Universal Atman in Buddhism

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Kaccāni
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Re: Universal Atman in Buddhism

Post by Kaccāni » Thu Aug 27, 2015 4:38 pm

Matt J wrote: In Buddhism, the central principle is "emptiness" or sunyata.
In Madhyamaka.

Otherwise, the unifying principle would probably be "dependent origination". Even dependently arising things may acquire intrinsic features, that distinguish them from other things. Think of emergent properties that are more than the sum of the parts. Or souls that creep into bodies at birth. Nagarjuna's argument would now be that whatever experientially arises, it has no unique nature of its own. The need for that is sometimes difficult to imagine for minds that have been raised with particle models. In pre-atomic thinking, things were seen as opaque. Water became air when it evaporated. "How can a tree form" was not a question of water molecules, photons, carbon dioxide that floats in the air and kalium and other ions in the ground. Up to a certain level, a tree was basically opaque. Our modern standard model of "quarks" is not far from what Nagarjuna argues. Today he would probably say a tree arises from the conditions named above, but there's no spiritual entity housing it that magically makes it different from other things. It's "uninhabited", it can be experienced, end of story. And by the way, the same goes for human beings. So stop searching for souls, there are none. Shunyata.

It is an attempt to abolish mysticism, that was prevailing in pre-Buddhist times and produced Shamanic and Vedic ritual. Even in Ionia it can be found in the stories of Homeros. The era from 500 BCE to 0 BCE was one that tried to break away from animistic models, but could only do so in bursts. Apparently, at the time of Nagarjuna, the argument was still present. And today it still is. It is a consequence of the development of human thinking. Animistic thinking is the first ontologic explanation that is available when the human mind develops, and we all run through these stages as a child. Dependent on education, we develop more advanced explanations, until at some point, thinking is ripe enough to get beyond itself and drop back out of the illusion, while staying aware of that, which is the difference between liberation and the state of a child. A child does not pose certain questions, but is not aware of it, and is thus drawn back into confusion once these questions arise.

Consequently, by equalling identity and causal independence via "svabhava", identity comes from the illusion of causal independence. As there is no causal independence, and everything is causally dependent, there also is no identity. Thus nothing has a permanent "nature", where "soul" would be the concept of a permanent nature for human beings, and "spirits" the concepts of a permanent nature of things experienced. So his message is nature just happens, and everything is unspirited.

Not all schools of Buddhism will share that. If the goal is to get beyond the realm of desires, existential questions do not necessarily need to be dealt with. Only once the ontological and soteriological questions have been raised, they too need to be pacified.

Vedanta would now say: Yes, but everything expresses itself as consciousness, which appears to be the common denominator of it. As plant-consciousness cannot be argued, because the questions are arising in human-consciusness as subject, only the question of "what is human consciousness?" has to be dealt with. The Vedic answer would be "part of a bigger consciousness called Brahman that encompasses everything. The Universe as one living being where some parts of it are fallen to the illusion that they are really separate entities. So try to merge with that Brahman, or god nature. Advaita would then say "But they're not different anyway. There's nothing to merge, just rest in consciousness."

In the end, both land in the same state. However, in my opinion, Nagarjuna's philosophy does not have to deal with "internal phenomena", as was the basis of Samkhya, or the five skandhas, as they're only required when discussing internal, mental phenomena, which apparently was where Yogas started from.



Best wishes
Kc
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Re: Universal Atman in Buddhism

Post by krodha » Thu Aug 27, 2015 4:56 pm

Kaccāni wrote:
Matt J wrote: In Buddhism, the central principle is "emptiness" or sunyata.
In Madhyamaka.

Otherwise, the unifying principle would probably be "dependent origination".
Emptiness and dependent origination are synonymous.

Also, you would be incorrect to state that emptiness as a central principle is relegated to Madhyamaka, as there is no Buddhist view that does not center itself around emptiness.

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Re: Universal Atman in Buddhism

Post by Matt J » Thu Aug 27, 2015 4:57 pm

I don't see a difference between emptiness and dependent origination. Perhaps it's time to start a new thread.
Kaccāni wrote: Otherwise, the unifying principle would probably be "dependent origination".
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If only there is no picking or choosing
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Re: Universal Atman in Buddhism

Post by krodha » Thu Aug 27, 2015 5:05 pm

Often times when people claim to be discussing dependent origination [pratityasamutpada] they are actually referring to dependent existence [parabhava].

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Re: Universal Atman in Buddhism

Post by Karma Dondrup Tashi » Thu Aug 27, 2015 5:08 pm

asunthatneversets wrote:Emptiness and dependent origination are synonymous.
Not necessarily. According to the union of the two truths we say the appearances of DO are in reality beyond conceptual elaboration. Is that the same as saying that both self and phenomena are already absent of any reality?
asunthatneversets wrote:Often times when people claim to be discussing dependent origination [pratityasamutpada] they are actually referring to dependent existence [parabhava].
? Parabhava is "defeat".

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Re: Universal Atman in Buddhism

Post by krodha » Thu Aug 27, 2015 5:13 pm

Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:
asunthatneversets wrote:Emptiness and dependent origination are synonymous.
Not necessarily. According to the union of the two truths we say the appearances of DO are in reality beyond conceptual elaboration. Is that the same as saying that both self and phenomena are already absent of any reality?
I don't follow.

Emptiness and dependent origination are synonymous because that which originates dependenly does not originate at all.

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Re: Universal Atman in Buddhism

Post by krodha » Thu Aug 27, 2015 5:14 pm

Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:? Parabhava is "defeat".
Parabhāva is dependent existence, it is a guise for inherent existence [svabhāva].

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Re: Universal Atman in Buddhism

Post by Karma Dondrup Tashi » Thu Aug 27, 2015 5:21 pm

asunthatneversets wrote:that which originates dependenly does not originate at all.
That can't be right, since being nonexistent is a conceptual elaboration pertaining to the appearances of DO. It therefore is not the union of the two truths. Whereas twofold egolessness states that self and phenomena are already absent of any possible reality, including the possible reality of nonexistence.
asunthatneversets wrote:Parabhāva is dependent existence, it is a guise for inherent existence [svabhāva].
Oh, ok.

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Re: Universal Atman in Buddhism

Post by krodha » Thu Aug 27, 2015 5:35 pm

Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:
asunthatneversets wrote:that which originates dependenly does not originate at all.
That can't be right, since being nonexistent is a conceptual elaboration pertaining to the appearances of DO.
Non-arising [anutpada] is not non-existence. Something must first exist, and then cease to exist in order to be non-existent (unless were talking about horns on a hare or hair on a tortoise, etc). Since dependently originated entities never truly originate to begin with, they are free from the four extremes (although by default this arguably means they are indeed "non-existent" appearances i.e., illusions).

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Re: Universal Atman in Buddhism

Post by Malcolm » Thu Aug 27, 2015 7:20 pm

Kaccāni wrote:
Vedanta would now say: Yes, but everything expresses itself as consciousness, which appears to be the common denominator of it. As plant-consciousness cannot be argued, because the questions are arising in human-consciusness as subject, only the question of "what is human consciousness?" has to be dealt with. The Vedic answer would be "part of a bigger consciousness called Brahman that encompasses everything. The Universe as one living being where some parts of it are fallen to the illusion that they are really separate entities.
This is incoherent. How can such universal consciousness have parts?
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Re: Universal Atman in Buddhism

Post by Karma Dondrup Tashi » Thu Aug 27, 2015 8:13 pm

asunthatneversets wrote:truly
If we say any "x is/isn't truly y", e.g. "arising is/isn't truly nonarising" or "emptiness is/isn't beyond elaboration" we still haven't unified the two truths.

We're still pulling back the curtain. Same as "maya is/isn't truly atman".

Because, the two truths themselves, both arising and non-arising, are DOs - by definition.

It's directly related to the theism idea. It doesn't matter whether the x and y is arising/non-arising or maya/atman.

Saying "arising is/isn't truly nonarising" is like putting up a target to hit. Or like taking out a piece of paper and drawing a "no" on it.

Exactly the same target as "maya is/isn't truly atman".

Whereas: the egolessnesses aren't really two but two "fold", i.e. there's no dependence at all. No arising or non-arising. Not possible.

No curtain to pull back. No target to put up. No paper. No "truly". No "beyond".

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Re: Universal Atman in Buddhism

Post by Kaccāni » Thu Aug 27, 2015 8:59 pm

Malcolm wrote:This is incoherent. How can such universal consciousness have parts?
Yes, that's the main criticism at the doctrine and as I understand Advaita says they're one, the twofoldness is an illusion (the Advaita-version of "maya").

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Re: Universal Atman in Buddhism

Post by Malcolm » Thu Aug 27, 2015 9:07 pm

Kaccāni wrote:
Malcolm wrote:This is incoherent. How can such universal consciousness have parts?
Yes, that's the main criticism at the doctrine and as I understand Advaita says they're one, the twofoldness is an illusion (the Advaita-version of "maya").
For whom is this an illusion? Certainly cannot be an illusion for this universal consciousness, because then consciousness would possess delusion and thus liberation would be impossible. If this universal consciousness cannot be deluded, māya is impossible and also liberation is impossible.
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Re: Universal Atman in Buddhism

Post by Kaccāni » Thu Aug 27, 2015 9:17 pm

Malcolm wrote: For whom is this an illusion? Certainly cannot be an illusion for this universal consciousness, because then consciousness would possess delusion and thus liberation would be impossible. If this universal consciousness cannot be deluded, māya is impossible and also liberation is impossible.
But don't you then end up at the same point as Madhyamaka, when emptiness is empty, and there is nothing to be liberated?

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Re: Universal Atman in Buddhism

Post by Malcolm » Thu Aug 27, 2015 9:29 pm

Kaccāni wrote:
Malcolm wrote: For whom is this an illusion? Certainly cannot be an illusion for this universal consciousness, because then consciousness would possess delusion and thus liberation would be impossible. If this universal consciousness cannot be deluded, māya is impossible and also liberation is impossible.
But don't you then end up at the same point as Madhyamaka, when emptiness is empty, and there is nothing to be liberated?

Best wishes
Kc

No, because there is no two truths theory in Advaita. Madhyamaka is based on the two truths.
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Re: Universal Atman in Buddhism

Post by Kaccāni » Thu Aug 27, 2015 11:19 pm

Hasn't the Brahman / Jiva effectively been handled like an absolute and relative truth, or what do you consider the difference?

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Re: Universal Atman in Buddhism

Post by Malcolm » Thu Aug 27, 2015 11:50 pm

Kaccāni wrote:Hasn't the Brahman / Jiva effectively been handled like an absolute and relative truth, or what do you consider the difference?

Best wishes
Kc

In Madhyamaka, ultimate truth is nothing more nor less than the absence of inherent existence of relative entities due to their dependent origination.
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Re: Universal Atman in Buddhism

Post by krodha » Fri Aug 28, 2015 12:04 am

Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:
asunthatneversets wrote:truly
If we say any "x is/isn't truly y", e.g. "arising is/isn't truly nonarising" or "emptiness is/isn't beyond elaboration" we still haven't unified the two truths.

On the contrary, we have unified the two truths, since non-arising is freedom from the four extremes. This does not mean appearances cease, we are not advocating for an inert void... appearances manifest, but are devoid of self-nature, illusory, this is the union of the two-truths.
Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:We're still pulling back the curtain. Same as "maya is/isn't truly atman".

I don't see how this is relevant.
Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:Because, the two truths themselves, both arising and non-arising, are DOs - by definition.
No, "arising" is a misconception of ignorance, and as a result of that initial misconception the duality of existence and non-existence ensues, because the conditioned entities that are mistaken as having "arisen" must now exist and are then susceptible to a cessation of existence, whereby they would naturally "not-exist."

When that ignorance is uprooted, the perception that phenomena have arisen is overturned, and thus it is realized that appearances have been free from the extremes of existence and non-existence from the very beginning.

Dependent origination is simply the fact that no conditioned entity can be found to exist independently of causes and conditions. Because for something to truly exist, it must do so independently of cause and condition. Since an independent and inherent existence of this nature is impossible, we state that conditioned entities are dependently originated, and therefore they ultimately do not originate at all (hence they are empty).
Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:It's directly related to the theism idea. It doesn't matter whether the x and y is arising/non-arising or maya/atman.
I don't follow.
Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:Saying "arising is/isn't truly nonarising" is like putting up a target to hit. Or like taking out a piece of paper and drawing a "no" on it.
No, it actually isn't. Stating that dependently arisen entities do not ultimately arise is the very definition of dependent origination. This sentiment is found throughout various expositions...

Mañjuśrī states:

  • Whatever is dependently originated does not truly arise.

Candrakīrti affirms this sentiment:

  • The perfectly enlightened buddhas-proclaimed, "What is dependently created is uncreated."

And Nāgārjuna follows suit:

  • What originates dependently is unoriginated!
Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:Exactly the same target as "maya is/isn't truly atman".

Whereas: the egolessnesses aren't really two but two "fold", i.e. there's no dependence at all. No arising or non-arising. Not possible.

No curtain to pull back. No target to put up. No paper. No "truly". No "beyond".
I'm sorry but I can't make sense of what you are trying to say.

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Re: Universal Atman in Buddhism

Post by muni » Fri Aug 28, 2015 10:20 am

I like to come back here. Allow me please to understand what is been said conventionally: Our nondual nature is not the nondual nature of others.
Who sees this? Nondual nature?
There must be one who sees this, who observes the differences and that one is the one who can realize that nondual nature/Buddha nature.
That means that, that one is existing somehow out of nature and there are also others as well. Together we are out there. And so we can compare our conventionalities.
The good news is that we can realize to be not out there and to be nondual nature while there are others who remain out there. :spy: Thank you.
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Re: Universal Atman in Buddhism

Post by Kaccāni » Fri Aug 28, 2015 1:24 pm

asunthatneversets wrote: Mañjuśrī states:

  • Whatever is dependently originated does not truly arise.

Candrakīrti affirms this sentiment:

  • The perfectly enlightened buddhas-proclaimed, "What is dependently created is uncreated."

And Nāgārjuna follows suit:

  • What originates dependently is unoriginated!
Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:Exactly the same target as "maya is/isn't truly atman".
That more or less refutes the "inherent" existence of a soul in things or a creator god (what arises dependently is uncreated). A refutation of essentialism. For Nagarjuna one would need the original phrases, as he was apparently constantly playing with the ambiguity of svabhava as identity and causal independence and a translation may not catch that.

For the modern mind, it is fairly easy to refute the notion of a spirited nature, as we have been raised that way (unless some quest for spirituality re-introduces the illusion). It is particularly funny if "spiritualistic" tendencies draw people towards Buddhism, the bastion of non-spirit. Our thinking has advanced, and mainly children believe in those spirits, and for them we preserve the old stories (which gives a good glimpse of what widespread thinking in animistic ages was). That is also why you need developed thinking to get beyond thinking. A child cannot do it unless meta-thinking has been established. Likewise, many people could not 2500 years ago. Apparently not in a world of early Vedanta, that tries to pacify the world around it with rituals and sacrifices. If there are no spirits in nature, no reason to have anxiety because of them. Motto: Sleep in the woods, where you think those spirits are at night, and see that you will not find any.

Even if that concept has been accepted, there's a second wave to be pacified when pondering on the nature of thoughts (and solving the question: If this world is not spirited, what about me? At least humans ...). That's where essentialists and materialists or constructivists clash (essentialism basically clashes with both). Advaita-Vedanta apparently takes the road to reduce "things" to experience (consciousness) and merge any conscious experience into the conscious experience of Brahman. Bhakti Yoga pretty much does the thing. Shankara travelled away from "thought suppression" to "identifying as the supreme consciousness", in a similar way that dzogchen propagates the mirror (or Tenzin Wangyal speaks of giving in to that inner space like a child that returns to a mother), but with different ontological explanations. Advaita, Yogacara, and Dzogchen could be said to take on idealist stances, Madhyamaka does not, and apparently solves that with the two truths doctrine (there is what experientially is, and there also is what conventionally appears to be, but both are non-essentialist (i.e. empty, uninhabited)). For Yogacara however, similar to advaita, "emptiness" refers to the non-dualism of perceiving subject and perceived object, which still can be attributed differently (Brahman or causally arising). Advaita asserts an absolute reality, Madhyamaka says even that consciousness arises causally. Yogacara needs a "mindstream" (continuity of moment-to-moment consciousness) to escape the blame that Advaita takes to accept an absolute soul. Apparently Advaita does not want to give up absolute reality or it would oppose all Hinduism.

Buddhists, whether nominalists or idealists, will have to solve that problem.
As subjective Idealists, Yogacaras thus see three fundamental realizations that have to be taken: that reducing the concepts from that which is directly experienced (absence of inherent characteristic), the dependent origination of that nature which is free from spirits (absence of inherent arising), and the end of any conceptualization (or ontological consideration) at all (absence of inherent ultimacy). The last point considerably appears to be aimed at a distinguishing Yogacara from Vedanta.
With the two truths doctrine, Madhyamaka takes somewhat "the easy way out", leading the concept of existence itself ad absurdum and degrades any ontological consideration into the realm of concepts. Thus existence does only conventionally exist, the same goes for the concept of emptiness (emptiness cannot be found as a non-feature cannot be found), end of story. This is somewhat avoiding both the essentialism question (believe it and there is clinging, believe it not, there is not) and the nihilist/karma question (as long as you perceive substantiality, you'll have to worry about good or bad deeds). A new "middle way", instead of the original between giving in to sense pleasures and abstinence.

So there is no "universal atman" in Mahayana, as both Madhyamaka and Yogacara have taken care to define themselves in opposition to an assertion of an absolute reality, i.e. in opposition to that aspect of Vedanta and early Advaita.

For practical purposes, once a position "as consciousness" has been taken, or the mirror-like nature has been realized, or the space between thoughts has been entered, it is probably irrelevant. There are no concepts left in that state, also no ontological considerations, or in Yogacara or Dzogchen, if they arise, they are not identified with, and thus cannot bring up questions of existence. Not even for the Arhat.

Best wishes
Kc
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