Interviews with Bhikkhu Nanananda & alignment with Nagarjuna

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Re: Interviews with Bhikkhu Nanananda

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Oct 15, 2010 8:21 am

Greetings Mike,

I'll leave venerable Huifeng to answer your question, because I think it's an excellent question... but I'm not sure that "progression of knowledge in any field" is an apt analogy here, since the presence of the Dhamma in the world seems to be portrayed in classical literature as a cycle of rediscovery and decay.

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

Postby Huifeng » Fri Oct 15, 2010 8:45 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Mike,

I'll leave venerable Huifeng to answer your question, because I think it's an excellent question... but I'm not sure that "progression of knowledge in any field" is an apt analogy here, since the presence of the Dhamma in the world seems to be portrayed in classical literature as a cycle of rediscovery and decay.

Metta,
Retro. :)


I think Mike's comment is very apt. The usual approach of "so-and-so is trying to express reality" or the like is often a far cry from what is actually going on, which is the a development of systematic thought about a given issue.

As theses are presented, critics indicate the problems that such-and-such a theory poses, particularly with regard explicit statements made by the Buddha; and then a newer theory is worked on and presented. Often, this will retain elements of the former, with some amendments to avoid the problem criticized.

This is the Dharma as the teachings. The Dharma as truth, to be discovered, or what have you, is in a sense off the table. Everyone claims to be expressing that truth, after all; and all the discussion takes place through various expressions, ie. Dharma as teachings.

Just as physicists will likely say that the laws of physics haven't changed, they will be quick to point out that physics itself has, meaning here "physics" as the body of knowledge and ideas of human beings about those actual laws. Same principle here, different field.
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Re: Interviews with Bhikkhu Nanananda

Postby Huifeng » Fri Oct 15, 2010 8:56 am

mikenz66 wrote: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.

Mike


One thing I like to keep in mind, is that when a subsequent body of literature and thus thought appears, it does not at all mean that the previous body of literature and thought therefore vanishes, or that even a majority of people accept and uphold the newer body.

I fact, if we took modern fields of study as a reference point, one could probably argue that when a particular new idea first appears in print (as opposed to just being thought about), it may often meet with much resistance. The majority may well still hold to previous notions.

Moreover, the discrepancy between the thought of the specialists in the field, and that of the appearance in public, may entail quite some delay time wise. Appearance of texts only gives a terminus ad quem, rather than an actual starting point.

Relative profusion of literature may or may nor indicate popularity of the idea, either amongst scholars or the public at large. There may be some relationship, but fringe groups with massive publication efforts can slant things (like the Scientology people buying all their own books!) And this is also only at that time. What remains for later will have other factors. Paleographical evidence is more durable than certain forms of written matter. However, various cultural shifts or doctrinal regime changes can, in some cases, lead to massive destruction of any and all evidence of previous systems of thought. (eg. look at the official history of Buddhism in Thailand; then look at the archeology.)

It is a broadly complex issue.
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Re: Interviews with Bhikkhu Nanananda & alignment with Nagarjuna

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Oct 15, 2010 8:56 am

Greetings bhante,

This is the Dharma as the teachings. The Dharma as truth, to be discovered, or what have you, is in a sense off the table. Everyone claims to be expressing that truth, after all; and all the discussion takes place through various expressions, ie. Dharma as teachings.


Yes, I guess I was thinking more in terms of human experience of supramundane Dharma (or "Dharma as truth, to be discovered" to use your words, or "presence of the Dhamma in the world" to use mine) rather than the evolution of academia pertaining to the Dharma.

I suppose it depends on how one regards and classifies an individual such as Nagarjuna or Nanananda (e.g. a scholar, a spiritual master, a teacher, an intellectual, an arya, a puthujjana, a reformist)... recognizing that the layer of classification each of us superimposes ought be regarded rightly as sunya. I confess that first and foremost I don't think of such persons as scholars or academics - apologies to you and Mike if me being on a different wavelength caused any confusion.

Metta,
Paul. :)
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Re: Interviews with Bhikkhu Nanananda & alignment with Nagarjuna

Postby Huifeng » Fri Oct 15, 2010 9:23 am

I think that we have to keep in mind that anybody at all is in a sense out of range, we know them through various externals, in this case, what they write or say. We therefore have to deal with that, at least to begin with. There is the possible danger of essentialism if we take it any other way. And in a case like this, the irony would be too much to bear! You know, it has been said more than once, that the basic definition of who Nagarjuna was is "whoever wrote the Mulamadhyamaka Karika". This is no joke.

And anyway, almost any Buddhist of note will be considered as representing the true Dharma by their followers. And yet, others will see them as completely misguided. So, although we may all agree that the Dharma as truth does not change, we may also totally disagree on what that actually is, in other words, the expression of it. So in order to avoid a pissing match, it can help to stay with the expression, first at least.
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Re: Interviews with Bhikkhu Nanananda & alignment with Nagarjuna

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Oct 15, 2010 10:18 am

Greetings,

Huifeng wrote:And in a case like this, the irony would be too much to bear!

:D

Metta,
Retro. :)
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