Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

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mal4mac
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Post by mal4mac » Thu Aug 08, 2013 11:08 am

Mr Man wrote: I have no idea who Wittgenstein is...
In the UK, at least, he's generally considered one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century. The quote I made was "from memory", and probably a very rough translation/interpretation. You can find more explanation here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_Wit ... _Tractatus

The key point I was trying to make was that language has an underlying logical structure that, "provides the limits of what can be said meaningfully, and therefore the limits of what can be thought. The limits of language, for Wittgenstein, are the limits of philosophy. Much of philosophy involves attempts to say the unsayable: "what we can say at all can be said clearly", he argues. Anything beyond that—religion, ethics, aesthetics, the mystical—cannot be discussed. They are not in themselves nonsensical, but any statement about them must be."

This view is central to my world view, so Thanissaro is committing a big-no-no in my world view.... he's speaking of something mystical, "unconditioned consciousness". For me this is big enough to call into question the entire Buddhist project, as Thanissaro is a major translator of the original canon. But I quite like meditating, when I can drum up the motivation, and I like many of the principles, so I don't want to dismiss Buddhism entirely without exploring it some more. Bodhi entirely avoids speaking of 'unconditioned consciousness' in the translation of the canonical passage I have looked at, which makes him compatible with my world view. So there's still a chance of finding a 'kind of' of 'primitive' Buddhism which agrees with my world view.

Thanissaro *might* be coming from a tradition where they know how to fix the car, but so might the Pope. But just as I can't believe in the Holy Ghost, I can't believe in 'unconditioned consciousness', it's committing the major sin (in my world view) of talking of that which cannot be spoken of.

I especially admire the sutta where the Buddha refuses to speak of that which cannot be spoken of! Wittgenstein in action. That's enough to keep me inquiring into the dhamma...
- Mal

pulga
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Post by pulga » Thu Aug 08, 2013 1:27 pm

mal4mac wrote:
Keep reading the blog. They attack Heidegger, correctly in my opinion, pointing out that his thought led him to fascism.
I don’t think it necessarily leads to fascism: Hubert Dreyfus for instance is one of the leading Heideggarians in the world today and is not only leftist in his politics, but is Jewish as well. Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Derrida, Foucault, and a whole host of other leftists have admitted their indebtedness to Heidegger. Heidegger’s ideas just need to be handled with care in the same way that the Buddha warns us of our handling of the Dhamma in his simile of the snake (Alagaddupamasutta MN22).
mal4mac wrote: I've tried reading "Clearing", but gave up, it's tougher going than Kant's first critique, or Heideggers "Being"... Why not start a thread explicating some key views of Ven. Ñanavira that go against the grain? But please avoid "French speak" and "Hypehanted-Heideggerianisms", and stick to plain English.
The difficulty in discussing Ven. Ñanavira’s ideas on a forum such as this is that one needs a thorough Phenomenological orientation in making sense of his writings. And when there are so many excellent introductions to Phenomenology available to be read, one just wonders whether it is worth the effort to have to teach Phenomenology in order to explain the Notes.

I must admit that I find Phenomenology an absolutely fascinating field of study. I can understand how both Ñanavira and Ñanamoli were drawn into its web of ideas. ( I think it was a sign of Ven. Ñanamoli’s intellectual integrity that he could discountenance his impressive understanding of the Pali Commentaries in his effort to interpret the Suttas in accordance to the insights Phenomenology had to offer.)
Last edited by pulga on Thu Aug 08, 2013 1:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Post by pulga » Thu Aug 08, 2013 1:43 pm

mal4mac wrote:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_Wit ... _Tractatus

"The key point I was trying to make was that language has an underlying logical structure that, "provides the limits of what can be said meaningfully, and therefore the limits of what can be thought. The limits of language, for Wittgenstein, are the limits of philosophy. Much of philosophy involves attempts to say the unsayable: "what we can say at all can be said clearly", he argues. Anything beyond that—religion, ethics, aesthetics, the mystical—cannot be discussed. They are not in themselves nonsensical, but any statement about them must be."

This view is central to my world view, so Thanissaro is committing a big-no-no in my world view.... he's speaking of something mystical, "unconditioned consciousness". For me this is big enough to call into question the entire Buddhist project, as Thanissaro is a major translator of the original canon. But I quite like meditating, when I can drum up the motivation, and I like many of the principles, so I don't want to dismiss Buddhism entirely without exploring it some more. Bodhi entirely avoids speaking of 'unconditioned consciousness' in the translation of the canonical passage I have looked at, which makes him compatible with my world view. So there's still a chance of finding a 'kind of' of 'primitive' Buddhism which agrees with my world view.
In Phenomenology the world in its presence precedes spoken language:
...imagine that I ask you to look out of the window and tell me what you see. As you look at the scene in front of you, certain features leap out as the important ones to describe. As you start to describe it, the words come to you already made. You are responding in speech to the way the world presents itself as already speakable.
[Mark Wrathall, How to Read Heidegger, chapter 8.]
...ānāpānasati bhāvetabbā vitakk'upacchedāya ('Mindfulness of breathing should be developed for the cutting-off of thoughts') (Udāna iv,1 <Ud.37>

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Mr Man
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Post by Mr Man » Thu Aug 08, 2013 3:05 pm

mal4mac wrote:
The key point I was trying to make was that language has an underlying logical structure that, "provides the limits of what can be said meaningfully, and therefore the limits of what can be thought.

This view is central to my world view, so Thanissaro is committing a big-no-no in my world view.... he's speaking of something mystical, "unconditioned consciousness". For me this is big enough to call into question the entire Buddhist project, as Thanissaro is a major translator of the original canon. But I quite like meditating, when I can drum up the motivation, and I like many of the principles, so I don't want to dismiss Buddhism entirely without exploring it some more. Bodhi entirely avoids speaking of 'unconditioned consciousness' in the translation of the canonical passage I have looked at, which makes him compatible with my world view. So there's still a chance of finding a 'kind of' of 'primitive' Buddhism which agrees with my world view.

Thanissaro *might* be coming from a tradition where they know how to fix the car, but so might the Pope. But just as I can't believe in the Holy Ghost, I can't believe in 'unconditioned consciousness', it's committing the major sin (in my world view) of talking of that which cannot be spoken of.
Hi mal4mac
If one has a perception that there is "something mystical" or a perception that there is a "that which cannot be spoken of" haven't you already created an idea that equals "unconditioned consciousness" in your mind? It has been thought but not consciously verbalised.

It's not a question of believing in an 'unconditioned consciousness'. As I understand it, terms like this are used to try and verbalize/transmit that which can be known here and now.

(apologies for chopping your original post for my quote)
Last edited by Mr Man on Thu Aug 08, 2013 9:03 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Samma
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Post by Samma » Thu Aug 08, 2013 6:38 pm

I was looking for that passage on putting aside self and not-self:
"Where you don't draw a line to define self, there's no line to define not-self. Where there's no clinging, there's no need for the strategy of not-self. So strategies of self or not-self are put aside. At this point, the mind no longer has need for any strategies at all because it has found a happiness that's truly solid. It's not a phenomenon, its a happiness. That Buddha calls it a special form of consciousness that doesn't need to be experienced though the six senses, or what he calls "the all". Its directly experienced as total freedom. And at the moment of awakening, there's no experience of the six senses. However, after the moment of awakening, when the mind returns to the experience of the senses, this sense of freedom stays."

unconditioned consciousness = special form of consciousness that doesn't need to be experienced though the six senses. Now, I'm not going to pretend to understand this, being outside of time, but I'm also not going to jump to calling it a soul or core mind.

If that is too metaphysical perhaps:
Nibbana is asankhata, “unconditioned,” because there is no further conditioning - sankhata - by hatred, greed and ignorance.

There is the Unborn, Uncreated, Unconditioned and Unformed. If there were not, there would be no escape discerned from that which is born, created, conditioned and formed. - Ud 8.3, Iti 43

Ajahn Amaro, The Island:
It is significant that, when the Buddha makes such statements as these, he uses a different Pali verb ‘to be’ than the usual one. The vast majority of uses of
the verb employ the Pali ‘hoti’; this is the ordinary type of being, implying existence in time and space: I am happy; she is a fine horse; the house is small; the days are long. In these passages just quoted, when the Buddha makes his rare
but emphatic metaphysical statements, he uses the verb ‘atthi’ instead. It still means ‘to be’ but some Buddhist scholars (notably Peter Harvey) insist that there
is a different order of being implied: that it points to a reality which transcends the customary bounds of time, space, duality and individuality.

socratessmith
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Post by socratessmith » Thu Aug 08, 2013 7:06 pm

unconditioned consciousness = special form of consciousness that doesn't need to be experienced though the six senses. Now, I'm not going to pretend to understand this, being outside of time, but I'm also not going to jump to calling it a soul or core mind.
Of course, Samma: classic eel-wriggling (aka obfuscation).

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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Post by Samma » Thu Aug 08, 2013 7:51 pm

Faith in an eternal dualist atman is one thing. I don't think he would agree with that or that buddhism is the same as vedanta or jainism as its core. And I would suggest being careful about putting words in someone elses mouth. A special form of consciousness/dimension is another thing. I'm not convinced they are the same. But hey, its up to the individual if they see this as a distinction without a difference. What is of substance here is how to interpret the texts, and if you believe it or not, that is up to you and your experience.

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Anagarika
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Post by Anagarika » Thu Aug 08, 2013 11:20 pm

It is significant that, when the Buddha makes such statements as these, he uses a different Pali verb ‘to be’ than the usual one. The vast majority of uses of
the verb employ the Pali ‘hoti’; this is the ordinary type of being, implying existence in time and space: I am happy; she is a fine horse; the house is small; the days are long. In these passages just quoted, when the Buddha makes his rare
but emphatic metaphysical statements, he uses the verb ‘atthi’ instead. It still means ‘to be’ but some Buddhist scholars (notably Peter Harvey) insist that there
is a different order of being implied: that it points to a reality which transcends the customary bounds of time, space, duality and individuality.
Samma, this is helpful. Thank you. It gets me to a closer understanding of why Ven. Thanissaro speaks of this as the "not-self strategy." It's not a thing, an object, or a "soul;" it's a strategy or device for understanding what is not easily expressible in conventional time/space terms.

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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Post by chownah » Fri Aug 09, 2013 3:21 am

There have been enlightened people I guess.....and those enlightened people could walk and talk and basically navigate the same world we live in I guess.....and they are aware of their surroundings I guess.....so they must have been conscious I guess...so there must have been some consciousness happening I guess.....and they have attained nibanna I guess......so.....is their consciousness of the same type as mine or might we say that my consciousness is conditioned in that fit arises relative to dependent origination and might we say that the Arahant's consciousness is unconditioned in that it does not arise relative to anything?

Seems too simple......my guessing must be wrong......please show me where.
chownah

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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Post by SarathW » Fri Aug 09, 2013 3:34 am

The way I understand the consciousness will arise only with the five aggregate.
Even Deva and Peta are the result of one or more of the five aggregates.
The way I understand that Arhants do not have a consciousness after Parinibbana.
But it is wrong to say that Arahant exist or not exist.
:shrug:
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Post by Sylvester » Fri Aug 09, 2013 4:05 am

Samma wrote:I was looking for that passage on putting aside self and not-self:

Ajahn Amaro, The Island:
It is significant that, when the Buddha makes such statements as these, he uses a different Pali verb ‘to be’ than the usual one. The vast majority of uses of
the verb employ the Pali ‘hoti’; this is the ordinary type of being, implying existence in time and space: I am happy; she is a fine horse; the house is small; the days are long. In these passages just quoted, when the Buddha makes his rare
but emphatic metaphysical statements, he uses the verb ‘atthi’ instead. It still means ‘to be’ but some Buddhist scholars (notably Peter Harvey) insist that there
is a different order of being implied: that it points to a reality which transcends the customary bounds of time, space, duality and individuality.

Tsk, tsk, tsk, tsk tsk. :rolleye:

Were this logic to hold true, it would entail by necessity the existence of defilements that transcend space and time and individuality. Witness -
Kathañca bhikkhave bhikkhu dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati?

1. Idha bhikkhave bhikkhu dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati pañcasu nīvaraṇesu. Kathañca bhikkhave bhikkhu dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati pañcasu nīvaraṇesu?

Idha bhikkhave bhikkhu santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ kāmacchandaṃ 'atthi me ajjhattaṃ kāmacchando'ti pajānāti. Asantaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ kāmacchandaṃ 'natthi me ajjhattaṃ kāmacchando'ti pajānāti. Yathā ca anuppannassa kāmacchandassa uppādo hoti, tañca pajānāti. Yathā ca uppannassa kāmacchandassa pahānaṃ hoti, tañca pajānāti. Yathā ca pahīnassa kāmacchandassa āyatiṃ anuppādo hoti, tañca pajānāti.(1) etc etc for the other hindrances

And how does a monk remain focused on mental qualities in & of themselves?

[1] "There is the case where a monk remains focused on mental qualities in & of themselves with reference to the five hindrances. And how does a monk remain focused on mental qualities in & of themselves with reference to the five hindrances? There is the case where, there being sensual desire present within, a monk discerns that 'There is sensual desire present within me.' Or, there being no sensual desire present within, he discerns that 'There is no sensual desire present within me.' He discerns how there is the arising of unarisen sensual desire. And he discerns how there is the abandoning of sensual desire once it has arisen. And he discerns how there is no future arising of sensual desire that has been abandoned. (The same formula is repeated for the remaining hindrances: ill will, sloth & drowsiness, restlessness & anxiety, and uncertainty.)

MN 10, among others.
Santa = present participle of atthi.

Sometimes, I just wish otherwise good monks do not volunteer themselves for such silliness. Basic Pali grammar would tell you just how flawed this argument is, and a basic knowledge of the Chandogya Upanisad would tell you the source of this fascination with those "as" root words such as Sat and asti that serve as metaphysical well-springs for the happily ever after.

mal4mac
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Post by mal4mac » Fri Aug 09, 2013 8:32 am

Samma wrote:I was looking for that passage on putting aside self and not-self:
"Where you don't draw a line to define self, there's no line to define not-self... So strategies of self or not-self are put aside. At this point, the mind no longer has need for any strategies at all because it has found a happiness...
Where, and from whom, does that passage come from? It seeems, rather obviously, non-sensical to me. The author does away with the self by merging it with non-self, so far so good. But then he immediately brings back the self in the form of mind! This seems a very good example of the obfuscations and falsities that occur when trying to talk about mystical experiences.
unconditioned consciousness = special form of consciousness that doesn't need to be experienced though the six senses. Now, I'm not going to pretend to understand this, being outside of time, but I'm also not going to jump to calling it a soul or core mind.
If you don't understand it why do you use it? Why spread confusion? I agree that you shouldn't then make matters even worse by calling this 'thing beyond understanding' a soul.
If that is too metaphysical perhaps:
It's not "too metaphysical", it's nonsense.
Nibbana is asankhata, “unconditioned,” because there is no further conditioning - sankhata - by hatred, greed and ignorance.
That seems fine, although, to my ignorant mind, it perhaps needs unpacking a bit. Are you just using the word Nibbana to point to "what you get at the end of the path, when you have let go of all perceptions?"
There is the Unborn, Uncreated, Unconditioned and Unformed. If there were not, there would be no escape discerned from that which is born, created, conditioned and formed. - Ud 8.3, Iti 43
Isn't Nibbana born when you let go of everything? OK I'm being a bit obtuse here, I guess Unborn means "not born in a chain of dependent origination, but born in the sense of 'coming about'". So Ud 8.3 is (perhaps) correct in meaning, but why use this language? it just obfuscates matters.
some Buddhist scholars (notably Peter Harvey) insist that there
is a different order of being implied: that it points to a reality which transcends the customary bounds of time, space, duality and individuality.
So the above translates to "There is-in-another-reality the born-that-is-Unborn-in-this-reality..." Ouch! Too many dark nights in Sunderland methinks... gotta find some way to pass the time... why not indulge in some *really* obscure metaphysics based on a really obtuse reading of the Buddha. (Thanks Samma, you just saved me £20, I was thinking of buying his book... )
- Mal

mal4mac
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Post by mal4mac » Fri Aug 09, 2013 8:51 am

Samma wrote:Faith in an eternal dualist atman is one thing. I don't think he would agree with that...
Of course he wouldn't agree with a sentence using Brahmanic terminology! But if it quacks like a duck...
- Mal

mal4mac
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Post by mal4mac » Fri Aug 09, 2013 9:07 am

SarathW wrote: The way I understand that Arhants do not have a consciousness after Parinibbana.
Surely they must be conscious of things like food & stumps? They still eat, and (hopefully) don't bump into things. Can Arhants be conscious but not suffer from the demands of consciousness?
- Mal

Samma
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Re: Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu believe in a soul?

Post by Samma » Fri Aug 09, 2013 12:13 pm

Peter Harvey mentions hoti/atthi on p.240-1 of The Self Less Mind for those of interest. Sylvester I take it you see Thanissaro as mistranslating and somewhat mistaken, but pali grammar is too far down in the weeds for me. http://books.google.com/books?id=rcNdDilzilMC

mal4mac considering this is on nature of nibbana, not being qualified to talk about that, best I remain silent and not spread confusion eh. But in the spirit of open conversation, I'll make some comments. Passage is from Thanissaro's selves and not-self. Why would mind necessitate self - repeatedly consciousness is referred to as not-self. I take it you would consider a lot in the pali cannon nonsense and confusion, not that I would necessarily disagree. Amaro's The Island is a free ebook anyway. Yes, the accusations of soul/atman seemed absurd on the face of it. So it requires a strong case, which I am just not seeing. Notably missing is talk of what soul/atman means (according to what?). Perhaps looking at that differences become noticeable, but if different enough is left up to you of course. Parinibbana means after death.

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