"the Self is real" according to T. Page

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"the Self is real" according to T. Page

Postby steveb1 » Tue Jan 21, 2014 9:39 pm

I know this subject has been kicked around here a lot, but here's a perspective that I have not seen here (though I could have missed it). It's from Tony Page - I don't know if the name is familiar to you or not. He proposes that Buddha, in particular sutras, did teach an eternal Buddha and an eternal Self. His views can be found here:

http://www.nirvanasutra.net/

and

http://www.bu.ac.th/knowledgecenter/epa ... age_47.pdf

and

http://www.holisticshop.co.uk/articles/ ... tra-buddha

Just wondering if anyone knows about Page and if you think his views are legit. Thanks in advance for any pointers.
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Re: "the Self is real" according to T. Page

Postby Son of Buddha » Tue Jan 21, 2014 10:15 pm

steveb1 wrote:I know this subject has been kicked around here a lot, but here's a perspective that I have not seen here (though I could have missed it). It's from Tony Page - I don't know if the name is familiar to you or not.He proposes that Buddha, in particular sutras, did teach an eternal Buddha and an eternal Self. His views can be found here:

http://www.nirvanasutra.net/

and

http://www.bu.ac.th/knowledgecenter/epa ... age_47.pdf

and

http://www.holisticshop.co.uk/articles/ ... tra-buddha

Just wondering if anyone knows about Page and if you think his views are legit. Thanks in advance for any pointers.


Yes his views are entirely inline with the Tathagatagarbha Sutra teachings of the Mahayana

You will also find the True Self teachings in Chan,Soto Zen and even jodo Shinshu (the Nirvana Sutra is the second most quoted sutra by Shinran Shonin).

True Self teachings can be found in Tibetan Buddhism through Dolpopas teachings of Shentong.

In Thervadan Buddhism in Thailand the majority of Buddhists and well Known Buddhist Thervadan teachers are True Self Buddhists. Look up Forest Dhamma of Ajahn Mun and Ajahn Maha Boowa and the largest single sect Wat Dhammakaya.

True Self teachings are extremely common in Chinese Buddhism also check out the Chineses Buddhist forum BSKK.

So with that said in Asian countries the Buddha Nature/True Self is a very common teaching......well except in western countries.

But to each their own.
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Re: "the Self is real" according to T. Page

Postby steveb1 » Tue Jan 21, 2014 10:21 pm

Thank you for your reply, Son of Buddha :)
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Re: "the Self is real" according to T. Page

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Jan 21, 2014 10:45 pm

He's a Doctor of Philosophy (German-Austrian Literature) so he must know what he's talking about.
"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."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: "the Self is real" according to T. Page

Postby LastLegend » Tue Jan 21, 2014 10:53 pm

There is no true self or self. If there is where is it?
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Re: "the Self is real" according to T. Page

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Jan 21, 2014 11:05 pm

I can't believe you took the bait (again)...

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"steveb1", why don't you try out this 36 page thread for a few answers!
"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."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: "the Self is real" according to T. Page

Postby steveb1 » Tue Jan 21, 2014 11:26 pm

Sherab, as I mentioned, I've seen many of the "Self" debates here. My specific inquiry was with Tony Page's views on the question, and in neither of your two posts thus far have you volunteered an opinion about Page.

Your admonishing another poster that by replying to my question, he "took the bait again" is unfair to him and to me, because it makes him a sucker and me a troll.
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Re: "the Self is real" according to T. Page

Postby jeeprs » Wed Jan 22, 2014 12:45 am

The paper seems reasonable to me, and his academic credentials demonstrate an interest in and some knowledge of Buddhism. I know it's a contentious matter too, but the important thing is to always maintain the practice and the 'way-seeking mind' in everything you do, then theoretical issues are not so important.

Actually in Nagarjuna's Philosophy by K Venkata Ramanan, the observation is made the sometimes the Buddha will teach 'there is a self' if for instance the listener is tending towards nihilism, and other times 'there is not' if the listener is tending towards 'eternalism'. So it is a question of skillful means. In regard to the self (along with everything else!) neither 'exists' nor 'does not exist' are exactly correct. If that was understood there would be less scope for argument.
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Re: "the Self is real" according to T. Page

Postby steveb1 » Wed Jan 22, 2014 12:50 am

jeepers, thanks for shedding light on the issue by introducing the "skilfull means" paradigm. I can see how a buddha would modify his teaching to suit the needs of his hearers...
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Re: "the Self is real" according to T. Page

Postby asunthatneversets » Wed Jan 22, 2014 1:03 am

A gravitation towards either extreme (self or no-self), if envoked at all, is only ever elicited in conventional parlance. The heart of the matter is always the freedom from extremes i.e. emptiness.
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Re: "the Self is real" according to T. Page

Postby smcj » Wed Jan 22, 2014 1:58 am

Son of Buddha wrote:Yes his views are entirely inline with the Tathagatagarbha Sutra teachings of the Mahayana

You will also find the True Self teachings in Chan,Soto Zen and even jodo Shinshu (the Nirvana Sutra is the second most quoted sutra by Shinran Shonin).

True Self teachings can be found in Tibetan Buddhism through Dolpopas teachings of Shentong.

In Thervadan Buddhism in Thailand the majority of Buddhists and well Known Buddhist Thervadan teachers are True Self Buddhists. Look up Forest Dhamma of Ajahn Mun and Ajahn Maha Boowa and the largest single sect Wat Dhammakaya.

True Self teachings are extremely common in Chinese Buddhism also check out the Chineses Buddhist forum BSKK.

So with that said in Asian countries the Buddha Nature/True Self is a very common teaching.....

Somehow I get the impression you already had that inventory assembled before he asked.
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Re: "the Self is real" according to T. Page

Postby asunthatneversets » Wed Jan 22, 2014 2:09 am

^ no doubt!

As soon as I read the OP I thought "que Son of Buddha, in 3, 2, 1..."
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Re: "the Self is real" according to T. Page

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Wed Jan 22, 2014 2:46 am

steveb1 wrote:I know this subject has been kicked around here a lot, but here's a perspective that I have not seen here (though I could have missed it).

It may be a perspective you have not seen, but it has been around for many centuries (beginning, I think, with ancient Brahmin priests). The problem with it, however, is that it is essentially a backwards approach. By that, I mean in a way that is not didssimilar to the logic employed in a witch hunt. In a witch hunt, the abstract concept of a witch living within a village community is first established. After that, whatever characteristics people regard as unfavorable are decidedly labeled as evidence. The villagers don't want a witch, and they don't like warts. So, when they see a woman with warts, that shows she must be a witch. This is essentially the same type of logic, only instead of the abstract concept being something negative, it is something its asserters consider positive.

In this case, "self" is put forward by proponents, even though (as with the witch) there is no specific definition of what a 'self' supposedly is. The proponents assert that this is some kind of permanent 'soul' or atman, but even this is essentially undescribable. You can't really say what it is made of, where exactly it exists, inside or outside the body, or ascribe to it any other characteristic with any certainty. As with the witch, it's whatever you wat it to be.

Nonetheless, these few passages are used to 'fill in the blanks' ... as some kind of proof that a self exists, because 'this is what the Buddha really taught" (even though such an interpretation flies in the face of teachings given during the previous 40 years his life).

The way I see it (which, admittedly, isn't really worth much) is that this obsession reflects a kind of greed. People want it both ways. They want to call themselves Buddhists, but they also want to believe in a permanent soul.

The Buddha never denied that a sense of self is what is experienced, that this is what we essentially have to work with, that we can't just pretend that we don't experience a self (although I have been in discussions with people who did deny that they were even having the discussion) and this is what most regard as the 'relative truth'. Ironically, while the 'self' proponents regard this 'self' as a positive thing, the Buddha reapeatedly pointed out that it is the very clinging to a notion of 'self' that is the root cause of rebirth in Samsara.

Wouldn't it be great if there really was a permanent self?
No, not really.

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Re: "the Self is real" according to T. Page

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed Jan 22, 2014 3:13 am

"Eventually we must give up trying to be something special."

-Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.
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is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: "the Self is real" according to T. Page

Postby xabir » Wed Jan 22, 2014 7:12 am

steveb1 wrote:I know this subject has been kicked around here a lot, but here's a perspective that I have not seen here (though I could have missed it). It's from Tony Page - I don't know if the name is familiar to you or not. He proposes that Buddha, in particular sutras, did teach an eternal Buddha and an eternal Self. His views can be found here:

http://www.nirvanasutra.net/

and

http://www.bu.ac.th/knowledgecenter/epa ... age_47.pdf

and

http://www.holisticshop.co.uk/articles/ ... tra-buddha

Just wondering if anyone knows about Page and if you think his views are legit. Thanks in advance for any pointers.
Dr Tony may be making valid comments about this sutra, but it does not mean that this sutra is being treated as the definitive sutra by the majority of people in Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, however there are certainly a handful of followers that hold such Atman/eternalist view that is no different from the Hindu's Advaita Vedanta.

I wrote last year:

Now recently I was discussing with Geoff (online jnana, nyana, etc) and he mentioned: "The "Mahāyāna" is a mixed bag, and has meant different things to different people at different times. I have faith that by practicing the perfections one can realize buddhahood. And this isn't unique to the Mahāyāna. The Theravāda also has teachings on the bodhisatta vehicle."

I can't agree more with this particularly the first sentence.

Mahayana means different things to different people, simply because it is not one particular teaching taught by one person. It is not even from the historical Buddha. Rather, it is a collection of teachings from so many people with different background, situation, understandings, under different circumstances or periods of doctrinal developments etc etc.

Some of those scriptures may be attributed to Buddha, but even those scriptures are not exactly by the historical Buddha (as modern scholarship will tell you) but are composed by many unknown authors writing them - perhaps a visionary account of their teachings, or more likely than not as Malcolm said - "...Even though Shakyamuni Buddha certainly never actually taught Mahayana, nevertheless, Mahayana stands on its own and is valid as a spiritual path and practice because the folks that wrote the Mahayana sutras down were realized persons. The source of these teachings are all realized beings-- ***their assumed historical settings are merely skillful means to instill faith in the teachings in those person's who need to crutch of historical literalism...***" In any case, the Mahayana sutras show signs of literary composition and gradual development that are simply absent in the Pali suttas, which shows signs of being handed down orally in the beginning and having more consistency etc.

And because Mahayana is such a diverse set of teachings developed over a thousand years, you can actually easily find a sutra to support a whole range of positions to your own liking. So if for example your understanding is that your true self is eternal and changeless awareness (and I know you're an eternalist lol), sure, you can also find doctrinal support easily in Mahayana Buddhism. You may even find that the early Tathagatagarbha teachings like the early Mahaparinirvana Sutra (Mahayana) may even seem more eternalist than Vedanta and is rather unapologetic about it. In that sutra, Nirvana is described as the true changeless self and distinct from the five passing aggregates. Which is in direct contradiction to the earlier Pali suttas (and Mahayana Prajnaparamita sutras etc) which held Nirvana to be empty of self.

But that is just one small part of the Mahayana basket of scriptures. Earlier than the Tathagatagarbha class of teachings we have the Prajnaparamita class of teachings, which are the emptiness teachings - all dharmas including Nirvana are taught to be empty and illusory, and as I quoted to you in the past from this class of teaching, "Nirvāṇa is an illusion. Even if there is anything greater than Nirvāṇa, that too will be only an illusion." ~ Aṣṭasāhasrikāprajñapāramitā Sutra

And in the later developments, such as Lankavatara Sutra, which is not particularly prajnaparamita, not particularly tathagatagarbha, not particularly yogacara - but since it is such a late sutra it is a synthesis of all the earlier developments - PP, TG, YC all included in one coherent scripture. This is the sutra that teaches sudden awakening and is said to be the only sutra brought into China by the 1st Zen/Ch'an Patriarch in China, Bodhidharma.

In this Lankavatara Sutra, it explains that the doctrine of Tathagatagarbha is simply a skillful, expedient means taught to non-Buddhists who fear the notion of emptiness and cling to notions of true self. Its aim is actually to lead them gradually towards understanding emptiness, non-arising etc expediently. It teaches that true Bodhisattvas must treat tathagatagarbha as ultimately not-self, and warn against falling into non-Buddhist views of an Atman. But of course this is not what is being explained in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra for example, which explains itself as being the final definitive teachings, etc. So there are always contradictions between sutras simply because they are written and developed by different people.

So all these mean very different things to different people, all depending on what they take to be provisional and what they take to be definitive.

The general consensus among the majority of Mahayana and particularly Vajrayana people is that they do not hold a rather substantialist understanding of Buddha-nature. In Vajrayana for example Buddha-nature is understood as the inseparability of clarity and emptiness. In other words, even though clarity is an aspect of nature of mind, or one of the natures/essence of mind (the other being emptiness), that clarity too is not reified in terms of a changeless substantial true self but is empty of any self or substantial real existence as well.

Vajrayana generally take the middle way teachings on emptiness to be definitive but at the same time talk about the clarity aspect or the inseparability of clarity and emptiness. There is strong influence of Nagarjuna's emptiness teachings in terms of view on the Vajrayana teachings as a whole even though in terms of practice they are more focused on tantric methodologies generally speaking (or there may be practice-based teachings that claim themselves to be beyond tantras like Dzogchen and Mahamudra for example).

On the other hand there are also those minority like the Jonangs and the more extreme version of Shentong that takes some of the Tathagatagarbha teachings to be definitive and thus developed an eternalist doctrine out of it that is no different from the Vedanta teachings. The same goes for some adherents/teachers of Zen and Ch'an Buddhism which are also in many cases teaching stuff that are very much like Vedanta. At the same time you can find Zen teachers that teach a very non-substantialist understanding, and I especially like Dogen for example. So it is truly, a mixed bag, even within the specific traditions of Mahayana and Vajrayana. There can be no similar consensus among such a wide range of Buddhists on such issues.

But going back to topic, Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhists generally agree with the Buddha's (the early/original teachings in pali suttas) description of Nirvana and generally do not hold substantialist views about it. However they do have different understandings of the details - and some Vajrayana people will talk about the difference of Bodhisattva's nirvana (non-abiding nirvana) versus the one-sided cessation of arahants and so on. All these I'll leave to the experts like Geoff who described it very nicely: http://dharmaconnectiongroup.blogspot.c ... dhism.html
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Re: "the Self is real" according to T. Page

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Jan 22, 2014 9:14 am

steveb1 wrote:Sherab, as I mentioned, I've seen many of the "Self" debates here. My specific inquiry was with Tony Page's views on the question, and in neither of your two posts thus far have you volunteered an opinion about Page.

Your admonishing another poster that by replying to my question, he "took the bait again" is unfair to him and to me, because it makes him a sucker and me a troll.
I was not admonishing "last legend" I was expressing my own exasperation.

You claim to have seen the "debates", did you read them? If you read them you would have noticed the same old repetitive arguments being played out over and over. What is it about those same old repetitive arguments that does not apply to Dr Page? Why would Dr Page's same old repetitive arguments differ? What is it about Dr Page personally that makes you want to know if his same old repetitive arguments are valid?

Quite simply... His arguments are valid to a small minority that wishes, with every means available, to introduce the concept of atman into Buddhism. Is it because of habits in this lifetime developed via their Abrahamic religious and cultural backgrounds? Is it due to habits from previous lives, where they may have been practitioners of Brahmanic religions? Is it due to their fear that this pathetic and fragile little existence is going to vanish forever, real soon? Probably a combination of all those factors (and more).

No, I don't consider you a troll, but you are definitely putting out troll bait and you've already managed to land a whopper! :smile: Already this thread is devolving into its usual pattern of discussion.
"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."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: "the Self is real" according to T. Page

Postby smcj » Wed Jan 22, 2014 10:31 am

Quite simply... His arguments are valid to a small minority that wishes, with every means available, to introduce the concept of atman into Buddhism.

Well use of terminologies between traditions can differ, and translation work across multiple languages by multiple translators can yield a gamut of potential terms. "Self", "atman" and the like are historical bugaboos for Buddhists, but as Shakespeare said, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." The whole alayavijnana things is pretty suspect if you are basing your Dharma on Pali Suttas for instance.


No, I don't consider you a troll, but you are definitely putting out troll bait and you've already managed to land a whopper! :smile: Already this thread is devolving into its usual pattern of discussion.

I must confess certain troll-esque impulses along the lines of thought here in this thread. Usually I keep them in check. I used to trot them out specifically to get a rise out of Malcolm, but he's learned to just ignore me about that kind of stuff. At this point I'd have to say something outrageous about Dzogchen to get him to react, but since I don't know enough about it to do an intelligent job of trolling that impulse is frustrated. That being said I personally tend towards what would be criticized as an "eternalist" view by a Gelugpa and think I'm in the ballpark for the current Karma Kagyu orthodoxy. I like Kongtrul's idea that Shentong view has to follow the Prasangika understanding of the observable universe for instance. But I'd have to have my interpretations verified by a real live lama though before I'd stand behind the statement that I hold orthodox interpretations about these ideas.

My other trolling-esque activities relate to more speculative lines of thought. The thread on reincarnation and evolution has those kinds of posts of mine. But as long as I label them as such I feel that I can speculate on what is controversial. I think the only real problem comes is when someone says "This is what the true Dharma teaches!" I don't think I've ever gone that far.
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Re: "the Self is real" according to T. Page

Postby Anders » Wed Jan 22, 2014 10:58 am

The root issue here is not whether or not there really is a self - that is to me actually uninteresting.

Rather, the issue is to have a view on self at all. Whether it is affirmative (the vast majority of of sentient beings share this) or negative (usually left to philosophers and meditators).

This is why the Buddha regarded both the views "I have a self" and "I have no self" as wrong view.

At the base level, of someone with a solid sense of self engaging this path, the view of "no self" may be a good remedy for the sickness of self. But let's see it in context. Such an absence of self is presented as an antidote, not a picture of ultimate reality.

Flashforward a few centuries from the Buddha's death where the selflessness of the skandhas had long since been extrapolated into 'no self' and I could well imagine that there'd be a substantial crowd believing this creed that an antidote of true self might be in order, that practitioners may know that "post-nirvana" is not what they imagine it to be. That Nirvana is not a realm of mere cessation. But let's see it in context. Such a Self is presented as an antidote, not a picture of ultimate reality.

For me, the Buddha's silence when pressed on whether there was a self or not remains the definitive word. Not in the sense that the question is mysteriously wordless. But that both sides are dead ends. And one fully comprehended by ineffability. Silence is the only proper response.

Where there ultimately is a self or not doesn't solve any problems for meditators. What does solve problems is to understand that, quite unrelated to the metaphysical question of self, there is a pathology of self. That sentient beings habitually fabricate for themselves an imagined self weaved into the five skandhas. This habit and activity is worth examining and knowing. Knowledge of the habits of how we cling to such an imagined self solves problems for meditators. Whether there really is a self left, independent of this I-making, at the end of the road? Let's revisit close to the end of the road. Even then, knowledge of I-making, and how pervasive it really is, is all one needs to know of.
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I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

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Re: "the Self is real" according to T. Page

Postby muni » Wed Jan 22, 2014 11:47 am

Anders wrote: Such an absence of self is presented as an antidote, not a picture of ultimate reality.
Such a Self is presented as an antidote, not a picture of ultimate reality.

Silence is the only proper response.


:namaste:
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Re: "the Self is real" according to T. Page

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Jan 22, 2014 11:57 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:Wouldn't it be great if there really was a permanent self?
No, not really.

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Not at all! Coz then nothing would change, we would never be able to be freed from samsara coz then even samsara would have an unchanging and permanent nature (what's good for the self has to be good for the other, otherwise it is not tenable).
"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."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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