Are Buddhists Wrong about Anatma?

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Are Buddhists Wrong about Anatma?

Postby sraddha » Wed Aug 05, 2009 11:11 pm

I found this scathing critique of modern Buddhist schools (this speaks mostly against Theravada, but glances at Vajrayana) in their denial of Atma in Buddhism in a Buddhist forum at Amazon.com:

http://www.amazon.com/tag/buddhism/forum/ref=cm_cd_dp_rt_tft_tp?%5Fencoding=UTF8&cdForum=FxYXGY8TT5SLBT&cdThread=TxHLMIPMYIBFUC

The `renowned' Theravada materialist Nyanatiloka has said: "Thus with this doctrine of Selflessness, or anatta, stands or falls the ENTIRE structure of Buddhism".

Rightly so, all of Theravada fears and protects the meaning and `interpretation' of anatta like a pack of rabid dogs protect their fresh kill. They fear and protect the meaning of anatta more so than Christians protect their position that Mary was a virgin and that Jesus `arose from the dead'. More than Nyanatiloka have stated the obvious, ALL of Theravada would fall, upon the exposure of the genuine meaning become accepted and widely known as regards anatta, not however would "fall Buddhism", but Theravada and others misconceptions of same, nothing more. Theravada, a great portion of Vajrayana, and much of Zen fear the soul like a pious monk fears the devil to sneak up upon him, in any event they have heaped upon the definition more sophistry and ages of sectarian fecal matter to make Buddhism appear to be nothing more than the most base form of materialism, that only a very rare few independent scholars who delve deep into the presectarian Nikayan Pali texts can see that Buddhism has not, nor ever denied the atman, and that anatta no more denies the atman, nor is a `doctrine' (i.e. doctrine of anatta, as so often coined by the Theras), that the Upanishads themselves in so saying the "atman is not this, nor that (neti net)".

The more superficially one studies Buddhism, the more it seems to differ from the Brahmanism in which it originated; the more profound our study, the more difficult it becomes to distinguish Buddhism from Brahmanism, or to say in what respects, if any, Buddhism is really unorthodox. The outstanding distinction lies in the fact that Buddhist doctrine is propounded by an apparently historical founder, understood to have lived and taught in the sixth century B.C. Beyond this there are only broad distinctions of emphasis. It is taken almost for granted that one must have abandoned the world if the Way is to be followed and the doctrine understood.

We can only suppose that Buddhism has been so much admired mainly for what it is not. A well known modern writer on the subject has remarked that "Buddhism in its purity ignored the existence of a God; it denied the existence of a soul; it was not so much a religion as a code of ethics"( Winifred Stephens, Legends of Indian Buddhism, 1911, p. 7.). Similarly M.V Bhattacharya maintains that the Buddha taught that "there is no Self, or Atman" (Cultural Heritage of India, p. 259). Even in 1925 a Buddhist scholar could write "The soul . . . is described in the Upanishads as a small creature in shape like a man . . . Buddhism repudiated all such theories" (PTS Dictionary, s.v. attan). It would be as reasonable to say that Christianity is materialistic because it speaks of an "inner man". Few scholars would write in this manner today, but ridiculous as such statements may appear, (and it is as much an ignorance of Christian doctrine as it is of Brahmanism that is involved), they still survive in all popular accounts of "Buddhism"; such as (. Th. Scherbatsky Buddhist Logic 1. 1932, p. 2) saying Buddhism "denied a God, it denied the Soul, it denied Eternity"! Scherbatsky's The Doctrine of the Buddha (BSOS, V1. 867L) provides a good critique of Keith's demand to "lay aside our natural desire to find reason prevailing in a barbarous age", in his `Buddhist philosophy, p. 29'.

It is of course, true that the Buddha denied the existence of a "soul" or "self "in the narrow sense of the word (one might say, in accordance with the command, deneget seipsum (deny himself ), (Mark, VIII.341) but this is not what our writers mean to say, or are understood by their readers to say; what three mean to say is that the Buddha denied the immortal, unborn and Supreme Self of the Upanishads. And that is palpably false. For he frequently speaks of this Self or Spirit, and nowhere more clearly than in the repeated formula `na me so atta', "That is not my Self ", excluding body and the components of empirical consciousness, a statement to which the words of Sankaracharya are peculiarly apposite, "Whenever we deny something unreal, it is with reference to something real" (neti-neti Brahma Sutra III.2.22); as remarked by Mrs. Rhys Davids, "so, 'this one', is used in the Suttas for utmost emphasis in questions of personal identity" (Minor Anthologies, I, p. 7, note 2). `Na me so atta' is no more a denial of the Self than Socrates' "the body is not the man" , is a denial of the Man"!

One of the `great' books thumped by the ignorant manyfolk calling themselves Buddhists today and of which deny the atman, is "Selfless Persons" by Steven Collins, in which he himself in his book never makes the conclusion for the denial of the Atman in Buddhist doctrine, in so saying himself, albeit unintelligently, "Buddhist metaphysics could be reduced to a kind of pragmatic agnosticism in which the self is not so much denied as declared inconceivable. Anatta then simply advises against uselessly trying to conceive it (the Self)." [Page 10, Selfless Persons, Steven Collins]. More laughable than can be imagined, the entire book, large though it is, only contains three pages under the heading of "proof for anatta" (i.e. Souls denial), and yet these same three pages contain absolutely no doctrinal evidences whatsoever.

The Theras and others fear the inevitable slippery slope Buddhism (theirs) will fall into upon acceptance of the genuine meaning of anatta, whereupon "if anatta doesn't deny the atman, than how is Buddhism any different than Vedanta, by and large?" The answer is of course none whatsoever. They protect anatta like their very own baby in the cradle, they will surrender its meaning and definition with their life, like no other word in pali they propagate a lie which is now running on 1700 years old. The only reason they have been unable to crush opposition, is that the Nikayas were recorded and propagated long long before Sarvastivada (Theravada) came into existence to exterminate it.


So what's the difference between Buddhism and Vedanta if Buddhism doesn't deny Atman? Does Buddhism deny Atman?



:anjali:
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Re: Are Buddhists Wrong about Anatma?

Postby clw_uk » Wed Aug 05, 2009 11:35 pm

Ive just finished a long debate with a Hindu about this



To shorten it down, Buddha taught anatta of the 5 aggregates and criticised holding theories on a soul or Self



The Hindus have a similar teaching of anatta with "neti neti" or "not this, not that" and they to reguard aggregates as anatta, however they posit some kind of Self. They argue that Buddha denied the Self in relation to the aggregates (or ego) but not the true Self (Atman) which is beyond the aggregates. This is where the problem is



Its essentially an attempt to turn Buddhism into Hinduism and also an example of people who are stuck in their speculative views trying to change Buddhism to conform with what they believe is true


The Buddha denied a Self in the aggregates or apart from them and criticised anyone holding a view of a Self on any level, anywhere


This is ignored however or twisted to fit the upanishads by (most) hindus


For example I would show them a passage where Buddha clearly teaches that there is no Self or Ultimate being/God (Brahman in this example) and they would either say " I dont believe Buddha would teach that" or "It doesnt mean that it means this" and twist or even change the wording to fit the upanishads


The above article is doing this, the person cant seem to accept the Buddha wasnt a Hindu (perhaps because its become popular to think he was) and so twists things and even accuses Buddhists traditions that have stood for centuries of getting a central teaching all wrong (this i have heard as well). Which basically means, "i dont like what that teaches, i want it to be this way"

metta
Those who are lust-infatuated fall back to the swirling current (of samsara) like a spider on its self-spun web. This too the wise cut off. Without any longing, they abandon all dukkha and renounce the world

Dhammapada - Verse 347
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Re: Are Buddhists Wrong about Anatma?

Postby clw_uk » Wed Aug 05, 2009 11:40 pm

It is of course, true that the Buddha denied the existence of a "soul" or "self "in the narrow sense of the word (one might say, in accordance with the command, deneget seipsum (deny himself ), (Mark, VIII.341) but this is not what our writers mean to say, or are understood by their readers to say; what three mean to say is that the Buddha denied the immortal, unborn and Supreme Self of the Upanishads. And that is palpably false. For he frequently speaks of this Self or Spirit, and nowhere more clearly than in the repeated formula `na me so atta', "That is not my Self ", excluding body and the components of empirical consciousness, a statement to which the words of Sankaracharya are peculiarly apposite, "Whenever we deny something unreal, it is with reference to something real" (neti-neti Brahma Sutra III.2.22); as remarked by Mrs. Rhys Davids, "so, 'this one', is used in the Suttas for utmost emphasis in questions of personal identity" (Minor Anthologies, I, p. 7, note 2). `Na me so atta' is no more a denial of the Self than Socrates' "the body is not the man" , is a denial of the Man"!



There is a difference, Buddha said "this is not my Self" without holding a view that there is a Self to be found, Sankaracharya (who was influenced by Buddhism) would say "this is not my Self" but would hold a view of there being a Self (somewhere)


There is also a complete lack of understanding of the concept of conventional truth, evident by this line

"For he frequently speaks of this Self or Spirit"


Would be nice if people bothered to actually lean about other religions before critcising them, something the above person obviously has not done

metta
Those who are lust-infatuated fall back to the swirling current (of samsara) like a spider on its self-spun web. This too the wise cut off. Without any longing, they abandon all dukkha and renounce the world

Dhammapada - Verse 347
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Re: Are Buddhists Wrong about Anatma?

Postby clw_uk » Wed Aug 05, 2009 11:49 pm

"Bhikkhus [monks, the Buddha said, holding a fleck of cow dung in his hand], if even if that much of permanent, everlasting, eternal selfhood/metaphysical being (attabhava), not inseparable from the idea of change, could be found, then this living the holy life could not be taught by me."



The Buddha here is saying that one cannot find a Self or being that is not seperate from change, hence there is no permanent Self

"if a tiny speck of a permanent, everlasting, eternal selfhood/being, that is seperate from change, could be found, then i could not teach"

If there was such a thing he couldnt teach the Holy life since it wouldnt make any sense, as its about anicca and anatta/Voidness. If there was a Self then anicca and anatta/Voidness wouldnt be completely valid

Also look at the word "could be found" not "has been found", he is saying "if there was such a thing" as in hypothetical, not actual

If we bring this in line with the teaching of Dependent Co-arising we can see the Buddha is teaching that Self is the result of clinging, is impermanent and a cause of dukkha. Therefore there is no real true Self, only the Sense of Self that arises and ceases
Those who are lust-infatuated fall back to the swirling current (of samsara) like a spider on its self-spun web. This too the wise cut off. Without any longing, they abandon all dukkha and renounce the world

Dhammapada - Verse 347
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Re: Are Buddhists Wrong about Anatma?

Postby clw_uk » Wed Aug 05, 2009 11:53 pm

I was going to respond to her but cant, can only post if i have purchased something (i live in UK)



If anyone wants to respond to her feel free to copy my post here, its what i was going to use


QUOTE
It is of course, true that the Buddha denied the existence of a "soul" or "self "in the narrow sense of the word (one might say, in accordance with the command, deneget seipsum (deny himself ), (Mark, VIII.341) but this is not what our writers mean to say, or are understood by their readers to say; what three mean to say is that the Buddha denied the immortal, unborn and Supreme Self of the Upanishads. And that is palpably false. For he frequently speaks of this Self or Spirit, and nowhere more clearly than in the repeated formula `na me so atta', "That is not my Self ", excluding body and the components of empirical consciousness, a statement to which the words of Sankaracharya are peculiarly apposite, "Whenever we deny something unreal, it is with reference to something real" (neti-neti Brahma Sutra III.2.22); as remarked by Mrs. Rhys Davids, "so, 'this one', is used in the Suttas for utmost emphasis in questions of personal identity" (Minor Anthologies, I, p. 7, note 2). `Na me so atta' is no more a denial of the Self than Socrates' "the body is not the man" , is a denial of the Man"!
QUOTE END


There is a difference, Buddha said "this is not my Self" without holding a view that there is a Self to be found, Sankaracharya (who was influenced by Buddhism) would say "this is not my Self" but would hold a view of there being a Self (somewhere)


There is also a complete lack of understanding of the concept of conventional truth, evident by this line

"For he frequently speaks of this Self or Spirit"


Would be nice if people bothered to actually lean about other religions before critcising them, something the above person obviously has not done


The Buddha said there was no Self (atman) in the aggregates (form, feeling, perception, mental volition and consciousness) nor a Self apart from them. He also taught that holding views of a Self (in any form) is a hindrance to the path

Some quotes

"Monks, you would do well to cling to that clinging to a doctrine of Self, clinging to which there would not arise sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, & despair. But do you see a clinging to a doctrine of Self, clinging to which there would not arise sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, & despair?"

"No, lord."

and


"Monks, where a Self or what belongs to Self are not pinned down as a truth or reality, then the view-position — 'This cosmos is the self. After death this I will be constant, permanent, eternal, not subject to change. I will stay just like that for an eternity' — Isn't it utterly & completely a fool's teaching?"

"What else could it be, lord? It's utterly & completely a fool's teaching."


and


"Bhikkhus [monks, the Buddha said, holding a fleck of cow dung in his hand], if even if that much of permanent, everlasting, eternal selfhood/metaphysical being (attabhava), not inseparable from the idea of change, could be found, then this living the holy life could not be taught by me."


The Buddha here is saying that one cannot find a Self or being that is not seperate from change, hence there is no permanent Self

"if a tiny speck of a permanent, everlasting, eternal selfhood/being, that is seperate from change, could be found, then i could not teach"

If there was such a thing he couldnt teach the Holy life since it wouldnt make any sense, as its about anicca and anatta/Voidness. If there was a Self then anicca and anatta/Voidness wouldnt be completely valid

Also look at the word "could be found" not "has been found", he is saying "if there was such a thing" as in hypothetical, not actual

If we bring this in line with the teaching of Dependent Co-arising we can see the Buddha is teaching that Self is the result of clinging, is impermanent and a cause of dukkha. Therefore there is no real true Self, only the Sense of Self that arises and ceases


Saying that Buddha taught upanishadic notions of Atman does not stand up and does not have any weight behind the arugment, unless you ignore the core teachings, texts and schools of Buddhism
Those who are lust-infatuated fall back to the swirling current (of samsara) like a spider on its self-spun web. This too the wise cut off. Without any longing, they abandon all dukkha and renounce the world

Dhammapada - Verse 347
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Re: Are Buddhists Wrong about Anatma?

Postby sraddha » Thu Aug 06, 2009 10:48 pm

clw_uk wrote:
"Bhikkhus [monks, the Buddha said, holding a fleck of cow dung in his hand], if even if that much of permanent, everlasting, eternal selfhood/metaphysical being (attabhava), not inseparable from the idea of change, could be found, then this living the holy life could not be taught by me."





Hi Clw_uk,

Thanks for that interesting quote there. However, it applies to the material, formative world -- which everyone agrees is not permament.

“There is no materiality whatever, O monks, no feelings no perception, no formations,[5] no consciousness whatever that is permanent, everlasting, eternal, changeless, identically abiding for ever.” Then the Blessed One took a bit of cow-dung in his hand and he spoke to the monks. ”Monks if even that much of permanent, everlasting, eternal, change­less individual Selfhood [attabhaava], identically abiding for ever, could be found, then this living of a life of purity [brahmacariya] for the complete eradication of ill [dukkha­kkhaya] would not be feasible.” (SN 22:96)



How would you resolve the following with your interpretation>What about this oft quoted passage from the Udana which posits that Nirvana is something which is not fabricated and unformed:

Khuddaka Nikaya: "There is, O monks, an Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed. Were there not, O monks, this Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed, there would be no escape from the world of the born, originated, created, formed. Since, O monks, there is an Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed, therefore is there an escape from the born, originated, created, formed. What is dependant, that also moves; what is independent does not move" (Udana 8:3).


Self is the master of self;
who else could be the master?
With self well-controlled
a person finds a master such as few can find. (Dhammapada)



Here our refuge itself -- Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are TERMED "ATMA":
“Attadipa, bhikkhave, viharatha attasarana anaññasarana, dhammadipa dhammasarana anaññasarana. Attadipena, bhikkhave, viharata attasarana anaññasarana, dhammadipena dhammasarana anaññasarana yoni upaparikkhitabba. Kijtik sokaparidevadukkhadomanassupayasa, kimpahotika”ti?

At S±vatthi. “Monks, abide as an island of yourselves, as a refuge of yourselves - without another refuge; with the Dhamma as an island, with the Dhamma as a refuge - without another refuge. Monks, abiding as an island of yourselves, as a refuge of yourselves - without another refuge; with the Dhamma as an island, with the Dhamma as a refuge - without another refuge; the foundation of your analysis should be such: ‘Born of what, is sorrow, weeping, affliction and mental distress, and from what has it arisen from?


Similarly the Dhamma' characteristic is that it is eternal -- unchanging and outside of time -- it is called akalikam -- timeless.

The question is -- DO ALL THE UPANISHADS SAY WHAT BUDDHA IS SAYING???? NOT! The Upanishads are contradictory.

Neti, neti is very, very cursory -- that's like saying all children know calculus because they can add. :smile: Hindus in no way have the detailed teaching of not self.
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Re: Are Buddhists Wrong about Anatma?

Postby Prasadachitta » Fri Aug 07, 2009 6:20 am

I Believe I have come into contact with the individual who wrote the material above. The communication was not congenial and it was like talking to stump. All of the emotion described above in relation to Buddhist defensiveness of anatman seems to me to describe the writers defensiveness of soul theory. In my opinion arguing with such people is not useful. I am glad that there are those who will keep reasserting the clarity and precision of traditional Buddhist communication in the face of people who seek to co opt and then distort it. Not in order to argue with such individuals but to mitigate the confusion which can arise.

Kindly

Gabriel
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Re: Are Buddhists Wrong about Anatma?

Postby sraddha » Sat Aug 08, 2009 1:22 am

gabrielbranbury wrote:I Believe I have come into contact with the individual who wrote the material above. The communication was not congenial and it was like talking to stump. All of the emotion described above in relation to Buddhist defensiveness of anatman seems to me to describe the writers defensiveness of soul theory. In my opinion arguing with such people is not useful. I am glad that there are those who will keep reasserting the clarity and precision of traditional Buddhist communication in the face of people who seek to co opt and then distort it. Not in order to argue with such individuals but to mitigate the confusion which can arise.

Kindly

Gabriel


Hi Gabriel, I've met a few people who say the same thing over and over again -- that Buddhism is nothing but the teachings of the Upanishads.

Those with a cursory knowledge of both think they are the same, those who practice understand that Buddhism is more advanced -- it's not about beliefs, it's about practice and those who practice will know the truth.


As Buddha said, those of other traditions all know Buddha by various names, but in truth know him not.
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Re: Are Buddhists Wrong about Anatma?

Postby sraddha » Sat Aug 08, 2009 1:40 am

Since I have posted from the Nikayas on Atma, here is a Mahayana sutra on the same issue:

“Pûrṇa, those who think that no-self is the Dharma, because they do not understand the Tathâgata’s underlying meaning, fall like moths into the lamp of ignorance.

Concerning ‘that which Buddhas did not find’, the blessed Buddhas of the past did not find the absence of the tathâgata-garbha in any being and then passed away. The blessed Buddhas of the present too do not find the absence of the âtma-dhâtu [Self Principle] in any being. The blessed Buddhas of the future also will not find the absence of the sattva-dhâtu in any being. The Srâvakas and Pratyekabuddhas in the past, present and future did not find, do not find and will not find the absence of the tathâgata-garbha in any being. This is the meaning of that verse.

“Again, concerning ‘that which Buddhas did not find’, though they searched assiduously in all phenomena, the Buddhas and Sravakas did not find the self of the mundane teachers that they claim is permanent, stable and eternal, and that, through the many kinds of speculations according to which these mundane teachers visualize the self, they say that ‘the self is like this’ – that it is red, blue, yellow, white, short, long or extremely long, the size of a thumb, a grain of millet (kodrava), a grain of rice, a mustard seed or a sesame seed, located shining in the heart or else which resides like the glowing wick of a lamp, which burns because of the oil, in the area around the navel, in the head, in the eyes or in the nose. Having then become awakened, they explain this to beings. This is the meaning of that verse, whereas, Pûrṇa, your explanation is not the meaning because of your distorted thinking.


Here basically the Mahayana Angulimalaya sutra argues the fallibility and contradictory teachings of the Upanishads which have these various meanings of Atma -- I've definately heard about atma being the size of tom thumb in the heart. :smile:

http://74.6.239.67/search/cache?ei=UTF-8&p=upanishads+atman+size&fr=yfp-t-150&u=www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/theistic/upanishads.pdf&w=upanishads+atman+size+sizes&d=AogASxlMTEoB&icp=1&.intl=us

The Purusha, of the size of a thumb, dwells in the body. He is
the Lord of the past and the future. After knowing Him, one
does not conceal oneself any more. This, verily, is That.13The Purusha, of the size of a thumb, is like a flame without
smoke.Katha Upanishad
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