Anattā

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Will
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Re: two truths

Post by Will » Sun Feb 01, 2009 5:58 am

This is a good explanation of the two truths, in Theravada:

http://www.dhammaweb.net/dhamma_news/view.php?id=390" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Bhante, "all dhammas, conditioned and unconditioned, are empty of self..." or something very close to that, is in the Dhammapada:
279. "All things are not-self" — when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering. This is the path to purification
.
Last edited by Will on Sun Feb 01, 2009 6:07 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Anattā

Post by retrofuturist » Sun Feb 01, 2009 6:01 am

Thanks Will.
Theravada Buddhism had described two Truths; Absolute Truth (Paramatha Sathya) and Conventional Truth (Sammuti Sathya).
I knew of these, just not under the collective name of "the two truths". I will admit that I don't understand how my earlier expressed understanding falls foul of bhante's general rule about the two truths, but unless venerable Dhammanando wishes to explain further, I'll accept that this isn't necessarily the forum to pursue it.

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

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

“Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” (Flannery O'Connor)

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Re: Anattā

Post by Dhammanando » Sun Feb 01, 2009 6:22 am

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote:What is the doctrine of the two truths?
From the Manorathapūraṇī:
  • duve saccāni akkhāsi
    sambuddho vadataṃ varo
    sammutiṃ paramatthañca
    tatiyaṃ nupalabbhati


    The Awakened One, best of speakers,
    Spoke two kinds of truths:
    The conventional and the ultimate.
    A third truth does not obtain.

    tattha:
    saṅketavacanaṃ saccaṃ
    lokasammutikāraṇaṃ
    paramatthavacanaṃ saccaṃ
    dhammānaṃ tathalakkhaṇan ti


    Therein:
    The speech wherewith the world converses is true
    On account of its being agreed upon by the world.
    The speech which describes what is ultimate is also true,
    Through characterizing dhammas as they really are.

    tasmā vohārakusalassa
    lokanāthassa satthuno
    sammutiṃ voharantassa
    musāvādo na jāyatī ti


    Therefore, being skilled in common usage,
    False speech does not arise in the Teacher,
    Who is Lord of the World,
    When he speaks according to conventions.
    (Mn. i. 95)


Conventional truth (sammuti-sacca):

1. Treats of concepts (paññatti), i.e., things which are mere speech, such as 'self', 'person', 'life', 'butter-jar' etc.
2. Is used to expound teachings whose meaning warrants interpretation (neyyattha).
3. Is chiefly, though not exclusively, the province of the Sutta and Vinaya Piṭakas.

Ultimate truth (paramattha-sacca):

1. Treats of real existents (dhammā), such as the earth element, eye-consciousness, greed, Nibbāna, etc.
2. Is used to expound teachings whose meaning is definitive (nītattha).
3. Is chiefly, though not exclusively, the province of the Abhidhamma Piṭaka.


From Nyanatiloka's Dictionary of Buddhist Terms"
  • Paramattha (-sacca, -vacana, -desanā): ‘truth (or term, exposition) that is true in the highest (or ultimate) sense’, as contrasted with the ‘conventional truth’ (vohāra-sacca), which is also called ‘commonly accepted truth’ (sammuti-sacca; in Skr: saṃvṛti-satya). The Buddha, in explaining his doctrine, sometimes used conventional language and sometimes the philosophical mode of expression which is in accordance whith undeluded insight into reality. In that ultimate sense, existence is a mere process of physical and mental phenomena within which, or beyond which, no real ego-entity nor any abiding substance can ever be found. Thus, whenever the suttas speak of man, woman or person, or of the rebirth of a being, this must not be taken as being valid in the ultimate sense, but as a mere conventional mode of speech (vohāra-vacana).

    It is one of the main characteristics of the Abhidhamma Piṭaka, in distinction from most of the Sutta Piṭaka, that it does not employ conventional language, but deals only with ultimates, or realities in the highest sense (paramattha-dhammā). But also in the Sutta Piṭaka there are many expositions in terms of ultimate language (paramattha-desanā), namely, wherever these texts deal with the groups (khandhā), elements (dhātu) or sense-bases (āyatana), and their components; and wherever the 3 characteristics (ti-lakkhaṇa, q.v.) are applied. The majority of Sutta texts, however, use the conventional language, as appropriate in a practical or ethical context, because it “would not be right to say that ‘the groups’ (khandhā) feel shame, etc.”

    It should be noted, however, that also statements of the Buddha couched in conventional language, are called ‘truth’ (vohāra-sacca), being correct on their own level, which does not contradict the fact that such statements ultimately refer to impermanent and impersonal processes.

    The two truths - ultimate and conventional - appear in that form only in the commentaries, but are implied in a sutta-distinction of ‘explicit (or direct) meaning’ (nītattha, q.v.) and ‘implicit meaning (to be inferred)’ (neyyattha). Further, the Buddha repeatedly mentioned his reservations when using conventional speech, e.g. in D. 9: “These are merely names, expressions, turns of speech, designations in common use in the world, which the Perfect One (Tathāgata) uses without misapprehending them.” See also S. I. 25.

    The term paramattha, in the sense here used, occurs in the first para. of the Kathāvatthu, a work of the Abhidhamma Piṭaka (s. Guide, p. 62). (App: vohāra). The commentarial discussions on these truths (Com. to D. 9 and M. 5) have not yet been translated in full. On these see K N. Jayatilleke, Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge (London, 1963).

    Sammuti-sacca:conventional truth’, is identical with vohāra-sacca (s. paramattha-sacca).

    Vohāra-desanā:conventional exposition’, as distinguished from an explanation true in the highest sense (paramattha-desanā, q.v.). It is also called sammuti-sacca (in Sanskrit saṃvṛti). (App.).
Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
“Keep to your own pastures, bhikkhus, walk in the haunts where your fathers roamed.
If ye thus walk in them, Māra will find no lodgement, Māra will find no foothold.”
— Cakkavattisīhanāda Sutta

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Re: Anattā

Post by Dhammanando » Sun Feb 01, 2009 6:44 am

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote:I knew of these, just not under the collective name of "the two truths". I will admit that I don't understand how my earlier expressed understanding falls foul of bhante's general rule about the two truths,
When expounding the Dhamma by way of paramattha-desanā it is perfectly correct to say that there is no self. This is not a speculative view.

When we speak of 'self' we are speaking either about a reality (dhamma) or a concept (paññatti). Examples of the former would be talk about the "I am conceit" (which would have to do with the mental factor of māna) or about personality view (which would have to do with the mental factor of diṭṭhi).

Examples of the latter would be (1) innocuous usages, such as when an arahant says "I will go to Rājagaha" or "I've hurt myself", but does not misapprehend his words, since he knows that there are really only dhammas; or (2) non-innocuous usages such as: "The self and the world are eternal, barren like a mountain-peak, set firmly as a post. These beings rush round, circulate, pass away and re-arise, but this remains eternally," and all the other erroneous views given in the Brahmajāla Sutta and elsewhere.

The arahant and the person of wrong view both resort to the term 'self', but whereas the one is misled by his concept, the other knows that dhammas are real but paññattis are not, and so is not misled.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
“Keep to your own pastures, bhikkhus, walk in the haunts where your fathers roamed.
If ye thus walk in them, Māra will find no lodgement, Māra will find no foothold.”
— Cakkavattisīhanāda Sutta

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Re: Anattā

Post by retrofuturist » Sun Feb 01, 2009 7:11 am

Greetings bhante,

Does reality (dhamma) in this case refer to a phenomenological reality or ontological reality?

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

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

“Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” (Flannery O'Connor)

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Re: Anattā

Post by Jechbi » Sun Feb 01, 2009 7:36 am

Seems like we just end up with the same basic either/or choice. The idea of "phenomenological reality" relates to the self. The idea of "ontological reality" takes self out of the equation (but you still need to understand the notion of self to understand why ontological is ontological and not phenomenological).
So aren't both ideas still bound to the notion of self?
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.

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Re: Anattā

Post by Dhammanando » Sun Feb 01, 2009 7:56 am

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote:Does reality (dhamma) in this case refer to a phenomenological reality or ontological reality?
It's quite a disputed point, and one that seems to have a number of heavyweight scholars lined up on both sides. My own view is that the ontological reading is rather better supported in Theravādin Abhidhamma texts.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
“Keep to your own pastures, bhikkhus, walk in the haunts where your fathers roamed.
If ye thus walk in them, Māra will find no lodgement, Māra will find no foothold.”
— Cakkavattisīhanāda Sutta

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Re: Anattā

Post by Dhammanando » Sun Feb 01, 2009 8:11 am

Hi Jechbi,
Jechbi wrote:Seems like we just end up with the same basic either/or choice. The idea of "phenomenological reality" relates to the self.
Well, I’m not so sure about that. It would of course be true if one were talking strictly about Husserlian phenomenology, with its transcendental ego etc.; but my impression is that hardly any of the Buddhists who like to go tossing the word “phenomenological” about are using it in a Husserlian or any other narrowly technical sense (the exceptions are Ñāṇavīra with the Theravada and Dan Lusthaus with the Yogācāra). What they really seem to mean is something rather vaguer, like “experiential”.
The idea of "ontological reality" takes self out of the equation (but you still need to understand the notion of self to understand why ontological is ontological and not phenomenological).
Could you expand on this?

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
“Keep to your own pastures, bhikkhus, walk in the haunts where your fathers roamed.
If ye thus walk in them, Māra will find no lodgement, Māra will find no foothold.”
— Cakkavattisīhanāda Sutta

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Re: Anattā

Post by retrofuturist » Sun Feb 01, 2009 8:18 am

Greetings,

Just for clarification, when I said phenomenological earlier, I was referring to it in the following sense.

phenomenology
1. A philosophy or method of inquiry based on the premise that reality consists of objects and events as they are perceived or understood in human consciousness and not of anything independent of human consciousness.

Source: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/phenomenology" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

The argument I was making earlier was that if something cannot be verified phenomenologically, it is not thereby disproved ontologically.

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

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

“Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” (Flannery O'Connor)

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Will
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Re: Anattā

Post by Will » Sun Feb 01, 2009 3:56 pm

As long as big words are appearing, here are two definitions of Ontology:
1 : a branch of metaphysics concerned with the nature and relations of being
2 : a particular theory about the nature of being or the kinds of things that have existence
The first one does not sound useful for self or non-self study. The second might be applicable if being and existence are considered conventional truths and their character or nature as supreme truth. So along that line I would guess that Dhamma is conventionally ontological and supremely phenomenological; since both of the two truths are true and the Dhamma is Truth.

When Dhammapada 279 says everything is anatta, it means from the absolute truth point of view, not the relative.
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Re: Anattā

Post by Jechbi » Sun Feb 01, 2009 4:55 pm

Hello Bhante,
Dhammanando wrote:
Jechbi wrote:Seems like we just end up with the same basic either/or choice. The idea of "phenomenological reality" relates to the self.
Well, I’m not so sure about that. It would of course be true if one were talking strictly about Husserlian phenomenology, with its transcendental ego etc.; but my impression is that hardly any of the Buddhists who like to go tossing the word “phenomenological” about are using it in a Husserlian or any other narrowly technical sense (the exceptions are Ñāṇavīra with the Theravada and Dan Lusthaus with the Yogācāra). What they really seem to mean is something rather vaguer, like “experiential”.
The cool thing about this discussion is that it takes us straight back to the heart of what is understood by "self," I think. Even "experiential" implies a plurality of phenomena, a division in some sense between the experiencer and that which is experienced. Otherwise it's just a variety of ontology. We can make this division as vague as we want, but on some level it still seems to be there.
Dhammanando wrote:
The idea of "ontological reality" takes self out of the equation (but you still need to understand the notion of self to understand why ontological is ontological and not phenomenological).
Could you expand on this?
I'm probably oversimplifying, so I hope you'll set me straight if that's the case. The whole idea of "ontological reality" seems to pretend that there is some reality out there that stands on its own regardless of whether we're there or not to experience it. That seems to be the sense in which Retro was using it, any way. But it's not even possible to consider the question of whether this reality is "ontological" without (at least in the background) having the thought about the relative absence of an experiencer.

So both ways of thinking about reality (ontological and phenomenological) seem to stem from some understanding of the role (or lack thereof) of self, at least as an underlying assumption. So we just end up where we started.


Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote:phenomenology
1. A philosophy or method of inquiry based on the premise that reality consists of objects and events as they are perceived or understood in human consciousness and not of anything independent of human consciousness.

The argument I was making earlier was that if something cannot be verified phenomenologically, it is not thereby disproved ontologically.
I think I know what you're saying. It seems like either way, there's an underlying assumption about self. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It just seems like we keep coming back to the same core question.

Metta
:smile:
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.

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Re: Anattā

Post by Jechbi » Sun Feb 01, 2009 4:58 pm

I hope my comments are not out of place in this forum.
:namaste:
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.

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Re: Anattā

Post by cooran » Mon Feb 02, 2009 6:09 am

Hello all,

Yesterday after meditation, I asked Ven. Dhammasiha the same question as in the OP (minus the remark about Thanissaro Bhikkhu). He answered the question in an hour and a half. :D His response was extremely interesting and kept us all (about 20 or so) listening and discussing.

The major thing I took away from the session was that the Buddha wasn't giving an answer like a text book or a computer - he refused to do that. What he was doing in the many suttas about Anatta - especially in the discussions with those like Vachagotta - was to try to encourage learners to continuously look for themselves at whatever was arising and see that there was no self in any thing they were considering (be it sights, sounds, smells, tastes, bodily feelings, thoughts, emotions, etc), time and time and time again. After doing this continuously one arrives at certainty about the answer to the question "Is there a Self, and if so where/what is it?" by oneself. No one else can give you that certain knowledge, and once the knowledge is arrived at, no one else can shake that understanding.

metta
Chris
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Re: Anattā

Post by retrofuturist » Mon Feb 02, 2009 7:09 am

Greetings Chris,

You have a good teacher there! :thumbsup:

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

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

“Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” (Flannery O'Connor)

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Re: Anattā

Post by kc2dpt » Mon Feb 02, 2009 4:06 pm

Chris wrote:No one else can give you that certain knowledge
Nevertheless, there will always be people who keep insisting others try to give them that knowledge. :shrug:
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.

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