Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?

On the cultivation of insight/wisdom
Kenshou
Posts: 1030
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 12:03 am
Location: Minneapolis, MN

Re: Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?

Post by Kenshou » Tue Feb 16, 2010 7:45 pm

It's not just modern hinduism. The basic concept has been around for a while -- at the very least, since the early upanisads. IMO, if you don't hold the brahmanic/upanisadic (or similar) concept of ātman, then the anattā teaching is nearly pointless.
Why is this? There is no value in clearly comprehending "yourself" as an impersonal causal process?

Freawaru
Posts: 489
Joined: Fri Nov 13, 2009 8:26 pm

Re: Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?

Post by Freawaru » Tue Feb 16, 2010 8:38 pm

Hi Sean,
seanpdx wrote:
It's not just modern hinduism. The basic concept has been around for a while -- at the very least, since the early upanisads. IMO, if you don't hold the brahmanic/upanisadic (or similar) concept of ātman, then the anattā teaching is nearly pointless.
Yes and no. Yes, the upanishads are old but as we know interpretation of scripture changes through the ages. It is quite possible that during the time of the Buddha the text was differently interpreted than today by Advaita Vedanta teachers.

Discussing samadhi I once asked a teacher from Advaita Vedanta regarding the name of "that what merges" ("that what merges" sounds somewhat silly). I was VERY surprised when he said "self". It didn't agree with how the term "self" is used in my own, german, culture. It also does not agree with my experiences of multiple simultaneous samadhis - a splitting self???

Then, in Mahayana, one gets this definition of Self (atta, atman) not needing anything else but itself for existance. When something needs something else it cannot be called a self (according to Aryadeva). Err, what??? Hu??? They also talk a lot about substance (without ever defining what a "substance" is) - there are a lot of assumptions here that are very alien to my culture and never explained.

I also cannot find anything like that in the Christian doctrine. The Christian "soul" origins in God, thus it is a bad translation for Aryadeva's idea of self not to mention the one of the Upanishads. If at all the Christian God might fit the definition of Aryadeva's atta (not his but his definition) because of the "I am what I am" - but I never heard any Christian calling God "myself". (Well, the mystics claim Unio Mystica but I guess that is something different).

So for me the definition of atta both in Hinduism and Buddhism remains a mystery unsolved.

But fortunately theoretical knowledge is not necessary for meditation. :)

vinasp
Posts: 1675
Joined: Tue Aug 18, 2009 7:49 pm
Location: Bristol. United Kingdom.

Re: Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?

Post by vinasp » Tue Feb 16, 2010 9:41 pm

Hi everyone,

I have changed my mind. I now see things in a different way as a result of a passage which Tiltbillings drew to my attention:

" the perception of impermanence should be cultivated for the removal of the conceit 'I am.' For when one perceives impermanence, Meghiya, the perception of not-self is established. When one perceives not-self one reaches the removal of the conceit 'I am,' which is called Nibbana here and now."[/b] Ud 37 (4.1)

I think that this is an early passage and is using 'perception' in a general sense which means 'seeing - in the sense of understanding'. In this passage 'perception' is clearly a good thing which can lead to enlightenment (in contrast to many later discourses). So, replacing 'perception' with 'understanding' results in the following:

"For when one understands impermanence, the understanding of not-self is established."

If impermanent means: dependently arisen, subject to destruction, vanishing - then since the formations are still present for one who is not yet enlightened, understanding impermanence can only mean understanding that the formations can
vanish. But the mentally constructed 'self' (sakkaya) is included in those formations. So, understanding impermanence results in understanding that there can be no-self.

Words like 'perception' and 'seeing' suggest knowledge of what is already present. But if 'understanding' is meant, then it can include what is possible.

If 'perceiving' impermanence means understanding that formations can vanish, then 'perceiving' no-self means understanding that 'the self' can vanish.

Best wishes, Vincent.

Freawaru
Posts: 489
Joined: Fri Nov 13, 2009 8:26 pm

Re: Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?

Post by Freawaru » Wed Feb 17, 2010 9:31 am

Hi Tilt,

I just said I am clueless and now you ask me for specifics of how THEY think ??? ;)

I will rather tell you what I do not understand:
tiltbillings wrote:
Freawaru wrote: Today, in Advaita Vedanta atman is defined as that what merges (with an object). For example when merging with the meditation object (such as breath) during samadhi it is atman that merges. Thus it is not a "soul" that collects kamma but something external to samsara. It is the perspective, the view. The problem (according to Advaita Vedanta) is that we are not aware of this atman, we are only aware of what it is merged with, the object. Usually we are merged with an object, a personality, a being of samsara, but this being is not atman. To discern between atman and being leads to knowing atman, that is supposed to be blissful and not changing - similar to sunnata. But this is Advaita Vedanta, a recent branch of Hinduism and if you ask me strongly influenced by Buddhism.
So, what does this "atman" do? Does it feel? Does it act? Does it perceive? Does it change? Does it know?
As far as I understand it neither. There are faculties such as "the Knower", states one can merge with and are useful but Atman itself does not know or have any kind of attribute one can speak about.

The way I see it there are several different and not consistent definitions of atman used:

1) Atman as that what moves from incarnation to incarnation - I guess this is why some translate it as "soul".

2) Atman as that what merges - this can be directly experienced and is a useful definition for meditation purposes and not in the slightest like the Christian concept of soul.

3) Atman=Brahman, merging with "The universal ALL" including All-Knowledge. Meaning, Atman is Creator God. Called: samprajnata-samadhi (not leading to Liberation according to the lore)

4) Atman being Advaita, non-dual, transcending the subject-object duality: asamprajnata-samadhi (this is leading to Liberation according to the lore).

(and there might be more ...)

Now, which of these definitions did the Buddha use when saying: "Bhikkhus, feeling is not-self..."

1) Feeling is not that what moves from incarnation to incarnation ?
2) Feeling is not that what merges ?
3) Feeling is not God ?
4) Feeling is not non-dual ?

Or did he use another definition, yet? Or one that is not found in the Veda?

User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
Posts: 20088
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Contact:

Re: Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?

Post by retrofuturist » Wed Feb 17, 2010 9:38 am

Greetings,
seanpdx wrote: IMO, if you don't hold the brahmanic/upanisadic (or similar) concept of ātman, then the anattā teaching is nearly pointless.
IMO, if you have any tendency to think in terms of "I" (which you do, unless you're an arahant) then the anattā teaching is far from pointless.

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)

seanpdx
Posts: 281
Joined: Thu Dec 03, 2009 12:56 am

Re: Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?

Post by seanpdx » Wed Feb 17, 2010 5:37 pm

Kenshou wrote:
It's not just modern hinduism. The basic concept has been around for a while -- at the very least, since the early upanisads. IMO, if you don't hold the brahmanic/upanisadic (or similar) concept of ātman, then the anattā teaching is nearly pointless.
Why is this? There is no value in clearly comprehending "yourself" as an impersonal causal process?
I don't think so. Nothing above and beyond what not craving/clinging can provide.

seanpdx
Posts: 281
Joined: Thu Dec 03, 2009 12:56 am

Re: Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?

Post by seanpdx » Wed Feb 17, 2010 5:45 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,
seanpdx wrote: IMO, if you don't hold the brahmanic/upanisadic (or similar) concept of ātman, then the anattā teaching is nearly pointless.
IMO, if you have any tendency to think in terms of "I" (which you do, unless you're an arahant) then the anattā teaching is far from pointless.

Metta,
Retro. :)
Thinking in terms of "I" does not perpetuate dukkha. Craving, clinging.... that is what perpetuates dukkha.

meindzai
Posts: 595
Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2009 8:10 pm

Re: Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?

Post by meindzai » Wed Feb 17, 2010 7:00 pm

seanpdx wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,
seanpdx wrote: IMO, if you don't hold the brahmanic/upanisadic (or similar) concept of ātman, then the anattā teaching is nearly pointless.
IMO, if you have any tendency to think in terms of "I" (which you do, unless you're an arahant) then the anattā teaching is far from pointless.

Metta,
Retro. :)
Thinking in terms of "I" does not perpetuate dukkha.
Identity view is a fetter. It is one of the three fetters that are dropped at stream entry.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/stud ... ml#fetters" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
"And which are the five lower fetters? Self-identity views, uncertainty, grasping at precepts & practices, sensual desire, & ill will. These are the five lower fetters. And which are the five higher fetters? Passion for form, passion for what is formless, conceit, restlessness, & ignorance. These are the five higher fetters."

— AN 10.13
"In this community of monks there are monks who, with the wasting away of [the first] three fetters, are stream-winners, steadfast, never again destined for states of woe, headed for self-awakening: such are the monks in this community of monks. — MN 118

Craving, clinging.... that is what perpetuates dukkha.
Yes, and craving and clinging are tied directly to self-identity.
"'The origination of self-identity, the origination of self-identity,' it is said, lady. Which origination of self-identity is described by the Blessed One?"

"The craving that makes for further becoming — accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now here & now there — i.e., craving for sensual pleasure, craving for becoming, craving for non-becoming: This, friend Visakha, is the origination of self-identity described by the Blessed One."
— MN 44

-M

User avatar
tiltbillings
Posts: 23044
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?

Post by tiltbillings » Wed Feb 17, 2010 7:59 pm

Freawaru wrote:
As far as I understand it neither. There are faculties such as "the Knower", states one can merge with and are useful but Atman itself does not know or have any kind of attribute one can speak about.
Then it can have no relationship to anything. What good is it? Why postulate such a thing? If what you say is true - and what you say is incoherent given that having no attributes is an attribute -, it is meaningless, having no relationship to who and I am at any level.
The way I see it there are several different and not consistent definitions of atman used:

1) Atman as that what moves from incarnation to incarnation - I guess this is why some translate it as "soul".

2) Atman as that what merges - this can be directly experienced and is a useful definition for meditation purposes and not in the slightest like the Christian concept of soul.

3) Atman=Brahman, merging with "The universal ALL" including All-Knowledge. Meaning, Atman is Creator God. Called: samprajnata-samadhi (not leading to Liberation according to the lore)

4) Atman being Advaita, non-dual, transcending the subject-object duality: asamprajnata-samadhi (this is leading to Liberation according to the lore).

(and there might be more ...)
Just words, having no meaning.
Now, which of these definitions did the Buddha use when saying: "Bhikkhus, feeling is not-self..."

1) Feeling is not that what moves from incarnation to incarnation ?
2) Feeling is not that what merges ?
3) Feeling is not God ?
4) Feeling is not non-dual ?

Or did he use another definition, yet? Or one that is not found in the Veda?
Draw out your point here, please. It is not at all clear.
>> 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.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

seanpdx
Posts: 281
Joined: Thu Dec 03, 2009 12:56 am

Re: Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?

Post by seanpdx » Wed Feb 17, 2010 9:08 pm

meindzai wrote:
seanpdx wrote: Thinking in terms of "I" does not perpetuate dukkha.
Identity view is a fetter. It is one of the three fetters that are dropped at stream entry.
"thinking in terms of 'I'" != "identity view"

seanpdx
Posts: 281
Joined: Thu Dec 03, 2009 12:56 am

Re: Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?

Post by seanpdx » Wed Feb 17, 2010 9:14 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Freawaru wrote:
As far as I understand it neither. There are faculties such as "the Knower", states one can merge with and are useful but Atman itself does not know or have any kind of attribute one can speak about.
Then it can have no relationship to anything. What good is it? Why postulate such a thing? If what you say is true - and what you say is incoherent given that having no attributes is an attribute -, it is meaningless, having no relationship to who and I am at any level.
Brahmins believe[d] it to be quite meaningful. The Buddha, of course, disagreed with the brahmins. Enter anattā. See also the jain's jīva.

meindzai
Posts: 595
Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2009 8:10 pm

Re: Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?

Post by meindzai » Wed Feb 17, 2010 9:44 pm

seanpdx wrote:
meindzai wrote:
seanpdx wrote: Thinking in terms of "I" does not perpetuate dukkha.
Identity view is a fetter. It is one of the three fetters that are dropped at stream entry.
"thinking in terms of 'I'" != "identity view"
It typically does, unless you are a stream winner. As Thanissaro Bhikkhu points out, even Arahants have a sense of self in that they know to put food in their own mouths rather than other people's mouths. But identity view is as simple as regarding anything at all as "'This is mine, this is I, this is my self."
"Bhikkhus, how do you conceive it: is form permanent or impermanent?" — "Impermanent, venerable Sir." — "Now is what is impermanent painful or pleasant?" — "Painful, venerable Sir." — "Now is what is impermanent, what is painful since subject to change, fit to be regarded thus: 'This is mine, this is I, this is my self'"? — "No, venerable sir."
Anatta-lakkhana Sutta

Note that he isn't invoking any brahmanic concept of an eternal soul, big self, small self, whatever. He's simply talking about regarding anything as "I, mine, myself."

-M

User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
Posts: 20088
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Contact:

Re: Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?

Post by retrofuturist » Wed Feb 17, 2010 10:07 pm

Greetings Meindzai,

A stream-entrant has Right View about anatta, but it's only upon Arahantship that the last vestiges of residual tendency (anusaya) to think in terms of I (asmi) are eradicated. Hence, perception of anatta is still important to the sekha.

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)

Virgo
Posts: 1424
Joined: Sun Feb 14, 2010 10:52 pm

Re: Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?

Post by Virgo » Wed Feb 17, 2010 10:16 pm

meindzai wrote: As Thanissaro Bhikkhu points out, even Arahants have a sense of self in that they know to put food in their own mouths rather than other people's mouths. But identity view is as simple as regarding anything at all as "'This is mine, this is I, this is my self."

-M
[/quote][/quote]
Hi M :)

In fact they (Arahants) don't. They simply know that feeding the body will cause that particular organism which others see as a "being" to subsist longer, causing less pain to loved ones or any one who might care about the Arahant. They know fully that there is nothing, "I-ish" about said organism, but that it is perceived to be a being by other self-perceived beings that have feelings.

Does it make sense?

Kevin

meindzai
Posts: 595
Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2009 8:10 pm

Re: Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?

Post by meindzai » Wed Feb 17, 2010 10:27 pm

Virgo wrote:
In fact they (Arahants) don't. They simply know that feeding the body will cause that particular organism which others see as a "being" to subsist longer, causing less pain to loved ones or any one who might care about the Arahant. They know fully that there is nothing, "I-ish" about said organism, but that it is perceived to be a being by other self-perceived beings that have feelings.

Does it make sense?

Kevin
I'm not talking about their motivation for doing so. They are not eating out of greed or desire. I know that. But they have an awareness that they are feeding themselves as opposed to someone else. They know that they still experience painful feelings, pleasant feelings, and neutral feelings, and not that somebody else is experiencing these feelings, yet they don't make an "I" or "mine" out of them. They are arahants, not Borg. :tongue:

-M

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 11 guests