Common Anatta Question

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Common Anatta Question

Postby Sko » Fri Dec 13, 2013 5:08 am

I'm sure this general topic has been discussed before but I have further questions to ask.

Since there is no definite self or ego (the concept for which is called anatta iirc), then what basis does rebirth have?

At least thats the question I've been asking and answering myself for a while now. I just want to know if my interpretation and conclusion is alright. From how I understand, anatta is addressing personality and identifiable characteristics that distinguish "you" from "others", which makes an illusion of separation. You are a thing, a blank shell, a white circle as illustrated in my mind, and eco-socio-psycho-cultural conditions are a bunch if colorful doodads and stuff attached to your blank circle. What's reborn through samsara and what holds the karma that keeps it going is that circle, kind of like a red blood cell I guess. This is where I'm unsure: is my interpretation of the concept anatta incorrect? Am I completely wrong in saying there's an individual, blank or not, at all? If I am then what fuels samsara and what exactly is specifically being reborn if theres no individual self?

Thank you for your time.

Maitri,

Sko
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby duckfiasco » Fri Dec 13, 2013 5:47 am

As part of his policy of not getting pinned down on issues of scale when presenting the process of rebirth, the Buddha was careful to avoid an issue that animated his contemporaries when they discussed rebirth: the metaphysics of what a person is, and what does or doesn't get reborn after death.

In other words, he refused to explain whether any "what" underlay the experience of rebirth. He simply talked about how the experience happened and what could be done to end it.

In modern philosophy this approach is called phenomenology: talking about the phenomena of experience simply in terms of direct experience, without making reference to any underlying reality that may or may not stand behind that experience. The Buddha was a radical phenomenologist in that he dealt with experience on its own terms. He was a pragmatist in that he adopted this approach because he saw that it worked in bringing suffering to an end.

The Canon reports that the members of the other schools — and even some of his own monks — often expressed frustration over this aspect of the Buddha's approach (MN 63; AN 10.93). In their eyes, the whole question of rebirth revolved around the "what" that did or didn't get reborn. Either the life force was identical with the body, thus allowing no way for rebirth to occur after the body dies; or else there was a soul or life force separate from the body, which either died along with the body or else survived death. Yet when the Buddha's contemporaries pressed him to take sides on this question and related questions, he consistently put them aside.

source: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... birth.html

It's a rather long read, but worthwhile.
I quoted the beginning of chapter 5, which you may find relevant.
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby futerko » Fri Dec 13, 2013 6:08 am

All experiences are by definition experienced by someone (or something). So yes, in this way there are "individuals".

The conventional subject-object view leads to an illusion that both the object and the self are static and concrete, discrete entities rather than a flow of experience, and this leads to that idea of solidity being reproduced through ideas such as identity (for people), and property (in the case of objects).

So as duckfiasco's post indicates, it would be a bit pointless to simply provide yet another object for grasping in this way.
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby smcj » Fri Dec 13, 2013 6:14 am

The later schools came up with the idea of an "all-base consciousness" that goes from life to life. Since it's expression is infinitely mutable they can still claim that they are in concert with the premise of Anatta, as each successive identity is only temporarily associated with that essence.
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby dude » Fri Dec 13, 2013 11:40 pm

duckfiasco wrote:
As part of his policy of not getting pinned down on issues of scale when presenting the process of rebirth, the Buddha was careful to avoid an issue that animated his contemporaries when they discussed rebirth: the metaphysics of what a person is, and what does or doesn't get reborn after death.

In other words, he refused to explain whether any "what" underlay the experience of rebirth. He simply talked about how the experience happened and what could be done to end it.

In modern philosophy this approach is called phenomenology: talking about the phenomena of experience simply in terms of direct experience, without making reference to any underlying reality that may or may not stand behind that experience. The Buddha was a radical phenomenologist in that he dealt with experience on its own terms. He was a pragmatist in that he adopted this approach because he saw that it worked in bringing suffering to an end.

The Canon reports that the members of the other schools — and even some of his own monks — often expressed frustration over this aspect of the Buddha's approach (MN 63; AN 10.93). In their eyes, the whole question of rebirth revolved around the "what" that did or didn't get reborn. Either the life force was identical with the body, thus allowing no way for rebirth to occur after the body dies; or else there was a soul or life force separate from the body, which either died along with the body or else survived death. Yet when the Buddha's contemporaries pressed him to take sides on this question and related questions, he consistently put them aside.

source: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... birth.html

It's a rather long read, but worthwhile.
I quoted the beginning of chapter 5, which you may find relevant.

Do you then accept the Pali Canon as the last word and reject the Mahayana sutras as heresy?
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby reddust » Sat Dec 14, 2013 12:07 am

This article on Berzin site gets into the "other" of Mahayana, which can be confusing. But it's really easy to see if you break a thing down it is made up of other things, and other things are made up of other things, and so it goes forever it seems. I think that's the main difference between Mahayana and Theravada. There is no thing found that is in and of itself… Try and find something that is in and of itself and does not depend on something else to be what it is. I used to freak myself out thinking about this (If you notice I get freaked out a lot, it's a fun kind of freaky, sparks the creative juices). My first teacher explained rebirth as a snowball rolling down a hill gathering more mass and speed as it rolls along. That energy keeps on going from death to rebirth and so on forever unless….well, unless it runs into something that stops it, like no more snow or hill… (Sunim's English was really bad, so I hope I understood him correctly) I've got to take this on faith, I have no proof regarding rebirth but there are scientists investigating children who are born with memories that are not theirs, interesting stuff but all kind of speculative. My question has always been will this help me deal with what causes suffering in my life? Also genetic research is finding out there are two codes written in our DNA, the new one is another language written on top of the other. One deals with the production of proteins and their other one deals with adapting to the environment…interesting eh? This data is carried on to the next offspring :popcorn:

To gain liberation or enlightenment, both Hinayana and Mahayana assert that one needs nonconceptual cognition of the lack of an impossible “soul.” Such a lack is often called “ selflessness,” anatma in Sanskrit, the main Indian scriptural language of Sarvastivada and Mahayana; anatta in Pali, the scriptural language of Theravada. The Hinayana schools assert this lack of an impossible “soul” with respect only to persons, not all phenomena. Persons lack a “soul,” an atman, that is unaffected by anything, partless, and separable from a body and a mind, and which can be cognized on its own. Such a “soul” is impossible. With just the understanding that there is no such thing as this type of “soul” with respect to persons, one can become either an arhat or a Buddha. The difference depends on how much positive force or so-called “ merit” one builds up. Because of their development of the enlightening aim of bodhichitta, Buddhas have built up far more positive force than arhats have.

Mahayana asserts that Buddhas understand the lack of an impossible “soul” with respect to all phenomena as well as with respect to persons. They call this lack “voidness.” The various Indian schools of Mahayana differ regarding whether or not arhats also understand the voidness of phenomena. Within Mahayana, Prasangika Madhyamaka asserts that they do. However, the four Tibetan traditions explain this point differently regarding the Prasangika assertion. Some say that the voidness of phenomena understood by arhats is different from that understood by Buddhas; some assert the two voidnesses are the same. Some say that the scope of phenomena to which the voidness of phenomena applies is more limited for arhats than it is for Buddhas; some assert it is the same. There is no need to go into all the details here. (http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/ar ... ery=anatta)
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby smcj » Sat Dec 14, 2013 1:46 am

Do you then accept the Pali Canon as the last word and reject the Mahayana sutras as heresy?

A lot of people do. That's 100% ok.
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby dude » Sat Dec 14, 2013 1:53 am

smcj wrote:
Do you then accept the Pali Canon as the last word and reject the Mahayana sutras as heresy?

A lot of people do. That's 100% ok.


People are free to believe what they will, but the reason I asked is that duckfiasco's reply is based on the Pali Canon sutras, while the Mahayana view is drastically different.
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby Malcolm » Sat Dec 14, 2013 1:59 am

dude wrote:
smcj wrote:
Do you then accept the Pali Canon as the last word and reject the Mahayana sutras as heresy?

A lot of people do. That's 100% ok.


People are free to believe what they will, but the reason I asked is that duckfiasco's reply is based on the Pali Canon sutras, while the Mahayana view is drastically different.


Huh?

There is no self or person that undergoes rebirth in Mahāyāna. In this respect Mahāyāna view is no different than the view expressed in the Pali Canon.

Although the aggregates are serially connected,
the wise are to comprehend that nothing transfers


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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby dude » Sat Dec 14, 2013 2:08 am

There is no self or person that undergoes rebirth in Mahāyāna. In this respect Mahāyāna view is no different than the view expressed in the Pali Canon.

Agreed, but the PC sutras do not go beyond phenomenology, while the final Mahayana teachings explain True Cause and the true aspect in full.
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sat Dec 14, 2013 2:13 am

Sko wrote:I'm sure this general topic has been discussed before but I have further questions to ask. Since there is no definite self or ego (the concept for which is called anatta iirc), then what basis does rebirth have?


Yes, this is a very often repeated question.

It is because there is no permanent self, rebirth occurs, constantly.
And rebirth is nothing other than
the constant arising of awareness along with the objects of awareness,
which include physical phenomena,
appearing as a multitude of concurrent conditions
which are experienced as a 'self'.
Awareness is the context. It doesn't go anywhere.
...It's these darn bodies that keep showing up, and getting old, and then leaving.

.
.
.
Last edited by PadmaVonSamba on Sat Dec 14, 2013 2:16 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby Malcolm » Sat Dec 14, 2013 2:14 am

dude wrote:There is no self or person that undergoes rebirth in Mahāyāna. In this respect Mahāyāna view is no different than the view expressed in the Pali Canon.

Agreed, but the PC sutras do not go beyond phenomenology, while the final Mahayana teachings explain True Cause and the true aspect in full.


From my perspective, the difference between Mahāyāna view and the view of the Nikayas is that Nikāyas view nirvana as a result to be obtained. Mahāyāna understands that all phenomena have always been in the state of nirvana from the start.
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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby dude » Sat Dec 14, 2013 2:20 am

Malcolm wrote:
dude wrote:There is no self or person that undergoes rebirth in Mahāyāna. In this respect Mahāyāna view is no different than the view expressed in the Pali Canon.

Agreed, but the PC sutras do not go beyond phenomenology, while the final Mahayana teachings explain True Cause and the true aspect in full.


From my perspective, the difference between Mahāyāna view and the view of the Nikayas is that Nikāyas view nirvana as a result to be obtained. Mahāyāna understands that all phenomena have always been in the state of nirvana from the start.


Right
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby duckfiasco » Sat Dec 14, 2013 2:33 am

dude wrote:
duckfiasco wrote:
As part of his policy of not getting pinned down on issues of scale when presenting the process of rebirth, the Buddha was careful to avoid an issue that animated his contemporaries when they discussed rebirth: the metaphysics of what a person is, and what does or doesn't get reborn after death.

In other words, he refused to explain whether any "what" underlay the experience of rebirth. He simply talked about how the experience happened and what could be done to end it.

In modern philosophy this approach is called phenomenology: talking about the phenomena of experience simply in terms of direct experience, without making reference to any underlying reality that may or may not stand behind that experience. The Buddha was a radical phenomenologist in that he dealt with experience on its own terms. He was a pragmatist in that he adopted this approach because he saw that it worked in bringing suffering to an end.

The Canon reports that the members of the other schools — and even some of his own monks — often expressed frustration over this aspect of the Buddha's approach (MN 63; AN 10.93). In their eyes, the whole question of rebirth revolved around the "what" that did or didn't get reborn. Either the life force was identical with the body, thus allowing no way for rebirth to occur after the body dies; or else there was a soul or life force separate from the body, which either died along with the body or else survived death. Yet when the Buddha's contemporaries pressed him to take sides on this question and related questions, he consistently put them aside.

source: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... birth.html

It's a rather long read, but worthwhile.
I quoted the beginning of chapter 5, which you may find relevant.

Do you then accept the Pali Canon as the last word and reject the Mahayana sutras as heresy?

No. I merely thought it was an excellent article that addressed the OP's concerns.
Would you disagree that it's counterproductive to try to ferret out exactly what is or is not reborn versus looking at the process itself and how to end it?
Mahayana in my experience is deliberately vague about what may be underlying the whole process.
To my sense, phrases like "luminous mind" or "the Unborn" aren't meant to be the end of the line of inquiry, which a question like "what is it that gets reborn?" is hoping for.
Whatever answer you get, it's an idea. Great, heap it on the pile. Now let's get to work! That's what I got from that article anyway, not some statement about heresy :rolleye:
Last edited by duckfiasco on Sat Dec 14, 2013 2:50 am, edited 1 time in total.
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The Perfect Way knows no difficulties
Except that it refuses to make preferences;
Only when freed from hate and love,
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby smcj » Sat Dec 14, 2013 2:37 am

From my perspective, the difference between Mahāyāna view and the view of the Nikayas is that Nikāyas view nirvana as a result to be obtained. Mahāyāna understands that all phenomena have always been in the state of nirvana from the start.

As you know the Mahayana-Paramitayana thinks of realization as something to be attained by accumulating merit and awareness. I know it's not your favorite view, and you did start your post with "From my perspective…", but still that's not a totally fair or complete take on the Mahayana.

Sorry to nit-pick.
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby Malcolm » Sat Dec 14, 2013 3:00 am

smcj wrote:
From my perspective, the difference between Mahāyāna view and the view of the Nikayas is that Nikāyas view nirvana as a result to be obtained. Mahāyāna understands that all phenomena have always been in the state of nirvana from the start.

As you know the Mahayana-Paramitayana thinks of realization as something to be attained by accumulating merit and awareness. I know it's not your favorite view, and you did start your post with "From my perspective…", but still that's not a totally fair or complete take on the Mahayana.

Sorry to nit-pick.


That is one strand. There is also a strand of Mahayana that maintains that all perfections are perfected within prajnaparamita. This strand of Mahayana is more characteristic of the Lanka avatara sutra and other nongradual sutras.
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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby Malcolm » Sat Dec 14, 2013 3:00 am

smcj wrote:
From my perspective, the difference between Mahāyāna view and the view of the Nikayas is that Nikāyas view nirvana as a result to be obtained. Mahāyāna understands that all phenomena have always been in the state of nirvana from the start.

As you know the Mahayana-Paramitayana thinks of realization as something to be attained by accumulating merit and awareness. I know it's not your favorite view, and you did start your post with "From my perspective…", but still that's not a totally fair or complete take on the Mahayana.

Sorry to nit-pick.


That is one strand. There is also a strand of Mahayana that maintains that all perfections are perfected within prajnaparamita. This strand of Mahayana is more characteristic of the Lanka avatara sutra and other nongradual sutras.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://www.bhaisajya.guru
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby smcj » Sat Dec 14, 2013 3:37 am

Malcolm wrote:That is one strand. There is also a strand of Mahayana that maintains that all perfections are perfected within prajnaparamita. This strand of Mahayana is more characteristic of the Lanka avatara sutra and other nongradual sutras.

Oh I understood that what you said was correct. I just thought that given your stature here you could have been a little more diligent and complete, that's all.
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby Malcolm » Sat Dec 14, 2013 4:10 am

smcj wrote:
Malcolm wrote:That is one strand. There is also a strand of Mahayana that maintains that all perfections are perfected within prajnaparamita. This strand of Mahayana is more characteristic of the Lanka avatara sutra and other nongradual sutras.

Oh I understood that what you said was correct. I just thought that given your stature here you could have been a little more diligent and complete, that's all.


All Mahayana assets that all phenomena have been in the state of nirvana from the start.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://www.bhaisajya.guru
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby smcj » Sat Dec 14, 2013 4:15 am

Malcolm wrote:
smcj wrote:
Malcolm wrote:That is one strand. There is also a strand of Mahayana that maintains that all perfections are perfected within prajnaparamita. This strand of Mahayana is more characteristic of the Lanka avatara sutra and other nongradual sutras.

Oh I understood that what you said was correct. I just thought that given your stature here you could have been a little more diligent and complete, that's all.


All Mahayana assets that all phenomena have been in the state of nirvana from the start.

I thought that was the view that you insisted made Dzogchen unique. So you are including Dzogchen as standard Mahayana now?

And what are you saying about the Paramitayana-causal path? Are you saying it is not Mahayana?

Odd post.
Last edited by smcj on Sat Dec 14, 2013 4:32 am, edited 2 times in total.
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