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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Nov 16, 2011 6:57 pm

Dear mañjughoṣamaṇi,

I'm no expert on the historical development of Buddhist texts and theories (my reliance on wikipedia attests to that) but it strikes me as kind of naive to believe that the writers of the texts, given shared time/space (historical periods), would have developed the texts completely independent of each other. If you also take into account that the translations were made during a historical period where both sets of texts were in existence, well...

The fact is though, that both sets of texts are basically describing the same "phenomena" just from a different angle. I cannot see how they can be considered mutually exclusive. Though it's true that the actual Diamond Sutra text does not use the term Tathagatagarbha I would ask you: what is the Tathagatagarbha describing other than emptiness itself?
:namaste:
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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby Kunga Lhadzom » Wed Nov 16, 2011 6:59 pm

I don't think Greg was saying that the Diamond Sutra made reference to the word Tathagatagarbha....he just used that word in reference to the Tathagatagarba...that's how I see it anyways....

The word Tathagata is used in the translation I have read....also in this translation Tathagata is used (close enough to the word Tathagatagarbha ? )

http://community.palouse.net/lotus/diamond6-10.htm


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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby mañjughoṣamaṇi » Wed Nov 16, 2011 7:16 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:Dear mañjughoṣamaṇi,

I'm no expert on the historical development of Buddhist texts and theories (my reliance on wikipedia attests to that) but it strikes me as kind of naive to believe that the writers of the texts, given shared time/space (historical periods), would have developed the texts completely independent of each other.


The composers of the Tathāgatagarbha sūtras were definitely aware of the earlier Prajñāpāramitā texts. Stephen Hodge has shown several citations from the various PP texts within the TG texts. The reverse is apparently not true.

The fact is though, that both sets of texts are basically describing the same "phenomena" just from a different angle.


This is not a fact actually. Hodge and others, when comparing the Chinese translations of the Mahāparanirvāṇa sūtra to the Tibetan and Sanskrit, showed different stages of development. There was the early distinctly Tathāgatagarbha doctrine of a truly existing self, and the later tamed version in which additional chapters describe the Tathāgatagarbha as a synonym for emptiness. They were also quite critical of the śunyavadins (note, I am not arguing for the validity of the doctrine in the early recensions of the text)

It is easy as students of Tibetan Buddhism to see earlier movements through the later lenses of our teachers' traditions, but in India, at least in the early phases these were not compatible schools of thought and were in disagreement with each other.

All the best.
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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Wed Nov 16, 2011 7:18 pm

Tobes wrote:In the Diamond Sutra it says something to the effect that there are no sentient beings. So what's left ?

There is a great deal of context and understanding leading up to that.
it's funny, i was just thinking about the Diamond Sutra today, in relation to this whole thing, because over and over again in the Diamond Sutra, Buddha makes the point, 'no, in essence it isn't really this , it is merely called this".

And then, it occurred to me that perhaps the idea that when one thinks that calling the infinite nature of all reality "God" improves either that reality, or one's understanding of it, that this is similar to believing that Ketchup would be improved if it were called "Cleopatra" or something a little bit more elegant.

Because we start out with a notion that "God" is some big grand thing, there is a tendency to think that if we call something "God" that this somehow makes it better. Of course, atheists reject this idea, and I think, generally, buddhists do too. And I think the Diamond Sutra alludes to the problems that arise from attaching value to the names of things.
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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby Kunga Lhadzom » Wed Nov 16, 2011 7:34 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
Kunga Lhadzom wrote:In the Diamond Sutra it says something to the effect that there are no sentient beings. So what's left ?

There is a great deal of context and understanding leading up to that.
it's funny, i was just thinking about the Diamond Sutra today, in relation to this whole thing, because over and over again in the D.S. Buddha makes the point, 'no, in essence it isn't really this , it is merely called this".

And then, it occurred to me that perhaps the idea that when one thinks that calling the infinite nature of all reality "God" improves either that reality, or one's understanding of it, that this is similar to believing that Ketchup would be improved if it were called "Cleopatra" or something a little bit more elegant.

Because we start out with a notion that "God" is some big grand thing, there is a tendency to think that if we call something "God" that this somehow makes it better. Of course, atheists reject this idea, and I think, generally, buddhists do too. And I think the Diamond Sutra alludes to the problems that arise from attaching value to the names of things.


Yes.....conceptualizing.....conceptualizing is not conceptualizing....that's why it's called conceptualizing..... :spy:
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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby Malcolm » Wed Nov 16, 2011 7:55 pm

mañjughoṣamaṇi wrote:at least in the early phases these were not compatible schools of thought and were in disagreement with each other.

All the best.


Correct; Prajñapāramitā schools, Tathāgatagarbha schools and Yogacāra schools were in some disagreement until Maitrryanath's synthesis. After the dust settled, it was left between the Yogacāras and the Madhyamikas to battle it out.

Then Vajrayāna made their arguments somewhat irrelevant because of the Vajrayāna synthesis of the two schools.

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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Nov 16, 2011 9:57 pm

Thank y'all kindly for this informaion!
:namaste:
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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."
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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby Thug4lyfe » Thu Nov 17, 2011 2:12 am

Kunga Lhadzom wrote:I don't think Greg was saying that the Diamond Sutra made reference to the word Tathagatagarbha....he just used that word in reference to the Tathagatagarba...that's how I see it anyways....

The word Tathagata is used in the translation I have read....also in this translation Tathagata is used (close enough to the word Tathagatagarbha ? )

http://community.palouse.net/lotus/diamond6-10.htm


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Use deez version instead homes!!!

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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby tobes » Thu Nov 17, 2011 2:29 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
tobes wrote:
Yes, I gathered that ~ and I suppose that when I said that I didn't have much to add, I meant philosophically.

It just so happens that I have been working through Spinoza's Ethics with a few others - and frankly, I've really struggled, especially with book 1 which contains all of his axioms about God-Nature.



I looked into a summary of Spinoza at this Stanford University Link:
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/spinoza/#GodNat

I have never read Spinoza and so I don't know how accurate it is, but I will assume it is, and based on that assumption, these are my observations:

1. Like all theists, Spinoza begins with the abstract and uncertain concept of something bearing the title "God" and then "defines" the meaning of that label with a lovely description of infinity.

But that type of reasoning, from a buddhist perspective, is backwards. It's "witch-hunt" logic. It's like saying,
"There are hard to explain things going on in the village, so there is probably a witch living nearby, and so now we have the word "witch" so let's define that word as meaning that strange woman who lives near the edge of the woods".

We start with everything we know and everything we wonder about, and because it's bigger than anything we can imagine, we call it "God" and maybe give it a face and a beard and maybe not, and then we start filling in the blanks: "god is this" God is that" and so on.

This is akin to the problem many new buddhists have when it comes to understanding sunyata, or emptiness. They begin with an apparently solid thing, like a table, and then, thinking that Buddhism tells them the table doesn't exist, struggle with deconstructing it. Buddhism doesn't say the table doesn't exist. Buddhism says that nothing is existent (meaning essential, or independently arising, or unconditional, or not composed of other things) that can be called a table. In other words, there is no essential "tableness' in a table. There's just wood and glue and screws and a shape. It only becomes a table in the human mind. If a crocodile sees it, it is not a table to the crocodile.

Likewise, if we start with "God" as something other than the abstract label that it is, then we start to invent all sorts of meanings. So the problem is that Spinoza never let's go of that first presumption. He starts with "God" and then comes up with all sorts of philosophy to attribute to this label.

2. he makes references to 'substances' as in:
Proposition 13: A substance which is absolutely infinite is indivisible.

Which from a Buddhist point of view is contradictory in nature. For something to be infinite, it would have to transcend both absolute and non-absolute, indivisibility and non-indivisibility.
I won't go into all the other points about substances because these were already discussed and refuted 1300 years earlier by Nagarjuna.
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.
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This is exactly the problem, from my point of view - that you think it is sufficient to refute Spinoza on the basis that he uses the signifier God.

If you look a little more deeply at Spinoza, you'll notice a few interesting things - firstly, that he was excommunicated from the Dutch Jewish community, because his metaphysical views were so scandalously far from the orthodoxy.

Secondly, that he is very often interpreted as an atheist. Sometimes as a pantheist; in any case, it is not at all clear that he's giving an a-priori argument for God from the perspective of theism......but you impute this, without ever bothering to read him.

Thirdly, that he was deeply influenced by the physics of Newton and Gallileo: so much of his radicalism is in his conception of the natural world as not ontologically distinct from the world of thought.

Fourthly, that he was dangerously brazen in his attacks on organised monotheistic religion, and the assumptions contained therein.

All of this, you completely fail to see; instead feeling comfortable enough to make unfounded inferences after reading a webpage (albeit a good one).....and so, happily and without any foundation or engagement, refute one of the great thinkers the west has produced.....

On what grounds exactly? That you have read and understood Nagarjuna. Well, I'm sorry, but that's really the kind of conceit I'm pointing to.

Now, the points about substance, being and causality, as I have already mentioned earlier on this thread, do indeed present a serious challenge to anyone who wants to argue that there is a commensurability between Spinoza's metaphysics and emptiness.

I certainly am not making the claim that they are commensurable; nor am I in the position to undertake that kind of work.

I too, know Nagarjuna far better than I do Spinoza.

The point here is, and please don't lose sight of it: whether one is arguing for commensurability or difference, one needs to know both very well, and actually engage in the metaphysical issues which are at stake.

I don't see that you've done that all, and yet, you have already reached your conclusion.

That's ideology, not philosophy.

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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby tobes » Thu Nov 17, 2011 2:32 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
Tobes wrote:In the Diamond Sutra it says something to the effect that there are no sentient beings. So what's left ?

There is a great deal of context and understanding leading up to that.
it's funny, i was just thinking about the Diamond Sutra today, in relation to this whole thing, because over and over again in the Diamond Sutra, Buddha makes the point, 'no, in essence it isn't really this , it is merely called this".

And then, it occurred to me that perhaps the idea that when one thinks that calling the infinite nature of all reality "God" improves either that reality, or one's understanding of it, that this is similar to believing that Ketchup would be improved if it were called "Cleopatra" or something a little bit more elegant.

Because we start out with a notion that "God" is some big grand thing, there is a tendency to think that if we call something "God" that this somehow makes it better. Of course, atheists reject this idea, and I think, generally, buddhists do too. And I think the Diamond Sutra alludes to the problems that arise from attaching value to the names of things.


Just to be clear: that quote is attributed to me, but I didn't make it.

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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby catmoon » Thu Nov 17, 2011 3:37 am

Reading your post on Spinoza, I cannot help but be struck by the similarities between Spinoza and Mr Solway. I must now suppose that Spinoza was the Solway of his day.
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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby Tenso » Thu Nov 17, 2011 4:37 am

oh we're up to 38 now. is this a world record for most pages in a thread?
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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby Tenso » Thu Nov 17, 2011 4:38 am

nevermind that would go to the vegetarian debate
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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu Nov 17, 2011 4:54 am

tobes wrote:
This is exactly the problem, from my point of view - that you think it is sufficient to refute Spinoza on the basis that he uses the signifier God.

If you look a little more deeply at Spinoza, you'll notice a few interesting things - firstly, that he was excommunicated from the Dutch Jewish community, because his metaphysical views were so scandalously far from the orthodoxy.




I didn't say that Spinoza wasn't a great "outside the box" thinker, that he didn't look at things in a whole new light, or that he wasn't, as you say, one of the "great thinkers the west has produced". But so were Marx & Einstein.

Aside from that, as far as I can tell, he never departed from the basic god pretext. In other words, he was seeking an answer to the question, "what is God?" , trying to develop a new way of understanding God, of looking at God.

And all I am saying is that from the buddhist perspective that's the wrong question.
And the reason it's the wrong question nothing to do with belief or non-belief in a God, or deciding whether God is one or many. It's the wrong question because all of the qualities or characteristics one can use to describe God (he is everything, it is all one, she is nature) are characteristics that depend on "things" having an intrinsic reality to them, and Buddhist theory says that things do not have any such intrinsic reality.

And the reason why "things" have no intrinsic reality is because they are not things at all, but merely a series of temporarily occurring events which merely appear as solid entities because of the way we perceive. Non buddhists would say a table is a solid thing. A buddhist would say that a table is merely the coming together of infinite causes, from the rainfall that grew the tree (which was also a temporary coming together of causes) from which the table was produced, to the mind which sees this coming together of events and labels it "furniture", and although not visible to the human eye, that table is also gradually decomposing. For now, however, a table is basically a very slowly occurring event.

Actually, in terms of the Universe, the table is a rather rapidly occurring event.

The concept of "God" (and please correct me if Spinoza departs from this)
does not acknowledge the insubstantial, constantly changing nature of phenomena as described above,
but instead relies on the belief of existent 'things' in which "God", however one defines the term,
plays some kind of pivotal role.
.
.
.
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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby tobes » Thu Nov 17, 2011 6:42 am

catmoon wrote:Reading your post on Spinoza, I cannot help but be struck by the similarities between Spinoza and Mr Solway. I must now suppose that Spinoza was the Solway of his day.


Well, Kevin did mention Spinoza, and that's precisely why I pressed him on it.

I don't intend any disrespect to Mr Solway, but I think Spinoza was a slightly more rigorous thinker.....

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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby tobes » Thu Nov 17, 2011 7:00 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
tobes wrote:
This is exactly the problem, from my point of view - that you think it is sufficient to refute Spinoza on the basis that he uses the signifier God.

If you look a little more deeply at Spinoza, you'll notice a few interesting things - firstly, that he was excommunicated from the Dutch Jewish community, because his metaphysical views were so scandalously far from the orthodoxy.




I didn't say that Spinoza wasn't a great "outside the box" thinker, that he didn't look at things in a whole new light, or that he wasn't, as you say, one of the "great thinkers the west has produced". But so were Marx & Einstein.

Aside from that, as far as I can tell, he never departed from the basic god pretext. In other words, he was seeking an answer to the question, "what is God?" , trying to develop a new way of understanding God, of looking at God.

And all I am saying is that from the buddhist perspective that's the wrong question.
And the reason it's the wrong question nothing to do with belief or non-belief in a God, or deciding whether God is one or many. It's the wrong question because all of the qualities or characteristics one can use to describe God (he is everything, it is all one, she is nature) are characteristics that depend on "things" having an intrinsic reality to them, and Buddhist theory says that things do not have any such intrinsic reality.

And the reason why "things" have no intrinsic reality is because they are not things at all, but merely a series of temporarily occurring events which merely appear as solid entities because of the way we perceive. Non buddhists would say a table is a solid thing. A buddhist would say that a table is merely the coming together of infinite causes, from the rainfall that grew the tree (which was also a temporary coming together of causes) from which the table was produced, to the mind which sees this coming together of events and labels it "furniture", and although not visible to the human eye, that table is also gradually decomposing. For now, however, a table is basically a very slowly occurring event.

Actually, in terms of the Universe, the table is a rather rapidly occurring event.

The concept of "God" (and please correct me if Spinoza departs from this)
does not acknowledge the insubstantial, constantly changing nature of phenomena as described above,
but instead relies on the belief of existent 'things' in which "God", however one defines the term,
plays some kind of pivotal role.
.
.
.


If you're asking, do phenomenal entities arise, abide and cease for Spinoza, as they do for Buddhists? - well, I'd say that is an interesting question.

My sense is probably not - but there are interesting continuities as well as discontinuities.

Your reference to Einstein is apt: he famously proposed the theory of relativity, which has an obvious connection to Buddhist metaphysics. And when pressed, he said something like 'I believe in Spinoza's conception of God.'

Now, I'm quite sure you will totally misconstrue what he meant by that; what he was getting at is that there is only a world of immanent objects which are what they are because of their movement and relationships. That is, Spinoza's conception of God absolutely, radically, amazingly departed from what you call 'the God pretext.'

But in any case, I'm not here to defend that conception, nor the proposition that Spinoza's metaphysics is commensurate with Buddhist metaphysics.

Only that more is required than glib dismissals based on a total refusal to actually investigate what Spinoza intended when he used the signifier God.

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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby Sherab Dorje » Thu Nov 17, 2011 8:29 am

tobes wrote:Your reference to Einstein is apt: he famously proposed the theory of relativity, which has an obvious connection to Buddhist metaphysics. And when pressed, he said something like 'I believe in Spinoza's conception of God.
Einstein had the following to say about Spinoza
How much do I love that noble man
More than I could tell with words
I fear though he'll remain alone
With a holy halo of his own.
Poem by Einstein on Spinoza (1920), as quoted in Einstein and Religion by Max Jammer, Princeton UP 1999, p. 43; Original German manuscript "Zu Spinozas Ethik" Einstein Archives 31-18.00

When pressed on the validity of quantam mechanics Einstein responded:
Quantum mechanics is certainly imposing. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory says a lot, but does not really bring us any closer to the secret of the "old one." I, at any rate, am convinced that He does not throw dice.
Letter to Max Born (4 December 1926); The Born-Einstein Letters (translated by Irene Born) (Walker and Company, New York, 1971) ISBN 0-8027-0326-7. Einstein himself used variants of this quote at other times. For example, in a 1943 conversation with William Hermanns recorded in Hermanns' book Einstein and the Poet, Einstein said: "As I have said so many times, God doesn't play dice with the world." (p. 58)

Now whether he was using a signifier or whether Einstein was a theist, well... But he certainly had a thing for Spinoza. Maybe, like Kev referred to himself, Einstein was a theistic atheist (or was that an atheistic theist?).
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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."
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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby muni » Thu Nov 17, 2011 9:49 am

gregkavarnos wrote:[(or was that an atheistic theist?).


Whatever, i already am lost. :namaste:
Theories can create an illusory distance between us and enlightenment.
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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby Jnana » Thu Nov 17, 2011 10:40 am

tobes wrote:This is exactly the problem, from my point of view - that you think it is sufficient to refute Spinoza on the basis that he uses the signifier God.

It's a rather nonsensical signifier for anyone practicing the Buddhadharma.

tobes wrote:Secondly, that he is very often interpreted as an atheist. Sometimes as a pantheist; in any case, it is not at all clear that he's giving an a-priori argument for God from the perspective of theism......but you impute this, without ever bothering to read him.

Theism, atheism, and pantheism are all foreign to the Buddhadharma.

tobes wrote:All of this, you completely fail to see; instead feeling comfortable enough to make unfounded inferences after reading a webpage (albeit a good one).....and so, happily and without any foundation or engagement, refute one of the great thinkers the west has produced.....

There's really no need to refute Spinoza point by point. Nor much reason to read him unless one is interested in Western philosophy.

tobes wrote:On what grounds exactly? That you have read and understood Nagarjuna.

Yes. As well as the Nikāyas, Āgamas, Abhidharma treatises, and Mahāyāna sūtras, tantras, and related commentaries.

tobes wrote:Well, I'm sorry, but that's really the kind of conceit I'm pointing to.

Spinoza is an interesting thinker, but quite unimportant for the study and practice of the Buddhadharma. Buddhists would do well to focus their time and energy elsewhere. Life is short. The time of death uncertain.
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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby tobes » Thu Nov 17, 2011 11:50 am

Jnana wrote:
tobes wrote:This is exactly the problem, from my point of view - that you think it is sufficient to refute Spinoza on the basis that he uses the signifier God.

It's a rather nonsensical signifier for anyone practicing the Buddhadharma.

tobes wrote:Secondly, that he is very often interpreted as an atheist. Sometimes as a pantheist; in any case, it is not at all clear that he's giving an a-priori argument for God from the perspective of theism......but you impute this, without ever bothering to read him.

Theism, atheism, and pantheism are all foreign to the Buddhadharma.

tobes wrote:All of this, you completely fail to see; instead feeling comfortable enough to make unfounded inferences after reading a webpage (albeit a good one).....and so, happily and without any foundation or engagement, refute one of the great thinkers the west has produced.....

There's really no need to refute Spinoza point by point. Nor much reason to read him unless one is interested in Western philosophy.

tobes wrote:On what grounds exactly? That you have read and understood Nagarjuna.

Yes. As well as the Nikāyas, Āgamas, Abhidharma treatises, and Mahāyāna sūtras, tantras, and related commentaries.

tobes wrote:Well, I'm sorry, but that's really the kind of conceit I'm pointing to.

Spinoza is an interesting thinker, but quite unimportant for the study and practice of the Buddhadharma. Buddhists would do well to focus their time and energy elsewhere. Life is short. The time of death uncertain.


Just to be clear Jnana, I am not proposing that Buddhists ought to read Spinoza - only that if one is directly engaging in a refutation of his metaphysics, one needs to know his metaphysics.

Otherwise, the refutation is inevitably going to be without a foundation.

That's all. A fairly uncontroversial claim I would have thought.

After all, don't we all know how absurd it is when people attempt to refute Buddhadharma without engaging in Buddhadharma? If this thread proves nothing else, it surely proves that.

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