Misunderstanding of Anatta?

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Misunderstanding of Anatta?

Postby Vidyaraja » Wed Mar 13, 2013 11:14 pm

I was searching on Google for more information regarding Atman vs. Anatman, and came upon a blog that claims the concept of "no-soul" or Buddhism being against Atman is false. I am not so well versed on the Pali Cannon or these philosophical doctrines to formulate my own opinion, so I was hoping someone more learned here could comment on what this man is claiming and tell me if and why he is wrong.

Here is the content of the article:

[edited out quote and link to site known to contain fraudulent translations of Pali Canon teachings and racist propaganda]

Note: It just so happens that this man seems to be a fan of Julius Evola, who I have spoken of before, but I have never seen this blog (or any other articles on it) before today. Just thought I'd clarify that.

Further searches regarding this topic brought me to a Soka Gakkai discussion group with a list of quotes:

"if there were no Soul , Subhuti, then the liberation Lord Gotama
commands is no command at all"------[Mahaparinirvana Sutra v. 1184 ,
Taisho T .374, trans. Dr. Kosho Yamamoto.]

"It cannot be otherwise that the Soul is the refuge, the light within,
the refuge of the Tathagatas of the three periods"-- --------[Taisho
T .374, trans. Dr. Kosho Yamamoto. . Published 1973 Karibunko press
Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra] verse 1218

"What is the non-dual (advaya)? It is the Atman"-----------[Taisho T .
374, trans. Dr. Kosho Yamamoto. . Published 1973 Karibunko press
Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra] verse 168

"Deniers of the Bhagavat's (Buddha's) teaching upon the refuge to be
sought are those who proclaim a no-soul doctrine against the Law of
the Tathagatas of the three periods"----- [Taisho T .374, trans. Dr.
Kosho Yamamoto. . Published 1973 Karibunko press Mahayana
Mahaparinirvana Sutra] verse 1281

"Those Charvaks (nihilists) who espouse a no-Soul doctrine quickly for
Hell are bound"--- [Taisho T .374, trans. Dr. Kosho Yamamoto. .
Published 1973 Karibunko press Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra] verse
1802

"The Soul is the Buddha, is the body of dharma, is the bliss of
Nirvana, is the pure Law" [Taisho T .374, trans. Dr. Kosho Yamamoto. .
Published 1973 Karibunko press Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra] verse
68

"Oh followers (I implore you)! Do not abide (like the fools do) in
hankering after the non-eternal, the not-Self, the sorrowful, the
impure; and be like those people (fools) who take stone, wooden
sticks, and gravel for the true beryl gem (Soul)!" [Taisho T .374,
trans. Dr. Kosho Yamamoto. . Published 1973 Karibunko press Mahayana
Mahaparinirvana Sutra] verse 71

"You must study well the Way and meditate on the ATMAN, this eternal
bliss, the pure. Know that the outer forms are the upside-downs
(untrue/unreal/suffering)" [Taisho T .374, trans. Dr. Kosho
Yamamoto. . Published 1973 Karibunko press Mahayana Mahaparinirvana
Sutra] verse 72

"What is the Soul? It is the Real, the Eternal, the Master, the One to
be depended upon, or also, that True-Nature (svabhava) which does not
suffer change, this is the Soul." [Taisho T .374, trans. Dr. Kosho
Yamamoto. . Published 1973 Karibunko press Mahayana Mahaparinirvana
Sutra] verse 75r any other liberation ontology which seeks out wisdoms
perfection and final liberation.

and in the Nikayas;

"What young men do you think, were it not better for you to seek the
Atman (atmanam gavis) than a woman?" [Vin 1.23]--- Gotama Buddha

Atta'sarana anan'n'asarana.--------"Soul as a refuge with none other
as refuge" DN 2.100

"Atta' ca me so saranam gati ca" ----------"The Soul is the refuge
that I have gone unto" Jatakapali 1441 Akkhakandam

"Soul the refuge (Saran.am.attano)" DN 2.120

Jataka-2 #1341 "tattha atta' va sarathi" --------"the Soul is
Charioteer"


So what is the deal here? Is there an Atman/soul in Buddhism after all?
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Re: Misunderstanding of Anatta?

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Thu Mar 14, 2013 12:17 am

Lol..way to open a can of worms.

The short answer is..some say there is, a minority. Some claim that Tathagatagarbha is indistinguishable from atman. The best answer I've gotten is that teachings on Tathagatagarbha are provisional, not meant to be declarative statements of and within themselves, and not the same as atman.

The site itself looks like the usual "Buddhism is really Theosophy/Traditionalism/whatever". Even the author admits that his views are completely out of step with accepted Buddhist doctrine, he just makes some argument that he has discovered this "original Dharma" that apparently all those crazy Buddhists..who actually practice in Buddhist tradition have just missed.
"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: Misunderstanding of Anatta?

Postby Vidyaraja » Thu Mar 14, 2013 12:18 am

Apparently the author of the first article in question has some videos on the subject too. Here is part 1:

[Removed video link to author known for mistanslating Pali Canon teachings and propagating racist ideology based on misinterpretations of the Buddhas teachings]
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Re: Misunderstanding of Anatta?

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Thu Mar 14, 2013 1:11 am

Buddhism attracts only the mentally perverse who wrongly see superficially something noble in a soulless nihilistic Humanistic idealism.


Nice quote from the article.

So yeah, you can choose whether or not to believe him, there are a few guys out there pedaling this same argument, and each claims some kind of magical secret translation capability or something. I don't have any background in such things at all, so I can just go with what I can intuit by reading translations and trying to find broad consistency...by those standards what he is saying is total nonsense. That said, i'd love to see someone refute the actual linguistic claims that these guys make from the other side.

I know some of them have done things that even I can see are off, such as trying to make the conventional use of "self" seem like something more than it is in Sutta/Sutra. Things like "oneself is one's refuge" in the Dhammapada..which on context obviously does not mean what they assert it means.
"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: Misunderstanding of Anatta?

Postby Vidyaraja » Thu Mar 14, 2013 1:29 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:The site itself looks like the usual "Buddhism is really Theosophy/Traditionalism/whatever". Even the author admits that his views are completely out of step with accepted Buddhist doctrine, he just makes some argument that he has discovered this "original Dharma" that apparently all those crazy Buddhists..who actually practice in Buddhist tradition have just missed.


Yea, I am not saying I agree with him, but I would like to add that just because he hold this view or because his article contained an insult (which I don't find very classy, but hey maybe he is irritated at what he perceives to falsehoods?) as you described in your post above doesn't necessarily make him incorrect. Just sayin'.
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Re: Misunderstanding of Anatta?

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Thu Mar 14, 2013 3:51 am

Vidyaraja wrote:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:The site itself looks like the usual "Buddhism is really Theosophy/Traditionalism/whatever". Even the author admits that his views are completely out of step with accepted Buddhist doctrine, he just makes some argument that he has discovered this "original Dharma" that apparently all those crazy Buddhists..who actually practice in Buddhist tradition have just missed.


Yea, I am not saying I agree with him, but I would like to add that just because he hold this view or because his article contained an insult (which I don't find very classy, but hey maybe he is irritated at what he perceives to falsehoods?) as you described in your post above doesn't necessarily make him incorrect. Just sayin'.


Yeah, he is irritated about the "falsehood" that is the vast majority of 2600 years of Buddhist thought, these few independent guys with blogs have apparently figured out what most Buddhist tradition hasn't. Nagarjuna has nothing on some dude posting his video rants to youtube;) I have not seen anything convincing at all so far that this "Buddhism with an atman" is really a thing, it gets confusing though. take a look at:

viewtopic.php?f=40&t=11728&hilit=rangtong
viewtopic.php?f=77&t=10864&p=149931&hilit=mind+versus+self#p149931

Anyway you are right, his attitude does not make him wrong, and there are people on this very forum that hold similar views, but manage to be pretty nice about it.

He doesn't seem to talk of Mahayana anyway, but within Mahayana the Tathagatagarbha sutras do speak of atman in some places, and have a generally more eternalist thing going on, but to the best of my knowledge Buddhism with a full on "soul" of the kind found in other religions is quite a minority view. in the Pali Canon, I have not personally read a thing that talks about anything other than a conventional self, but there is admittedly a ton I haven't read..generally with the Pali Canon the arguments seem to boil down to translation and context.
"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: Misunderstanding of Anatta?

Postby Vidyaraja » Thu Mar 14, 2013 4:12 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:Yeah, he is irritated about the "falsehood" that is the vast majority of 2600 years of Buddhist thought, these few independent guys with blogs have apparently figured out what most Buddhist tradition hasn't. Nagarjuna has nothing on some dude posting his video rants to youtube;) I have not seen anything convincing at all so far that this "Buddhism with an atman" is really a thing, it gets confusing though. take a look at:

viewtopic.php?f=40&t=11728&hilit=rangtong
viewtopic.php?f=77&t=10864&p=149931&hilit=mind+versus+self#p149931


Yea, but isn't that juts an appeal to tradition (2600 years majority) or authority (Nagarjuna)? While it seems he is just "some dude", he mentions a list of scholars that apparently agree with him in his article.

While I am not well versed enough to say either way, it is interesting to consider what I said in the thread on Perennialism regarding Atman/Brahman, ie that every mystical and sacred tradition except Buddhism falls more in line with the Atman/Brahman idea than the no-self and denial of any eternal ontological entity. This would mean that either A) Buddhism is right and every other tradition is wrong B) Buddhism is wrong on this point or C) Buddhism actually originally (and in the notion of Tathagataghabara) taught the same thing as this man is claiming and has largely gone astray.

Thanks for the links by the way, I'll have to read through them.
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Re: Misunderstanding of Anatta?

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Thu Mar 14, 2013 4:19 am

Vidyaraja wrote:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:Yeah, he is irritated about the "falsehood" that is the vast majority of 2600 years of Buddhist thought, these few independent guys with blogs have apparently figured out what most Buddhist tradition hasn't. Nagarjuna has nothing on some dude posting his video rants to youtube;) I have not seen anything convincing at all so far that this "Buddhism with an atman" is really a thing, it gets confusing though. take a look at:

viewtopic.php?f=40&t=11728&hilit=rangtong
viewtopic.php?f=77&t=10864&p=149931&hilit=mind+versus+self#p149931


Yea, but isn't that juts an appeal to tradition (2600 years majority) or authority (Nagarjuna)? While it seems he is just "some dude", he mentions a list of scholars that apparently agree with him in his article.



Sure, because I think they have FAR more authority based on their works, not just who they are. And yes there are some scholars that hold to eternalist ideas, but again they are minorities, particularly if one wants to bring "God" and "soul" into the equation more from the context of western religion. I'm no scholar myself, but i'm fairly confident that is the case.

While I am not well versed enough to say either way, it is interesting to consider what I said in the thread on Perennialism regarding Atman/Brahman, ie that every mystical and sacred tradition except Buddhism falls more in line with the Atman/Brahman idea than the no-self and denial of any eternal ontological entity. This would mean that either A) Buddhism is right and every other tradition is wrong B) Buddhism is wrong on this point or C) Buddhism actually originally (and in the notion of Tathagataghabara) taught the same thing as this man is claiming and has largely gone astray.

Thanks for the links by the way, I'll have to read through them.


Their arguments are usually just very thin. Tathagatagarbha is a later thing anyway, and only Mahayana, there is no way to claim Tathagatgarbha is in the Pali Canon other than one comment about "Luminosity" of the mind. Usually the way the arguments go is a few lines from this, a few lines from that taken out of context, then from this a big claim that most of Buddhism is simply wrong. Again stuff like taking mentions of what is obviously conventional self, and claiming it means "true self" or atman is the best example i've seen.

Take a look at the threads, and read up on rangtong vs. zhentong and similar if you really want the context of "true self" in Buddhism..whatever the case, it ain't about some kind of deep conspiracy to "bury the truth" like guys like this assert..it's more worth looking at the historical doctrinal disputes if the subject interests you than reading some random angry theosophist or whatever he is thoughts on the matter, why learn about Buddhism initially from someone with such a low opinion of it?
Last edited by Johnny Dangerous on Thu Mar 14, 2013 4:27 am, edited 2 times in total.
"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: Misunderstanding of Anatta?

Postby Wayfarer » Thu Mar 14, 2013 4:19 am

I am familiar with the writings of that particular blogger.

He has a point, but he is also fanatical in the extreme, e.g., submits multiple critical accounts of books that he doesn't like on the topic, on Amazon, under various pseudonyms; gets into intense flame wars and online shouting matches with anyone who takes a negative view of his approach; and so on. But, he does have a point, and I used some of these same arguments in a (carefully-written and sober) thesis that I submitted on this very topic, at the University of Sydney, in 2012. I summarized some of that in this post last night. (You will notice reference to the point he makes about the adjectival use of 'anatta' which I regard as a sound observation.)

But take my advice, steer well clear of 'aryan buddhist', he is vexatious in the extreme, and whatever merit of his arguments have are generally overshadowed by long-windedness and intolerance of dissent.
Learn to do good, refrain from evil, purify the mind ~ this is the teaching of the Buddhas
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Re: Misunderstanding of Anatta?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu Mar 14, 2013 4:40 am

Vidyaraja wrote:I was searching on Google for more information regarding Atman vs. Anatman, and came upon a blog that claims the concept of "no-soul" or Buddhism being against Atman is false.


Well gee, it's pretty hard to argue with "the largest metaphysics site on earth", but here goes:

he's wrong.

Unfortunately, Dr. Kosho Yamamoto uses the English word "soul" in his translation work,
which this blogger cites.
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Re: Misunderstanding of Anatta?

Postby Andrew108 » Thu Mar 14, 2013 8:26 am

It's heresy both ways. Establishing emptiness or nothingness is heresy. Establishing a soul is heresy. So what to do?
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.
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Re: Misunderstanding of Anatta?

Postby Ayu » Thu Mar 14, 2013 9:46 am

Emptyness is not the same as nothingness.
Emptyness is to be understood well by the means of meditation and contemplation. You'll never find the right words for a listener who didn't contemplate emptyness in the right way.
Because, if our mothers, who have been kind to us
From beginningless time, are suffering,
What can we do with (just) our own happiness?
From 10th of 37 Bodhisattva Practices
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Re: Misunderstanding of Anatta?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Thu Mar 14, 2013 12:51 pm

Please refer to the topics linked to by Johhny Dangerous for clear examples of the unending and circular nature of discussion regarding this topic.

Thread locked.
"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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