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soul, do you have any? - Page 2 - Dhamma Wheel

soul, do you have any?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
danieLion
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Re: soul, do you have any?

Postby danieLion » Fri Jan 06, 2012 7:43 am


Nyana
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Re: soul, do you have any?

Postby Nyana » Fri Jan 06, 2012 8:48 am


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Spiny O'Norman
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Re: soul, do you have any?

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Fri Jan 06, 2012 9:55 am


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Zom
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Re: soul, do you have any?

Postby Zom » Fri Jan 06, 2012 10:50 am

btw, some people may understand a soul as something changeable, like a stream of events, but this stream is personal and can't be stopped (it flows for eternity). For example - some buddhists have an opinion that stream of consciousness can never stop, can't be destroyed, it will always be. But in itself it contains no "unchanging core". Thus they are trying to fit anatta view into eternalist view.

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Re: soul, do you have any?

Postby ancientbuddhism » Fri Jan 06, 2012 1:35 pm

I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)


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Re: soul, do you have any?

Postby Viscid » Fri Jan 06, 2012 5:26 pm

"What holds attention determines action." - William James

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contemplans
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Re: soul, do you have any?

Postby contemplans » Fri Jan 06, 2012 6:44 pm

All dhammas are not-self.
Nibbana is beyond all dhammas.
The Buddha refused to answer whether there was a self or not a self.
Therefore, the Buddha holds that Nibbana is beyond the distinctions of self and not-self (i.e., ineffable.)

This is to be expected from his apophatic approach. One who would take a kataphatic approach would say:

All dhammas are not-self.
Nibbana is beyond all dhammas.
Therefore, the self is beyond all dhammas.

This person would then use analogical descriptions to understand what the self is that gets there. And this is how Thomists and other proceed. To a kataphatic type, it is more valuable to reason what attains Nibbana, and what that is, then to simply remain quiet. They, however, would say that the knowledge is limited. Many Buddhists, though, do know at all that they are engaged in a apophatic teaching, and therefore take their way of negation to an extreme and practically hold annihilationism, or some flavor thereof like impersonal idealism.

There ways of knowledge:

Affirmation/Causality/Analogy : Going from our mundane experience and drawing analogies to describe that which is beyond. (Predicated on the idea that that which is beyond shares some characteristics with mundane things, albeit in an imperfect way.)

Christian : God is goodness.
Buddhism : Nibbana is the foremost ease (happiness).

Primary method: Speculation and reasoning.
Common actors: Philosophers and teachers.

Christians hold this knowledge to be sufficient, but not perfect. Buddhists hold it to be insufficient, and the Buddha engaged it in very rarely in regard to Nibbana.


Negation : Denies every imperfection found in mundane things.

Christians: "God is not substance, not light, not life, not sense, not spirit, not wisdom, not goodness" (St. Denis).
Buddhism : "One who has reached the end has no criterion by which anyone would say that —
it does not exist for him. When all dhammas are done away with all means of speaking are done away with as well." (Sn v.6) I.e., negation of all verbal description.


Primary method: Meditation and contemplation.
Common actors: Mystics, sages, monks.


Christians and Buddhists hold this knowledge to be sufficient, and able to be perfected.

Ineffability is focused on a lot here.


Eminence : Deduce from finite perfection to infinite perfection. That is, whatever is perfect is eminently perfect.



Each of these implies the other. For example, infinite being = absence of limited being = fullness of being.

In the Buddhist context (but not tradition).

ease (sukha) = absence of suffering (dukkha) = fullness of ease (nibbana)
the self in essence is independent of phenomena = all dhammas are not-self = the self is eminently beyond all dhammas


Now no Buddhist would say these things. The Buddha was strictly quietistic in the sense that he refused to speak much at all about Nibbana. I think, however, negative reasoning does leave open abuses amongst common people who almost never resort to this method, which is an advanxed method of spirituality. Thanissaro Bhikkhu acknowledges this, and he is the wisest Buddhist teacher I've read in modern times. He gets this. He is strictly apophatic too, but he acknowledges that people need a sense of self on the path, and that it can't be dropped until the end. He says that even the non-returner has a sense of self left. The Buddha found all supernatural theories inadequate because they were based on natural things. This is classic apophatic spirituality. To take it as him making his own theories about supernatural things, or the beyond if you will, is to take the snake by the tail. Another error is to think the Buddha said all phenomena didn't matter because it was all conditioned. And that is also patently false since he tells you to act with purpose and intention in a skillful way. While I am myself am trying to see the way clearly, and liable to misjudgements, this fact of his spiritual method is quite plain, especial when read in the context of Christians who were apophatic. Read St Denis, the Cloud of Unknowing, or Book of Privy Counseling. Book of Privy Counseling says "Go no further, but rest in this naked, stark, elementary awareness that you are as your are." In an earlier passage he even says to have it stripped of "every particular idea about God (what He is like in Himself or in His works)." If I gave you this passage I would imagine most people would not know that it is Catholic, or even accepted by the Church as a statement of its highest path of live, the contemplative life.

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Re: soul, do you have any?

Postby Nyana » Fri Jan 06, 2012 7:04 pm


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Re: soul, do you have any?

Postby Kenshou » Fri Jan 06, 2012 7:20 pm


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Re: soul, do you have any?

Postby ancientbuddhism » Fri Jan 06, 2012 7:46 pm

I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)


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contemplans
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Re: soul, do you have any?

Postby contemplans » Fri Jan 06, 2012 8:48 pm

I practiced Buddhism both in the Tibetan flavor and the Theravada forest tradition. I stayed at Wat Metta more than once. I listen to all his dhammatalks, and can read Pali, and study the suttas regularly. So to say my perspective is completely Catholic is non-sense. I learned about Catholicism AFTER my Buddhism. With that said, I am not afraid of what Catholicism teaches. I agree that the two are different. But 5th century BC India is incredible different than 1st century Judae. The Buddha is addressing a whole different crowd, and has nothing even close to Judaism present in his place and time. So of course they are different. Strangely enough they have the same goal -- happiness. The difference between apophetic Christian spirituality and Buddhist spiritual is one of degree not type. I can't help it if everyone here seems to be ex-Christian and afraid of espousing any view which even remotely is shared in our Western culture. Maybe we can look at Buddhist history and see how anatta has been continuously mishandled and abused becoming in almost every instance a teaching far from what is contained in the suttas. People then engage in kataphatic theories (pantheism, idealism, annihilationism), but want the protection of the apophatic (ineffable) so they don't have to support their statements. It you are square in the apophatic realm like the Buddha and Thanissaro Bhikkhu, and perhaps others, then we can't argue there on much, because the whole thing is taken out of the verba; realm. Once you engage in the kataphatic reasoning, though, then we can start arguing. I say the soul is what makes us unique. Our reason. And then someone says that all phenomena are imperament and not dependable to base this opinion. So I gave an analogistic/kataphatic answer, and someone says that is not sufficient. The whole point of kataphatic spirituality is using the insufficient to come to knowledge. We do this all the time to feed ourselves, understand the world, etc. If you don't want to engage in analogistic understanding, then any attempt to verbalize knowledge will be insufficient, including reading suttas. The path of the Buddha as I read it is a gradual shift toward an apophatic understanding, stripping away the impermanent, etc. A spiritual tip, though, is if you completely drop the sense of self, you are not going to get far in your practice. People seem to drop the path before it even gets going. It isn't without desire that the path is accomplished.

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Viscid
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Re: soul, do you have any?

Postby Viscid » Fri Jan 06, 2012 9:25 pm

It seems like Buddhists vehemently reject any sort of notion of a 'soul' because The Buddha rejected the notion of the Hindu 'atman' which then gets translated as 'soul.' Westerners (Baby Boomers) are maybe more likely to voice such an opinion as a reaction to Christian influence which they rebel against in adopting Buddhist beliefs.

If you ask someone what a soul is, they'll give a definition very similar to the atman. If you ask them 'What is in your soul?' or something to that effect, they'll describe something which they identify as their 'true self,' their potential or who they 'really are.' It's an ideal to which they aspire, but are hindered in its realization by anxiety and circumstance.

Would The Buddha have rejected all notions of the soul, or just those which postulate an eternal, unchangeable entity? I can see how it can be used interchangeably for that-which-is-conditioned: the Citta or the aggregates or stream of consciousness which we then mistake as self. My stream of experience, including my thoughts and memories, has individuality and continuity to it, it is separated from that which conditions it. The conditioned entity that is my individual experience I would call the 'soul,' and to doubt its existence would be nihilism.
Last edited by Viscid on Fri Jan 06, 2012 9:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"What holds attention determines action." - William James

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Ron-The-Elder
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Re: soul, do you have any?

Postby Ron-The-Elder » Fri Jan 06, 2012 9:27 pm

What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

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Re: soul, do you have any?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Jan 06, 2012 9:57 pm


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Re: soul, do you have any?

Postby Kenshou » Fri Jan 06, 2012 9:57 pm


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Ben
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Re: soul, do you have any?

Postby Ben » Sat Jan 07, 2012 12:22 am

Dear members,

Issues not germane to the line of discussion should be discussed in a separate thread.
Thanks for your cooperation.

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

danieLion
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Re: soul, do you have any?

Postby danieLion » Sat Jan 07, 2012 12:41 am


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vidar
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Re: soul, do you have any?

Postby vidar » Sat Jan 07, 2012 3:18 pm

All the world is on fire, All the world is burning, All the world is ablaze, All the world is quaking. That which does not quake or blaze, That to which worldlings do not resort, Where there is no place for Mara:That is where my mind delights. (SN 5.7)

By degrees, little by little,
from moment to moment,
the wise purify themselves,
as a smith purifies silver.
—Dhammapada 239

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contemplans
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Re: soul, do you have any?

Postby contemplans » Sat Jan 07, 2012 5:08 pm

Let's bring this down to a basic level, so we can get on the same page. Any one who wants to engage in the inquiry, post your answers.

What differentiates us from things such as rocks, spatulas, file cabinets, etc., is that we have life -- we are born, we eat, we grow, we (can) procreate like species as us.

Science has not been able to reproduce this life force. I.e., we have not been able to "give life" to inanimate matter. Sure we have computers, and little toy bugs, but they do not take in food, grow, metabolize, etc. Just as when we take truly dead body and put electricity into it it moves, but we know that it is dead, i.e., has no life in it.


Can we agree on these statements?

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vidar
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Re: soul, do you have any?

Postby vidar » Sat Jan 07, 2012 6:10 pm

All the world is on fire, All the world is burning, All the world is ablaze, All the world is quaking. That which does not quake or blaze, That to which worldlings do not resort, Where there is no place for Mara:That is where my mind delights. (SN 5.7)

By degrees, little by little,
from moment to moment,
the wise purify themselves,
as a smith purifies silver.
—Dhammapada 239


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