Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

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Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby rachmiel » Wed Jan 16, 2013 3:13 pm

In Advaita Vedanta, pure awareness (brahman) is considered to be the ultimate, unchanging, eternal substrate of reality.

In Buddhism, consciousness (vijnana) is considered to be one of the five skandhas, thus empty of independent existence.

My questions:

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?

Thanks,

rachMiel
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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby Astus » Wed Jan 16, 2013 3:44 pm

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.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby songhill » Wed Jan 16, 2013 4:24 pm

Nakamura notes that Buddhist Vijñânavâdins called themselves Advitavâdinah. He said the word advaita existed before Sankara (cp. Nakamura, A History of Early Vedanta Philosophy, p. 119).
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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby rachmiel » Wed Jan 16, 2013 4:38 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?

Thanks for the response, Astus. Coupla followup questions.

1, Advaita thinks consciousness (vijnana) is/has an eternal part. Buddhism refutes it.

I'm not sure what you mean. Advaita does not think *anything* ultimately is/has parts. There is only brahman ... which, depending on frame of reference, is called Self (atman), God (Ishvara), pure awareness, etc. So what exactly does Buddhism refute?

2. No, otherwise they'd be the same doctrine using different words.
3. Buddhism teaches interdependence.

So there is no ultimate substrate/reality in Buddhism? Awareness -- pure (object-less) or impure (subject/object) -- is just a skandha, hence empty (no independent existence)?
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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby rachmiel » Wed Jan 16, 2013 4:39 pm

songhill wrote:Nakamura notes that Buddhist Vijñânavâdins called themselves Advitavâdinah. He said the word advaita existed before Sankara (cp. Nakamura, A History of Early Vedanta Philosophy, p. 119).

A-dvaita just means: not two. Right?
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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby songhill » Wed Jan 16, 2013 4:46 pm

rachmiel wrote:
songhill wrote:Nakamura notes that Buddhist Vijñânavâdins called themselves Advitavâdinah. He said the word advaita existed before Sankara (cp. Nakamura, A History of Early Vedanta Philosophy, p. 119).

A-dvaita just means: not two. Right?


You could say non-dualistic monism.
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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby muni » Wed Jan 16, 2013 4:56 pm

rachmiel wrote:In Advaita Vedanta, pure awareness (brahman) is considered to be the ultimate, unchanging, eternal substrate of reality.

In Buddhism, consciousness (vijnana) is considered to be one of the five skandhas, thus empty of independent existence.

My questions:

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?

Thanks,

rachMiel


We can only talk by conventional drawings which can differ a lot. Interdependent phenomena are not different from empty spaciousness at all and therefore they can be called illusory since they are minds' reflections.

Form (dependency) - emptiness, emptiness - form (dependency)

Only "views" can be compared. But in nondual awareness/nature like it appears and is, is no view, and therefore no comparision and no levels, no impartiality, no name calling and so on since that is grasping conceptual mind only.

With respect.
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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby Jeff » Wed Jan 16, 2013 5:02 pm

Astus wrote:
3. Buddhism teaches interdependence.


Advaita teaches "oneness" which can be described as interdependence.
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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby lowlydog » Wed Jan 16, 2013 5:19 pm

Astus wrote: Advaita thinks consciousness (vijnana) is/has an eternal part. Buddhism refutes it.


Consciousness is permanent/eternal and Buddhism does not refute this. Advaita and Buddhism are the same teachings when understood(practically experienced) correctly.

rachMiel,

bodhicitta= pure awareness= brahman, but what you are suggesting scares the crap out of those who hang on to their religious beliefs to tightly. :smile:
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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby Jainarayan » Wed Jan 16, 2013 5:19 pm

rachmiel wrote: There is only brahman ... which, depending on frame of reference, is called Self (atman), God (Ishvara), pure awareness, etc.


Indeed. There is Saguna Brahman, Brahman with attributes. Under the veil of maya this becomes Ishvara, God. Nirguna Brahman is Brahman without attributes, the formless, attributeless ground of all being, pure awareness. The Self (capital S) is Brahman; the self (small s) is the illusion, the ego, the I. When the self realizes there is no I and that it is Self, i.e. Brahman, then comes moksha. The self is technically sunyata, it does not exist in and of itself. It has no inherent existence. It's an illusion.
Worthy, wise and virtuous: Who is energetic and not indolent, in misfortune unshaken,
flawless in manner and intelligent, such one will honor gain. - Digha Nikaya III 273
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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed Jan 16, 2013 5:22 pm

You can't name, describe, or depict anything outside of interdependence, this is "everything", if there is something outside of it, certainly by naming and categorizing it, it is nothing like what you think, and is now part of interdependence by the very act of your naming and conceptualizing. To me that's the Buddhist take on the question, and the reason for the suspicion toward ontological thought in general. As evidenced by half the conversations on this board though..there is a wide range of disagreement on whether there is 'eternal self' in Buddhism, so look around.
Last edited by Johnny Dangerous on Wed Jan 16, 2013 5:25 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby Jainarayan » Wed Jan 16, 2013 5:23 pm

songhill wrote: He said the word advaita existed before Sankara (cp. Nakamura, A History of Early Vedanta Philosophy, p. 119).


Yes, Advaita as a concept existed way before Shankara. Shankara propounded it, brought it to light and taught it.
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flawless in manner and intelligent, such one will honor gain. - Digha Nikaya III 273
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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby Astus » Wed Jan 16, 2013 5:25 pm

rachmiel wrote:I'm not sure what you mean. Advaita does not think *anything* ultimately is/has parts. There is only brahman ... which, depending on frame of reference, is called Self (atman), God (Ishvara), pure awareness, etc. So what exactly does Buddhism refute?

So there is no ultimate substrate/reality in Buddhism? Awareness -- pure (object-less) or impure (subject/object) -- is just a skandha, hence empty (no independent existence)?


What I mean is that Advaita believes that there is an ultimate consciousness, but it is actually mistaking consciousness, certain forms of consciousness, to be something ultimate. For instance, in the Brahmajala Sutta (DN 1) the Buddha explains several forms of mistaking different meditative experiences as the ultimate reality.

An objectless consciousness is not possible (what is it conscious of without an object?). And yes, consciousness is an aggregate. Aggregate simply means a category of phenomena, not a unitary thing. Consciousness is always momentary (see: SN 12.61).
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby Astus » Wed Jan 16, 2013 5:28 pm

Jeff wrote:Advaita teaches "oneness" which can be described as interdependence.


Oneness means that everything has the same substance. Buddhism teaches that everything is without substance (nihsvabhava = empty) and dependently originated.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby lowlydog » Wed Jan 16, 2013 5:40 pm

Astus wrote:Oneness means that everything has the same substance.


You are not taking into consideration the ultimate reality and how this statement rings true in the unmanifested(formless).
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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby Astus » Wed Jan 16, 2013 5:41 pm

lowlydog wrote:Consciousness is permanent/eternal and Buddhism does not refute this. Advaita and Buddhism are the same teachings when understood(practically experienced) correctly.


Something eternal cannot change. A consciousness that cannot be conscious of anything new means a frozen consciousness. What is the use of such a thing?
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby Astus » Wed Jan 16, 2013 5:43 pm

lowlydog wrote:You are not taking into consideration the ultimate reality and how this statement rings true in the unmanifested(formless).


The ultimate truth in Buddhism is emptiness. The formless realms are just samsara.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby rachmiel » Wed Jan 16, 2013 5:45 pm

Thank you all for the responses. Learning a lot! But also getting a bit (more) confused ...

To cut to the chase, here's my predicament. I'm studying Advaita Vedanta, and much of it resonates with me, feels true. BUT (and it's a huge but!) the final conclusion of Advaita -- that brahman = changeless eternal ultimate substrate = oneness = everything (self of course included) -- has just never felt right to me. It feels like an arbitrary leap of faith, a fairy tale. I'm with Advaita through all its negation (I am not ultimately this, this is not ultimately real, etc.), but Advaita loses me with their final conclusion: THIS (brahman) *IS* real, and is all there is, therefore you and I and everything = brahman.

In researching how other eastern philosophical systems view reality, I discovered Buddhism's dependent origination (pratītyasamutpāda). My take on this is that it "goes one step further than Advaita" by *not* leaping to the final solution of brahman, rather saying that at the end of all the negation ... is nothing. There is no overarching principle, it's all just impermanent phenomena in a beautiful all-inclusive interdependent web, there is no essential self, etc. This resonates with me VERY STRONGLY! But I want to make sure I'm getting it right, that my take on Buddhism's take on reality is correct.

Am I? Is it?
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Re: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed Jan 16, 2013 5:48 pm

IMO you have it essentially right, though it seems to me it's less a definitive statement of "there is nothing" outside of this, it's more like saying there is no point trying to grasp anything outside of this, as that is the ultimate state is utterly removed from ideas about being, non-being, oneness, otherness etc.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
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: Advaitin vs. Buddhist takes on awareness/reality

Postby rachmiel » Wed Jan 16, 2013 5:56 pm

I understand that brahman is beyond human conceiving, and that any attempt to do so is doomed to frustration/failure.

Advaita agrees with this. But it maintains that brahman is *real* -- the only real, in fact -- and that it is all there is.

So did Buddha say: It makes no sense to even talk about this ultimate stuff, since I can never know. In effect: I'm a-brahman-gnostic.

Or did he *know* and choose not to reveal his knowledge because he deemed it counterproductive to his goal of ending human suffering?

In other words, does Buddhism say "There is no ultimate reality, no brahman" or "It's of no use to speculate about ultimate reality, because it's unknowable." The first shuts out the possibility of brahman, the second doesn't.
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