Do the Nikayas of the Pali Sutta Pitaka present a solipsistic worldview?

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zan
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Do the Nikayas of the Pali Sutta Pitaka present a solipsistic worldview?

Post by zan » Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:41 pm

Please note that this post is asking only about the Nikayas of the Pali Canon Sutta Pitaka (Digha, Majjhima, Samyutta, Anguttara and Khuddaka) and no other texts or schools of Buddhism whatsoever.

As always, please realize that my posts come from my own confusion and should only be read in the light of the fact that I am a beginner and have no idea what I am talking about. I post only to learn from people that do know what they're talking about and become less confused. As such, this post should be considered to be based on and presenting incorrect ideas or understandings due to my own ignorance. In short, the following is probably wrong. Total nonsense. If you're not an expert, just ignore it so you don't get confused with me lol


Do the Nikayas of the Sutta Pitaka present the view that everything in existence is the product of the imagination of whomever is reading or hearing it?

If not, please explain how the suttas present positions that negate this idea. Or at any rate why the suttas do not support or present this idea.

If so, why practice? If one were helping build a stone wall under the authority and instruction of a respected figure in order to keep an enemy from getting into one's area and one realizes one is dreaming one may very well walk away from the task and the authority figure because they are imaginary and so there is no logical reason to assume that they actually have any authority or that the task is important. The enemy is not real, nor is the authority figure and so one is free to simply walk away. There is no real danger. The real authority, then, is the dreamer only. The dreamer has infinitely more power than the authority figure. They could wish away the enemy, whereas the authority figure would continue to suggest wall building and be restricted in the ways that it could deal with the enemy unless it was given more or less power by the dreamer.

Likewise, if the suttas teach that they themselves are, more or less, only the product of a dream that the reader is having, then why practice? There would be no more reason to practice a path leading to nibbana taught by an imaginary character than there would be to make up one's own religion on the spot or pick a religion out of a hat: they would all necessarily be the products of one's own imagination. There would actually be no reason to assume that there is any danger of falling into lower realms or suffering the effects of negative kamma as all of these things would be things that the dreamer simply imagined. One would be free to simply forget the whole thing and write it all off as fantasy. All knowledge would be equally useless and it would be totally illogical to practice the instructions of a specific imaginary figure that is just as imaginary as all other figures in one's world.

That's about it. The following is written for those who would say that the suttas are somewhere in between on this issue or do not say at all (no one else need read the following), simply to show what I am looking for and hopefully to make it so no one wastes their time by presenting views that will not answer my question. I could have not written the following but it would be uncaring of me to be more vague and let people post things that they think are answering my question but do not. I know how people answer questions and so was able to predict this grey area kind of answer that some will undoubtedly produce and that would not be relevant to my question. I know I do not like to write an answer only to have the asker say "Oh, sorry, I wasn't looking for that." So the following is long winded, but perhaps the only way to avoid confusion:

If you think that the suttas are somewhere in between on this issue then please consider that they probably lean in one direction or the other. Almost never is such a large volume of texts exactly 50/50 on such a topic. So please pick a side to show that the suttas support. Even if a teacher said that they would not pick a side, their teachings would still lean in and imply one side or the other being correct.

For example if a teacher said "All is imaginary." on page one of their texts and then the next ten thousand pages are all about how the imaginary world can be changed by the powers of one's mind alone but they still spoke here and there about how to prepare certain foods to avoid food borne illness then, despite the fact that food borne illness would not be an issue in an imaginary world and so this seems counter to the "All is imaginary" world view, we can say that the teacher leans toward the imaginary side.

Or if a teacher said "All is imaginary." But then the next ten thousand pages of their teachings are about very down to earth, practical matters that are dictated by physical laws which are out of control of any one individual and that make no mention of anything being imaginary other than two or three more lines found at random intervals, we can say that the teacher leans toward the idea that things are not all imaginary.

Or if a teacher said "I will not say if all is imaginary or not." on page one and then the next ten thousand pages are instructions on how the imaginary world can be changed by the powers of one's mind alone but they still spoke here and there about how to prepare certain foods to avoid food borne illness then we could say they lean toward the imaginary side.

Or if a teacher said "I will not say if all is imaginary or not." on page one and then the next ten thousand pages are practical matters dictated by physical laws that are out of control of any one individual except for two or three mentions of imagination here or there, we could say that the teacher leans toward the idea that things are not all imaginary.

Or if a teacher said "All is not imaginary." on page one of their texts and then the next ten thousand pages are all about how the imaginary world can be changed by the powers of one's mind alone but they still spoke here and there about how to prepare certain foods to avoid food borne illness then, despite the fact that food borne illness would not be an issue in an imaginary world and so this seems to agree with the "All is not imaginary" world view, we can say that the teacher leans toward the imaginary side.

Or if a teacher said "All is not imaginary." But then the next ten thousand pages of their teachings are about very down to earth, practical matters that are dictated by physical laws which are out of control of any one individual and that make no mention of anything being imaginary other than two or three more lines found at random intervals, we can say that the teacher leans toward the idea that things are not all imaginary.

Finally, if a teacher said nothing specific and definitive about the topic one way or another, then whether their texts lean toward changing the world with the mind alone or toward working with the physical laws that one cannot control would show which way they lean.
I don't have much knowledge of the Dhamma, I'm just a beginner. Keep that in mind before you take anything I say too seriously :tongue:

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Re: Do the Nikayas of the Pali Sutta Pitaka present a solipsistic worldview?

Post by retrofuturist » Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:46 pm

Greetings Zan,

No, they're not solipsist.

They encourage awareness and understanding of that which is experienced, and discourage metaphysical speculation.

Metta,
Paul. :)
"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: Do the Nikayas of the Pali Sutta Pitaka present a solipsistic worldview?

Post by DooDoot » Mon Jan 08, 2018 10:27 pm

zan wrote:
Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:41 pm
I am a beginner
When the Buddha attained the goal of his search (Nibbana), the suttas say he called it the 'destruction of craving'. The suttas also report in his 1st sermon, he referred to craving is the problem to be abandoned &, in his 2nd sermon, he referred to the right view of the five aggregates that leads to the destruction of craving. If you are a beginner, in my opinion, you should learn the most fundamental principle of Buddhism teaches that craving is the problem to be overcome. The basic practise for a serious beginner is learning to give up craving & attachment.
zan wrote:
Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:41 pm
Do the Nikayas of the Sutta Pitaka present the view that everything in existence is the product of the imagination of whomever is reading or hearing it?
The matter of 'existence' I would say is something quite lofty, therefore unnecessary for a beginner to be concerned with because a beginner should be developing concentration by abandoning craving & attachment.

There is the term 'existence' ('bhava') in the suttas, which can refer to a mind-created existence. This has been interpreted by some to mostly relate to creating 'ego' or 'self'. This mind-created existence of self also occurs in relation to external objects, such as creating the sense of existence via ideas of "him", "her", "mother", "father", "sister", "brother", "friend", "enemy", "Obama", "Trump", etc.

In summary, whether internal or external, to the enlightened mind, there is only the five aggregates. 'Existence' is something 'imputed' upon the superficial 'manifestation' or 'appearance' of the five aggregates. While some Buddhists may disagree, in my opinion, the five aggregates are not a product of the imagination; unlike creating ego or self, which is a product of the imagination. However, I imagine if experience is viewed merely as the five aggregates, not much will be sensed to be going on, as described in the rather lofty Phena Sutta.
Last edited by DooDoot on Mon Jan 08, 2018 10:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Do the Nikayas of the Pali Sutta Pitaka present a solipsistic worldview?

Post by Sam Vara » Mon Jan 08, 2018 10:35 pm

zan wrote:
Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:41 pm


Do the Nikayas of the Sutta Pitaka present the view that everything in existence is the product of the imagination of whomever is reading or hearing it?

If not, please explain how the suttas present positions that negate this idea. Or at any rate why the suttas do not support or present this idea.
This idea seems more like something that might be found in some expressions of Hinduism, or in Western philosophical versions of subjective idealism. I don't think that there is any support for it in what the Buddha said.

Proving that with the suttas alone is difficult, because the Buddha wasn't, as far as I can see, all that bothered with metaphysical questions like this. But we can challenge the view with a few inferences drawn from what the Buddha did say. For example, given the pervasiveness of suffering/unsatisfactoriness in this existence,
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .wlsh.html
then it is difficult to understand how this could plausibly be the result of the the imagination of the sufferer.

We might also consider the Buddha's advice about thinking about the origins of this existence as a whole:
"Conjecture about [the origin, etc., of] the world is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html

If everything in existence were the product of one's imagination, then that's how it originates, and the Buddha would be contradicting himself by treating the plain truth as an unconjecturable.

And there is this:
The Blessed One said: "There is the case, monks, where an uninstructed run-of-the-mill person — who has no regard for noble ones, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma; who has no regard for men of integrity, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma — perceives earth as earth. Perceiving earth as earth, he conceives [things] about earth, he conceives [things] in earth, he conceives [things] coming out of earth, he conceives earth as 'mine,' he delights in earth. Why is that? Because he has not comprehended it, I tell you.
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html

He says the same of other aspects of our experience as well. I would have thought that if "earth" and the other elements, and the objects of our senses, were no more than the product of my imagination, then they would count as "mine" - produced by me. But this is precisely what they are not, so they cannot be merelt imaginary.

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Re: Do the Nikayas of the Pali Sutta Pitaka present a solipsistic worldview?

Post by aflatun » Tue Jan 09, 2018 12:45 am

Hell no they don't

:)
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16

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Re: Do the Nikayas of the Pali Sutta Pitaka present a solipsistic worldview?

Post by zan » Tue Jan 09, 2018 4:55 am

Thank you all.

For what it's worth, me being a beginner means that I have only been training for 15 years and have only read most of the Sutta Pitaka, Visuddhimagga, Manual of Abhidhamma, and scores of other books.

I say I am a beginner because I have not achieved any stages of enlightenment and I frankly would not say that I truly understand the tradition. I will probably always be a beginner, sadly enough.

That said, I have become hung up on some aspects of the Dhamma recently, nearly entirely related to this topic, and have largley ceased practice and study for this reason. I had a teacher for a year or so that filled my head with bad information and bizarre ideas, some that have no basis in Buddhism whatsoever (naturally due to the TOS of this site and general ethics I can't explain further about the teachers tradition, lineage, specific teachings and their source, etc.). Because of this I turned back to the suttas and due to my ignorance and skewed views caused by this teacher, I saw the possibility of some of my ex teachers wrong views being supported by them. I knew from all my experience that this must be incorrect and so naturally I turned to the fine people on here to straighten me out.

In light of all of your helpful and thoughtful posts it seems I may be able to pick up study again. Naturally I will need a little more information from the suttas, commentaries, etc. to fully understand why I was understanding incorrectly but this is a good starting point and I am grateful for the help.

The overwhelming vast majority of my readings and understanding of Theravada material points to correct views that have nothing to do with my ex teachers teachings, however the few somewhat ambiguous words or lines I found here and there were mistakenly interpreted by me as being in line with his teachings.

Now I know better!

Thanks again. You all have done me a great service in making me able to study the great Dhamma again.

I need a good teacher!!!!! Now I am extremely wary though and unsure if I could ever really trust a teacher again. Oh well.
I don't have much knowledge of the Dhamma, I'm just a beginner. Keep that in mind before you take anything I say too seriously :tongue:

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Re: Do the Nikayas of the Pali Sutta Pitaka present a solipsistic worldview?

Post by retrofuturist » Tue Jan 09, 2018 5:39 am

Greetings Zan,
zan wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 4:55 am
I need a good teacher!!!!! Now I am extremely wary though and unsure if I could ever really trust a teacher again. Oh well.
Well, in the suttas, the Buddha said that the Suttas can be your teacher once he was gone.

Maybe the Suttas (plus Dhamma Wheel members to bounce ideas and interpretations around with) could be the way to go!

:thumbsup:

Metta,
Paul. :)
"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: Do the Nikayas of the Pali Sutta Pitaka present a solipsistic worldview?

Post by robertk » Tue Jan 09, 2018 7:28 am

How many suttas talk about devas, petas , animal real , hell etc.
Why would anyone think these are imaginary? Let alone the human and animal world we see now.

If a teacher departs from the Tipitika and ancient Commentaries it means he thinks he knows more than the monks of old. In other words he is immersed in conceit and wrong view - and should be treated with pity.

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Re: Do the Nikayas of the Pali Sutta Pitaka present a solipsistic worldview?

Post by zan » Wed Jan 10, 2018 3:26 pm

Thank you all!
I don't have much knowledge of the Dhamma, I'm just a beginner. Keep that in mind before you take anything I say too seriously :tongue:

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