The Truth of the First Noble Truth

General forum on the teachings of all schools of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. Topics specific to one school are best posted in the appropriate sub-forum.
Post Reply
Malcolm
Posts: 30239
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:19 am

The Truth of the First Noble Truth

Post by Malcolm » Wed Nov 05, 2014 7:01 pm

Queequeg wrote:
So here is the problem I have with the First Noble Truth -it must be taken as an irreducible claim, along with a number of further assumptions, none of which I'm not entirely convinced about. "birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering; union with what is displeasing is suffering; separation from what is pleasing is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are suffering"
Then you may not have taken the Buddha's teachings entirely to heart.
For one, suffering here is a qualitative, subjective characterization, which while a compelling one to an extent, is not necessarily true for everyone. There are many people who, though not enlightened by Buddhist standards, have reflected on their life, settled in equanimity, and come to a conclusion about all this - "Its life." Neither good, nor bad. It just is what it is. With that conclusion, they go on living in many different ways, taking the joys and sorrows, triumphs and tragedies, in stride. With the First Noble Truth undermined, the rest of it falls apart.
This is all just a mass of suffering.
We can add a footnote and say that suffering is a technical description of the unpleasant experience of perpetually changing circumstances, but that's still undermined by, "Its life." This is not even to mention people who have come to understand their own consciousness through the discoveries of neuroscience which is presenting a pretty compelling case that consciousness and everything that we think we are is a meta phenomena of brain circuitry.In this kind of context, "Life is Suffering", seems like an arbitrary assertion.
Buddha did not say "life is suffering", he said "sarva dukkham", everything is suffering.
Some thinkers have posited that you can't have Buddhism without belief in this model of samsaric existence. I don't agree. Notwithstanding, a teaching that falls apart when certain unprovable assumptions are set aside is at a severe disadvantage in a claim to Truth. I don't think all Buddhist schools of thought are susceptible to this problem.
A so called "Buddhist" school that abandons the core tenets the Buddha taught is no longer Buddhist.
I previously referred to Nagarjuna and how he opened questions about the Four Noble Truths. He does a delicate dance in the Madhyamikakarika concerning people who use sunyata to undermine the Four Noble Truths. Maybe some people better versed in Madhyamika thought can correct me, but his response is appeal to the middle which is a dialectic tension settling on what amounts to the four noble truths as an expedient means (upaya). Are upaya Truths with a capital T? There's a whole body of discourse on this, and as best I can tell, there is no categorical answer Yes or no. Its "Yes, but..." or "No, but..."
He addressing the idea of inherency, not suggesting that it is all "upaya".
And then without even going deep into all the vertiginous logic of Madhyamika, we have pithy doctrines like "Samsara and Nirvana are coextensive." or "There are not two worlds, pure and impure." What does that mean for the Four Noble Truths?
Nāgārjuna address this as well "Samsara and nirvana, these two do not exist, instead, Nirvana is thorough knowledge of samsara."

DGA
Former staff member
Posts: 9423
Joined: Tue Jul 13, 2010 5:04 pm
Contact:

Re: The Truth of the First Noble Truth

Post by DGA » Wed Nov 05, 2014 8:36 pm

Note from the admin: I've split this post from a different thread elsewhere to encourage clear and open discussion. Thank you for your understanding.

User avatar
anjali
Former staff member
Posts: 1609
Joined: Sat Sep 10, 2011 10:33 pm

Re: The Truth of the First Noble Truth

Post by anjali » Wed Nov 05, 2014 8:45 pm

Queequeg wrote:"...in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are suffering"

For one, suffering here is a qualitative, subjective characterization, which while a compelling one to an extent, is not necessarily true for everyone. There are many people who, though not enlightened by Buddhist standards, have reflected on their life, settled in equanimity, and come to a conclusion about all this - "Its life." Neither good, nor bad. It just is what it is. With that conclusion, they go on living in many different ways, taking the joys and sorrows, triumphs and tragedies, in stride. With the First Noble Truth undermined, the rest of it falls apart.
My goodness. Queequeg, you have drawn the wrong conclusion from your example! It's not that the first noble truth is undermined, it's that the fourth noble truth has been partially followed, leading to a modicum of peace.

Buddha stated, "all things are not worthy of adhering to (sabbe dhammā nâla abhinivesāyā)". To the extent that people can sincerely let go and take things in stride, they have come to adopt and practice, at least partly, right view--the first aspect of the noble eight-fold path, which of course is the fourth noble truth.

A non-standard way of looking at the first three noble truths is to rearrange their order: 2,1,3 to give the flow: frustration arises, persists and passes away. Different kinds of frustration have different lengths of duration. In our day-to-day lives we experience frustration of a more-or-less fleeting nature. But frustration has deeper, more persistent levels resulting from: clinging to the aggregates, to self/other, to fabrications, and finally to ignorance itself. Fully following the fourth noble truth, the eight-fold path, allows us to break this more persistent chain of clinging, thus freeing us from more persistent and subtle levels of frustration.

So, to reiterate: your example does not undermine the first noble truth. It partially demonstrates the fourth noble truth in practice.
Image

User avatar
anjali
Former staff member
Posts: 1609
Joined: Sat Sep 10, 2011 10:33 pm

Re: The Truth of the First Noble Truth

Post by anjali » Wed Nov 05, 2014 8:48 pm

Jikan wrote:Note from the admin: I've split this post from a different thread elsewhere to encourage clear and open discussion. Thank you for your understanding.
Jikan, you should probably move Queequeg's original post on the first noble truth, plus Sherab Dorje's response over as well?
Image

User avatar
Mkoll
Posts: 1116
Joined: Mon May 26, 2014 5:53 am
Location: Texas

Re: The Truth of the First Noble Truth

Post by Mkoll » Wed Nov 05, 2014 10:01 pm

I'd agree with Malcolm here except for the Nagarjuna part which I don't know enough about to comment on. Also I think the Buddha said all conditioned things are suffering. I guess you could pare that down to "everything is suffering" but that might give the wrong impression to people who don't have much knowledge of the teachings.

EDIT:

And to respond to this:
Queequeg wrote:The Four Noble Truths is an effort to define a problem specific to a particular world view that prevailed at the time of the Buddha - namely the assumption that this conception of a cyclic samsaric existence, with its rebirth and moral cause and effect, is real. The teaching then posits that one should strive to become inert, not creating any further karma, and finally attain an unbinding that ends the cycle for good. If you don't start with this bundle of assumptions, the Four Noble Truths don't carry the same meaning. Some thinkers have posited that you can't have Buddhism without belief in this model of samsaric existence. I don't agree. Notwithstanding, a teaching that falls apart when certain unprovable assumptions are set aside is at a severe disadvantage in a claim to Truth. I don't think all Buddhist schools of thought are susceptible to this problem.
This is a false assumption, namely that the Buddha was responding to his culture's worldview when he formulated the Four Noble Truths (4NT). It's Buddhism 101 that when the Buddha attained enlightenment, he attained the threefold knowledge: knowledge of past lives, knowledge of the passing away and reappearance of beings, and knowledge of the ending of the taints. The 4NT are subsumed under the ending of the taints (see MN 4). So you see the Buddha was not responding to his culture but actually telling us of his direct experience.

If you really view the 4NT in the way you described, it sounds like you don't have faith in this or you think the teachings are counterfeit. I don't see how you can hold the view that the 4NT are a cultural accretion or counterfeit and at the same time "accept them [4NT] as a tentative premise." That's kind of like saying you accept that the world is flat as a tentative premise while at the same time thinking it is an anachronism based on an incorrect worldview.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

DGA
Former staff member
Posts: 9423
Joined: Tue Jul 13, 2010 5:04 pm
Contact:

Re: The Truth of the First Noble Truth

Post by DGA » Wed Nov 05, 2014 10:56 pm

There's something that I think informs Queequeg's position on this issue that may help clarify the discussion. Tendai Daishi, also known as Chih-i (Zhiyi), taught that Buddha Shakyamuni's teaching career could be divided into five periods. (Here's a summary).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhiyi#Five ... s_Teaching" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

the gist is that he gave the full truth right at the first (phase one), then took a big step back when he realized that people weren't getting it and taught the most basic and, well, provisional teachings in the second phase. That second phase includes the Four Noble Truths. By the time you get back to the fifth phase, it's not as though the first phase is wrong, it is more that it's not the whole story. Think of the Burning House parable in the Lotus Sutra. So the teaching of Buddha-nature is strongly prioritized over the teachings corresponding to the shravaka path in this context. Whether this corresponds to Queequeg's position or not is not for me to say.

Again, I'm not speaking for Queequeg here, merely suggesting that some context is in order.

User avatar
Sherab
Posts: 1323
Joined: Mon Jul 12, 2010 6:28 am

Re: The Truth of the First Noble Truth

Post by Sherab » Thu Nov 06, 2014 12:19 am

Jikan wrote:... then took a big step back when he realized that people weren't getting it and ...
I always instinctively thought it odd when people remarked that Buddha Shakyamuni taught something and then had to backtrack. Such a position is not consistent with the characteristic of a fully-enlightened one who can see and know any knowable. For such a person, any act should be spontaneous. In other words, the Buddha would teach according to what would suit the person he was teaching at that time. Therefore, there would also be no chronological progression or improvement/amendments/changes in the teachings of the Buddha.

DGA
Former staff member
Posts: 9423
Joined: Tue Jul 13, 2010 5:04 pm
Contact:

Re: The Truth of the First Noble Truth

Post by DGA » Thu Nov 06, 2014 1:50 am

Sherab wrote:
Jikan wrote:... then took a big step back when he realized that people weren't getting it and ...
I always instinctively thought it odd when people remarked that Buddha Shakyamuni taught something and then had to backtrack. Such a position is not consistent with the characteristic of a fully-enlightened one who can see and know any knowable. For such a person, any act should be spontaneous. In other words, the Buddha would teach according to what would suit the person he was teaching at that time. Therefore, there would also be no chronological progression or improvement/amendments/changes in the teachings of the Buddha.
I'm have faith that Tendai Daishi was an Arya. I'm not so confident that 1. my understanding of his teachings is complete and accurate and 2. all the doctrines attributed to him should be taken literally. Some of them, such as the teaching of the five periods, clearly does not correspond to material history, but still has other kinds of significance.

My point was rather to do with how the yanas are understood in East Asian Buddhism. In Japan, for instance, the word used to describe the shravakayana translates literally as "primitive Buddhism." It's assumed to be less sublime, less complete if you will, than the teaching of Tathagatagarbha. Loose analogy: consider how the nine yanas are laid out in the Nyingmapa system. If you assume that Atiyoga is the most sublime teaching, what is your position on karmayoga, much less shravakayana?

User avatar
Queequeg
Global Moderator
Posts: 9714
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: The Truth of the First Noble Truth

Post by Queequeg » Thu Nov 06, 2014 2:13 am

Y'all will have to be patient with me. After all, there's but this lone heretic.

I'll posit this as a preliminary matter: most of you responding seem to be from an Indo Tibetan buddhist background. Keep in mind, East Asian Buddhism started branching off before the Tibetans had even really heard dharma. It is to a great extent a product of two very different universal world views of comparable development and sophistication coming together. Its a credit to Dharma that it was so compelling that Mahayana became the universal church of the Chinese! Possibly the only people more blissfully ethnocentric than Americans. :stirthepot:

The results are turns of thought that are going to be very different than anything you're used to. I think if you take the time to understand before rushing to judgment, though, you might find things that in the least are interesting. You might even find compelling resolutions to problems that have persistently surfaced over the centuries in Buddhist discourse.

If you think though that everything in the way you see the world is settled and copacetic, this might just be an exercise for you to cultivate disdain.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

User avatar
lorem
Posts: 674
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2014 10:27 pm
Location: Fresno, California

Re: The Truth of the First Noble Truth

Post by lorem » Thu Nov 06, 2014 2:15 am

EDIT

Spontaneous--Buddha eye, dharma eye. I don't think possible for a Buddha to backtrack. Tendai probably was an Arya but another loose analogy would be like some bodhisattvas believing that the Buddha taught the Kalachakra Tantra at the beginning of enlightenment and some near end of life.
Jikan wrote:Loose analogy: consider how the nine yanas are laid out in the Nyingmapa system. If you assume that Atiyoga is the most sublime teaching, what is your position on karmayoga, much less shravakayana?
Once pointed out there is no "position" to hold.
Though the teaching of Mahamudra is expounded
And the Pointing-out demonstration is exercised,
Few can really understand the Essence of Mind.

Mila
I should be meditating.

User avatar
lorem
Posts: 674
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2014 10:27 pm
Location: Fresno, California

Re: The Truth of the First Noble Truth

Post by lorem » Thu Nov 06, 2014 2:53 am

EDIT
Queequeg wrote:Y'all will have to be patient with me. After all, there's but this lone heretic.
LOL, not heretic, Taoist sounds like.

Think Anjali is explaining it better. They are listed like aryuvedic medicine.

scratch notes--

I've heard this argument against Buddhism before. It takes the case of the Four Sights (cause) and the First Noble Truth? (result) or something similar.
I should be meditating.

User avatar
LastLegend
Posts: 3771
Joined: Sat Mar 19, 2011 3:46 pm
Location: Washington DC

Re: The Truth of the First Noble Truth

Post by LastLegend » Thu Nov 06, 2014 4:16 am

Queequeg wrote:Y'all will have to be patient with me. After all, there's but this lone heretic.

I'll posit this as a preliminary matter: most of you responding seem to be from an Indo Tibetan buddhist background. Keep in mind, East Asian Buddhism started branching off before the Tibetans had even really heard dharma. It is to a great extent a product of two very different universal world views of comparable development and sophistication coming together. Its a credit to Dharma that it was so compelling that Mahayana became the universal church of the Chinese! Possibly the only people more blissfully ethnocentric than Americans. :stirthepot:

The results are turns of thought that are going to be very different than anything you're used to. I think if you take the time to understand before rushing to judgment, though, you might find things that in the least are interesting. You might even find compelling resolutions to problems that have persistently surfaced over the centuries in Buddhist discourse.

If you think though that everything in the way you see the world is settled and copacetic, this might just be an exercise for you to cultivate disdain.
Well, if one sees thoroughly through suffering, his/her mind is probably at peace. I think Buddha's teaching is most excellent and thorough.
Make personal vows.

User avatar
lorem
Posts: 674
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2014 10:27 pm
Location: Fresno, California

Re: The Truth of the First Noble Truth

Post by lorem » Thu Nov 06, 2014 4:28 am

LastLegend wrote:Well, if one sees thoroughly through suffering, his/her mind is probably at peace. I think Buddha's teaching is most excellent and thorough.
I'm going to borrow that. May not return it, just pass it on to someone else though.
I should be meditating.

User avatar
Sherab
Posts: 1323
Joined: Mon Jul 12, 2010 6:28 am

Re: The Truth of the First Noble Truth

Post by Sherab » Thu Nov 06, 2014 6:59 am

Jikan wrote:I'm have faith that ....
I take faith to mean generally holding a belief without a logical and reasonable basis. So faith is something that does not sit easily with me. Whatever I believe or take on trust, I must have a basis for it. If someone comes along and show me that what I believe or that on trust is not logical and not reasonable, I will change my position.

User avatar
Queequeg
Global Moderator
Posts: 9714
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: The Truth of the First Noble Truth

Post by Queequeg » Thu Nov 06, 2014 1:46 pm

Malcolm wrote: Then you may not have taken the Buddha's teachings entirely to heart.
I'm not offended, but, out of line, bro. How is something like that constructive?
Queequeg wrote:For one, suffering here is a qualitative, subjective characterization, which while a compelling one to an extent, is not necessarily true for everyone. There are many people who, though not enlightened by Buddhist standards, have reflected on their life, settled in equanimity, and come to a conclusion about all this - "Its life." Neither good, nor bad. It just is what it is. With that conclusion, they go on living in many different ways, taking the joys and sorrows, triumphs and tragedies, in stride. With the First Noble Truth undermined, the rest of it falls apart.
Malcolm wrote:This is all just a mass of suffering... Buddha did not say "life is suffering", he said "sarva dukkham", everything is suffering.
The problems with statements like "Everything is X" is that it is basically meaningless. No offense, but its the kind of statement I would have made as a brooding 15 year old: "This sucks. That sucks. Everything sucks." The whole world is marked by suffering/suckiness. What does that mean precisely, except that one is proposing a universal framework in which to subjectively view everything. Dukkha, Dukkha, Dukkha... Take everything and see it as this single flavor of suck. Problematize everything. Why? Because you can't have a solution without a problem.

I'm told there was no "armpit" until marketers needed to sell deoderant. So they made up the concept. Now, you can't help looking at a guy wearing a wifebeater and think "armpit" when you see those gross hairs sticking out from under his arms.

Make no mistake, the Buddha at Sarnath was selling. Of course, like the latest iphone, what he was selling was an absolute must have for everyone on the planet, to let siri make their lives better. I'm joking, but my point is, whatever his motivation, and as a Buddhist I believe that his motivation was compassion for "suffering" beings like me, he was selling something, and what he was selling only really is effective if you agree to see things the way he wants you to see them.

I'm not an expert on Pali or Sanskrit, so I have no idea if dukkha actually refers to a quality of subjective experience, but the term "suffering" certainly does. If everything is suffering, then photosynthesis is suffering. We're considerably expanding the meaning of suffering when we characterize a process in a plant as suffering. How about convection currents in the ocean? That's suffering, too? How about atomic fusion? Bringing all this under the category of "Suffering" is then redefining this term that is commonly understood to refer to a particular mode of experience into a reference to the perpetual motion of everything. But that's not really what the Buddha was talking about - he was addressing people's experience of the perpetual motion, and specifically addressing the dissatisfaction in having to deal with all this change.

If you don't start out thinking this is suffering, though, there is no suffering to neutralize.

There are plenty of people who never expected anything of life and wouldn't call it suffering. It is what it is. "Why I want to sit around with my eyes closed for and try to stop thinking. That's suffering, man."
anjali wrote: My goodness. Queequeg, you have drawn the wrong conclusion from your example! It's not that the first noble truth is undermined, it's that the fourth noble truth has been partially followed, leading to a modicum of peace.

Buddha stated, "all things are not worthy of adhering to (sabbe dhammā nâla abhinivesāyā)". To the extent that people can sincerely let go and take things in stride, they have come to adopt and practice, at least partly, right view--the first aspect of the noble eight-fold path, which of course is the fourth noble truth.

A non-standard way of looking at the first three noble truths is to rearrange their order: 2,1,3 to give the flow: frustration arises, persists and passes away. Different kinds of frustration have different lengths of duration. In our day-to-day lives we experience frustration of a more-or-less fleeting nature. But frustration has deeper, more persistent levels resulting from: clinging to the aggregates, to self/other, to fabrications, and finally to ignorance itself. Fully following the fourth noble truth, the eight-fold path, allows us to break this more persistent chain of clinging, thus freeing us from more persistent and subtle levels of frustration.

So, to reiterate: your example does not undermine the first noble truth. It partially demonstrates the fourth noble truth in practice.
I thought people who come to the "right view", meaning a view that coincides with what Buddhists consider "right view", without treading the Buddhist path are Pratyekabuddhas? My understanding is that Buddhism accounts for such people because... they're there. If you want to characterize what they do as demonstrating Buddhist teachings, great. They may or may not agree with you.
Some thinkers have posited that you can't have Buddhism without belief in this model of samsaric existence. I don't agree. Notwithstanding, a teaching that falls apart when certain unprovable assumptions are set aside is at a severe disadvantage in a claim to Truth. I don't think all Buddhist schools of thought are susceptible to this problem.
Malcolm wrote:A so called "Buddhist" school that abandons the core tenets the Buddha taught is no longer Buddhist.
Maybe. Do you have an interest in enforcing proprietary rights to the label? I don't.

But who said anything about abandoning anything? Setting an unprovable assumption aside is not the same as abandoning. My point is, if you're whole claim to Truth is founded on the a priori acceptance of certain unprovable assumptions, its not going to be particularly compelling to those who do not already accept those assumptions. Setting something like rebirth aside is not the same as rejecting or abandoning it. You know, it is possible to not accept something and yet hold a neutral disposition. Its reality is unknown. What further implication can be drawn from its proposition? Proceeding as if it is true despite lack of personal knowledge is proceeding on faith - and I have no problem with that approach, but proceeding as such is certainly not compulsory.

Where did the Buddha demand faith in rebirth? I don't recall it.

This might be a good point to follow up on Jikan's comment.

Jikan referred to Tendai Daishi / Zhiyi's teaching on the five periods/five flavors.

I think, though, that some other systems of categorization Zhiyi proposed might be more illustrative about a lot of the questions here. The Four Teachings of Doctrine and Four Teachings of Method I think are even more relevant/informative on the subject.

The former basically categorizes teachings based on the prevailing interpretation of anatman/sunyata. If you get caught up in the details of whether he is correctly categorizing a particular sutra or school, you'll miss his arguments. The first and second categories place an unbalanced emphasis on Anatman/Sunyata. The third category balances the absolute and conditioned, but does not fully integrate the two modes of consciousness. The Fourth fully integrates absolute and conditioned. I'm sure that makes little sense in that short description. I'm sorry I really can't do much better in the space of a post.

The latter categorizes teachings based on the method employed by the Buddha in relation to the audience he is addressing - whether he's speaking in terms specific to the person addressed, whether he is resorting to commonly understood conventions, whether he is remediating wrong views, or whether he is speaking his enlightenment directly. These categories are from the Ta Chi Tu Lun, the commentary on one of the Prajna Sutras attributed to Nagarjuna. A particular teaching may be one or a combination of these methods.

One of the most important aspects of Zhiyi's thought, in my opinion, is this certain logic of mutuality that pervades all of his major doctrines. In terms of Buddha's teachings, he places a great emphasis on a teaching arising as a particular interaction between a person of such and such capacity and character and the Buddha. Everything is hypercontextual (this emphasis might be one of the great contributions to Buddhist thought) and mutually identifiable, to the point that abstraction is impossible. Nothing can be understood outside of its context. That's basic pratityasamutpada, but Zhiyi takes it to another level. His exposition on this theme is, to me, profoundly engaging. We are very fortunate that his magnus opus, Mohochihkuan, has been translated into English and will be published in its entirety soon.

Returning to the contextual nature of everything, in this view, the Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths, but depending on one's capacity, it had different meanings specific to the needs of the listener. Sherab Dorje responded in the previous thread that such alternative interpretations are due to the ignorance of the listener attempting to misinterpret the teaching to reinforce their mistaken views. That's a way to look at it, I suppose. Zhiyi would have taken a more compassionate view and would say that each person gets what they need from the teaching as they incrementally proceed on the path to Buddhahood.

In this respect, then, the Four Noble Truths are upaya. They are teachings intended to draw the person toward full blown awakening of the Buddha. Its not that the Four Noble Truths are not True. Its that they are teachings that arise (through the interaction of Buddha and unenlightened person) in a particular circumstance. In that circumstance, they are wholly true. They cannot be divorced from that circumstance. In this scheme, the Four Noble Truths are primarily a teaching for Sravakas. Its not that they are not true for Bodhisattvas, but its not what bodhisattvas need to advance their path and so are more or less inert. By the same token, the six paramitas are not teachings needed by sravakas and so for them, the teachings are inert.

There are questions to be raised in my presentation - I see some of the openings for criticism. I just don't have the time to present the ideas in a fully developed way. If you're not familiar with Zhiyi, take my word, he was brilliant. Jikan I think will agree. Assume that the shortcomings are my presentation and not Zhiyi.

I'm not doing Zhiyi justice.
Malcolm wrote:He addressing the idea of inherency, not suggesting that it is all "upaya".
[/quote]

Please elaborate.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

Malcolm
Posts: 30239
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:19 am

Re: The Truth of the First Noble Truth

Post by Malcolm » Thu Nov 06, 2014 2:08 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Malcolm wrote: Then you may not have taken the Buddha's teachings entirely to heart.
How is something like that constructive?
It is a question we should be constantly asking ourselves.
...The whole world is marked by suffering/suckiness. What does that mean precisely, except that one is proposing a universal framework in which to subjectively view everything. Dukkha, Dukkha, Dukkha... Take everything and see it as this single flavor of suck. Problematize everything. Why? Because you can't have a solution without a problem.
Three kinds of suffering were identified by the Buddha: the suffering of suffering, the suffering of change and the suffering of the conditioned. The first refers to the actual experience of pain and misery, etc. The second refers to the impermanence of all positive circumstances. The third refers to the very impermanence of condition phenomena itself. Do you see anything left out?
...what he was selling only really is effective if you agree to see things the way he wants you to see them.
Hence my comment about whether or not you have really taken the Buddha's teachings to heart, no excuses, no ifs, ands or buts.
I'm not an expert on Pali or Sanskrit, so I have no idea if dukkha actually refers to a quality of subjective experience, but the term "suffering" certainly does.
Dukha has its roots in the notion of a wheel that does not turn properly on its axle.
If everything is suffering, then photosynthesis is suffering.
Yes, it is — it is part of the suffering of the conditioned and the suffering of change.
We're considerably expanding the meaning of suffering when we characterize a process in a plant as suffering. How about convection currents in the ocean? That's suffering, too? How about atomic fusion?
Yes, all conditioned phenomena apart from path dharmas are suffering or conducive to suffering — this is why the Buddha says "all contaminated phenomena are suffering".
Bringing all this under the category of "Suffering" is then redefining this term that is commonly understood to refer to a particular mode of experience into a reference to the perpetual motion of everything. But that's not really what the Buddha was talking about - he was addressing people's experience of the perpetual motion, and specifically addressing the dissatisfaction in having to deal with all this change.
However you want to translate dukkha is fine, but generally, it is translated as "suffering", which means "to bear from below", with the obvious allusion. When you look at the Monier-Williams, it has a range of meaning of uneasy , uncomfortable , unpleasant , difficult, pain , sorrow , trouble, etc. Whether you call it suffering, pain, etc., it has the same meaning — there is no happiness anywhere in the three realms. The only way to be truly happy is to be free the from afflictions that cause rebirth in samsara.
If you don't start out thinking this is suffering, though, there is no suffering to neutralize.
And so worldly people continue to take rebirth in samsara because they do not recognize suffering as suffering.
There are plenty of people who never expected anything of life and wouldn't call it suffering.
"Ignorance is bliss".
Malcolm wrote:A so called "Buddhist" school that abandons the core tenets the Buddha taught is no longer Buddhist.
Where did the Buddha demand faith in rebirth? I don't recall it.
A number of places, do your research.

Malcolm
Posts: 30239
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:19 am

Re: The Truth of the First Noble Truth

Post by Malcolm » Thu Nov 06, 2014 2:20 pm

Queequeg wrote:You might even find compelling resolutions to problems that have persistently surfaced over the centuries in Buddhist discourse.

Such as?

User avatar
LastLegend
Posts: 3771
Joined: Sat Mar 19, 2011 3:46 pm
Location: Washington DC

Re: The Truth of the First Noble Truth

Post by LastLegend » Thu Nov 06, 2014 3:06 pm

Queequeg wrote:
But who said anything about abandoning anything? Setting an unprovable assumption aside is not the same as abandoning. My point is, if you're whole claim to Truth is founded on the a priori acceptance of certain unprovable assumptions, its not going to be particularly compelling to those who do not already accept those assumptions. Setting something like rebirth aside is not the same as rejecting or abandoning it. You know, it is possible to not accept something and yet hold a neutral disposition. Its reality is unknown. What further implication can be drawn from its proposition? Proceeding as if it is true despite lack of personal knowledge is proceeding on faith - and I have no problem with that approach, but proceeding as such is certainly not compulsory.
The problem with us is we we tend to analyze everything to find Truth, but in doing so we drown ourselves further in the cycle of rebirth because that's a form of attachment. It's like when when we are dreaming, we are pulled in by what we see in our dreams. It's the same thing that's happening now in life.

In this respect, then, the Four Noble Truths are upaya. They are teachings intended to draw the person toward full blown awakening of the Buddha. Its not that the Four Noble Truths are not True. Its that they are teachings that arise (through the interaction of Buddha and unenlightened person) in a particular circumstance. In that circumstance, they are wholly true. They cannot be divorced from that circumstance. In this scheme, the Four Noble Truths are primarily a teaching for Sravakas. Its not that they are not true for Bodhisattvas, but its not what bodhisattvas need to advance their path and so are more or less inert. By the same token, the six paramitas are not teachings needed by sravakas and so for them, the teachings are inert.

Attachment to impermanence (created by causes and conditions) is suffering, and not trying to attach is also suffering :lol: . It helps to know that everything is but empty name, lacking self, coming together by causes and conditions.

So bolded part is not so true.
Make personal vows.

Bakmoon
Posts: 746
Joined: Wed Sep 17, 2014 12:31 am

Re: The Truth of the First Noble Truth

Post by Bakmoon » Thu Nov 06, 2014 6:43 pm

Queequeg wrote:'m not an expert on Pali or Sanskrit, so I have no idea if dukkha actually refers to a quality of subjective experience, but the term "suffering" certainly does. If everything is suffering, then photosynthesis is suffering. We're considerably expanding the meaning of suffering when we characterize a process in a plant as suffering. How about convection currents in the ocean? That's suffering, too? How about atomic fusion? Bringing all this under the category of "Suffering" is then redefining this term that is commonly understood to refer to a particular mode of experience into a reference to the perpetual motion of everything. But that's not really what the Buddha was talking about - he was addressing people's experience of the perpetual motion, and specifically addressing the dissatisfaction in having to deal with all this change.
I think that this is a rather important point to clear up. According to the Ven. Sariputta in the Dukkha Sutta:
"On one occasion Ven. Sariputta was staying in Magadha in Nalaka Village. Then Jambukhadika the wanderer went to Ven. Sariputta and, on arrival, exchanged courteous greetings with him. After this exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to Ven. Sariputta: "Dukkha, Dukkha,' it is said, my friend Sariputta. Which type of Dukkha [are they referring to]?"

"There are these three forms of Dukkha, my friend: the stressfulness of pain, the Dukkha of fabrication, the Dukkha of change. These are the three forms of Dukkha."


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

(I've taken the liberty of back-translating the for Dukkha back into Pali because this particular translator translates it as 'stress'. The Ven. Thanissaro has pretty good translations but the terminology can be a little different at times.)
Dukkha in the sense of actually being painful or uncomfortable is only one meaning of the term Dukkha. When we say that all conditioned things are Dukkha we do not mean Dukkha in this sense because that would mean that every non-enlightened being is in constant literal pain or despair, which is obviously not the case.

It is the second sense Dukkha, the Dukkha of fabrication, that apply to all arisen phenomena. This sense of Dukkha has a very different meaning than the others. Here it is no longer talking about some sort of pain, but to the inability of something to give true satisfaction. Because all arisen things arise in dependence on causes and conditions and are impermanent, there is a certain coarseness to them that stops them from giving us the true satisfaction we are looking for. Compounded things can indeed give us satisfaction and pleasure, but there is always a subtle flaw in it that stops it from truly 'filling us up' so to speak.

(Edited in later) D'oh! Malcom mostly already said this. I'll leave it anyways for the quote though.

DGA
Former staff member
Posts: 9423
Joined: Tue Jul 13, 2010 5:04 pm
Contact:

Re: The Truth of the First Noble Truth

Post by DGA » Thu Nov 06, 2014 6:48 pm

Bakmoon wrote:
It is the second sense Dukkha, the Dukkha of fabrication, that apply to all arisen phenomena. This sense of Dukkha has a very different meaning than the others. Here it is no longer talking about some sort of pain, but to the inability of something to give true satisfaction. Because all arisen things arise in dependence on causes and conditions and are impermanent, there is a certain coarseness to them that stops them from giving us the true satisfaction we are looking for. Compounded things can indeed give us satisfaction and pleasure, but there is always a subtle flaw in it that stops it from truly 'filling us up' so to speak.

(Edited in later) D'oh! Malcom mostly already said this. I'll leave it anyways for the quote though.
put differently: no compounded thing is trustworthy--it'll let you down sooner or later, and nothing is what it seems to be, meaning there is no correspondence between our assumptions about things and things in themselves. So we fool ourselves if we take refuge in the wrong things based on unquestioned assumptions.

Post Reply

Return to “Mahāyāna Buddhism”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: nichiren-123, smcj, Stephen18 and 85 guests