Views about anatta etc: thanissaro
Posted 17 June 2006 - 08:13 AM
Hello Ken H.
K>>> I gather also that they sometimes clench their teeth when
K>>> kusala citta is suppressing the hindrances.
K> To which you replied:
dig>> I think the text is describing something rather more
dig>> proactive than your paraphrase would suggest:
K> There are only conditioned dhammas in the world, so it
K> stands to reason that there can't be anything more (or less)
K> proactive than conditioned dhammas.
K> In the remainder of your message you offer no thoughts on
K> what the "something more" might be.
In your original post you had interpreted an exhortation
("he SHOULD beat down, constrain and crush mind with mind")
as if it were merely a narration or description of certain
things that might happen. This is a misuse of language and
does violence to the meaning and purpose of the passage.
By "something more proactive" I meant that the Buddha in
this passage is giving an instruction relating to mind
development that a person should deliberately undertake.
There is no suggestion that the bhikkhu just passively waits
for teeth-clenching and "constraining mind by mind" to occur
Now perhaps it would be possible to use some other mode of
discourse to describe what is going on when the monk
clenches his teeth and endeavours to constrain mind with
mind, e.g. an explication in terms of paramattha dhammas.
And such a description might, for all I know, be an accurate
one. But to say that this is what the Buddha really *meant*
is simply a falsehood. His discourse is advisory or homiletic
and to convert it into a descriptive mode of discourse is to
K> Do you believe in an eternal soul?
No, I don't. But your question hardly seems apropos of the
K> I ask that in all seriousness because I know some Buddhists
I expect that there are, though I'm a little bemused by this
sudden preoccupation with eternal souls. Were you perhaps
wondering whether *you* might have one?
K> The people behind AccessToInsight, for example, are
K> dedicated to putting the self back into the Dhamma.
If you mean the venerable Thanissaro, I can't agree with
you. His take on anattaa is idiosyncratic and not how this
doctrine was understood by any of the Indian aacaariyas, but
nevertheless it's quite distinct from both the Vedantic
interpretation of Mrs Rhys Davids (and numerous others) and
the neo-Pudgalavaadin interpretation of George Grimm and
A.P. Buddhadatta. I think Thanissaro might well be convicted
on a charge of eel-wriggling, but not eternalism. His
'strategic interpretation' is in essence a dumbed down
version of a thesis first proposed by the Austrian scholar
Erich Frauwallner in the late 1950's. Frauwallner was famous
for his skill in propounding eccentric theories plausibly
enough for them to be taken seriously for a year or so,
before he himself would disown them. His most famous and
long-lasting one was the "Two Vasubandhus Theory" which was
taken seriously for nearly two decades. As for the
"Strategic Anatta Theory", this was shot down by
buddhologists from all sides, disowned by Frauwallner
himself within a year of it being published, and would have
been all but forgotten were it not for Thanissaro. I suspect
it may also be from Frauwallner that Thanissaro picked up
his curious ideas on what Indians thought about extinguished
K> They share your aversion to a teaching of ultimate reality
K> because that teaching makes no allowance for a possible
K> "something more." It teaches there are only dhammas and that
K> all conditioned dhammas are anicca, dukkha and anatta while
K> the one unconditioned dhamma is anatta. (No scope for a
K> "something more.")
I am very unmystical and not at all a 'something more'
enthusiast. But if you are trying to imply that the only
possibilities are being a believer in physical and psychical
atoms or being an eternalist, and that if I'm not the former
then I must be the latter, then I'd say you are committing
the fallacy of bifurcation, for there are plenty of other
possibilities besides these two. One might, for example,
accept that there are only dhammas, but not go along with
how this or that Abhidharma tradition conceives dhammas. One
might be a Puggalavaadin, with a dharmas theory AND a
transmigrating 'person' who is held to be inscrutable but not
eternal, and who is extinguished in parinirvana; one might
be a Sautrantika and conceive of dharmas as thing-events
rather than things; one might take the Dhamma as a 'leap
philosophy' in which all such conceivings are to be eschewed.
dig>> There are many statements of this kind in the Suttas, but
dig>> none that say, or even imply: "My teaching is all about
dig>> ultimate and irreducible physical and psychical atoms."
K> It's amazing that people can have such radically different
K> views of the dhamma - ranging from "all about conditioned
K> dhammas" to "nothing about conditioned dhammas."
I think it comes partly from a tendency to recklessly
venture opinions without having studied the teaching very
much, and partly from a tendency to speak one-sidedly
(eka.msavaadii) and to fail to make necessary distinctions
In my post I mentioned the distinction between the three
kinds of benefit that the Buddha taught. Another one is the
distinction between the 'Dhamma teaching specific to
Buddhas' (buddhaana.m saamukka.msikaa dhammadesanaa) --
meaning the four noble truths -- and then everything else
that a Buddha happens to teach, but which unawakened persons
might also be able to teach. When one considers the range of
teachings that lie within each of these two categories, one
ought to see that both of the claims you have cited above
rather exceed what can be supported in the Suttas.
dig>> The above Sutta is simply concerned with
dig>> di.t.thadhammikattha, 'benefit to be obtained in the present
dig>> life'. It comprises four common-sense prudential maxims for
dig>> householders who desire their families and family property
dig>> to be stable and long-lasting. Nothing more.
K> Do you ever wonder why the Bodhisattva wandered samsara for
K> countless aeons developing a simplistic, introductory lesson
K> in home economics?
No, it isn't a subject I wonder about. Should I?
K> What is the meaning of "they" "things" and "a man or a
K> woman" in:
K> "They look for things they have lost.
K> They repair things that are old.
K> They eat and drink moderately.
K> They place in authority a man or a woman possessed of
Really Ken, at your age you shouldn't expect other people
to fill in ALL the gaps in your knowledge. Can't you think
the answers out for yourself? Very well then, here goes:-
"They" is a pronoun standing for two or more items or
persons; in this case it refers to families whose conduct
will conduce to their long-lastingness.
"Things" could mean any items that a householder might
conceivably mislay. So, in your case it might include your
lunchbox, satchel, teddybear, tricycle, surfboard,
toothbrush, plastic duck etc. etc.; or anything you own that
might go astray: dogs, emus, ostriches, guinea pigs
inflatable sheep etc. etc.
"A man or a woman" means an adult male or female human. In
this context it refers to those male or female humans who
might be appointed to some position of stewardship or
governorship. In your case it would mean your mother should
not employ as a nanny some wanton wench who is likely to
lead you astray.
Sincerely, Dighanakha Nutcracker
Posted 28 July 2006 - 01:15 AM
Books on Buddhism often state that the Buddha's most basic metaphysical tenet is that there is no soul or self. However, a survey of the discourses in the Pali canon — the earliest extant record of the Buddha's teachings — suggests that the Buddha taught the anatta or not-self doctrine, not as a metaphysical assertion, but as a strategy for gaining release from suffering: If one uses the concept of not-self to dis-identify oneself from all phenomena, one goes beyond the reach of all suffering & stress. As for what lies beyond suffering & stress, the Canon states that although it may be experienced, it lies beyond the range of description, and thus such descriptions as "self" or "not-self" would not apply.
Bhikkhu Santi:This is simply not true. There are plenty of Sutta passages that either explicitly say that there is NO self in the ultimate sense or clearly imply that. An example that comes to mind is a Dhp. verse: "when even your self is not your own, how can there be sons or cows for you?" (attaa hi attano natthi...). I used to read Aj. Geoff's translations of the Suttas on accesstoinsight for years, since I was twelve years old actually, and I read all his essays and books. Now I don't like his writings any more, and sometimes find his translations in-credible too, because he tends to read the Suttas through his interpretation. His own interpretation comes first, then he tries to fit the Suttas into it. He actually admits this in the intro to his "Mind like fire unbound" when he says that first he took a short, enigmatic statement of LP Fuang (?) and came to a conclusion about the meaning of nibbana, then he went looking for Suttas to prove it. In his latest history book "Buddhist Religions" he presents his idiosyncatic interpretations with virtually no references as usual, and the one reference he did give to support his 'no self strategy' theory there to MN2 simply did not say what he said it says. He says that MN 2 (Sabbaasava Sutta) says that one who believes 'there is no self' is caught in the net of views... etc. Whereas actually it says one who believes "there is no self FOR ME" is caught in the net of views, the tangle of views, the thicket of views etc. That small little "me" in the Pali means that this is the view of the annhilationists not the Buddhists.
The Buddhist teaching of anatta and the nature of is very close to annhilationism, that's why you can find so much praise for the annhilationists in the Suttas, the Buddha called them the holders of 'the foremost of outside viewpoints' because: "they already have revulsion towards existence and non revulsion towards the cessation of existence, so when the Dhamma is taught to them for the cessation of existence they do not recoil from it". The Four Noble Truths are meant to be challenging, if they're presented as a mundane teaching for being relatively comfortable in Samsara then that's wrong.
The difficulty with interpreting and understanding the Four Noble Truths, anatta and the true meaning of nibbana is not that they are intellectually complicated or that there is not enough clear explanations in the Suttas the problem is that as ordinary people we have an extremely strong emotional resistance to accepting what they really mean. When I feel I have had the clearest most peaceful, insightful meditations what I have seen every time so far is how deep the defilements go, that in fact they are normally in complete control of our perceptions without us being aware of that. I also saw how when I tried watching impermanence and extending it to the past and the future with a relatively peaceful mind my mind totally rebelled, got frightened to the very depth of its existence, not on a discursive level or with any conscious intention. I saw how deeply, deeply frightened my mind is of accepting impermanence, even though theoretically I accept it. So it seems to me that this is why 99.99% of books on Buddhism and teachers of Buddhism compromise on the challengingness of the Four Noble Truths in one way or another - because the truth is too terrifying emotionally, not because the Suttas are intellectually hard to understand.
By teaching his extremely unique interpretation of nibbana, which is not as he claims supported by the Thai Kruba Ajahns, or at least not all of them by any means, he is effectively setting up one side of a bridge except for the keystone, then by teaching that the Buddha never taught that there is no ultimate self or essence he sets up the other half of the bridge. He leaves it to the extremely fertile imagination of biased ordinary beings to fill in the gap that "nibbaana is the ultimate self", which I've actually heard that he admits he believes in private. He bases this last point on Dhp. "all things are without-self (or, 'not self'), when one sees this with wisdom, then one turns away from suffering, this is the path of purification". So then I've heard that he says that this means that the perception "all dhammas are anatta" is just a part of the path of purification, it's not necessarily a fact that applies to the goal.
It's intriguing how his interpretations mirror so closely some of the other contemporary non-Buddhist teachers that are described in "Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge" and also the Puggalavaadins and their theory of a transcendent, ineffable self. He sometimes even uses the same similes. I wonder if there is some influence from past lives here?
I know I'm going to get flack for criticising such a popular teacher, and also he does teach a lot of good Dhamma that is not popular, like renunciation and the need for samaadhi (never mind that his interpretation of 'jhaana' is uniquely creative (!) too). However, sometimes I feel you just have to tell it like it is, even if he is famous. I've also benefitted alot from his translations of the Suttas, even if now I prefer Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi's (or my own), at least he puts them out there for free, and imperfect as they are they are an entrance to the Suttas for many people, and that's great.
Posted 28 July 2006 - 03:34 AM
Citing the relevant suttas is unlikely to be persuasive to those who have fallen for Thanissaro's mystical [stuff]or Thanissaro would simply interpret them differently or else would translate them differently so as to make them support his view. A good example of this is the following passage from the Alagaddūpamasutta, which is one of the starkest and most uncompromising assertions of the non-existence of self.... until Thanissaro gets his hands on it:
attani ca attaniye ca saccato thetato anupalabbhamāne
(MN. 22; also cited in the Kathāvatthu's debate on the puggalavāda, Kvu. 68)
And here are some extracts from an old article of mine discussing this phrase...
First I cite seven translations of it:
"...since in truth and reality there obtains neither self nor what belongs to self..."
"...since a self and what belongs to a self are not apprehended as true and established..."
"...where a self or what belongs to self are not pinned down as a truth or reality..."
"...But both soul and that which belongs to soul being in truth, and forever, impossible to be known..."
"But if Self and what belongs to Self, although actually existing are incomprehensible..."
"...meua attā lae borikhān neuang duai attā bukkhon theu ao mai dai, doey khwām pen khong jing, doey khwām pen khong thae..."
"...meua thang ton lae khong thii neuang kap ton ja yang hen mai dai, doey khwām pen khong jing, doey khwām pen khong thae..."
Then my comments:
Of the seven renderings above, those of Horner and Law are completely off the map, while the remaining five are more or less defensible so far as purely philological considerations go.
There are two key terms in the passage that give rise to disagreement: firstly, the participle "anupalabbhamāne"; secondly, the phrase "saccato thetato". How one conceives the meaning of these will determine how one interprets the passage; and how one interprets the passage will determine how one goes about translating it. The problem, of course, is that every translator's interpretation of the above phrases will be determined - or at least influenced - by his prior assumptions about the Buddha's teaching.
Let's start with anupalabbhamāne. This is the present participle of the passive form of the verb upalabhati, inflected in the locative case. In front of it is placed the negative particle na ('not'), which changes to an- in accordance with the rules of euphonic junction.
Upalabhati means to obtain, get or find. So in the passive voice it would mean to be obtained, gotten or found. With the addition of the negative particle 'na' the meaning would be "not to be found."
Here's one familiar example of the verb, to be found in every Indian logic textbook:
vañjhāya putto na upalabbhati.
"A son of a barren woman is not to be found."
(Or as western philosophers would phrase it, " 'Son of a barren woman' does not obtain."). Elsewhere the same will be predicated of "horns of a hare", "flowers in the sky", etc.
And here arises the first point of controversy among translators and interpreters of this sutta: does the phrase "not to be obtained" mean the same as "not exist"? Ñāṇamoli, Bodhi and myself would answer yes. A mystically-inclined monk like Thanissaro would answer no. Unsurprisingly Thanissaro has chosen a rendering ("not pinned down") that stresses the epistemic or cognitive, and would tend to imply that a self does (or at least might) exist, but one that is too inscrutable to say anything about.
To continue, when the verb na upalabbhati is made into a present participle, the meaning would be "non-obtaining" (or more precisely, a "not-being-obtained-ness"). When this present participle is inflected in the locative case, then various meanings are possible, and here arises the second point of controversy. What function does the locative have in this context? There are three possibilities:
Spatial or situational stipulative: "Where there is a non-obtaining of self..."
Temporal stipulative: "When there is a non-obtaining of self...."
Causative: "Because there is a non-obtaining of self..."
Ñāṇamoli, Bodhi and I of course favour the causative, for the other two would leave a loophole that there might be some time or place where self does obtain. Thanissaro of course favours a reading that will leave his mysticism intact. So here too it's a case of our prior assumptions determining how we translate.
Now for "saccato thetato". Sacca means true or a truth; theta means sure, firm, or reliable, or something that has these features. Adding the suffix -to turns these words into adverbs. Here I'm not really sure about the relative merits of the above translations, or even if there is a difference between "X does not obtain as a truth" or "X does not in truth obtain." Not that this matters greatly; the crux of the matter is obviously the word anupalabbhamāne. The difference between my old rendering and the Ñāṇamoli/Bodhi one is that I had taken saccato thetato to be an adverbial qualification of anupalabbhamāne, whereas Ñāṇamoli and Bodhi make it more like an adjectival qualification of "self and what belongs to self." I now think that their rendering is more likely to be correct. At least it seems to accord better with the Ṭīkā to this sutta.
Posted 19 February 2011 - 02:39 PM
There is a flush of Buddhist literature thriving in the West which attempts to interpret this fire simile in the light of the Vedic myth that the extinguished fire ‘goes into hiding’. Though the Buddha succeeded in convincing the Brahmin interlocutors of the depen dently arisen nature of the fire by the reductio-ad-absurdum method, these scholars seem to be imper vious to his arguments. What is worse, misinterpre tations have even sought refuge in blatant mistrans lations of sacred texts.
The term ‘extinction’ is anathema to the West in general. Perhaps as a euphemism, ‘extinguishment’ might be ‘passable’. But rather than playing with the ‘fire-simile’ it is bet ter to accept the obvious conclusions, willy nilly.
Those of you who have problems with the causally arisen fire going out, I wish you a long and pleasant samsara.
Posted 06 October 2011 - 10:56 AM
--- In email@example.com, "Dieter Moeller" <moellerdieter@...>
> " We've had lots of discussion on this sutta before. See "Burden" in U.P.
where the commentaries clarify exactly what is meant.
> I think that Bhikkhu Thanissaro's comment to the sutta (
> provides a good review of this lasting controversy. I copy for convenience ,
S: I think his review shows: a) use of "stress" for dukkha indicates a lack of
understanding of the what sankhara dukkha is.
By referring to the Mahanama Theras as "Buddhist scolastics", a "camp" that
"refused to rank the concept of person as a turth on the ultimate level" who
"accused the second group of denying the concept of anatta", suggests a complete
lack of understanding of dhammas as anatta. Anatta is not a concept.
c) Suggesting that "both groups" including the ancient Theras, "found their
positions entangled them in philosphical difficulties that have never been
successfully resolved" indicates a complete lack of respect for and confidence
in the Teachings as passed down to us with the assistance of these Theras. For
them, there was no entanglement, no lack of resolution. All wrong view was
d) His drawing on MN 72 where the Buddha "refuses to get involved in questions
of whether a person has a live essence separate from or identical to his/her
body etc, completely misunderstands the point of such suttas. The point of such
suttas is that dhammas as anatta is a given, so therefore, any speculation about
whether people have any characteristics is a waste of time. It's akin to
discussions here about the characteristics of cars crashing into trees and the
qualities of knives and forks.
e) "The strategy of the practice..." Enough said.
> Indeed both sides are right : of course there is a person from the mundane
point of view (finally the Buddha stated that he taught for this suffering
S: No, there isn't a person period. The concept of a person or an individual is
used for convenience, that's all. Vohaara sacca,
> and it is as well correct to speak from the supramundane point of view of
conditioned dhammas, like described by D.O. , in which the khandas are
S: From the mundane or supramundane "point of view" there are only conditioned
dhammas. The truth about realities now is the same whether there is mundane,
supramundane or zero understanding. Just dhammas, just khandhas regardless. This
is true whether or not a Buddha ever appears in the world.
> The wrong starts if either side rejects the point of the other ..and that
seems to be the case with the lots of discussion you mentioned.
S: The wrong starts with wrong view at this very moment when the visible object
or hardness which appears now is taken for something or someone. If what we read
and hear conforms with the Buddha Dhamma it is the Buddha's Teachings. If it
doesn't, it should be rejected as wrong view.
I'll be glad to hear your further feedback. I appreciate that you won't agree
with my comments:)
> "This discourse parallels the teaching on the four noble truths, but with a
twist. The "burden" is defined in the same terms as the first noble truth, the
truth of suffering & stress. The taking on of the burden is defined in the same
terms as the second noble truth, the origination of stress; and the casting off
of the burden, in the same terms as the third noble truth, the cessation of
stress. The fourth factor, however - the carrier of the burden - has no parallel
in the four noble truths, and has proven to be one of the most controversial
terms in the history of Buddhist philosophy. When defining this factor as the
person (or individual, puggala), the Buddha drops the abstract form of the other
factors, and uses the ordinary, everyday language of narrative: the person with
such-and-such a name. And how would this person translate into more abstract
factors? He doesn't say. <...>
Posted 20 September 2013 - 06:29 AM
There are plenty of Sutta passages that either explicitly say that there is NO self in the ultimate sense or clearly imply that. An example that comes to mind is a Dhp. verse: "when even your self is not your own, how can there be sons or cows for you?" (attaa hi attano natthi...).
This passage doesn't a assert that there's no self. What other passages did you have in mind?
Posted 20 September 2013 - 06:34 AM
...Thanissaro's mystical [stuf]..
admin note, post slightly mofified
Posted 20 September 2013 - 12:19 PM
he might have been meaning Thanissaros interesting idea about what happens to an araht after death which seems to be different , he suggests, than like a flame being extinguished
Posted 20 September 2013 - 12:23 PM
that was from a post by Santi. but i think it does imply there is no self?
This passage doesn't a assert that there's no self. What other passages did you have in mind?
i will dig up some more if i can.
nice to be discussing with you daniel
Posted 20 September 2013 - 12:26 PM
Sutta of the Khandhavagga of the Samyutta Nikaya has
All formations are impermanent, all phenomena are anatta.
Sabbe sankhara anicca, sabbe dhamma anattaa'ti.
The commentaries state in reference to this passage:
Sabbe sankhara anicca'ti sabbe tebhumakasankhara aniccaa.
Sabbe dhammaa anattaati sabbe catubhumakadhammaa anattaa.
All formations of the three planes are impermanent; all phenomena of
the four planes are nonself.
Posted 20 September 2013 - 04:39 PM
You know we start to think "Okay there is not really a self (ultimately) but the 'self' still exists conventionally, and we cling, cling, cling thinking thoughts such as "it is important to understand this conventional self or else how could one plan for the future, or drive a car, or accomplish anything", but the cetasika which is ditthi - wrong view - which makes one think of a self, there is mana, and even without those there are still concepts so one can understand how things function. There is no need to cling to this conventional self idea so strongly, for all things we think are so important aren't - we have driven cars or purchased homes or planned trips millions of times in the past in past lives - it's all much the same - just samsara. Besides, we can still do all of those things while not grasping to the idea of 'self'.
Posted 21 September 2013 - 02:32 AM
Thanks for the replies.
I've gone round and round on this on another forum and in person, so I'm not going to get too involved (I can provided references to my other forum activity if you desire).
What it boils down to for me: before I became a Buddhist, I was already convinced of the impermanence of all phenomena, especially of, as Albert Ellis liked to say, "the so-called-self." Any concept of "self" I encountered was clearly just an ontological construct with no "essence," or "true nature," or no eternal or soul-like qualities. I preferred to think of my behaviors as expressions of "my" constantly changing selves. The Self clearly did not exist. I, whatever you label, obviously, do exist though. So I just accepted it. I exist, but I'm not a permanent self. Likewise, I had no issues with developing myself, and cultivating myself, and improving myself, etc.... When I started studying the suttas I noticed: 1) the Buddha didn't like dichotomies like existence/non-existence or eternalism/annihilism, especially in reference to his Suchness and atta (self) in general. And when I read Thanissaro, he very carefully outlined why the Buddha did this. Mind Like Fire Unbound was the first book of his I read. I've scoured that text and am still puzzled how anyone could get "mystical drivel" or eternalism out of what he says about arahants after death, especially in light of Thanissaro's other writings. The only time he admits to a conception of a soul is when he says he always thought of it as shriveled up peice of leather. Maybe there's some "drivel" in there, but definitely not anything "mystical."
I don't know enough about the commentaries or Abhidhamma, but I guess there's some stuff in that literature that's srtrong NO SELF. But my comparison is with Early Buddhist Discourses and Thanissaro (also, it shouldn't be a suprise his examples are similar to Jayatilleke's Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge. He cites in the bibliography of Wings).
Furthermore, I've compiled a collection of times where the Buddha himself talks about developing and cultivating self--not as an ontological unit, but as a pragmatic process.
My back hurts--again.
I'll try to check in later.
Posted 21 September 2013 - 04:50 PM
If you don't mind I would prefer to keep my contributions to the thread
impersonal. I'm not at all interested in discussing whether Thanissaro
is a goodie or a baddie, but would rather focus on the question of
whether the "strategic" interpretation of anatta is in accordance with
the Dhamma. That this interpretation happens to originate with
Thanissaro is of no especial importance, given that it's now being
voiced by all sorts of people.
> If a person uses this "anatta strategy" to realize the real anatta, is
> it still wrong?
The question that needs to be addressed is *can* anatta be realized by
the "anatta strategy"? If this strategy consists in a wrong view of
anatta, then the answer is no.
> Are you doubting/accusing Ajahn Thanissaro of having wrong-view of
It does seem to be the case.
> Have you written an e-mail to Wat Metta to inform Ajahn about it?
Whatever for? The ajahn is perfectly aware that his take on anatta is
not the Theravadin one. He cites the Theravadin view in his "Not Self"
essay, asserts that it's not in accordance with the Suttas, and then
opposes it with a novel interpretation of his own.
> Moreover, Ajahn Thanissaro is a reputable monk.
There are thousands of reputable monks. But since not all of them agree
on the fundamentals of Dhamma, at least some of them must be in error.
So again, it's better to keep the discussion impersonal:
"Suppose a bhikkhu were to say: 'In such and such a place there is a
sangha with elders and reputable teachers. I have heard and received
this from that sangha,' then, bhikkhus, you should neither approve nor
disapprove his words. Then, without approving or disapproving, his
words and expressions should be carefully noted and compared with the
Suttas and reviewed in the light of the discipline. If they, on such
comparison and review, are found not to conform to the Suttas or the
discipline, the conclusion must be: 'Assuredly this is not the word of
the Buddha, it has been wrongly understood by this bhikkhu,' and the
matter is to be rejected. But where on such comparison and review they
are found to conform to the Suttas or the discipline, the conclusion
must be: 'Assuredly this is the word of the Buddha, it has been rightly
understood by this bhikkhu.' "
Posted 21 September 2013 - 05:02 PM
[dsg] Re: Report on the Meeting at the Foundation (1)
(79404) Reply NextPrevious
buddhatrue26 Nov, 2007
Hi Dieter and Ken H.,
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "kenhowardau"
Do I remember correctly that a DSG
> member wrote a complaint to the owner of accesstoinsight ..?
> Yes, but it wasn't about this kind of thing. James had a discussion
> with them on another matter.
I have some time today, as classes are cancelled for a big test, so I
thought I would post. I wouldn't really say that I "complained" to
Mr. Bullitt, editor of Access to Insight, I just pointed out to him
what I saw as an obvious misrepresentation of a sutta. This is part
of what I wrote to Mr. Bullitt:
What disturbs me the most about Thanissaro's article is where he
writes, "In fact, the one place where the Buddha was asked point-
blank whether or not there was a self, he refused to answer. When
later asked why, he said that to hold either that there is a self or
that there is no self is to fall into extreme forms of wrong view
that make the path of Buddhist practice impossible. Thus the question
should be put aside." The sutta that Thanissaro is referring to is
the Ananda Sutta and that isn't at all what the sutta states- and
Thanissaro should know since he translated it! In that sutta, the
Buddha refused to answer the question because he knew that either
answer would be misunderstood. To answer yes or no to the person
asking, a wandering ascetic, would have resulted in confusion because
the questioner wasn't fluent in the Dhamma, he was of a different
faith. The Buddha doesn't say that the question should be put aside
because it "falls into extreme forms of wrong view that make the path
of Buddhist practice impossible." The sutta in question doesn't state
anything of the sort: <end quote>
Mr. Bullitt must have sent my e-mail to Thanissaro because the article
in question "The Not-Self Strategy" was revised August 14, 2007 and it
no longer contains the statement I found objectionable. Actually, the
article has been rewritten to argue the specific point I made in my
e-mail to Mr. Bullitt, that the Buddha refused to answer the question
because the questioner was from a different faith. Thanissaro now
writes in the new, revised article:
"The first passage is one of the most controversial in the Canon.
Those who hold that the Buddha took a position one way or the other on
the question of whether or not there is a self have to explain the
Buddha's silence away, and usually do so by focusing on the his final
statement to Ananda. If someone else more spiritually mature than
Vacchagotta had asked the question, they say, the Buddha would have
revealed his true position. This interpretation, though, ignores the
Buddha's first two sentences to Ananda: No matter who asks the
question, to say that there is or is not a self would be to fall into
one of the two philosophical positions which the Buddha avoided
throughout his career. As for his third sentence, he was concerned not
to contradict "the arising of knowledge that all phenomena are
not-self" not because he felt that this knowledge alone was
metaphysically correct, but because he saw that its arising could be
liberating. (We will deal further with the content of this knowledge
below in Point 2.) Thus it would seem most honest to take the first
dialogue at face value, and to say that the question of whether or not
there is a self is one on which the Buddha did not take a position,
regardless of whether he was talking to a spiritually confused person
like Vacchagotta, or a more advanced person like Ananda. For him, the
doctrine of not-self is a technique or strategy for liberation, and
not a metaphysical or ontological position."
These sentences were not in the original article; and what I quoted
from the original article is now missing. I am glad that Thanissaro
changed his original article because it did blatantly misrepresent
what the sutta in question states.
Personally, however, I still don't agree with Thanisarro's
conclusions. Thanissaro writes, "This interpretation, though, ignores
the Buddha's first two sentences to Ananda: No matter who asks the
question, to say that there is or is not a self would be to fall into
one of the two philosophical positions which the Buddha avoided
throughout his career." The Buddha doesn't say anything in this sutta
about `No matter who asks the question'!! It matters a great deal who
asks the question! The Buddha was mainly concerned about his teaching
being misinterpreted by members of other sects so he refused to answer
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