Does Mahayana Undermine the 4 Noble Truths?

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Does Mahayana Undermine the 4 Noble Truths?

Postby sraddha » Tue Aug 11, 2009 10:21 pm

http://buddhism.about.com/b/2009/06/25/buddhism-is-based-on-undermining-itself.htm


So does the Mahayana undermine the 4 Noble Truths?

The Heart Sutra may be the most commonly chanted Buddhist text. In English, it is less than 300 words long.

Halfway through is the astonishing claim that there is “no truth of suffering, of the cause of suffering, of the cessation of suffering nor of the path” — in effect denying the Four Noble Truths that the Buddha himself taught.

So here is a Buddhist text that seems to undermine the very foundation of Buddhism. I know of no parallel text in any other religion.

But Buddhism, at least in theory, is based on undermining itself. It is an ancient post-modernism, calling into question any description of reality, including its own, because humans crave descriptions of reality more than reality itself.

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Re: Does Mahayana Undermine the 4 Noble Truths?

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Wed Aug 12, 2009 3:05 am

sraddha wrote:
http://buddhism.about.com/b/2009/06/25/buddhism-is-based-on-undermining-itself.htm


So does the Mahayana undermine the 4 Noble Truths?

The Heart Sutra may be the most commonly chanted Buddhist text. In English, it is less than 300 words long.

Halfway through is the astonishing claim that there is “no truth of suffering, of the cause of suffering, of the cessation of suffering nor of the path” — in effect denying the Four Noble Truths that the Buddha himself taught.

So here is a Buddhist text that seems to undermine the very foundation of Buddhism. I know of no parallel text in any other religion.

But Buddhism, at least in theory, is based on undermining itself. It is an ancient post-modernism, calling into question any description of reality, including its own, because humans crave descriptions of reality more than reality itself.



Hi Sraddha,

Would you mind posting the part from the Heart Sutra that reads, "there is no truth of suffering, of the cause of suffering, nor of the cessation of suffering, nor of the path"? I've read Heart Sutra before andI don't recall that part. I'm sure that what you say is true, I am just curious :)

Thanks!
Laura
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Re: Does Mahayana Undermine the 4 Noble Truths?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Aug 12, 2009 5:32 am

Greetings,

I'm curious too.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Re: Does Mahayana Undermine the 4 Noble Truths?

Postby Dazzle » Wed Aug 12, 2009 9:29 am

.

Hi All,

Can I just point out that in his commentary on the Heart Sutra "Essence of the Heart Sutra" HH Dalai Lama states on p25 " Having established the framework of liberation in the Four Noble Truths, the Buddha further detailed 37 steps along the path to its attainment; these are called the 37 aspects of the path to enlightenment. These aspects show specifically how the principles of the Four Noble Truths are to be applied in one's day to day spiritual life"


Regarding the text of the Heart Sutra itself, the middle part relates to emptiness:

" Therefore Shariputra, in emptiness there is no form, no feelings, no perception, no mental formations and no consciousness. There is no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body and no mind. There is no form, no sound, no smell, no taste, to texture, and no mental objects. There is no eye- element and so on up to no mind -element including up to no element of mental consciousness. There is no ignorance, there is no extinction of ignorance, and so on up to no aging and death and no extinction of aging and death. Likewise there is no suffering, origin, cessation, or path; there is no wisdom, no attainment, and even no non- attainment. "


When this is seen in the correct context, there is certainly no undermining of the foundations of Buddhism !

Additionally, I'd like to add a quote from HH Dalai Lama's ' Essence of the Heart Sutra' (p.54)



"It is very important to understand that the core teachings of the Theravada tradition embodied in the Pali scriptures are the foundation of the Buddha's teachings. Beginning with these teachings, one can then draw on the insights contained in the detailed explanations of the Sanskrit Mahayana tradition. Finally, integrating techniques and perspectives from the Vajrayana texts can further enhance one's understanding. But without a foundation in the core teachings embodied in the Pali tradition, simply proclaiming oneself a follower of the Mahayana is meaningless.
If one has this kind of deeper understanding of various scriptures and their interpretation, one is spared from harboring mis-taken notions of conflicts between the "Greater" versus the "Lesser" Vehicle (Hinayana). Sometimes there is a regrettable tendency on the part of certain followers of the Mahayana to disparage the teachings of the Theravada, claiming that they are the teachings of the Lesser Vehicle, and thereby not suited to one's own personal practice. Similarly, on the part of followers of the Pali tradition, there is sometimes a tendency to reject the validity of the Mahayana teachings, claiming they are not actually the Buddha's teachings.
As we move into our examination of the Heart Sutra, what is important is to understand deeply how these traditions complement each other and to see how, at the individual level, each of us can integrate all these core teachings into our personal practice."

:anjali:
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Re: Does Mahayana Undermine the 4 Noble Truths?

Postby sraddha » Wed Aug 12, 2009 10:35 pm

Thanks Dazzle for the excerpt,

N. Drolma, here is another translation:

http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/heartstr.htm with commentary,
"He Perceived That All Five Skandhas Are Empty."

"Thus He Overcame All Ills and Suffering."

"Oh, Sariputra, Form Does not Differ From the Void,
And the Void Does Not Differ From Form.
Form is Void and Void is Form;
The Same is True For Feelings,
Perceptions, Volitions and Consciousness."

"Sariputra, the Characteristics of the
Voidness of All Dharmas
Are Non-Arising, Non-Ceasing, Non-Defiled,
Non-Pure, Non-Increasing, Non-Decreasing."

"Therefore, in the Void There Are No Forms,
No Feelings, Perceptions, Volitions or Consciousness."


"No Eye, Ear, Nose, Tongue, Body or Mind;
No Form, Sound, Smell, Taste, Touch or Mind Object;
No Realm of the Eye,
Until We Come to No realm of Consciousness."


"No ignorance and Also No Ending of Ignorance,
Until We Come to No Old Age and Death and
No Ending of Old Age and Death."


"Also, There is No Truth of Suffering,
Of the Cause of Suffering,
Of the Cessation of Suffering, Nor of the Path."
:o ;)


"There is No Wisdom, and There is No Attainment Whatsoever."


"Because There is Nothing to Be Attained,
The Bodhisattva Relying On Prajna Paramita Has
No Obstruction in His Mind."


:P
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Re: Does Mahayana Undermine the 4 Noble Truths?

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Aug 13, 2009 12:35 am

Greetings,

Rightly or wrongly, I interpret this...

" Therefore Shariputra, in emptiness there is no form, no feelings, no perception, no mental formations and no consciousness. There is no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body and no mind. There is no form, no sound, no smell, no taste, to texture, and no mental objects. There is no eye- element and so on up to no mind -element including up to no element of mental consciousness. There is no ignorance, there is no extinction of ignorance, and so on up to no aging and death and no extinction of aging and death. Likewise there is no suffering, origin, cessation, or path; there is no wisdom, no attainment, and even no non- attainment. "

... to be simply pointing to the emptiness and/or dependently originating qualities of all things/dharmas, and thus nothing can be truly said to "exist" in and of itself. However, to say they do not exist to me intuitively seems a little extreme too.

The sutta justification for my perspective is...

SN 12.15 - Kaccayanagotta Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Dwelling at Savatthi... Then Ven. Kaccayana Gotta approached the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One: "Lord, 'Right view, right view,' it is said. To what extent is there right view?"

"By & large, Kaccayana, this world is supported by (takes as its object) a polarity, that of existence & non-existence. But when one sees the origination of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'non-existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one. When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one.

"By & large, Kaccayana, this world is in bondage to attachments, clingings (sustenances), & biases. But one such as this does not get involved with or cling to these attachments, clingings, fixations of awareness, biases, or obsessions; nor is he resolved on 'my self.' He has no uncertainty or doubt that just stress, when arising, is arising; stress, when passing away, is passing away. In this, his knowledge is independent of others. It's to this extent, Kaccayana, that there is right view.

"'Everything exists': That is one extreme. 'Everything doesn't exist': That is a second extreme. Avoiding these two extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma via the middle: From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications. From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness. From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form. From name-&-form as a requisite condition come the six sense media. From the six sense media as a requisite condition comes contact. From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling. From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving. From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging/sustenance. From clinging/sustenance as a requisite condition comes becoming. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth. From birth as a requisite condition, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair come into play. Such is the origination of this entire mass of stress & suffering.

"Now from the remainderless fading & cessation of that very ignorance comes the cessation of fabrications. From the cessation of fabrications comes the cessation of consciousness. From the cessation of consciousness comes the cessation of name-&-form. From the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of the six sense media. From the cessation of the six sense media comes the cessation of contact. From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of feeling. From the cessation of feeling comes the cessation of craving. From the cessation of craving comes the cessation of clinging/sustenance. From the cessation of clinging/sustenance comes the cessation of becoming. From the cessation of becoming comes the cessation of birth. From the cessation of birth, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair all cease. Such is the cessation of this entire mass of stress & suffering."


Metta,
Retro. :)
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Re: Does Mahayana Undermine the 4 Noble Truths?

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Thu Aug 13, 2009 7:27 pm

Thanks :namaste:
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Re: Does Mahayana Undermine the 4 Noble Truths?

Postby sraddha » Fri Aug 14, 2009 11:18 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Rightly or wrongly, I interpret this...

" Therefore Shariputra, in emptiness there is no form, no feelings, no perception, no mental formations and no consciousness. There is no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body and no mind. There is no form, no sound, no smell, no taste, to texture, and no mental objects. There is no eye- element and so on up to no mind -element including up to no element of mental consciousness. There is no ignorance, there is no extinction of ignorance, and so on up to no aging and death and no extinction of aging and death. Likewise there is no suffering, origin, cessation, or path; there is no wisdom, no attainment, and even no non- attainment. "

... to be simply pointing to the emptiness and/or dependently originating qualities of all things/dharmas, and thus nothing can be truly said to "exist" in and of itself. However, to say they do not exist to me intuitively seems a little extreme too.

The sutta justification for my perspective is...

SN 12.15 - Kaccayanagotta Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Dwelling at Savatthi... Then Ven. Kaccayana Gotta approached the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One: "Lord, 'Right view, right view,' it is said. To what extent is there right view?"

"By & large, Kaccayana, this world is supported by (takes as its object) a polarity, that of existence & non-existence. But when one sees the origination of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'non-existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one. When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one.

"By & large, Kaccayana, this world is in bondage to attachments, clingings (sustenances), & biases. But one such as this does not get involved with or cling to these attachments, clingings, fixations of awareness, biases, or obsessions; nor is he resolved on 'my self.' He has no uncertainty or doubt that just stress, when arising, is arising; stress, when passing away, is passing away. In this, his knowledge is independent of others. It's to this extent, Kaccayana, that there is right view.

"'Everything exists': That is one extreme. 'Everything doesn't exist': That is a second extreme. Avoiding these two extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma via the middle: From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications. From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness. From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form. From name-&-form as a requisite condition come the six sense media. From the six sense media as a requisite condition comes contact. From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling. From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving. From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging/sustenance. From clinging/sustenance as a requisite condition comes becoming. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth. From birth as a requisite condition, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair come into play. Such is the origination of this entire mass of stress & suffering.

"Now from the remainderless fading & cessation of that very ignorance comes the cessation of fabrications. From the cessation of fabrications comes the cessation of consciousness. From the cessation of consciousness comes the cessation of name-&-form. From the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of the six sense media. From the cessation of the six sense media comes the cessation of contact. From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of feeling. From the cessation of feeling comes the cessation of craving. From the cessation of craving comes the cessation of clinging/sustenance. From the cessation of clinging/sustenance comes the cessation of becoming. From the cessation of becoming comes the cessation of birth. From the cessation of birth, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair all cease. Such is the cessation of this entire mass of stress & suffering."


Metta,
Retro. :)


Thanks Retro for that thoughtful response.

I agree with your interpretation.
However, I don't think this is nihilism, because what this is essentially saying is this:

"Sabbe sankhara anicca, sabbe dhamma anattaa'ti."

All formations are impermanent, all phenomena are anatta.
The Channa
Sutta of the Khandhavagga of the Samyutta Nikaya has


This directly relates to the 1st Noble Truth, or the Truth of Suffering -- however, once you have negated all sankharas -- there is no more the 1st Noble Truth -- you have reached the Truth of Cessation -- the end of suffering and the end of the 4 Noble Truths and once you reach the end, have crossed to the other side -- to Nibbana, do you carry the raft on your shoulders --- i.e. do you carry the 4 Noble Truths with you??? Nope!
:smile:
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Re: Does Mahayana Undermine the 4 Noble Truths?

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Aug 15, 2009 12:37 am

Greetings sraddha,

To clarify, I don't think it was intended as nihilism, but could be translated or interpreted with a nihilistic bent... as it, for example, caused the person you quoted in your original post to do.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Re: Does Mahayana Undermine the 4 Noble Truths?

Postby sraddha » Sat Aug 15, 2009 3:51 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings sraddha,

To clarify, I don't think it was intended as nihilism, but could be translated or interpreted with a nihilistic bent... as it, for example, caused the person you quoted in your original post to do.

Metta,
Retro. :)


I agree. Generally the 4 Noble Truths is taught in a static way, which becomes dogmatic. This dogmatic approach to the 4 Noble Truths lead to accusation that saying "there is no 4 Noble Truths" means that Buddhism is "undermining the 4 Noble Truths" -- end of suffering is the end of the 4 Noble Truths, because suffering is no more a truth.

Then of course we begin with the Mahayana 4 Noble Truths, which is the Tathagatha garbha, the unmoving truth.
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Re: Does Mahayana Undermine the 4 Noble Truths?

Postby Dazzle » Sat Aug 22, 2009 9:21 am

.
HH Dalai Lama's teachings on the 4 Noble Truths can be found in 4 parts on You Tube.

Here is the first one:


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