The doctrine of no-self - teaching device or metaphysical truth?

Forum for discussion of Tibetan Buddhism. Questions specific to one school are best posted in the appropriate sub-forum.
fckw
Posts: 399
Joined: Mon Jan 06, 2014 11:10 am

The doctrine of no-self - teaching device or metaphysical truth?

Post by fckw » Sat Feb 11, 2017 10:15 am

Is the doctrine of "no-self" and/or "emptiness" merely meant to be merely a teaching device (i.e.: if you meditate on this you will gain certain specific insights) or is it meant to be a metaphysical truth? Even after years of practice I realized this is insufficiently clear to me, and looking at various books and sources does not make it more clear in my eyes.

Tiago Simões
Posts: 947
Joined: Fri Oct 03, 2014 8:41 pm
Location: Portugal

Re: The doctrine of no-self - teaching device or metaphysical truth?

Post by Tiago Simões » Sat Feb 11, 2017 11:02 am

fckw wrote:Is the doctrine of "no-self" and/or "emptiness" merely meant to be merely a teaching device (i.e.: if you meditate on this you will gain certain specific insights) or is it meant to be a metaphysical truth? Even after years of practice I realized this is insufficiently clear to me, and looking at various books and sources does not make it more clear in my eyes.
It is a very practical truth.
Then, the Licchavi Vimalakīrti spoke to the elder Śāriputra and the great disciples: “Reverends, eat of the food of the Tathāgata! It is ambrosia perfumed by the great compassion. But do not fix your minds in narrow-minded attitudes, lest you be unable to receive its gift.”

- Chapter 9, The Feast Brought by the Emanated Incarnation
The Noble Mahāyāna Sūtra “The Teaching of Vimalakīrti”

tingdzin
Posts: 1064
Joined: Fri Feb 15, 2013 7:19 am

Re: The doctrine of no-self - teaching device or metaphysical truth?

Post by tingdzin » Sat Feb 11, 2017 12:22 pm

Practical and possible to be experienced, but not without a good deal of effort. Buddhism has always been experience-oriented. Doctrine arises from that. Reading an infinite number of books will not do it.

fckw
Posts: 399
Joined: Mon Jan 06, 2014 11:10 am

Re: The doctrine of no-self - teaching device or metaphysical truth?

Post by fckw » Sat Feb 11, 2017 12:49 pm

Referring to this doctrine being "practical" unfortunately does not answer the question I raised. (Neither does telling me that reading books is basically useless as understanding rises from experience. Every Geshe has to read books - and memorize them -, so why shouldn't I. Beyond reading books I have roughly 17 years of meditation experience.)

fckw
Posts: 399
Joined: Mon Jan 06, 2014 11:10 am

Re: The doctrine of no-self - teaching device or metaphysical truth?

Post by fckw » Sat Feb 11, 2017 1:06 pm

Sorry, guys, but I can't help it, I find these two replies seriously annoying. Basically, it's the same as what I heard in my Christian upbringing. "You have to experience God's love." "You have to experience no-self." Same thing, really: please stop giving such advice.

Buddhism in the West has always been an intellectual venture besides being a spiritual practice path. I have already raised earlier in another thread that Buddhism has never so far really clarified the position of metaphysics to the same extent that Western philosophy has in the last 150 years or so. Being Buddhist practitioners you really should aim higher than you do, you should actually try to intellectually understand the positions you are accepting as being laid out in front of you by whatever teacher you follow. Referring to it as being "practical" does simply not answer whether this is supposed to be a metaphysical truth or only an advice given to people to make very specific meditative experiences. If the former is the case, then Buddhism becomes a religion. If the latter is the case, then the doctrines were always meant to be discarded in the very moment the experience has been made. (Like in the story being told where the traveler has to leave the boat behind that carried him over the river.) In that case the question arises: Why do Buddhist teachers generally never advice to leave the idea of no-self behind, and, for a change, for example accept the idea of self?

So, c'mon, guys, you really should set the target higher than you do.

Tiago Simões
Posts: 947
Joined: Fri Oct 03, 2014 8:41 pm
Location: Portugal

Re: The doctrine of no-self - teaching device or metaphysical truth?

Post by Tiago Simões » Sat Feb 11, 2017 1:51 pm

The target IS to experience Śūnyatā. Anātman is the lack of a "self" that exists by itself independently, it is a truth because it is a philosophical pillar of Dharma. It is practical, because it can be experienced.
Then, the Licchavi Vimalakīrti spoke to the elder Śāriputra and the great disciples: “Reverends, eat of the food of the Tathāgata! It is ambrosia perfumed by the great compassion. But do not fix your minds in narrow-minded attitudes, lest you be unable to receive its gift.”

- Chapter 9, The Feast Brought by the Emanated Incarnation
The Noble Mahāyāna Sūtra “The Teaching of Vimalakīrti”

User avatar
Anders
Posts: 1134
Joined: Tue Apr 07, 2009 12:39 pm

Re: The doctrine of no-self - teaching device or metaphysical truth?

Post by Anders » Sat Feb 11, 2017 2:45 pm

To assert or deny it as metaphysical truth is a categorical error.

It is however an epistemological truth. Which, from the standpoint of Buddhism ends up as much the same thing, practically speaking.
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra

User avatar
Karma Dondrup Tashi
Posts: 1583
Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2009 7:13 pm

Re: The doctrine of no-self - teaching device or metaphysical truth?

Post by Karma Dondrup Tashi » Sat Feb 11, 2017 3:16 pm

Since the only truth is beyond concepts what else can "no-self" be except a method, i.e. a teaching device. Since nothing exists everything is method.

User avatar
Malcolm
Posts: 28244
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:19 am

Re: The doctrine of no-self - teaching device or metaphysical truth?

Post by Malcolm » Sat Feb 11, 2017 3:35 pm

fckw wrote:Is the doctrine of "no-self" and/or "emptiness" merely meant to be merely a teaching device (i.e.: if you meditate on this you will gain certain specific insights) or is it meant to be a metaphysical truth?
It has both epistemic and ontological ramifications. Its epistemic ramification is that belief in a self is a false belief since there is no entity which can be taken as a self. Its ontological ramification is that questions of being and nonbeing are strictly conventional.

That being said, Buddhadharma certainly has a metaphysics, such doctrines as karma, rebirth, and so on are metaphysical in nature. Abdhidharma deals with many metaphysical issues, such as the nature of time, the nature of causality, and so on. The literature of the Prajñāpāramita deals with the metaphysics of the bodhisattva path and so on.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

User avatar
Astus
Former staff member
Posts: 7012
Joined: Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:22 pm
Location: Budapest

Re: The doctrine of no-self - teaching device or metaphysical truth?

Post by Astus » Sat Feb 11, 2017 4:59 pm

The teaching of no-self is that of the explicit (nitartha) and ultimate truth (paramarthasatya). So, in terms of teachings, it could not really be clearer that it is a truth of the highest category. At the same time, the reason some might be reluctant to be too affirmative, is because even the correct view, when grasped at, is a hindrance.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

User avatar
Tsongkhapafan
Posts: 1208
Joined: Sat Jan 01, 2011 9:36 am

Re: The doctrine of no-self - teaching device or metaphysical truth?

Post by Tsongkhapafan » Sat Feb 11, 2017 6:26 pm

fckw wrote:Is the doctrine of "no-self" and/or "emptiness" merely meant to be merely a teaching device (i.e.: if you meditate on this you will gain certain specific insights) or is it meant to be a metaphysical truth? Even after years of practice I realized this is insufficiently clear to me, and looking at various books and sources does not make it more clear in my eyes.
It's the only truth.

smcj
Posts: 5817
Joined: Wed May 29, 2013 6:13 am

Re: The doctrine of no-self - teaching device or metaphysical truth?

Post by smcj » Sat Feb 11, 2017 8:25 pm

fckw wrote:Is the doctrine of "no-self" and/or "emptiness" merely meant to be merely a teaching device (i.e.: if you meditate on this you will gain certain specific insights) or is it meant to be a metaphysical truth? Even after years of practice I realized this is insufficiently clear to me, and looking at various books and sources does not make it more clear in my eyes.
Both

My shorthand for it is that it is intended to demonstrate to you that your personality is not your own stable and reliable essence/truth. Thus you can discount your own narrative in a healthy way.

Since this is in the Tibetan section it is appropriate to follow that and say your Buddha Nature, of which your personality is merely a temporary expression/configuration, is your true nature. Thus when you focus on a deity and say a mantra you are actually reconnecting with your own essence/truth, even though it seems contrived at the beginning.

Just my $.02
I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against Lama abuse.

fckw
Posts: 399
Joined: Mon Jan 06, 2014 11:10 am

Re: The doctrine of no-self - teaching device or metaphysical truth?

Post by fckw » Sun Feb 12, 2017 12:27 am

What status do (Vajrayana-) Buddhists give to the open, space-like quality of mind in relation to an epistemic or ontological position?

User avatar
Matt J
Posts: 732
Joined: Tue Aug 03, 2010 2:29 am

Re: The doctrine of no-self - teaching device or metaphysical truth?

Post by Matt J » Sun Feb 12, 2017 1:24 am

It's empty.
fckw wrote:What status do (Vajrayana-) Buddhists give to the open, space-like quality of mind in relation to an epistemic or ontological position?
"The essence of meditation practice is to let go of all your expectations about meditation. All the qualities of your natural mind -- peace, openness, relaxation, and clarity -- are present in your mind just as it is. You don't have to do anything different. You don't have to shift or change your awareness. All you have to do while observing your mind is to recognize the qualities it already has."
--- Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

User avatar
Malcolm
Posts: 28244
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:19 am

Re: The doctrine of no-self - teaching device or metaphysical truth?

Post by Malcolm » Sun Feb 12, 2017 3:05 am

fckw wrote:What status do (Vajrayana-) Buddhists give to the open, space-like quality of mind in relation to an epistemic or ontological position?
It is free from all those positions.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

User avatar
Johnny Dangerous
Global Moderator
Posts: 8148
Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2012 10:58 pm
Location: Olympia WA
Contact:

Re: The doctrine of no-self - teaching device or metaphysical truth?

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Sun Feb 12, 2017 3:24 am

What's a metaphysical truth?
"it must be coming from the mouthy mastermind of raunchy rapper, Johnny Dangerous”

-Jeff H.

User avatar
Mkoll
Posts: 1111
Joined: Mon May 26, 2014 5:53 am
Location: California

Re: The doctrine of no-self - teaching device or metaphysical truth?

Post by Mkoll » Sun Feb 12, 2017 4:47 am

Teaching device or metaphysical truth for whom?

;)
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

Rakz
Posts: 1381
Joined: Tue Jan 12, 2010 8:04 am

Re: The doctrine of no-self - teaching device or metaphysical truth?

Post by Rakz » Sun Feb 12, 2017 5:04 am

Malcolm wrote:
fckw wrote:Is the doctrine of "no-self" and/or "emptiness" merely meant to be merely a teaching device (i.e.: if you meditate on this you will gain certain specific insights) or is it meant to be a metaphysical truth?
It has both epistemic and ontological ramifications. Its epistemic ramification is that belief in a self is a false belief since there is no entity which can be taken as a self. Its ontological ramification is that questions of being and nonbeing are strictly conventional.

That being said, Buddhadharma certainly has a metaphysics, such doctrines as karma, rebirth, and so on are metaphysical in nature. Abdhidharma deals with many metaphysical issues, such as the nature of time, the nature of causality, and so on. The literature of the Prajñāpāramita deals with the metaphysics of the bodhisattva path and so on.
True words.

User avatar
Grigoris
Global Moderator
Posts: 17657
Joined: Fri May 14, 2010 9:27 pm
Location: Greece

Re: The doctrine of no-self - teaching device or metaphysical truth?

Post by Grigoris » Tue Feb 14, 2017 10:11 am

fckw wrote:Referring to this doctrine being "practical" unfortunately does not answer the question I raised. (Neither does telling me that reading books is basically useless as understanding rises from experience. Every Geshe has to read books - and memorize them -, so why shouldn't I. Beyond reading books I have roughly 17 years of meditation experience.)
You definitely need to understand emptiness/no-self intellectually AND to have an experiential realisation of it. These two approaches are related, not mutually exclusive.

So let's take them one by one:

1. Do you understand what non-self/empty/dependently arisen means?
2. You say that you have 17 years of meditational experience, you have not directly experienced "no-self" in these 17 years?

If you don't mind me asking: What is your main practice? (I am not asking you to tell me your yidam or anything like that, just the sort of practice you are engaging in).

Also: Do you have a main teacher?
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

fckw
Posts: 399
Joined: Mon Jan 06, 2014 11:10 am

Re: The doctrine of no-self - teaching device or metaphysical truth?

Post by fckw » Tue Feb 14, 2017 2:46 pm

Grigoris wrote:
fckw wrote:Referring to this doctrine being "practical" unfortunately does not answer the question I raised. (Neither does telling me that reading books is basically useless as understanding rises from experience. Every Geshe has to read books - and memorize them -, so why shouldn't I. Beyond reading books I have roughly 17 years of meditation experience.)
You definitely need to understand emptiness/no-self intellectually AND to have an experiential realisation of it. These two approaches are related, not mutually exclusive.
I share this opinion.
1. Do you understand what non-self/empty/dependently arisen means?
Assuming I'd give you an answer on this, would you be in a position to draw conclusions from it?
2. You say that you have 17 years of meditational experience, you have not directly experienced "no-self" in these 17 years?

If you don't mind me asking: What is your main practice? (I am not asking you to tell me your yidam or anything like that, just the sort of practice you are engaging in).
Sorry, but this is not something I plan to discuss in public.
Also: Do you have a main teacher?
Of course I have a main teacher. Unfortunately, he does not read this thread. So, I'm stuck with you guys. :cheers:

Post Reply

Return to “Tibetan Buddhism”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Dan74, Heruka85, Lobsang Chojor, PeterC, PSM, rai, topazdreamz and 68 guests