Dependent Origination: any updates to the paradigm?

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 Tarver , modified 9 Years ago.

Dependent Origination: any updates to the paradigm?

Posts: 262 Join Date: 2/3/10 Recent Posts
There is something about the doctrine of dependent origination that strikes me as needing revision. It smells obsolete. Not that I question it's validity and tremendous importance within the context of traditional teachings, but it seems to be to psychology what Aristotle's physics might be to engineering. Has anyone got comments or links apropos updates, revisions, and/or expansions of the paradigm that "modernizes" dependent origination, harmonizes it with contemporary science?

Thanks.
m m a, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Dependent Origination: any updates to the paradigm?

Posts: 153 Join Date: 6/9/11 Recent Posts
Pratītyasamutpāda, in my opinion, is not a scientific claim, but a first person, experiential one.


No need to 'update it'. It is very simple, tautological even. You can't have cause without effect, self without other, emptiness without form.

Of course, the scientific-like claims that buddha made, like a 12 step chain of no-ignorance resulting in no-old-age-and-death , are not strictly scientifically accurate, but from a philosophy/psychology standpoint it makes a lot of sense to say that your mental formations are creating the world as much as the world creates them.

Why do you want to 'harmonize' Buddhist concept with modern science?
There's no discovery in the realm of western science that really expounds the pali canon; they are incommensurable paridigms.
Any justification of a buddhist concept with modern approaches is just a story that begs the question.

Of course, you have things like brain scans and telomeres and grey matter and all sorts of awesome western medicine results that really point at the discovery that meditation yields healthy body and mind, on average. But still, those claims are incommensurable with the first person, experiential claims that Buddhism is based on.

Can you think of a time where modern thought enhanced, expounded, or modified buddhist thought? I cannot.

At the risk of redundancy, I'll finish by saying that the only way I can think about this issue is that Buddhism is a first-person science. Science is third-person.
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 Tarver , modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Dependent Origination: any updates to the paradigm?

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m m a:
Can you think of a time where modern thought enhanced, expounded, or modified buddhist thought?


I can think of three instances:

1) Although somewhat implicit in the concept of the spectrum of experience from "gross" to "subtle", Buddhist thought does not directly address sub-conscious let alone non-conscious experience. (This is my weakest point -- I would not be surprised to stand corrected.) This is a recently introduced idea, which is usually credited to Freud.

2) Buddhist thought takes no account whatsoever of the function of the brain. The entire system predates just about everything we know today about how our bodies and the physiology of our experiential apparatus operates, especially at the functional (e.g., neurological) level. Where science falls short is, historically, in insisting on the reducibility of consciousness to organic function. Nevertheless, understanding organic function must surely be helpful somewhere along the path.

3) Buddhist thought is utterly naive with respect to the evolution of consciousness, as is most science even well over a century after Darwin. How could it be otherwise -- that idea had not been invented yet. This is my strongest point, and it is paradoxical because in many ways the traditional spiritual teachings have a certain superficial similarity to, and are sometimes cited as prefiguring concepts such as emergent causality, and this is deeply, deeply consistent with the concept of anicca, but it still isn't the same as a clear explanation of the mechanism.

I have ordered Bikkhu Bodhi's book, and I am going to read it very carefully, contemplate it, and attempt to apply it to my practice; but I am pretty sure that the theoretical model advanced to account for the nuances of subjective experience presented in it (dependent origination), as good and useful as it may be, are still going to be subject to improvement along the lines of the three points enumerated above.
m m a, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Dependent Origination: any updates to the paradigm?

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At the risk of sounding glib, how do those 3 things you listed lead to awakening?

Buddhist thought does not directly address sub-conscious let alone non-conscious experience

What does it address, then?
Nevertheless, understanding organic function must surely be helpful somewhere along the path.

Why?
Buddhist thought is utterly naive with respect to the evolution of consciousness

So?

As I said earlier, I think your eagerness to amalgamate all the world views you find useful or wise is causing you to beg the question.

You may want to reread Ian And's first post, i think it is quite wise, and not just because of the first line ;)

I too 'have been where you are at!' No amount of modern, conceptual, abstract, complex ideas, sketches and worldviews are going to help you 'crack this thing' or 'find enlightenment' or 'touch your buddha-nature' or become 'awake' or WHATEVER you've decided to call your journey on the path. Whatever scientists discover about enlightenment in the brain, or what garbage evolutionary psychologists publish in their 'scientific' journals, or what Freud had to say about sub and non conscious thought... it will not change one bit the wisdom that the buddha came to understand as he sat under the bodhi tree, nor will it change how you are to follow in his footsteps.


Disclaimer: I find metaphors between science, technology and buddhism endlessly interesting. I'm always open to talk about how sine waves are just like the physical manifestation of anicca, or how FMRIs show interesting activity in meditators, etc. I really just want to stress the incommensurability of the paradigms, which i mentioned above. I think you have disregarded this point.
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 Tarver , modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Dependent Origination: any updates to the paradigm?

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m m a:
At the risk of sounding glib, how do those 3 things you listed lead to awakening?

Not glib at all! An excellent question that cuts right to the heart of the matter. Thank you. I don't have any ready answer. The shape of the problem does seem strangely familiar though.
m m a, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Dependent Origination: any updates to the paradigm?

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 Tarver :
m m a:
At the risk of sounding glib, how do those 3 things you listed lead to awakening?

Not glib at all! An excellent question that cuts right to the heart of the matter. Thank you. I don't have any ready answer. The shape of the problem does seem strangely familiar though.


Haha exactly! Did you google 'incommensurable'?

what about meta-incommensurability? emoticon
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 Tarver , modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Dependent Origination: any updates to the paradigm?

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m m a:
Did you google 'incommensurable'?

No, what actually happened -- seriously -- is that during my sit yesterday, before I saw your last posting, I had... not quite an apparition, but an intuition in which Thomas Kuhn scolded me for forgetting material that I had already studied. You see, I have a Master's Degree in the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology (University of Toronto, 1991). Although I got lousy marks and really did not distinguish myself in the philosophy of science part of the curriculum, I have been exposed to material touching on these questions. I recall the heated debates (which are far from resolved) in which the sociology of a given field of study stands apart from the content of that field. This reminds me of the "content vs insight" point raised in MCTB, come to think of it. So not only are there, historically, typically, successive layers or periods of paradigms in any given field of study, but there are also meta-fields of knowledge about those fields which tend to have an oil-and-water relationship to them, such that it is perfectly normal for practitioners (in-the-field) and philosophers and historians (about-the-field) to disagree on what they think they are doing, even when they are all rational well-meaning people apparently talking about the "same" thing. This is what strikes me as "strangely familiar." It also maps onto the ancient Biblical distinction of Prophets vs Kings.

I am still curious about the question I originally posted, but I am also laughing at myself for forgetting, quite frankly, that paradigms don't get "updated"; they get dropped and replaced -- depending, of course, on your model of the sociology of knowledge.

...and, even while sorting through this fascinating material here in T&T-land, I have to keep remembering to ask myself what, if anything, this has to do with waking-up-or-whatever-you-want-to-call-it, so thanks again for calling out that crucial point.
m m a, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Dependent Origination: any updates to the paradigm?

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emoticon amitofo
m m a, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Dependent Origination: any updates to the paradigm?

Posts: 153 Join Date: 6/9/11 Recent Posts
 Tarver :


I have ordered Bikkhu Bodhi's book, and I am going to read it very carefully, contemplate it, and attempt to apply it to my practice; but I am pretty sure that the theoretical model advanced to account for the nuances of subjective experience presented in it (dependent origination), as good and useful as it may be, are still going to be subject to improvement along the lines of the three points enumerated above.



I'm pretty sure you are wrong about that. But there's only one way to find out!
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Ian And, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Dependent Origination: any updates to the paradigm?

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m m a:
Pratītyasamutpāda, in my opinion, is not a scientific claim, but a first person, experiential one.

No need to 'update it'. It is very simple, tautological even. You can't have cause without effect, self without other, emptiness without form.

Of course, the scientific-like claims that buddha made, like a 12 step chain of no-ignorance resulting in no-old-age-and-death , are not strictly scientifically accurate, but from a philosophy/psychology standpoint it makes a lot of sense to say that your mental formations are creating the world as much as the world creates them.

Why do you want to 'harmonize' Buddhist concept with modern science?

There's no discovery in the realm of western science that really expounds the pali canon
; they are incommensurable paradigms.

Any justification of a buddhist concept with modern approaches is just a story that begs the question.

Of course, you have things like brain scans and telomeres and grey matter and all sorts of awesome western medicine results that really point at the discovery that meditation yields healthy body and mind, on average. But still, those claims are incommensurable with the first person, experiential claims that Buddhism is based on.

Can you think of a time where modern thought enhanced, expounded, or modified buddhist thought? I cannot.

I quite agree with m m a.

If you don't understand (or can't see from your own first hand experience) the simple explanation he outlined above, you need to double down on your insight practice in order to comprehend the significance of this truth. Period. End of story!

No amount of modern theorizing is ever going to overcome the preponderance of first hand experiential evidence found in Gotama's insights. Just buckle down and get to work. No one (even Gotama himself) ever claimed that this would be simple to see: "Men who are overpowered by passions and surrounded by a mass of darkness cannot see this Truth, which is against the current, which is lofty, deep, vast, subtle, and hard to comprehend."

You might try reading, comprehending, and contemplating a fine commentary on the sutta that expounds the paticca-samuppada which Bhikkhu Bodhi put together a few years ago: The Great Discourse on Causation, The Mahanidana Sutta and Its Commentaries. Contemplating this commentary may help you to begin making the necessary connections. That's why I included it in my Essential Books from Theravadin Resources thread.
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 Tarver , modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Dependent Origination: any updates to the paradigm?

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Ian And:
You might try reading, comprehending, and contemplating a fine commentary on the sutta that expounds the paticca-samuppada which Bhikkhu Bodhi put together a few years ago: The Great Discourse on Causation, The Mahanidana Sutta and Its Commentaries. Contemplating this commentary may help you to begin making the necessary connections. That's why I included it in my Essential Books from Theravadin Resources thread.


Thank you. I will look for a copy. Thanks also for the "brief reading list of books which might help the poor old sod struggling to make out what the Dhamma is teaching, despite all the complex archaic commentarial literature there is to read and to figure out." Yikes!

It strikes me, upon reflection, that I am totally willing to accept certain aspects of models of states and stages asking questions only along the lines of "how do I get me some of that?" whereas I encounter great resistance within myself to other aspects of standard dogma. Very curious.
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Ian And, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Dependent Origination: any updates to the paradigm?

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 Tarver :
Ian And:
You might try reading, comprehending, and contemplating a fine commentary on the sutta that expounds the paticca-samuppada which Bhikkhu Bodhi put together a few years ago: The Great Discourse on Causation, The Mahanidana Sutta and Its Commentaries. Contemplating this commentary may help you to begin making the necessary connections. That's why I included it in my Essential Books from Theravadin Resources thread.


Thank you. I will look for a copy. Thanks also for the "brief reading list of books which might help the poor old sod struggling to make out what the Dhamma is teaching, despite all the complex archaic commentarial literature there is to read and to figure out." Yikes!

Believe me, I've been where you are AT! That's why I compiled a brief list of essential books that I found personally helpful upon which to concentrate one's attention in order to accomplish, at least from a personal experiential standpoint, the separating of the wheat from the chaff in terms of what is important to understand, aside from all the (sometimes confusing) commentary, both ancient and modern.

The first thing I recognized was: It's important to find out what the horse's mouth had to say (as opposed to all those kind individuals attempting to interpret what was said and taught) about the Dhamma as straight as I could from his own mouth (which is contained in the translated discourses of the Buddha). It was at that point that I lay down ALL other books about the Dhamma, and concentrated on reading and understanding the discourses. That one change brought about a revolution in my understanding of the simple (yet often times deep and subtle) teachings that make up the Dhamma. It also helped me to separate the wheat from the chaff in terms of what others were saying and writing with regard to their interpretation of these same discourses. If what others were saying and writing differed from the discourses I had read and understood, their opinions could be discounted and safely ignored without penalty of a loss of understanding of the original concepts expounded by Gotama.

As one example of this separating the wheat from the chaff, I put down (stopped my reading of) the Visuddhimagga to concentrate upon the discourses and have never picked it up since. No need to. Tellingly, you will notice that this book of ancient commentary is not included in my list of essential reading.

(Do I detect another Jethro Tull fan here! "The poor old sod..." If so, welcome. emoticon )
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 Tarver , modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Dependent Origination: any updates to the paradigm?

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Ian And:
 Tarver :
Ian And:
... Thanks also for the "brief reading list of books which might help the poor old sod struggling to make out what the Dhamma is teaching, despite all the complex archaic commentarial literature there is to read and to figure out." Yikes!

Believe me, I've been where you are AT! ... (Do I detect another Jethro Tull fan here! "The poor old sod..." If so, welcome. emoticon )


If those words seem resonant, perhaps it is because they are your own! I quoted "brief reading list ... figure out" from the text of the preamble to your own reading list. As for Jethro Tull, yes, I am a huge fan and I couldn't help noticing your name in that connection, Ian And...
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Andrew Jones, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Dependent Origination: any updates to the paradigm?

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 Tarver :
but it seems to be to psychology what Aristotle's physics might be to engineering.


hi Tarver,

i don't think modern psychology/psychiatry has advanced relatively as far as the material sciences. Science of consciousness is still trying to argue the equivalent of 'the world is flat, because we say so' from what I've read.

an excellent read on the attempts to shoe horn psi study into materialistic science terms is the words of Laurence Leshan.

basically to sum him up crudely; they don't line up. they are separate and aren't singing the same tune at any level we can find.*

They ('respectable scientist' try to do the shoe horning) fall over trying to describe/ find out what it is (consciousness) in terms of other known forces. Problem with that is, none of the other basic forces are derivatives of each other either. (gravity is not electromagnetic for example, yet both are clearly in action and work to there own peculiar set of observable 'rules')

Consciousness has it's own peculiar set of rules, that unlike the other areas of human knowledge, are accessable to those like you and me, who bother to look at it closely.

I know the feeling though, they do (D.O. suttas) seem to read in an awkward manner.

*edit; that probably should have stopped me buying and being so interested in EEG stuff, doh! Still it seems to contradict itself when put like that, there are observable co-relations, but which is happening first and how? I think that's more what he was on about. First cause stuff, like D.O. talks about subjectively.
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Dauphin Supple Chirp, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Dependent Origination: any updates to the paradigm?

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Andrew Jones:
 Tarver :
but it seems to be to psychology what Aristotle's physics might be to engineering.

i don't think modern psychology/psychiatry has advanced relatively as far as the material sciences. Science of consciousness is still trying to argue the equivalent of 'the world is flat, because we say so' from what I've read.

+1

When psychologists and psychiatrists stop keeping people addicted to chemicals or crying sessions, then we can start talking about having them try to update a brilliant man's words on the true nature of reality. Until then, if I want to update anything, it will be my own understanding of the Buddha's words. Realistically, compared to him, we're all like a bunch of mentally diseased, ill-tempered children, and from what I have seen, that definitely includes those of us who have spent a few decades publishing big words in peer reviewed journals to help pay the bills.

Yes, engineers have made some undeniable progress in the creation of powerful ways to torture and kill ourselves and each other, but psychology has not really progressed beyond the level of the drug industry, which is to try to create concepts for people to project their frustrations onto, and then turn their newly recruited customers' newly conceived problems into "chronic, but manageable conditions."
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 Tarver , modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Dependent Origination: any updates to the paradigm?

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The answer I was looking for when I first posted this question might resemble this video in which one Dave Vago, PhD, transitions seamlessly between describing aspects of meditation including the progress of insight (and mentions Daniel Ingram by name), and describing various aspects of brain structure and function. He does not specifically elaborate on dependent origination, the substance of my question, except to the extent that he says that many structures of the brain are implicated in craving.
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 Tarver , modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Dependent Origination: any updates to the paradigm?

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Well, I finally got my craving, grasping, trembling hands on a copy of Bhikkhu Bodhi's The Great Discourse on Causation: The Mahanidana Sutta and Its Commentaries, and I am looking forward to studying it carefully.

I have to say, however, that my first impression is that whereas it is above question that all phenomena are relative and that "this causes that", the actual links of the chain as presented in this doctrine strike me forcefully as archaic and arbitrary.

I have started another thread to fish for anything Shinzen might have to say about this.

Meanwhile, I also thought to check MCTB and didn't find anything one way or the other.

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