Unique teachings in Buddhism

Discussion in 'Buddhism' started by OAT, Feb 24, 2010.

  1. OAT

    OAT Where is the TAO?

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    I may be wrong, but I think that Buddhism talks of cognitive nonduality and not ontological nonduality.
     
  2. OAT

    OAT Where is the TAO?

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    I'd rather not change how the Buddha himself called his teachings. How someone wishes to apply it is up to them.

    As I replied to Zenda71, nonduality in Buddhism I think refers to cognitive nonduality and not ontological nonduality.
     
  3. OAT

    OAT Where is the TAO?

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    I just remembered that there are some so-called Cittamatrin sutras that talked about a self as opposed to no-self. Will see if I can dig out some quotes from the sutras. Of course, the Madhyamakas will treat these teachings as provisional.
     
  4. OAT

    OAT Where is the TAO?

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    If the term shunyata is used to argue that because of shunyata, all phenomena are illusory, then the teaching may not be that unique.
     
  5. OAT

    OAT Where is the TAO?

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    From Parinirvana - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    According to the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Mahā-sūtra (also called the Nirvana Sutra), the Buddha taught that parinirvana is the realm of the Eternal, Bliss, the Self, and the Pure. Dr Paul Williams states that it refers to the Buddha using the term "Self" in order to win over non-Buddhist ascetics. ...
    Guang Xing speaks of how the Mahayanists of the Nirvana Sutra understand the mahaparinirvana to be the liberated Self of the eternal Buddha: ‘One of the main themes of the MMPS [Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra] is that the Buddha is eternal … The Mahayanists assert the eternity of the Buddha in two ways in the MMPS. They state that the Buddha is the dharmakaya, and hence eternal. Next, they reinterpret the liberation of the Buddha as mahaparinirvana possessing four attributes: eternity, happiness, self and purity.’ Only in Mahaparinirvana is this True Self held to be fully discernible and accessible.
    Many Mahayana Buddhists do not take statements of this kind literally.
    Kosho Yamamoto cites a passage in which the Buddha admonishes his monks ('bhiksus') not to dwell inordinately on the idea of the non-Self but to meditate on the Self. Dr. Yamamoto writes:
    ‘Having dwelt upon the nature of nirvana, the Buddha now explains its positive aspect and says that nirvana has the four attributes of the Eternal, Bliss, the Self, and the Pure … the Buddha says: “O you bhiksus [monks]! Do not abide in the thought of the non-eternal, sorrow, non-Self, and the not-pure and have things as in the case of those people who take the stones, wooden pieces and gravel for the true gem [of the true Dharma] … In every situation, constantly meditate upon the idea of the Self, the idea of the Eternal, Bliss, and the Pure ... Those who, desirous of attaining Reality meditatatively cultivate these ideas, namely, the ideas of the Self [atman], the Eternal, Bliss, and the Pure, will skilfully bring forth the jewel, just like the wise person.”
    Michael Zimmermann, in his study of the Tathagatagarbha Sutra, reveals that not only the Mahaparinirvana Sutra but also the Tathagatagarbha Sutra and the Lankavatara Sutra speak affirmatively of the Self. Zimmermann observes:
    the existence of an eternal, imperishable self, that is, buddhahood, is definitely the basic point of the TGS [Tathagatagarbha Sutra] … the Mahaparinirvanasutra and the Lankavatarasutra characterize the tathagatagarbha explicitly as atman [Self].’
    While in early Buddhist thought nirvana is characterized by permanence, bliss, and purity, it is viewed as being the stopping of the breeding-ground for the "I am" attitude, and is beyond all possibility of the Self delusion.
     
  6. Snoopy

    Snoopy Active Member

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    I think the linguistic journey from Māgadhī to English does leave more than a little wiggle room.




    Of course. No-one else can take a sh1t for us.



    Are you sure you don’t know the answer to your own question?!

    s.
     
  7. Zenda71

    Zenda71 New Member

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    Hi Oat.

    What do "cognitive nonduality" and "ontological nonduality" mean?

    Shunyata is a huge subject for sure. The shunyata I am thinking of is the view that true nature of things is free from the four extremes -- existence, nonexistence, both, and neither. To say that all things are interdependent and lack inherent existence seems unique to the Buddhist path, but then again, these are not copyrighted and codified by Buddhists. Anyone can discover these things... no affiliation required. :)

    As for saying all things are illusory, then yes, that is said, but things appear and function as well according to relative truth. So, it's not an either/or proposition. Things are empty of inherent existence but that doesn't mean they don't exist in a relative sense.
     
  8. OAT

    OAT Where is the TAO?

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    My reason for leaving it as it is is because the meaning was not already obvious in the process of translation. No point adding more chances for confusion.


    I don't really know. I have an idea but I am very uncertain about whether my idea is correct or not, and I don't think I'll ever know as long as I am unenlightened.
     
  9. OAT

    OAT Where is the TAO?

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    Ontological nonduality means that non-duality is the ultimate nature of all existents. Cognitive nonduality a non-duality that is sensed/perceived/experienced. As I understand it, the ultimate nature as taught in Buddhism is as you say, beyond the four extremes. To me this meant that you can't say anything about the ultimate nature, not even ascribing the term non-duality to it, not even emptiness etc.
     
  10. Zenda71

    Zenda71 New Member

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    Is there a difference? ;)

    Yes, it's true the ultimate nature is beyond description; however, Buddhists discuss it in terms of negation... you can say what it is not. But you are correct that it cannot be described but it can be experienced.

    Anyway, I was just chiming in with my view of what teaching is unique to Buddhism. Describing it is for someone much better training in philosophy than I am! :)
     
  11. OAT

    OAT Where is the TAO?

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    As I think the ultimate is beyond description, beyond references rooted in our world of dependent arising, I think there is a difference.
     
  12. OAT

    OAT Where is the TAO?

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    Just happened to chance across this which someone else quoted in another forum quite some time back:

    Karma Lingpa's terma Rig-pa ngo-sprod gcer mthong rang-grol:
    Even though a state without characteristics and without conceptual elaborations appears to you, it is but a manifestation of mind.
    Even though the nonduality of the one and the many appears to you, it is but a manifestation of mind.
    Even though existence and non-existence which are not created anywhere appear to you, they are but manifestations of mind.
    There exist no appearances whatsoever that can be understood as not coming from mind.


    It would seem to me that the above indicates that there is a difference between asserting cognitive non-duality and asserting ontological non-duality.
     
  13. Zenda71

    Zenda71 New Member

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    Isn't mind also a manifestation of mind? :) (Sorry, couldn't help but tease a litte.)

    So, based on the above, are you interpreting this as saying that there is an utimate nature but that we can't experience it truly because everything coming from mind is illusion? Or are you just asserting that phenomena and ultimate nature are separate?

    I'd like to see more of this statement because it seems to me that there are probably some finer points to be looked at (as there often is with this kind of thing). To me, this reads more like a description of the appearance of emptiness, not emptiness itself, and also as a warning to practitioners who may try to solidfy their experience into something independent and tangible. From my view, that's different than saying that one cannot experience nonduality at all... It's tricky territory though. I don't have the context, and I could very well be wrong. (And probably am.) Expressing nonduality is virtually impossible (so I've heard anyway).
     
  14. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste all,

    interesting thread.

    it can be difficult to ascertain if there are any unique teachings within any religious paradigm in the modern world of syncrestic religious hodgepodge but that may not mean that such was the case with those religious paradigms when they originally arose.

    within the context of the discussion, i would tend to agree with Zenda, that the teaching of Shunyata is unique to the Buddhist paradigm, though it is certainly correct to say that each of the four philosophical schools understands this teaching in a different manner, i would suggest that the Prasangika-Madhyamika exposition is correct, but that is purely due to a personal practice.

    metta,

    ~v
     
  15. OAT

    OAT Where is the TAO?

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    I guess what I was trying to say is that subject (the mind) and objects (that which the mind knows, perceives, experiences) are both phenomena of the ultimate. So when someone experiences non-duality with his mind, then that non-duality is a cognitive non-duality. Based on that experience, it is not possible to assert ontological non-duality.

    Can one experience the ultimate? As I understand it, no terms that we (the minds) knows, experiences, etc. can be applied to the ultimate. So I don't know if it is possible to say "someone" "experiences" the ultimate.
     
  16. OAT

    OAT Where is the TAO?

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    If based on the emptiness arguments you hold no thesis about the ultimate, I would almost agree. Why? Because there is still Taoism where the Tao is not something you can hold any thesis about. (Bit of a conundrum here - that the ultimate is unspeakable is also a thesis isn't it?)If based on the emptiness arguments you still hold on to something as real, the truth, etc., then that would be no different from the Hindus' Vedanta. Now perhaps, you can see why I am rather confused about what is exactly unique to Buddhism.
     
  17. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste OAT,

    thank you for the response.

    it is difficult to use conceptions and language to talk about doing away with conceptions and language but those are the tools at our disposal.... which, incidentally, is why the Buddhadharma is transmitted mind to mind as the Buddha did in his first Turning of the Wheel.

    my views of Tao are based on the teachings of the Northern Complete Reality school and may or may not agree with other schools. though the Tao is beyond conception it is still primordial, conceptionless fount of all there is and this view is different than that which is posited by the Buddhas Dharma wherein there is no primordial Tao from which all things arise though they are alike in that both of these are, as the Buddha put it "beyond conjecture, to be experienced by the Wise."

    i would tend to agree... we've simply substituted one conception for another. whilst one which is wholly different it still functions in the same manner with regards to our experience of suchness.

    well... no :)

    Vedanta posits a multiverse which is an emmanation of MahaBrahma, the eternal, self existent, immanent and transcendent Supreme and Ultimate reality which is the ground of all being.

    the Buddhadharma posits nothing of the sort :) in the Buddhadharma all phenomena and noumena interare arising simultaneously and exist in relation to other phenomena and noumena, having no inherent existence of their own.

    metta,

    ~v
     
  18. OAT

    OAT Where is the TAO?

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    I thought the first turning started with the first oral teaching of the Buddha to his first five disciples. I don't recall it being a mind to mind transmission.

    I am not as sure as you. If both cannot be spoken of, then no distinction between the two can be made.

    If noumena is dependent on an other, it is no longer a noumena. So I guess what you are saying is that there is only dependent arising, ie. phenomena, and that everything is just a beginningless and endless chain of dependencies. This is quite a common position of Buddhists but it is not one that I am comfortable with.

    Reason? In the suttas and sutras, the Buddha mentioned about the uncreated without which there can be no liberation from the created. Also in Buddhist tantras there seemed to be a kind of wisdom from which all phenomena arise. In Dzogchen, there seemed to be a kind of rigpa from which all phenomena arise.
     
  19. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste OAT,

    thank you for the post.

    if you read the entire Sutta you'll read the relevant bits and it is from this first monk, Kondanna, that the Ch'an school ultimately derives its origin.

    i rather think that it's not that they cannot be spoken of but that words, conceptions, ideas are insufficient to grasp the object in question; it is ungraspable to our reason yet the Buddha proclaims that It can be directly experienced. the tricky bit with words is to keep them in their proper place and not allow the menu to become the meal, so to speak.

    perhaps more germane to our discussion, however, is that the philosophical view of a creator being from which all things arise and all things arising in mutual interdependence are diametrically opposed to each other. indeed, the Buddhas view is that MahaBrahma also arises interdependently with everything else.

    perhaps we have a different understanding of the term noumena. generally speaking within the Buddhist literature the term is used to denote objects which are purely mental in composition; ideas, thoughts, psychological patterns and all of that sort of thing.

    within Western thought the term is usually used to denote a thing in and of itself, without mental conceptions or elaborations, which is incapable of being known but is only inferred through the nature of experience.

    the Buddha has over 84,000 teachings, you know the old traditional line about "84,000 Dharma Doors" and all and, indeed, some of those teachings are as you describe, where the Buddha talks about created things and uncreated things. yet... interestingly enough... those transliterations of Pali and Sanskrit often leave a great deal of subtle nuance out of the teaching, mainly what we don't get to see are the sorts of beings that the Buddha was giving the teaching to, what their relative progress along the path was and all the rest. as the Buddhas' teachings were given to specific groups of people for specific reasons it is encumbent upon a Buddhist to ascertain if the teaching is applicable for their stage of practice.

    as for Vajrayana and Tantric praxis in particular, i would suggest that the experience of dzogchen or mahamudra is not the culmination of the praxis nor the basis of the Mahdyamika-Prasangika view. that said, i am not a qualified tantric teacher and thus i'll heed their advice and cease blathering on about it :)

    metta,

    ~v
     
  20. OAT

    OAT Where is the TAO?

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    I always had the impression that Ch'an school started with Venerable Kashyapa, the mind transmissioning happening when the Buddha held up a flower and no one understood what the Buddha was pointing to except for Venerable Kashyapa.

    I think that which is unspeakable cannot be experienced by the mind because the mind itself is an epiphenomenon of the unspeakable.

    Personally I don't subscribe to the idea of a creator being who creates all things and creatures as such an idea calls into question what kind of creator it is given the messiness of the world.

    Yes indeed, we understand noumena differently.

    Agreed.
    In the end however, as the Buddha himself proclaimed, he taught nothing.

    When I first started reading up on Buddhism, one thing stuck in my mind, that is the Buddha when he attained enlightenment, said that he has discovered a dharma so subtle that if he were to teach it, no one will understand. So when I read the suttas, I asked myself, is the Buddha teaching here that oh-so-subtle dharma? I did this as well when I read the Mahayana sutras, when I read about Ch'an, when I read about Buddhist tantras and when I read about Dzogchen. Guess what, it was only when I came to Dzogchen that I thought, yes, this is likely to be the subtle dharma that the Buddha was talking about all along.

    To me, Madhyamika view itself is subjected to many interpretations. The Gelugpas, Shakyapas, Kagyupas and Nyingmapas each have their own interpretations. And clearly, the differences in interpretations have not prevented each schools to give rise to realized beings, so it cannot be the "culmination of the praxis" if I may use your expression.

    Perhaps, here is a good place for me to state what I think is unique about the Buddha's view. This is just my own intellectual speculation so I could be wrong. I think the Buddha taught that the ultimate is neither unitary nor dualistic, it is not one and it is not many. And this ultimate is not something attainable nor can it be taught. It is not something that the mind can experienced, but it can nevertheless be "experienced".
     

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