buddhist hinduism?

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buddhist hinduism?

Postby coldmountain » Wed May 04, 2011 10:06 pm

Hi everyone,

I'd like to ask for some thoughts regarding the idea of Buddha-nature in some Buddhist schools, and whether there is any meaningful difference Buddha-nature and Hinduism's atman. It has been my understanding that Buddhism has generally tried to deconstruct metaphysical ideas like self and substance. Buddhism, in my understanding, does not want to reify a self or reason about some pregiven essence behind the phenomenal world. Now, perhaps it should be expected that, in spite of this, such notions would resurface within Buddhism, since it seems almost wired into our thinking and, naturally, build into our language to speak in essentialist categories and dualistic terms. But if Buddhism admits that there is some kind of "essence" behind the phenomenal world that is absolute, unchanging, etc., is this not identical to Hinduism's atman metaphysics? For instance, I have read Buddhist teachers who teach of there being a fundamental and unchanging "awareness" that exists absolutely unchanging to itself, and the phenomenal world appears as images in a mirror, leaving the mirror (awareness) unchanged.

Peace and thanks for reading,
Mike
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Re: buddhist hinduism?

Postby Astus » Wed May 04, 2011 10:54 pm

The difference in brief. Those who believe there is an actor behind action think there is a self/soul. Those who realise that the mind is empty, without a self, understand that it is buddha-nature.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

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Re: buddhist hinduism?

Postby Malcolm » Wed May 04, 2011 10:59 pm

Astus wrote:The difference in brief. Those who believe there is an actor behind action think there is a self/soul. Those who realise that the mind is empty, without a self, understand that it is buddha-nature.



Paradoxically, in Tathāgatagarbha literature, that mind that lacks identity and is empty is being called "self". It is standard Buddhist subversion of Hindu norms, once again. The Tantras do it with Samkhya.
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Re: buddhist hinduism?

Postby coldmountain » Wed May 04, 2011 11:35 pm

Thanks for your response.

Astus wrote:The difference in brief. Those who believe there is an actor behind action think there is a self/soul. Those who realise that the mind is empty, without a self, understand that it is buddha-nature.


What, then, is Buddha-nature? Is it an unconditioned substance? Does it exist independently of change and plurality?
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Re: buddhist hinduism?

Postby Malcolm » Thu May 05, 2011 12:24 am

coldmountain wrote:Thanks for your response.

Astus wrote:The difference in brief. Those who believe there is an actor behind action think there is a self/soul. Those who realise that the mind is empty, without a self, understand that it is buddha-nature.


What, then, is Buddha-nature? Is it an unconditioned substance? Does it exist independently of change and plurality?



Nope, not an unconditioned _substance_.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

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he is said to be a ṛṣī; the others are the opposite of him."

-- Uttaratantra
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Re: buddhist hinduism?

Postby coldmountain » Thu May 05, 2011 12:39 am

Namdrol wrote:
coldmountain wrote:Thanks for your response.

Astus wrote:The difference in brief. Those who believe there is an actor behind action think there is a self/soul. Those who realise that the mind is empty, without a self, understand that it is buddha-nature.


What, then, is Buddha-nature? Is it an unconditioned substance? Does it exist independently of change and plurality?



Nope, not an unconditioned _substance_.


To what does the term refer to, then? I'm not clear how a belief in an unconditioned, immutable anything fits with the teaching of conditioned-arising.
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Re: buddhist hinduism?

Postby Malcolm » Thu May 05, 2011 12:49 am

coldmountain wrote:
To what does the term refer to, then? I'm not clear how a belief in an unconditioned, immutable anything fits with the teaching of conditioned-arising.


That depends on who you ask. In Tibetan Buddhism, according to the Sakya school, tathāgatagarbha is the union of the clarity and emptiness of one's mind. According to the Gelugpa school, it is the potential for sentient beings to awaken since they lack inherent existence; according to the Jonang school, it refers to the innate qualities of the mind which expresses itself in terms of omniscience, etc, when adventitious obscurations are removed. In Nyingma, tathāgatagarbha also generally refers to union of the clarity and emptiness of one's mind.

There is only one Indian commentary on this issue -- the Uttaratantra and its commentary by Asanga.

In Chinese Buddhism it is interpreted more literally, in texts such as Awakening of Faith in Mahāyāna, and in some currents of Sino-Japanese Buddhism it is indistinguishable from Advaita. The Chinese had no experience with Hindus, really, and did not guard as well as the Tibetans against eternalism creeping into their Buddhism.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

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he is said to be a ṛṣī; the others are the opposite of him."

-- Uttaratantra
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Re: buddhist hinduism?

Postby Indrajala » Thu May 05, 2011 1:31 am

Namdrol wrote:In Chinese Buddhism it is interpreted more literally, in texts such as Awakening of Faith in Mahāyāna, and in some currents of Sino-Japanese Buddhism it is indistinguishable from Advaita. The Chinese had no experience with Hindus, really, and did not guard as well as the Tibetans against eternalism creeping into their Buddhism.


Precisely what did you have in mind concerning eternalism creeping into Chinese Buddhism?
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Re: buddhist hinduism?

Postby Malcolm » Thu May 05, 2011 2:32 am

Huseng wrote:
Namdrol wrote:In Chinese Buddhism it is interpreted more literally, in texts such as Awakening of Faith in Mahāyāna, and in some currents of Sino-Japanese Buddhism it is indistinguishable from Advaita. The Chinese had no experience with Hindus, really, and did not guard as well as the Tibetans against eternalism creeping into their Buddhism.


Precisely what did you have in mind concerning eternalism creeping into Chinese Buddhism?



Well, we can start with Awakening of Faith in Mahayāna and it just gets worse from there.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

" The one who teaches the benefits of peace,
he is said to be a ṛṣī; the others are the opposite of him."

-- Uttaratantra
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Re: buddhist hinduism?

Postby coldmountain » Thu May 05, 2011 2:37 am

Namdrol wrote:
coldmountain wrote:
To what does the term refer to, then? I'm not clear how a belief in an unconditioned, immutable anything fits with the teaching of conditioned-arising.


That depends on who you ask. In Tibetan Buddhism, according to the Sakya school, tathāgatagarbha is the union of the clarity and emptiness of one's mind. According to the Gelugpa school, it is the potential for sentient beings to awaken since they lack inherent existence; according to the Jonang school, it refers to the innate qualities of the mind which expresses itself in terms of omniscience, etc, when adventitious obscurations are removed. In Nyingma, tathāgatagarbha also generally refers to union of the clarity and emptiness of one's mind.

There is only one Indian commentary on this issue -- the Uttaratantra and its commentary by Asanga.

In Chinese Buddhism it is interpreted more literally, in texts such as Awakening of Faith in Mahāyāna, and in some currents of Sino-Japanese Buddhism it is indistinguishable from Advaita. The Chinese had no experience with Hindus, really, and did not guard as well as the Tibetans against eternalism creeping into their Buddhism.


Thanks for the input. I think my understanding at present allows best for the "clarity and emptiness of one's mind." This question really resurfaced in my mind while I was reading a book called "there's more to death than dying: a buddhist perspective." This is written by a native Westerner and Tibetan Buddhist named Lama Shenpen Hookham. Now, this book is by no means a philosophical tome, it is written for a general audience, but there are certain statements she makes that seem Vedantic rather than buddhistic. I'll provide a couple of examples:

“Buddhism teaches that what is of ultimate value is the ungraspable mysterious essence of our being…it is this nature in ourselves and our loved ones that is ultimately real.”

“Having realized that awareness is fundamental and unchanging, we can understand how taking birth and dying are just appearances within awareness, like images in a mirror.”

Would you say that these accurately communicate authentic Buddhist teachings? The second statement especially, I can find no distinction from Vedanta. It seems to go well beyond emptiness and nonduality to an all-out absolutist monism.

Peace.
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Re: buddhist hinduism?

Postby Indrajala » Thu May 05, 2011 2:57 am

Namdrol wrote:
Huseng wrote:
Namdrol wrote:In Chinese Buddhism it is interpreted more literally, in texts such as Awakening of Faith in Mahāyāna, and in some currents of Sino-Japanese Buddhism it is indistinguishable from Advaita. The Chinese had no experience with Hindus, really, and did not guard as well as the Tibetans against eternalism creeping into their Buddhism.


Precisely what did you have in mind concerning eternalism creeping into Chinese Buddhism?



Well, we can start with Awakening of Faith in Mahayāna and it just gets worse from there.


And what part of said text has eternalist elements creeping in?
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Re: buddhist hinduism?

Postby LastLegend » Thu May 05, 2011 3:25 am

The problem here is definitely language, some philosophy, and that we are not enlightened.

When speaking of Buddha Nature, we seem to give it an identity as something, a Self or self for example. But inherently it is empty of all yet and full at the same time. So no matter what we are speaking of, we always give it an imagination of what we think it is, and give it an identity as Self. The problem with Self is it sounds like a possession which Realized Buddha Nature is empty of such. But how can you not call it Self when it has these qualities and those qualities, and from it forms arise. How can you call it Self when it is inseparable from other Buddha Nature. Self in relation or comparison to what...the problem here is US, because of our attachment to define, dissect, analyze, and philosophize in trying to see or understand what Buddha Nature is. We forget that the only Buddhas and Great Bodhisattvas are able to see their Buddha Nature...remember Buddha and Bodhisattvas work according to our attachment but does not mean they are attached like us. So we are attached to language and words such as Buddha Nature, they will explain to us what it is..remember the core teachings of Buddhism is to leave attachment...our problem is we are attached to form especially language and words...because of our attachment, that is why there are many methods or forms that are being employed to help us such as Tantra, Chan, Pure Land, etc. That is why there are many Sutras and not One. When disciples asked, Buddha answered. And other times Buddha spoke about a particular Sutra without inquiry from disciples. What Buddha spoke is accord with sentient beings' attachments. Other times when people asked Buddha about something, Buddha answered.

For our sake, I will say Buddha Nature is the potential to become Buddha. What is Buddha? Cultivate the path to become one and we will know...But ultimately, if you accept Buddha Nature without philosophize or analyzing, then it is just Buddha Nature. In Taoism, it is called the Great Tao. In Buddhism we call it Buddha Nature. In Confucianism, it is called something (which I don't remember). In Hinduism, I will not say what it is called. But they all refer to the same thing...after we have questioned the teachings, and we now can accept the teachings as they are...In my opinion, Buddhism gives clarity to Taoism, Confucianism, and Hinduism in terms of theory and practice. In other words, Buddhism explains things, nature, phenomenons, universe, how we live, etc and how to practice in a clearer view than other traditions can.

But with a closer look, Hui Neng said Buddha Nature is when we don't think of good or evil, that's Buddha Nature or original face. It is not far or close. But the closest is right front of us is what keeps us moving, doing things, etc. Otherwise, we would like like a rock or a dead body. The calmer and clearer we are through practice, that is Buddha Nature...When Buddha Nature is defiled, its effects are what we are now in terms of consciousnesses, but without Buddha Nature the organs would be nothing more than tissues. When we die, what's left behind is the body.

Lastly, if you are still attached to learning more about Buddha Nature, here is a link to what I posted
viewtopic.php?f=66&t=3985&start=60
Last edited by LastLegend on Thu May 05, 2011 6:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: buddhist hinduism?

Postby coldmountain » Thu May 05, 2011 4:07 am

I can agree that language can be very tricky, one can easily communicate the wrong idea by not being careful. And not all experiences are able to conform to conceptual categories.

That being said, I don't think even Buddhas can necessarily transcend the rules of language when making positive statements about the nature of reality. By saying something, we are committing ourselves to some extent to a metaphysical view. We are saying something about 'what is', and these views will naturally contradict other claims - like those found in Hinduism. From my own understanding, Buddhism seems to want to negate essentialist thinking and substance metaphysics. While Hinduism seeks to unite with an absolute entity or soul which exists behind the phenomenal world, Buddhism seems to have a different goal, in my understanding. Of course, Buddhism is very broad and has some contradicting claims within itself as matters of debate, but the general thrust and the unique contributions of Buddhist philosophy seems to be in the way it does away with dualistic substance metaphysics and essentialist categories of thinking.

Again, to the extent that the Buddhas say something philosophical about the nature of reality, it must be accessible to anyone with sufficient background, and not only to an enlightened being. Otherwise the teachings profit no one who isn't already enlightened. Buddha-nature is a concept, and as such it belongs to conceptual discourse and must be defended at that level, otherwise what would be the advantage to teaching buddha-nature over some other concept like atman?

Peace.
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Re: buddhist hinduism?

Postby coldmountain » Thu May 05, 2011 4:16 am

LastLegend, let me, if I may, provide an example here, when you write:

"But how can you not call it Self when it has these qualities and those qualities, and from it forms arise..."

When you say "from it forms arise" this creates an idea in my head of buddha-nature as something independent of those forms. The forms are contingent upon it, but buddha-nature itself exists untouched and absolute unto itself (this contradicts the Heart Sutra's "form is emptiness; emptiness is form"). This conforms to a substance-attribute metaphysics, which I think Buddhism - at least in many of its threads - tries to overcome. Now, I'm not going to suppose what those words mean to you, but that's what arises in my mind.

Thanks,
Mike
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Re: buddhist hinduism?

Postby LastLegend » Thu May 05, 2011 5:02 am

Absolute compared to what?

And from emptiness arises forms, and from forms go back to emptiness...You are able to see this phenomenon when you are a certain Bodhisattva or Buddha.
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Re: buddhist hinduism?

Postby coldmountain » Thu May 05, 2011 5:18 am

LastLegend wrote:Absolute compared to what?


That's a very good question. :smile: I'm not sure - that's always a problem when one talks about "the absolute."

And from emptiness arises forms, and from forms go back to emptiness...You are able to see this phenomenon when you are a certain Bodhisattva or Buddha.


I remember reading in the Korean "Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment" that the very existence of phenomena is their non-existence (or emptiness). The Heart Sutra seems to say the same thing, that form and emptiness are not two separate things in relation to one another, but the very same reality. "Form is exactly emptiness and emptiness is exactly form." (with the same being true of all the other dharmas). Moreover Nargarjuna famously noted that there is not the subtlest difference between the ultimate and the conventional - the limits of one are the limits of the other. With all this in mind I get rather confused when Buddhists speak about "awareness" being fundamental and phenomena being mere appearances that arise from this fundamental, unchanging nature. It seems to be a metaphysical contradiction from what Buddhism maintains elsewhere. Buddhism sometimes says that there is nothing ultimate/absolute, and sometimes it seems to suggest that there is something ultimate/absolute.

Admittedly I am not a Bodhisattva or Buddha, but having a somewhat analytical mind I like to squeeze as much meaning out of a teaching as I can before going beyond it into practice.

Thanks, and peace,
Mike
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Re: buddhist hinduism?

Postby LastLegend » Thu May 05, 2011 5:30 am

I would say that is the limits of theory to go beyond theory, you have to practice.

As for Absolute, if it makes you really happy then call it Absolute but keep in mind that when you say Absolute you have to compare it to something else. So what we are dealing with here is words (form) which most people get stuck on...as for forms they arise from Mind/Buddha Nature, where else could they be from after all nothing exists outside of Mind/Buddha Nature...but these are just talks really and does not mean it really reflects what Buddha sees. The sooner we practice, the sooner we can become Buddha to see what Buddha sees. So it really comes down to faith in Buddha's teachings and practice.
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Re: buddhist hinduism?

Postby Astus » Thu May 05, 2011 10:09 am

The saying that "it gives rise to phenomena" means that everything is conceived by the mind and the mind is empty. It is the same as dependent origination where ignorance gives rise to formations, etc. When ignorance is eliminated, the nature of mind is realised, ignorance is transformed into wisdom - it is explained in detail in Yogacara with 4 wisdoms, in Vajrayana with 5 wisdoms. In Zen it is summed up as if you're aware you are a buddha, if deluded you are a common being. This is not the case that there is an absolute substance behind everything but it's like as it's explained in the early texts as the difference between skandhas with and without attachment.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: buddhist hinduism?

Postby Jikan » Thu May 05, 2011 1:48 pm

I think the kinds of trends Namdrol is referring to as eternalism in Sino-Japanese Buddhism can be seen in the Tendai doctrine of hongaku shiso, where Tathagathagarbha is understood not as a potential for awakening as in the Indic tradition, but as always-already Buddha (hongaku shiso is translated as "inherent enlightenment").

http://www.jstor.org/pss/30233979

(it's a dated article but it explains the hongaku concept well)

This concept turns up especially in the rhetorical flourishes of Kamakura Buddhism (eg Nichiren and Dogen).
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Re: buddhist hinduism?

Postby Indrajala » Thu May 05, 2011 2:51 pm

Jikan wrote:I think the kinds of trends Namdrol is referring to as eternalism in Sino-Japanese Buddhism can be seen in the Tendai doctrine of hongaku shiso, where Tathagathagarbha is understood not as a potential for awakening as in the Indic tradition, but as always-already Buddha (hongaku shiso is translated as "inherent enlightenment").

http://www.jstor.org/pss/30233979

(it's a dated article but it explains the hongaku concept well)

This concept turns up especially in the rhetorical flourishes of Kamakura Buddhism (eg Nichiren and Dogen).


Said concept of fundamental enlightenment (Jpn. hongaku; Chn. benjue 本覺) appears first the treatise Awakening of Mahāyāna Faith 大乘起信論. It is not strictly a Tendai concept and is actually common to Huayan and some lines of thought in Chan / Zen.
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