Interviews with Bhikkhu Nanananda & alignment with Nagarjuna

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Interviews with Bhikkhu Nanananda & alignment with Nagarjuna

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Oct 13, 2010 9:39 am

Greetings,

A quality interview this, from the greatest Theravadin of modern times...

THE HERETIC SAGE
http://nidahas.com/2010/09/nanananda-heretic-sage-2/

It may be of interest to Dharma Wheel readers as it shows there are some Theravadins who suggest that the Abhidhamma is in conflict with the Buddha's teachings on emptiness.

This and other interviews with Nanananda are at http://nidahas.com/featured/#heretic

:buddha2:

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Re: Interviews with Bhikkhu Nanananda

Postby Astus » Wed Oct 13, 2010 12:44 pm

Nice. It's always been the view of Candrakirti and Tsongkhapa that sravakas realise the same emptiness as bodhisattvas. If they'd add some bodhicitta to it we could actually call it Mahayana. :tongue:
"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: Interviews with Bhikkhu Nanananda

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Oct 13, 2010 11:47 pm

Greetings Astus,

I think that's true to the point that someone doesn't reify dhammas (things) through Abhidhammic analysis and go on to claim that they
"exist" as "dhammas" (things).

Looking at the situation from the Theravada side of the fence, what Nagarjuna writes is nicely in accord with the following sutta (which unfortunately wasn't really front of mind amongst those involved with the Abhidhamma project)

SN 12.15: Kaccayanagotta Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Dwelling at Savatthi... Then Ven. Kaccayana Gotta approached the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One: "Lord, 'Right view, right view,' it is said. To what extent is there right view?"

"By & large, Kaccayana, this world is supported by (takes as its object) a polarity, that of existence & non-existence. But when one sees the origination of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'non-existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one. When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one.

"By & large, Kaccayana, this world is in bondage to attachments, clingings (sustenances), & biases. But one such as this does not get involved with or cling to these attachments, clingings, fixations of awareness, biases, or obsessions; nor is he resolved on 'my self.' He has no uncertainty or doubt that just stress, when arising, is arising; stress, when passing away, is passing away. In this, his knowledge is independent of others. It's to this extent, Kaccayana, that there is right view.

"'Everything exists': That is one extreme. 'Everything doesn't exist': That is a second extreme. Avoiding these two extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma via the middle: From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications. From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness. From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form. From name-&-form as a requisite condition come the six sense media. From the six sense media as a requisite condition comes contact. From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling. From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving. From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging/sustenance. From clinging/sustenance as a requisite condition comes becoming. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth. From birth as a requisite condition, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair come into play. Such is the origination of this entire mass of stress & suffering.

"Now from the remainderless fading & cessation of that very ignorance comes the cessation of fabrications. From the cessation of fabrications comes the cessation of consciousness. From the cessation of consciousness comes the cessation of name-&-form. From the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of the six sense media. From the cessation of the six sense media comes the cessation of contact. From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of feeling. From the cessation of feeling comes the cessation of craving. From the cessation of craving comes the cessation of clinging/sustenance. From the cessation of clinging/sustenance comes the cessation of becoming. From the cessation of becoming comes the cessation of birth. From the cessation of birth, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair all cease. Such is the cessation of this entire mass of stress & suffering."

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Re: Interviews with Bhikkhu Nanananda

Postby ground » Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:58 am

retrofuturist wrote:Looking at the situation from the Theravada side of the fence, what Nagarjuna writes is nicely in accord with the following sutta (which unfortunately wasn't really front of mind amongst those involved with the Abhidhamma project)

SN 12.15: Kaccayanagotta Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Dwelling at Savatthi... Then Ven. Kaccayana Gotta approached the Blessed One ...


And do also consider this one
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
SN 22.95
PTS: S iii 140
CDB i 951
Phena Sutta: Foam
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
© 1999–2010

On one occasion the Blessed One was staying among the Ayojjhans on the banks of the Ganges River. There he addressed the monks: "Monks, suppose that a large glob of foam were floating down this Ganges River, and a man with good eyesight were to see it, observe it, & appropriately examine it. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in a glob of foam? In the same way, a monk sees, observes, & appropriately examines any form that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in form?

"Now suppose that in the autumn — when it's raining in fat, heavy drops — a water bubble were to appear & disappear on the water, and a man with good eyesight were to see it, observe it, & appropriately examine it. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in a water bubble? In the same way, a monk sees, observes, & appropriately examines any feeling that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in feeling?

"Now suppose that in the last month of the hot season a mirage were shimmering, and a man with good eyesight were to see it, observe it, & appropriately examine it. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in a mirage? In the same way, a monk sees, observes, & appropriately examines any perception that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in perception?

"Now suppose that a man desiring heartwood, in quest of heartwood, seeking heartwood, were to go into a forest carrying a sharp ax. There he would see a large banana tree: straight, young, of enormous height. He would cut it at the root and, having cut it at the root, would chop off the top. Having chopped off the top, he would peel away the outer skin. Peeling away the outer skin, he wouldn't even find sapwood, to say nothing of heartwood. Then a man with good eyesight would see it, observe it, & appropriately examine it. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in a banana tree? In the same way, a monk sees, observes, & appropriately examines any fabrications that are past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near. To him — seeing them, observing them, & appropriately examining them — they would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in fabrications?

"Now suppose that a magician or magician's apprentice were to display a magic trick at a major intersection, and a man with good eyesight were to see it, observe it, & appropriately examine it. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in a magic trick? In the same way, a monk sees, observes, & appropriately examines any consciousness that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in consciousness?

"Seeing thus, the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones grows disenchanted with form, disenchanted with feeling, disenchanted with perception, disenchanted with fabrications, disenchanted with consciousness. Disenchanted, he grows dispassionate. Through dispassion, he's released. With release there's the knowledge, 'Released.' He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'"

That is what the Blessed One said. Having said that, the One Well-Gone, the Teacher, said further:
Form is like a glob of foam; feeling, a bubble; perception, a mirage; fabrications, a banana tree; consciousness, a magic trick — this has been taught by the Kinsman of the Sun. However you observe them, appropriately examine them, they're empty, void to whoever sees them appropriately. Beginning with the body as taught by the One with profound discernment: when abandoned by three things — life, warmth, & consciousness — form is rejected, cast aside. When bereft of these it lies thrown away, senseless, a meal for others. That's the way it goes: it's a magic trick, an idiot's babbling. It's said to be a murderer.[1] No substance here is found. Thus a monk, persistence aroused, should view the aggregates by day & by night, mindful, alert; should discard all fetters; should make himself his own refuge; should live as if his head were on fire — in hopes of the state with no falling away.


Kind regards
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Re: Interviews with Bhikkhu Nanananda

Postby Huifeng » Thu Oct 14, 2010 3:28 am

Astus wrote:Nice. It's always been the view of Candrakirti and Tsongkhapa that sravakas realise the same emptiness as bodhisattvas. If they'd add some bodhicitta to it we could actually call it Mahayana. :tongue:


No bodhicitta = no mahayana.
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Re: Interviews with Bhikkhu Nanananda

Postby Sherab » Thu Oct 14, 2010 4:17 am

retrofuturist wrote:It may be of interest to Dharma Wheel readers as it shows there are some Theravadins who recognise that the Abhidhamma is in conflict with the Buddha's teachings on emptiness.

Hi Retro,
I am more interested in the arguments of those Theravadins who hold that the Abhidhamma is NOT in conflict with the Buddha's teachings on emptiness. Do you have a summary of those arguments?
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Re: Interviews with Bhikkhu Nanananda

Postby ground » Thu Oct 14, 2010 5:02 am

Sherab wrote:I am more interested in the arguments of those Theravadins who hold that the Abhidhamma is NOT in conflict with the Buddha's teachings on emptiness. Do you have a summary of those arguments?

Not knowing what "those Theravadins" may offer but for me it seems obvious that if you take the Abhidhamma as a mere conventional teaching as any other teaching then it may be conceived of as not being in conflict. If there occur terms like "ultimately existent" or so then one would have to assess these in their own conventional context.
But of course that would certainly not appear "attractive" or sort of "acceptable in the slightest" to proponents of utter non-existence.

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Re: Interviews with Bhikkhu Nanananda

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Oct 14, 2010 5:19 am

Greetings Sherab,

Sherab wrote:I am more interested in the arguments of those Theravadins who hold that the Abhidhamma is NOT in conflict with the Buddha's teachings on emptiness. Do you have a summary of those arguments?

Not being one of those people, I'm probably not the best one to ask... but when I've asked such questions of such people, they tend to extend emptiness only to something being "empty of an atman". To them, a "dhamma" (in the Abhidhammic sense) is an inherently existing thing, which is devoid of an atman.

Again, it's always risky to represent others and do it accurately, so you may wish to try either Dhamma Study Group - http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dhammastudygroup/ or the Classical Theravada section of Dhamma Wheel - http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewforum.php?f=19 if you would like a more substantial account.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Re: Interviews with Bhikkhu Nanananda

Postby Huifeng » Thu Oct 14, 2010 7:45 am

Being in the Dharma-free-for-all, is there something particular about the Mahayana that you are wanting to discuss, Paul?
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Re: Interviews with Bhikkhu Nanananda

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Oct 14, 2010 10:49 am

Hi Sherab,
Sherab wrote:I am more interested in the arguments of those Theravadins who hold that the Abhidhamma is NOT in conflict with the Buddha's teachings on emptiness. Do you have a summary of those arguments?

There's no need to make a realist straw man out of Abhidhamma...
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... =20#p89007
tiltbillings wrote:It is important to understand that Buddhism (here meaning Theravada) is not doing science. It is not commenting on the nature of the “external” world. It is dealing with what is experienced. A “fundamental particle” of experience is hardly an unchanging, unconditioned thing. It is a way of talking about the flow of experience that our senses can give us which we can call this or that.

Ven Nyanamoli in a footnote in his PATH OF PURIFICATION, pages 317-8, states: "In the Pitakas the word sabhaava seems to appear only once...," it appears several times in Milindapanha, and it is used quite a bit in the PoP and it commentaries. He states it often roughly corresponds to dhaatu, element and to lakkhana, characteristic. An interesting passage from the PoP reads:

"On the contrary, before their rise [the bases, aayatana] they had no individual essence [sabhaava], and after their fall their individual essence are completely dissolved. And they occur without mastery [being exercisable over them] since they exist in dependence on conditions and in between the past and the future." Page 551 XV 15.

Piatigorsky (In his study of the Pitaka Abhidhamma texts, THE BUDDHIST PHILOSOPHY OF THOUGHT, p 182) puts it: “From the point of view of consciousness, it can be said that, when consciousness is conscious of one’s mind, thought, or consciousness directed to their objects, then it is ‘being conscious of’ that may be named ‘a state of consciousness’ or a dharma.”

Piatigorsky (THE BUDDHIST PHILOSOPHY OF THOUGHT, p 146) explains: “the meaning of each abhidhammic term [dhamma] consists (or is the sum) of all its positional meanings and of all positional meanings of its connotations.”

Nyanaponika quotes a sub-commentary to an Abhidhamma text: "There is no other thing than the quality borne by it." (na ca dhaariyamma-sabhaavaa an~n~o dhammo naama atthi). Abhidhamma Studies, page 40. Which is to say: We simpy cannot say that 'a dharma is... (a predicate follows)', because a dharma, in fact, 'is' no thing, yet [it is] a term denoting (not being) a certain relation or type of relation to thought, consciousness or mind. That is, dharma is not a concept in the accepted terminological sense of the latter, but a purely relational notion. -- Piatigorsky, THE BUDDHIST PHILOSOPHY OF THOUGHT, page 181.

Nyanaponika ABHIDHAMMA STUDIES, page 41 BPS; page 42 Wisdom wrote:By arranging the mental factors in relational groups a subordinate synthetical element has been introduced into the mainly analytical Dhammasangani. By so doing, the danger inherent in purely analytical methods is avoided. This danger consists in erroneously taking for genuine separate entities the “parts” resulting from analysis, instead of restricting their use to sound practical method with the purpose of classifying and dissolving composite events wrongly conceived as unities. Up to the present time it has been a regular occurrence in the history of physics, metaphysics, and psychology that when the “whole” has been successfully dissolved by analysis, the resultant “parts” themselves come in turn to be regarded as little “wholes.”


Prof. Dr. Y. Karunadasa, THE DHAMMA THEORY, page 9 http://www.zeh-verlag.de/download/dhammatheory.pdf wrote:In the Pali tradition it is only for the sake of definition and description that each dhamma is postulated as if it were a separate entity; but in reality it is by no means a solitary phenomenon having an existence of its own. . . . If this Abhidhammic view of existence, as seen from its doctrine of dhammas, cannot be interpreted as a radical pluralism, neither can it be interpreted as an out-and-out monism. For what are called dhammas -- the component factors of the universe, both within us and outside us -- are not fractions of an absolute unity but a multiplicity of co-ordinate factors. They are not reducible to, nor do they emerge from, a single reality, the fundamental postulate of monistic metaphysics. If they are to be interpreted as phenomena, this should be done with the proviso that they are phenomena with no corresponding noumena, no hidden underlying ground. For they are not manifestations of some mysterious metaphysical substratum, but processes taking place due to the interplay of a multitude of conditions.


Harvey, in his excellent INTRODUCTION TO BUDDHISM, characterizes the Theravadin position, page 87: wrote: "'They are dhammas because they uphold their own nature [sabhaava]. They are dhammas because they are upheld by conditions or they are upheld according to their own nature' (Asl.39). Here 'own-nature' would mean characteristic nature, which is not something inherent in a dhamma as a separate ultimate reality, but arise due to the supporting conditions both of other dhammas and previous occurrences of that dhamma. This is of significance as it makes the Mahayana critique of the Sarvastivadin's notion of own-nature largely irrelevant to the Theravada."


A.K. Warder, in INDIAN BUDDHISM, page 323, discussing the Pali Abhidhamma commentarial literature wrote: "The most significant new idea in the commentaries is the definition of a 'principle' or element (dharma): dharmas are what have (or 'hold', 'maintain', dhr. is the nearest equivalent in the language to the English 'have') their own own-nature (svabhaava). It is added that they naturally have this through conditions."


Dhammas are "ultimate things" only as a way of talking about aspects of the relational flow of experience, not in terms of describing static realities. In other words, dhammas are empty of self.
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Re: Interviews with Bhikkhu Nanananda

Postby Sherab » Thu Oct 14, 2010 11:25 am

Thanks Mike.

Can I summarised the information that you have supplied are essentially saying that it is the dependency/relations whether spatial or temporal between or among so-called dhammas that are truly existing? Or putting it in another way, dhammas depended on these spatial/temporal dependency/relations for their existence.

It is possible that one may say that the dependencies/relations themselves depend on the dhammas for their existence. If so, are we saying that everything is bootstrapping everything?
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Re: Interviews with Bhikkhu Nanananda

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Oct 14, 2010 11:54 am

Greetings bhante,

Huifeng wrote:Being in the Dharma-free-for-all, is there something particular about the Mahayana that you are wanting to discuss, Paul?

Being in the Dharma-free-for-all, I'm sharing General Dhamma that's free for all. 8-) Feel free to do likewise at Dhamma Wheel - you shan't be needled for doing so.

Seriously though, I don't have specific questions or comments to make at this point in time - I just thought in the interests of inter-tradition fellowship I might share the insights of a modern Theravadin who seems to have common ground with Nagarjuna. I know personally, I'm interested in common ground that exists between Nagarjuna and suttas such as those presented above by myself and TMingyur... others may be interested or disinterested as it pleases them.

I may or may not have some Nagarjuna related questions at a future date.

Metta,
Paul. :)
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Re: Interviews with Bhikkhu Nanananda

Postby Huifeng » Thu Oct 14, 2010 1:18 pm

If Theravada and Nagarjuna have common ground, how do the two of them define and work with the term svabhava / sabhava? Is Nagarjuna using a definition form the former? or elsewhere? If the latter, whose?
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Re: Interviews with Bhikkhu Nanananda

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Oct 15, 2010 1:02 am

Greetings bhante,
Huifeng wrote:If Theravada and Nagarjuna have common ground, how do the two of them define and work with the term svabhava / sabhava? Is Nagarjuna using a definition form the former? or elsewhere? If the latter, whose?

Further to a point that you make often, as there is no homogenous "Mahayana perspective", likewise there is no homogenous "Theravada perspective" either.

As per the quotations Mike provided earlier, "In the Pitakas the word sabhaava seems to appear only once...". So to someone like venerable Nanananda who gives primacy to Buddhavacana over the authors of the Abhidhamma and the Mahavihara commentators... the question of the commentarial sabhava doctrine becomes a non-issue with respect to the Buddha's teaching, where sabhava appears as a word only once, and presumably in a non-absolutist context.

The interviews I linked to above speak of Venerable Nanananda's criticism of the Theravada commentarial understanding of sabhava thusly...

Interview #1 wrote:...crit­i­cis­ing the Ābhid­ham­mika atom­ism and the com­men­tar­ial sab­hāva (own-essence) doc­trine, he says:

"An insight med­i­ta­tor, too, goes through a sim­i­lar expe­ri­ence when he con­tem­plates on name-and-form, see­ing the four ele­ments as empty and void of essence, which will give him at least an iota of the con­vic­tion that this drama of exis­tence is empty and insub­stan­tial. He will real­ize that, as in the case of the dumb show, he is involved with things that do not really exist. […] See­ing the rec­i­p­ro­cal rela­tion­ship between name-and-form, he is dis­in­clined to dab­ble in con­cepts or gulp down a dose of pre­scrip­tions. […] What is essen­tial here, is the very under­stand­ing of essence­less­ness. If one sits down to draw up lists of con­cepts and pre­scribe them, it would only lead to a men­tal con­sti­pa­tion"

Hence the common ground I spoke of between Nanananda and Nagarjuna (as opposed to Mahavihara Theravada and Nagarjuna).

This is highlighted by Nanananda's praise of Nagarjuna...

Interview 2 wrote:"Every­one knows that the mid­dle way is the noble eight­fold path. Every­one knows that the first ser­mon was the Dham­macakkap­pa­vat­tana Sutta. But if for some rea­son Āḷārakālāma or Uddaka Rāma­putta were alive, what we would have as the Dham­macakkap­pa­vat­tana would be some­thing short like the Bāhiya Sutta, because they were fac­ing a dual­ity of a dif­fer­ent nature.

“The five ascetics were given a teach­ing based on the eth­i­cal mid­dle path, avoid­ing the two extremes of kāma­sukhal­likānuyoga and attak­il­a­math­ānuyoga. But the mid­dle path of right view is found in the Kac­cā­nagotta Sutta, beau­ti­fully used by Ven. Nāgār­juna. When the Ther­avadins got engrossed with the Abhid­hamma they for­got about it. The Mād­hyamikas were alert enough to give it the atten­tion it deserved.


Interview 2 wrote:“I didn’t quote from the Mahāyāna texts in the Nib­bāna ser­mons,” he says, “because there was no need. All that was needed was already found in the Sut­tas. Teach­ers like Nāgār­juna brought to light what was already there but was hid­den from view. Unfor­tu­nately his later fol­low­ers turned it in to a vāda.”

He goes on to quote two of his favourite verses from Ven. Nāgārjuna’s Mūlamād­hya­makakārikā (as usual, from memory):

Śūnyatā sarva-dṛṣtīnaṃ proktā niḥsaranaṃ jinaiḥ,
yeṣāṃ śūnyatā-dṛṣtis tān asād­hyān babhāṣire [MK 13.8]

The Vic­to­ri­ous Ones have declared that empti­ness is the relin­quish­ing of all views. Those who are pos­sessed of the view of empti­ness are said to be incorrigible.

Sarva-dṛṣti-prahāṇāya yaḥ sad­dhar­mam adeśayat,
anukam­pam upādāya taṃ namasyāmi gau­tamaṃ [MK 26.30]

I rev­er­ently bow to Gau­tama who, out of com­pas­sion, has taught the doc­trine in order to relin­quish all views.

Bhante doesn’t bother trans­lat­ing the verses; the ones pro­vided above are by David Kalupahana.

“When I first read the Kārikā I too was doubt­ing Ven. Nāgārjuna’s san­ity” he laughs. “But the work needs to be under­stood in the con­text. He was tak­ing a jab at the Sarvās­tivādins. To be hon­est, even the oth­ers deserve the rebuke, although they now try to get away by using Sarvās­tivāda as an excuse. How skilled Ven. Nāgār­juna must have been, to com­pose those verses so ele­gantly and fill­ing them with so much mean­ing, like the Dhamma­pada verses. It’s quite amaz­ing. This has been rightly under­stood by Prof. Kalupahana.”

Prof. David J. Kalu­pa­hana is an emi­nent Sri Lankan scholar who stirred up another con­tro­versy when he por­trayed Ven. Nāgār­juna as a reformist try­ing to res­ur­rect early Bud­dhist teach­ings. He had been a lec­turer dur­ing Bhante Ñāṇananda’s uni­ver­sity days as a lay­man at Peradeniya.

“If there is no sub­stance in any­thing, what is left is empti­ness. But many peo­ple are afraid of words. Like śūnyatā. They want to pro­tect their four.” With that ‘irrev­er­ent’ com­ment about the four para­mattha dhamma–s of the Abhid­hamma, Bhante Ñāṇananda breaks into amused laughter.

“If one does not approach the com­men­tar­ial lit­er­a­ture with a crit­i­cal eye, one would be trapped. Unfor­tu­nately many are.


Metta,
Retro. :)
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Re: Interviews with Bhikkhu Nanananda

Postby Huifeng » Fri Oct 15, 2010 5:28 am

Thanks, Paul, for these excerpts.

The point "taking a jab at the Sarvās tivādins. To be honest, even the others deserve the rebuke, although they now try to get away by using Sarvāstivāda as an excuse" is something that I too, have noted. I feel that in the present climate, whereby any serious Buddhist scholar cannot ignore Nagarjuna, even if they are Theravadin, it has become something of a norm for Theravadins to emphasize the differences between their system and that of the Sarvastivadins. Though there is a difference, which is obvious, there is also a very close similarity in many aspects. Latter presentations of sabhava in the Theravada are well post-Nagarjuna (and similarly inspired critiques), but at that time, the main relevant difference here was the sarvasti versus vibhajya issue, a secondary matter to svabhava. So I think some Theravada scholars are trying to deflect that criticism somewhat. And there really aren't any die-hard Sarvastivadins around these days to defend themselves.


However, a definition of svabhava from Nagarjuna would still be useful here, however. And likewise too for the Theravada definition. Although it isn't really in use in the Tipitaka, that is avoiding the issue. How is it defined in the para-canonical literature? This is why I ask about the "Theravada" rather than "Pali sutta" definition.

And one may wish to be careful about using Kalupahana's translation of the MMK, which received more than a little criticism (and I don't mean from Theravadins, but from other Nagarjuna scholars). Kalupahana does have his own kind of agenda at times in that book, and one needs to be aware of this. In fact, it may just be that form of deflection I mention above. His understanding of the Sarvastivada and Sautrantika is rather problematic, even though he points most of Nagarjuna's criticisms in that direction.

But really, one also needs to look into all the schools of thought at Nagarjuna's time. Stretch the net broader, and look into the Vatsiputriyas, in particular; and also the non-Buddhist schools, of course. This is where the Chinese translation of the MMK is valuable, as it is the first commentary we have of the text, much earlier than the later Candrakirti, Buddhapalita, Bhavaviveka and others. (Here I agree with Kalupahana, but despite his recommendation, he basically never gets around to citing from it!)
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Re: Interviews with Bhikkhu Nanananda

Postby Indrajala » Fri Oct 15, 2010 6:10 am

Out of curiosity, throughout the last two millennia or so, how aware were Theravada thinkers in Sri Lanka and elsewhere of of Nagarjuna? Is this a recent (in the last hundred or so years) thing? I wonder if any number of Theravada thinkers were reading Nagarjuna much in pre-modern times?
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Re: Interviews with Bhikkhu Nanananda

Postby Huifeng » Fri Oct 15, 2010 6:14 am

Huseng wrote:Out of curiosity, throughout the last two millennia or so, how aware were Theravada thinkers in Sri Lanka and elsewhere of of Nagarjuna? Is this a recent (in the last hundred or so years) thing? I wonder if any number of Theravada thinkers were reading Nagarjuna much in pre-modern times?


Some were, as his words appear in later Theravada sub-commentaries and the like.
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Re: Interviews with Bhikkhu Nanananda

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Oct 15, 2010 6:23 am

Greetings bhante,

Regarding the definition of sabhava as understood within Theravada, I searched for it with and without the diacritic, but couldn't find it in the online PTS Pali-English dictionary...

http://dsal.uchicago.edu/dictionaries/pali/

... I expect it's in there somewhere, but I can't work out how to find it. Nor could it be found in Nyanatiloka's Buddhist Dictionary...

http://www.buddhanet.net/budsas/ebud/bu ... dic3_s.htm

Sorry I couldn't be of more assistance on that front.

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Re: Interviews with Bhikkhu Nanananda

Postby Huifeng » Fri Oct 15, 2010 6:54 am

PTSD:

Sabhāva
Sabhāva [sa4+bhāva] 1. state (of mind), nature, con- dition Miln 90, 212, 360; PvA 39 (ummattaka˚), 98 (santa˚), 219. -- 2. character, disposition, behaviour PvA 13, 35 (ullumpana˚), 220 (lokiya˚). -- 3. truth, reality, sincerity Miln 164; J v.459; v.198 (opp. musāvāda); J vi.469; sabhāvaŋ sincerely, devotedly J vi.486.
-- dhamma principle of nature J i.214; -- dhammatta= ˚dhamma Vism 238. -- bhūta true J iii.20.

But I think this misses the first two appearances of the term, in the Paṭisambhidāmagga and Petakopadesa. Oops.
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Re: Interviews with Bhikkhu Nanananda

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Oct 15, 2010 7:32 am

Dear Venerable,
Huifeng wrote:However, a definition of svabhava from Nagarjuna would still be useful here, however. And likewise too for the Theravada definition. Although it isn't really in use in the Tipitaka, that is avoiding the issue. How is it defined in the para-canonical literature? This is why I ask about the "Theravada" rather than "Pali sutta" definition.

Yes, it would be useful to have some insight into exactly how these things were regarded and discussed. The quotes from Tiltbillings that I gave above suggest to me that modern dismissals of the Theravada literature tend to paint rather simplistic picture of the depth of the discussion that went on. It seems extremely unlikely that, either in ancient times or now, there were one or two scholars, such as Nagarjuna or Nanananda, who saw things clearly, and the rest were a bunch of deluded fools.

The progression of knowledge in any field simply doesn't work like that in any field I know anything about.

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