The Buddhist Take on What Is and Isn't Knowable

Whether you're exploring Buddhism for the first time or you're already on the path, feel free to ask questions of any kind here.

The Buddhist Take on What Is and Isn't Knowable

Postby rachmiel » Mon Aug 12, 2013 11:34 pm

Could someone explain -- or provide links to explanations on -- the Buddhist take on what is and what is not knowable (by a human being)?

I'm asking because it seems to me that:

- Seeking to know the knowable is a worthwhile pursuit. For example, for a newbie to seek to know/understand the law of karma.

- Seeking to know the unknowable is a waste of time. For example, for someone to seek to know/understand Ultimate Truth.

I'd like to avoid the second, trying to know the unknowable. But to do that, I need to have a clue what is and what isn't knowable.

Thanks,

rachMiel
gone gone gone
User avatar
rachmiel
 
Posts: 372
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2013 1:05 am

Re: The Buddhist Take on What Is and Isn't Knowable

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Mon Aug 12, 2013 11:57 pm

rachmiel wrote:Could someone explain -- or provide links to explanations on -- the Buddhist take on what is and what is not knowable (by a human being)?

I'm asking because it seems to me that:

- Seeking to know the knowable is a worthwhile pursuit. For example, for a newbie to seek to know/understand the law of karma.

- Seeking to know the unknowable is a waste of time. For example, for someone to seek to know/understand Ultimate Truth.

I'd like to avoid the second, trying to know the unknowable. But to do that, I need to have a clue what is and what isn't knowable.

Thanks,

rachMiel


This is my impression but take with a big helping of salt:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourteen_ ... _questions

That's a start, i'm not sure there's a definitive Buddhist answer to that, but...realization is not the same as conceptual "knowing", conceptual/conditioned knowing of things by Buddhist understanding is by definition a kind of limitation..

I guess you could use the two truths to explain that Ultimate Reality cannot be "known" in the conditioned, conceptual sense..in that sense, there really isn't any such thing as knowing ultimate reality, only realization of it.

On the Law Of karma, IIRC there are many references in Sutta/Sutra that it is pretty much unknowable in the samsaric sense, and indeed teachers and friends have explained it to me as something like trying to do math with infinite variables..again, not really conceptually knowable in a satisfying way.
"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
User avatar
Johnny Dangerous
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 2568
Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2012 10:58 pm
Location: Olympia WA

Re: The Buddhist Take on What Is and Isn't Knowable

Postby plwk » Tue Aug 13, 2013 7:47 am

This too: Acintita Sutta

Of course, not forgetting what can transpire on a forum... another unconjecturable :mrgreen:
plwk
 
Posts: 2735
Joined: Thu Feb 25, 2010 10:41 am

Re: The Buddhist Take on What Is and Isn't Knowable

Postby WuMing » Tue Aug 13, 2013 8:18 am

anything what arises and ceases in your realm of experience is knowable, everything else not.
今以佛眼觀之佛與眾生同住解脫之床。無此無彼無二平等。
Now, observing with the eye of the Buddha, both the Buddha and ordinary beings are in the same liberated state. There is neither this nor that: there is only non-duality and identity.
- 空海 Kūkai 弘法大師 in Unjigi 吽字義 The Meaning of the Letter Hūṃ
new translation: Kūkai on the Philosophy of Language by Takagi Shingen and Dreitlein Eijō
_______
Our life is very simple, very direct, very beautiful, very vast and very terrifying, but it is not at all convenient.
- Anzan Hoshin Roshi
User avatar
WuMing
 
Posts: 128
Joined: Fri Oct 08, 2010 6:13 pm

Re: The Buddhist Take on What Is and Isn't Knowable

Postby muni » Tue Aug 13, 2013 8:39 am

rachmiel wrote:Could someone explain -- or provide links to explanations on -- the Buddhist take on what is and what is not knowable (by a human being)?

I'm asking because it seems to me that:

- Seeking to know the knowable is a worthwhile pursuit. For example, for a newbie to seek to know/understand the law of karma.

- Seeking to know the unknowable is a waste of time. For example, for someone to seek to know/understand Ultimate Truth.

I'd like to avoid the second, trying to know the unknowable. But to do that, I need to have a clue what is and what isn't knowable.

Thanks,

rachMiel


"No one really knows anything. (I think.)"

Hello Rachmiel,

It looks for me there is Wisdom in what you write as your signature. Since as long as there is "one", there is no "natural knowing". But at the mean time Buddhism tells us there is not such one, knowing things. Oh but then it is easy! :toilet: Okay not.

Now I locked myself in own writing, cannot come out of words. I think to understand Buddhism or Wisdom we need impermanent knowledge as very important tool, as navigation system to see our natural knowing, our nature like we all are, all of us.

:namaste:
muni
 
Posts: 2945
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2009 6:59 am

Re: The Buddhist Take on What Is and Isn't Knowable

Postby rachmiel » Tue Aug 13, 2013 1:51 pm

Thanks for the links to The Big 14 and the Acintita Sutta. I shall read these and do my best to fathom.

> anything what arises and ceases in your realm of experience is knowable, everything else not.

Advaita lists three types of knowing:

Pratyakşa — direct sense perception
Anumāna — logical inference
Śabda — verbal testimony

What you describe is the first, knowledge through direct sense perception. I was wondering if Buddhism considered the others to be "valid" types of knowing.
gone gone gone
User avatar
rachmiel
 
Posts: 372
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2013 1:05 am

Re: The Buddhist Take on What Is and Isn't Knowable

Postby rachmiel » Tue Aug 13, 2013 3:20 pm

The third Unconjecturable from the Acintita Sutta:

"Conjecture about [the origin, etc., of] the world is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it."

This is very open ended; what is the range of that "etc.?"
gone gone gone
User avatar
rachmiel
 
Posts: 372
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2013 1:05 am

Re: The Buddhist Take on What Is and Isn't Knowable

Postby plwk » Tue Aug 13, 2013 5:53 pm

I am referring to links where those more learned than myself can better express it...
The third Unconjecturable from the Acintita Sutta:

"Conjecture about [the origin, etc., of] the world is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it."

This is very open ended; what is the range of that "etc.?"

Page 91-92 (top para)
Advaita lists three types of knowing:

Pratyakşa — direct sense perception
Anumāna — logical inference
Śabda — verbal testimony

What you describe is the first, knowledge through direct sense perception. I was wondering if Buddhism considered the others to be "valid" types of knowing.

1 2: Vadavidhi: A Method for Argumentation (Pages 29-47) 3 4
plwk
 
Posts: 2735
Joined: Thu Feb 25, 2010 10:41 am

Re: The Buddhist Take on What Is and Isn't Knowable

Postby Odsal » Tue Aug 13, 2013 10:39 pm

rachmiel wrote:Could someone explain -- or provide links to explanations on -- the Buddhist take on what is and what is not knowable (by a human being)?

I'm asking because it seems to me that:

- Seeking to know the knowable is a worthwhile pursuit. For example, for a newbie to seek to know/understand the law of karma.

- Seeking to know the unknowable is a waste of time. For example, for someone to seek to know/understand Ultimate Truth.

I'd like to avoid the second, trying to know the unknowable. But to do that, I need to have a clue what is and what isn't knowable.

Thanks,

rachMiel


If the ultimate nature of reality was unknowable, unrealizable then there would be no enlightenment or wisdom. When one has no knowledge of the ultimate nature of reality, then one is in ignorance. When one realizes first hand the ultimate nature of reality then one is in wisdom.
Odsal
 
Posts: 24
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2010 3:16 am

Re: The Buddhist Take on What Is and Isn't Knowable

Postby Odsal » Tue Aug 13, 2013 11:16 pm

rachmiel wrote:The third Unconjecturable from the Acintita Sutta:

"Conjecture about [the origin, etc., of] the world is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it."

This is very open ended; what is the range of that "etc.?"


The range of that "etc." is relative to the range of your ability to conjecture about the world. I think the point is that when we look at the world from our deluded perception we see the world as a concrete thing that is not dependently arising right here and right now. We view it as a solid external thing and then based on that we try to figure out its origin. We also do the same thing with our sense of self. It is unconjecturable because the basic assumption about how the world and the self exist (as independent self existing entities) is deluded from the start.
So, absolutely any conjecturing we do in regards to the world or self will simply be an outgrowth of that deluded view. That is why some people conclude that a God or something must have created everything.
It is just like the person who mistakes the rope for a snake. Based on that mistaken view anything else he may conceive about that "snake" would be more delusion. He could never find the origin of that "snake" no matter how long he conjectured about it, or how clever he got about it.
Odsal
 
Posts: 24
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2010 3:16 am

Re: The Buddhist Take on What Is and Isn't Knowable

Postby deff » Wed Aug 14, 2013 1:14 am

:good:
deff
 
Posts: 148
Joined: Thu Mar 04, 2010 8:23 pm

Re: The Buddhist Take on What Is and Isn't Knowable

Postby maybay » Wed Aug 14, 2013 10:23 am

The Acintita Sutta is denouncing sophistry / intellectual speculation.
It is not concerned with knowledge, but with expression. They are 'not to be conjectured about'.

To know what is and isn't knowable (epistemology) read Dharmakirti.

For an excellent discussion on Omniscience read Sara McClintock's Omniscience and the Rhetoric of Reason
http://www.wisdompubs.org/pages/display.lasso?-KeyValue=33116&-Token.Action=&image=1

But generally trying to know everything is not a good idea. Its enough to know that its possible.

The Great Master from Oddiyana said:
Do not cut to the root of phenomena, cut to the root of your mind.
Cutting to the root of your mind, then knowing that one thing, liberates everything.
Not cutting to the root of your mind, then knowing everything, you missed that one thing.


and

Although hundreds or thousands of explanations are given,
There is only one thing to be understood—
Know the one thing that liberates everything—
Awareness itself, your true nature.
Dudjom Rinpoché
People will know nothing and everything
Remember nothing and everything
Think nothing and everything
Do nothing and everything
- Machig Labdron
User avatar
maybay
 
Posts: 329
Joined: Thu Sep 22, 2011 4:12 pm

Re: The Buddhist Take on What Is and Isn't Knowable

Postby Malcolm » Wed Aug 14, 2013 7:22 pm

plwk wrote:Pratyakşa — direct sense perception
Anumāna — logical inference
Śabda — verbal testimony



In Buddhadharma, all three of these are regarded as pramāṇas, i.e., authorities. Realization of ultimate truth is considered yogic pratyakṣa.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://www.bhaisajya.guru
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
User avatar
Malcolm
 
Posts: 12156
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:19 am

Re: The Buddhist Take on What Is and Isn't Knowable

Postby lobster » Thu Aug 15, 2013 2:13 am

Hope these quotes are helpful :smile:

"This is what Wisdom means: To be changed without the slightest effort on your part, to be transformed, believe it or not, merely by waking to the reality that is not words, that lies beyond the reach of words."

"Thought can organize the world so well that you are no longer able to see it."

Anthony de Mello

To carry yourself forward and experience myriad things is delusion. That myriad things come forth and experience themselves is awakening.

Dogen

All is void, clear, and self-illuminating, with no need to exert the mind.
Here thinking, feeling, knowledge, and imagination are of no value.

Hsin Hsin Ming
User avatar
lobster
 
Posts: 952
Joined: Wed Sep 05, 2012 9:06 pm

Re: The Buddhist Take on What Is and Isn't Knowable

Postby Matt J » Tue Aug 20, 2013 3:36 pm

Actually, there are six methods of valid knowledge in Advaita, according to Swami Satprakashananda:

perception (pratyaska)
inference (anumana)
verbal testimony (sabda or agama)
comparison (upamana)
postulation (arthapatti)
non-apprehension (anupakabdhi)

I have not seen a similar Buddhist classification. Not to say there isn't one, but I haven't come across it.


rachmiel wrote:Thanks for the links to The Big 14 and the Acintita Sutta. I shall read these and do my best to fathom.

> anything what arises and ceases in your realm of experience is knowable, everything else not.

Advaita lists three types of knowing:

Pratyakşa — direct sense perception
Anumāna — logical inference
Śabda — verbal testimony

What you describe is the first, knowledge through direct sense perception. I was wondering if Buddhism considered the others to be "valid" types of knowing.
The Great Way is not difficult
If only there is no picking or choosing
--- Xin Xin Ming

http://nondualism.org/
User avatar
Matt J
 
Posts: 198
Joined: Tue Aug 03, 2010 2:29 am

Re: The Buddhist Take on What Is and Isn't Knowable

Postby Malcolm » Tue Aug 20, 2013 3:42 pm

Matt J wrote:I have not seen a similar Buddhist classification. Not to say there isn't one, but I haven't come across it.




There isn't. Buddhadharma accepts only three authorities, the ones I've listed above.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://www.bhaisajya.guru
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
User avatar
Malcolm
 
Posts: 12156
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:19 am


Return to Exploring Buddhism

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 8 guests

>