Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

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Astus
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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by Astus » Thu Apr 04, 2019 8:53 pm

conebeckham wrote:
Thu Apr 04, 2019 7:44 pm
Vajrayana Buddhism relies on the oral transmission of explanations of the tantras, themselves.
...
The text do not stand alone. At all.
I am not contradicting that at all. I called the tantras the primary definitive source because they are used as the basic reference by the teachers.
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"

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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by tobes » Fri Apr 05, 2019 12:04 am

Astus wrote:
Thu Apr 04, 2019 10:48 am
tobes wrote:
Wed Apr 03, 2019 11:22 pm
hinges much more on how language is understood than it does metaphysics
There are crucial ontological differences between Vedanta and any Buddhist (including Shentong) views. Vedanta holds consciousness an absolute, and rejects everything else. Mahamudra takes consciousness to be empty, and at the same time inclusive of all appearances. This shows well in how the two systems approaches meditation, where in Vedanta one removes impermanent phenomena and stays in the pure consciousness, while in Mahamudra one removes only attachment but does not reject appearances.
Vedanta means most precisely: "accepting the (epistemic) authority of the Vedas"
No. It means end (anta) of "lore" (veda), and refers to the Upanisads, as Vedantins mainly base their teachings on those texts.
The acceptance of the Vedas is predicated on realist notions of language, which the Indian grammarians
Vedanta teaches only one ultimate, everything else (including language) is a product of ignorance and is unreal.
ultimate truth is non-conceptual and non-linguistic. Finger at the moon et al.
That is not a uniquely Buddhist concept. Vedanta also aims to go beyond all mental products, but in a somewhat different manner than Buddhists, and that's where one should pay attention to.
Thanks for the considered response Astus.

Sure, on the question of consciousness I totally agree, although I think your account there verges a bit closer to Samkhya where there is a manifest ontological distinction between a pure consciousness and other aspects of mind, including material aspects (prakriti).

Where do you think that leaves the question of Brahman though? (Given that as you point out, nothing can really be predicated of it). This seems to be the point of uncertainty on the thread.

As for the meaning of Vedanta, sure that is the actual literal meaning. But the definition I gave is widely accepted as a central feature of what it means in relation to other Indian philosophical-Dharmic streams.

On language: I think your account sounds a lot more like Madhyamaka. How could one accept the authority of the Vedas (including the last ones/Unpanishads) whilst rejecting language as unreal? Given that, the Vedas are basically rituals to order the cosmos framed around sound?

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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by Astus » Fri Apr 05, 2019 9:27 am

tobes wrote:
Fri Apr 05, 2019 12:04 am
Where do you think that leaves the question of Brahman though?
The central point of Vedanta is the oneness of Atman and Brahman, as those are only seemingly separate but actually they are the singular pure consciousness (see e.g.: Vedantasara 1.27). The qualities that apparently distinguish the person (jiva) from the lord (isvara) come from ignorance (Vedantasara 2.35), and they are unreal, just like the rest of creation.
But the definition I gave is widely accepted as a central feature of what it means in relation to other Indian philosophical-Dharmic streams.
Vedanta takes knowledge as the only path to liberation, and rejects rituals as effective for that purpose.
How could one accept the authority of the Vedas (including the last ones/Unpanishads) whilst rejecting language as unreal? Given that, the Vedas are basically rituals to order the cosmos framed around sound?
Everything is unreal except pure consciousness, that's what advaita means, but it's not the same as denying the Vedas' authority.
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"

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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by Matt J » Fri Apr 05, 2019 11:55 am

I think what is often overlooked in these discussions is the difference in meditation techniques and how this is applied. I think this is often overlooked because people approach this from a theoretical perspective, and seldom receive meditation instructions in both traditions.

Basically, Buddhist techniques in the schools I am familiar with stress non-identification and emptiness. Advaita techniques stress proper identification and being. These are opposing.

For example, take anger. A Buddhist meditating with anger might look at the three characteristics (impermanence, selflessness, non-satisfaction), or they might look closely and see that he/she cannot pin down anger. A Vedantic on the other hand may strip the differences between anger and other states of mind, and concentrate on the "being" aspect. In this way, they would be directly opposed--- sort of like walking East vs. West. The problem is that if you mix them up, then you will be training your mind in two separate directions at the same time. In my experience, the practice is quite different and it seems apparent to me that you inevitably have to choose one or the other.

Of course, some Vedantins say that no meditation is necessary--- it is a matter of pure knowledge (i.e. the Chinmayananda/Dayanandanda/James Swartz line). I read an interview with Swami Chinmayanada in the now defunct What is Enlightenment magazine and he said Vedanta had a 97% enlightenment rate. Their method was to go to school for 2-3 years. Others stress meditation quite a bit in order to gain and stabilize experiential knowledge (i.e. see Swami Sarvapriyananda, Atamananda, etc.).

This is different from speculating on whether the ultimate fruit of each is the same. I don't know how one would draw such a comparison. I don't think the fruit of the study line is the same. James Swartz said on a podcast once that life is so meaningless that he just sits around watching TV all day when he isn't teaching. This is not something one would typically find from a Buddhist teacher (or the meditative Vedanta tradition I would wager). But for the experiential meditators, I don't know how one would go about comparing.

tobes wrote:
Thu Apr 04, 2019 12:49 am

Sure, as a good Buddhist I believe that.

But it sure sounds a lot like an axiomatic dogma. In the sense that: can you really assert that upon all the Hindu sages through the ages? How can you really tell if they were/are liberated or not?

If you are liberated, sure, you probably can. But if not, I think it is merely clinging to a belief - ironically a barrier to liberation.
"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

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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by Rick » Fri Apr 05, 2019 2:40 pm

Matt J wrote:
Fri Apr 05, 2019 11:55 am
... whether the ultimate fruit of each is the same.
My understanding is that the ultimate fruit of each is realization of nonduality. If this is true, how could there be any difference between the two? There ARE no two!
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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by Grigoris » Fri Apr 05, 2019 2:58 pm

Rick wrote:
Fri Apr 05, 2019 2:40 pm
Matt J wrote:
Fri Apr 05, 2019 11:55 am
... whether the ultimate fruit of each is the same.
My understanding is that the ultimate fruit of each is realization of nonduality. If this is true, how could there be any difference between the two? There ARE no two!
Ummmm... I think you will find that realising non-duality is not the ultimate fruit of Buddhism. It is a lot more than just that.
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
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"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."
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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by Astus » Fri Apr 05, 2019 3:13 pm

Rick wrote:
Fri Apr 05, 2019 2:40 pm
My understanding is that the ultimate fruit of each is realization of nonduality. If this is true, how could there be any difference between the two? There ARE no two!
Nonduality does not have the same meaning in Buddhism and Vedanta. In Buddhism it refers to the lack of extremes, while in Vedanta it is affirming one and negating everything else.
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"

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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by Rick » Fri Apr 05, 2019 3:17 pm

Grigoris wrote:
Fri Apr 05, 2019 2:58 pm
Ummmm... I think you will find that realising non-duality is not the ultimate fruit of Buddhism. It is a lot more than just that.
Fruit salad? Some mango, some pear, a few strawberries, maybe a walnut or two ...
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily ...

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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by Rick » Fri Apr 05, 2019 3:22 pm

Astus wrote:
Fri Apr 05, 2019 3:13 pm
Nonduality does not have the same meaning in Buddhism and Vedanta.
But both distill down to: There is no essential difference between <apparent> X and <apparent> Y. No?
Astus wrote:
Fri Apr 05, 2019 3:13 pm
In Buddhism it refers to the lack of extremes, while in Vedanta it is affirming one and negating everything else.
That which is affirmed in Advaita Vedanta (brahman) is not an object, not a subject, can neither be said to exist nor not to exist (Shankara).
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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by Astus » Fri Apr 05, 2019 3:38 pm

Rick wrote:
Fri Apr 05, 2019 3:22 pm
But both distill down to: There is no essential difference between <apparent> X and <apparent> Y. No?
Please elaborate. What are X and Y?
That which is affirmed in Advaita Vedanta (brahman) is not an object, not a subject, can neither be said to exist nor not to exist (Shankara).
Atman/Brahman is the sole existent according to Advaita.

"The Real is: Existence-Consciousness-Bliss,Brahman, one without a second"
(Vedantasara 2.33)

"whose own nature is Being, Consciousness, Bliss -- this is the Self."
(Tattvabodha)

"Brahman is Existence-Knowledge-Absolute, extremely pure, Supreme, Self-existing, Eternal, Indivisible-Bliss, not essentially different from the inmost Self , and absolutely without parts. It is ever victorious. This Absolute Oneness alone is Real since there is nothing other than the Self. Truly, there is no other independent entity in the state of full realization of the supreme Truth."
(Vivekacudamani 225-226)
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"

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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by haha » Fri Apr 05, 2019 4:00 pm

Buddhists have various skillful-means. There is no need to negate the anger; negation may be useful for some. Boddhisattva has different way to do it (i.e. accumulation of merits is one-way, and there are other ways.) For vajrayana, it can be transformed as well as self-liberated.
Last edited by haha on Fri Apr 05, 2019 4:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by Rick » Fri Apr 05, 2019 4:08 pm

Astus wrote:
Fri Apr 05, 2019 3:38 pm
Atman/Brahman is the sole existent according to Advaita.
From Shankara's commentary on Gita:

“Only an entity which is an object of sense-knowledge can become an object of affirmative predication of the form ‘it is’ or an object of negative predication of the form ‘it is not.’ Reason also proves that Brahman cannot be expressed by words denoting existence (sat) or non-existence (asat).”

You might say Shankara is talking about a limitation of language/semantics, that which cannot be expressed in words/thoughts. But if something cannot be said/thought to exist or not to exist, how can one then assert that it exists?

What I'm trying to get at is that the term brahman is often tossed around <even by some teachers!> *as if* it were an object, something capable of being described ... albeit subtly and indirectly. But that's just not true. It's the ultimate mystery, the unknown, sans attributes, beyond (direct) experience, no words/thoughts apply. (And even that is just another description of the ineffable.)
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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by smcj » Fri Apr 05, 2019 4:17 pm

Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness. Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche.
p.66:
...Shentong does not accept the Cittamatra view that consciousness is truly existent. They hold the Madhyamaka views that it is non-arising and without self nature.

edit for brevity

This non-conceptual Wisdom Mind is not the object of the conceptualizing process and so is not negated Madhyamaka reasoning. Therefore, it can be said to be the only thing that has absolute and true existence.
ibid, p.72:
As has been mentioned already above, Shentong does not accept that the Wisdom Mind Knows in a dualistic way. It does not divide into a knowing and a known aspect, so there is no subtle object of the Wisdom Mind. It is not a stream of moments of awareness. It is completely unbounded and free from all concepts including time and space. Therefore it is primordially existent like its qualities.
3 Natures in Shentong:
ibid, p74-75:
The imaginary nature is empty in the sense that it does not exist at all. It is the emptiness of something non-existent.

edit for brevity

The dependent nature is empty in the sense of something existent, but not ultimately existent. In the relative it exists and functions, having its own characteristic. It is empty of the imaginary nature but not empty of itself.[sic] This is like the Cittamatra view. The Shentong interprets this to mean that in absolute terms the dependent nature does not exist at all. It is empty of self-nature because it is dependently arising. However, the appearance of the dependent nature is only possible because in essence all appearance is the Mind's Clear Light Nature and this does exist ultimately.

The perfectly existent nature is the ultimate absolute emptiness. It is the non-conceptual Wisdom Mind, non-arising, non-abiding, and non-perishing. It is primordially existent and endowed with qualities. it is empty in the sense that it is free from all the obscurations created by the conceptual mind. Therefore when the conceptual mind tries to grasp it, it finds nothing and so it experiences it as emptiness. Thus, it is empty to the conceptual mind, but from its own point of view it is the Clear Light Nature of Mind together with all its qualities.
ibid, p.72:
The relative mind faces out towards its object and has a perceiving and perceived aspect. It constitutes the stain that is to be given up. Its essence or true nature is the Clear Light Mind. Thus the relative mind is the thing that is empty of something (Tom. stong gzhi). It is empty of self-nature. Its real nature is the absolute Clear Light Nature.
1.The problem isn’t ‘ignorance’. The problem is the mind you have right now. (H.H. Karmapa XVII @NYC 2/4/18)
2. I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against Lama abuse.
3. Student: Lama, I thought I might die but then I realized that the 3 Jewels would protect me.
Lama: Even If you had died the 3 Jewels would still have protected you. (DW post by Fortyeightvows)

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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by smcj » Fri Apr 05, 2019 4:33 pm

The above is from KTGR and is modern Karma Kagyu doctrine. It isn't necessarily equivalent to what Dolpopa wrote.
*****
However it should be noted that Dolpopa wasn't a Hindu trying to contaminate Buddha Dharma with a tirthika philosophy. He was a Sakya scholar that was trying to give a voice to some Kalachakra practitioners he met in eastern Tibet. They weren't Hindu either.

I'm sure Dolpopa understood he was crossing the Rubicon with his thesis, and why it was going to be accused of being tirthika heresy. But he wasn't using the language of Advaita Vedanta and trying to be a perrenialist. He wasn't a hippie. He was articulating the experience of enlightenment that was coming from Kalachakra practitioners and putting it into terms that could be digested by other Buddhists. The way to do that was to go back and reinterpret classical teachings that everybody accepted in a new way.
1.The problem isn’t ‘ignorance’. The problem is the mind you have right now. (H.H. Karmapa XVII @NYC 2/4/18)
2. I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against Lama abuse.
3. Student: Lama, I thought I might die but then I realized that the 3 Jewels would protect me.
Lama: Even If you had died the 3 Jewels would still have protected you. (DW post by Fortyeightvows)

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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by Astus » Fri Apr 05, 2019 4:59 pm

Rick wrote:
Fri Apr 05, 2019 4:08 pm
It's the ultimate mystery, the unknown, sans attributes, beyond (direct) experience, no words/thoughts apply. (And even that is just another description of the ineffable.)
Then that is another difference between Buddhism and Vedanta, because what can neither be experienced nor inferred is truly unknowable and as such it is like being in love with a woman one has never known (as in the Potthapada Sutta), a meaningless idea.
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"

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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by stevie » Fri Apr 05, 2019 5:38 pm

Astus wrote:
Fri Apr 05, 2019 4:59 pm
Then that is another difference between Buddhism and Vedanta, because what can neither be experienced nor inferred is truly unknowable and as such it is like being in love with a woman one has never known (as in the Potthapada Sutta), a meaningless idea.
I wouldn't call an idea meaningless that seems to provide meaning for an individual not ready to let go of it. In the sphere of buddhism we have the same phenomenon that some cling to certain ideas which others have already let go of.

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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by Rick » Fri Apr 05, 2019 5:44 pm

Astus wrote:
Fri Apr 05, 2019 4:59 pm
Rick wrote:
Fri Apr 05, 2019 4:08 pm
It's the ultimate mystery, the unknown, sans attributes, beyond (direct) experience, no words/thoughts apply. (And even that is just another description of the ineffable.)
Then that is another difference between Buddhism and Vedanta, because what can neither be experienced nor inferred is truly unknowable and as such it is like being in love with a woman one has never known (as in the Potthapada Sutta), a meaningless idea.
Advaita is an astika philosophy = it derives its premises from the Vedas, which are considered to be definitive. I don't know how the ancient Rishis who are said to have 'created' the Vedas arrived at their knowledge of atman and brahman. (Presumably they used some 'faculty' other than experience or reason to do so.) But they did, and their word is taken as literal truth in Vedanta.

Yes, this is a nontrivial difference between Vedanta and Buddhism: Vedanta is astika, Buddhism is nastika.
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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by stevie » Fri Apr 05, 2019 5:58 pm

Rick wrote:
Fri Apr 05, 2019 5:44 pm
.... But they did, and their word is taken as literal truth in Vedanta.
That's strange and totally alien to my native culture. That's why buddhism appears more familiar in the sphere of my experience..

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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by smcj » Fri Apr 05, 2019 6:45 pm

what can neither be experienced nor inferred is truly unknowable
The premise in Buddhism is that the Ultimate can be experienced. Therefore it’s not a mystery—except to those that haven’t had the experience.
1.The problem isn’t ‘ignorance’. The problem is the mind you have right now. (H.H. Karmapa XVII @NYC 2/4/18)
2. I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against Lama abuse.
3. Student: Lama, I thought I might die but then I realized that the 3 Jewels would protect me.
Lama: Even If you had died the 3 Jewels would still have protected you. (DW post by Fortyeightvows)

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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by Grigoris » Fri Apr 05, 2019 6:48 pm

Rick wrote:
Fri Apr 05, 2019 3:22 pm
But both distill down to: There is no essential difference between <apparent> X and <apparent> Y. No?
If there is a dstillation of Buddhism into one sentence, it is the statement made by the Arhat Assaji to Sariputta when he asked about what the Buddha is teaching:

ye dharmā hetu-prabhavā
hetuṃ teṣāṃ tathāgato hy avadat,
teṣāṃ ca yo nirodha
evaṃ vādī mahāśramaṇa

All dharmas originate from causes.
The Tathagata has taught these causes,
And also that which puts a stop to these causes—
This too has been taught by the Great Shramana
"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

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