Duality: Mind & Matter?


The only way to analyise this question is to evaluate it interms of Dependent Origination.
Is Dependent origination about Nama (mind) or Rupa (matter ie Patavi etc)?
Is Rupa (Patavi, Apo, Tejo and Viyo) a part of DO?
Whether it is Mind or Matter they all subject to impremanance. (Anicca)
If ultimate nature of Mind and Matter is Anicca, shouild we worry about this question?


Right, proving that it was a matter of some controversy among Buddhists well before Descartes.

In short: Asian Buddhists have historically made so many terrible philosophies! :joy: There’s no need to give all the credit for bad ideas to white men :joy:


Quite right! The point is, whether or not, people are aware of using an ‘European way’ of thinking. If not, it tends to think mind & matter (or soul & body) as entities in a dualistic manner, and neglects how they functions.

For example, if we try not to take namarupa as two entities, but see them as functions of body and mind, then namarupa (in DO) could be understood as a development of our faculties (of mind and body) in early time of life, rather than taking them as a pair of entities for rebirth.


Though as previously noted, nama includes phassa, and phassa is the meeting of the three, which includes vinnana.
The rupa of nama-rupa looks equivalent to derived form, ie to sense-objects like sights, sounds, etc.
I do agree though that nama-rupa is a description of how we experience things, rather than an ontological classification. As a model of experience, I see nama-rupa as quite similar to the khandhas, describing functions rather than things.


When I move (wave) my hand in the air I feel my hand has no resistance (or so little) to the air. I feel air has a fluidity.
But for a piolot flying a plance 600km per hour in a jet plance the same air is feel like the ground to a motorist.
The same way we see Nama-rupa as diffrent (duality) or the same based on our experience of a given set of conditions.


Though the pilot is hopefully not experiencing the air directly. :yum:


In my local bookshop they have a section called “Mind, body and spirit”. There are a few Buddhist books, but it’s mostly about angels and stuff. :laughing:


They are experiences that perform functions! They arise and pass away, in a cause and effect relationship. Therefore they are not solid objects. More like frames on a stop motion film reel.

Nibbāna is the only unity, but it’s not a union of anything at all. Duality doesn’t seem to hold much value as a religious concept in the Dhamma AFAIK. A union with god seems to be needed for it to become valuable religious property. Nama and Rupa are the tangible and intangible duo that makes up our common daily experiences. So it makes sense to note them. The experience of rupa gives rise to nama.


No citation, just opinion I’m afraid.

Why though? When you split mind and body, it’s not an equal split. Mind or soul has value, matter devoid of consciousness does not. So you conceive of conscious entities separate from and acting upon lumpen matter. Typically the possession of a “soul” is reserved for humans; women are reluctantly admitted, if they’re good, while animals are not so lucky. So instead of participating in a natural world full of brothers and sisters, we become lords of what we come to think of as our “environment”.

The thing around us—air, land, water—used to be considered as divine. Now it’s “resources” to be “exploited”. The only value in nature is the value it has for humanity, measured in dollars. Void of any sense of immanence or the sacred in nature, we extracted what we wanted, destroyed what we felt like. We found sources of energy, accumulated over millions of years, and burned in all in a couple of centuries. We cut down the trees, netted the fish, and slaughtered the beasts.

But of course, we are wrong. Nature is not an “environment” that we live in. It is us. We cannot kill nature without killing ourselves. Even now, drunk on power and conceit, we blunder on, doing the same thing, only more of it. Will we ever learn? Not, I fear, before it’s too late; and probably not even then.


The book Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought provides such a take-down, with a chapter devoted to Descartes; it was written by cognitive scientist George Lakoff and philosopher Mark Johnson and is available for loan at the Internet Archive.


Ah! Yeah. This idea that only man was “made in God’s image” and that everything else in the natural world was made for him to use and exploit as needed. Genesis 1:28-30 -ism :joy: Ok. I can buy that as a candidate for "most dysfunctional and harmful idea to come out of European philosophy” :smile:


Yeah! That’s a good book, thanks for the rec. Big fan of Lakoff :slightly_smiling_face:


The idea that getting people to drop dualism and adopt materialism or some similar kind of one-substance philosophy will make them less susceptible to greed, hatred and confusion, or less in the grip of the will-to power and urge to dominate their surroundings, strikes me as implausible. We have seen the rise of many forms of materialism in recent centuries, and that hasn’t stopped people from engaging in all kinds of rapacious exploitation and industrialized slaughter.


Well, Bhante isn’t suggesting materialism as the alternative. He’s suggested phenomenology / relativism / pragmatism. Basically a move away from metaphysics / ontology altogether. Which is actually why I think he needs a better word than “duality” to describe the world-view he’s problematizing. To describe the problem as a particular metaphysical stance (“duality”) implies what you say: that some other metaphysic (e.g. materialism) would be better.

But that’s not what he’s saying. If I’m understanding Bhante Sujato correctly, he’s saying we need to move past questions of “what is” entirely, and understand the relations between things. Perhaps “essentialism” is the better term to describe the problematic philosophical stance, but I’m open to alternatives.


It seemed to me that he was defending a version of naturalism in which we see ourselves as part of nature rather than separate from it. He also suggested something about "sacredness’, although I don’t know how seriously that was intended.

My suggestion is that the will to dominate and control the things around us, to divide things into means and ends, tools and non-tools, threats and friends, prey and predator, lies pretty deep in ordinary human and animal nature, and is not just some pathology of “western” metaphysics.


Oo! Ok, I’ll give it a go:

  • the means: the noble eightfold path
  • the ends: the destruction of greed, hatred and delusion
  • the tools: the five faculties
  • non-tools: unwise attention
  • threats: bad friends
  • friends: good friends
  • prey: ignorance
  • predator: investigation



I’m afraid I’m missing your point.


In any case, we can just wait for Bhante Sujato to weigh in himself and clarify things :slightly_smiling_face:


Well, I tried to engage in a serious discussion. You were flippant and discourteous. I guess that’s how they are training Anagarikas these days. I don’t think I’ll wait around for the next installment. Over and out.


I said that dualism was the most harmful legacy of European philosophy, not that European philosophy was responsible for the devastation of the environment. A philosophical context is one of the things that orients a culture towards making certain kinds of decisions. A healthy philosophy will inform a culture and help it make wise decisions. A broken philosophy offers a ready pathway towards making bad decisions. It fails to curb our worst impulses and foster our best, but rather enables our worst impulses and weakens our best.