Soul theories and the Dhamma

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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ancientbuddhism
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Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Post by ancientbuddhism » Fri Nov 04, 2016 2:26 am

Coëmgenu wrote:Its a left-handed reference to David Brainerd. We disagree, I guess, on the issue of Ven Thanissaro's dhamma-dispensation, and on the issue of if the Buddha argues, metaphysically and ontologically, if there is a self or not, but that is a minor issue compared to the profoundly serious issue of the mutilation the Pali Canon endures under the hand of poorly-informed pseudo-Protestant reformers.
I see. Another of your baseless claims. If you feel so strongly, make a case rather than these rants without proof. Ṭhānissaro is the real ‘Protestant’. What is really puzzling is why so many sycophants accept his views over accepted tradition.
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Coëmgenu
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Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Post by Coëmgenu » Fri Nov 04, 2016 4:46 am

ancientbuddhism wrote:
Coëmgenu wrote:Its a left-handed reference to David Brainerd. We disagree, I guess, on the issue of Ven Thanissaro's dhamma-dispensation, and on the issue of if the Buddha argues, metaphysically and ontologically, if there is a self or not, but that is a minor issue compared to the profoundly serious issue of the mutilation the Pali Canon endures under the hand of poorly-informed pseudo-Protestant reformers.
I see. Another of your baseless claims. If you feel so strongly, make a case rather than these rants without proof. Ṭhānissaro is the real ‘Protestant’. What is really puzzling is why so many sycophants accept his views over accepted tradition.
If you think that incorrect metaphysical ponderings are more serious a problem than the mutilation of the Pali Canon I am confused as to why you would think such a thing. Perhaps we have a misunderstanding in regard to this? If you think Ven Thanissaro is a Protestant take it up with his teachers. With his superiors. I assume many have before. He has yet to be disciplined by any serious source of Dhamma. Ven Thanissaro is beholden to the vinaya. David Brainerd is not.

That we disagree in regard to the legitimacy of Ven Thanissaro strikes me as the lesser of all problems manifest here.
世尊在靈山會上拈華示眾眾皆默然唯迦葉破顏微笑世尊云
The Lord dwelt at the Vulture Peak with the assembly and plucked a flower as a teaching. The myriad totality were silent, save for Kāśyapa, whose face cracked in a faint smile. The Lord spoke.
吾有正法眼藏涅槃妙心實相無相微妙法門不立文字教外別傳付囑摩訶迦葉。
I have the treasure of the true dharma eye, I have nirvāṇa as wondrous citta, I know signless dharmatā, the subtle dharma-gate, which is not standing on written word, which is external to scriptures, which is a special dispensation, which is entrusted to Mahākāśyapa.

नस्वातोनापिपरतोनद्वाभ्यांनाप्यहेतुतः

davidbrainerd
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Re: what do no-selfers think the aggregates are?

Post by davidbrainerd » Fri Nov 04, 2016 4:59 am

Javi wrote:Nibbana is not an afterlife, he clearly states that in the suttas which you so call the "agnostic suttas"
The agnostic suttas state nothing clearly because they state nothing. Some agnostic says he can't say you continue in nibbana nor that you cease. That's nothing. He's not actually saying either of these positions are wrong, just that he's too silly to take a position. If he wanted to state clearly that nibbana is not afterlife, he'd say 'you cease to exist in nibbana' but ah he can't because of those other suttas where Buddha says anyone saying that is misrepresenting him. So Mr. Agnostic has to play games and try to insinuate his nihilism without stating it clearly.

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Re: what do no-selfers think the aggregates are?

Post by No_Mind » Fri Nov 04, 2016 5:22 am

davidbrainerd wrote:
No_Mind wrote:I formally ended the no soul conversation before embarking on why I subscribe to the idea of soul .. so I cannot be blamed for peddling. I object to this characterization. You asked me, my idea about soul. I replied. What is my fault that you accuse me?
I don't understand why you concede so early. The situation is not so simple. The canon doesn't present Buddha simply saying there is no self. It presents him on side (1) saying nibbana is deathless state and supreme security (i.e. an afterlife), it presents him as saying those who say he's teaching obliteration are misrrpresenting him (i.e. supports afterlife again), but then side (2) there are the agnostic suttas that turn him into a court jester saying that although his whole religion is about getting to nibbana after death he cannot tell you if you will cease or continue in nibbana. Hello, he told us that already many times! He taught side 1 all over the place. It should be obvious that side 2 is a characature making fun of Buddha. I don't get why I seem to be the only one to see that.
David, I did not concede. I accepted the inevitable.

There is no evidence in the texts* to show Buddha believed in atman.

Read ancientbuddhism's Anatta Thread K.R. Norman (A note on Attā in the Alagaddūpama Sutta – 1981) and R.F. Gombrich (Recovering the Buddha’s Message – 1988)

While like you and many others I feel (not know or be able to prove but just feel) Buddha did not entirely leave out possibility of a soul, we cannot quote a single sutta or writings of a scholar in support of our view.

All we have is conjecture. Conjecture is good as mental exercise but at end of the day it remains just that .. conjecture.

I do not see how I can deny the opinion of non-clergy independent scholars with nothing to firmly support the converse.

ancientbuddhism is the first Western Buddhist I have encountered who is acquainted with the neti neti concept of Advaita. He is obviously an erudite person. I cannot dismiss his opinion that easily (for last one year I have only been mostly participating in Lounge and hence did not read that thread before this week).

The conclusion being, if one wants to have belief in atman, Buddhism is not the religion for them (and so I have stopped wearing my Buddhist hat and participating in DW .. except for replying in this thread to Javi .. and all following conversations that others have taken up from the conversation between me and Javi).

If there is an argument for soul in Buddhism it would be best if someone collated all the references in the Nikayas that point to atman, backed up by some scholars (or at least one scholar) in same way as ancientbuddhism presented his argument in Anatta Thread.

:namaste:

* Extant texts to be accurate; in 2,500 years some texts may have been lost (not necessarily suggesting suttas on atman/anatta were lost). The original sangha split into twenty schools before Mahayana -- Twenty Sects of Hinayana
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Re: what do no-selfers think the aggregates are?

Post by Dinsdale » Fri Nov 04, 2016 6:20 am

davidbrainerd wrote:
Javi wrote:Nibbana is not an afterlife, he clearly states that in the suttas which you so call the "agnostic suttas"
The agnostic suttas state nothing clearly because they state nothing. Some agnostic says he can't say you continue in nibbana nor that you cease. That's nothing. He's not actually saying either of these positions are wrong, just that he's too silly to take a position. If he wanted to state clearly that nibbana is not afterlife, he'd say 'you cease to exist in nibbana' but ah he can't because of those other suttas where Buddha says anyone saying that is misrepresenting him. So Mr. Agnostic has to play games and try to insinuate his nihilism without stating it clearly.
So you're saying that we have an Atman which merges with the eternal Deathless of Nibbana, or something? That is Hinduism, isn't it?

Actually I do see some ambiguity in the way that The Deathless is described. What I don't see in the suttas is support for an Atman.
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Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Post by ToVincent » Fri Nov 04, 2016 11:57 am

Speculations are worth what they are based upon. But let suppose that we abide by modern physics.

May I refer to a previous quote:
Modern physics, by laying down that there is an invariance of the speed of light; and through the fact that time & space have to alter themselves to accommodate this variance, might lead one to assume that time & space are the imputed developments of light, and contingent to light.
Which would go along with the early Buddhist's creed, that consciouness without feature/signs (anidassana viññāṇa,) is "luminous all around" (MN 140) - with the sphere of space (ākāsānañcāyatana) - (timespace bundle) being contingent to that consciousness.

How time and space behave (relativity,) and how particles behave (quantumly) depends on the observer. The perceived object and the perceiver are not separated. This is what we learn from the descent of nāmarūpa and the saḷāyatana. The Buddhist's "world" (loka) is just that.
There is no inherent existence to timespace, or to the way particles behave - but these existences come from our own experience; from the observer.

Douse the observer (satta,) and carry the cognitive experience back to the original luminous consciousness (anidassana viññāṇa,) - a consciousness that is now the actualized viññāṇa añcāyatana (infinite consciousness). Then even go beyond that (through [unclinging] feelings & perceptions not-of-the-flesh;) making sure that no "contact" with the sphere of senses (saḷāyatana,) be there.
No space (ākāsānañcāyatana) = no time = not even the concept of "eternality" reside here.

But that is just pure speculation, based on "modern" physics that belongs to the "world".
Some working for the Mara's world; some for the Brahma's world; some for the Unborn.
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In this world with its ..., māras, ... in this population with its ascetics.... (AN 5.30).
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And what, bhikkhu, is inward rottenness? Here someone is immoral, one of evil character, of impure and suspect behaviour, secretive in his acts, no ascetic though claiming to be one, not a celibate though claiming to be one, inwardly rotten, corrupt, depraved. This is called inward rottenness.”
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Re: what do no-selfers think the aggregates are?

Post by Javi » Fri Nov 04, 2016 1:08 pm

davidbrainerd wrote:
Javi wrote:Nibbana is not an afterlife, he clearly states that in the suttas which you so call the "agnostic suttas"
The agnostic suttas state nothing clearly because they state nothing. Some agnostic says he can't say you continue in nibbana nor that you cease. That's nothing. He's not actually saying either of these positions are wrong, just that he's too silly to take a position. If he wanted to state clearly that nibbana is not afterlife, he'd say 'you cease to exist in nibbana' but ah he can't because of those other suttas where Buddha says anyone saying that is misrepresenting him. So Mr. Agnostic has to play games and try to insinuate his nihilism without stating it clearly.
So now you've stooped to insulting the Buddha as well as misinterpreting the suttas.

I think there's nothing further to say, at this point, your words show your own ignorance and arrogance better than anything I could say.
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā — All things decay and disappoint, it is through vigilance that you succeed — Mahāparinibbāna Sutta

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Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Post by Coëmgenu » Fri Nov 04, 2016 2:45 pm

I am not sure if I would call this a "soul theory", as per the OP, but its a post concerning anattā that I've been thinking of making for a while, as I considered the idea I am about to put forward and open up for public scrutiny. I figure this is as good a place as any for an anattā-discussion to restart, since they have a tendency to want to blossom into many simultaneous discussions.

Whether or not the statement "There is no self" is true, I think that we can agree that the Buddha does not generally make metaphysical statements about reality, in the interpretation of the Pali textual tradition that informs the Theravada framework that most posters on this thread seem to operate from, at least.

I think that the way that the Pali suttas are translated are confusing to some people specifically as that relates to how anattā-teachings are translated. "All dhammas are not-self", or "X/Y is not-self", etc. When we see the part of the sentence "is not-self", I think certain metaphysical/ontological associations come into play as result of the nature of English language itself, how English speakers are brought up to intellectually understand the world through their generative grammar. Its because "self" is not a common term in English really. I can't even think of the last time I said the word "self" in a context that wasn't directly discussing Buddhism. Obviously words that have "self" in them are common: myself, himself, selfless, selfish, etc, but the word "self" seldom appears alone in English speech or writing.

I think, keeping in mind that I am arguing that English speakers may have a stronger connotation of ontology when hearing the word "self", that the English word, that better matches what the word "self", in Buddhist translation, tries to communicate, connotatively and denotatively, is actually "identity", not "self".

Identity is a more common word that English speakers understand more immediately than the term "self". When we realize that anattā can be translated more smoothly into English as "selfless", rather than "not-self", a non-English coinage, then the term anattā can also be translated as "identity-less", and the concept of anattā can be translated as "identity-less-ness"/"identitylessness". When an English person unfamiliar with the Dhamma hears "identity-less" I think (s)he grasps more readily an interpretation that is closer to the spirit the Buddhadharma, IMO obviously, than an English speaker unfamiliar with the Dhamma who hears "not-self" or "not the self".

I think rendering the Pāli anattā into English as "identityless" and "identitynessless" really seems to express more easily the actual practice associated with cultivating a right-view on anattā. A doubting of permanent identity. The halting of grasping at identities. The halting of the formation of identities. What is actually discarded in Buddhism? We can say "the self is discarded", and that sound very mystical and profound and "Buddhisty" to an English speaker, but if we say "identity is discarded", I think that communicates what is actually meant in a clearer way, albeit less mystical and profound sounding.

Obviously someone could still misinterpret and develop wrong-views from hearing the word "identityless" as a part of anattā-teachings in English, I am thinking specifically that it could be interpreted by someone not informed about Buddhism as implying that we are all a group-consciousness, but people already make that misunderstanding with the terminology we currently use anyways.

I'm not trying to push this innovative, and perhaps wrong, interpretation/translation of anattā on to anyone, just putting this out there to see what people think of it.
世尊在靈山會上拈華示眾眾皆默然唯迦葉破顏微笑世尊云
The Lord dwelt at the Vulture Peak with the assembly and plucked a flower as a teaching. The myriad totality were silent, save for Kāśyapa, whose face cracked in a faint smile. The Lord spoke.
吾有正法眼藏涅槃妙心實相無相微妙法門不立文字教外別傳付囑摩訶迦葉。
I have the treasure of the true dharma eye, I have nirvāṇa as wondrous citta, I know signless dharmatā, the subtle dharma-gate, which is not standing on written word, which is external to scriptures, which is a special dispensation, which is entrusted to Mahākāśyapa.

नस्वातोनापिपरतोनद्वाभ्यांनाप्यहेतुतः

davidbrainerd
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Re: what do no-selfers think the aggregates are?

Post by davidbrainerd » Fri Nov 04, 2016 5:57 pm

No_Mind wrote:
davidbrainerd wrote:
No_Mind wrote:I formally ended the no soul conversation before embarking on why I subscribe to the idea of soul .. so I cannot be blamed for peddling. I object to this characterization. You asked me, my idea about soul. I replied. What is my fault that you accuse me?
I don't understand why you concede so early. The situation is not so simple. The canon doesn't present Buddha simply saying there is no self. It presents him on side (1) saying nibbana is deathless state and supreme security (i.e. an afterlife), it presents him as saying those who say he's teaching obliteration are misrrpresenting him (i.e. supports afterlife again), but then side (2) there are the agnostic suttas that turn him into a court jester saying that although his whole religion is about getting to nibbana after death he cannot tell you if you will cease or continue in nibbana. Hello, he told us that already many times! He taught side 1 all over the place. It should be obvious that side 2 is a characature making fun of Buddha. I don't get why I seem to be the only one to see that.
David, I did not concede. I accepted the inevitable.

There is no evidence in the texts* to show Buddha believed in atman.

Read ancientbuddhism's Anatta Thread K.R. Norman (A note on Attā in the Alagaddūpama Sutta – 1981) and R.F. Gombrich (Recovering the Buddha’s Message – 1988)

While like you and many others I feel (not know or be able to prove but just feel) Buddha did not entirely leave out possibility of a soul, we cannot quote a single sutta or writings of a scholar in support of our view.

All we have is conjecture. Conjecture is good as mental exercise but at end of the day it remains just that .. conjecture.

I do not see how I can deny the opinion of non-clergy independent scholars with nothing to firmly support the converse.

ancientbuddhism is the first Western Buddhist I have encountered who is acquainted with the neti neti concept of Advaita. He is obviously an erudite person. I cannot dismiss his opinion that easily (for last one year I have only been mostly participating in Lounge and hence did not read that thread before this week).

The conclusion being, if one wants to have belief in atman, Buddhism is not the religion for them (and so I have stopped wearing my Buddhist hat and participating in DW .. except for replying in this thread to Javi .. and all following conversations that others have taken up from the conversation between me and Javi).

If there is an argument for soul in Buddhism it would be best if someone collated all the references in the Nikayas that point to atman, backed up by some scholars (or at least one scholar) in same way as ancientbuddhism presented his argument in Anatta Thread.

:namaste:

* Extant texts to be accurate; in 2,500 years some texts may have been lost (not necessarily suggesting suttas on atman/anatta were lost). The original sangha split into twenty schools before Mahayana -- Twenty Sects of Hinayana

At this point I've lost interest in the nikayas as a whole as nothing but a mass of corruption with just a few decent suttas here and there. Buddha's true doctrine is clearly found in the Dhammapada not this mass of nihilist nonsense. And I would imagine that Hindus who venerate Buddha probably also only concern themselves with the Dhammapada and not the collections of nihilist sillyness called the nikayas.

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Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Post by Bundokji » Fri Nov 04, 2016 6:10 pm

I did not read the whole thread, but i am wondering if the topic has been approached from a pragmatic point of view.

We know that "identity" or "self" are useful in our daily life when dealing with society and other people, but why believing in a soul is important/useful? what are the consequences of this belief on the individual's behavior and/or well-being?

If this has been discussed already, i would appreciate it if a member could share a link so i can read it.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

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Re: Soul theories and the Dhamma

Post by Goofaholix » Fri Nov 04, 2016 7:21 pm

Bundokji wrote:We know that "identity" or "self" are useful in our daily life when dealing with society and other people, but why believing in a soul is important/useful? what are the consequences of this belief on the individual's behavior and/or well-being?
That's a good point, it's not which is why Buddha's teaching has us de-contructing such a view. It's just another attachment, another thing separating us from others and the world around us and from direct experience.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

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Re: what do no-selfers think the aggregates are?

Post by mikenz66 » Fri Nov 04, 2016 7:23 pm

davidbrainerd wrote: At this point I've lost interest in the nikayas as a whole as nothing but a mass of corruption with just a few decent suttas here and there. Buddha's true doctrine is clearly found in the Dhammapada not this mass of nihilist nonsense. And I would imagine that Hindus who venerate Buddha probably also only concern themselves with the Dhammapada and not the collections of nihilist sillyness called the nikayas.
Thank you for making explicit that your views have no basis in Buddhist texts and analysis. It will save many of us a lot of time. You are, of course, welcome to continue to compare your ideas with what the Buddha taught.

:coffee:
Mike

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Re: what do no-selfers think the aggregates are?

Post by Goofaholix » Fri Nov 04, 2016 7:27 pm

davidbrainerd wrote: At this point I've lost interest in the nikayas as a whole as nothing but a mass of corruption with just a few decent suttas here and there. Buddha's true doctrine is clearly found in the Dhammapada not this mass of nihilist nonsense. And I would imagine that Hindus who venerate Buddha probably also only concern themselves with the Dhammapada and not the collections of nihilist sillyness called the nikayas.
Clearly you enjoy fluffy feel good imagery over substance, yet fail to understand the truths that the imagery is pointing to. Enjoy your poems.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

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Re: what do no-selfers think the aggregates are?

Post by davidbrainerd » Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:25 pm

Goofaholix wrote:
davidbrainerd wrote: At this point I've lost interest in the nikayas as a whole as nothing but a mass of corruption with just a few decent suttas here and there. Buddha's true doctrine is clearly found in the Dhammapada not this mass of nihilist nonsense. And I would imagine that Hindus who venerate Buddha probably also only concern themselves with the Dhammapada and not the collections of nihilist sillyness called the nikayas.
Clearly you enjoy fluffy feel good imagery over substance, yet fail to understand the truths that the imagery is pointing to. Enjoy your poems.
Your dismissal of the Dhammapada as poetry is simply confirmation that the Dhammapada and the agnostic suttas are documents of rival sects. The only reason the canon makers who were obvious nihlists who hated Buddha's real teachings included the Dhammapada is obviously it was well known as his real teaching and could not be gotten rid of. So instead they merely isolate it and outnumber it by packing nihilism all around. Its the same basic method the Paulinists used against the sermon on the mount.
Last edited by davidbrainerd on Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: what do no-selfers think the aggregates are?

Post by mikenz66 » Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:32 pm

davidbrainerd wrote: Your dismissal of the Dhammapada as poetry is simply confirmation that the Dhammapada and the agnostic suttas are documents of revial sects.
Do you mean "rival"?

:thinking:
Mike

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