-Being

Post by christopher::: » Sat Aug 28, 2010 12:55 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:
christopher::: wrote:There used to be a comprehensive discussion over at E-sangha on this topic, TNH's "controversial" ideas about Dependent Origination & Inter-being. People tended to gravitate to two sides on this, "wow, great stuff" vs. "that's not what dependent origination is about." I wanted to share (and perhaps discuss) this essay here, where he describes the Chinese sutras where his ideas came from.
The Sutras on Dependant Co-arising and Great Emptiness

Today is the 19th March and we are in the New Hamlet in the spring retreat. We have studied the Sutra on the Middle Way and at the same time we have looked at the Sutra on Dependent Co-arising and the Sutra on Great Emptiness. The Sutra on Dependent Co-arising is No. 296 in the Samyukta Agama. The word "Samyukta" is generally understood as "miscellaneous." This word gives us a rather negative first impression, as if items classed as "miscellaneous" were unimportant. The Samyukta Agama is, in fact, a collection of sutras which contain the essence of the Buddhadharma. If you look deeply into the sutras of the Samyukta Agama you will see the source of Buddhism, thus making it even greater than the other Agamas, like the Madhya Agama or the Dirgha Agama. These last two collections have been organised in a special manner; but in the Samyukta Agama, presentation is more natural. If you want to get close to the original teachings of the Buddha, examine the Samyukta Agama. It is a collection of short sutras containing the essence of the Buddhadharma. The Sutra on Dependent Co-arising, The Sutra on the Middle Way, and The Sutra on Great Emptiness are all there in the Samyukta Agama.
Links to the Samyukta Agama can be found at the very bottom of this page...
Samyutta Nikaya...

Parallel to the Samyutta Nikaya in Pali is the Samyukta Agama of the Sarvastivada school, preserved in the Chinese Buddhist Canon. This was translated from Sanskrit into Chinese by Gunabhadra in 435-445 CE. It contains approximately 1362 discourses, most of which have close counterparts in the Pali canon.
..
Just highlighted a couple of interesting points above. Why? Because the sutra named "The Sutra on Great Emptiness" which appears in the Sarvastivada Agamas, does not at all appear in the Pali Theravada suttas at all. One may wish to keep this in mind in the face of the claims made above.
This is one of the things i was interested in, finding the corresponding Pali sources. He mentions "The Sutra on Co-Arising" No. 296, that's here...

7. 因緣法及緣生法 The dharma of arising by causal condition and the dharmas arisen by causal condition. T 2, p. 84b, sūtra No. 296. (Saṃyutta-nikāya 12. 20 Paccayo (vol. ii, p. 25). Tripāṭhī, sūtra 14. CSA vol. 2, pp. 34-35; FSA vol. 1, pp. 568-570.)

I quoted from No. 262 earlier because it seemed to relate very much to TNH's ideas, but also couldn't find the corresponding Pali text.

Many of the Samyukta Agama sutras have "emptiness" in their title. Its not clear to me which he's referring to as "The Sutra on Great Emptiness"...
PeterB wrote:
There is therefore no Theravada hook on which to hang concepts like Sunyata. Clearly they have their origin in the concept of Anatta, but developed beyond what is deductible from the Canon. There are therefore widely seen in the Theravada as proliferation of ideas.
You could be right, Peter. Thats one of the reasons i was interested in looking at the suttas TNH was refering to.
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Dependant Co-arising & Inter-Being

Post by Paññāsikhara » Sat Aug 28, 2010 3:01 am

tiltbillings wrote:
Paññāsikhara wrote: Just highlighted a couple of interesting points above. Why? Because the sutra named "The Sutra on Great Emptiness" which appears in the Sarvastivada Agamas, does not at all appear in the Pali Theravada suttas at all. One may wish to keep this in mind in the face of the claims made above.
Always wonder, however, about what has been edited and what has been edited out.
When I flicked through Ven Hanh's article, I can see very clearly the parts where he is reading and studying, and thinking about this, in Chinese (or rather, through the Chinese text and characters). eg. in the comments about "miscellaneous". He's really saying that the word "za" in "Za Ahan Jing" can mean "miscellaneous" in modern speech, which is correct in Chinese. But to translate this as saying "samyukta" means "miscellaneous" is incorrect, because it doesn't mean that at all. The problem is, the meaning of the word "za" in Chinese has shifted over 1500 yrs. This is one reason why I think that the people who work in this area of cross tradition and cross language (esp. over long stretches of history), and those who translate these things, need to be very sharp and sensitive to such issues. Otherwise, some weird results seem to come out. It's not that Ven is wrong at all, just that the English speaker cannot see how he is working from the Chinese.
My recently moved Blog, containing some of my writings on the Buddha Dhamma, as well as a number of translations from classical Buddhist texts and modern authors, liturgy, etc.: Huifeng's Prajnacara Blog.

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