"Selfless Mind"

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Supramundane
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"Selfless Mind"

Post by Supramundane » Mon Aug 28, 2017 4:41 am

Dear Friends: I read an interesting book on the weekend entitled, The Selfless Mind. It’s an academic text on early Buddhism and its concept of the self and Nirvana. To distill what I read, here is a short summary (if you wish to read the book it is online and by Peter Harvey on www.handfulofleaves.com website). Harvey argues that the Buddha refused to answer when asked whether there was a self. He was afraid of being defined as an Eternalist if he answered in the affirmative and a Nihilist if he answered in the negative. If there was an eternal “Self” (as opposed to an empirical one-off ‘self’), it would be unchanging, permanent and therefore exist outside/independent of our impermanent and ever-changing person; obviously, this would be a logical impossibility and a contradiction in terms.

The logical conclusion would be to deny the existence of a Self/self, but the Buddha refused to do this either. So where does that leave us? the fact is that although there is no permanent Self, we cannot negate it since there is a center of orientation à la Merleau-Ponty that by convenience we term the ‘self’. The middle/right way is neither eternalist nor nihilist.

Nirvana can be conceived, Harvey notes, as a sort of anti-Self in that it is an antithesis, on many levels, of the qualities of the self. After all, Nirvana can be qualified as:

• Unconditioned
• Permanent
• Unrelated to the “I” (mannati) in any way ("I am Nirvana; I have Nirvana; i am in Nirvana", all being incorrect)
• Not characterized by sunyata.

All manifestations of the Self lead to suffering/dukkha; repudiation of the Self leads to sukha.


Repudiation may seem to be nihilistic, but it is simply a means to an end and not nihilism, Harvey explains; he contends that not everything the Buddha said was meant to be Truthful but as Useful. (i.e. a means to an end, that end being Nirvana). Like a rocket module (Repudiation) that is shed after carrying an astronaut out of the Earth’s gravity (desire/illusion/greed), it is a means to an end and is discarded thereafter. We use the tool of repudiation therefore to define what is ‘not-self’, until we can conclude that the self/Self is nothing or “No-thing”.

This is a fascinating subject and I hope I have understood it correctly. If you would like to discuss Peter Harvey’s book more, please feel free to do so here.

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Re: "Selfless Mind"

Post by Wayfarer » Mon Aug 28, 2017 11:06 am

I studied that text as part of a Buddhist Studies course and thought it a very good book.
Supramundane wrote:He was afraid of being defined as an Eternalist...
The Buddha wasn't afraid of anything - he simply distinguished his teaching from that of the eternalists. The eternalists taught that the self was something unchangeable 'set firm like a post, like a mountain peak', that persisted from life to life, an unchanging essence. The Buddha denied this.
The logical conclusion would be to deny the existence of a Self/self, but the Buddha refused to do this either. So where does that leave us?
With the Madhyamika!

It is very hard to grasp that the meaning of the teaching is that 'self and world' neither exist (which is eternalism) or don't exist (which is nihilism). That is why, when the Buddha was asked the question, 'does the self exist', he declined to answer. The Madhyamika is an exploration of the meaning of that - it is the meaning of 'middle way philosophy', which was developed from the Ananda Sutta.
Like a rocket module (Repudiation) that is shed after carrying an astronaut out of the Earth’s gravity (desire/illusion/greed), it is a means to an end and is discarded thereafter.
True, but the analogy given in the suttas is the 'allegory of the raft' (although I guess they didn't have rockets back then ;-) ). But overall, I think you convey the gist of the book well.
In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few ~ Suzuki-roshi

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Re: "Selfless Mind"

Post by muni » Mon Aug 28, 2017 11:24 am

He was afraid of being defined as an Eternalist if he answered in the affirmative and a Nihilist if he answered in the negative. If there was an eternal “Self” (as opposed to an empirical one-off ‘self’), it would be unchanging, permanent and therefore exist outside/independent of our impermanent and ever-changing person; obviously, this would be a logical impossibility and a contradiction in terms.
That is why is said the recognition of nondual nature leaves no further doubts and no further falling into nihilism-eternalism, for example by the recognition of unity of two truths ( which is inexpressible) or introducing nature of mind by which all is play( which is same inexpressible) or Samadhi-Vipasana...so that dual perception, dual thoughts dissolved.
Buddha said all is empty like my brain.
Let’s make a selfie!

Having meditated on love and compassion, I forgot the difference between myself and others. Yogi Milarepa.

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Re: "Selfless Mind"

Post by Supramundane » Mon Aug 28, 2017 12:02 pm

wayfarer, Muni, thanks for your comments.
the raft is probably more apt, but i like the rocket one too. very colorful.
how does one practice non-dual thinking, muni? i assumed non-dual thinking was not separating subject and object: do you see it as not falling into eternalism/nihilism?

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Re: "Selfless Mind"

Post by Wayfarer » Tue Aug 29, 2017 6:56 am

I really don't think there is a 'how' - or rather, the whole Buddhist path is the 'how'. That teaching of the middle way is the foundational element of Buddhism. It is very simple in some ways, but the ramifications are very subtle and far-reaching.
In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few ~ Suzuki-roshi

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Re: "Selfless Mind"

Post by Supramundane » Tue Aug 29, 2017 7:42 am

you are right, WF: it is definitely more than a simple leitmotif: the middle/right concept is tantamount to scaffolding supporting the whole Buddhist system of thought. but for me figuring out what the middle/right way is half the secret. but maybe it's better not to view it as a secret but more like a 'hidden answer' (that way we have hope that we can solve it:).

the middle/right way means not describing the Buddha in terms of mortality and not in terms of immortality because it's something in the middle (deathlessness?). so Nirvana is not the "other shore" because there is no other shore and the shore I'm on now doesn't exist either... and the world is not a trap to be escaped because we are part of the trap and there is no distinction between the 'trap' and ourselves. the Buddha is my real body

so all is sunyata... empty... but we are told that sunyata is empty too. would it then be right to say that the world is constantly changing and there is no permanence, no inherent essence except that of impermanence itself?

i think that's what you meant when you mentioned the Madhyamaka: its message distilled down into a single phrase is that "the only permanence is the impermanence of change itself"?

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Re: "Selfless Mind"

Post by muni » Tue Aug 29, 2017 9:30 am

how does one practice non-dual thinking, muni?
Hi, Perhaps few things how not; we are used trusting thoughts, grasping them and to be absorbed/drown as victims in their stream. ( drown in own creation of own dreamlike) Then they are mastering/using us instead of using them but this is hardly to see while habitually being absorbed in their stream.

Thoughts. Mind the gap.

It is told that a small childs’ mind makes not so much a border between its experience and all, what ‘elder ones’ see sharply as outer ( then subject-object). Its' experience is more a part of the whole at least till a certain moment. But of course such little one has therefore not wisdom, it is not aware of it. But soon that changes, put two of them together and “mine” pops up. That is called growing up.
All this just to say: I cannot answer your question. :smile:

Thoughts are empty. Freely coming/going. Where?
i assumed non-dual thinking was not separating subject and object: do you see it as not falling into eternalism/nihilism
Maybe one question too: How could "nondual nature" has extremes or sides or opposites?

:anjali:
Buddha said all is empty like my brain.
Let’s make a selfie!

Having meditated on love and compassion, I forgot the difference between myself and others. Yogi Milarepa.

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Re: "Selfless Mind"

Post by Supramundane » Tue Aug 29, 2017 9:57 am

Thanks for your comments, Muni, it is always interesting reading you. and i think we are in the same time zone, so convenient too hehe.

your post reminds me of Merleau-Ponty who i mentioned in the initial subject; reading him one feels he is touching upon something vital, real, immediate: he is quite brilliant and his intuitions ring true. he had this to say about children:

"The perception of other people and the intersubjective world is problematic only for adults. The child lives in a world which he unhesitatingly believes accessible to all around him. He has no awares of himself or of others as private subjectives, nor does he suspect that all of us, himself included, are limited to one certain point of view of the world. That is why he subjects neither his thoughts, in which he believes as they present themselves, to any sort of criticism. He has no knowledge of points of view. For him men are empty heads turned towards one single, self-evident world where everything takes place, even dreams, which are, he thinks, in his room, and even thinking, since it is not distinct from words.”

On the phenomenological world we live in:

“Our view of man will remain superficial so long as we fail to go back to that origin [of silence], so long as we fail to find, beneath the chatter of words, the primordial silence, and as long as we do not describe the action which breaks this silence. the spoken word is a gesture, and its meaning, a world.”

“We must therefore rediscover, after the natural world, the social world, not as an object or sum of objects, but as a permanent field or dimension of existence.”

“Because we are in the world, we are condemned to meaning, and we cannot do or say anything without its acquiring a name in history.”

“Language transcends us and yet we speak.”

“Nothing determines me from outside, not because nothing acts upon me, but, on the contrary, because I am from the start outside myself and open to the world.”


we are trapped in the Matrix: the real Matrix is not like the film one but that of language: it is and will always be the real matrix. all that we see we think about in words and then we stop seeing. and yet language transcends us; we do not possess it; it possesses us; we are trapped in a subjective register that existed before we were born and which will continue after we die.

Buddhism is unique and special in that the Buddha does not attempt to deny the reality of the phenomenological world but defines himself as a dynamic part of it and starts from there. he is not waiting for salvation after death... the phenomenological world is our heaven and our only home and place of solace.

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Re: "Selfless Mind"

Post by Wayfarer » Tue Aug 29, 2017 12:47 pm

Supramundane wrote:the middle/right way means not describing the Buddha in terms of mortality and not in terms of immortality because it's something in the middle (deathlessness?)
Not 'it', and not 'in the middle' in the sense of a mid-point.

My reading is: whatever comes to be, also passes away ('all manifest things are subject to decay'). The Tathagatha is not amongst those things, but neither separate from them - I think that is the meaning of 'the union of form and emptiness' (but I could be mistaken.)
no inherent essence...
'Essence' is 'esse', what something 'truly is'. 'Inherent essence' is 'sva-bhava'. 'All beings' are said to lack svabhava, inherent essence - so, yes.

Objects of perception don't truly exist - rather they come about from causes and conditions. But they're not simply non-existent, either. So it is neither true to say they really do exist, or that they really don't exist. That is why it is necessary to suspend judgement; hence, 'the gateless gate', the way of un-knowing, and so forth. You have to really learn to live with not knowing.
Nirvana is not the "other shore" because there is no other shore and the shore I'm on now doesn't exist either..
I think 'this shore' is unreal from the perspective of the other shore, but it is very important not to try and speak from the perspective of the other shore if we're not there yet (and I think that happens a lot). That is why I often reflect on the 'perspectival' nature of the teaching - that is the meaning of the koan 'first there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is'. I was once scolded by a teacher for 'mixing up the conventional and the ultimate' (although of course that is not an easy thing to understand.)
In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few ~ Suzuki-roshi

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Re: "Selfless Mind"

Post by jkarlins » Tue Aug 29, 2017 5:44 pm

Supramundane wrote:Thanks for your comments, Muni, it is always interesting reading you. and i think we are in the same time zone, so convenient too hehe.

your post reminds me of Merleau-Ponty who i mentioned in the initial subject; reading him one feels he is touching upon something vital, real, immediate: he is quite brilliant and his intuitions ring true. he had this to say about children:

"The perception of other people and the intersubjective world is problematic only for adults. The child lives in a world which he unhesitatingly believes accessible to all around him. He has no awares of himself or of others as private subjectives, nor does he suspect that all of us, himself included, are limited to one certain point of view of the world. That is why he subjects neither his thoughts, in which he believes as they present themselves, to any sort of criticism. He has no knowledge of points of view. For him men are empty heads turned towards one single, self-evident world where everything takes place, even dreams, which are, he thinks, in his room, and even thinking, since it is not distinct from words.”

On the phenomenological world we live in:

“Our view of man will remain superficial so long as we fail to go back to that origin [of silence], so long as we fail to find, beneath the chatter of words, the primordial silence, and as long as we do not describe the action which breaks this silence. the spoken word is a gesture, and its meaning, a world.”

“We must therefore rediscover, after the natural world, the social world, not as an object or sum of objects, but as a permanent field or dimension of existence.”

“Because we are in the world, we are condemned to meaning, and we cannot do or say anything without its acquiring a name in history.”

“Language transcends us and yet we speak.”

“Nothing determines me from outside, not because nothing acts upon me, but, on the contrary, because I am from the start outside myself and open to the world.”


we are trapped in the Matrix: the real Matrix is not like the film one but that of language: it is and will always be the real matrix. all that we see we think about in words and then we stop seeing. and yet language transcends us; we do not possess it; it possesses us; we are trapped in a subjective register that existed before we were born and which will continue after we die.

Buddhism is unique and special in that the Buddha does not attempt to deny the reality of the phenomenological world but defines himself as a dynamic part of it and starts from there. he is not waiting for salvation after death... the phenomenological world is our heaven and our only home and place of solace.
I like the part about silence. Also the bit about being trapped in language.

It reminded me of this:
https://books.google.com/books?id=uXxR6 ... ld&f=false

Jake

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Supramundane
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Re: "Selfless Mind"

Post by Supramundane » Wed Aug 30, 2017 3:30 am

Thanks for the link, Jake! Discussion on the nature of language is always interesting. Saussure taught us that the word and the thing it refers to are not divorced from reality. Language is a closed system and does not refer to the outside world. the Signifier (the word) refers to an idea (the Signified). If someone is outside what Lacan would call the “symbolic register”, he would be insane or unable to function in society. This was the theme of the Miracle Worker and the famous scene at the Water Pump when Helen Keller realizes, finally, that words do not relate to objects but to ideas and she enters the world of language.

One day, while I was playing with my new doll, Miss Sullivan put my big rag doll into my lap also, spelled "d-o-l-l" and tried to make me understand that "d-o-l-l" applied to both. Earlier in the day we had had a tussle over the words "m-u-g" and "w-a-t-e-r." Miss Sullivan had tried to impress it upon me that "m-u-g" is mug and that "w-a-t-e-r" is water, but I persisted in confounding the two. In despair she had dropped the subject for the time, only to renew it at the first opportunity. I became impatient at her repeated attempts and, seizing the new doll, I dashed it upon the floor. I was keenly delighted when I felt the fragments of the broken doll at my feet. Neither sorrow nor regret followed my passionate outburst. I had not loved the doll. In the still, dark world in which I lived there was no strong sentiment or tenderness.

I felt my teacher sweep the fragments to one side of the hearth, and I had a sense of satisfaction that the cause of my discomfort was removed. She brought me my hat, and I knew I was going out into the warm sunshine. This thought, if a wordless sensation may be called a thought, made me hop and skip with pleasure. We walked down the path to the well-house, attracted by the fragrance of the honeysuckle with which it was covered. Some one was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hand she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten--a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me.
I knew then that "w-a-t-e-r" meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free! There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that could in time be swept away.*

I left the well-house eager to learn. Everything had a name, and each name gave birth to a new thought. As we returned to the house every object which I touched seemed to quiver with life. That was because I saw everything with the strange, new sight that had come to me. On entering the door I remembered the doll I had broken. I felt my way to the hearth and picked up the pieces. I tried vainly to put them together. Then my eyes filled with tears; for I realized what I had done, and for the first time I felt repentance and sorrow.

I learned a great many new words that day. I do not remember what they all were; but I do know that mother, father, sister, teacher were among them--words that were to make the world blossom for me, "like Aaron's rod, with flowers." It would have been difficult to find a happier child than I was as I lay in my crib at the close of that eventful day and lived over the joys it had brought me, and for the first time longed for a new day to come.



How to position Enlightenment and language? that is beyond me... obviously it isn't reaching a Helen Keller-like state... or is it? reaching it but voluntarily?

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Re: "Selfless Mind"

Post by Supramundane » Mon Sep 04, 2017 3:21 am

claerly the Selfless Mind is nothing but a synonym for Nirvana. or so it seemed to me. i did some digging, and i found a fantastic text on nirvana written by "Monk Sasana" (www.en.dhammadana.org). It seem to be Theravada and contains the best description of nirvana i have ever seen. i have condensed it as follows:


In this body dwells the truth of suffering. In this body dwells the cessation of suffering. In this body dwells the path to the cessation of suffering.

There is no exit gateway: the world is an enclosed chamber. we live in a world of PHENOMENA. There is nothing else. Nirvana is in the world of phenomena, just like everything else.

Anyone who says Nirvana is transcendent is deluded. There is nowhere but here. Trying to escape from the world is like driving in a car and trying to leave the planet. Where will you go? Where will you drive?

There is NO gateway.

Nirvana is NOT a door.

There is NO escape from the phenomenological world.

The idea of transcendence is a utopian notion. It is a PHANTASM.

But if phenomena appear before us, they do not disappear. Nirvana thus is HERE and will never DISAPPEAR. It does not appear but it does not disappear either!

Nirvana is nothing but a phenomenon and it is not distinct from the world. It is found through the extinguishing of the senses: Hearing, Sight, Smell, Touch, Thought and all the senses.

This extinguishing does not leave “NOTHING”; it is COMPLETELY FALSE to say that Nirvana is nothing or to say that it is a STATE. It is neither.

When you are deep in sleep, this is not nirvana either. Consciousness latches onto the various elements, even in sleep. Nirvana is not sleep, it is an awakening: therefore you cannot reach nirvana when you sleep. Nirvana IS NOT A STATE.

Nirvana is the fourth element:

• Consciousness
• Material properties (the three of the aggregates)
• Mental properties (consciousness: two of the aggregates)
• Nirvana

Nirvana does not appear because it does not disappear: it is here right now all around us !!!!

Nirvana is empty but it is not emptiness (sunyata sutta). It is an object: a very specific object!

When the aggregates cease to appear, there is something else: this “something else” is nirvana. Like a wave that crashes on the beach and disappears, the water is still there, the sand is still there but the wave is gone. in fact, although the wave is gone there is still something there… The Buddha’s message is not one of idealism or of nihilism: there is a third way and that way lies nirvana. When the Buddha experienced Nirvana he was conscious: thus, the Buddha SAW nirvana: he TOUCHED nirvana!

When consciousness does not latch on to any of the three elements, does not latch onto the aggregates, it will attach itself to nirvana. This may occur for a few seconds or few minutes. But once you have experienced Nirvana, you will lose all your problems.

Even if you only experience nirvana for a few seconds, it will mark the end to all your worries and troubles…



hope this is useful...

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