Catuṣkoṭi analysis used by the Buddha himself

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boundless
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Re: Catuṣkoṭi analysis used by the Buddha himself

Post by boundless » Mon Aug 27, 2018 11:09 am

Sherab wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 8:19 am
boundless wrote:
Sun Aug 26, 2018 11:21 am
It is something that we can test in our experience, by seeing if we can control it. So, in this case, if by "self" is meant the (supposed) "controller of the experience" we can verify its absence by contemplating the impossibility to have control on experience. Hence, if there is no controller, the four propositions of the tetralemma are all based on a false assumption of a controller. Hence, they are in fact nonsensical because a concept cannot be said to "exist", "not exist" etc after death.
Consider the Buddha. Did he have control over his aggregates? If no, why did he state that if Ananda had asked him to remain when he the Buddha had hinted that he would be passing on, he could have done so? If the Buddha had not control over his aggregates, how could he have performed miracles such as sprouting fire from the upper half of his body and water from the lower half of his body? So can we conclude that since apparently the Buddha had control over his aggregates, the Buddha had a self? I am inclined to think not.
Yeah, there is control but it is not an absolute control. After all, according the Mahaparinibbana sutta:
And the Blessed One said: "Whosoever, Ananda, has developed, practiced, employed, strengthened, maintained, scrutinized, and brought to perfection the four constituents of psychic power could, if he so desired, remain throughout a world-period or until the end of it. [21] The Tathagata, Ananda, has done so. Therefore the Tathagata could, if he so desired, remain throughout a world-period or until the end of it."
He could extend his life up to a world period. Not forever. But you have been right to point it out. After all, we have in the Attakari sutta (AN 6.38):
“So, brahmin, when there is the element of endeavoring, endeavoring beings are clearly discerned; of such beings, this is the self-doer, this, the other-doer. I have not, brahmin, seen or heard such a doctrine, such a view as yours. How, indeed, could one — moving forward by himself, moving back by himself — say ‘There is no self-doer, there is no other-doer’?”
So, in a limited sense "individuals" are accepted, after all. There is a relative control, but not an absolute one. Is the "element of endeavoring" an "entity"?
Sherab wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 8:19 am
boundless wrote:
Sun Aug 26, 2018 11:21 am
Apparently, according to the Theravada school the rejection of an atman is more than realizing that there is no controller as is explained in this answer by Venerable Yuttadhammo (as it happens, I still do not understand how to test empirically the other characteristics). Also, impermanence (Sanskrit: anitya, Pali: anicca), which implies also the absence of control, is the reason that all conditioned existence is "anatman/anatta" and it cannot be used to explain the fact that the third mark also applies on Nirvana (see another answer of Venerable Yuttadhammo). Anyway, I think that in the Theravada Nirvana (despite not being impermanent) is not considered a self because it has not the characteristics of a supposed self, as explained in the first answer I linked.
So, I think that one needs to understand the assumption of what the assumption of an existing "self" (Pali: atta, Sanskrit: anatman) means and what the assumption implies. Hence, I think that the rejection of the tetralemma is based on an empirical realization that the assumption on which the propositions are based (i.e. the existence of an "atman") is wrong.

On the other hand, I also think that the concept of "emptiness" (shunyata) in Mahayana goes beyond than the above, anatman. In Madhyamaka, unconditioned dharmas are not real and hence, they are of course empty of "inherent existence". I do not know if the realization of impermanence by itself leads to the realization of the absence of "inherent existence", however. Anyway, it seems that "anatman/anatta" and "shunyata" are subtly different, check for example this post.
My own tentative view is that where causality operates, a self cannot be said to exist inherently in any phenomena (phenomenon being defined as that which is subjected to causality.)

I view the Buddha as free from any dependencies because nirvana is said to be unconditioned. Given my definition of a phenomenon, the Buddha then is NOT phenomenon. Does that imply a self exists for the Buddha? I think it was Ven Nanavira Thera who said that there is individuality but not self. I am inclined to agree with him.

As regards emptiness, I always felt as if there is something missing in the more well-known definitions. Maybe one day I can put my finger in it.
I agree with you that individuality is not rejected. Only the "self" is. But IMO this means that asking "what happens to the Tathagatha after death ?" is impossible, being a meaningless question (since the "self" is rejected).

The problem that I see here, is that "self" in the Pali Canon suttas seems to be defined more or less as an "essential I". If you consider the Anattalakkhana sutta, the supposed "self" seems to be a rather precise entity. In particular, the aggregates cannot be a "self" because they are impermanent, subject to (ultimately uncontrollable) change and therefore they are unsatisfactory. Apparently an impermanent "self" cannot be regarded as a "true self" because it would be unsatisfactory (actually, the annihilationists accepted the existence of an impermanent self).

So, whatever is dependently arisen is subject to cessation and cannot be a "self". OK. So all phenomena are empty of a "self". They have do not exist by themselves, but they need other phenomena to arise. So they have no "independent existence". Of course, if by "self" one means "independent existence", then no conditioned phenomena can have a "self". But IMO, the "self" denied by the Anattalakkhana sutta is not "independent existence". Rather, it is more similar to a "independent existent controller, experiencer" and so on.

On the other hand, the Madhyamaka seems to go further than the denial of a "self" (I use "self" in the sense of the Anattalakkhana sutta as I understand it). In the suttas, there might be hints to the position that anatman/anatta is the same as emptiness in the Madhyamaka (and also it might be the correct interpretation of the suttas themselves), but I do not see enough evidence to assert that in the suttas, "anatman" is the same as "emptiness" in the Madhyamaka sense.

For me it is somewhat confusing. The "atman" denied in the Pali suttas (and I guess also in the Chinese Agamas etc) seems to be a rather specific "entity". After all, as far as I know, the Abhidharmikas (especially the Sarvastivadins) were criticized by the Madhyamaka because they posited "ultimate dharmas" (conditioned and unconditioned), which IMO means "irreducible dharmas". The Madhyamaka, instead, rejected the possibility of finding irreducible dharmas. Now, when, for instance, we are considering the 75 ultimate "dharmas" of the Sarvastivadin abhidharma can we use "entity" as a translation of "dharma"? And what about the 82 ultimate "dharmas" of the Theravadins (of the commentarial tradition)*? Both the Theravadins and Sarvastivadins, however, accepted "anatman". So, "atman" seems to be IMO a rather specific entity. The Madhyamaka, however, rejected the view that dharmas arise, meaning however that "dharmas" are ultimately unreal, illusions etc. The SEP article on Nagarjuna can be of your interest.


*I read also that the Sarvastivadin Abhidharma held a more "reified" concept of "dharmas" than the Theravin Abhidhamma, e.g. see Nibbana and Abhidhamma by Lance Cousins. I still fail understand what that means, however.... :(

Regarding the relation Buddha-Nirvana, I do not know. I agree, however, that "phenomenon" might not be the right word for Nirvana (neither is "thing").
Wayfarer wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 4:45 am
boundless wrote: I also think that the concept of "emptiness" (śūnyatā) in Mahayana goes beyond than the above, anatman. In Madhyamaka, unconditioned dharmas are not real and hence, they are of course empty of "inherent existence".
At risk of further complicating the thread, I would like to introduce some ideas from a different tradition, namely, early medieval Christian theology. The text below from the SEP entry on Eriugena addresses the notion that there are levels or modes of being. This also relates to the above post about 'the thirty one planes of existence', as here too the author is referring different 'planes of existence'. These were still part of the landscape for Eriugena; they're an aspect of what has been called 'the Great Chain of Being', which was generally to fall out of favour in later Western thought.

Of course the background to Eriugena's thinking is obviously theistic, and so, is very different to the Buddhist analysis in that respect. However, if you're willing to grant that there might be some degree of correspondence between the Christian conception of the divine nature and the Buddhist 'unconditioned' (which I acknowledge is risky) then there are some interesting ideas here.

Eriugena [lists] five ways of interpreting the manner in which things may be said 'to exist' or 'to not exist'.

According to the first mode, 'things accessible to the senses and the mind' are said to exist. [This roughly corresponds to the five skandhas].

Whereas anything which,‘through the excellence of its nature’, transcends our [sensory] faculties [e.g. like angels or celestial beings] are said "not to exist". According to this classification, God, because of his transcendence, is said not to exist. He is ‘nothingness through excellence’ (nihil per excellentiam).

The second mode of being and non-being is seen in the ‘orders and differences of created natures’ , whereby, if one level of nature is said to exist, those orders above or below it are said not to exist:
For an affirmation concerning the lower (order) is a negation concerning the higher, and so too a negation concerning the lower (order) is an affirmation concerning the higher.
According to this mode, the affirmation of man is the negation of angel and vice versa. ...In other words, a particular level may be affirmed to be real by those on a lower or on the same level, but the one above it is thought not to be real in the same way. If humans are thought to exist in a certain way, then angels [or bodhisattvas] do not exist [in the way that physical beings exist].

...when Eriugena calls God ‘nothing’, he means that God transcends all created being, God is nihil per excellentiam (‘nothingness on account of excellence’) or, as he puts it, nihil per infinitatem (‘nothingness on account of infinity’). Matter, on the other hand, is also called ‘nothing’ but it is ‘nothing through privation’ (nihil per privationem). Similarly, created things are called ‘nothing’ because they do not contain in themselves their principles of subsistence [in other words, they lack sva-bhava, 'own-being' - they're 'empty' in a sense close to that intended by the Buddhist analysis]
I know I am drawing a long bow, but it is the Academic forum, and I think there are some interesting convergences.
Thanks for that, I agree that there are interesting similarities. But, I think that the view adopted by Eriugena might be an example of the "fourth extreme", i.e. neither existing nor non-existing. In fact, in my understanding Nirvana in Madhyamaka is samsara understood. There is no "reality" beyond the "ordinary one". In particular, there is no ontological primum, i.e. a "Source of all beings" (not even a neither existent nor non-existent one), that is beyond phenomena.

boundless
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Re: Catuṣkoṭi analysis used by the Buddha himself

Post by boundless » Mon Aug 27, 2018 8:27 pm

boundless wrote:
Sun Aug 26, 2018 11:21 am


Coëmgenu wrote:
Sat Aug 25, 2018 9:20 pm
The above was the only way I could figure it working, before I gave up on 10fold interpenetration since it's really something you are supposed to realize in yogic equipoise, not with pen and paper.
but in this case, we need to admit that logic here does not apply. This can have, IMO, unfortunate consequences because I find Buddhist analysis very logical.


...
Sherab wrote:
Sun Aug 26, 2018 12:14 am

Good example.

But it does not mean that the Buddha uses the Catuṣkoṭi for analysis. You may wish to read my latest reply to Coëmgenu regarding my take on the method of negation.

It is possible where neither perception nor non-perception could be of the form A and B where not A is really B, with A and B being mutually exclusive so that there is middle NOT A and NOT B. I don't know.

Perhaps, someone who is able to reach that state of neither perception nor non-perception could define precisely what perception is and what non-perception is.
I agree. IMHO, this is the case were the B is not "not A". I think that in this case, the "logical space" (the ensemble of possibilities) has three elements. In this case, we have A,B,C. So, "not A" can be either "B" or "C". So, in our case we maybe have "A=perception", "B=non-perception" and "C=neither perception nor non-perception". On the other hand, even in this case (assuming that we indeed are in a situation where "B" and "not A" are not the same), it seems that A, B and C are all mutually exclusive. Hence, we cannot have the state "D=perception and non-perception".

Just to clarify a point, the above concerns with contradictions are due to the fact that IMO a confutation of a view is due by showing inconsistencies. But inconsistencies are contradictions. If someone holds that contradictions can be true then IMO it is quite impossible to give a confutation.


Also, @Coëmgenu, I am sorry for misunderstanding this statement:
Coëmgenu wrote:
Sat Aug 25, 2018 9:20 pm
The above was the only way I could figure it working, before I gave up on 10fold interpenetration since it's really something you are supposed to realize in yogic equipoise, not with pen and paper.
In fact, you were suggesting that there are situations where "A and B" (the third option of the Catuṣkoṭi) is logically allowed.

:namaste:

boundless
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Re: Catuṣkoṭi analysis used by the Buddha himself

Post by boundless » Mon Aug 27, 2018 11:16 pm

Wayfarer wrote:
Sat Aug 25, 2018 11:33 am
I could respond by saying ‘if it’s something, then it’s “eternalism”, if it’s nothing, then it’s “nihilism”. I hope that is not too trite an answer. But a verse does come to mind here:
any physical form by which one describing the Tathagata would describe him: That the Tathagata has abandoned, its root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising. Freed from the classification of form, Vaccha, the Tathagata is deep, boundless, hard to fathom, like the sea. 'Reappears' doesn't apply. 'Does not reappear' doesn't apply. 'Both does & does not reappear' doesn't apply. 'Neither reappears nor does not reappear' doesn't apply
aggi-vachagotta-sutta.

So, we ought not to try and ‘pin the tathagatha down’ as existing or not existing. Logic itself, ‘it exists’, ‘it doesn’t exist’, pertains to the phenomenal domain, the realm of becoming, where things come into and pass out of existence. Whereas the tathagatha is ‘thus gone’, not within scope of logical affirmation and negation. Hence the tetralemma and the whole logic of the middle way.
Reading again this post, I realized that I was quite unmindful in some of my previous posts. I am very sorry for that.

In fact, in my understanding my "atta/anatman" is what "makes me, me", (if there is such a thing). In other words my true identity. The Buddha teaches that all dharmas are anatman, i.e. that nothing can really be my true identity.

One of the characteristics of this supposed "self" is that it must bring satisfaction. Annihilationists insisted that the self was impermanent, subject to destruction. The problem is that a self cannot be impermanent, because whatever is impermanent is unsatisfying. Hence, we are left with a permanent self.

But the self must also be an experiencer etc and therefore we are left to find it. The conditioned dharmas are impermanent and therefore cannot be a self. Unconditioned dharmas too have not the characteristics of a self. Hence, they are all not self.

So, when I said that the "self" is a very specific entity, I was referring to a permanent experiencer, controller etc because I already ruled out an impermanent self. But, in fact, the very specific entity is not the "permanent experiencer etc" but "what makes me, me", the true identity. It is one realizes that impermanent things are unsatisfactory that one understands that a supposed atman must be permanent, blissful, a controller, an experiencer etc. At this point, one has to realize that no dharma has that characteristics.

So, why in my view the "Tathagata is said to be deep, boundless...". Because, there is no true identity yet there is individuality. The point is that objectification is impossible, there is nothing that can define "what the Tathagata is". Hence all labels, all concepts, all speculations about the post-mortem fate are all impossible. If we try to describe the Tathagata, we try to define "what the Tathagata is", we try to find an atman (IMHO even if we say that the Tathagata does not exist). So, when I said that the question is meaningless I wanted to say this: if we try to describe the Tathagata we necessarily try to find a self, an atman, which means that we want to posit a self. But selves are only concepts because all dharmas are not-self.

I hope that this clarification helped. Sorry again.

:namaste:

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Re: Catuṣkoṭi analysis used by the Buddha himself

Post by Wayfarer » Mon Aug 27, 2018 11:39 pm

absolutely no need for apologies Boundless. Your posts are always extremely courteous, and the subject-matter is abstruse. The question of 'the nature of the Tathagatha' is, like its subject, a very deep one! We can only meditate and reflect on that, and hope that it will become clear to us.


:namaste:
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Re: Catuṣkoṭi analysis used by the Buddha himself

Post by Sherab » Tue Aug 28, 2018 10:02 am

boundless wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 11:09 am
Sherab wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 8:19 am
boundless wrote:
Sun Aug 26, 2018 11:21 am
It is something that we can test in our experience, by seeing if we can control it. So, in this case, if by "self" is meant the (supposed) "controller of the experience" we can verify its absence by contemplating the impossibility to have control on experience. Hence, if there is no controller, the four propositions of the tetralemma are all based on a false assumption of a controller. Hence, they are in fact nonsensical because a concept cannot be said to "exist", "not exist" etc after death.
Consider the Buddha. Did he have control over his aggregates? If no, why did he state that if Ananda had asked him to remain when he the Buddha had hinted that he would be passing on, he could have done so? If the Buddha had not control over his aggregates, how could he have performed miracles such as sprouting fire from the upper half of his body and water from the lower half of his body? So can we conclude that since apparently the Buddha had control over his aggregates, the Buddha had a self? I am inclined to think not.
Yeah, there is control but it is not an absolute control. After all, according the Mahaparinibbana sutta:
And the Blessed One said: "Whosoever, Ananda, has developed, practiced, employed, strengthened, maintained, scrutinized, and brought to perfection the four constituents of psychic power could, if he so desired, remain throughout a world-period or until the end of it. [21] The Tathagata, Ananda, has done so. Therefore the Tathagata could, if he so desired, remain throughout a world-period or until the end of it."
He could extend his life up to a world period. Not forever. But you have been right to point it out. After all, we have in the Attakari sutta (AN 6.38):
“So, brahmin, when there is the element of endeavoring, endeavoring beings are clearly discerned; of such beings, this is the self-doer, this, the other-doer. I have not, brahmin, seen or heard such a doctrine, such a view as yours. How, indeed, could one — moving forward by himself, moving back by himself — say ‘There is no self-doer, there is no other-doer’?”
So, in a limited sense "individuals" are accepted, after all. There is a relative control, but not an absolute one. Is the "element of endeavoring" an "entity"?
The idea of control automatically requires a subject and object. Therefore relative control is all that can be sensibly talked about in the realm of phenomena i.e. the realm where causality operates. But I see the Buddha as being free of all dependencies even while in the world. This combined with the assumption that the Buddha would have full knowledge of how the various processes in the realm of phenomena (since anything that the Buddha turned his attention to, he would be able to get a full understanding), would imply that he should have full control of the elements while in the world.
boundless wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 11:09 am
Sherab wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 8:19 am
boundless wrote:
Sun Aug 26, 2018 11:21 am
Apparently, according to the Theravada school the rejection of an atman is more than realizing that there is no controller as is explained in this answer by Venerable Yuttadhammo (as it happens, I still do not understand how to test empirically the other characteristics). Also, impermanence (Sanskrit: anitya, Pali: anicca), which implies also the absence of control, is the reason that all conditioned existence is "anatman/anatta" and it cannot be used to explain the fact that the third mark also applies on Nirvana (see another answer of Venerable Yuttadhammo). Anyway, I think that in the Theravada Nirvana (despite not being impermanent) is not considered a self because it has not the characteristics of a supposed self, as explained in the first answer I linked.
So, I think that one needs to understand the assumption of what the assumption of an existing "self" (Pali: atta, Sanskrit: anatman) means and what the assumption implies. Hence, I think that the rejection of the tetralemma is based on an empirical realization that the assumption on which the propositions are based (i.e. the existence of an "atman") is wrong.

On the other hand, I also think that the concept of "emptiness" (shunyata) in Mahayana goes beyond than the above, anatman. In Madhyamaka, unconditioned dharmas are not real and hence, they are of course empty of "inherent existence". I do not know if the realization of impermanence by itself leads to the realization of the absence of "inherent existence", however. Anyway, it seems that "anatman/anatta" and "shunyata" are subtly different, check for example this post.
My own tentative view is that where causality operates, a self cannot be said to exist inherently in any phenomena (phenomenon being defined as that which is subjected to causality.)

I view the Buddha as free from any dependencies because nirvana is said to be unconditioned. Given my definition of a phenomenon, the Buddha then is NOT phenomenon. Does that imply a self exists for the Buddha? I think it was Ven Nanavira Thera who said that there is individuality but not self. I am inclined to agree with him.

As regards emptiness, I always felt as if there is something missing in the more well-known definitions. Maybe one day I can put my finger in it.
I agree with you that individuality is not rejected. Only the "self" is. But IMO this means that asking "what happens to the Tathagatha after death ?" is impossible, being a meaningless question (since the "self" is rejected).

The problem that I see here, is that "self" in the Pali Canon suttas seems to be defined more or less as an "essential I". If you consider the Anattalakkhana sutta, the supposed "self" seems to be a rather precise entity. In particular, the aggregates cannot be a "self" because they are impermanent, subject to (ultimately uncontrollable) change and therefore they are unsatisfactory. Apparently an impermanent "self" cannot be regarded as a "true self" because it would be unsatisfactory (actually, the annihilationists accepted the existence of an impermanent self).

So, whatever is dependently arisen is subject to cessation and cannot be a "self". OK. So all phenomena are empty of a "self". They have do not exist by themselves, but they need other phenomena to arise. So they have no "independent existence". Of course, if by "self" one means "independent existence", then no conditioned phenomena can have a "self". But IMO, the "self" denied by the Anattalakkhana sutta is not "independent existence". Rather, it is more similar to a "independent existent controller, experiencer" and so on.

On the other hand, the Madhyamaka seems to go further than the denial of a "self" (I use "self" in the sense of the Anattalakkhana sutta as I understand it). In the suttas, there might be hints to the position that anatman/anatta is the same as emptiness in the Madhyamaka (and also it might be the correct interpretation of the suttas themselves), but I do not see enough evidence to assert that in the suttas, "anatman" is the same as "emptiness" in the Madhyamaka sense.

For me it is somewhat confusing. The "atman" denied in the Pali suttas (and I guess also in the Chinese Agamas etc) seems to be a rather specific "entity". After all, as far as I know, the Abhidharmikas (especially the Sarvastivadins) were criticized by the Madhyamaka because they posited "ultimate dharmas" (conditioned and unconditioned), which IMO means "irreducible dharmas". The Madhyamaka, instead, rejected the possibility of finding irreducible dharmas. Now, when, for instance, we are considering the 75 ultimate "dharmas" of the Sarvastivadin abhidharma can we use "entity" as a translation of "dharma"? And what about the 82 ultimate "dharmas" of the Theravadins (of the commentarial tradition)*? Both the Theravadins and Sarvastivadins, however, accepted "anatman". So, "atman" seems to be IMO a rather specific entity. The Madhyamaka, however, rejected the view that dharmas arise, meaning however that "dharmas" are ultimately unreal, illusions etc. The SEP article on Nagarjuna can be of your interest.


*I read also that the Sarvastivadin Abhidharma held a more "reified" concept of "dharmas" than the Theravin Abhidhamma, e.g. see Nibbana and Abhidhamma by Lance Cousins. I still fail understand what that means, however.... :(

Regarding the relation Buddha-Nirvana, I do not know. I agree, however, that "phenomenon" might not be the right word for Nirvana (neither is "thing").
There is always a problem when talking about the ultimate in the relative. There is a tendency for arguments to get all tangled up. This is because we all have to use terms that are manufactured with respect to our experience in the relative to describe the ultimate for which no experience in the relative can be referenced. I think that is an impossible task and it is best to look at these relative terms as mere pointers to the ultimate and not to get hung up on them. Maybe this is a reason why I always felt that there is something missing in the popular explanations of emptiness and selflessness.

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Re: Catuṣkoṭi analysis used by the Buddha himself

Post by boundless » Wed Aug 29, 2018 2:09 pm

Sherab wrote:
Tue Aug 28, 2018 10:02 am

The idea of control automatically requires a subject and object. Therefore relative control is all that can be sensibly talked about in the realm of phenomena i.e. the realm where causality operates. But I see the Buddha as being free of all dependencies even while in the world. This combined with the assumption that the Buddha would have full knowledge of how the various processes in the realm of phenomena (since anything that the Buddha turned his attention to, he would be able to get a full understanding), would imply that he should have full control of the elements while in the world.
First of all, I agree that control requires a controller (subject) and a controlled (object) and it is at the relative level.

But, what do you mean by "he should have full control of the elements while in the world"? Can you give an example of what "full control" means?

For example, in MN 72 (quoted before) it is said that the Tathagata is free from "classification" in terms of the five aggregates. Also, in MN 22 (Ven. Nyanaponika transl) it is said:
36. "When a monk's mind is thus freed, O monks, neither the gods with Indra, nor the gods with Brahma, nor the gods with the Lord of Creatures (Pajaapati), when searching will find on what the consciousness of one thus gone (tathaagata) is based. Why is that? One who has thus gone is no longer traceable here and now, so I say.
i.e. that the Tathagata is untraceable. I do not think that this "non-traceability" implies full-control. However, "control" might mean also "independence", as in Udana 8.4. But "independence" hardly implies "full/absolute control" (as it is usually understood, at least).

EI mean, I think that the "absence of total control" is IMO pivotal in understanding the importance of non-attachment. Our striving to control what cannot be controlled leads to distress. In fact, IMO, as I said previously "absolute control" is characteristic of a supposed "Atman".

Thanks in advance :anjali:

Sherab wrote:
Tue Aug 28, 2018 10:02 am
boundless wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 11:09 am
Sherab wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 8:19 am


My own tentative view is that where causality operates, a self cannot be said to exist inherently in any phenomena (phenomenon being defined as that which is subjected to causality.)

I view the Buddha as free from any dependencies because nirvana is said to be unconditioned. Given my definition of a phenomenon, the Buddha then is NOT phenomenon. Does that imply a self exists for the Buddha? I think it was Ven Nanavira Thera who said that there is individuality but not self. I am inclined to agree with him.

As regards emptiness, I always felt as if there is something missing in the more well-known definitions. Maybe one day I can put my finger in it.
I agree with you that individuality is not rejected. Only the "self" is. But IMO this means that asking "what happens to the Tathagatha after death ?" is impossible, being a meaningless question (since the "self" is rejected).

The problem that I see here, is that "self" in the Pali Canon suttas seems to be defined more or less as an "essential I". If you consider the Anattalakkhana sutta, the supposed "self" seems to be a rather precise entity. In particular, the aggregates cannot be a "self" because they are impermanent, subject to (ultimately uncontrollable) change and therefore they are unsatisfactory. Apparently an impermanent "self" cannot be regarded as a "true self" because it would be unsatisfactory (actually, the annihilationists accepted the existence of an impermanent self).

So, whatever is dependently arisen is subject to cessation and cannot be a "self". OK. So all phenomena are empty of a "self". They have do not exist by themselves, but they need other phenomena to arise. So they have no "independent existence". Of course, if by "self" one means "independent existence", then no conditioned phenomena can have a "self". But IMO, the "self" denied by the Anattalakkhana sutta is not "independent existence". Rather, it is more similar to a "independent existent controller, experiencer" and so on.

On the other hand, the Madhyamaka seems to go further than the denial of a "self" (I use "self" in the sense of the Anattalakkhana sutta as I understand it). In the suttas, there might be hints to the position that anatman/anatta is the same as emptiness in the Madhyamaka (and also it might be the correct interpretation of the suttas themselves), but I do not see enough evidence to assert that in the suttas, "anatman" is the same as "emptiness" in the Madhyamaka sense.

For me it is somewhat confusing. The "atman" denied in the Pali suttas (and I guess also in the Chinese Agamas etc) seems to be a rather specific "entity". After all, as far as I know, the Abhidharmikas (especially the Sarvastivadins) were criticized by the Madhyamaka because they posited "ultimate dharmas" (conditioned and unconditioned), which IMO means "irreducible dharmas". The Madhyamaka, instead, rejected the possibility of finding irreducible dharmas. Now, when, for instance, we are considering the 75 ultimate "dharmas" of the Sarvastivadin abhidharma can we use "entity" as a translation of "dharma"? And what about the 82 ultimate "dharmas" of the Theravadins (of the commentarial tradition)*? Both the Theravadins and Sarvastivadins, however, accepted "anatman". So, "atman" seems to be IMO a rather specific entity. The Madhyamaka, however, rejected the view that dharmas arise, meaning however that "dharmas" are ultimately unreal, illusions etc. The SEP article on Nagarjuna can be of your interest.


*I read also that the Sarvastivadin Abhidharma held a more "reified" concept of "dharmas" than the Theravin Abhidhamma, e.g. see Nibbana and Abhidhamma by Lance Cousins. I still fail understand what that means, however.... :(

Regarding the relation Buddha-Nirvana, I do not know. I agree, however, that "phenomenon" might not be the right word for Nirvana (neither is "thing").
There is always a problem when talking about the ultimate in the relative. There is a tendency for arguments to get all tangled up. This is because we all have to use terms that are manufactured with respect to our experience in the relative to describe the ultimate for which no experience in the relative can be referenced. I think that is an impossible task and it is best to look at these relative terms as mere pointers to the ultimate and not to get hung up on them. Maybe this is a reason why I always felt that there is something missing in the popular explanations of emptiness and selflessness.
Ok, thanks. I think I more or less agree. On the other hand, some pointers might be better than others (and some of them can be ineffective). I am still not sure if these pointers can be actually considered as "approximations" or not, i.e. I still do not understand if the conventional/relative truth should be considered an approximation or not. Personally, in my current understanding, I prefer to see the relative truth as an approximation (it is quite likely that I am wrong in this).


Wayfarer wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 11:39 pm
absolutely no need for apologies Boundless. Your posts are always extremely courteous, and the subject-matter is abstruse. The question of 'the nature of the Tathagatha' is, like its subject, a very deep one! We can only meditate and reflect on that, and hope that it will become clear to us.


:namaste:
Thank you very much :smile:

I agree that it is a very abstruse topic. But I did quite a mess before :emb:




:anjali:

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Sherab
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Re: Catuṣkoṭi analysis used by the Buddha himself

Post by Sherab » Thu Aug 30, 2018 12:28 am

boundless wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 2:09 pm
Sherab wrote:
Tue Aug 28, 2018 10:02 am

The idea of control automatically requires a subject and object. Therefore relative control is all that can be sensibly talked about in the realm of phenomena i.e. the realm where causality operates. But I see the Buddha as being free of all dependencies even while in the world. This combined with the assumption that the Buddha would have full knowledge of how the various processes in the realm of phenomena (since anything that the Buddha turned his attention to, he would be able to get a full understanding), would imply that he should have full control of the elements while in the world.
First of all, I agree that control requires a controller (subject) and a controlled (object) and it is at the relative level.

But, what do you mean by "he should have full control of the elements while in the world"? Can you give an example of what "full control" means?

For example, in MN 72 (quoted before) it is said that the Tathagata is free from "classification" in terms of the five aggregates. Also, in MN 22 (Ven. Nyanaponika transl) it is said:
36. "When a monk's mind is thus freed, O monks, neither the gods with Indra, nor the gods with Brahma, nor the gods with the Lord of Creatures (Pajaapati), when searching will find on what the consciousness of one thus gone (tathaagata) is based. Why is that? One who has thus gone is no longer traceable here and now, so I say.
i.e. that the Tathagata is untraceable. I do not think that this "non-traceability" implies full-control. However, "control" might mean also "independence", as in Udana 8.4. But "independence" hardly implies "full/absolute control" (as it is usually understood, at least).

EI mean, I think that the "absence of total control" is IMO pivotal in understanding the importance of non-attachment. Our striving to control what cannot be controlled leads to distress. In fact, IMO, as I said previously "absolute control" is characteristic of a supposed "Atman".

Thanks in advance :anjali:
My argument was as follows:
Proposition 1: The Buddha is free of all dependencies.
Proposition 2: All phenomona are dependent on the elements.
Proposition 3: The Buddha can have full knowledge of all phenomena and their workings since anything that the Buddha turned his attention to, he would be able to get a full understanding.
Conclusion: The Buddha should have full control of the elements and over all phenomena.

On second thought, the Buddha's control over the elements must also be limited by causality in the sense that he cannot undo what was done. In other words, he can manifest new phenomena and cannot reversed or change past phenomena.

Buddha's mind is his own manifested phenomenon. He can unmanifest his own phenomenon. That is how his mind can become untraceable. Make sense?

Non-attachment simply refers to being unaffected in any way and implies isolation of feelings related to objects of attachment. Therefore I don't see how non-attachment is related to presence or absence of control.

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Aemilius
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Re: Catuṣkoṭi analysis used by the Buddha himself

Post by Aemilius » Thu Aug 30, 2018 9:12 am

Sherab wrote:
Thu Aug 30, 2018 12:28 am
boundless wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 2:09 pm
Sherab wrote:
Tue Aug 28, 2018 10:02 am

The idea of control automatically requires a subject and object. Therefore relative control is all that can be sensibly talked about in the realm of phenomena i.e. the realm where causality operates. But I see the Buddha as being free of all dependencies even while in the world. This combined with the assumption that the Buddha would have full knowledge of how the various processes in the realm of phenomena (since anything that the Buddha turned his attention to, he would be able to get a full understanding), would imply that he should have full control of the elements while in the world.
First of all, I agree that control requires a controller (subject) and a controlled (object) and it is at the relative level.

But, what do you mean by "he should have full control of the elements while in the world"? Can you give an example of what "full control" means?

For example, in MN 72 (quoted before) it is said that the Tathagata is free from "classification" in terms of the five aggregates. Also, in MN 22 (Ven. Nyanaponika transl) it is said:
36. "When a monk's mind is thus freed, O monks, neither the gods with Indra, nor the gods with Brahma, nor the gods with the Lord of Creatures (Pajaapati), when searching will find on what the consciousness of one thus gone (tathaagata) is based. Why is that? One who has thus gone is no longer traceable here and now, so I say.
i.e. that the Tathagata is untraceable. I do not think that this "non-traceability" implies full-control. However, "control" might mean also "independence", as in Udana 8.4. But "independence" hardly implies "full/absolute control" (as it is usually understood, at least).

EI mean, I think that the "absence of total control" is IMO pivotal in understanding the importance of non-attachment. Our striving to control what cannot be controlled leads to distress. In fact, IMO, as I said previously "absolute control" is characteristic of a supposed "Atman".

Thanks in advance :anjali:
My argument was as follows:
Proposition 1: The Buddha is free of all dependencies.
Proposition 2: All phenomona are dependent on the elements.
Proposition 3: The Buddha can have full knowledge of all phenomena and their workings since anything that the Buddha turned his attention to, he would be able to get a full understanding.
Conclusion: The Buddha should have full control of the elements and over all phenomena.

Nagarjuna's Mula Madhyamaka Karika (tr. Stephen Batchelor)

22. Investigation of the Tathagata


1. Not the aggregates, not other than the aggregates; the aggregates are not in him; he is not in them: the Tathagata does not possess the aggregates. What is the Tathagata?



2. If the buddha depends on the aggregates, he does not exist from an own-nature. How can that which does not exist from an own-nature exist from an other-nature?



3. It is not tenable for something dependent on other-nature to be self-existent. How can that which has no self-existence be tathagata?



4. If self-nature does not exist, how can there be the existence of other-nature? What is a Tathagata apart from own-nature and other-nature?



5. If there exists a tathagata [who is] not depending on the aggregates, he exists in depending [on them] now and will henceforth depend.



6. If there does not exist a tathagata [who is]not depending on the aggregates, how does he grasp [depend on? them]?



7. [Since] there is nothing to be grasped/dependent on, there can be no grasping/depending. There is no tathagata at all who is without grasping/depending.



8. If having examined in five ways, how can that tathagata who does not exist as that one or the other be [conventionally] understood by grasping/depending?



9. That which is grasped/depended on does not exist from its own nature. It is impossible for that which does not exist from its own nature to exist from another nature.



10. In that way, what is grasped/depended on and what grasps/depends are empty in every aspect. How can an empty tathagata be [conventionally] understood by what is empty?



11. Do not say “empty,” or “not empty,” or “both,” or “neither:” these are mentioned for the sake of [conventional] understanding.



12. Where can the four such as permanence and impermanence exist in this peaceful one? Where can the four such as end and no-end [of the world] exist in this peaceful one?




13. Those who hold the dense apprehension, “the tathagata exists” conceive the thought, “he does not exist in nirvana.”




14. For that one empty of own-nature, it is entirely inappropriate to think that once the buddha has nirvana-ed he either “exists” or “does not exist.”




15. Those who make fixations about Buddha who is beyond fixations and without deterioration -- all those who are damaged by fixations do not see the tathagata.




16. Whatever is the own-nature of the tathagata, that is the own-nature of this world. The tathagata has no own-nature. This world has no own-nature.
svaha
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."
(Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1.)

boundless
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Re: Catuṣkoṭi analysis used by the Buddha himself

Post by boundless » Thu Aug 30, 2018 12:16 pm

Sherab wrote:
Thu Aug 30, 2018 12:28 am
boundless wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 2:09 pm
Sherab wrote:
Tue Aug 28, 2018 10:02 am

The idea of control automatically requires a subject and object. Therefore relative control is all that can be sensibly talked about in the realm of phenomena i.e. the realm where causality operates. But I see the Buddha as being free of all dependencies even while in the world. This combined with the assumption that the Buddha would have full knowledge of how the various processes in the realm of phenomena (since anything that the Buddha turned his attention to, he would be able to get a full understanding), would imply that he should have full control of the elements while in the world.
First of all, I agree that control requires a controller (subject) and a controlled (object) and it is at the relative level.

But, what do you mean by "he should have full control of the elements while in the world"? Can you give an example of what "full control" means?

For example, in MN 72 (quoted before) it is said that the Tathagata is free from "classification" in terms of the five aggregates. Also, in MN 22 (Ven. Nyanaponika transl) it is said:
36. "When a monk's mind is thus freed, O monks, neither the gods with Indra, nor the gods with Brahma, nor the gods with the Lord of Creatures (Pajaapati), when searching will find on what the consciousness of one thus gone (tathaagata) is based. Why is that? One who has thus gone is no longer traceable here and now, so I say.
i.e. that the Tathagata is untraceable. I do not think that this "non-traceability" implies full-control. However, "control" might mean also "independence", as in Udana 8.4. But "independence" hardly implies "full/absolute control" (as it is usually understood, at least).

EI mean, I think that the "absence of total control" is IMO pivotal in understanding the importance of non-attachment. Our striving to control what cannot be controlled leads to distress. In fact, IMO, as I said previously "absolute control" is characteristic of a supposed "Atman".

Thanks in advance :anjali:
My argument was as follows:
Proposition 1: The Buddha is free of all dependencies.
Proposition 2: All phenomona are dependent on the elements.
Proposition 3: The Buddha can have full knowledge of all phenomena and their workings since anything that the Buddha turned his attention to, he would be able to get a full understanding.
Conclusion: The Buddha should have full control of the elements and over all phenomena.

On second thought, the Buddha's control over the elements must also be limited by causality in the sense that he cannot undo what was done. In other words, he can manifest new phenomena and cannot reversed or change past phenomena.

Buddha's mind is his own manifested phenomenon. He can unmanifest his own phenomenon. That is how his mind can become untraceable. Make sense?

Non-attachment simply refers to being unaffected in any way and implies isolation of feelings related to objects of attachment. Therefore I don't see how non-attachment is related to presence or absence of control.

Hi Sherab,

thanks for the clarification. Still, I have some objections.

Assuming that Proposition 1,2 and 3 are correct then you have still to show how full knowledge implies full control. I do not see how this implication is necessary.
For example, consider this passage:
[url=https://www.dhammatalks.org/suttas/MN/MN36.html wrote:MN 36[/url] (Ven. Thanissaro translation)]
“When the mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady, & attained to imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of the passing away & reappearance of beings. I saw—by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the human—beings passing away & re-appearing, and I discerned how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma: ‘These beings—who were endowed with bad conduct of body, speech, & mind, who reviled the noble ones, held wrong views and undertook actions under the influence of wrong views—with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in a plane of deprivation, a bad destination, a lower realm, hell. But these beings—who were endowed with good conduct of body, speech & mind, who did not revile the noble ones, who held right views and undertook actions under the influence of right views—with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in a good destinations, a heavenly world.’ Thus—by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the human—I saw beings passing away & re-appearing, and I discerned how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma.
In this case, clearly, the Buddha has full knowledge of the workings of karma of other beings but cannot control them.

Also, I am not sure about proposition 1. Note that in Udana 8.4 the word "independent" is the english translation of the Pali "anissita" (Sanskrit "anisrita"). Instead, Nirvana is said to be "independent" in the sense of being unconditioned (Pali: ansankhata, Sanskrit: asamskrta). So, while the Tathagatha is said to be "untraceable" and "independent" it is not said to be unconditioned.

Regarding, the relation between non-attachment and control, I meant that normally we want to grasp pleasant experience and to avoid unpleasant ones, i.e. we crave to master our experience. Yet, this control is impossible and, therefore, the way to have peace is to let go our craving. Hence, by contemplating the impossibility to control our experience (as beatifully expressed in the first four of the Five Remembrances), we learn to reduce our cravings, i.e. we strive for non-attachment. Hence, the absence of mastery is indeed IMO pivotal in the truth on anatta.

Finally, you argue that "Buddha's mind is his own manifested phenomenon. He can unmanifest his own phenomenon. That is how his mind can become untraceable. Make sense?". Well, honestly I do not know :thinking:

These passages* seem to indicate that the mind of the Buddhas is beyond any classifications. Yet, if we conclude that being "non-manifest" entails being "unconditioned" (not sure if you read it in this way), then we say that the mind is unconditioned. Among the Theravadins there are those who like Ven. Thanissaro identify Nirvana as an unconditioned consciousness. Also, in the academia, Professor Peter Harvey suggests the same, as you can see here. Yet, an unconditioned consciousness is IMHO too close to the concept of atman.


Alternatively, the mind can be said to be beyond all classifications and therefore nothing can be said about its status. Yet, minds are said to arise and cease. So, it seems that either the mindstreams continue or cease (note that in both cases, we are not talking about a "self" that either continues or is annihilated).
I am not an expert, but I think that in the Mahayana the "purified mindstream" continues but we have still a series of conditioned, impermanent consciousnesses.
Finally, I think that the commentarial Theravada accepted that Nirvana is an unconditioned ultimate dharma but at the same time it is not a form of consciousness. In fact, all the aggregates, vinnana/vijnana included cease at Nirvana without residue.

*and others, like SN 35.243 (Ven. Bodhi translation) which speaks of a "measureless mind".

Aemilius wrote:
Thu Aug 30, 2018 9:12 am

...
:good: thank you, Aemilius.

All options of the Catuṣkoṭi are, after all, "fixations".

All the best,

:anjali:

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Karma Dondrup Tashi
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Re: Catuṣkoṭi analysis used by the Buddha himself

Post by Karma Dondrup Tashi » Thu Aug 30, 2018 3:44 pm

Sherab wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 11:34 pm
I don't recall the Buddha actually using the Catuṣkoṭi form of analysis himself. I can only recall the Buddha using it only in relation to its use by his opponents.

Would appreciate if someone could provide examples in the Suttas or Sutras where the Buddha himself resorted to Catuṣkoṭi analysis in his teaching?
All our authorities agree in enumerating the avyakrta as fourteen. Actually, there are four sets of questions, three of which have four alternatives each, and the last one concerning the soul (jīva) has only two. One does not however see why the last question too could not be logically formulated in the fourfold way like the others. The questions are:
Whether the world is eternal, or not, or both, or neither;
Whether the world is finite (in space), or infinite, or both, or neither;
Whether the Tathagata exists after death, or does not, or both, or neither;
Is the soul identical with the body or different from it?
In the composition of the alternatives, there is a positive thesis which is opposed by a negative counter-thesis; these two basic alternatives are conjunctively affirmed to form the third alternative, and disjunctively denied to form the fourth. The similarity of the avyakrta to the celebrated antinomies of Kant and the catuskoti of the Madhyamikas cannot fail to strike us.

T R V Murti, The Central Philosophy of the Buddha
Being without love would be the most appalling torment - the Inferno itself! [...] [A]ll those who have chosen the way of depersonalisation are unable to cry and [...] they have dry eyes for ever. For it is the personality which cries and which alone is capable of the "gift of tears".

Powell, Robert, and Hans Urs Von Balthasar. Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism. New York: Jermy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 2002.

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