Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
PeterB
Posts: 3909
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2009 12:35 pm

Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Post by PeterB » Wed Jul 14, 2010 7:25 am

I suppose really we should be grateful that you take time out to put us right with our confused Theravadin ways, It is actually altruistic of you to rephrase our answers in a way that better suits your pre existing Zen belief systems about emptiness and fingers and hands clapping etc.
Particularly in light of the fact that back on the forum of which you are Global Moderator there are the usual crop of posts from those who post repeatedly to say that they don't exist. There is a thread eulogising the cult leader Rajneesh. There is a regular poster with links to a site which proclaims the White Lions OF Africa to be incarnations of God and at least one individual who thinks that the Buddha is Jung's representative on earth. And that Buddha Nature IS Jung's Collective Unconscious. And that Dependant Origination starts there.
Given all that the true magnanimity of your actions in bringing the light to the heathen is that much more commendable.
Last edited by PeterB on Wed Jul 14, 2010 7:41 am, edited 1 time in total.

PeterB
Posts: 3909
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2009 12:35 pm

Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Post by PeterB » Wed Jul 14, 2010 7:28 am

PeterB wrote:Thank you Nana. I will stick with Bhikkhu Bodhi thanks as its rooted in Theravada pragmatism rather abstract surmising. If I set any store by Nagarjuna et al. I wouldnt be on this forum.

:anjali:
'king bump.

Nyana
Posts: 2233
Joined: Tue Apr 27, 2010 11:56 am

Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Post by Nyana » Wed Jul 14, 2010 8:32 am

PeterB wrote:Thank you Nana.
Hi Peter,

You're welcome.
PeterB wrote:I will stick with Bhikkhu Bodhi thanks as its rooted in Theravada pragmatism rather abstract surmising.
Straw man argumentation has nothing whatsoever to do with pragmatism. And if you think that Theravāda commentary doesn't veer into "abstract surmising" I would suggest that you haven't looked closely enough.

Moreover, the difficulty with any modern misrepresentation -- be it Theravāda or Mahāyāna -- is that it retards the possibility of meaningful Theravāda Mahāyāna dialogue. This may seem utterly unimportant to you Peter, and that's fine, but that doesn't make it unimportant to others. It simply isn't excusable for any modern post-secondary educated western teacher to continue to promote inaccurate appraisals of other traditions. And this is equally true of any modern western Mahāyāna teachers who misrepresent the Pāḷi Nikāya-s or the Theravāda commentarial tradition. It's unacceptable.

All the best,

Geoff

PeterB
Posts: 3909
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2009 12:35 pm

Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Post by PeterB » Wed Jul 14, 2010 8:49 am

Yes we get it Nana...its unacceptable to you.
A perfunctory perusal of this thread will I think show a number of Theravadin students taking the same view as Bhikkhu Bodhi, i.e. that duality and non duality is simply not addressed by the Buddha.
Given the nature of the religious culture in which he was raised this is significant. A careful reading will show that what is being offered is not an alternative understanding of duality/non duality, rather a non engagement with the issue. Which given the prominent nature of the issue to many Mahayanists could be seen as an contrary position. From a Theravadin viewpoint the whole duality/non duality debate amounts to a strawman of vast proportions and gothic complexity.
The fact that later interpolations of Buddhadhamma both raised the issue and then addressed it to their own satisfaction is neither here nor there.
If I am to remain within the forum guidelines words cannot adequately convey the degree of indifference I hold towards the teachings of Nagarjuna.
Neither except at an individual level am I particularly interested in Theravada -Mahayana dialogue.
Nothing personal. Some of my best friends are Mahayanists.

Hoo
Posts: 189
Joined: Wed Apr 29, 2009 2:24 am
Location: Missouri, USA

Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Post by Hoo » Wed Jul 14, 2010 9:42 am

PeterB wrote:....A perfunctory perusal of this thread will I think show a number of Theravadin students taking the same view as Bhikkhu Bodhi, i.e. that duality and non duality is simply not addressed by the Buddha....
:goodpost:

Hoo

Nyana
Posts: 2233
Joined: Tue Apr 27, 2010 11:56 am

Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Post by Nyana » Wed Jul 14, 2010 10:02 am

PeterB wrote:A perfunctory perusal of this thread will I think show a number of Theravadin students taking the same view as Bhikkhu Bodhi, i.e. that duality and non duality is simply not addressed by the Buddha.
Actually, Ven. Bodhi states the following:
  • [T]he merging of techniques grounded in incompatible conceptual frameworks is fraught with risk. Although such mergers may appease a predilection for experimentation or eclecticism, it seems likely that their long-term effect will be to create a certain "cognitive dissonance" that will reverberate through the deeper levels of the psyche and stir up even greater confusion.
And:
  • The Mahayana schools, despite their great differences, concur in upholding a thesis that, from the Theravada point of view, borders on the outrageous. This is the claim that there is no ultimate difference between samsara and Nirvana, defilement and purity, ignorance and enlightenment.
Both of these statements are simply unsustainable. Regarding the fist, I personally know Theravāda monastics who wholeheartedly accept the mādhyamaka view as being entirely consistent with the view presented in the Pāḷi Nikāya-s. I also know others, who beyond this, practice Avalokiteśvara sādhana or Tārā sādhana. None of these individuals consider their practice to be a conflation of "incompatible conceptual frameworks" that creates any "cognitive dissonance" resulting in "even greater confusion."

Regarding the second statement, it is quite apparent that at the time of writing this paper Ven. Bodhi had little understanding of mādhyamaka. Throughout the paper he repeatedly critiques non-mādhyamaka, non-yogācāra, and non-Buddhist views as if they were representative of "the Mahāyāna schools." This displays all the philosophical subtlety of a jackhammer. It's fallacious argumentation based on misrepresentation. The bar needs to be raised.
PeterB wrote:A careful reading will show that what is being offered is not an alternative understanding of duality/non duality, rather a non engagement with the issue.
SN 12.15 Kaccānagotta Sutta represents the mādhyamaka view par excellence. Anyone who doesn't understand this isn't in any position to comment on mādhyamaka nonduality.

All the best,

Geoff

PeterB
Posts: 3909
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2009 12:35 pm

Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Post by PeterB » Wed Jul 14, 2010 10:17 am

I have no desire to comment on madhyamika non duality. My understanding of it is irrelevant either way.
Anymore than I log onto a Theravadin website to comment on Transubstantiation or The Twelve Hidden Imams or the principles of Christian Science , although I am sure that the adherents of those faiths could find Sutta verses which they could expand into a confirmation of their position.
I was tempted to look up the Sutta verse alluded to, in order to comment on it. but do you know what Nana ?
I really ...dont....care.
I guarantee one thing. I will not join any Mahayana forum that you belong to in order to argue the Theravada view. Because I don't actually care what you think...You are of course free to raise any bar you feel needs raising.
metta,

:anjali:

Nyana
Posts: 2233
Joined: Tue Apr 27, 2010 11:56 am

Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Post by Nyana » Wed Jul 14, 2010 10:34 am

PeterB wrote:I have no desire to comment on madhyamika non duality.
That's fine.
PeterB wrote:I guarantee one thing. I will not join any Mahayana forum that you belong to in order to argue the Theravada view.
I don't belong to any Mahāyāna forums. And there is no such thing as "the Theravāda view." There are many examples, both historical and modern, of ppl who consider themselves to be very orthodox who disagree with others who consider themselves to be very orthodox. Not to mention the wide range of modern Theravāda teachers who maintain quite divergent views.

All the best,

Geoff

PeterB
Posts: 3909
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2009 12:35 pm

Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Post by PeterB » Wed Jul 14, 2010 10:51 am

Geoff please feel free to continue to count as many empty straws on as many non-dual shunyata strawmen as you wish. Cite as many authorities as you wish. To which I could cite an equal ( at least ) number of Theravadin authorities to refute all and any madhyamika formulation..
Whats the point ? Really ?

Just include me out.

:anjali:

Shonin
Posts: 583
Joined: Wed Apr 28, 2010 5:11 am

Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Post by Shonin » Wed Jul 14, 2010 1:39 pm

Hi Peter,

If you really have as much disinterest in all Mahayana thought as you say, and do not wish to discuss it, the sensible thing to do would be to refrain from making disparaging straw man arguments, comments and implications about it. I'm sure I've suggested this to you before.

Your criticisms of Nagarjuna, Madhyamaka, Sunyata and Non-duality are consistently off-target and unsupported by source material. Nagarjuna, for example, is abstract but very non-metaphysical. He has been compared in modern times to Wittgenstein, who was the leading figure in the Logical Positivist movement. That is about as non-metaphysical as you can get. Having said that, there are Mahayana concepts which really are very metaphysical or have been reinterpreted as such. Neither Emptiness nor Non-self mean non-existence, for example. Those misunderstandings are worth challenging I think. And that is what I try to do at least at times on ZFI. Just as your (and Bikkhu Bodhi's) misunderstanding of Non-duality as some sort of metaphysical theory about a Cosmic Absolute that is inconsistent with Buddhadhamma is worth challenging here.

There is, however no enforced orthodoxy of view on ZFI (Esangha had that and it wasn't pretty). Also, I'm not an active moderator there.

Also I'm not aware of having any 'pre existing Zen belief systems' . As I explained, Nonduality is an experience (of Nonself) not a belief. It is, however Zen terminology - but hey, Bikkhu Bodhi started it. I'm not a 'Zennist' or a 'Mahayanaist'. Zen just happens to be my main practice. I also sit with a Theravada group. Just last night I gave a talk there about Anatta. I'm just as comfortable with a Theravada theoretical framework - maybe even more so. One thing I greatly value about Theravada is the coherence of it's authoritative texts - especially the Nikayas - and in my experience so far, there may be less tendency towards misunderstanding. A coherent theoretical model is valuable.

Peace,
Shonin

PeterB
Posts: 3909
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2009 12:35 pm

Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Post by PeterB » Wed Jul 14, 2010 2:09 pm

Shonin old bean. I thought I was clear. Obviously not.
I had a long period of maceration in the "source material" I don't believe I am misunderstanding it. I eventually rejected it as having no connection at all with Buddhadhamma.

Your conclusion that I have misunderstood Madhyamika and Nagarjuna generally stems from my refusal to enter discussion of it on its terms.
The day was when I could and did at length. I was propounding my thoughts on Nagarjuna before you were born. One of my former teachers was and is a leading scholar in the field of Nagarjuna's philosophy. ( Thrangu Rinpoche chief tutor to the present Karmapa.)

I seems necessary to repeat, so I will..
1) The Buddha did not discuss duality/nonduality.
2) Therefore any discussion of duality/non duality of necessity equals papanca. Unless you are of the view that The Buddha, like Bhikkhu Bodhi, did not understand the issue either.
3) I don't care if you agree...I don't want you to hold a different view from the view you hold. I don't want to persuade you regarding my view.
The entire subject imo is a total irrelevance as far as Buddhadhamma is concerned.
I answered Lazy Eyes OP. My replies subsequently were to distance myself from the papanca that followed . Not to come up with a form of words that will establish common ground. Because there isn't any. Not on this subject.
All of the Mahayana view of material/idealistic duality/non duality represents a misunderstanding of the true radicalism of the Buddhas teaching on D.O.as found in the Pali Canon. Your starting position Shonin is that the end of Buddhist practice is an experience of non duality. Well in those meditative disciplines that relate to the Theravada it simply isn't....repeat, is not.
The goal of Vipassana is not to experience non duality for example. It does not even feature to any degree as a goal.
Why dont you do a Vipassana course or two and then discuss on a Theravada forum what the goal of Buddhadhamma might be ?
I have no idea what the goal of Zazen practice is. And after a period spent trying to find out from ZFI I have less idea now than when I started...there doesnt appear to be any consensus. Which is somehow turned into a virtue and proof of authenticity..But I sure as hell am not going to go on to ZFI and tell them that I can explain their Buddhism to them as long as they accept my model as normative. :smile:

User avatar
Lazy_eye
Posts: 996
Joined: Fri Jan 23, 2009 3:23 pm
Location: Laurel, MD
Contact:

Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Post by Lazy_eye » Wed Jul 14, 2010 3:15 pm

Ñāṇa wrote: Ven. Bodhi's paper... simply misrepresents Indian Mahāyāna mādhyamaka and then critiques this misrepresentation. It's a straw man argument.
Hi Geoff,

Just for clarification, are you saying that a) there is a difference between Mahayana and Theravada perspectives, and Bhikkhu Bodhi misrepresents it, or b) there is no difference?

If there are differences, how would you describe them? What do you take to be the goal(s) of Theravada practice?

Consider the following well-known statements by Seng-Ts'an. Are they compatible with Theravada, and how so?
Dualistic constructs don't endure, so take care not to pursue them. As soon as positive and negative arise, the mind is lost in confusion. The two exist because of the one...Not disdaining the six senses is enlightenment itself...If you don't conjure up differences, all things are of one kind... Enlightenment entails no good or evil...Being is the same as nonbeing, nonbeing the very same as being. Any understanding short of this you sould definitely abandon...
And from Hui-Neng:
There is no demonstration or transmission; it is only a matter of seeing nature, not a matter of meditation or liberation...[Meditation and liberation] are not Buddhism; Buddhism is a non-dualistic teaching...Oneness is good, dualism is not good. The essential buddha nature is neither good nor not good; this is called non-duality...the wise realize their essential nature is not two. The nondual nature is the buddha-nature.
Not to mention:
Ordinary mortals are themselves buddhas; affliction is itself enlightenment
Isn't the "the validity of conventional dualities" being rather emphatically denied?

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

Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Post by tiltbillings » Wed Jul 14, 2010 6:22 pm

Non-duality is dog poop that people step in then track into the house, stinking up the place. Mahayana non-duality is one of a number of not very skillful ideas that have to be very, very, very carefully understood otherwise it becomes, like buddha-nature, a Frankenstein concept, and add to that non-duality is as conceptually dual as one can possibly get. Fortunately, the teachings of the Pali suttas are neither dual or non-dual.

Non-duality is also a basis for misunderstanding one's experience, given that there is much we can experience that can seem non-dual - ah, a non-dual state, I have arrived.
>> 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

Shonin
Posts: 583
Joined: Wed Apr 28, 2010 5:11 am

Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Post by Shonin » Wed Jul 14, 2010 6:48 pm

tiltbillings wrote:Non-duality is dog poop that people step in then track into the house, stinking up the place. Mahayana non-duality is one of a number of not very skillful ideas that have to be very, very, very carefully understood otherwise it becomes, like buddha-nature, a Frankenstein concept,
I'm not sure that it's any more problematic than Nonself, which is widely misunderstood too.

Shonin
Posts: 583
Joined: Wed Apr 28, 2010 5:11 am

Re: Materialism, Dualism, Buddhism

Post by Shonin » Wed Jul 14, 2010 7:24 pm

Hi Peter,

Yes I'm aware that you spent a fair amount of time in a tradition that you became disillusioned with due to it's excessively metaphysical interpretations of Buddhadharma - a Tibetan tradition wasn't it? And it's completely understandable that your whole view of Mahayana was tainted by that experience. It's also entirely reasonable for you to want to have nothing at all to do with it and - as far as your own practice goes - to throw out the entire bath along with the bathwater and any babies that might happen to be in it. I imagine I might feel the same way.

However, you're representations of the teachers and concepts in question are off-target. You say "I don't believe I am misunderstanding it." but in the context of a rational debate that is worth diddley-squat. As is your statement that you've "had a long period of maceration in the "source material" ". Unless you actually provide sound evidence to support you position this is next to worthless. And it's just not good form to keep making these allegations and innuendos unless you're prepared to back them up. As the saying goes 'Put up or shut up'.
PeterB wrote:1) The Buddha did not discuss duality/nonduality.
True - in a narrow sense. These are not concepts he used. However he did describe the constructed nature of the sense of self ('the conceit 'I am''), and the means to end this conceit. He also asserted that the world is empty of a self and anything pertaining to a self. The world can be experienced without the imposition of this sense of self on it and this is nibbana. If this is true, it is not merely a doctrinal, philosophical point for Buddhists to believe in, but is true for all peoples at all times. And indeed there are other traditions which describe the very same experience, except that it is described as the falling away of the distinction between self and other and is called 'Nonduality'. Some formulations are certainly more useful than others, however don't get too hung up on terminology or dogmas and formulations - it's the experience that counts the most.
One who perceives non-self eliminates the ‘I am’ conceit. He attains nirvana here and now.
- Meghiya Sutta
Last edited by Shonin on Wed Jul 14, 2010 7:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 50 guests