Is Theravada "Realist"?

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

Post by Viscid » Fri Sep 09, 2011 12:20 am

SDC wrote: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.
It really is the closest approximation of the dhamma. The Buddha would've likely stayed silent if you asked him if there was a reality independent of observers.
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Post by Alex123 » Fri Sep 09, 2011 12:25 am

Viscid wrote:
SDC wrote: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.
It really is the closest approximation of the dhamma. The Buddha would've likely stayed silent if you asked him if there was a reality independent of observers.
What about the idea of asaññasatta where it is said that only matter (rūpa) is present and no perception (sañña)? That shows that Buddhism allows for (sañña) independent rūpa to exist. Since, as I understand it, sañña accompanies all mental states, a state without sañña would be without any other mental factors or consciousness. So asaññasatta is an example of a plane where only rūpa can be present.

Also similar with saññāvedayitanirodha in human world. So the Buddha as recorded in the suttas did answer this question.

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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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Post by retrofuturist » Fri Sep 09, 2011 1:02 am

Greetings Alex,
Alex123 wrote:Theravada is a very broad term. Do you include Abhidhamma or not?
Yes, I intended to include anything that falls under the Theravada banner... but in saying that, I recognise that respondents might see some parts as realist, and some parts as not, so if such differentiation is observed it would be relevant to the topic.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

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

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Post by Viscid » Fri Sep 09, 2011 1:04 am

Alex123 wrote:What about the idea of asaññasatta where it is said that only matter (rūpa) is present and no perception (sañña)? That shows that Buddhism allows for (sañña) independent rūpa to exist. Since, as I understand it, sañña accompanies all mental states, a state without sañña would be without any other mental factors or consciousness. So asaññasatta is an example of a plane where only rūpa can be present.
I am not familiar with the source, but I have a hunch that 'rūpa' doesn't necessarily translate into 'matter' in this context.
encyclopedia.com wrote:asaññasattā (Pāli, unconscious beings). Class of gods (devas) who exist on a noumenal plane without conscious experience of any kind. These are typically former practitioners of meditation who, having immersed themselves in the fourth dhyāna for long periods, now incline to dwell with their minds untroubled by any kind of thought or sensation.
As the fourth jhana preceeds the arupa jhanas, 'rūpa' in this case may mean what preceeds the perception of the infinitude of space: space with limits.
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Post by retrofuturist » Fri Sep 09, 2011 1:06 am

Greetings,

Is an explanation of rupa, interpreted as matter, realist?

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

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

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Post by Viscid » Fri Sep 09, 2011 1:06 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Is an explanation of rupa, interpreted as matter, realist?

Metta,
Retro. :)
Absolutely.
"What holds attention determines action." - William James

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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Post by SDC » Fri Sep 09, 2011 1:19 am

Alex123 wrote: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
Hi Alex,

Having not seen either viewpoint stand fully true in my own experience, I cannot say I disagree with you, even though I want to say, "I disagree". :D I very much appreciate the things the Venerable Punnaji brings to the table, and although it did make a lot of sense to me and his explanation was thorough, I can't fully declare that he is correct. I just wanted to let Retro hear it to perhaps clarify his own ideas.

However, I will say that what I have understood intellectually, and with what I have observed so far in my practice, the dhamma is not the way you described. Once again, I'm not saying it is wrong, I'm just not in a place where I understand it that way. I may as time goes on.

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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Post by SDC » Fri Sep 09, 2011 1:27 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Is an explanation of rupa, interpreted as matter, realist?

Metta,
Retro. :)
Yes.

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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Post by Alex123 » Fri Sep 09, 2011 1:39 am

Viscid wrote:
Alex123 wrote:What about the idea of asaññasatta where it is said that only matter (rūpa) is present and no perception (sañña)? That shows that Buddhism allows for (sañña) independent rūpa to exist. Since, as I understand it, sañña accompanies all mental states, a state without sañña would be without any other mental factors or consciousness. So asaññasatta is an example of a plane where only rūpa can be present.
I am not familiar with the source, but I have a hunch that 'rūpa' doesn't necessarily translate into 'matter' in this context.
encyclopedia.com wrote:asaññasattā (Pāli, unconscious beings). Class of gods (devas) who exist on a noumenal plane without conscious experience of any kind. These are typically former practitioners of meditation who, having immersed themselves in the fourth dhyāna for long periods, now incline to dwell with their minds untroubled by any kind of thought or sensation.
As the fourth jhana preceeds the arupa jhanas, 'rūpa' in this case may mean what preceeds the perception of the infinitude of space: space with limits.
Space with what kind of limits, made of what?

The Buddha was clear when He defined rūpa:
"The four great elements, and the form dependent on the four great elements: This is called form."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Four great elements have to exist for it to be called "rūpa".


asaññasattā still are in rūpaloka corresponding to 4th Jhāna plane, not arūpaloka.

And rūpa can still be present and seen by others when one is in saññāvedayitanirodha.
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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Post by retrofuturist » Fri Sep 09, 2011 1:44 am

Greetings Tilt, all,
tiltbillings wrote:
Is Theravada "Realist"?
The real question is is: Does it really matter?
Setting aside for the moment the clever use of the word "matter", one argument I have read suggests it does. It is made by Nananada Bhikkhu here in this interview... http://nidahas.com/2010/09/nanananda-heretic-sage-2/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

For readers, I have attached below what seem to be some pertinent highlights from the interview, as they relate to the question of "Is Theravada Realist?"... (actual quotes by Nanananda are in quotation marks, the rest are by the author)
"Extrem­ism is found not only in ethics, but also in var­i­ous kinds of views. The dual­ity of asti and nāsti has a long his­tory. I don’t have much knowl­edge in the Vedas, but I remem­ber in Ṛg Veda, in the Nāsādīya Sūkta, you get the beau­ti­ful phrase nāsadāsīn no sadāsīt tadānīṃ. They were spec­u­lat­ing about the begin­nings: did exis­tence come from non-existence or vice-versa."

“All those kinds of dual­i­ties, be it asti/nāsti or sabbaṃ ekattaṃ/sabbaṃ puthuttaṃ etc. were rejected by the Bud­dha: majjhena Tathā­gato Dhammaṃ deseti – he taught the Dhamma by the mid­dle. It’s not just the mid­dle path. It’s not a mix­ture of 50% of each. We usu­ally think that the mid­dle is between two ends. It’s a rejec­tion of both ends and an intro­duc­tion of a novel stand­point."

...

The impos­si­bil­ity of mak­ing cat­e­gor­i­cal state­ments about exis­tence was dis­cussed exten­sively in Bhante Ñāṇananda’s The Magic of the Mind, and he reminds me again about the impor­tance of the Kālakārāma Sutta which pro­vided the basis for that book. He quickly adds that the Buddha’s stand is not some­thing like that of his con­tem­po­rary scep­tic agnos­tic Sañ­jaya Bellaṭṭhiputta, the so-called eel-wriggler; rather, the sit­u­a­tion is beyond what could be expressed through the lin­guis­tic medium. It can only be known indi­vid­u­ally: pac­cattaṃ ved­itabbo.

...

His inter­pre­ta­tion of paṭiccasamuppāda, which dra­mat­i­cally devi­ates from the tra­di­tional exe­ge­sis, has earned Bhante Ñāṇananda a few vehe­ment crit­ics. He amus­edly men­tions a recent let­ter sent by a monk where he was accused of ‘being a dis­grace to the Theriya tra­di­tion’. This crit­i­cism, no doubt com­ing from a Ther­avāda dog­ma­tist, is under­stand­able see­ing how accom­mo­dat­ing Bhante Ñāṇananda is when it comes to teach­ings tra­di­tion­ally con­sid­ered Mahāyāna, hence taboo for any self-respecting Ther­avādin. How­ever, if one delves deeper, one would see that he is only try­ing to stay as close as pos­si­ble to early Bud­dhist teachings.

“I didn’t quote from the Mahāyāna texts in the Nib­bāna ser­mons,” he says, “because there was no need. All that was needed was already found in the Sut­tas. Teach­ers like Nāgār­juna brought to light what was already there but was hid­den from view. Unfor­tu­nately his later fol­low­ers turned it in to a vāda.”

He goes on to quote two of his favourite verses from Ven. Nāgārjuna’s Mūlamād­hya­makakārikā (as usual, from memory):

Śūnyatā sarva-dṛṣtīnaṃ proktā niḥsaranaṃ jinaiḥ,
yeṣāṃ śūnyatā-dṛṣtis tān asād­hyān babhāṣire [MK 13.8]

The Vic­to­ri­ous Ones have declared that empti­ness is the relin­quish­ing of all views. Those who are pos­sessed of the view of empti­ness are said to be incorrigible.

Sarva-dṛṣti-prahāṇāya yaḥ sad­dhar­mam adeśayat,
anukam­pam upādāya taṃ namasyāmi gau­tamaṃ [MK 26.30]

I rev­er­ently bow to Gau­tama who, out of com­pas­sion, has taught the doc­trine in order to relin­quish all views.

.....

“When I first read the Kārikā I too was doubt­ing Ven. Nāgārjuna’s san­ity” he laughs. “But the work needs to be under­stood in the con­text. He was tak­ing a jab at the Sarvās­tivādins. To be hon­est, even the oth­ers deserve the rebuke, although they now try to get away by using Sarvās­tivāda as an excuse. How skilled Ven. Nāgār­juna must have been, to com­pose those verses so ele­gantly and fill­ing them with so much mean­ing, like the Dhamma­pada verses. It’s quite amaz­ing."

....

To end the dis­cus­sion I pick up the thorni­est of issues. I ask: “What is a ‘thing’? Is it com­pletely imag­i­nary, or is it some­thing made by the mind using the ingre­di­ents ‘out there’?” A straight­for­ward answer to that rather extrem­ist ques­tion would make Bhante Ñāṇananda’s posi­tion clear on the gamut of views.

“I’m sure you have read Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi’s trans­la­tion of the Saṃyutta Nikāya. You must have come across the Pheṇapindūpama Sutta. In the notes you’ll see Ven. Bodhi explain­ing that although the lump is illu­sory, the ingre­di­ents aren’t. It is worse when it comes to the magic show. He says that only the magic is not real; the magician’s appur­te­nances are. This is a dis­tor­tion of the sim­ile given by the Bud­dha. We must appre­ci­ate the great work done by Ven. Bodhi, but it is unfor­tu­nate that he is bound by the com­men­tar­ial tradition.

“What is con­sid­ered the ‘truth’ is rel­a­tive to each indi­vid­ual. Each per­son gives evi­dence in the court of real­ity based on his own level of expe­ri­ence. For exam­ple, par­ents often give false expla­na­tions to their lit­tle chil­dren. But these are true to the kids. When asked, the kid will tell what his par­ents told him. It’s true for the child, but not for us. In the famous com­men­tar­ial story about Ven. Tissa Thera we find him see­ing a woman as a skele­ton, and say­ing so when asked by her hus­band. The ven­er­a­ble was closer to the truth.

“When we tran­scend one level of truth, the new level becomes what is true for us. The pre­vi­ous one is now false. What one expe­ri­ences may not be what is expe­ri­enced by the world in gen­eral, but that may well be truer. But how do we reach the ulti­mate truth? This is beau­ti­fully explained in the Dhātuvibhaṇga Sutta: Taṃ saccaṃ, yaṃ amosad­hammaṃ nib­bānaṃ. And from the Dvay­atānu­pas­sanā Sutta: amosad­hammaṃ nib­bānaṃ tad ariyā sac­cato vidū. It is Nib­bāna that is of non-falsifying nature, where there is no ‘thing’. Nib­bāna is the high­est truth because there is no other truth to tran­scend it.

“The Bud­dha called him­self the first chick in this era to break out of the egg of igno­rance. All these won­der­ful things we do such as space travel all hap­pen inside this saḷāyatana shell. If paṭiccasamuppāda is pre­sented prop­erly, per­haps a few more chicks would be able to break through today.

“Ven. Nāgār­juna was right: at the end, all is empty. We are not will­ing to accept that exis­tence is a per­ver­sion. Exis­tence is suf­fer­ing pre­cisely because it is a perversion.”

It may not be a cat­e­gor­i­cal answer, and it prob­a­bly isn’t pos­si­ble to give one.
Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

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

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Post by SDC » Fri Sep 09, 2011 2:08 am

Alex123 wrote:The Buddha was clear when He defined rūpa:
"The four great elements, and the form dependent on the four great elements: This is called form."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Four great elements have to exist for it to be called "rūpa".
I don't think it was intended to be understood that the elements are existing independent of a subject. But I am not saying that there is only the subject imagining all these objects.

These elements can be identified in experience. Whether it is something I am seeing in front of me right now or something I am imagining, those elements can be identified in that experience. That make sense to me, but that doesn't make it correct.

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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Post by Alex123 » Fri Sep 09, 2011 2:18 am

“What is con­sid­ered the ‘truth’ is rel­a­tive to each indi­vid­ual. Each per­son gives evi­dence in the court of real­ity based on his own level of expe­ri­ence. For exam­ple, par­ents often give false expla­na­tions to their lit­tle chil­dren. But these are true to the kids. When asked, the kid will tell what his par­ents told him. It’s true for the child, but not for us. In the famous com­men­tar­ial story about Ven. Tissa Thera we find him see­ing a woman as a skele­ton, and say­ing so when asked by her hus­band. The ven­er­a­ble was closer to the truth.
"Truth is relative" is a powerful tool used by the sophists to prove validity of additional, their own views using rhetoric and logic.
Relativism is the concept that points of view have no absolute truth or validity, having only relative, subjective value according to differences in perception and consideration...Sophists are considered the founding fathers of relativism in the Western World... Notably, it was Protagoras who coined the phrase, "Man is the measure of all things: of things which are, that they are, and of things which are not, that they are not."...In a well known paraphrased dialogue with Socrates, Protagoras said: "What is true for you is true for you, and what is true for me is true for me."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relativism" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
"The truth is one,[1] there is no second ..." - Snp 4.12

We could more correctly state that perceptions are relative, but not The Truth. Dhamma is true, adhamma is false.
"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 Alex123 » Fri Sep 09, 2011 2:22 am

SDC wrote:
Alex123 wrote:The Buddha was clear when He defined rūpa:
"The four great elements, and the form dependent on the four great elements: This is called form."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Four great elements have to exist for it to be called "rūpa".
I don't think it was intended to be understood that the elements are existing independent of a subject. But I am not saying that there is only the subject imagining all these objects.

These elements can be identified in experience. Whether it is something I am seeing in front of me right now or something I am imagining, those elements can be identified in that experience. That make sense to me, but that doesn't make it correct.
So if a subject doesn't truly exist, than who "imagines" or experiences all these objects?
Just the experience. But this experience has to be real.

Also, I think that we need to keep in mind that perception of an object, and object as the source (of experience, perception, etc) are different layers.

One can be mistaken about the truth, but it doesn't mean that mistake for that person is The Truth.

Truth is one, and wrong opinions about it are another.
"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 retrofuturist » Fri Sep 09, 2011 2:27 am

Greetings Alex,
Alex123 wrote:"The truth is one,[1] there is no second ..." - Snp 4.12
Do you know what word is being translated here as "truth"? Is it "Dhamma"?

If it is, I don't think there was any suggestion in those words of each person having a subjective Dhamma of their own. In fact, by saying "The ven­er­a­ble was closer to the truth" it is made quite clear that Relativism is not at play.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

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

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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Re: Is Theravada "Realist"?

Post by ground » Fri Sep 09, 2011 2:59 am

I don't think that "truth" and "reality" are synonym. In my understanding applying the term "reality" (as argument) coincides with an absolute claim whereas "truth" is relative from the first place because every alleged "truth" is a contextual statement which can be validly called "truth" if there is proof.

Kind regards
Last edited by ground on Fri Sep 09, 2011 3:10 am, edited 2 times in total.

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