Is Theravada "Realist"?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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kirk5a
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Post by kirk5a » Thu Sep 08, 2011 1:28 pm

If philosophy is "beliefs about reality" I think the answer is that Theravada is not philosophy. To treat it as such is a disservice.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

pulga
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Post by pulga » Thu Sep 08, 2011 1:40 pm

That abstractions and ideas are the same thing; and, though they do not exist apart from images, they are not anchored to any one particular image; but, in the sense that they necessarily have one or another concrete (even if multiple) imaginary content, the abstraction is illusory: abstraction is a discursive escape from the singularity of the real to the plurality of the imaginary -- it is not an escape from the concrete." (from Ven. Ñanavira's Shorter Note on Mano) (my emphasis)

This is about as close to Ven. Ñanananda that Ven. Ñanavira comes. The whole note is worthy of a careful read. What he is explaining is his interpretation of Husserl's theory of categorial intuition (though he may have come by the idea by way of Sartre).

Nicro
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Post by Nicro » Thu Sep 08, 2011 2:18 pm

I don't think its realist.

Reality is what we experience of it. We can't say anything exists outside of our experience. We can't even say if anything exists outside of what our sense doors tell us. I am looking at my computer now, so I am experiencing looking at my computer, but I can't even say if it is real. It is just what my eyes and hands tell me.

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Prasadachitta
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Post by Prasadachitta » Thu Sep 08, 2011 2:56 pm

Spiny O'Norman wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Tilt,
No. It is nominalist: The doctrine holding that abstract concepts, general terms, or universals have no independent existence but exist only as names.
Does Theravada hold that these "abstract concepts, general terms, or universals" point to a "reality, or some aspect of it, [that] is ontologically independent of our conceptual schemes, linguistic practices, beliefs, etc"?

Metta,
Retro. :)
Could the 3 characteristics be pointing to a "reality" which is ontologically independent of our conceptual schemes?

Spiny
Hi Spiny,

What is ontological independence?

What is ontological dependence?

Im at a loss to understand these terms. I barley understand "ontology".

Metta

Prasadachitta
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332

chownah
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Post by chownah » Thu Sep 08, 2011 2:59 pm

I don't get it.....the Buddha taught that The World contains only fabricated things and that all fabricated things are contained in The World. Can this be the same as realism? Can this be different from realism?
chownah

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Prasadachitta
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Post by Prasadachitta » Thu Sep 08, 2011 3:05 pm

Nicro wrote:I don't think its realist.

Reality is what we experience of it. We can't say anything exists outside of our experience. We can't even say if anything exists outside of what our sense doors tell us. I am looking at my computer now, so I am experiencing looking at my computer, but I can't even say if it is real. It is just what my eyes and hands tell me.
Hi Nicro,

Can you say why you think its important to establish our inability to establish anything?

Metta

Prasadachitta
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332

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Prasadachitta
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Post by Prasadachitta » Thu Sep 08, 2011 3:11 pm

chownah wrote:I don't get it.....the Buddha taught that The World contains only fabricated things and that all fabricated things are contained in The World. Can this be the same as realism? Can this be different from realism?
chownah
"Monks, these three are fabricated characteristics of what is fabricated. Which three? Arising is discernible, passing away is discernible, alteration (literally, other-ness) while staying is discernible.

"These are three fabricated characteristics of what is fabricated.

"Now these three are unfabricated characteristics of what is unfabricated. Which three? No arising is discernible, no passing away is discernible, no alteration while staying is discernible.

"These are three unfabricated characteristics of what is unfabricated."
Sankhata Suttahttp://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Hi Chownah,

I have nothing to say about this discourse. I dont think it is meant to be understood in any conventional sense.

Metta

Prasadachitta
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332

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Travis
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Post by Travis » Thu Sep 08, 2011 3:14 pm

:meditate:
Last edited by Travis on Sat Sep 10, 2011 6:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Alex123
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Post by Alex123 » Thu Sep 08, 2011 5:54 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Friends, is Theravada Realist? If so, in what form?
Theravada is a very broad term. Do you include Abhidhamma or not? Interpret some parts of the earliest nikayas in pragmatic or ontological way?

To me it seems that certain kinds of Theravada is closer to some form of nihilism:

"Mereological nihilism (also called compositional nihilism, or rarely simply nihilism) is the position that objects with proper parts do not exist"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mereologic ... e_Nihilism" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Replace objects with concepts, or Atta, and you have basically what Abhidhamma Theravada teaches. Self is a concept made of parts, it is not indivisible whole and as such it doesn't ultimately exist. Some deny the existence of external objects, but affirm the existence of dhammas (parts) that make up what we conceptual call "whole".
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Post by Nicro » Thu Sep 08, 2011 5:55 pm

Prasadachitta wrote:
Nicro wrote:I don't think its realist.

Reality is what we experience of it. We can't say anything exists outside of our experience. We can't even say if anything exists outside of what our sense doors tell us. I am looking at my computer now, so I am experiencing looking at my computer, but I can't even say if it is real. It is just what my eyes and hands tell me.
Hi Nicro,

Can you say why you think its important to establish our inability to establish anything?

Metta

Prasadachitta

I was just saying I don't find the Dhamma to be "realist". From the OP realism says that there is a reality outside of our experience. I was saying reality is our experience and what we experience would be reality. It then goes further because by saying what we experience is reality, we can't say if there is anything beyond what we experience. Experience = Reality= Experience.

This is a good talk here:

http://yuttadhammo.sirimangalo.org/mp3- ... 20_Reality" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Alex123
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Post by Alex123 » Thu Sep 08, 2011 6:56 pm

Hello Nicro,

What about the idea of asaññasatta where it is said that only matter (rūpa) is present and no mind? That shows that Buddhism allows for mind independent rūpa to exist.

What about state called cessation of perception and feelings (saññāvedayitanirodha)? The meditator's body doesn't vanish when his perception & feelings cease. This shows that matter (rūpa) can exist independent of one's perception and feelings.

So in this way, Dhamma is realist when it comes to dhammas such as "rūpa".

Of course the nature of rūpa is not be the same as "whole thing" in naive realism (it seems closer to Mereological nihilism), but rūpa does seem to exist independent of one's perception of it.


With best wishes,

Alex
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

Nicro
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Post by Nicro » Thu Sep 08, 2011 9:33 pm

I guess it depends on how you view those situations. In terms of the actual person its happening to, if there was nothing there at all, they would experience nothing, meaning either they would not remember it all(as in deep sleep) or reality would be nothing in that there is nothing for them to experience.

In the first case you listed it doesn't seem to me to be "no mind" but unconsciousness. This would be like deep sleep where nothing is remembered. So say you were born human, then born into a state of unconsciousness, then human again and you could remember your past lives, it would seem to you that you were human, then died, then were born human again. There would be no remembrance of that state, so as far you are concerned it wasn't real.

In the second case, if one doesn't experience the body then it isn't real. If you were in such a state and were burned, cut, etc.. You wouldn't experience pain, therefore it wouldn't be real to you. This would be seeing not self, impermanence and suffering. If you can enter into a state where there is no connection to the body, then obviously it is not "you". The fact that this change from being aware of the body to being unaware shows impermanence. And you see dissatisfaction because of these changes.

From my point of view, we can only verify what we experience to be reality. In the same way one who is happy, upon seeing a rose will find it beautiful, while one who is angry will only see the thorns. One's reality is beautiful the others is ugly and hurtful. I find this to be the reason to practice Metta and cultivate good thoughts, it impacts your reality. Without practicing Metta, when someone wrongs you, you only see it as them striking out at you. With a Metta filled mind you understand they are the same as you and act out of ignorance just like all unenlightened beings.

In Vipassana you note what you experience. You don't think, "It someone brought me a piece of pie right now I would be so happy!!". Well, you may think that :jumping: but you just note it, you don't purposefully cultivate "what ifs".


Edit: Just to clarify this is just how I see these things from my own experience in practice, I'm not playing the Devil's Advocate or something like that.

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tiltbillings
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Post by tiltbillings » Thu Sep 08, 2011 9:53 pm

Is Theravada "Realist"?
The real question is is: Does it really matter?
>> 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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SDC
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Post by SDC » Fri Sep 09, 2011 12:00 am

I've actually posted this lecture by Venerable Punnaji before in a discussion of nama and rupa, but it addresses this issue too. He discusses John Locke's "theory of mind", the subjective idealism/immaterialism of George Berkeley, and then the phenomenalism of David Hume (which he mistakenly refers to as phenomenology - an almost completely different idea of which, ironically, the Venerable Nanavira Thera did consider to be very closely related to the practice of the Buddha's teaching.)

He briefly explains how he sees Hume's phenomenalist view to be very closely related to the dhamma. And this view, being rooted in both idealism and empiricism, is pretty much the philosophical opposite of realism.

The part of the talk that addresses this is over after the first seven minutes, but the rest of the talk is quite interesting.

I hope this helps. :smile:

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Alex123
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Post by Alex123 » Fri Sep 09, 2011 12:17 am

Hello SDC,

In the early suttas the meditator's body can exist independently of perception and feelings in the state called saññāvedayitanirodha. So personal perception (saññā) and feeling (vedanā) are not causes of the material body.

We cannot will things to change. The external world is not one's imagination, that in theory could be manipulated through "lucid dreaming" or change of perception. This can occur only in a lucid dream.

Because we cannot alter external world, we cannot base stable happiness on it. Pleasure, status, and all the "good" stuff is ultimately dukkha and we need to realize that completely so as to see futility of trying to attain what we cannot attain from the world. The more we see uncontrollability of the world, the more dispassion can be developed leading to cessation of all dukkha.



With best wishes,

Alex
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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