Common Anatta Question

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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Tue Dec 17, 2013 4:49 am

Tsongkhapafan wrote:
Who said there was anything that could be identified separately as a self? I didn't say that. The self is mere appearance - it doesn't come from anywhere and it doesn't go anywhere, nevertheless, it exists and can create actions and experience effects.


So, looking back at all of your assertions,
what you are basically saying is,
Buddha is just a figment of his own imagination.
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby Son of Buddha » Tue Dec 17, 2013 5:05 am

Tsongkhapafan wrote:
Who said there was anything that could be identified separately as a self? I didn't say that. The self is mere appearance - it doesn't come from anywhere and it doesn't go anywhere, nevertheless, it exists and can create actions and experience effects.


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .niza.html

Then a certain brahman approached the Blessed One; having approached the Blessed One, he exchanged friendly greetings. After pleasant conversation had passed between them, he sat to one side. Having sat to one side, the brahman spoke to the Blessed One thus: “Venerable Gotama, I am one of such a doctrine, of such a view: ‘There is no self-doer, there is no other-doer.’”[1] “I have not, brahman, seen or heard such a doctrine, such a view. How, indeed, could one —moving forward by himself, moving back by himself [2] —say: ‘There is no self-doer, there is no other-doer’? What do you think, brahmin, is there an element or principle of initiating or beginning an action."

The Buddha was clear that there is a self-doer.

Would you agree with this statement?
Since all dependently arisen conventionalities do not really exist, when one realises this, one does not fall to an extreme of existence and is released from the extreme of superimposition. Since the ultimate nonmenon that is beyond dependent arising is never non existent, when one realises this, one does not fall to an extreme of non existance and is realeased from the extreme of deprecation.
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby Son of Buddha » Tue Dec 17, 2013 5:45 am

Jeeprs "
The notion that nirvana is annihilation of the self is close to nihilist. Buddhism often sails very close to nihilism and attracts many people who have nihilist views. It's a very delicate matter. I don't think Buddhism is nihilist, but it's a very difficult question.

SN 22.46 Impermanent (2) pg 885 Ven Bodhi translation
"What is suffering is not-self"

whatever is devoid of a self is suffering,if Nirvana was devoid of a self it would be suffering also.
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby asunthatneversets » Tue Dec 17, 2013 6:11 am

Son of Buddha wrote:
Jeeprs "
The notion that nirvana is annihilation of the self is close to nihilist. Buddhism often sails very close to nihilism and attracts many people who have nihilist views. It's a very delicate matter. I don't think Buddhism is nihilist, but it's a very difficult question.

SN 22.46 Impermanent (2) pg 885 Ven Bodhi translation
"What is suffering is not-self"

whatever is devoid of a self is suffering,if Nirvana was devoid of a self it would be suffering also.

Your misconceptions regarding this notion have been addressed and refuted numerous times.
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby Son of Buddha » Tue Dec 17, 2013 6:52 am

asunthatneversets wrote:
Son of Buddha wrote:
Jeeprs "
The notion that nirvana is annihilation of the self is close to nihilist. Buddhism often sails very close to nihilism and attracts many people who have nihilist views. It's a very delicate matter. I don't think Buddhism is nihilist, but it's a very difficult question.

SN 22.46 Impermanent (2) pg 885 Ven Bodhi translation
"What is suffering is not-self"

whatever is devoid of a self is suffering,if Nirvana was devoid of a self it would be suffering also.

Your misconceptions regarding this notion have been addressed and refuted numerous times.


its not a misconception to say if something is not self it will lead to suffering
Its also not a misconception to say if something were self it would not lead to suffering.
thats just what is taught in the Buddhist sutras
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .mend.html

also the last part is not "my" misconeption, I was just quoting The Supreme Patriarch of Thai Thervadan Buddhism who stated in 1939 that nibbana is atta (true Self)
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby duckfiasco » Tue Dec 17, 2013 8:27 am

But Son of Buddha, your understanding is refuted in the very sutra you quote:
Form, O monks, is not-self; if form were self, then form would not lead to affliction and it should obtain regarding form: 'May my form be thus, may my form not be thus';

If form were self, you would have some degree of control over it, or it would be permanent or satisfying in some meaningful way. Therefore, you reasonably would not get sick, age, or die.
But there is no self to be found in form, no independent agency pulling the strings, so these things happen anyway.
The same is true for the other aggregates.
Are you suggesting the Buddha is making the opposite conclusion?

I just don't understand how we could have two diametrically opposite understandings of something that to me seems so clear.
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby Wayfarer » Tue Dec 17, 2013 8:40 am

Not so.

Read that sutta that is linked to.

The culminating statement is given thus:

Therefore, surely, O monks, whatever mental formations, past, future or present, internal or external, coarse or fine, low or lofty, far or near, all those mental formations must be regarded with proper wisdom, according to reality, thus: 'These are not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.


They are all unsatisfactory, suffering, because they are not self.

It is true the Buddha does not say 'the self exists', but he also says 'self doesn't exist'. That point was already made earlier in this thread. 'Anatta' is an adjective and it is always used as such: This is not-self, that is not-self - which is what is always so difficult about this point. To say 'self exists' is to tend towards eternalism - the desire to continue to be. To say that self 'doesn't exist' is to tend towards nihilism - the desire not to be. We are always vacillating between these two 'extreme views'.

(Although I think it is a very hard point to make, which is why all of these threads always end up in interminable disputes and become locked, as I suspect this one will be in the not-too-distant future. )
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby smcj » Tue Dec 17, 2013 8:52 am

Common wisdom is that the Pali Suttas do not accept or assert a true "self". Later Buddha-Nature based sutras can more easily be interpreted that way, and some people do that. But I think trying to make suttas affirm a "self" is trying to hammer a square pet into a round hole.
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby Wayfarer » Tue Dec 17, 2013 9:17 am

Or deny one.

It is true, Buddhism does not speak in terms of 'true self' but later developments of 'true nature', 'Buddha-nature', and so on, require considerable sophistry to differentiate.

That is why this question is so contentious. But the oft-repeated view 'there is no self' which is especially common on Internet forums, is, I'm sure, mistaken. And there's a payoff to that view, if you think about it.
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby Tsongkhapafan » Tue Dec 17, 2013 9:39 am

Sherab wrote:It is debatable whether appearances appear for Buddhas. Having realized the causes for the arising of appearances to oneself, there is no more causing of phenomena to arise for a Buddha. That's how I understand it.


How are they omniscient if they don't perceive anything? How do they even exist?
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby Son of Buddha » Tue Dec 17, 2013 9:42 am

duckfiasco wrote:But Son of Buddha, your understanding is refuted in the very sutra you quote:
Form, O monks, is not-self; if form were self, then form would not lead to affliction and it should obtain regarding form: 'May my form be thus, may my form not be thus';

If form were self, you would have some degree of control over it, or it would be permanent or satisfying in some meaningful way. Therefore, you reasonably would not get sick, age, or die.
But there is no self to be found in form, no independent agency pulling the strings, so these things happen anyway.
The same is true for the other aggregates.
Are you suggesting the Buddha is making the opposite conclusion?

I just don't understand how we could have two diametrically opposite understandings of something that to me seems so clear.


How can my understanding be refuted when I just copied what the sutta said?

I never said the 5 aggregates were self in fact the sutta says the 5 aggregates are Not-Self,
The sutta also says and I quote ,
"O monks, SINCE form IS not-self, THEREFORE form leads to suffering"

the reason form(and the 5 aggregates) lead to suffering is because they are Not-Self.

If form(and the 5 aggregates) were self they would not lead to suffering,and the reason why is because the self does not lead to suffering.

"IF form WERE self, then form would not lead to suffering"

If Nirvana was not self then it would lead to suffering (the suttas state whatever is not self is suffering)

Since Nirvana is Self it does not lead to suffering

(Sn 22.59 is very clear that whatever not self leads to suffering and if something were self it would not lead to suffering.)
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby futerko » Tue Dec 17, 2013 9:59 am

Son of Buddha wrote:
duckfiasco wrote:But Son of Buddha, your understanding is refuted in the very sutra you quote:
Form, O monks, is not-self; if form were self, then form would not lead to affliction and it should obtain regarding form: 'May my form be thus, may my form not be thus';

If form were self, you would have some degree of control over it, or it would be permanent or satisfying in some meaningful way. Therefore, you reasonably would not get sick, age, or die.
But there is no self to be found in form, no independent agency pulling the strings, so these things happen anyway.
The same is true for the other aggregates.
Are you suggesting the Buddha is making the opposite conclusion?

I just don't understand how we could have two diametrically opposite understandings of something that to me seems so clear.


How can my understanding be refuted when I just copied what the sutta said?

I never said the 5 aggregates were self in fact the sutta says the 5 aggregates are Not-Self,
The sutta also says and I quote ,
"O monks, SINCE form IS not-self, THEREFORE form leads to suffering"

the reason form(and the 5 aggregates) lead to suffering is because they are Not-Self.

If form(and the 5 aggregates) were self they would not lead to suffering,and the reason why is because the self does not lead to suffering.

"IF form WERE self, then form would not lead to suffering"

If Nirvana was not self then it would lead to suffering (the suttas state whatever is not self is suffering)

Since Nirvana is Self it does not lead to suffering

(Sn 22.59 is very clear that whatever not self leads to suffering and if something were self it would not lead to suffering.)


The argument presented by "The Supreme Patriarch of Thai Thervadan Buddhism who stated in 1939 that nibbana is atta (true Self)" in fact states that nibbana is atta precisely because it has form and may be taken as an object.

Nibbāna as True Reality beyond the Debate, by Potprecha Cholvijarn, page 14, "That purity cannot exist alone,it must have an object where it is situated..." and on page 15, "...in other words, the mind (citta) is atta but only the mind that is purified..."

The argument you are putting forward is contradictory because self must have form, there cannot be a non-form, non-object which is at the same time called atta.

The argument against this would seem to have recourse to Nagarjuna's differentiation of mind and beyond mind, which seems to be getting overlooked in this attempt to blur the terms.
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby Sherab » Tue Dec 17, 2013 10:02 am

Tsongkhapafan wrote:
Sherab wrote:It is debatable whether appearances appear for Buddhas. Having realized the causes for the arising of appearances to oneself, there is no more causing of phenomena to arise for a Buddha. That's how I understand it.


How are they omniscient if they don't perceive anything? How do they even exist?

You questions indicate that you assume that Buddha still operates/functions in the same way as sentient beings after their enlightenment.

Sentient beings operate/function via their senses which arise from causes and conditions and are subject to causes and conditions. Buddha is freed from causes and conditions and therefore need no longer operate/functions through their senses. So a Buddha need not "perceive" in the same way as sentient beings perceive.

An analogy (not a good one as I can't think of anything better) would be a blind person "seeing" his environment through touch. Suppose the blind person is no longer blind and can see directly, then he need no longer "see" his environment through touch, but that does not mean that he no longer see. In fact, he sees much better than before.
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby Son of Buddha » Tue Dec 17, 2013 10:07 am

smcj wrote:Common wisdom is that the Pali Suttas do not accept or assert a true "self". Later Buddha-Nature based sutras can more easily be interpreted that way, and some people do that. But I think trying to make suttas affirm a "self" is trying to hammer a square pet into a round hole.


Thats actually a HUGE misconception...in fact one of the oldest and largest Thervadan schools in india was a True self school.(Pudgala Buddhism)
If india had not been invaded and buddhism wiped out,then the majority of Thervadans most likely would have been True Self Buddhists....... In fact in 1939 the head leader of the Thervadan Sangha in Thailand proclaimed that Nibbana is True Self, in fact many of the most well know Thervadan monks were True Self Buddhists(Ven Maha Boowa) for example........

http://mobile.dudamobile.com/site/iep_u ... =true#2874

In the Mahavagga, Book of Discipline, when a woman stole the belongings of a group of high ranking people, the people went in search for the woman but find the Buddha instead, asking him whether they saw the woman. " But what have you, young men, to do with a woman ? " " We, Lord, a group of as many as thirty friends of high standing, with our wives, were amusing ourselves in this woodland grove ; one had no wife, (so) a woman of low standing was brought along for him. Then, Lord, as we were heedlessly amusing ourselves, that woman of low standing, taking our belongings, ran away. Consequently, Lord, we friends, doing our friend a service and seeking for that woman, are roaming about this woodland grove."
|| 2 || " What do you think of this, young men ? Which is better for you, that you should seek for a woman or that you should seek for the self ? "
" Truly this were better for us. Lord, that we should seek for the self."
" Well then, young men, you sit down, I will teach you dhamma." Source: Mahavagga I 31-32 THE BOOK OF THE DISCIPLINE (VINAYA-PITAKA) VOLUME IV (MAHAVAGGA) Translated by I. B. HORNER, M.A. http://archive.org/stream/bookofdiscipl ... t_djvu.txt Notice how the Buddha did NOT ask the men to seek the state of no self, but to seek for the self. permalin
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby Wayfarer » Tue Dec 17, 2013 10:13 am

The problem is one of objectification. If you are familiar with the Brihadaranyaka Upanisad, there are many passages in it, which say 'this self, of which nothing can be said', or 'that Brahman, which is unknowable'. In my view, the Buddha was more rigourously aware of the actual teaching of the Brahmins than they were themselves. As soon as you say 'the Self', you make it an object. It becomes something to believe in, some power, some object. Really the Buddha was better at the philosophy of the Upanisads than the Brahmins themselves. He beat them at their own game. He is more or less challenging them: 'this self, of which you say "nothing can be said" - what say you of it?'

And, foolishly for them, they proceed to answer.

Incidentally there is an excellent article on the pudgalavada here.
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby Son of Buddha » Tue Dec 17, 2013 10:45 am

futerko wrote:
The argument presented by "The Supreme Patriarch of Thai Thervadan Buddhism who stated in 1939 that nibbana is atta (true Self)" in fact states that nibbana is atta precisely because it has form and may be taken as an object.

Nibbāna as True Reality beyond the Debate, by Potprecha Cholvijarn, page 14, "That purity cannot exist alone,it must have an object where it is situated..." and on page 15, "...in other words, the mind (citta) is atta but only the mind that is purified..."

nowhere in the quotes does he say atta has form. The word 'object" is used to describe the subject of discussion(Nirvana) if you continue to read to page 16 he makes it clear that the term he used "object" is not to be taken to mean form (he states that atta is not the body and that atta is not the 5 aggregates(which include form)


The argument you are putting forward is contradictory because self must have form, there cannot be a non-form, non-object which is at the same time called atta.

self doesn't have to have form.
in fact form is not self.......if form were self it would not lead to suffering.
the real contradiction is to say Nirvana is Not Self cause, the Suttas make it clear whatever is suffering is Not Self,so if Nirvana is Not self then Nirvana would also be suffering.

The argument against this would seem to have recourse to Nagarjuna's differentiation of mind and beyond mind, which seems to be getting overlooked in this attempt to blur the terms.

"form is emptiness emptiness is form" so why would you have a problem with atta having form to begin with anyways?
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby Son of Buddha » Tue Dec 17, 2013 11:05 am

jeeprs wrote:The problem is one of objectification. If you are familiar with the Brihadaranyaka Upanisad, there are many passages in it, which say 'this self, of which nothing can be said', or 'that Brahman, which is unknowable'. In my view, the Buddha was more rigourously aware of the actual teaching of the Brahmins than they were themselves. As soon as you say 'the Self', you make it an object. It becomes something to believe in, some power, some object. Really the Buddha was better at the philosophy of the Upanisads than the Brahmins themselves. He beat them at their own game. He is more or less challenging them: 'this self, of which you say "nothing can be said" - what say you of it?'

And, foolishly for them, they proceed to answer.

Incidentally there is an excellent article on the pudgalavada here.


the Idea that there is only one Pali canon is also a misconception if you look up the history,the Pudgalavada's would argue with other Theravadan schools over which suttas were authentic,this shows that the canons each sect had different canons, it also explains why many of the Nikayas are different from one another, for instance the Samayutta Nikaya is heavily True Self and anti Not Self (in Sn 23:1-24, there are literally 24 straight suttas that state that whatever is devoid of the self belongs to mara and should not be sought after)

if you read the Samyutta Nikaya by itself you would walk away thinking this
SN 22.46 Impermanent (2) pg 885
At Savatthi. “Bhikkhus, form is impermanent…. Feeling is impermanent…. Preception is impermanent…. Volitional formations are impermanent…. Consciousness is impermanent. What is Impermanent is suffering. What is suffering is nonself. What is nonself should be seen as it really is with correct wisdom thus: This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.”
SN 22.68 “Bhikkhu you should abandon desire for whatever is non self”
SN:22.69 “Bhikkhu,you should abandon desire for whatever does not belong to self.”

http://agama.buddhason.org/SN/SN0551.htm (EDIT: sorry this link is in Chinese)

SN:33 At one time the Lord was staying near Savatthi … and said: “What is not yours, Bhikkhus, renounce it. Renouncing it will be to your good, to your happiness. And what, Bhikkhus, is not yours? The body, Bhikkhus, is not yours … Feeling … Perception … Mental activities … Consciousness, Bhikkhus, is not yours, renounce it. Renouncing it will be to your good, to your happiness.

“It is as if a person were to carry away, burn or do as he pleased with the grass, twigs, branches and foliage in this Jeta Grove. Would it occur to you to say, ’The person is carrying us away, is burning us, is doing as he pleases with us’?”

“Certainly not, Sir.”

“For what reason?”

“Because, Lord, this is not ourselves nor what belongs to ourselves.”

“So also, Bhikkhus, the body is not yours, renounce it. Renouncing it will be to your good, to your happiness. Feeling is not yours … Perception is not yours … Mental activities are not yours … Consciousness is not yours, renounce it. Renouncing it will be to your good, to your happiness.”
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby futerko » Tue Dec 17, 2013 12:14 pm

Son of Buddha wrote:"form is emptiness emptiness is form" so why would you have a problem with atta having form to begin with anyways?

I don't. If it has name and form, it is nāmarūpa.

edit: and if it doesn't have form, then it seems that basically what you are calling "True Self" is identical to emptiness.
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Tue Dec 17, 2013 2:58 pm

Son of Buddha wrote: The Buddha was clear that there is a self-doer.


This sutta is presented out of context.

What the Buddha explains in this sutta is a refuting of nihilism. Obviously, the experience of a doer arises. The Buddha never suggested otherwise. Indeed, it is this arising experience which is at the core of suffering. But that is not the discussion here. This Brahman was suggesting than no experience is even occurring. I had a discussion once with someone on a Theavadin discussion board who would not admit, even though he was posting to our discussion again and again, that he had any experience of a continuous self arising.

There are people who assert this. "I am not here. I am not speaking these words"
...and this is the philosophical position that the Brahman was presenting to Gotama.

But the Buddha states over an over again in many teachings that there is nothing intrinsic that can be called a self. Nothing that is 'me' or "mine". He never says that there is an inherently self that experiences samsara, and then an inherently self that experiences nirvana.

And if it isn't inherently existing, it cannot be defined, in the Buddhist context, as a self.

The discussion is whether there is or is not a distinct 'self' that experiences nirvana.
And by self is meant an essential, final individual being which cannot be divided into dependent composite parts.

But wouldn't such a self depend on the exclusion of everything that it is not part of it?
And thus, wouldn't this dependence on the relative exclusion of everything that is not part of it
contradict the idea that it is an independently occurring entity?
Yes. Such a 'self' that experiences nirvana
would have to have defining characteristics which distinguish it from everything else.

Tsongkhapafan wrote: How are they omniscient if they don't perceive anything? How do they even exist?

The omniscience occurs because it goes beyond the dualisms of self and other,
which is not possible if there is a self.

And if, as some might assert, a self does not have any defining characteristics,
then what constitutes a self?

Please tell me what constitutes a self, a self that experiences nirvana,
that is not conditionally arising?
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Re: Common Anatta Question

Postby Malcolm » Tue Dec 17, 2013 3:36 pm

jeeprs wrote:
Malcolm wrote:
Tsongkhapafan wrote: Buddhas impute 'I' upon the Truth Body, which is their valid basis of imputation and is therefore not wrong.


How is this different than Advaita Vedanta?

Further, how can Buddhas impute anything? The dharmakāya is the "mind" of a Buddha, and is completely free of all concepts. How can there be imputation when there is no conceptuality?

Further, how are the body and mind "valid" bases for imputing an I? No self can be found in either.

I am afraid you have long since abandoned any form of Madhyamaka, let alone "Prasanga".

Since all of the dried fire wood of knowledge objects
have been burned, that peace is the dharmakāya of the victors;
at that time there is no arising, no cessation;
that cessation of the mind is the direct perception of the kāya.


Candrakirti comments upon this that cessation of mind and mental factors is conventionally termed "direct perception" of the kāya.


I am struggling to understand how this is not nihilism. If it is the complete cessation of all concepts and the end of 'the person' how is this state different from non-existence?


"Persons" never started, so how could they end?
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