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“True nature” approach to liberation? - Dhamma Wheel

“True nature” approach to liberation?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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“True nature” approach to liberation?

Postby starter » Fri Feb 25, 2011 5:27 pm

Hello Teachers/Friends,

Since I was little, somehow the “debate” between Master Shenxiu (the founder of the Northen Chan school) and Master Huineng (the founder of the Southern Chan school) about which way of Buddhist practice can lead to enlightenment (this story is well known to Chinese) has been kept in my memory. Since I started Dhamma practice several months ago, such memory has occasionally floated up. This morning the two gathas made by Shenxiu and Huineng came to my mind and I think I truly understand them now:

Master Shenxiu’s gatha:

身是菩提樹, The body is a Bodhi tree,
心如明鏡臺。 The mind like a standing mirror bright.
時時勤拂拭, At all times polish it diligently,
勿使惹塵埃。 And let no dust alight.

Note: Master Shenxiu still regarded this body and this (defiled) mind as “self”, therefore he was not yet enlightened, and was not chosen to be the Sixth Patriarch of Chán Buddhism.


Master Huineng’s gatha:
菩提本無樹, Bodhi (the body) is ultimately not a tree;
明鏡亦非臺。 The bright mirror (the mind) is also not a stand.
本來無一物, The original is not a single thing [neither this body nor this mind] (and/or: Fundamentally there is no a single thing)
何處惹塵埃。 Where could it be touched by any “dust”?

Note: Master Huineng regarded neither this body nor this mind as “self”, and the original mind is not a “thing” (conditioned existence). He further pointed out that both “Bodhi” and “bright mirror” are ultimately empty of “labeled self”. He asked: “ how can the original mind (which is unconditioned) be actually touched by any “dusts” (which are conditioned) at all?
This gatha made him the Sixth and Last Patriarch of Chán Buddhism.

Mater Huineng advocated an “immediate and direct approach to Buddhist practice and enlightenment -- Sudden Enlightenment” by realizing the original mind is originally pure, unborn and undying, and inherently complete. I suppose his approach to liberation is relinquishing the delusions and cravings by penetrating that all conditioned phenomena are empty [of “self”] through knowing and contemplating the original nature, instead of through knowing and contemplating anicca/dukkha/anatta of the five aggregates and six sense bases. By using this approach, he didn’t teach his disciples the gradual path taught by the Buddha. His teachings have influenced the Chinese Buddhist practice very significantly.

Now my question is:

Can the original mind [“the luminous pure mind”] be essentially defiled by the “dusts” (assavas/defilements), or the "dusts" are only "guests" to the "host"? Is Master Huineng’s “direct approach to liberation” alright for those with sharp faculties, who have realized the Dhamma? Can the “true nature” (“the pure mind” or “the deathless”) approach really lead to nibbana?

The Buddha taught in Sn 5.15:
“View the world, … as empty [of “self”] — always mindful to have removed any view about self [regarding the conditioned worlds?]. This way one is above & beyond death. This is how one views the world so as not to be seen by Death's king.”

But he also taught:

"Luminous, monks, is the mind. And it is defiled by incoming defilements. The uninstructed run-of-the-mill person doesn't discern that as it actually is present, which is why I tell you that — for the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person — there is no development of the mind."

"Luminous, monks, is the mind. And it is freed from incoming defilements. The well-instructed disciple of the noble ones discerns that as it actually is present, which is why I tell you that — for the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones — there is development of the mind." [AN 1]

Considering the importance of the topic, I hope to get your valuable input.

Metta,

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Last edited by starter on Tue Mar 01, 2011 5:22 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: “True self” approach to liberation?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Feb 25, 2011 7:32 pm


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Re: “True self” approach to liberation?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Feb 25, 2011 9:01 pm

Greetings,

I agree wholeheartedly with Tilt, here.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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Re: “True self” approach to liberation?

Postby starter » Fri Feb 25, 2011 10:42 pm

"What else does the Buddha say about mind/citta? You can entangle yourself in these Mahayana concepts or you can keep it simple and easy with the Buddha's teachings."
-- To my understanding, the Thai Forest tradition and some other Theravada traditions also have such citta concept. But thanks for the advice. Metta!

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Re: “True self” approach to liberation?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Feb 25, 2011 10:58 pm

Greetings Starter,

I think you may have misread what Tilt wrote.

I believe he is suggesting it would be better to understand concepts like "citta" and "mano", rather than importing loaded concepts like "true self", or any other self-view for that matter.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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Re: “True self” approach to liberation?

Postby kirk5a » Sat Feb 26, 2011 12:50 am

Ajahn Maha Boowa has some penetrating things to say about "true self." Reading his description, I can see how a certain meditative experience can be very compelling suggestion of "true self." Coming at it from the Buddhist perspective, of course he saw the delusion there.

"Both the very refined satisfaction and dissatisfaction that arise exclusively
within the mind, and the truly amazing radiance that emanates from
it, have their origin in delusion. But since we have never before encountered
them, we are deluded into grasping at them when we first investigate this point.
We are lulled sound asleep by delusion, which causes us to believe that the
subtle feelings of satisfaction and the amazing bright radiance are our true essence
beyond name and form. Oblivious to our mistake, we take this majestic
mind complete with delusion to be our one true self."
"Samana" p. 172

It's right at this point, I suspect, where "true self" contemplatives, and true Buddhist contemplatives, diverge. His description shows us just why all paths don't lead to "the same thing." If we were to follow a teaching urging us to find our "true self" we would stop right there and think we've found it.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

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Re: “True self” approach to liberation?

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Feb 26, 2011 12:51 am

Greetings,

If we regard any thing as self, we're on the wrong track.

All dhammas (things) are not self.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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Re: “True self” approach to liberation?

Postby starter » Sat Feb 26, 2011 1:39 am

"Ajahn Maha Boowa has some penetrating things to say about "true self." Reading his description, I can see how a certain meditative experience can be very compelling suggestion of "true self." Coming at it from the Buddhist perspective, of course he saw the delusion there.

"Both the very refined satisfaction and dissatisfaction that arise exclusively
within the mind, and the truly amazing radiance that emanates from
it, have their origin in delusion. But since we have never before encountered
them, we are deluded into grasping at them when we first investigate this point.
We are lulled sound asleep by delusion, which causes us to believe that the
subtle feelings of satisfaction and the amazing bright radiance are our true essence
beyond name and form. Oblivious to our mistake, we take this majestic
mind complete with delusion to be our one true self."
"Samana" p. 172"

-- Hi thanks for the kind help. As I remember from reading one of his talks, Ajahn Maha Boowa seems to have used "the Buddha nature" to describe the pure mind, which seems to be the same as used in the Mahayana school [?]. As I understand, the "true self" refers to "the Buddha nature" or "the arahant nature" -- whatever you name it (the name doesn't really matter to me), which is unconditioned, "originally pure, unborn and undying, and inherently complete".

I certainly wouldn't take "the subtle feelings of satisfaction and the amazing bright radiance" as "our true essence beyond name and form", which is certainly still within name and form. I just wonder if the undefiled [and unconditioned] pure mind the Buddha mentioned in AN1 is actually the so called "true self" or "the Buddha nature". Of course, I understand by the time of liberation the terms like "self" and "non-self" wouldn't apply anymore to the enlightened one. But before one's enlightenment, it seems not a bad strategy for emptying the trainer's mind from delusions and cravings about this world since he'll see all the conditioned phenomena as Not-self/No-self, in a kind of similar way to our anatta of five aggregates.

To my understanding, the Buddha only taught "Not-self/No-self" in the conditioned dimension (in the formations), not in the unconditioned dimension; he
actually classified the view of "no self" as a wrong view.

Metta,

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Re: “True self” approach to liberation?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Feb 26, 2011 2:25 am


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Re: “True self” approach to liberation?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Feb 26, 2011 2:28 am


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Re: “True self” approach to liberation?

Postby m0rl0ck » Sat Feb 26, 2011 3:02 am

“The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.” ― Robert M. Pirsig

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Re: “True self” approach to liberation?

Postby ground » Sat Feb 26, 2011 4:37 am


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Re: “True self” approach to liberation?

Postby Akuma » Sat Feb 26, 2011 8:31 am


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Re: “True self” approach to liberation?

Postby Dan74 » Sat Feb 26, 2011 9:12 am

It's kind of strange to discuss a Mahayana-sounding approach at a Theravada forum. More appropriate I think to post such questions at Dharma Wheel or Zen Forum International.

The whole take of "True Self" or Original Nature, as I understand it, is to encourage a practitioner and develop faith that Nibbana/Nirvana is not something out there but already here, just obscured by defilements.

I guess most of us wonder if it is too lofty an aim and whether we have what it takes. This teaching unequivocally says "yes" to both of those questions, and furthermore that defilements themselves are not real or substantial but simply depend on the delusion and habitual proliferations to support them.

In that sense it is a very helpful teaching IMO because it provides a massive amount of encouragement (but hopefully not hubris). Of course to imaging Nibbana as an "it" of some sort is fraught with problems, because one immediately separates oneself from "it". Whereas it is neither an "it" nor separable in any sense from anything or anyone. Hence all the non-dual teachings in Mahayana.
_/|\_

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Re: “True self” approach to liberation?

Postby A_Martin » Sat Feb 26, 2011 4:05 pm

food for thought
does anatta know it is anatta, does anicca know its anicca, does dukkha know it is dukkha?
So who (the hell) then is it who knows that the five aggregates are anicca anatta and dukkha???
Who is the one that wants to get up in the morning or wants to sleep a bit more?
So do we take the approach of a mathematician, who hears the teaching of the Lord Buddha and then defines there is no self. (provocative: this seems to be the western approach to Buddhism) and suddenly there is no Self anymore, then there is only intention that creates kamma and there is action and there is speech. No one responsible any more (sometimes reading through the threads I have the feeling that people want to define their way out of samsara)?
Than Acharn Maha Bua hardly talks about self, only when he talks to monks he uses I did this, I practiced in this way, when he talks to laypeople, he uses We did this or that, or just refers to him as Luangta Maha Bua or even somtimes as youg lad Bua.
Sometimes he says, whatever we think we are, are the kilesas, whatever the kilesas are, we think we are. Once we get rid of the kilesas, we get rid of all the problems.
When he talks about the higher stages of practice, he uses the pure citta and the citta with kilesas. If we translate citta as mind, we are certainly in troubles
The pure citta, he translates as pure knowingness, and the citta with kilesas as the one who knows. Because the kilesas are the fangs of avijja, he also talks about avijja as the one who knows. Once it is gone, no more problems.
In Thai forest tradition it is always the kilesas who are the troublemakers, no matter how refined the kilesas are.
If you want to hear them talking you into things, then just sit in meditation concentrate on the breath or Buddho, they will come and convince you this is sound, this is this or that, you have to do it in this way, no better in this way, 24 hours of KBC (Kilesas Broadcast Company) They even make you believe that you had insights into this or that.
End of food and metta to all of you.

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Re: “True self” approach to liberation?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Feb 26, 2011 6:08 pm


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Re: “True self” approach to liberation?

Postby beeblebrox » Sat Feb 26, 2011 6:16 pm


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Re: “True self” approach to liberation?

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Re: “True self” approach to liberation?

Postby A_Martin » Sun Feb 27, 2011 5:57 am

Sorry
I think I posted the above in the wrong forum. If one practices meditation as taught by the Lord Buddha, correctly, then one would understand what I was talking about.
I was not talking about True Self. For there is no True Self. There is nibbana, whatever nibbana means
And let us remember, that the Words of The Lord Buddha itself are not the Truth, but point to the truth, or point the way to the truth, whoever has found the truth, can rename the pointers in anyway he sees fit. (In programming language A= 3000, means A only points to the value, so somebody looks up the value, by following the pointer, then realizing this is his monthly income redefines the pointer A = monthly_income. The value does not change. Same as we take nibbana as pointing to nibbana, whoever goes there could redefine the pointer. We can compare ourselves to be at the foot of a mountain, what do we know what somebody who has finished his work, climbing up to the top of the mountain sees? Three people climb the mountain, whenever they tell us what they saw, it will differ to us, but if the three meet, they will know they have seen the same thing.
Good luck to all of you who cling to much to the words and try to define or think your way out of samsara.
Metta Martin

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Re: “True self” approach to liberation?

Postby A_Martin » Sun Feb 27, 2011 6:03 am



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