On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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danieLion
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Post by danieLion » Tue Jan 17, 2012 11:24 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:I cannot imagine that anything Ṭhanissaro would say now is, in the last analysis, different from his NSS essays of ‘93/’96, which claims that the Buddha never denied the ‘Self’ as a ‘metaphysical or ontological position’.
Hi ancient,
Imagine no longer:
Thanissaro wrote:Thus the process of self cross-examination must now turn to examine the activities of I-making and my-making to take them apart. In the terms of Ven. Khemaka’s analogy, now that the salt earth or lye or cow-dung has succeeded in washing the cloth, the cloth has to be put away in a perfumed hamper so that the lingering scent of the cleaning agents will fade away. As Ven. Khemaka says, this is done by focusing on the arising and passing away of the five clinging aggregates—the raw material both for concentrated states of mind and for the construction of any sense of self—in a way that removes any clinging around them.

The questions of self cross-examination designed to accomplish this task thus shift their framework to three perceptions—inconstancy, stress, and not-self—which are applied either to the aggregates [SN 22:59, MN 109] or to the sense media
[MN 147] as they are directly experienced. In the case of the aggregates, each aggregate is examined with questions in this order: “Is this constant or inconstant?” “Inconstant.” “And is that which is inconstant easeful or stressful?” “Stressful.” “And is it fitting to regard what is inconstant, stressful, subject to change as: ‘This is mine. This is my self. This is what I am’?” “No.” To see in terms of these perceptions ultimately leads to a total abandoning of clinging for any of the aggregates—including the perception-aggregate that accomplished this task—and the mind is released.

In the case of the sense media, the same questionnaire is applied to each sense medium, and to the events dependent on it, in this order: the internal sense medium (e.g., the eye), the corresponding external sense medium (e.g., forms), consciousness at that medium, contact at that medium, and anything that arises dependent on that contact as a mode of feeling, perception, fabrication, or consciousness. Because the five physical senses are instances of the form
aggregate, this version of the questionnaire—though focused on the sense media—manages to encompass all five aggregates as well.

Notice that although this level of cross-examination has dropped any reference to self, it has maintained the framework of skillful and unskillful action. The last question in the series does not demand the conclusion that there is no
self. Instead, it asks simply whether it is fitting—skillful—to identify an inconstant, stressful event as one’s self. In other words, the Buddha is not asking one to come to a metaphysical conclusion on the question, created by objectification, as to the existence or non-existence of the self. After all, as we saw in the discussion of SN 12:15 in Chapter Three, the mind on the verge of awakening doesn’t see the world in terms of existence or non-existence in any event, so the question of the existence or non-existence of the self would be irrelevant. Thus, instead of pushing the questioning into the realm of objectification, the Buddha is simply pushing the line of inquiry about skillful action to its subtlest level—the act of self-identification—at the same time raising the pragmatic standard of what counts as skillful so as to abandon all acts of self identification and attain total freedom (my emphases; hard copy, p. 314; pdf, p. 243: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... stions.pdf" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;).
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Daniel

danieLion
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Post by danieLion » Tue Jan 17, 2012 11:30 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:...his claim that the Buddha never denied the Upaniṣadic ātman.
ancient,
WHERE did Thanissaro make this claim?
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Post by danieLion » Tue Jan 17, 2012 11:33 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:
Buckwheat wrote: His claim is that the Buddha didn't postulate anatta as a metaphysical claim, but as one of experience.
"For him, the doctrine of not-self is a technique or strategy for liberation, and not a metaphysical or ontological position." (NSS)

This claim is simply not true, as the Buddha did deny the ontological position of the Upaniṣads.
ancient,
Your not making any sense.
Thanissaro's saying the Buddha denied the Upanisadic ontology of atman, and you turn around and make a statement in complete agreement yet call it a contradiction???
What the hell?
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Post by danieLion » Tue Jan 17, 2012 11:37 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Thanissaro Bhikkhu's teachings in relation to nibbana have clearly come under much scrutiny here... I'm interested to know if anyone believes these dubious nibbana teachings in any way impact or compromise his teachings on the subject of anatta?

Metta,
Retro. :)
Dubious? Why? How? Wouldn't any teaching on nibbana be dubious as it would be a teaching about something beyond linguistic description?

And to your Q: No. They don't impact or compromise his anatta teachings. To wit, Nana derailed the topic with his nit-picky impositions about the sense-media.

good-will

Daniel

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Post by danieLion » Tue Jan 17, 2012 11:40 pm

robertk wrote:Citing the relevant suttas is unlikely to be persuasive to those who have fallen for Thanissaro's mystical drivel....
What do you mean by "mystical"?
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Daniel

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Post by retrofuturist » Tue Jan 17, 2012 11:49 pm

Greetings Daniel,
danieLion wrote:Dubious? Why? How?
Dubious, as in shrouded with doubt and skepticism. But my point wasn't to go into that - I was looking to re-rail the topic, and to focus "on Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings"
danieLion wrote:And to your Q: No. They don't impact or compromise his anatta teachings.
I don't think they do either, and I think what you just quoted from Thanissaro Bhikkhu above makes a lot of sense. We've heard ancientbuddhism's perspective on that question, but I'd still be interested to hear Nana's.
danieLion wrote:What do you mean by "mystical"?
That comment was made by venerable Dhammanando, not Robert K. Perhaps you might like to ask him yourself what he meant by it (though as he lives in the hills and infrequently comes down, you will need to be patient in waiting for a reply).

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: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Post by robertk » Wed Jan 18, 2012 8:09 am

danieLion wrote:
robertk wrote:Citing the relevant suttas is unlikely to be persuasive to those who have fallen for Thanissaro's mystical drivel....
What do you mean by "mystical"?
good-will
Daniel
It was from ven. Dhammanando .
I think what he meant by "MYSTCAL DRIVEL"(and although I have met the ven. several times, we never discussed Thanissara) was that the ven. Thanissaro's writings on nibbana, anatta, self strategy, the consciousness without whateer.. etc are all eel wiggling ideas based on his deep belief in an eternal self that resides somewhere free of the 5 khandas.
But i could be wrong.

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Post by tiltbillings » Wed Jan 18, 2012 8:22 am

Mystical drivel. Alas. Has this thread run its course? (Rhetorical question not requiring an actual meta-discussion answer.)

Less with the "mystical drivel" and more with careful textual analysis supporting one's position. If all that has been exhausted, then time to move on to something else.
>> 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.

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Post by Cittasanto » Wed Jan 18, 2012 11:04 am

I have not followed this thread so wont contribute to much more than I am in this post.

but, I read Tan Ajahns new book selves &not-self a few weeks ago just befor this thread started and found it very reasonable, & worth the time to read.
his interpretation is certainly interesting and coherent with the teachings even if sometimes it is infered connection not directly found in the teachings :thumbsup: :thumbsup: two thumbs fresh
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Post by beeblebrox » Wed Jan 18, 2012 4:39 pm

[ . . . ] these are misapprehended by the puthujjana. The noble disciple is not on the same footing.
How should we make of the person who keeps on insisting that he sees "self" into what Ven. Thanissaro teaches?

If someone says that he doesn't see any "self" in what Ven. Thanissaro teaches... then what should we make of that person? One of them sees a self, and the other doesn't even see a self... which one has the correct view? (Regardless of what might be Ven. Thanissaro's intention or not?)

Is anyone aware that whatever we think we see into what Ven. Thanissaro teaches would be always filtered through the five conditions? (That is... the form which we attribute to the Ven. Thanissaro's appearance, our feelings towards it, our perceptions of what it says, the mental formations we use for that construction, and then the consciousness which arises out of that?) What does the Buddha have to say about that?

I believe that once someone's view of "self" is actually uprooted (I mean for real)... not even the brahmin's all-mighty Atman can even derail him from the peace. He would still see the non-self even in the all-mighty Atman, and then stop viewing that (and including whatever argument against it) as something permanent. The Atman would never be a source of dukkha for him again. Especially not for anyone around that person (not even the ones on an internet forum), regardless of what their beliefs are. There is nothing but nibbana.

So, what does that really say about someone who keeps on reading the "self" into places where it's not even explicitly mentioned? (That is, as opposed to where it's explicitly mentioned... such as in brahmin's Atman?) This seems to be the case with the people and their issues with Ven. Thanissaro?

:anjali:

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Post by Brizzy » Thu Jan 19, 2012 10:38 am

I cannot say I have followed all the postings in this thread but would it be fair to say that the controversy can be summed up as follows..............

1. Thanissaro Bhikkhu states that the Budddha taught... "THIS IS NOT SELF" as an experiential process to be realised/understood.

2. Thanissaro Bhikkhu states that the Buddha never framed his teaching as...."THERE IS NO SELF" as this would lead one into a thicket of views.

Metta

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Post by kirk5a » Thu Jan 19, 2012 3:58 pm

Brizzy wrote:I cannot say I have followed all the postings in this thread but would it be fair to say that the controversy can be summed up as follows..............

1. Thanissaro Bhikkhu states that the Budddha taught... "THIS IS NOT SELF" as an experiential process to be realised/understood.

2. Thanissaro Bhikkhu states that the Buddha never framed his teaching as...."THERE IS NO SELF" as this would lead one into a thicket of views.

Metta

:smile:
From my reading of Ven. Thanissaro, I'd say that is a fair summary of his message regarding anatta, which is the subject of this thread. What is regarded as controversial is some things he has said regarding nibbana and consciousness. As far as the above is concerned, as a guideline for practice, I think is right on target.
"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

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Post by ancientbuddhism » Thu Jan 19, 2012 4:58 pm

Brizzy wrote:1. Thanissaro Bhikkhu states that the Budddha taught... "THIS IS NOT SELF" as an experiential process to be realised/understood.
As did George Grimm with recklessly similar aims in his "Anattā-method".
Brizzy wrote:2. Thanissaro Bhikkhu states that the Buddha never framed his teaching as...."THERE IS NO SELF" as this would lead one into a thicket of views.
Which is not true as we find evidenced in the Alagaddūpama Sutta and others which bear the same instruction.
kirk5a wrote:What is regarded as controversial is some things he has said regarding nibbana and consciousness.
This is only one leg of the controversy.
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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Post by beeblebrox » Thu Jan 19, 2012 5:56 pm

Ancient, it seems like you're continually ignoring how many of the practitioners actually view these, preferring instead to stick with your own views, and work from them... is that what the Buddha recommended us to do in Alagaddupama Sutta? :anjali:

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Re: On Thanissaro Bhikkhu's anatta teachings

Post by mikenz66 » Thu Jan 19, 2012 7:48 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:
Brizzy wrote:2. Thanissaro Bhikkhu states that the Buddha never framed his teaching as...."THERE IS NO SELF" as this would lead one into a thicket of views.
Which is not true as we find evidenced in the Alagaddūpama Sutta and others which bear the same instruction.
Here's Ven Nyanaponika's translation of the Alagaddūpama Sutta, with comments on the relevant section regarding what some regard as self. It certainly warns against various eternalistic notions that might arise if one is not vigilant about ruling out some rather subtle concepts of self.
http://www.bps.lk/olib/wh/wh048-u.html#N18" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
15. “There are, monks, these six grounds for false views. [18] What are the six? There is here, monks, an uninstructed worldling who has no regard for Noble Ones, who is ignorant of their teaching and untrained in it; who has no regard for men of worth, who is ignorant of their teaching and untrained in it: he considers corporeality thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self’; [19] he considers feeling… perception… mental formations thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self’; and what is seen, heard, sensed, and thought; [20] what is encountered, sought, pursued in mind, [21] this also he considers thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self’; and also this ground for views (holding): ‘The universe is the Self. [22] That I shall be after death; [23] permanent, stable, eternal, immutable; eternally the same, [24] shall I abide in that very condition’—that (view), too, he considers thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self.’ [25]

18. [Grounds for false views (diṭṭhiṭṭhāna). Comy: By the words “There are, monks, these six grounds for false views,” the Master wishes to show this: “He who takes the five aggregates of existence as ‘I’ and ‘mine’, by way of a threefold wrong grasp (tividha-gāha), he flings mud and refuse into my dispensation, like this Ariṭṭha.”

Comy and Sub-Comy: False views themselves are “grounds” (or bases, starting-points) for subsequently arising false views, like personality belief, eternalism, etc. (Comy: diṭṭhi pi ditthiṭṭhānaṃ). Further, the “grounds” are the subject-matter (ārammaṇa, “object”) of the views, i.e., the five aggregates, the visual objects, etc. Finally, they are also the conditioning factors (paccaya) of the false views, e.g., ignorance, sense-impression (phassa), (faulty) perceptions and thoughts, unwisely directed attention (ayoniso manasikāra), bad company, others’ speech, etc. [These, with the aggregates as the first, are the eight “grounds for false views,” as mentioned in the Paṭisambhidāmagga (Diṭṭhi-kathā). The term diṭṭhiṭṭhāna also occurs in the Brahmajāla Sutta (DN 1) and in the commentary to it. [Back]

19. “He considers corporeality thus: ‘This is mine’.” Comy: This is wrong grasp (or wrong approach) induced by craving (taṇhā-gāha). ”This I am”: this is wrong grasp induced by conceit (māna-gāha). ”This is my self”: this is wrong grasp induced by false views (diṭṭhi-gāha). Here, reference is to craving, conceit, and false views which have corporeality as object; but corporeality cannot be said to be a self. The same holds true for feeling, perception and mental formations. [Back]

20. “What is seen”: (Comy) the visual sense-object base (rūpāyatana); “heard”: the sound-base; “sensed” (mutaṃ): the sense-object bases of smell, taste, and touch-sensations; “what is thought”: the remaining seven bases, i.e., the mind-object base (dhammāyatana) and the six sense-organ bases. [Back]

21. “Encountered”: (Comy) after having been sought for, or not sought for; “sought”: encountered or not encountered (before); “mentally pursued” (anuvicaritaṃ manasā): resorted to by consciousness (cittena anusañcaritaṃ)—what was encountered or not encountered without being sought for.

The terms “thought,” “encountered,” etc., refer to the fifth aggregate, i.e., consciousness (viññāṇakkhandha), which was not mentioned in the first part of §15. [Back]

22. “The universe is the Self,” lit.: “This (is) the world, this (is) the self” (so loko so attā). That, in fact, an identification of the two terms is intended here, will be shown in the following comments. The best explanation of the passage is furnished in the Brahmajāla Sutta (DN 1) where a similar phraseology is used: “There are, monks, some ascetics and brahmans who are eternalists and who proclaim self and world to be eternal” (sassatavādā sassataṃ attañca lokañca paññapenti); subsequently the theorist is introduced as stating his view in similar terms: “Eternal are self and world… they exist as eternally the same” (sassato attā ca loko ca… atthi idheva sassatisamaṃ). The last term appears likewise in our text; see Note 21. From this we may safely conclude that it is the identity, or unity, of the Self (or soul; mahātman, paramātman) with the universe (or the Universal Spirit, Brahman) which is conveyed by our text.

In the Commentary specific to our text, this eternalistic view is rendered and classified in the terminology of the Dhamma. The Commentary says:

“This statement (‘The universe is the Self’) refers to the (wrong) view ‘He considers corporeality, etc., as the self (rūpaṃ attato samanupassatī’ ti ādinā nayena).’”

The canonical quotation (e.g., in MN 44), included here in the Commentary, has two implications which are of importance for understanding the reason why it was cited in this context:

(1) As very often in the commentaries (e.g., to Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta), the term “world” (loko) is explained as truly referring to the five aggregates (khandhā, i.e., corporeality, feeling, etc.), singly or in toto.

(2) This quotation is the formula for the first of the twenty types of personality-belief (sakkāya-diṭṭhi; e.g., in MN 44). In the first five of these twenty, the self is said to be identical with each of the five aggregates (as in the earlier part of §15 of our text). Hence the application of this quote to our textual passage signifies that the theorist conceives the “world” (i.e., corporeality, feeling, etc.) as identical with the self.

The double “So (loko) so (attā)” in our text, should therefore, be taken as standing for “yo (loko) so (attā),” lit.: what is the world that is the self. In the Comy to MN 44 we find a similar phrase: “Someone considers corporeality as self: what is corporeality that is ‘I’; what is ‘I’ that is corporeality. Thus he considers corporeality and self as non-dual’ (… yaṃ rūpaṃ so ahaṃ, yo ahaṃ taṃ rūpan’ ti rūpañca advayaṃ samanupassati).” According to this interpretation the phrase has been translated here by “This universe is the Self.”

Mostly, the first five types of personality-belief are explained as referring to the wrong view of annihilationism (uccheda-diṭṭhi). [See, e.g., Paṭisambhidāmagga, Diṭṭhikathā, Ucchedadiṭṭhi-niddesa; further Comy to MN 44.]

But their being quoted in our context, shows that they may also apply to eternalism (sassata-diṭṭhi). We have come to this conclusion since it is improbable that, in our textual passage two mutually exclusive views should have been combined in a single statement formulating the sixth “ground for false views”; that is, in the first part of that statement, annihilationism, and in the second, eternalism. [Back]

23. “That I shall be after death…” (so pecca bhavissāmi). Comy explains by “so ahaṃ,” a Pali idiom, meaning literally “this I.” Pecca: lit. “having gone,” i.e., to the other world. [Back]

24. “Eternally the same” (sassati-samaṃ): an Upanishadic term; see Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad 5.10: sāsvatīḥ samāḥ.

This entire statement of the sixth ‘ground for views’ may well have been the original creed of an eternalistic doctrine. The phrasing appears rather vague in the first part, and in general it is rather loosely worded (so for so aham). To contemporaries, however, the meaning may have been quite clear since it was perhaps the stock formula for teachings that were well known. Hence, in this translation, we have left the first part of the statement in its rather cryptic and ambiguous original form, while giving the interpretations in the notes only. [Back]

25. He identifies himself entirely (Sub-Comy: attānaṃ viya gaṇhāti) with that eternalist misconception (gāha), induced by craving (for self-perpetuation), by false views (tenaciously maintained) and by conceit (deeply ingrained ego-centricity). Here one view serves as subject-matter for another view (Comy, Sub-Comy). [Back]
:anjali:
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