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Suttas against 'no self' and 'no soul'

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#41

Self: MN22…

“If there were a self, monks, would there be my self’s property?” — “So it is, Lord.” — “Or if there is a self’s property, would there by my self?” — “So it is, Lord.” — “Since in truth and in fact, self and self’s property do not obtain, O monks, then this ground for views, ‘The universe is the Self. That I shall be after death; permanent, stable, eternal, immutable; eternally the same shall I abide, in that very condition’ — is it not, monks, an entirely and perfectly foolish idea?” — "What else should it be, Lord? It is an entirely and perfectly foolish idea.


#42

Self: MN22…false views:

"There are, monks, these six grounds for false views. What are the six? There is here, monks, an uninstructed worldling who has no regard for Noble Ones, who is ignorant of their teaching and untrained in it; who has no regard for men of worth, who is ignorant of their teaching and untrained in it: he considers corporeality thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self’; he considers feeling… perception… mental formations thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self’; and what is seen, heard, sensed, and thought; what is encountered, sought, pursued in mind, this also he considers thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self’; and also this ground for views (holding): ‘The universe is the Self. That I shall be after death; permanent, stable, eternal, immutable; eternally the same, shall I abide in that very condition’ — that (view), too, he considers thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self.

"But, monks, there is here a well-instructed noble disciple who has regard for Noble Ones, who knows their teaching and is well trained in it; who has regard for men of worth, who knows their teaching and is well trained in it: he does not consider corporeality in this way: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self’; he does not consider feeling… perception… mental formations in this way: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self’; and what is seen, heard, sensed, and thought; what is encountered, sought, pursued in mind, this also he does not consider in this way: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self’; and also this ground for views (holding): ‘The universe is the Self. That I shall be after death; permanent, stable, eternal, immutable, eternally the same shall I abide in that very condition’ — that (view), too, he does not consider thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self.’


#43

I think it is hard to convince people who merely hold on to their views as that which is authentic, as then they will just not accept any EBT suttas to the contrary and claim that they are ‘late’. Despite being late there is much that is quite in line with the dhamma, when some of these claims about there being an impermanent self is not in line with the dhamma. The difference is between wise and deluded, not early and late.

with metta


#44

Interesting. Thanks.


#45

I think it would be more accurate to say that you systematically disagree.

Oh, please. We are all trying to do this.


#46

Sure, but I think that most of us agree that the Sāmkhyakārika (which I read in Sanskrit a couple of years ago) represents a tradition which is already some centuries old. I’m talking about the tradition, not the literature.


#47

I think we agree that there should be a clear distinction between text-based arguments and educated assumptions. When you previously wrote that “ahaṃkara is not a word that was coined by Buddhists” I wanted to point out that it’s not a fact but an assumption (even if I have a weird satisfaction in finding ‘Buddhist’ terms in older literature).

Even if Samkhya as a distinct school/tradition was older than Buddhism (and there is no prove of that), it would be quite hard to show that the term ‘ahaṃkara’ was not Buddhist originally. Granted, there are traces of Samkhya in older texts, and yes, later on of course ahaṃkara becomes a central term of Samkhya, but we can’t conclude from this that it was of non-Buddhist origin, can we?


#48

Hi Mat
thanks for sharing your opinion expressed as truth
It seems quite clear to me that we are speaking different languages, i.e. have different meanings for key terms we are discussing.
best wishes


#49

I would totally agree with ‘I have not found any occurrence of anaham in the whole tipitaka’ and am not surprised at all.


#50

When most people are of the same opinion, and it varies a great degree from one person’s opinion, it is helpful to take another look to see if it is possible to make sense those ‘majority’ opinions- it doesn’t necessarily mean they are correct (group think…) but it is helpful to reconsider one’s view. It is helpful to think about who it is one considers more wiser, more learned and more experienced in the practice than oneself, and to see what their opinion on the matter is, as well.

We aren’t born equal in terms of our abilities and it helps to consult others.

with metta


#51

Yet there is also the term ahaṅkā­ra­ma­maṅkā­ra­mā­nāpaga­ta, i.e. rid-of-I-making-mine-making-and-conceit (SN 18.22, SN 22.72, SN 22.92, SN 22.125, AN 7.49). Isn’t that close to ‘anaham’? Probably not, since the focus is on ‘kā­ra’, the production of an ‘I-am-ness’. Still an interesting term, and I think very solid suttas.


#52

I hope not! Without going into all the possible views, we can look at contemporary views of what is or makes up the self. Its usually the body and the mind. Far fewer people will consider only the mind (Des Cartes, for example). Some people might still believe in a soul and that it is their self, or some combination of these things. Then they might think that some superficial change in these things doesn’t alter the fact that they are the Self.

But on a physical level the substance and structure of these things are being replaced so that what stands now isn’t what was these before. Even more to the point it is said we must fully comprehend sankhara dukkha. Here things arise completely anew and pass away completely. It a jagged or fractured kind of impermanence, rather than a transition which is more seen in ‘conventional’ impermanence. Between one arising and passing away and another arising and passing away, only information seem ‘transmitted’ somehow (cause and effect, idapaccayata). There is no clear continuity of experience or phenomena jumping this ‘gap’. At this level, when continuity is not present, second by second, as we base our ideas of a self on what can be observed, the Self view becomes untenable, as the meditator is looking at the very thing that we call the self, just like the idea of people on TV screen is not tenable anymore once the pixels they are made of, are observed to exist.

Different people find that different practices help them see through the sense of self- some find Asubha practice useful. Others find walking meditation and seeing that intention is ‘unintended’ (that is, causally arisen). Others find contemplating the Buddhist process of perception useful. Yet others find seeing anicca at a deep level in EBT based vipasana helpful. Others find seeing things ceasing in jhanas helpful. I suspect this shows the different inclinations (ignorance) of people’s views of the Self.

with metta


#53

Well, they are “psychological” from the perspective of modern psychology. But given that there is no distinction between thoughts, emotions, and feelings in Pāḷi I’m not sure that “psychological” is applicable here. I’m not sure that there is a “the mind” that “has qualities”.

Mind in pāḷi is not an entity (“the mind”) that can possess qualities, but a process that performs functions. For example, if you want to define viññāṇa (an action noun) you refer to the verb vijānāti: e.g. “what is discrimination? It discriminates.” What is vedanā? It is vedeti “it announces”. And so on.

What you are describing are mental events that arise and cease in the moment. You cannot destroy something which is so very contingent to start with. What you do is prevent them from arising in response to sense contact.

I’m just not sure that describing this process as “psychology” is meaningful because the modern concept of psychology is so very far removed from the Iron Age worldview of the suttas.


#54

It is very difficult to point to any aspect of Buddhist thought and find a word or idea that was not of non-Buddhist origin. I think perhaps that paṭiccasamuppāda is the only one.

The vast majority of our technical terms can be found in literature that definitely does predate Buddhism and we can see how Buddhists adapted it to suit. The process was clearly ongoing through into the last days of the development of Buddhist ideas in India ca 1000 AD.

So the burden of proof would seem to be with you to show that Buddhists did coin this term.


#55

Which I did with scanning a dozen or so of pre-Buddhist texts that usually have some of the old Buddhist terms, Vedas, Brahmanas, Upanishads. What else can we do? We go with the available texts, and if ahamhara is not there it makes sense to assume that the EBT introduced it, no?


#56

Well, they are “psychological” from the perspective of modern psychology. But given that there is no distinction between thoughts, emotions, and feelings in Pāḷi I’m not sure that “psychological” is applicable here. I’m not sure that there is a “the mind” that “has qualities”.

I just mean psychological in a broad sense, as in the account/order of the mind- the logos of the psyche. I don’t know a whole lot about modern psychology.

But anyway, the mind has qualities in some sense, perhaps I could find a better phrase but the satipatthana sutta instructs us to know a mental state characterized by greed, hate, and delusion as such:

Kathañca, bhikkhave, bhikkhu citte cittānupassī viharati? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu sarāgaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘sarāgaṃ cittan’ti pajānāti. (1)

Vītarāgaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘vītarāgaṃ cittan’ti pajānāti. (2)

Sadosaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘sadosaṃ cittan’ti pajānāti. (3)

Vītadosaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘vītadosaṃ cittan’ti pajānāti. (4)

Samohaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘samohaṃ cittan’ti pajānāti. (5)

Vītamohaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘vītamohaṃ cittan’ti pajānāti. (6) - MN10

I did read your blog the other day about how mind as a container metaphor doesn’t work for early buddhism, but in any case certainly there are mental events that include greed etc. within them or as a characteristic of them in some sense.

What you are describing are mental events that arise and cease in the moment. You cannot destroy something which is so very contingent to start with. What you do is prevent them from arising in response to sense contact.

The suttas define nibbana like this:

Katamañca, bhikkhave, nibbānaṃ? Yo, bhikkhave, rāgakkhayo dosakkhayo mohakkhayo—idaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, nibbānaṃ.

“And what, bhikkhus, is extinguishment? The destruction of lust, the destruction of hatred, the destruction of delusion: this is called extinguishment. - SN43.34

Khaya, the term translated as destruction in the Pali Dictonary:

Khaya [Sk. kṣaya to kṣi, kṣiṇoti & kṣiṇāti; cp. Lat. situs withering, Gr. fqi/sis, fqi/nw, fqi/w wasting. See also khepeti under khipati] waste, destruction, consumption; decay, ruin, loss; of the passing away of night VvA 52; mostly in applied meaning with ref. to the extinction of passions & such elements as condition, life, & rebirth - Dictionary

As for preventing them from arising:

Kathañca, bhikkhave, bhikkhu suvimuttapañño hoti? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu ‘rāgo me pahīno ucchinnamūlo tālāvatthukato anabhāvaṅkato āyatiṃ anuppādadhammo’ti pajānāti, doso me pahīno … pe … ‘moho me pahīno ucchinnamūlo tālāvatthukato anabhāvaṅkato āyatiṃ anuppādadhammo’ti pajānāti. Evaṃ kho, bhikkhave, bhikkhu suvimuttapañño hoti. (10)

(10) “And how is a bhikkhu well liberated by wisdom? Here, a bhikkhu understands: ‘I have abandoned lust, cut it off at the root, made it like a palm stump, obliterated it so that it is no more subject to future arising; I have abandoned hatred … abandoned delusion, cut it off at the root, made it like a palm stump, obliterated it so that it is no more subject to future arising.’ It is in this way that a bhikkhu is well liberated by wisdom. - AN10.20

It seems that there is a sense in which the unwholesome roots persist as an underlying tendency which is why they needed to be rooted out and destroyed. And it also seems that the unwholesome roots have been permanently removed by the arahant, there is nothing further to be done according to the suttas, no need to prevent them from arising. This is the definition of nibbana and liberation.

I’m just not sure that describing this process as “psychology” is meaningful because the modern concept of psychology is so very far removed from the Iron Age worldview of the suttas.

To me that’s a minor point, I take it that the meaning of a word is its use, so if we use psychology as a term in a way compatible with the worldview of the suttas then great, but if it is too confusing since the dominant use is too caught up in modern notions, then I’m fine with shying away from that term.


#57

Sure,

Attā hi attano nātho,
ko hi nātho paro siyā;
Attanā hi sudantena,
nāthaṃ labhati dullabhaṃ.

One truly is the protector of oneself; who else could the protector be? With oneself fully controlled, one gains a mastery that is hard to gain.

Dhp XXV…actually this whole chapter, the “attavagga”, would be a great example. “attā” cannot be coherently translated as “soul” in any of the verses.


#58

Well said!

I’ll add:

So anattantapo aparantapo diṭṭheva dhamme nicchāto nibbuto sītībhūto sukhappaṭisaṃvedī brahmabhūtena attanā viharati.

Neither tormenting himself nor tormenting others, he dwells in the here-&-now free of hunger, unbound, cooled, sensitive to happiness, with a Brahma-like mind.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.060.than.html

Iti so diṭṭheva dhamme nicchāto nibbuto sītibhūto sukhapaṭisaṃvedī brahmabhūtena attanā viharatī’ti.

So here and now in this very life he is parched no more [by the fever of craving’s thirst], his fires of greed, hate and delusion are extinguished and cooled out; experiencing bliss, he abides [for the remainder of his last life-span] divinely pure in himself."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an03/an03.066.than.html

As Helmuth von Glasenapp wrote:

As far as I can see there is not a single passage in the Pali canon where the word atta is used in the sense of the Upanishadic Atman.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/vonglasenapp/wheel002.html


#59

Thanks, but I take a scientific and therefore historical approach to the Buddha’s teaching and do not accept the Fifth Nikaya as a generally original text, but only the first four Nikayas. (Dhammapada is in the fifth.)


#60

I kept the majority opinion for many years, then I started applying the clear advice the Buddha is reported to have given in the early texts (First Four Nikaya) about how to study his teaching. This lead me to change my opinion.

I sense this is a difference between us and I have not come across anyone who has even admitted that the early texts record the Buddha giving clear advice about how to study his teaching.

best wishes