0
   

A Question on Anatman

 
 
Reply Thu 26 Mar, 2009 10:34 am
Namely, if the existence of intelligent ghosts should be satisfactorily proved, then couldn't one say that said ghosts are disembodied souls--and if they are, doesn't that blow anatman (soullessness) completely out of the water?

Thoughts?
  • Topic Stats
  • Top Replies
  • Link to this Topic
Type: Discussion • Score: 0 • Views: 925 • Replies: 12
No top replies

 
LWSleeth
 
  1  
Reply Thu 26 Mar, 2009 02:29 pm
@hammersklavier,
hammersklavier;55244 wrote:
Namely, if the existence of intelligent ghosts should be satisfactorily proved, then couldn't one say that said ghosts are disembodied souls--and if they are, doesn't that blow anatman (soullessness) completely out of the water?

Thoughts?


It's a strange question since no intelligent ghosts have been proven to exist, nor do we have reason to believe their existence will be proven (which isn't to say they don't exist, just that we may never prove it); but more importantly, I think you misunderstand the Buddha's concept of anatman.

To understand "not self" (the meaning of anatman) one first must understand his concept of self, specifically, the acquired self. He wasn't saying humans have no soul with the term anatman, he was describing a practice, the practice of abandoning what humans think of as their "self."

His teaching was that what we think of as our self is really just a bunch of stuff we acquired from being born which includes our physical body, the personality, our tastes and dislikes, our beliefs, our conditioning . . . none of it lasting or original to our being. But because we identify so strongly with it, we actually think it is our being.

What he taught was there is another "plane" of existence that is uncreated, unchanging and lasting that we can merge with through the inward-turning practice of "samadhi." But the constant barrier to merging with that plane is the self; i.e., the lusts and aversions and opinions and desires etc. of the acquired identity and our determination to get for it what it wants.

So anatman is the practice of "not-self," it is not (as commonly misunderstood) a belief that humans are soul-less. The anatman practice is to gently deny this illusory self (i.e., "gently" because the Buddha's first disciples were severe ascetics killing themselves with self-denial, thus "the middle way"). The Eight-fold path and the monastic life details how they practiced gradually turning away from the acquired self, and strongly turning inward where merging with the "unborn" plane (aka, nirvana) could be achieved through a devoted practice.
0 Replies
 
Caroline
 
  1  
Reply Thu 26 Mar, 2009 05:06 pm
@hammersklavier,
hammersklavier wrote:
Namely, if the existence of intelligent ghosts should be satisfactorily proved, then couldn't one say that said ghosts are disembodied souls--and if they are, doesn't that blow anatman (soullessness) completely out of the water?

Thoughts?

That's avery big if. Ghosts have yet to be proven they exist before i can comtemplate speculating on if they are disembodied etc,
0 Replies
 
Elmud
 
  1  
Reply Thu 26 Mar, 2009 05:19 pm
@hammersklavier,
hammersklavier wrote:
Namely, if the existence of intelligent ghosts should be satisfactorily proved, then couldn't one say that said ghosts are disembodied souls--and if they are, doesn't that blow anatman (soullessness) completely out of the water?

Thoughts?

Here is a ghost story. My parents and my aunt and uncle were driving on an isolated highway some fifty or sixty years ago. It was at night. As they were driving through the dark night out in the middle of the desert, they seen something up ahead. As they slowed down, they looked and saw what seemed to be a lady in a white dress. They stopped the car, and got out but, the lady was gone. They walked a little further up the road. They discovered that up ahead, the road was washed out. They shared that story with me when I was a kid. They all confirmed that they saw a lady in a white dress. Now, I don't necessarily believe in ghosts. however, they are not the sort to lie or make things up. So, ya never know.
Caroline
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Mar, 2009 12:43 am
@Elmud,
Elmud wrote:
Here is a ghost story. My parents and my aunt and uncle were driving on an isolated highway some fifty or sixty years ago. It was at night. As they were driving through the dark night out in the middle of the desert, they seen something up ahead. As they slowed down, they looked and saw what seemed to be a lady in a white dress. They stopped the car, and got out but, the lady was gone. They walked a little further up the road. They discovered that up ahead, the road was washed out. They shared that story with me when I was a kid. They all confirmed that they saw a lady in a white dress. Now, I don't necessarily believe in ghosts. however, they are not the sort to lie or make things up. So, ya never know.

These stories fascinate me, however i have yet to experience any myself, (I wish), in order for me to be utterly convinced i need evidence not just the word of others, i do not doubt that what they believe happened but if they do exist in order for me to beleive i need to see it myself.
hammersklavier
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Mar, 2009 07:30 am
@Caroline,
Yeah, I was watching Ghost Hunters the night before I posted this, so...But there's another question involved here, and there certainly are some who would say that there are indeed intelligent-type haunts, namely, just as much as a disembodied soul would (of course) prove the existence of a soul, wouldn't that also prove the existence of the Cartesian mind-body duality?

Anyway, anatman as I understand it is that there is no separate, immutable part of human existence that dictates and transcends human intelligence: no atman, or as the word is commonly translated, soul or self; not only that, but this delusion is a cardinal sin that leads into all other sins, which leads, of course, into duhkha (or suffering), and that our minds are just as much streams of effervescent, ever-changing energy as our bodies...So I would guess, to answer my own question, that to the Buddhist (especially a Tibetan Buddhist) an intelligent-type haunt at, say, the Lemon Hill mansion would be perceived more as the streams of energy constituting the given mind lingering on long after death, and not only that, but the intelligent haunt, even still, does not ultimately prove nor disprove anatman.
LWSleeth
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Mar, 2009 10:37 am
@hammersklavier,
hammersklavier;55387 wrote:
Anyway, anatman as I understand it is that there is no separate, immutable part of human existence that dictates and transcends human intelligence: no atman, or as the word is commonly translated, soul or self; not only that, but this delusion is a cardinal sin that leads into all other sins, which leads, of course, into duhkha (or suffering), and that our minds are just as much streams of effervescent, ever-changing energy as our bodies.anatman.


[SIZE="3"]Well, that's just plain confused. You are mixing up three different ideas . . . anatman, acquired self, and nirvana.

The Buddha did not say (no matter what future "Buddhists" said) that there is no immutable part of human existence, just the opposite in fact. He said, "There is, monks, that plane where there is neither extension nor motion. . . there is no coming or going or remaining or deceasing or uprising. . . . There is, monks, an unborn, not become, not made, uncompounded . . . [and] because [that exists] . . . an escape can be shown for what is born, has become, is made, is compounded."

So there definitely is an unchanging aspect to existence (according to the Buddha) BUT, it isn't what we call the "self." What we call the self is what you describe as "streams of effervescent, ever-changing energy," and, in fact, that we think that "self" is the permanent, true, constant of our being is the very source of the particular delusion the Buddha is addressing.

More evidence that we possess an unchanging aspect of existence is seen in how the "plane" the Buddha describes (nirvana) is reached . . . by turning inward, through the breath, to attain oneness with it. If the immutable plane were not within us, why would the Buddha have taught his students to look within for it?

So you are confusing the ever-changing self concept of our mind with the deeper unchanging part of us which some have called "soul" (precisely because it doesn't change). And the idea of anatman is the practice or perspective of turning away from believing (i.e., denying) that the changing self is the permanent thing. Anatman is not the teaching (by the Buddha anyway) that we are soulless![/SIZE]
Elmud
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Mar, 2009 04:45 pm
@Caroline,
Caroline wrote:
These stories fascinate me, however i have yet to experience any myself, (I wish), in order for me to be utterly convinced i need evidence not just the word of others, i do not doubt that what they believe happened but if they do exist in order for me to beleive i need to see it myself.

Yeah. I've heard a lot of stories like these. My family was from East Texas. Poor folks. Fairly superstitious. We use to sit out in the back yard of an evening and as a child, I would listen to their stories. They called ghosts, "haint's". Whether or not they actually saw strange phenomena, who knows. Good stories though. I enjoyed them.
0 Replies
 
hammersklavier
 
  1  
Reply Mon 30 Mar, 2009 03:08 pm
@LWSleeth,
LWSleeth wrote:
Well, that's just plain confused. You are mixing up three different ideas . . . anatman, acquired self, and nirvana.

The Buddha did not say (no matter what future "Buddhists" said) that there is no immutable part of human existence, just the opposite in fact. He said, "There is, monks, that plane where there is neither extension nor motion. . . there is no coming or going or remaining or deceasing or uprising. . . . There is, monks, an unborn, not become, not made, uncompounded . . . [and] because [that exists] . . . an escape can be shown for what is born, has become, is made, is compounded."

So there definitely is an unchanging aspect to existence (according to the Buddha) BUT, it isn't what we call the "self." What we call the self is what you describe as "streams of effervescent, ever-changing energy," and, in fact, that we think that "self" is the permanent, true, constant of our being is the very source of the particular delusion the Buddha is addressing.

More evidence that we possess an unchanging aspect of existence is seen in how the "plane" the Buddha describes (nirvana) is reached . . . by turning inward, through the breath, to attain oneness with it. If the immutable plane were not within us, why would the Buddha have taught his students to look within for it?

So you are confusing the ever-changing self concept of our mind with the deeper unchanging part of us which some have called "soul" (precisely because it doesn't change). And the idea of anatman is the practice or perspective of turning away from believing (i.e., denying) that the changing self is the permanent thing. Anatman is not the teaching (by the Buddha anyway) that we are soulless!

Now you are simply confusing yourself! I was thinking more in terms of echoes, and a Tibetan sort of energy streams. Just as hearing an echo doesn't mean there's somebody shouting back at you, so too an echo of life doesn't require that there's an eternal, immutable echo-er, only that there was once an echo-er of some sort to make the echo in the first place. Thus what I said is entirely in keeping with anatman. And also recall Buddhism rails against precisely those sorts of distinctions conceptualization creates, thus there is no real distinction between anatman, dependent origination, and nirvana. Geez.

And, since you're so willingly confused, let me throw in a random quote from a Buddhist holy text just to confuse you further:
Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra wrote:
Therefore, in emptiness, there is neither form, nor feeling, nor perception, nor mental formations, or consciousness; there is no eye, or ear, or nose, or tongue, or body, or mind; no form, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no object of mind; no realms of elements (from eyes to mind-consciousness); no interdependent origins and no extinction of them (from ignorance to old age and death); no suffering, no origination of suffering, no extinction of suffering, no path; no understanding, no attainment.
LWSleeth
 
  1  
Reply Tue 31 Mar, 2009 12:34 pm
@hammersklavier,
[SIZE="3"]
hammersklavier;55815 wrote:
Now you are simply confusing yourself!


One of the problems with discussion forums on a website is that from the secrecy of one's cubicle or room, one can act like an authority, expert, and person of the highest understanding when in reality one is a 20 year old kid who doesn't have enough education or experience to be very certain of anything yet.

But a problem for wannabe big shots is that every once in awhile someone genuinely knowledgeable of the subject under discussion participates in a forum, and/or someone who has personally practiced say, samadhi, for 35 years. A studied, experienced person will recognize baloney immediately.

Now, why should I care if you talk out of your backside about this? Because it is an important and beloved matter to many of us, which makes it very hard to watch someone use it merely to act like a genius. This is a subject already extraordinarily hard to grasp (especially for those of us raised on Western thought), so the last thing we need is someone confusing everyone with incompetent and incorrect interpretations.

I suggest you humble yourself and admit you know nothing about what the Buddha taught; that way you might be able to eventually learn something.


hammersklavier;55815 wrote:
I was thinking more in terms of echoes, and a Tibetan sort of energy streams. Just as hearing an echo doesn't mean there's somebody shouting back at you, so too an echo of life doesn't require that there's an eternal, immutable echo-er, only that there was once an echo-er of some sort to make the echo in the first place. Thus what I said is entirely in keeping with anatman.


That is NOT what you said, but even if it were, it is still not "in keeping with anatman." You said:

hammersklavier;55244 wrote:
. . . [if intelligent ghosts exist] doesn't that blow anatman (soullessness) completely out of the water?


It is clear you are misinterpreting anatman because anyone, from the simplest peasant to the most educated scholar, would immediately understand after experiencing samadhi (i.e., not merely theorizing about it) that anatman does not mean soulless. It is the same sort of moronic interpretation that people make when they say the Buddha was an atheist; he wasn't an atheist, what he said was that to speculate about God is a waste of time. Practice samadhi and find out for oneself what there is to discover.

But without understanding what the Buddha was up to, people misinterpret incessantly, and so here you are following the inexperienced crowd who think anatman is a description of non-existence when actually it is a practice, the practice of denying that the changing aspects of us is the permanent, defining "self." What you seem ignorant of is that the Buddha did not only teach denying permanent status to "self," his highest priority was teaching students to turn to that which is permanent.

But not content with one foot stuck in your mouth, you decide to add the other:


hammersklavier;55244 wrote:
And also recall Buddhism rails against precisely those sorts of distinctions conceptualization creates, thus there is no real distinction between anatman, dependent origination, and nirvana. Geez.


If it were possible to more misrepresent the Buddha's teaching, I don't see how to do it. Besides that, you aren't making a lick of sense, e.g., if there is no distinction between anatman, dependent origination and nirvana, then why have distinct terms for them, with each term describing wholly different aspects of reality?

1) That which is dependent on origination is not permanent, yet it is what we deluded human beings believe with all our might is the real, permanent self, 2) anatman is the recognition that the "self" dependent on origination is not permanent or original existence, and 3) nirvana is that which one turns to in samadhi to find permanence. This is just as the Buddha himself taught when he said "because the unborn [etc.] exists, an escape can be shown for what is born, has become, is made, is compounded."

And where do we find that permanent place? In our own hearts, through the breath, at the core of our being. We, like all that exists, are in essence the permanent thing, we just don't realize it, and never will until we turn to it and become one with it.


hammersklavier;55244 wrote:
And, since you're so willingly confused, let me throw in a random quote from a Buddhist holy text just to confuse you further:


Now, with both feet in your mouth, you decide to be a smart ass, but only manage to thoroughly reveal just how little you understand, since anyone who would use the following quote to support a "soulless" hypothesis has to be clueless:

Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra wrote:
Therefore, in emptiness, there is neither form, nor feeling, nor perception, nor mental formations, or consciousness; there is no eye, or ear, or nose, or tongue, or body, or mind; no form, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no object of mind; no realms of elements (from eyes to mind-consciousness); no interdependent origins and no extinction of them (from ignorance to old age and death); no suffering, no origination of suffering, no extinction of suffering, no path; no understanding, no attainment.


What do you think "emptiness" is? Have you experienced it? I say you haven't, and that is precisely why you have no idea this sutra is actually addressing what's permanent and never-changing about us.

"Emptiness" is the experience of samadhi. The term "samadhi" means union. As we all know, union means the joining of something compound to become one
hammersklavier
 
  1  
Reply Tue 31 Mar, 2009 01:23 pm
@LWSleeth,
Les, since I am taking my views on the matter directly from the Heart Sutra, I can't see how I'm misrepresenting the Buddha's teachings. Granted, there has been a great drift between the original teachings and further cogent interpretations--but can't the same thing be said for Christianity? St. Augustine and St. Aquinas have enormous deviations from the teachings in the Gospels, and so too do Avalokita and the Dalai Lama (who some would say is the same person) enormous deviations from the teachings of Shakyamuni! To try to live life only by the decrees of just the most ancient veins of thought in a religion, as do all practicioners of orthodoxies*--Theravadas, Orthodox Jews, Protestants, fundamental Muslims--is inherently fallacious, not least because the original vein of thought, wether Mosaic, Messianic, Koranic, or Pali, grew out of a given place and time in history, and it is impossible to perfectly re-recover that necessary moment, and the commentary tradition reflects the adaptation of a successful faith as times in history change!

The fact of the matter is that the fact that you're accusing me of confusing my concepts reveals your dogmatic attachment to one interpretation of said concepts, and I assure you, that is, without a doubt, most contrary to the Buddha's intentions. Orthodoxy implies dogmatism, dogmatism implies attachment, attachment causes suffering, suffering prevents enlightenment, prevention of enlightenment forces samsara, which in turn causes yet more suffering.

Rene Descartes wrote:
Here too what is said not to be an idea of the sun, and yet is described, is precisely what I call an idea.


Your concern about emptiness, however, is well noted. Indeed, I would not have posted the text without what I would consider a sufficient and adequate comprehension. Thich Nhat Hanh's The Heart of Understanding, I believe, gives a useful, if simple, account of the idea.
Quote:
To be empty is to be empty of something...When Avalokita says that the five skandhas are equally empty, to help him be precise, we must ask him, "Mr. Avalokita, empty of what?"
......
And this is what he [says]: "They are empty of a separate self." That means none of these five [skandhas] can exist by itself alone. Each of the five [skandhas] has to be made by the other four. They have to co-exist; they have to inter-be with all the others.


-------
* Fundamentalisms would here be the more generally "applicable" term, but the root of orthodoxy ("right opinion", thereby implying all other opinions are wrong) better conveys the sense I'm aiming at.
LWSleeth
 
  1  
Reply Tue 31 Mar, 2009 07:46 pm
@hammersklavier,
[SIZE="3"]First let me say I appreciate the humility in your answers, maybe we can talk . . .

hammersklavier;56001 wrote:
Your concern about emptiness, however, is well noted. Indeed, I would not have posted the text without what I would consider a sufficient and adequate comprehension. Thich Nhat Hanh's The Heart of Understanding, I believe, gives a useful, if simple, account of the idea.


. . . though, of course, you can't resist acting like the expert again.


hammersklavier;56001 wrote:
Les, since I am taking my views on the matter directly from the Heart Sutra, I can't see how I'm misrepresenting the Buddha's teachings.


Who was the master? If you take a sutra created five or six centuries after the Buddha's death, written my a monk, and then prop it up as though we should equate it to the teachings of the master, then I find that a problem.

I will explain more as I go along.


hammersklavier;56001 wrote:
Granted, there has been a great drift between the original teachings and further cogent interpretations--but can't the same thing be said for Christianity?


Yes! Exactly, precisely my point. Why are you leaning on a monk's version of what the Buddha meant when we have such heroic efforts by those who knew the Buddha to preserve his sayings?

The same with Jesus. As a scholar, after every effort to evaluate what we can accept as likely said by him, why jump to Augustine or (the especially anal) Aquinas?

The master knows, but everyone else . . . big question. If someone aligns very, very, very, very carefully with the teaching of the original master, I like him/her; but if not, I can't trust it.


hammersklavier;56001 wrote:
To try to live life only by the decrees of just the most ancient veins of thought in a religion, as do all practitioners of orthodoxies*--Theravadas, Orthodox Jews, Protestants, fundamental Muslims--is inherently fallacious, not least because the original vein of thought, whether Mosaic, Messianic, Koranic, or Pali, grew out of a given place and time in history, and it is impossible to perfectly re-recover that necessary moment, and the commentary tradition reflects the adaptation of a successful faith as times in history change!


You are correct. But are you shooting for religious scholarship, or understanding the experience of the master? Religion is one thing, the enlightenment of the Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Moses, the Baal Shem Tov, Guru Nanak, et al is a whole other thing.

When you spoke of anatman, I responded to your idea based on my understanding of what the Buddha taught. It is not fair to him to use anybody else's version of anatman (even a Buddhist) in your proposal (look at what some Christians have done to the teachings of Jesus . . . do you think Buddhism is immune to that sort of distortion?). I think that is especially true in a public forum where people are watching debates, hoping for insight into this very difficult subject.[/SIZE]
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Apr, 2009 12:16 am
@hammersklavier,
A subtle but important point in this discussion. To say that everything is without-self is not to say that there IS no self. It simply points out that everything you can see, know and experience is anatta, not-self. Think about that.

---------- Post added at 04:38 PM ---------- Previous post was at 04:16 PM ----------

Which is not to say that Buddha teaches there IS self, either. There are a series of related questions, about questions which Western philosophy treats under the title of metaphysics, about which the Buddha maintained a 'noble silence'. The existence or non-existence of the soul was one of these questions.
0 Replies
 
 

Related Topics

How can we be sure? - Discussion by Raishu-tensho
Proof of nonexistence of free will - Discussion by litewave
morals and ethics, how are they different? - Question by existential potential
Destroy My Belief System, Please! - Discussion by Thomas
Star Wars in Philosophy. - Discussion by Logicus
Existence of Everything. - Discussion by Logicus
Is it better to be feared or loved? - Discussion by Black King
 
  1. Forums
  2. » A Question on Anatman
Copyright © 2021 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.03 seconds on 11/28/2021 at 11:39:54