Similarities between the philosophical concepts of Vedantic Atman and Buddhist Empti

Discussion in 'Belief and Spirituality' started by The Undecided, May 31, 2010.

  1. The Undecided

    The Undecided Well-Known Member

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    Atman in Sunyata and the Sunyata of Atman [Buddha's World]


    I found this essay on the similarities of the philosophical concepts of Vedantic Atman and Buddhist Emptiness, which have traditionally been at odds with each other to say the least. Here are two extracts from it. Hope you enjoy reading. Just wondered what you all thought about the idea of these two concepts actually being similar after all.

    "Can we not say, now, that the Buddhist awakening in "the field of Sunyata" is most akin to the Vedantic realization of the ultimate identity of Atman with Brahman? And is not Brahman---the absolutely indeterminate (Nirguna) Ultimate Reality---itself more like a "field of Sunyata," the original ground of everything? It seems to me that these speculations about the "complementarity" between Vedanta and Buddhism are on the right track. For such a reading of these two systems of thought helps us make more coherent sense of either position than what they seem to mean individually. What, then, is the complementary light of Buddhism on our understanding of Vedanta? It is essentially this: Sunyata is the only ground reality for the life of Atman. Atman without Sunyata would be like motion without energy.



    In a similar vein, it can also be said that "becoming" Sunya or being in (the field of) Sunyata is virtually the same thing as being or "becoming" Atman. It is important that we recognize the negative overtone of Sunyata and its cognate Anatman has, as its counterpoint, an affirmative undertone. There is the negation of the unawakened self---the self centred in an individualized field of consciousness and shackled to the perspectives tied to it. This negation forms the basis for a spontaneous affirmation of becoming awakened or enlightened---becoming a decentred self. In essence, consciousness-as-Sunyata manifests itself in the form of consciousness-as-Atman."


    "We have intimations of a "hidden" Atman of Buddhism on the one hand, and of the "silent" Sunyata in Vedanta on the other."


    TU:D
     
  2. The Undecided

    The Undecided Well-Known Member

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    Re: Similarities between the philosophical concepts of Vedantic Atman and Buddhist Em

    Appologise for the extra long title, which has been partly cut off. It should end with 'Buddhist Emptiness'.
     
  3. OAT

    OAT Where is the TAO?

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    Re: Similarities between the philosophical concepts of Vedantic Atman and Buddhist Em

    The difference is that Advaita Vedanta philosophy is monistic whereas Buddhist philosophy is not.

    Note that Buddha Sakyamuni himself had studied with Hindu masters, practised their instructions and were well versed in the Hindu scriptures including the Vedas. He knew there was a subtle difference in what he knew to be the reality compared to what was portrayed in the Vedas.

    When Buddha Sakyamuni "attained" enlightenment, he said that he had found a Dharma so subtle that he could not see anyone then being able to understand it.
     
  4. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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    Re: Similarities between the philosophical concepts of Vedantic Atman and Buddhist Em

    TU,

    I commend you in trying to find equivalents between Advaita/Hinduism and Buddhism, so let’s take a look. Here are the equivalents as I see them:

    Hinduism – Buddhism
    Parabrahman (Parabrahm) = Sunyata
    Brahma (Brahman) = Avalokiteshvara/Gwan Yin
    Brahmá/Atman = Avalokiteshvara/Gwan Yin
    (I feel that Hinduism differentiates Brahma from Brahmá, whereas Buddhism lumps them both together and calls them Avalokiteshvara/Gwan Yin.)

    I equate Atman with Brahmá, not with Brahma (Brahman), as you seem to be doing.

    I agree that Atman is a ‘field’ of Parabrahman/Sunyata.

    I agree that Parabrahman/Sunyata is the only reality.

    I would not say that Sunyata is virtually the same thing as being or "becoming" Atman. I would say Atman is a manifestation of Parabrahman/Sunyata, or that Atman emanates from Parabrahman/Sunyata.

    I would not say that consciousness-as-Sunyata manifests itself in the form of consciousness-as-Atman, I would say Brahmá/Atman/Avalokiteshvara/Gwan Yin emanates from Parabrahman/Sunyata, or is a manifestation of Parabrahman/Sunyata. (I suppose we could consider Parabrahman/Sunyata to be a form of consciousness, but I think the term 'consciousness' it too limiting a term to place on Parabrahman/Sunyata.)

    Hope this helps.

    ~~~

    For all you Christians out there, I equate God the Father with Brahma (Brahman), and I equate God the Son with Brahmá/Atman.

    A rose by any other name....
     
  5. citizenzen

    citizenzen Custom User Title

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    Re: Similarities between the philosophical concepts of Vedantic Atman and Buddhist Em

    If that is the only reality, then what is this?

    It may be transient, it may be fleeting, but this moment is still "reality".

    If Parabrahman/Sunyata is the only reality, please show it to me... right now.
     
  6. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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    Re: Similarities between the philosophical concepts of Vedantic Atman and Buddhist Em

    CZ,

    You asked

    "If that is the only reality, then what is this?"

    --> This is a temporary and necessary illusion.

    "It may be transient, it may be fleeting, but this moment is still "reality"."

    --> I remember watching a football game where the players on both sides clearly hated each other (not to mention the hatred of the fans in the stands). I realized they thought their hatred for each other seemed to be The True Reality, when it was actually nothing more than an illusion.

    I have a friend who is extrememly proud of his masculinity. I believe in reincarnation, so I am afraid he is in for a big shock if he is born as a woman in his next lifetime. Such is the nature of this illusionary world.

    "If Parabrahman/Sunyata is the only reality, please show it to me... right now."

    --> It is intentionally and necessarily hidden. Once the need to ‘hide’ it disappears, we will become aware of it. (The vast majority of people I see around me are nowhere near mature enough to have Parabrahman/Sunyata revealed to them.)
     
  7. Eudaimonist

    Eudaimonist In Galt We Trust

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    Re: Similarities between the philosophical concepts of Vedantic Atman and Buddhist Em



    The hatred was real, just not permanent. What was illusion is that the players on the other side were "the enemy".


    eudaimonia,

    Mark
     
  8. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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    Re: Similarities between the philosophical concepts of Vedantic Atman and Buddhist Em

    "The hatred was real, just not permanent. What was illusion is that the players on the other side were "the enemy"."

    --> Fortunately, I believe the day will come when all such illusion is removed.
     
  9. shawn

    shawn Well-Known Member

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    Re: Similarities between the philosophical concepts of Vedantic Atman and Buddhist Em

    At the end of the game, that day came and they perhaps had beers together.
    We create and dispel the illusions everyday.
     
  10. citizenzen

    citizenzen Custom User Title

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    Re: Similarities between the philosophical concepts of Vedantic Atman and Buddhist Em

    I believe you have just place your faith in an illusion.

    See how easy it is?
     
  11. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Re: Similarities between the philosophical concepts of Vedantic Atman and Buddhist Em

    Namaste Undecided,

    thank you for the post.

    my initial reading of the essay would lead me to believe that the author does not have a strong grasp of the Buddhist teachings, to wit, you've changed his speech to say "emptiness" (which would be an accurate transliteration) whereas the author uses the term "nothingness" which is antithetical to the Buddhist teachings, indeed, the Buddha proclaims that such a view can only lead a being to nihilism.

    further, the author seems to lack a basic understanding of the different philosophical traditions which are to be found within the Buddhadharma. contrary to popular belief, Buddhist philosophy isn't a monolithic whole :)

    we *could* sure.. but we'd be incorrectly ascribing teachings to the Buddhadharma and probably vastly misunderstanding Vedanta as well ;) not only does the Buddhadharma teach that Atman and Anatman are different things it also teaches that MahaBrahma isn't the ground of being, the source of all things, as it were.

    shunyata/sunyata isn't the ground of everything... and this is probably the crux of the authors confusion. Shunyata is a philosophical concept which conveys the idea that neither noumena nor phenomena have any inherent existence.. no essential, inherently existing from its own side, aspect which can be identified therefore, noumena and phenomena are "shunyata" empty of such characteristics.

    i think a proper understanding of these terms from the Buddhist lexicon would help alleviate this confusion.

    there are no teachings of the Buddha wherein he advocates becoming any sort of self.. centered or otherwise :)

    without putting too fine a point on it, the author of that essay is ignorant of the basics of the Buddhadharma and it's philosophical tenets and has cherry picked concepts which support his conclusion without bothering to research the rest of the material to ascertain if his conclusions were correct. given that this information is so generally available and easily accessible i cannot escape the feeling that this author had determined the outcome of the essay prior to doing any due diligence.

    metta,

    ~v
     
  12. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Re: Similarities between the philosophical concepts of Vedantic Atman and Buddhist Em

    Namaste Nick,

    thank you for the post.

    you're suggesting that the Buddha, having studied with Hindu teachers, suddenly forgot the Hindu teachings and confusingly taught about MahaBrahma but thought that was Avelokiteshavara, a Bodhisattva?

    when the Buddhadharma entered into China the indigenous deity Kwan Yin was grafted onto the Indian Bodhisattva Aveolkiteshavara as they embodied, essentially, the same values and attributes.

    you are, of course, completely free to hold whatever views that you would like, and i am not suggesting otherwise. i am stating, however, that your views regarding the Buddhadharma on this point are incorrect reflections of the Buddhadharma.

    metta,

    ~v
     
  13. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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    Re: Similarities between the philosophical concepts of Vedantic Atman and Buddhist Em

    V,

    I am not suggesting such forgetfulness at all. Clearly, Avalokiteshvara is not MahaBrahma, as your comment suggests. I am convinced the ancient Hindus and Buddhists had this difference clearly and correctly in mind.

    "...when the Buddhadharma entered into China the indigenous deity Kwan Yin was grafted onto the Indian Bodhisattva Avelokiteshavara..."

    --> This assumes the two concepts originally referred to two different concepts. I see no need to make such an assumption. Rather, I see both concepts as originally and correctly referring to the same concept. It is only natural that the two concepts would be reunited when they met each other.

    I respect your opinion. But I see my views of Buddhadharma as what it was as it was originally taught, not what it has come to be in today's contemporary Buddhism. I clearly disagree with the form of Buddhadharma being taught today in contemporary Buddhism.
     
  14. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Re: Similarities between the philosophical concepts of Vedantic Atman and Buddhist Em

    Namaste Nick,

    thank you for the post.

    hmm... i quoted the particular statement of yours however you didn't particularly elaborate .... could you explain what you mean by:

    *(I feel that Hinduism differentiates Brahma from Brahmá, whereas Buddhism lumps them both together and calls them Avalokiteshvara/Gwan Yin.)*

    this statement doesn't make that presumption rather it makes the opposite; that those two concepts were similar and thus when the Buddhadharma entered Chinese society the natural analog was already present.

    mostly, however, we are speaking of a difference in language, Avelokiteshavara is Sanskrit whereas Kwan Yin is Chinese, rather than a difference in concept.


    the implication in your statement is such that you feel my views are modern, aberrant, views whereas yours are orthodox, accurate, views. my views arise from the study of the Suttas, Abhidharma and Tantras which were all taught by the Buddha during the 50+ years that he taught the Dharma. as the Buddhadharma has three yanas i'm not sure which of those you disagree with nor why (though a being can disagree for no particular reason and need not justify that view) though it may be an interesting discussion which would, i think, be more apropos on a different thread... but if the OP doesn't mind then i suppose we could talk about it here :) (not a fan of derailing threads if i can help it).

    metta,

    ~v
     
  15. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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    Re: Similarities between the philosophical concepts of Vedantic Atman and Buddhist Em

    V,

    My understanding is that Buddhism has the concept of Avalokiteshvara, and that Hinduism has the same concept but that Hinduism further differentiates it into Brahma and Brahmá. Is that your understanding?

    "…those two concepts were similar and thus when the Buddhadharma entered Chinese society the natural analog was already present."

    --> That is how I see it.

    "…Avelokiteshavara is Sanskrit whereas Kwan Yin is Chinese, rather than a difference in concept."

    --> Do you agree that Avalokiteshvara and Guan Yin (I prefer the Pinyin spelling and Mandarin pronunciation) are the same concept merely being referred to by different names?

    "…it may be an interesting discussion which would, i think, be more apropos on a different thread... but if the OP doesn't mind then i suppose we could talk about it here…"

    --> I think the OP and everyone else would be interested in such a discussion here in this thread. First of all (for those people out there who are not familiar with such concepts) what is your understanding of the three Yanas?
     
  16. OAT

    OAT Where is the TAO?

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    Re: Similarities between the philosophical concepts of Vedantic Atman and Buddhist Em

    Nick, Vajradhara,

    Guan Yin and Avalokitesvara has the same meaning, ie. He who hears the cries of the world. Guan Yin is just a shortened form of the Chinese translation of the meaning of Avalokitesvara.

    In Buddhism, Guan Yin is one of the eight great Bodhisattvas. He/She is also taken to be the emanation of the compassion of all the Buddhas.

    As I mentioned elsewhere, Buddhism does not propound a doctrine of a Brahman or some entity or substance that is a source of everything.
     
  17. shawn

    shawn Well-Known Member

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    Re: Similarities between the philosophical concepts of Vedantic Atman and Buddhist Em

    All paths lead to the same destination.
    It is up to the temperament of the traveler to choose which road they wish.

    Also, I think it would be sensible for people who wish to discuss asian religions that they would cease to use pidgeon english by combining all these terms into a very philosophical sounding and learned mash and just speak plainly.
    Yana=path or school.
    is that so hard?
    Maybe you could do so with all these other terms too.
    Otherwise it deters many from engaging in the discussion and creates an elitism situation.
    This is far from what is desired.
     
  18. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Re: Similarities between the philosophical concepts of Vedantic Atman and Buddhist Em

    ^^
    this.

    metta,

    ~v
     
  19. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Re: Similarities between the philosophical concepts of Vedantic Atman and Buddhist Em

    Namaste Nick,

    thank you for the post.

    (i don't know how to make the accent's on the letters!)


    this is not my understanding.

    the Santana Dharma differentiates betwixt Brahman and Brahma. Brahman is the ineffable, inconceivable source of all noumena and phenomena which gave rise to Brahma, the Creator of all noumena and phenomena within the cosmos.

    Buddhadharma teaches a cosmology that is radically different than the one proposed by the Sanatanadharma not least of which is that there is no Brahman.
    i sure do :)

    in Tibetan this being is called Chenrezig and it is this being of whom the Dalai Lama is said to be an emanation.


    though various schools have different teachings all of them, the schools, can be viewed in terms of the three yanas. Yana is a Sanskrit term which means, in the context of our discussion, Path and it connotes a well marked and beaten trail through the jungle. the three yanas by which the various schools of the Buddhadharma can be viewed are: view, practice and result.

    view refers to the philosophical orientation of the school or individual towards reality at any given point. Buddhism makes that case that if you don't have a correct view of reality it's impossible to make progress. practice refers to the actual methodologies and techniques used. traditionally it included behavioral norms, ethics and morality as well as specific meditations for use a different times. result refers to the fruit of that particular yana i.e. towards the end point which the yana is heading.

    contemporary language uses the terms Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana to describe the three different phases of the Buddhas teaching career and the schools that arose from those teachings subsequently have adopted those overarching names... that said, the Hinyana is different. in modern times the Hinyana is represented by only one school, Theraveda (Teachings of the Elders) and is often simply referred by this name such a view will cause some misconceptions, however. the term Hinyana originally applied to the first 18 schools which arose during the Buddhas initial period of teaching and thus though the term is confined to one school today it is a more broadly inclusive term that it seems.

    in this sense the Three Yanas correspond to the initial Turning of the Wheel of Dharma at Deer Park in Benares, the Second Turning of the Wheel of Dharma at Vulture Peak, the Third Turning of the Wheel in Vaishali and the revelation of the Varjayana at Dhanyakataka.

    the teachings at Benares form the foundation for the first schools, the Hinyana, the teachings from Vulture Peak and Vaishali (in conjunction with the Benares teachings) form the foundation of the Mahayana and the teachings from Dhanyakataka (combined with the previous ones) form the foundation of the Varjayana.

    metta,

    ~v
     
  20. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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    Re: Similarities between the philosophical concepts of Vedantic Atman and Buddhist Em

    V,

    You said,

    "i don't know how to make the accent's on the letters!"

    --> Just cut and paste. (That’s what I do.) Using the accent is critical, because it differentiates Brahma from Brahmá, a very important distinction. (I once read an article on Brahma and Brahmá on the Internet, but the accents had all been stripped off, rendering the article useless, wrong, and misleading.)

    I think we are having a little confusion with terms. I see three concepts:

    Mahabrahma = Parabrahman = Parabrahm
    Brahman = Brahma
    Brahmá

    With each of the three concepts being unique and separate. (I also see a third concept between Brahma and Brahmá, which I think is called Pradhana in Hinduism. I see also see Brahma, Pradhana, and Brahmá as the three concepts within the Christian trinity, but this takes this discussion way off-topic.)

    Which of these concepts do you see as being equal to Avalokiteshvara?

    "Buddhadharma teaches a cosmology that is radically different than the one proposed by the Sanatanadharma not least of which is that there is no Brahman."

    --> That makes sense to me, even if such an idea does not fit into my own personal belief system.

    Regarding the term Hinayana, I understand that some Theravadins consider it to be an insulting term. If I remember correctly, Hinayana means the Small Vehicle as opposed to Mahayana meaning the Great Vehicle, which some people say shows a condescending bias on the part of Mahayana Buddhists that their Buddhism is better (‘greater’ than the ‘smaller’ Thevadin Buddhism.), and that it was Mahayana Buddhists who started using the term Hinayana originally as an insult. As such, I have adopted the usage that some Theravadist Buddhists use, which is to call it Theravada Buddhism and not Hinayana Buddhism. (Do you agree with this theory of the term Hinayana?)
     

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