Soul, Self, Atman and Buddhism

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Re: Philosophy vs Practice

Postby undefineable » Fri May 31, 2013 12:32 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:There is nothing that suggests the existence of a soul, except as something people conjured up in their imaginations a long time ago, which still persists as a hypothetical concept, no different from a mythological creature.

Buddhism argues that a permanent soul thing is impossible, because if it "exists" in relation to changing conditions, the nature of it's existence is thus also conditional (relative) and not finite (ultimate) in which case there is nothing about it which can be called 'permanent"

and if it does not "exist' in relation to conditions, then it has no existence in the context of anything we can experience. It would be nothing we could ever have any contact with. Thus, any definition of it's "existing' is moot.

To a natural human way of thinking, our existence suggests some kind of 'soul' on first reflection, but science has effectively weighed in behind Buddhism in demonstrating (through similar means of both logic and discovery) that -as far as we can safely assume- the 'soul' concept is incompatible with reality. Unless we're either fully enlightened or (perhaps) a walking encyclopedia of ultimate future scientific knowledge (eeurgh), we can't know that 'soul' is a myth, as we have to surmise and take on faith respectively that our own faculties and the more-developed among those of others are able between them to tune in to enough reality to rule it out. 'Soul' is of course also a concept with no exact definition (at a stretch, some might give that name to awareness), and given that reality obviously appears to look and feel different to an enlightened person, it's easy to see how the concept could legitimately be used as upaya in some circumstances.
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Re: Philosophy vs Practice

Postby shel » Fri May 31, 2013 2:21 am

undefineable wrote:To a natural human way of thinking, our existence suggests some kind of 'soul' on first reflection, but science has effectively weighed in behind Buddhism in demonstrating (through similar means of both logic and discovery) that -as far as we can safely assume- the 'soul' concept is incompatible with reality.


:tongue: Oh really, would you mind pointing out these alleged demonstrations of logic and discovery?
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Re: Philosophy vs Practice

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri May 31, 2013 3:42 am

undefineable wrote:
To a natural human way of thinking, our existence suggests some kind of 'soul' on first reflection


I'm a natural human (or naturally human) and such a concept never occurred to me. My parents never spoke of such a thing. Only when other kids brought it up, did I hear of it, and even then, as now, it seemed to me just complete nonsense.

undefineable wrote: we can't know that 'soul' is a myth


That makes no sense.

the problem is that you are taking something there is no cause to assume in the first place,
and then saying that we can't know it isn't true.

Suppose a fellow has a definition of "soul" and there happens to be, yet undiscovered, some phenomena in the universe that perfectly matches that definition. Even if that were the case, that fellow is not talking about said phenomena, only talking about his imagined definition.

So, you can draw up a definition of anything you might imagine, anything at all, and that's fine
but you can't logically then turn around and say "we can't know that it's just a myth"
unless you have something other than a lot of cultural baggage to suggest otherwise.

I mean, where would you stop?
Buttered singing elephants.
If I say there are buttered singing elephants,
even if there is no evidence of buttered singing elephants,
nothing that actually suggests that buttered singing elephants exist,
would you say. "but we can't really know if they exist or not?"
Well, you could say that, but what meaning would it have?

If you argue that so many cultures for so many centuries assert a soul.
why would that have any bearing on it?
Why would a million people believing something make it any more true than one person believing it?
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Re: Philosophy vs Practice

Postby Nilasarasvati » Fri May 31, 2013 4:34 am

What if I, personally, really strongly crave whatever buttered singing elephants taste like? :shrug: I mean,
it sounds delicious.

Doesn't that prove it should be the next flavor of Ben & Jerrys?
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Re: Philosophy vs Practice

Postby jeeprs » Fri May 31, 2013 5:56 am

I'm a firm believer in the reality of the soul. The soul is the seat of your deepest aspirations, the aspects of life that are most important to you. And soul-ful people are those who are attuned to that, who feel things on that level, instead of just superficial or sensory levels.

Furthermore I don't buy that Buddhism teaches there is 'no soul'. Nor, however, does Buddhism teach 'there is a soul'. The word itself is of Western (Greek, I think) origin, and it is not part of the Buddhist lexicon. It is not really equivalent to the Hindu 'atman' which actually simply means 'self'. Buddhism doesn't talk in those terms. But I think the notion that Buddhism teaches 'there is no soul' can easily be taken as a denial of the spiritual aspect of the human. 'Soul-less' usually refers to those with no conscience or no sense of connectedness to those around them. (Like behaviourists, for instance.)
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Re: Philosophy vs Practice

Postby shel » Fri May 31, 2013 5:59 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
undefineable wrote: we can't know that 'soul' is a myth


That makes no sense.

the problem is that you are taking something there is no cause to assume in the first place,
and then saying that we can't know it isn't true.


That isn't a problem actually, we simply can't know, just like we can't know whether there is a God or Gods, or countless other things we can't imagine. And of course there is some sort of cause to make any assumption.
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Re: Philosophy vs Practice

Postby undefineable » Fri May 31, 2013 2:32 pm

shel wrote:
undefineable wrote:To a natural human way of thinking, our existence suggests some kind of 'soul' on first reflection, but science has effectively weighed in behind Buddhism in demonstrating (through similar means of both logic and discovery) that -as far as we can safely assume- the 'soul' concept is incompatible with reality.


:tongue: Oh really, would you mind pointing out these alleged demonstrations of logic and discovery?

Assuming you're referring to Buddhism, I was thinking of Padma's argument for the nonexistence of the soul as an example of logical demonstration from that POV, and of course 'discoveries from dharma practice' are easy to research. Take it (slowly does it, mind you) or leave it - or (best of all) leave it undecided. Neither tradition can 'prove' anything :thumbsup:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:
undefineable wrote:
To a natural human way of thinking, our existence suggests some kind of 'soul' on first reflection


I'm a natural human (or naturally human) and such a concept never occurred to me. My parents never spoke of such a thing. Only when other kids brought it up, did I hear of it, and even then, as now, it seemed to me just complete nonsense.

I wrote 'to a natural human way of thinking', and I've bolded the sentence of your reply that has to go some way to show why some follow that tack while others don't. Since a child's mind is both imaginative and malleable, it's liable to move in any direction, but the directions it ends up taking will of course often be directions that others point out. Of course, personality/temperament will play a role in what other directions it's mind ends up taking, but I wonder whether the concept of 'soul' first arose -within cultures that lacked both Buddhadharma and science- as the easiest way to 'explain away' the fact of consciousness. Many materialists -whose definition of 'soul' is broader than yours- will label your understanding of awareness 'belief in a soul', so I'm not sure why you're implying such beliefs are insane. It only seems common sense, at first, to imagine that something like awareness needs a foundation of some kind.

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
undefineable wrote: we can't know that 'soul' is a myth


That makes no sense.

the problem is that you are taking something there is no cause to assume in the first place,
and then saying that we can't know it isn't true

I think there would have been cause for philosophy/thinkers etc. (i.e. people - in the broadest sense ;) ) to suggest it. Assumption comes in later, given the human tendency (which you can observe in most cultures) to settle on an unproven explanation of things.
PadmaVonSamba wrote:Buttered singing elephants.
Wouldn't even provide a seemingly-logical explanation for any of the major facts of reality, although they could exist somewhere :roll: . See the difference?

I guess I was using the term 'myth' too loosely, where I should have written 'unreal'. Nonetheless, without some special scientific or 'dharmic' insight, we don't know that no-one who developed the 'soul' concept ever went beyond mere imagination.
Last edited by undefineable on Fri May 31, 2013 3:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Philosophy vs Practice

Postby shel » Fri May 31, 2013 6:51 pm

undefineable wrote:
shel wrote:
undefineable wrote:To a natural human way of thinking, our existence suggests some kind of 'soul' on first reflection, but science has effectively weighed in behind Buddhism in demonstrating (through similar means of both logic and discovery) that -as far as we can safely assume- the 'soul' concept is incompatible with reality.


:tongue: Oh really, would you mind pointing out these alleged demonstrations of logic and discovery?

Assuming you're referring to Buddhism, I was thinking of Padma's argument for the nonexistence of the soul as an example of logical demonstration from that POV, and of course 'discoveries from dharma practice' are easy to research.


I was more interesting in the scientific demo actually. :tongue: But anyway, humm, Padma's logic aye? Let's see, he wrote:

Buddhism argues that a permanent soul thing is impossible, because if it "exists" in relation to changing conditions, the nature of it's existence is thus also conditional (relative) and not finite (ultimate) in which case there is nothing about it which can be called 'permanent"


Even from this materialistic point of view there's no logic demonstrating that something may not be permanent or everlasting.
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Re: Philosophy vs Practice

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri May 31, 2013 6:55 pm

undefineable wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:Buttered singing elephants.
Wouldn't even provide a seemingly-logical explanation for any of the major facts of reality, although they could exist somewhere :roll: . See the difference?

No.
Butter and elephants are tangible things. Singing can be perceived.
Suggesting that there is a "soul", which has no tangible substance, no observable traits and no specifically defining characteristics, and then saying, "but we can't know it doesn't exist" is like saying that we can't know flarbozzity doesn't exist.
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Re: Philosophy vs Practice

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri May 31, 2013 6:58 pm

shel wrote:
Even from this materialistic point of view there's no logic demonstrating that something may not be permanent or everlasting.

If something changes in relation to conditions then in the Buddhist definition of things, it cannot be called permanent or everlasting, because any sense of "it" is imputed to begin with.

If a soul corresponds to, or arises with one body, and that body dies, and it then corresponds to, or arises with another body, then by the buddhist definition of things, it is arising conditionally and is not the same soul both times, because its conditional characteristics have changed. Thus not regarded as permanent.

...the same problem you had with that broken cup.
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Re: Philosophy vs Practice

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri May 31, 2013 7:14 pm

The argument that suggests "we can't know whether a soul actually exists or not"
is essentially saying
"anything that can be imagined may exist, simply because someone imagined it."
and while in some sense, that is an accurate statement, it is overwhelmingly meaningless.
Yeah, anything you can imagine might exist somewhere, but that's all. So what?
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Re: Philosophy vs Practice

Postby shel » Fri May 31, 2013 7:25 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
shel wrote:
Even from this materialistic point of view there's no logic demonstrating that something may not be permanent or everlasting.

If something changes in relation to conditions then in the Buddhist definition of things, it cannot be called permanent or everlasting, because any sense of "it" is imputed to begin with.

The confusion may be caused by the egocentric perspective. Things don't exist because we perceive them.

If a soul corresponds to, or arises with one body, and that body dies, and it then corresponds to, or arises with another body, then by the buddhist definition of things, it is arising conditionally and is not the same soul both times, because its conditional characteristics have changed. Thus not regarded as permanent.

In this scenario the body changes...
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Re: Philosophy vs Practice

Postby undefineable » Fri May 31, 2013 8:29 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:"soul" _ _ has no tangible substance, no observable traits and no specifically defining characteristics

I thought the whole point of "soul" was that it does have all those things, whereas enlightened wisdom -'free of the four extremes'- doesn't :shrug: {Of course even then we can still question whether or not such phenomena are real in any sense - until it becomes obvious that they do describe reality as it is, I suppose}
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Re: Philosophy vs Practice

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri May 31, 2013 8:41 pm

shel wrote: The confusion may be caused by the egocentric perspective. Things don't exist because we perceive them.
And in Buddhism, certainly not because we imagine them.

If a soul corresponds to, or arises with one body, and that body dies, and it then corresponds to, or arises with another body, then by the buddhist definition of things, it is arising conditionally and is not the same soul both times, because its conditional characteristics have changed. Thus not regarded as permanent.

shel wrote:In this scenario the body changes...
right, thus in buddhist logic, this also changes the characteristic quality of that soul, otherwise you this soul no longer corresponds to that body. The characteristic quality, having changed, thus changed renders the soul as "not permanent".

This is not the same as in traditional "western" logic.
basically, Buddhist logic argues that a rock in a stream has no quality of permanence because it is defined not only by its own shape and physical properties, but by the water around it as well (because all phenomena arise interdependently), and as the water changes, thus changes what it means to be that rock. Not because of physical erosion, but simply because of relative events. If the water is cold, then it becomes a rock in cold water, and if the water is warm, then it becomes a rock in warm water. In Buddhist reasoning, this counts as two different rocks.

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Re: Philosophy vs Practice

Postby mandala » Fri May 31, 2013 9:11 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:I mean, where would you stop?
Buttered singing elephants.
If I say there are buttered singing elephants,
even if there is no evidence of buttered singing elephants,
nothing that actually suggests that buttered singing elephants exist,
would you say. "but we can't really know if they exist or not?"
Well, you could say that, but what meaning would it have?

If you argue that so many cultures for so many centuries assert a soul.
why would that have any bearing on it?
Why would a million people believing something make it any more true than one person believing it?
truth does not depend on popular vote.


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Re: Philosophy vs Practice

Postby shel » Sat Jun 01, 2013 2:40 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:in buddhist logic, this [the body] also changes the characteristic quality of that soul...

So Buddhists do believe in a soul?

... The characteristic quality, having changed, thus changed renders the soul as "not permanent".

The characteristic quality of a soul is the body? :tongue:

This is not the same as in traditional "western" logic.

If you're trying to say that you're being illogical I wholeheartedly agree.

basically, Buddhist logic argues that a rock in a stream has no quality of permanence because it is defined not only by its own shape and physical properties, but by the water around it as well (because all phenomena arise interdependently), and as the water changes, thus changes what it means to be that rock.

We're not talking about rocks in a stream. You're metaphor is based in materialism. If you're saying that Buddhist logic is based in materialism, that suggests you don't know it to me.

Not because of physical erosion, but simply because of relative events.

Erosion is not a relative event???

If the water is cold, then it becomes a rock in cold water, and if the water is warm, then it becomes a rock in warm water.

This part is logical. :smile:

In Buddhist reasoning, this counts as two different rocks.

So a Buddhist couldn't recognize a rock after it had changed temperature? Seriously, Padma, at least try to get real. :tongue:
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Re: Philosophy vs Practice

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sat Jun 01, 2013 4:47 am

shel wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:in buddhist logic, this [the body] also changes the characteristic quality of that soul...

So Buddhists do believe in a soul?

... The characteristic quality, having changed, thus changed renders the soul as "not permanent".

The characteristic quality of a soul is the body? :tongue:

This is not the same as in traditional "western" logic.

If you're trying to say that you're being illogical I wholeheartedly agree.

basically, Buddhist logic argues that a rock in a stream has no quality of permanence because it is defined not only by its own shape and physical properties, but by the water around it as well (because all phenomena arise interdependently), and as the water changes, thus changes what it means to be that rock.

We're not talking about rocks in a stream. You're metaphor is based in materialism. If you're saying that Buddhist logic is based in materialism, that suggests you don't know it to me.

Not because of physical erosion, but simply because of relative events.

Erosion is not a relative event???

If the water is cold, then it becomes a rock in cold water, and if the water is warm, then it becomes a rock in warm water.

This part is logical. :smile:

In Buddhist reasoning, this counts as two different rocks.

So a Buddhist couldn't recognize a rock after it had changed temperature? Seriously, Padma, at least try to get real. :tongue:


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Soul, Self, Atman and Buddhism

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sun Jun 02, 2013 6:34 pm

Topic split from here
"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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Re: Soul, Self, Atman and Buddhism

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sun Jun 02, 2013 6:51 pm

The onus of responsibility lies with those that say the soul exists, to point to its existence.

It is impossible (according to scientific method) to show that something does not exist.

You say: "The son of a barren woman exists."
I say: "No it doesn't."
You say: "Prove that it does not."

Sorry, it just doesn't work like that.

The Buddha though (and quite a few of his buddies), being enlightened/realised and all, actually did a pretty good job of showing the non-existence of the soul/atman/self.

But this discusssion has been done to death (36 pages) here I recommend people read the thread (just be careful because there are a number of purposefully mistranslated Sutta quoted) and if they have anything intelligent to add, that has not already, been said, to feel free to contact me about posting it.
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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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