The reality according to Theravada Buddhism

Amazing stuff @Ceisiwr ! Am on the road but will dive in to this amazing detailed reply when i get home!!

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As ever, I look forward to your reply.

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This is one of the best expositions I have read in a long, long time. Sadhu! Sadhu!! Sadhu!!! :heart: :heart: :heart:


Why thank you for that :slightly_smiling_face:


No, This is NOT in line with Buddha teaching. This is someone confused with philosophy and accept is as the true teaching.

Buddha teaching is 6 senses experience is real and cause of suffering. Hence, transcend from all senses with wisdom to be freed from the senses step by step. N8FP.

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The suttas literally say “form is impermanent”. The suttas say: “‘A boil,’ monks, is another word for this body composed of the four elements, born of mother & father, fed on rice & porridge, subject to impermanence, rubbing & massaging, breaking-up & disintegrating.” Form is a sense experience. However, Nibbana is also a sense experience (Ud 8.1) however it is not impermanent. Therefore, it certainly seems form & the other aggregates (unlike the Nibbana element) are the bearers of characteristics.

The suttas in many places say dependent on sense organs and sense objects consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is sense experience. Here, it seems literally evident consciousness is dependent on the external realities rather than visa versa. It seems the Pali suttas are not “mind-only” solipsism.

I doubt the term “dependently originated (paṭiccasamuppanna)” can be found in the suttas in reference to mere sense experience. In other words, I doubt the arising of sense experience for an Arahant is “paṭiccasamuppanna” because SN 12.3 says paṭiccasamuppada is the “wrong path”. For example, MN 74 says:

Pleasant, painful, and neutral feelings are impermanent, conditioned, dependently originated, liable to end, vanish, fade away, and cease. Seeing this, a learned noble disciple grows disillusioned with pleasant, painful, and neutral feelings. Being disillusioned, desire fades away. When desire fades away they’re freed. When they’re freed, they know they’re freed.

Here, in MN 74, when the feelings are viewed as dependently originated, the noble disciple is not yet disillusioned; not yet free from desire.

Again, DN 15 says:

Pleasant feelings, painful feelings, and neutral feelings are all impermanent, conditioned, dependently originated, liable to end, vanish, fade away, and cease. When feeling a pleasant feeling they think: ‘This is my self.’

Here, in DN 15, the dependently originated feelings are regarded as “self”.

Again, SN 36.7 says:

But this body is impermanent, conditioned, dependently originated. So how could a pleasant feeling be permanent, since it has arisen dependent on a body that is impermanent, conditioned, and dependently originated?’ They meditate observing impermanence, vanishing, dispassion, cessation, and letting go in the body and pleasant feeling. As they do so, they give up the underlying tendency for greed for the body and pleasant feeling.

Here, in SN 36.7, when there are dependently originated feelings, the underlying tendency to greed still exists.

My impression is in Mahayana, the philosopher Nagarjuna is regarded as a type of “Blessed One”. But the teachings of the Blessed One of the Pali suttas I have quoted above. My impression of the teachings of the Blessed One is whatever is “dependently originated” is originated from ignorance. Therefore, when sense experience occurs for an Arahant via the meeting of sense organ, sense object & sense consciousness, this cause & effect is not called “dependently originated (paṭiccasamuppanna)”. :pray:t2:

I suggest to read AN 9.15, MN 62, MN 140, SN 22.79, SN 12.61 (called ‘The Unlearned’) for starters.

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Thank you for your answers, I find it hard to understand frankly. I can’t figure out if Theravada considers that there is a “solid non-substantial reality” outside our mind.

“Kaccāna, this world mostly relies on the dual notions of existence and non-existence.

But when you truly see the origin of the world with right understanding, you won’t have the notion of non-existence regarding the world. And when you truly see the cessation of the world with right understanding, you won’t have the notion of existence regarding the world."

There is arising and passing away. When you see arising you cant deny that they external world exists, but also you cant prove it exists because there is passing away. THis is as close as we can get to understanding whether the external world exists, or not, through the dhamma. :pray:

Thank you. So the external world exists, but it is impermanent, unstable, perishable?

So the external world exists, but it is impermanent, unstable, perishable?

No, more the position is that we cannot say for certain whether the external world exists or doesn’t exist. In our deepest insight of it, it is seen to rapidly arise and pass away. In a causally arisen manner (object + eye–>eye consciousness–>contact–>feelings, perception, fabrications). This is the paticcasamuppada. So the Buddha sees the world in dependently originated manner (not as ‘existing’ or ‘not existing’).

with metta

It should be noted that specifically that sutta is talking in terms of the atta, about the views of eternalism and annihilationism. That was it’s original intent. Of course, we could then make the same claims about objects too. For a follower of Madhyamaka not only do we stop thinking of the existence and destruction of a self, but also the existence and destruction of objects or dhammas because anything dependently originated is without substance. For the Theravādin dependent origination means we can’t say that an atta exist or is destroyed, and we can’t say that objects such as pots exist and are destroyed, because anything dependently originated is without substance but we can say the sabhāva-dhammas exist and then cease, such as “pain” or “blueness”, as these are our raw experiences.

Conventionally there is a world out there of matter, pots, stars, people. Conventionally there is a world of substances of which characteristics or attributes belong. Ultimately there are only phenomenal qualities arising and ceasing with great rapidity. Epistemologically this means that all that we can know are dependently originated qualities (redness, hotness etc) and so we never know substances (much to the dismay of the Brahmins and Jains etc). Ontologically it means that all that really exists are these qualities. There are no trees out there. There is only “hardness” “green” and so on.

Thank you.

So qualities really do exist outside the mind?

And what if I define “tree” as “qualitatively coherent set of the qualities hardness, green, etc.”? Does this imply that the “tree” exists, since it is only qualities?

An external world is acknowledged, but it’s not the everyday notion of it. If we take a tree, conventionally everyone agrees that a tree exists “out there” apart from us. In Theravāda, in ultimate terms, when we experience “a tree” all that we really experience are phenomenal qualities of “hardness” “green” and so on experienced by touch sensitivity, eye sensitivity, conciousness, feeling etc. There are then dhammas external to one’s mind, but all that we can ever know and experience are momentary qualities. Is there something beyond this, beyond the All? Are there really substances where bear the characterstics? The Buddha said it’s not worth speculating about.

In Theravāda one’s sense experience is real. What is unreal are the concepts we then apply to it such as “house” or “car” or “Paul”. To say those things exist and are real you have to go beyond the All. The Buddha said that’s a foolish thing to do, to start speculating on things that are beyond sense experience.

The Pali suttas seem to only refer to eternalism and annihilationism in terms of atta and not in terms of objects.

Similarly, the Pali suttas seem to only refer to “convention” in terms of the world’s atta, that is, the status of “beings” (refer to SN 5.10 & MN 98) and not in terms of objects.

The above sounds like New Age and not anything found in the Pali Suttas. The assertion “a tree” lacks “treeness” also logically makes the claims of “hardness” “green” equally invalid. But, in reality, a “tree” is a tree because it produces fruit (for food), shade (for comfort), timber (for housing) and shelter (for many creatures). This is why a tree is a “dhamma” because the word “dhamma” means “support” and fruit, shade, wood for houses, etc, support human life plus provide support for many kinds of lifeforms, animals & devas. For example, the Suttas say:

Then it occurred to me, ‘I recall sitting in the cool shade of the rose-apple tree while my father the Sakyan was off working. Quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, I entered and remained in the first absorption, which has the rapture and bliss born of seclusion, while placing the mind and keeping it connected. Could that be the path to awakening?’

MN 36

At one time the Buddha was staying near Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. … The Buddha said this:

“Mendicants, I will teach you about the gods of fairykind. Listen …

And what are the gods of fairykind? There are gods who live in fragrant roots, fragrant heartwood, fragrant softwood, fragrant bark, fragrant shoots, fragrant leaves, fragrant flowers, fragrant fruit, fragrant sap, and fragrant scents. These are called the gods of fairykind.”

SN 31.1

I never read the Buddha say a tree, road, house, floor or bed is something “speculative”. For example, in five minutes, I will walk on a road then walk on a 100 year old structure over the sea. I know this road will be there and the structure will be there. Unless there is a violent storm, the road & structure are very predictable and will continue to be there when my life passes away. As long the the government maintains the 100 year old structure, it will continue to be there. If the these physical things were “speculative”, we would be constantly paranoid, such as fearing the floor we walk on will collapse from under us, the bed we sleep on every night will collapse or disappear from under us, the bridge we drive across in a car will collapse. But the Buddha, who understood reality, taught to the unlearned:

…an unlearned ordinary person would be better off taking this body made up of the four primary elements to be their self, rather than the mind. Why is that? This body made up of the four primary elements is seen to last for a year, or for two, three, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, or a hundred years, or even longer.

But that which is called ‘mind’ or ‘sentience’ or ‘consciousness’ arises as one thing and ceases as another all day and all night. It’s like a monkey moving through the forest. It grabs hold of one branch, lets it go, and grabs another; then it lets that go and grabs yet another. In the same way, that which is called ‘mind’ or ‘sentience’ or ‘consciousness’ arises as one thing and ceases as another all day and all night.

SN 12.61 :sunny:

In summary, contrary to SN 12.61, New Age Ideology seems to give more substance to the mind than to the physical. New Age, aka, Ancient Creationist Theism, implies the mind creates an illusion of the physical. But in SN 12.61, addressed specifically to the ‘Unlearned’, the Buddha seems to unambiguously say the physical has more substance than the mental. :surfing_man:t2:

Hi. You might wish to consider the suttas that describe form as dependent upon the four elements, such as SN 22.82 (A full moon night)

Any kind of form at all—past, future, or present; internal or external; coarse or fine; inferior or superior; far or near: this is called the aggregate of form. “Yaṁ kiñci, bhikkhu, rūpaṁ atītā­nāga­ta­pa­c­cu­p­pa­n­naṁ ajjhattaṁ vā bahiddhā vā oḷārikaṁ vā sukhumaṁ vā hīnaṁ vā paṇītaṁ vā yaṁ dūre santike vā, ayaṁ vuccati rūpakkhandho.

Saying “Good, sir”, that mendicant asked another question: “Sādhu, bhante”ti kho so bhikkhu …pe… apucchi: “What is the cause, sir, what is the reason why the aggregate of form is found? “Ko nu kho, bhante, hetu ko paccayo rūpakkhandhassa paññāpanāya;

The four primary elements are the reason why the aggregate of form is found. “Cattāro kho, bhikkhu, mahābhūtā hetu, cattāro mahābhūtā paccayo rūpakkhandhassa paññāpanāya.

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I suggest you check the knowledge of the path, N8FP. Otherwise one can get super confused thinking they have understood. In fact they haven’t.

See whether you have

  • perfected precepts
  • perfected sense restraint, etc

If you have none, alas you have been tricked by the mind again. :sweat_smile:

Also, Seems like you are not living as a human. When someone say car, your mind say it is not a car. It is like you see, but you don’t see it.:grin::sweat_smile:

In Buddha teaching, you got to see it as it is. Not removing or add to the experience it self.

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Thank you very much, I understand much better. However, I thought that the Buddha affirmed the non-existence of substances; finally I am wrong? he considered that it was not necessary to speculate on this question? Thank you in advance.