Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue Feb 12, 2013 3:46 am

The Buddha never endorsed non-duality. The final fruit of Advaita seems to be much closer to (I'd say indistinguishable from) rigpa than the "nirvana of an arhat."


While the article is as sensible as everything he writes, I wouldn't say "The Buddha never endorsed non duality", there are plenty of phrases from the Pali Canon that could be said to go in that direction.

"Verily, there is a realm where there is neither the solid not the fluid, neither heat nor motion, neither this world nor any other world, neither sun nor moon. this I call it neither arising nor passing away, neither standing still, nor being born, nor dying...etc."

And lots of similar statements, Theraveda practice and views may be seen as not "nondual", but I fail to see how the goal is not also outside of duality..kind of the connotation of a "middle" path between eternalism and annihliation isn't it?

How exactly is "seeing things as they are" (since this is how he distinguishes Theraveda from Mahayana) a different goal than what he defines as non duality? Isn't what what seeing things as they are leads to?

I tried reading one of the Gita texts mentioned earlier, for sure there is a ton similar to Buddhism as I understand it, but I have to say..a TON of talk about realization of self. I don't know much about Advaita, but there is a difference right there, if one begins with contemplation of the reality of "self", and the other begins with seeing it's lack of fundamental existence..maybe it is just a difference in langauge, but man..from this guy's limited perspective it seems like a pretty big one.
Last edited by Johnny Dangerous on Tue Feb 12, 2013 3:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby Wayfarer » Tue Feb 12, 2013 3:56 am

i have utmost respect for Bikkhu Bodhi, but I think that particular essay basically speaks to one of the principle differences between Theravada and Mahayana appraoches. The Abhidamma tradition was more realist and pluralist, whilst the Mahayana incorporated a more mystical kind of approach. There is a relevant essay here: Consciousness Mysticism in the Discourses of the Buddha, Peter Harvey.
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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby monktastic » Tue Feb 12, 2013 5:31 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:While the article is as sensible as everything he writes, I wouldn't say "The Buddha never endorsed non duality", there are plenty of phrases from the Pali Canon that could be said to go in that direction.


That's fair. Here's how Bhikkhu Bodhi put it:

The teaching of the Buddha as found in the Pali canon does not endorse a philosophy of non-dualism of any variety, nor, I would add, can a non-dualistic perspective be found lying implicit within the Buddha's discourses.


There are, of course, different definitions of non-duality, and the passage you cited may not address the kind that he (or I) normally associate with Mahayana or Advaita.

Anyway, the point I'm making is this: Dzogchen probably incorporated Buddhist terminology only after arriving in Tibet. If you want to claim that your tradition is legitimately Buddhist, that's something you have to do. Similarly, Advaita had to use the terms Atman and Brahman, and map them at least partially to the Hindu descriptions given before. "Well sure, we still have a self! But, uh, ... it is seen to have always been an illusion."

I'll go ahead and reiterate comparisons I made earlier:

When the reflection of Atman falls on avidya (ignorance), atman becomes jīva — a living being with a body and senses. Each jiva feels as if he has his own, unique and distinct Atman, called jivatman. The concept of jiva is true only in the pragmatic level. In the transcendental level, only the one Atman, equal to Brahman, is true.


More-or-less directly translated in Buddhist jargon: when Buddha-nature encounters ignorance, ego manifests. Each ego feels distinct, but this is only the way it looks from the relative level. On the absolute level, only the one Buddha-nature, equal to the Dharmadhatu, is true.

And once again, Dharmata:

In its very origin suchness is of itself endowed with sublime attributes. It manifests the highest wisdom which shines throughout the world, it has true knowledge and a mind resting simply in its own being. It is eternal, blissful, its own self-being and the purest simplicity; it is invigorating, immutable, free... Because it possesses all these attributes and is deprived of nothing...


How Buddhist does that sound to you? Meanwhile, Atman ("Self") and Brahman:

Atman is the fundamental, ultimate, eternal, immutable pure consciousness. Thus, it appears that Brahman is the ultimate reality behind all world-objects and Atman is pure spirit in all beings. Truly speaking, both Brahman and Atman are not different realities. They are identical. For practical purposes, they are referred to separately, which they are not. They are the eternal, all-pervading realities underlying all existence. They are two different ‘labels’ for one and the same reality behind all the objects, all matter, all beings of the universe.


and then:

The Mind in terms of the Absolute is the one World of Reality and the essence of all phases of existence in their totality. That which is called "the essential nature of the Mind" is unborn and is imperishable. It is only through illusions that all things come to be differentiated. ... therefore all things ... are only of the One Mind.


Oops, sorry -- that last one was from the same semi-canonical Mahayana scripture quoted earlier :)

Anyway, it would be silly for me to say that Advaita is identical to Buddhism -- there's no one thing called Buddhism. But it's not such a stretch to say that its fruit and methods (if not jargon) fall within the spread of Mahayana.

Ultimately there is no Self standing apart from reality; it's just a label Advaita adopted to fit within Hindu soteriology. Just as in Buddhism, it must be seen through.

Edit: it's unfair for me to say that Advaita "adopted" the label. What I should have said is that it had to keep the label, even if it didn't jibe with the average Hindu's notion of an independent, substantial soul.
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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby greentara » Tue Feb 12, 2013 10:41 am

To exert yourself in religious practice, trying to produce enlightenment by doing
religious practices and zazen, is all wrong too. There's no difference between
the mind of all the buddhas and the Buddha Mind of each one of you. But by
wanting to realise enlightenment, you create a duality between the one who
realises enlightenment and what it is that's being realised. When you cherish
even the smallest desire to realise enlightenment, right away you leave the realm
of the Unborn and go against the Buddha Mind. This Buddha Mind you have from
your parents innately is one alone - not two, not three!

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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby Matt J » Tue Feb 12, 2013 3:15 pm

It is difficult to conceive the inconceivable, so we always come up with concepts. Of course the concepts are different, but they are both a means to an end and not an end in themselves. A Zen story comes to mind:

Huineng says: "I have something which has no head or tail. It is nameless and can't be described. It has no back and no front. Do any of you know what this is?"
Shenhui then says, "It is the source of all things. It is the buddha nature of Shenhui".
Huineng responds, "I said it has no name and no name and no description. How can you say it is the source of buddha nature?"
The Great Way is not difficult
If only there is no picking or choosing
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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue Feb 12, 2013 6:37 pm

All the quotes on Ground of mind and what not though, those "sound" like Advaita the more you isolate them, the more you integrate them and qualify them with the rest of Buddhism, the more differences seem to be apparent.

Again i'm not denying the possibility they end up in the same place (maybe alot of paths do), just that in terms of method it seems different to me.
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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby Yudron » Tue Feb 12, 2013 6:45 pm

monktastic wrote:
Anyway, the point I'm making is this: Dzogchen probably incorporated Buddhist terminology only after arriving in Tibet. If you want to claim that your tradition is legitimately Buddhist, that's something you have to do.


It is really not yet established, from a Western historical perspective, when and where Dzogchen originated... or what the term Dzogchen referred to "back in the day." People have opinions.

Buddhist Dzogchen texts, e.g. the Dzogchen tantras, are in the Tibetan language. As far as I know, we don't have ancient Dzogchen texts per se in Indic languages yet. Written classical Tibetan was invented to bring Buddhist texts to Tibet. Therefore, while Dzogchen does have its own technical vocabulary, even the earliest Tibetan texts include common Buddhist terms. They would have to, for all the words describing mind, consciousness, material and immaterial phenomena, and so forth, were created to communicate the Dharma.

From the POV of the Nyingma practitioner, we believe in the lineage history of Dzogchen: that Vimalamitra and Guru Rinpoche brought Dzogchen to Tibet from India and Oddiyana, based on a prior lineage of Vajrayana yogis that included Jnanasutra, Shri Singha and Manjushrimitra, presumably among may others. It is notable that these teachers were great yogis of Buddhist Mahayoga and Dzogchen, and recent research from western scholars about the mot ancient text fragments does support this idea of a close connection between the two.

There is no reason to be so skeptical and imply that some kind of white wash was done to make Dzogchen into a Buddhist tradition.
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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby monktastic » Tue Feb 12, 2013 6:46 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:All the quotes on Ground of mind and what not though, those "sound" like Advaita the more you isolate them, the more you integrate them and qualify them with the rest of Buddhism, the more differences seem to be apparent.

Again i'm not denying the possibility they end up in the same place (maybe alot of paths do), just that in terms of method it seems different to me.


Yeah, that's fair. I'd also be crazy to say I know they're the same. It's more like: if you give me a criticism that one levels at the other (specifically between Advaita and Mahayana), I usually seem to be able to find a quote where the first claims pretty much the very thing they're criticizing in the other. In the end, both seem pretty confident that you should pick one path and see it through. In this way, one is probably better off understanding them as incompatible paths. Less temptation to jump tracks half-way through :)
This undistracted state of ordinary mind
Is the meditation.
One will understand it in due course.

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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby monktastic » Tue Feb 12, 2013 6:57 pm

Yudron wrote:There is no reason to be so skeptical and imply that some kind of white wash was done to make Dzogchen into a Buddhist tradition.


I apologize, that was an overreach.
This undistracted state of ordinary mind
Is the meditation.
One will understand it in due course.

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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby Karma Dorje » Tue Feb 12, 2013 7:43 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:I tried reading one of the Gita texts mentioned earlier, for sure there is a ton similar to Buddhism as I understand it, but I have to say..a TON of talk about realization of self. I don't know much about Advaita, but there is a difference right there, if one begins with contemplation of the reality of "self", and the other begins with seeing it's lack of fundamental existence..maybe it is just a difference in langauge, but man..from this guy's limited perspective it seems like a pretty big one.


What's in a name? From the Karling terma (translated as 'Self Liberation Through Seeing With Naked Awareness' by John M. Reynolds):

As for this sparkling awareness, which is called "mind,"
Even though one says that it exists, it does not actually exist.
(On the other hand) as a source, it is the origin of the diversity of all the bliss of Nirvana and all of the sorrow of Samsara.
And as for its being something desirable; it is cherished alike in the Eleven Vehicles.
With respect to its having a name, the various names that are applied to it are inconceivable (in their numbers).
Some call it "the nature of the mind" or "mind itself."
Some Tirthikas call it by the name Atman or "the Self."
The Sravakas call it the doctrine of Anatman or "the absence of a self."
The Chittamatrins call it by the name Chitta or "the Mind."
Some call it the Prajnaparamita or "the Perfection of Wisdom."
Some call it the name Tathagatagarbha or "the embryo of Buddhahood."
Some call it by the name Mahamudra or "the Great Symbol."
Some call it by the name "the Unique Sphere."
Some call it by the name Dharmadhatu or "the dimension of Reality."
Some call it by the name Alaya or "the basis of everything."
And some simply call it by the name "ordinary awareness."
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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby Wayfarer » Wed Feb 13, 2013 4:15 am

Karma Dorje wrote:Some Tirthikas call it by the name Atman or "the Self."


In the W Y Evans-Wentz edition of the Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation, which is based around the same poem, the translation given for Tirthika is 'heretic'. Here, it reads 'certain heretics call it the Ego'. I note that the real meaning of 'Tirtheka' is 'ford-maker', meaning, 'those who wish to cross the stream (of suffering) by means other than the Buddha's teaching', in other words, followers of other schools - Jaina, Hindu, etc.

However it is significant that the poem says that 'Mind' is 'what is called by the Tirthika's the Atma'. This seems to equate the two. But we also read that it 'does not actually exist'. Quite often you will find the expression in regards to this, that it 'neither exists nor doesn't exist'. So Mind is not something, of which the terms 'existence and non-existence' can be predicated. To say it exists is to fall into the error of eternalism, to say it doesn't exist, is to fall into the error of nihilism.

So here you can see the contrast between the Advaita and Buddhist philosophy. In the Upanisads, it is said 'Brahman, of which nothing can be said'. So the Buddhist can say, 'this Brahman, of which you say nothing can be said - what do you say of it?' The Advaita has already spoken of it, by calling it 'Atman'. The Buddhist approach is more consistent.
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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby monktastic » Wed Feb 13, 2013 4:56 am

jeeprs wrote:So here you can see the contrast between the Advaita and Buddhist philosophy. In the Upanisads, it is said 'Brahman, of which nothing can be said'. So the Buddhist can say, 'this Brahman, of which you say nothing can be said - what do you say of it?' The Advaita has already spoken of it, by calling it 'Atman'. The Buddhist approach is more consistent.


But is it really more consistent? I shouldn't post the same snippet for the fifth time, where a semi-canonical Mahayana scripture describes Tathata / Dharmata as immutable, eternal, blissful, "resting simply in its own being," and (just in case they didn't drive the point home) "[possessing] all these attributes." When you're forced to describe something ineffable -- which even Buddhists get lured into sometimes -- there's no choice but to occasionally contradict yourself.

I suspect this is why Rumi used poetry. Less risky still would be interpretive dance :tongue:
This undistracted state of ordinary mind
Is the meditation.
One will understand it in due course.

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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby Wayfarer » Wed Feb 13, 2013 5:44 am

You can make the case that all of that kind of allegorical and descriptive language is necessary, as a concession to the limited human ability to understand the ineffable nature of Nirvana. But, on the other hand, it then can begin to turn into the kinds of 'substantialist' notions that early Buddhist teaching wished to avoid. So the case could be made that some developments in the later Mahayana actually reflected in the assimilation of non-Buddhist ideas and symbols into the Buddhist traditions. I am sure that is what some Theravada scholars would say. (What does Bikkhu Bodhi say about the Mahayana sutras? I haven't read anything but it would be interesting to know.)

It is also perhaps related to why the so-called 'Critical Buddhism' controversy arose. That book says that many of the later developments, such as 'Buddha-nature', have been smuggled into Buddhism, but are really quite different to the original teaching, which is critical rather than 'ontological'.
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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby Karma Dorje » Wed Feb 13, 2013 6:19 am

jeeprs wrote:You can make the case that all of that kind of allegorical and descriptive language is necessary, as a concession to the limited human ability to understand the ineffable nature of Nirvana. But, on the other hand, it then can begin to turn into the kinds of 'substantialist' notions that early Buddhist teaching wished to avoid. So the case could be made that some developments in the later Mahayana actually reflected in the assimilation of non-Buddhist ideas and symbols into the Buddhist traditions. I am sure that is what some Theravada scholars would say. (What does Bikkhu Bodhi say about the Mahayana sutras? I haven't read anything but it would be interesting to know.)

It is also perhaps related to why the so-called 'Critical Buddhism' controversy arose. That book says that many of the later developments, such as 'Buddha-nature', have been smuggled into Buddhism, but are really quite different to the original teaching, which is critical rather than 'ontological'.


Tathagathagarbha theory is entirely phenomenological. It completely accepts the Madhayamaka critique of ontology.
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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby Wayfarer » Wed Feb 13, 2013 8:22 am

I understand the point, but I think it is easily misconstrued.
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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby Simon E. » Wed Feb 13, 2013 10:35 am

And so it continues according to what has become the traditional trajectory of online discussions of this issue.
The Vedantists will continue to demonstrate to their own satisfaction that the outcomes of Buddha Dharma and Advaita Vedanta are not different.
Whereas the majority of students of Buddhadharma who have taken Refuge in an authentic lineage will continue to demur from that pov.
The main difference is , that as far as I know, Most Buddhists do not visit Advaita sites to argue their point.

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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby Karma Dorje » Wed Feb 13, 2013 2:08 pm

Simon E. wrote:And so it continues according to what has become the traditional trajectory of online discussions of this issue.
The Vedantists will continue to demonstrate to their own satisfaction that the outcomes of Buddha Dharma and Advaita Vedanta are not different.
Whereas the majority of students of Buddhadharma who have taken Refuge in an authentic lineage will continue to demur from that pov.
The main difference is , that as far as I know, Most Buddhists do not visit Advaita sites to argue their point.

:namaste:


Or you could say, the ordinary trajectory is that chauvinists continue to cling to the view that only their philosophical viewpoint is correct in the whole wide universe. That might be more accurate, given that a number of us that argue there isn't much difference in result from the two are actually "students of Buddhadharma who have taken refuge in an authentic lineage" many years ago as well. Is the argumentum ad populum the strongest argument you have to make for your point of view? Really?

If you are so pained by the topic, it certainly would be easy to avoid given the subject line.
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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby Simon E. » Wed Feb 13, 2013 2:34 pm

As this is a Buddhist forum it seems to me that the onus is those who hold the view that Buddhadharma and Advaita Vedanta produce identical outcomes in their respective adherents to make that case.
And I see no evidence that this has been so proven.

The header says quite clearly "A Buddhist discussion forum ...and ect ".
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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby Simon E. » Wed Feb 13, 2013 2:40 pm

Astus wrote:
rachmiel wrote:Are Advaita and Buddhism talking about the same thing here -- i.e. does pure awareness = vijnana -- but interpreting this thing radically differently?
Is there a Buddhist equivalent to Advaita's pure awareness / brahman?
Is there any ultimate substrate/reality in Buddhism? Or does Buddhism see "what is" as just a buncha ever-changing impermanent stuff in a grand web of inter-dependence?


1, Advaita thinks consciousness (vijnana) is/has an eternal part. Buddhism refutes it.
2. No, otherwise they'd be the same doctrine using different words.
3. Buddhism teaches interdependence.

Nothing I have read here ( or on similar threads elsewhere ) advances the debate beyond Astus's reply on the very first page.

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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Feb 13, 2013 2:52 pm

Karma Dorje wrote:Or you could say, the ordinary trajectory is that chauvinists continue to cling to the view that only their philosophical viewpoint is correct in the whole wide universe.
No, the "trajectory" which seems to be being expressed here is that the two views differ on some details, ie that they are not identical, as some would have us believe. I have not seen all that many instances of people espousing their view as "correct" and other's view as "wrong".
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
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