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Let's discuss Vedanta and Buddhism

Let's discuss Vedanta and Buddhism
Answer
11/4/18 12:37 PM
I have a background in advaita Vedanta. Don't know much about Buddhism, though I know there are a lot of cognate concepts/terms. I was thinking it might be fun to have a dialogue and/or respectful debate on matters of both theory and practice.

If anyone wants to ask questions, or put forward points of difference and have me respond, I'd be interested...

RE: Let's discuss Vedanta and Buddhism
Answer
11/4/18 8:51 PM as a reply to nintheye.
You can start with telling us more about your practice. 
1. What kind of practice? What method do you follow?  Since how many years you've been practicing?
2. How did it help you in understanding reality or help you in decreasing suffering or what ever your search was?
3. Is there still a sense of I? And are you okay with it?
4. Do you think there is much more work to do in your spiritual path? 
5. Why do you feel it is important to have this discussion here on Vedanta and Buddhism? 

Welcome!

RE: Let's discuss Vedanta and Buddhism
Answer
11/4/18 9:14 PM as a reply to tamaha.
tamaha:
You can start with telling us more about your practice. 
1. What kind of practice? What method do you follow?  Since how many years you've been practicing?
2. How did it help you in understanding reality or help you in decreasing suffering or what ever your search was?
3. Is there still a sense of I? And are you okay with it?
4. Do you think there is much more work to do in your spiritual path? 
5. Why do you feel it is important to have this discussion here on Vedanta and Buddhism? 

Welcome!

1. I don't "practice" anymore. I practiced many things -- the jnana yoga of advaita vedanta (understanding the scriptural ideas, address and resolving my doubts about them, understanding how they fit into my own life) and the self-inquiry method of Ramana Maharshi chief among them. I practiced for 20 yaers.

2. I discovered the true Self and put an end to my spiritual search. I discovered what I was looking for at the deepest level.

3. Yes and no. Depends on one's perspective. It's a candle next to the sun. It is the candle; it is the Sun. It is both, neither, and beyond the duality of the two :-).

4. Well, there is no more "work" because there can be no more identification with the worker. But that doesn't mean mental development cannot be said to continue to happen, depending on one's perspective. Vasanas continue to be burned off, increased clarity comes. But I do not attribute this to spiritual work, and do not consider it a further realization. And is it mine? No. And is it "really" happening? No.

5. It's not particularly important, but it might be fun. Ultimately, I had the impulse, and posted. No more reason than that.

And thanks for the welcome! :-)

RE: Let's discuss Vedanta and Buddhism
Answer
11/5/18 12:07 AM as a reply to nintheye.
Thanks for the reply. Glad to have you here.
You say your spiritual search has ended and you discovered what you were looking for at the deepest level. That is very interesting to hear and quite inspiring.
Have you read MCTB by Daniel Ingram, the owner of this site? If you did, could you relate your practice or realisation to some of the things described there?
I am not qualified to have a debate on Advaita and Buddhism, but I ask because of my personal interest and curiosity. I'm interested in Ramana's teachings. Could you tell a bit more about your practice? May be it's not what you intended to talk about on this thread but I would love to hear it from you.

1. Could you tell a bit more about your background, how your spiritual search started, how you ended up in Vedanta and Ramana's teachings. Also, how did jnana yoga help you in the path of realisation. (I have read Jnana yoga by Swami Vivekananda and personally it didn't really get me started on the spiritual journey. But the Raja yoga technique actually got me started. Because it was practical).

2. A bit about your journey. Who was your teacher(s)? Your ups and downs in this journey? If you didn't have a teacher, what books did you follow? When you had doubts and obstacles in the journey, how did you deal with them?
How long did it take for you to realise what you've realised?

3. Was your realisation gradual, as in it happened in stages (Like, at first awakening experience there was a hard blow to the sense of self, and in the next awakening experience the sense of self was realised further more and finally it was completely realised)? Or was it more of a sudden realisation?

4. There is a common complaint attributed to self inquiry practice that it is an all or none phenomenon. Whether it happens or not happen at all, even with great practice. Secondly, though the spontaneous realisers have realised something really profound and deep, they have no idea how they really did it and because of that the students find it hard to repeat the process in the exact same way, or gain the exact same realisation. What is your opinion on this? Do you think your realisation is repeatable by anyone who follows the exact same steps that you followed?

5. If I ask you to guide me to gain the realisation that you've gained, what would your advice be? Which is a good way to start the practice? Teachers to follow, books to follow? What obstacles can I expect on the path, etc.

Thanks! :-)

RE: Let's discuss Vedanta and Buddhism
Answer
11/5/18 7:12 AM as a reply to tamaha.
tamaha:
Thanks for the reply. Glad to have you here.
You say your spiritual search has ended and you discovered what you were looking for at the deepest level. That is very interesting to hear and quite inspiring.
Have you read MCTB by Daniel Ingram, the owner of this site? If you did, could you relate your practice or realisation to some of the things described there?
I am not qualified to have a debate on Advaita and Buddhism, but I ask because of my personal interest and curiosity. I'm interested in Ramana's teachings. Could you tell a bit more about your practice? May be it's not what you intended to talk about on this thread but I would love to hear it from you.

1. Could you tell a bit more about your background, how your spiritual search started, how you ended up in Vedanta and Ramana's teachings. Also, how did jnana yoga help you in the path of realisation. (I have read Jnana yoga by Swami Vivekananda and personally it didn't really get me started on the spiritual journey. But the Raja yoga technique actually got me started. Because it was practical).

2. A bit about your journey. Who was your teacher(s)? Your ups and downs in this journey? If you didn't have a teacher, what books did you follow? When you had doubts and obstacles in the journey, how did you deal with them?
How long did it take for you to realise what you've realised?

3. Was your realisation gradual, as in it happened in stages (Like, at first awakening experience there was a hard blow to the sense of self, and in the next awakening experience the sense of self was realised further more and finally it was completely realised)? Or was it more of a sudden realisation?

4. There is a common complaint attributed to self inquiry practice that it is an all or none phenomenon. Whether it happens or not happen at all, even with great practice. Secondly, though the spontaneous realisers have realised something really profound and deep, they have no idea how they really did it and because of that the students find it hard to repeat the process in the exact same way, or gain the exact same realisation. What is your opinion on this? Do you think your realisation is repeatable by anyone who follows the exact same steps that you followed?

5. If I ask you to guide me to gain the realisation that you've gained, what would your advice be? Which is a good way to start the practice? Teachers to follow, books to follow? What obstacles can I expect on the path, etc.

Thanks! :-)
Heh. Well yes, this is not quite the direction I expected things to go :-), but ah well.

I haven't read MCTB so can't respond to that, unfortunately.

1. Got started because I was suffering a kind of existential crisis in high school; was fortune enough to meet and befriend a Swami, and I became his informal student. That’s how I learned the fundamentals of Vedanta. But then implementing that over a number of years presented numerous psychological and other obstacles that I had to troubleshoot over the next many years. As a seeker on the path of Vedanta, Ramana's name comes up pretty easily. That's how I encountered his teachings. I understood him partially at first, and then much more fully later.

 2. My initial teacher was Swami Bodhananda Saraswati, but our approaches might be a bit different at this point. I definitely had ups and downs. Mainly these were emotional: most importantly, a lack of motivation. Actually familial trauma, sexual identity, and more played into it. The key things I discovered along this road were:
a) the power of symbolic expression -- the original, accurate portrayal of your experience into words, drawings, or other mediums... I call it "metaphorization." This transforms suffering into meaning and beauty, and also illumination inner obstacles and orients you to true desire.

b) the utility of psychoanalysis (that's not therapy in general; psychoanalysis is a specific type of therapy...). Immensely useful. I can tell you how to get a good analyst if you want.

Book-wise: Talks with Ramana Maharshi and the Bhagavad Gita were the most critical books. Well, I also got a huge amount in my circumstances out of Marcel Proust, the profound 20th-century French novelist. He's not an obviously eastern-philosophical writer, but his work is profoundly spiritual, and it links to that artistic expression lesson I mentioned above.  

3. Realization proceeds in gradual stages until the realization that you've been That all along, and the realization that there were no stages actually...

4. Yes, realization is certainly repeatable by anyone who follows the steps with sincerity and intensity. The real issue is getting to that level of sincerity & intensity. That is already 90% of the battle. The obstalces to this are almost always emotional issues.

The biggest issue is: are you being honest about what you want? That is the #1 most important thing. Learning more and more clearly what you want and following it IS the real path. If, for example, you really don't want to pursue self-inquiry right now, then don't pursue it. It's more important you honestly pursue what you want...

5. Heh, I wasn't intending to mention any of these on this thread, but since you asked, I actually have a website and a book which explain my philosophy, and also do private mentorship. But otherwise the books I mentioned above are excellent.

RE: Let's discuss Vedanta and Buddhism
Answer
11/5/18 6:34 AM as a reply to nintheye.
Thanks for the reply.

You might want to read MCTB once, just to get to know the general approach of this forum which is a very technical, pragmatic (rather than religious), practice-oriented forum. This forum definitely doesn’t represent the whole of ‘Buddhism’ especially the dogmatic, religious Buddhism. Maybe if you can post a specific point or a topic that you want to have a debate on, people would chip in to contribute.

The PDF of MCTB is available for free. MCTB2, a revised version of the first, came out recently but does not have a PDF yet. Here is the website of MCTB2 https://www.mctb.org/mctb2/table-of-contents/.
Most of them on this forum are influenced by MCTB. MCTB is heavily influenced by Theravada Buddhist view of enlightenment based on the original teachings of the Buddha, which has clear practical instructions on how to get to complete enlightenment, describing 16 progressive stages of insight that lead to four phases of enlightenment, the fourth one making the whole process “complete”. The meditation is generally called Vipassana meditation (Sanskrit: Vipashyana) or Insight meditation. Mindfulness meditation has its origin in Vipassana. Though there are many lineages in Theravada Buddhism, this forum is highly influenced by the Burmese Vipassana master Mahasi Sayadaw, who's teachings are again based on the original teachings of the Buddha.
Apart from Daniel, other teachers who's works are followed here are Culadasa (Author of highly acclaimed 'The mind Illuminated'); Shinzen Young; Kenneth Folk, etc.

While Dzogchen Buddhism is considered the closest in Buddhism to Vedanta, most of them you find here are Theravada practitioners, some from other schools, and also some Vedantists. Many come from a varied background, many who practice self-inquiry along with Vipassana.
Got started because I was suffering a kind of existential crisis in high school; was fortune enough to meet and befriend a Swami

I have a very similar story. I too got into spirituality because of an existential crisis/ meaninglessness of life which started in my high school. I approached many Swamis in search for an answer (I’m from India), always returning with disappointment. Unfortunately, I didn’t find anyone who could guide me in practice. Almost all of them just spoke of theory, and no practice at all, though I was sure that someday I would meet someone who could guide me in practice. Two years back, I found Vipassana and now I know I’m very much on the right path, if not the only right path. I only heard about Ramana Maharshi’s teachings after starting with Vipassana and hence haven’t felt much need to practice the self-inquiry, though I’m very inclined to do it.
the power of symbolic expression -- the original, accurate portrayal of your experience into words, drawings, or other mediums... I call it “metaphorization.”

What you call ‘metaphorization’ is kind of similar to ‘noting/ labeling’ practice done here in the Mahasi Vipassana.

Heh, I wasn't intending to mention any of these on this thread, but since you asked, I actually have a website and a book which explain my philosophy, and also do private mentorship.

Good that you mentioned it, as it gave an overall picture.
Went through your website and videos. I was really impressed. :-) (Your website link is not working, but I found it by googling anyway.)

Wish you the best in your endeavor of a spiritual teacher. May many people realize the truth under your guidance! 

RE: Let's discuss Vedanta and Buddhism
Answer
11/5/18 6:49 AM as a reply to nintheye.
nintheye:
I have a background in advaita Vedanta. Don't know much about Buddhism, though I know there are a lot of cognate concepts/terms. I was thinking it might be fun to have a dialogue and/or respectful debate on matters of both theory and practice.

If anyone wants to ask questions, or put forward points of difference and have me respond, I'd be interested...


I think this might interest you, I run this blog:

http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2007/03/thusnesss-six-stages-of-experience.html

http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2007/03/mistaken-reality-of-amness.html

http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2009/03/on-anatta-emptiness-and-spontaneous.html

RE: Let's discuss Vedanta and Buddhism
Answer
11/5/18 7:18 AM as a reply to tamaha.
tamaha:

Good that you mentioned it, as it gave an overall picture.
Went through your website and videos. I was really impressed. :-) (Your website link is not working, but I found it by googling anyway.)

Wish you the best in your endeavor of a spiritual teacher. May many people realize the truth under your guidance! 
Thank you! Best of wishes on your own spiritual journey. I will certainly check out MCTB... 

RE: Let's discuss Vedanta and Buddhism
Answer
11/5/18 7:22 AM as a reply to An Eternal Now.
An Eternal Now:
nintheye:
I have a background in advaita Vedanta. Don't know much about Buddhism, though I know there are a lot of cognate concepts/terms. I was thinking it might be fun to have a dialogue and/or respectful debate on matters of both theory and practice.

If anyone wants to ask questions, or put forward points of difference and have me respond, I'd be interested...


I think this might interest you, I run this blog:

http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2007/03/thusnesss-six-stages-of-experience.html

http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2007/03/mistaken-reality-of-amness.html

http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2009/03/on-anatta-emptiness-and-spontaneous.html

Thanks!

RE: Let's discuss Vedanta and Buddhism
Answer
11/8/18 4:51 PM as a reply to nintheye.
nintheye:
I have a background in advaita Vedanta. Don't know much about Buddhism, though I know there are a lot of cognate concepts/terms. I was thinking it might be fun to have a dialogue and/or respectful debate on matters of both theory and practice.

If anyone wants to ask questions, or put forward points of difference and have me respond, I'd be interested...


aloha nintheye,

   Buddhism believes that existence is characterized by "the three marks," which are impermanence (anicca), non-self (anatta), and misery (dukkha). By "non-self" is meant that the individual self is delusion, just a series of automatic processes. An example often used is that of the illusion of a "circle of fire" created by whirling a torch in a circle.

   My question of you as an advaita vendantist is what is the Self? A bigger ego? A smaller one? No ego at all? All Ego and no World, Or all World and no Ego? Have you a cosmic self, an ordinary self, no self at all? More than one self? Who are you? Or as RM says, "Who am I?"

   Enlighten me.

(smile...wink)
terry



How much
are you enjoying yourself,
tiger moth?

issa

RE: Let's discuss Vedanta and Buddhism
Answer
11/9/18 7:59 AM as a reply to terry.
terry:
nintheye:
I have a background in advaita Vedanta. Don't know much about Buddhism, though I know there are a lot of cognate concepts/terms. I was thinking it might be fun to have a dialogue and/or respectful debate on matters of both theory and practice.

If anyone wants to ask questions, or put forward points of difference and have me respond, I'd be interested...


aloha nintheye,

   Buddhism believes that existence is characterized by "the three marks," which are impermanence (anicca), non-self (anatta), and misery (dukkha). By "non-self" is meant that the individual self is delusion, just a series of automatic processes. An example often used is that of the illusion of a "circle of fire" created by whirling a torch in a circle.

   My question of you as an advaita vendantist is what is the Self? A bigger ego? A smaller one? No ego at all? All Ego and no World, Or all World and no Ego? Have you a cosmic self, an ordinary self, no self at all? More than one self? Who are you? Or as RM says, "Who am I?"

   Enlighten me.

(smile...wink)
terry



How much
are you enjoying yourself,
tiger moth?

issa
Heh. The answer to the question of what Self is depends on context, audience, and point of view. At the very deepest, truest level the answer cannot be given in words as to what Self is. The answer can only be directly had -- and is being directly had all the time. The purpose of spiritual practice, is, indeed, to lead to that answer-beyond-words.

From this standpoint, there is no ego, and there is no world, so the Self cannot be said to be either.

If we want to speak more about it, knowing that our words will be inaccurate, Self can be said to be that which is unchanging, and which knows itself by itself, without mediation, without reflection. It is that which is beyond time and space and all dualities, and yet within which such dualities -- if they appear (they really do not) -- appear.

Because Self is beyond duality, it technically cannot be said to be any particular thing -- it is "not this, not that." That is, it is beyond being and non-being, life and death, good and evil, beauty and ugliness.

If we wish to say more, Self can be said to be being, awareness, and bliss. It can be said to be that, though it is beyond duality, also runs through it.

Self is not ego or world; Self is also ego and world; Self is beyond ego and world; Self is beyond ego and world and also through it; ego and world are mere illusions against the background of Self; there are no ego and world. All these are true from one perspective or another. All are approximations.

RE: Let's discuss Vedanta and Buddhism
Answer
11/9/18 4:00 PM as a reply to nintheye.
nintheye:
terry:
nintheye:
I have a background in advaita Vedanta. Don't know much about Buddhism, though I know there are a lot of cognate concepts/terms. I was thinking it might be fun to have a dialogue and/or respectful debate on matters of both theory and practice.

If anyone wants to ask questions, or put forward points of difference and have me respond, I'd be interested...


aloha nintheye,

   Buddhism believes that existence is characterized by "the three marks," which are impermanence (anicca), non-self (anatta), and misery (dukkha). By "non-self" is meant that the individual self is delusion, just a series of automatic processes. An example often used is that of the illusion of a "circle of fire" created by whirling a torch in a circle.

   My question of you as an advaita vendantist is what is the Self? A bigger ego? A smaller one? No ego at all? All Ego and no World, Or all World and no Ego? Have you a cosmic self, an ordinary self, no self at all? More than one self? Who are you? Or as RM says, "Who am I?"

   Enlighten me.

(smile...wink)
terry



How much
are you enjoying yourself,
tiger moth?

issa
Heh. The answer to the question of what Self is depends on context, audience, and point of view. At the very deepest, truest level the answer cannot be given in words as to what Self is. The answer can only be directly had -- and is being directly had all the time. The purpose of spiritual practice, is, indeed, to lead to that answer-beyond-words.

From this standpoint, there is no ego, and there is no world, so the Self cannot be said to be either.

If we want to speak more about it, knowing that our words will be inaccurate, Self can be said to be that which is unchanging, and which knows itself by itself, without mediation, without reflection. It is that which is beyond time and space and all dualities, and yet within which such dualities -- if they appear (they really do not) -- appear.

Because Self is beyond duality, it technically cannot be said to be any particular thing -- it is "not this, not that." That is, it is beyond being and non-being, life and death, good and evil, beauty and ugliness.

If we wish to say more, Self can be said to be being, awareness, and bliss. It can be said to be that, though it is beyond duality, also runs through it.

Self is not ego or world; Self is also ego and world; Self is beyond ego and world; Self is beyond ego and world and also through it; ego and world are mere illusions against the background of Self; there are no ego and world. All these are true from one perspective or another. All are approximations.

aloha nintheye,

   You speak well. Mahalos for answering my questions.

   I like to think that nonduality is the same wherever you find it.

   Of course, in nonduality there is no one speaking and no one acting; no one listening or watching. This Reality can put a damper on "dialogue." The Last Word is always the last word.

   In buddhism there is something called upaya, or "skill in means." A famous parable is that of a father whose children are locked in a burning house, and he wants to free them before they burn to death in great suffering. So he calls to them through the window, and tries to entice them to unlock the door and emerge from the burning house by showing them yellow leaves and telling them they are gold coins and candy in gilt paper. Spiritual children are promised powers and enjoyments if they let drop the "burning coal" of sensual delights. Is there something like this in advaita vedanta, as you understand it?

   Buddhism also prescribes a Path for the soul caught up in ego to "reach" the "goal" of the extinction of craving (and attendant clinging, ignorance and misery). Does advaita vedanta have something like this?


terry 


from r h blythe's "zen in english literature and oriental classics":

The "Hsinhsinming" ("Shinjinmei"), was one of the first treatises
on Zen, at least, of those that remain to us. The author of this 
Buddhist "hymn", Sengtsan (Sosan), the third (Chinese) Zen 
patriarch from Dharma, the first Chinese and the twenty-eighth 
Indian Zen patriarch, lived during the sixth century, dying in 
606 A.D. His place of origin is unknown. The conversion of 
Sengtsan at the hands of Huike (Eka), the Second Patriarch, is 
recorded in the "Chuantenglu" ("Dentoroku"), Part 3:

Sengtsan asked Huike, saying, "I am diseased: I implore you to 
cleanse me of my sin". Huike said, "Bring me your sin and I will 
cleanse you of it". Sengtsan thought for awhile; then said, "I 
cannot get at it". Huike replied, "Then I have cleansed you of it".

RE: Let's discuss Vedanta and Buddhism
Answer
11/9/18 6:14 PM as a reply to terry.
terry:

aloha nintheye,

   You speak well. Mahalos for answering my questions.

   
Thanks!


   Of course, in nonduality there is no one speaking and no one acting; no one listening or watching. This Reality can put a damper on "dialogue." The Last Word is always the last word.

   In buddhism there is something called upaya, or "skill in means." A famous parable is that of a father whose children are locked in a burning house, and he wants to free them before they burn to death in great suffering. So he calls to them through the window, and tries to entice them to unlock the door and emerge from the burning house by showing them yellow leaves and telling them they are gold coins and candy in gilt paper. Spiritual children are promised powers and enjoyments if they let drop the "burning coal" of sensual delights. Is there something like this in advaita vedanta, as you understand it? 

Interesting! In a way. Vedanta itself takes place in a larger context of Hinduism which includes a lot of bhakti (devotional) components which people find much like those enjoyments -- there's more of a focus on love, security, and the companioship of a relationship with the divine. Not to say that any of these aren't true, but it's also the case that they aren't the full truth. 

In the yoga sutras mention is made of various siddhis (powers) that one gets while on that path -- and that path's end is very linked to the end of advaita vedanta, even though they are technically two separate traditions.
   Buddhism also prescribes a Path for the soul caught up in ego to "reach" the "goal" of the extinction of craving (and attendant clinging, ignorance and misery). Does advaita vedanta have something like this?
Yes, absolutely. There is a specific path enunciated over various texts. First one has to have certain qualifications: a certain amount of weariness with the world, and a certain raw ability to discern truth from falsehood. Other qualifications for the seeker include tranquility, training, faith, patience, etc. No seeker has all of these in full, of course, but some basic attributes. And then the process is traditionally defined as listening to the truth, contemplating it and making it clear in one's own mind, and then putting it into practice. And this is a cycle. Through the implementation of this over time, various mental habits are broken down and transformed, and finally there is a deep perspectival shift. 

Now precisely what it means "to practice" differs a bit from text to text and teacher to teacher, but those are the basics...

RE: Let's discuss Vedanta and Buddhism
Answer
11/10/18 7:03 PM as a reply to nintheye.
nintheye:


    Buddhism also prescribes a Path for the soul caught up in ego to "reach" the "goal" of the extinction of craving (and attendant clinging, ignorance and misery). Does advaita vedanta have something like this?
Yes, absolutely. There is a specific path enunciated over various texts. First one has to have certain qualifications: a certain amount of weariness with the world, and a certain raw ability to discern truth from falsehood. Other qualifications for the seeker include tranquility, training, faith, patience, etc. No seeker has all of these in full, of course, but some basic attributes. And then the process is traditionally defined as listening to the truth, contemplating it and making it clear in one's own mind, and then putting it into practice. And this is a cycle. Through the implementation of this over time, various mental habits are broken down and transformed, and finally there is a deep perspectival shift. 

Now precisely what it means "to practice" differs a bit from text to text and teacher to teacher, but those are the basics...

aloha nintheye,

   Buddhism has many forms. I think you would be comfortable with madhyamika and yogacara. Shantideva was a tibetan and thus an inheritor of the vajrayana tradition, but is generally classed among the mahayanists for his emphasis on the cultivation of bodhicitta and the bodhisattva ideal. "The Way of the Bodhisattva" is one of the great classics of spiritual literature. From the chapter on wisdom:

52.  To linger and abide within samsara,
       But freed from every craving and from every fear,
       To work the benefit of those who ignorantly suffer:
       Such is the fruit that emptiness will bear.

53.  From this the voidness doctrine will be seen
       To be immune from all attack.
       And so, with every doubt abandoned,
       Let us meditate upon this emptiness.

   Zen buddhism, on the other hand, dispenses with idealism, in favor of "direct pointing" to nondual Mind (aka the advaitic Self). Early on, in the time of the sixth (chinese) patriarch of ch'an, there were established "northern" and "southern" schools, the former known as "gradual" and the latter as "sudden," the sudden school being the orthodox one. A typical zen koan of the (prevailing) sudden school involves a monk sitting in meditation. Another monk wanders over and asks him what he is about. The sitting monk says, "I am trying to make a buddha." The wandering monk picks up a discarded roof tile and begins to polish it. "What are you doing with that tile?" he is asked. "I am trying to make a mirror." "You can't make a mirror by polishing a tile." "You can't make a buddha by sitting in meditation." Most examples of zen illumination involve long preparation followed by sudden insight.

   Shantideva also said:

34. When real and non-real both
      Are absent from before the mind,
      Nothing else remains for the mind to do,
      But rest in perfect peace, from concepts free.

and 

25. It's not our object to disprove
      Experiences of sight or sound or knowing.
      Our aim here is to undermine the cause of sorrow:
      The thought that such phenomena have true existence

   This is what saves buddhist "philosophy" from being mere metaphysics: it is all designed to free sentient beings from sorrow. There is no attempt to be "true" in some dualistic sense, only to set people free from the misery of clinging and identification.

   Dialogue is about differences. One cannot disagree in regards to the absolute. It is safe to assert.

   When ramana maharshi was asked to comment on the bodhisattva vow, the pledge to remain in dualism until all beings are liberated, he laughed and said that was like saying I will continue dreaming until all the other dreamers have woken up first. In (mahayana) buddhism, it  is understood that if one is liberated, all sentient beings are liberated as well.

   Buddhism is also known as the Middle Way, a way of moderation and balance. The buddha during his initial enlightenment was tempted by mara, the devil. Mara scoffed at his enlightenment and claimed that he, Mara, was the enlightened one. He called on all the demons of heaven as witness and challenged siddhartha to show a witness. The buddha is often shown in statues touching the earth; and the earth roared in approval. The buddha's first consideration after enlightenment was whether to try to enlighten beings at all, the truth being subtle and hard to know. The tathagata ("thus come one") decided to give the wheel of the dharma a whirl.

    Now, the mahayana sutras also claim that the buddha did not save any beings because there are in Reality no beings to save. Zen - a mahayana offshoot - tells us that "samsara is nirvana," translated as "the passions are enlightenment." In nonduality these polarities are "not two." It is "the passions" that create the phenomenal world; all objects are desire objects, since they imply a clinging subject.

   What I am trying to get at here is - from the point of view of advaita - what do you make of the phenomenal world? The objects - what is a thing? And the subjects - who is a person, the little self, the actor and speaker? That objects and subjects are ultimately unreal doesn't make them less subject to suffering. The bodhisattva - the mahayana ideal - gets down on the level of the suffering human being and willingly suffers too, with the aim to save beings from "burning" through a reorientation of mind. There is a sufi story said to explain the nature of the Prophet, one who the koran tells us is "just a man like yourselves": a woman had a baby who crawled out on a window ledge beyond her reach, and was in danger of falling. She consulted a sufi who advised her to hold another baby on the window sill, and her baby would crawl toward it, and be safe.

   This is Life and Death. In nonduality there is no difference between "living" and "dying." Living takes love and energy, dying is inertial. In the light of Truth, all sentient beings are living under one aspect, dying under another. We live as our cells grow and change, in a continuous process, transforming constantly. We are also decaying at every moment, as cells die and are discarded.  We are living growing vital beings; we are dying, decaying and wearing out. Insight involves the acknowledging the futility of non-acceptance. How many times do we knock our heads against a wall? Buddhism says eons and eons.

   Actually, I should mention the major difference (that I know of) between vedanta and buddhism, which is the basic nature of the Self. Buddhism dispenses with any concept of an Actor, whether small self or Great Self. No Atman/atman in buddhism. Just automatic processes and Emptiness. No Actor, no Supreme Ruler.


terry

this isn't actually buddhist, but this excerpt from hannah arendt's "the human condition" aptly characterizes the nature of phenomenal human existence in the absence of any divinity (when the chinese emperor asked the founder of zen about merit, he was told there is nothing holy at all; when the emperor asked him who he was, he responded, "I don't know" - the emperor was not impressed)...

this is important because as we are speaking in human language, we are creating together a phenomenal world in which these utterances make some kind of sense... if we couldn't make sense to each other we would be mindless creatures, less than animals or insects who socialize...

ironically, I usually find myself defending nonduality against dualists; now I am defending duality against nondualism, so to speak...ultimately they are not two but to speak of "them" is to fall into duality...anyhow, arendt's insight is similar to buddhism - and different from vedanta - in seeing no real agent behind phenomena...  


(quote)

   The invisible actor behind the scenes is an invention arising from a mental perplexity but corresponding to no real experience. Through it, the story resulting from action is misconstrued as a fictional story, where indeed an author pulls the strings and directs the play. The fictional story reveals a maker just as every work of art clearly indicates that it was made by somebody; this does not belong to the character of the story itself but only to the mode in which it came into existence. The distinction between a real and a fictional story is precisely that the latter was "made up" and the former not made at all. The real story in which we are engaged as long as we live has no visible or invisible maker be- cause it is not made. The only "somebody" it reveals is its hero, and it is the only medium in which the originally intangible manifestation of a uniquely distinct "who" can become tangible ex post facto through action and speech. Who somebody is or was we can know only by knowing the story of which he is himself the hero—his biography, in other words; everything else we know of him, including the work he may have produced and left behind, tells us only what he is or was. Thus, although we know much less of Socrates, who did not write a single line and left no work behind, than of Plato or Aristotle, we know much better and more intimately who he was, because we know his story, than we know who Aristotle was, about whose opinions we are so much better informed.

   The hero the story discloses needs no heroic qualities; the word "hero" originally, that is, in Homer, was no more than a name given each free man who participated in the Trojan enterprise and about whom a story could be told. The connotation of courage, which we now feel to be an indispensable quality of the hero, is in fact already present in a willingness to act and speak at all, to insert one's self into the world and begin a story of one's own. And this courage is not necessarily or even primarily related to a willingness to suffer the consequences; courage and even boldness are already present in leaving one's private hiding place and showing who one is, in disclosing and exposing one's self. The extent of this original courage, without which action and speech and therefore, according to the Greeks, freedom, would not be possible at all, is not less great and may even be greater if the "hero" happens to be a coward.

(unquote)

RE: Let's discuss Vedanta and Buddhism
Answer
11/10/18 7:25 PM as a reply to terry.
terry:

aloha nintheye,


   When ramana maharshi was asked to comment on the bodhisattva vow, the pledge to remain in dualism until all beings are liberated, he laughed and said that was like saying I will continue dreaming until all the other dreamers have woken up first. In (mahayana) buddhism, it  is understood that if one is liberated, all sentient beings are liberated as well.

Now, the mahayana sutras also claim that the buddha did not save any beings because there are in Reality no beings to save.

First of all, thanks for the wonderful history lesson! On this point above, I thought the bodhisattva vow was a mahayana idea, no? But clearly if there no beings to liberate that can't make sense...

   What I am trying to get at here is - from the point of view of advaita - what do you make of the phenomenal world? The objects - what is a thing? And the subjects - who is a person, the little self, the actor and speaker? That objects and subjects are ultimately unreal doesn't make them less subject to suffering. The bodhisattva - the mahayana ideal - gets down on the level of the suffering human being and willingly suffers too, with the aim to save beings from "burning" through a reorientation of mind. 

Well, I'm with Ramana Maharshi and the mahayana sutras you mention above -- that "in Reality" there are "no beings to save." The phenomenal world is just that -- a trick of the mind, with no real existence. The person, the little self, actor, speaker -- all are unreal.

And yes, that must mean suffering, too, is quite unreal.

Now that doesn't mean that one shouldn't help peoplpe -- it means that there is no "one" to either decide to help people or decide not to help them because they are "unreal." The very idea of being a decision-maker is wrong.
   Actually, I should mention the major difference (that I know of) between vedanta and buddhism, which is the basic nature of the Self. Buddhism dispenses with any concept of an Actor, whether small self or Great Self. No Atman/atman in buddhism. Just automatic processes and Emptiness. No Actor, no Supreme Ruler.
Right, well, technically the Self in advaita is not considered an actor. It cannot be said to create the world in any way, primarily because there is no world that can be said to be created. Or if we do accept the appearance of a world, then that world is said to be purely coincidental in relation to the Self. No intention can be ascribed to the Self, technically, because the very idea of intention is within the world.

And so the "Actor" cannot even be called an actor, being beyond all descriptions and dualities.

I knew this was the supposed difference between Buddhism and Hinduism, but I always felt that Emptiness and Brahman were basically the same thing, just distorted into language slightly differently. I know some Buddhists who will agree with that, and some who will vehemently disagree.

And nice Arendt quote, thanks.

RE: Let's discuss Vedanta and Buddhism
Answer
11/14/18 12:15 PM as a reply to nintheye.
nintheye:
terry:

aloha nintheye,


   When ramana maharshi was asked to comment on the bodhisattva vow, the pledge to remain in dualism until all beings are liberated, he laughed and said that was like saying I will continue dreaming until all the other dreamers have woken up first. In (mahayana) buddhism, it  is understood that if one is liberated, all sentient beings are liberated as well.

Now, the mahayana sutras also claim that the buddha did not save any beings because there are in Reality no beings to save.

First of all, thanks for the wonderful history lesson! On this point above, I thought the bodhisattva vow was a mahayana idea, no? But clearly if there no beings to liberate that can't make sense...

   What I am trying to get at here is - from the point of view of advaita - what do you make of the phenomenal world? The objects - what is a thing? And the subjects - who is a person, the little self, the actor and speaker? That objects and subjects are ultimately unreal doesn't make them less subject to suffering. The bodhisattva - the mahayana ideal - gets down on the level of the suffering human being and willingly suffers too, with the aim to save beings from "burning" through a reorientation of mind. 

Well, I'm with Ramana Maharshi and the mahayana sutras you mention above -- that "in Reality" there are "no beings to save." The phenomenal world is just that -- a trick of the mind, with no real existence. The person, the little self, actor, speaker -- all are unreal.

And yes, that must mean suffering, too, is quite unreal.

Now that doesn't mean that one shouldn't help peoplpe -- it means that there is no "one" to either decide to help people or decide not to help them because they are "unreal." The very idea of being a decision-maker is wrong.
   Actually, I should mention the major difference (that I know of) between vedanta and buddhism, which is the basic nature of the Self. Buddhism dispenses with any concept of an Actor, whether small self or Great Self. No Atman/atman in buddhism. Just automatic processes and Emptiness. No Actor, no Supreme Ruler.
Right, well, technically the Self in advaita is not considered an actor. It cannot be said to create the world in any way, primarily because there is no world that can be said to be created. Or if we do accept the appearance of a world, then that world is said to be purely coincidental in relation to the Self. No intention can be ascribed to the Self, technically, because the very idea of intention is within the world.

And so the "Actor" cannot even be called an actor, being beyond all descriptions and dualities.

I knew this was the supposed difference between Buddhism and Hinduism, but I always felt that Emptiness and Brahman were basically the same thing, just distorted into language slightly differently. I know some Buddhists who will agree with that, and some who will vehemently disagree.

And nice Arendt quote, thanks.


aloha nintheye,

    Yes, the whole "history lesson" was essentially mahayana views. It sometimes gets complicated unravelling the provenance of some of these texts. The legend is that shantideva was an 8th century indian sage, but the text has come down to us with commentary mixed in from a 12th century tibetan translation. The (vajrayana) lamas massaged the text, but it remains fundamentally mahayanist, as I said. Similarly most of what we know of the greatest of philosphers, the indian nagarjuna, comes to us from chinese translations encumbered by centuries of commentary and interpretation. It seems that old texts are either trivialized into platitudes or are magnified and polished over time. As shakespeare said in the tempest:


Full fathom five thy father lies.
Of his bones are coral made.
Those are pearls that were his eyes.
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell


   Mahayana oftens deals in paradox. The buddha doesn't really save beings, thus he truly saves beings. When the bodhisattva truly realizes that there are no beings to save, he has already saved all beings. Nonduality, you see. 

   In the theravadan tradition there are many who interpret the suttas as encouraging an individual approach to enlightenment, such that one person becomes enlightened or more advanced than other beings by virtue of "spiritual progress" made by individual effort. I'm sure you do not fall into this dualistic trap.

   I consistently  separated the words "vedanta" and "advaita" in my last post The two seem to me something of a contradiction in terms. Vedanta is essentially monistic, advaita non-dualistic. To say that "Brahman is emptiness" may reflect the deepest intimations of the upanishads but the bhagavad gita certainly resounds with krishna's (profound and inspiring) declarations of Agency. I'm with you, nonetheless, in interpreting religious texts as nondual in their deepest aspirations. So is mahayana despite the apparently contradictory statements. All forms of buddhism are originally inspired by nondualism and find in it their natural result, one which is present all the time everywhere in any case.

   The arendt quote was good, eh? We are our story, whether actualizing the real and being free or believing in fictions and living in mental slavery. The people who post here or in any public forum are "heros" all.

   Buddhists are as disagreeable as anyone else. I have a propensity to throw in tidbits from other traditions so my buddhism is generally not pure enough for the real aficionados, but they are uncommon here so I seem to be getting away with it. So far. Besides, I don't know what my views are, they change all the time and I try not to identify with any view. All views are impermanent and only a means anyway; the buddha would call even "right view" only a vehicle or "raft" to get you across samsara (phenomenality, composed of desire objects and subjects) to nirvana (nonduality).

   Thanks for the exchange, bra. I think that the primary mahayana ideal that your advaitism doesn't appear to get at is the understanding that the phenomenal world is "real" as opposed to fictional, and that it is the primary arena for the exercise (or "practice") of upaya, "skill in means," whereby the relatively free help the relatively unfree by any means in their power. By "acting" and "speaking" we create a real story that can influence other "actors" and "speakers." You can deny that there is anyone to act or speak, but it is silly to deny that acting and speaking takes place, or are insignificant in terms of suffering and its relief.

   You and I are here communicating - acting and speaking - for this very purpose. That you and I are ultimately unreal takes nothing away from this. Real and phenomenal are aspects of each other; like the passions and enlightenment. As zen master dogen liked to say, "A foot of water, a foot of wave." 


terry



from "the zen teaching of master lin-chi," trans burton watson:


When the Master arrived at Feng-lin's place, Feng-lin said,
"There's something I'd like to ask about - may I?"
   The Master said, "How can you gouge out the flesh
and inflict a wound?"
   Feng-lin said, "The sea moon shines, no shadows anywhere,
yet the swimming fish by themselves manage to lose their way."
   The Master said, "Since the sea moon is without shadow,
how can the swimming fish lose their way?"
   Feng-lin said,"Watch the wind, and you'll know what kind
of waves will rise up. Sporting on the water, a country boat
spreads its sail."
  The Master said, "The solitary moon shines alone, 
river and mountains are hushed, I give one shout of laughter
and heaven and earth take fright."
   Feng-lin said, "It's all right for you to use your three-inch tongue
to dazzle heaven and earth. But try saying one phrase 
about the situation we face right now!"
   The Master said, "If you meet a master swordsman in the road,
you have to give up your sword. But when the other person
is not a real poet, never present him with a poem."
   Feng-lin at that point gave up.
   The Master then wrote a poem:

   The Great Way knows no like or different;
   it can go west or east.
   Sparks from flint can't overtake it,
   streaks of lightning would never reach that far.

   Wei-shan asked Yang-shan, "If 'sparks from a flint
can't overtake it, streaks of lightning would never
reach that far,' then how have all the wise men
from all the ages past been able to teach others?"
   Yang-shan asked, "What do you think, Reverend?"
   Wei-shan said, "It's just that no words or explanations
ever get at the true meaning."
   Yang-shan said, "Not so!"
   Wei-shan said, "Well, what do you think?"
   Yang-shan said, "Officially not a needle can get in,
but privately whole carts and horses get through!"
   



   

RE: Let's discuss Vedanta and Buddhism
Answer
11/17/18 1:10 AM as a reply to terry.
This article by Rana Rinpoche compares the two: https://www.scribd.com/document/205987069/Hindu-vs-Buddhist-Philosophy

RE: Let's discuss Vedanta and Buddhism
Answer
11/17/18 1:58 PM as a reply to Kim Katami.
Kim Katami:
This article by Rana Rinpoche compares the two: https://www.scribd.com/document/205987069/Hindu-vs-Buddhist-Philosophy


aloha kim,

   I read as much as scribd would allow me without signing up. The rinpoche's contrast of vedanta and buddhism is much the same as what I outlined. Nintheye should read it, if only as a corrective to my more freewheeling treatment.

   Where the rinpoche and I part company is where he characterizes his "pure" buddhist version of nondualism as different from advaita's version. The one moon shines in every dewdrop.


terry


from the brihadaranyaka upanishad:

When the speech of this dead person enters into the fire, breath into the air, the eye into the sun, the mind into the moon, the hearing into space, into the earth the body, into the ether the Self, into the shrubs the hairs of the body, into the trees the hairs of the head, when the blood and the seed are deposited in the water, where is then that person?

RE: Let's discuss Vedanta and Buddhism
Answer
11/17/18 2:22 PM as a reply to terry.
terry:
Kim Katami:
This article by Rana Rinpoche compares the two: https://www.scribd.com/document/205987069/Hindu-vs-Buddhist-Philosophy

   Where the rinpoche and I part company is where he characterizes his "pure" buddhist version of nondualism as different from advaita's version. The one moon shines in every dewdrop.


terry

I certainly agree.

RE: Let's discuss Vedanta and Buddhism
Answer
11/18/18 7:57 AM as a reply to terry.
terry:

   Mahayana oftens deals in paradox. The buddha doesn't really save beings, thus he truly saves beings. When the bodhisattva truly realizes that there are no beings to save, he has already saved all beings. Nonduality, you see. 

   In the theravadan tradition there are many who interpret the suttas as encouraging an individual approach to enlightenment, such that one person becomes enlightened or more advanced than other beings by virtue of "spiritual progress" made by individual effort. I'm sure you do not fall into this dualistic trap.
   
Huh. So why bother with the bodhisattva vow in the first place if that's the case, though ?
I consistently separated the words "vedanta" and "advaita" in my last post The two seem to me something of a contradiction in terms. Vedanta is essentially monistic, advaita non-dualistic. To say that "Brahman is emptiness" may reflect the deepest intimations of the upanishads but the bhagavad gita certainly resounds with krishna's (profound and inspiring) declarations of Agency. I'm with you, nonetheless, in interpreting religious texts as nondual in their deepest aspirations. So is mahayana despite the apparently contradictory statements. All forms of buddhism are originally inspired by nondualism and find in it their natural result, one which is present all the time everywhere in any case.

That's very interesting. I don't see a contradiction at all in those terms. Krishna's declarations of agency are a kind of secondary knowledge meant for aspirants who are not mature enough for full knowledge.

They are quite secondary to the idea that the individual is not the doer, and indeed that there may be no doer. This whole thing is a game. Indeed, Krishna tells Arjuna: 

"If, filled with egoism, you think, 'I shall not fight,' your resolve will be in vain; your own material nature will compel you...The Lord abides in hearts of all beings, Arjuna, causing all beigns to revolve, by the power of illusion, as if fixed on a machine."

"The imperishable supreme Self is beginningless and without qualities; even though ituated in body, Argjuna, it does not act, and is not tainted."

And in a larger sense, I don't see the Upanishads as monistic. Brahman is not a substance but "neti, neti" -- beyond all dualities. Nondual. 

Thanks for the exchange, bra. I think that the primary mahayana ideal that your advaitism doesn't appear to get at is the understanding that the phenomenal world is "real" as opposed to fictional, and that it is the primary arena for the exercise (or "practice") of upaya, "skill in means," whereby the relatively free help the relatively unfree by any means in their power. By "acting" and "speaking" we create a real story that can influence other "actors" and "speakers." You can deny that there is anyone to act or speak, but it is silly to deny that acting and speaking takes place, or are insignificant in terms of suffering and its relief.

You and I are here communicating - acting and speaking - for this very purpose. That you and I are ultimately unreal takes nothing away from this. Real and phenomenal are aspects of each other; like the passions and enlightenment. As zen master dogen liked to say, "A foot of water, a foot of wave."
Yes, I suppose if true this is a real difference (though the truth is some Vedantins are definitely more action-oriented... I do believe that the true advaita vedanta is beyond a focus on action in the world). Are you and I here communicating? No more, perhaps, than images in a dream. I certainly don't see anyone who can take credit for the cultivation of "skillful means."

The phenomenal is attached to the ego; once that is seen through, it cannot be said to exist or not exist (those being egoic categories).