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  • BroInChrist's Avatar
    3,110 posts since Dec '11
    • Originally posted by Jui:

      I'm sorry but I don't understand why we were still on the topic of establishing whether things exist/existed here. I could've sworn that I've stated that things exist and given examples of them actually being able to cause and effect change. Actually, to me the very fact that we use words to describe something "ultimate" is already a problem, since it's already one step removed from "ultimate". Just to be sure we're even talking about the same thing, the "ultimate truth" here is used like this: "yeah that car exists but ultimately it's.....". But maybe the word "ultimate" used is actually not proper, or something.

      Emptiness just means that an object, event or experience exists through causes. While nothingness is referred here as object, event or experience not even existing.

      With regards to realising the "you" part of the topic, the precise problem that buddhism is trying to solve is that people act like they've experienced a self, which is considered a delusion. So it's definitely meaningful since we're talking about buddhism here.

      Anyway, that's all I have to say about the matter, not sure if you've got anything useful from our exchange, but it seems like your problems are better replied by the senior members of the forum so I hope we are able to eventually establish some common ground. In fact it seems like we're doing that already.

      If you don't mind though, can you help me by pointing out parts where I'm "engaging in special pleading for my views"? Unfortunately I don't quite understand that part. Thanks in advance.

      I guess the reason why I am not yet over the existence issue is because of the confounding use of "conventional" and "ultimate" in relation to truth or reality.

      A car either exists or it does not. To speak of whether it conventionally or ultimately exists is to my mind a rather incoherent and illogical way of looking at it. Perhaps "emptiness" itself is not an appriopriate choice of word! Since it is meant to describe that things which exists are dependent on others, I would think the best choice of word is "contingent". Less confusing I think.

      You said that self is a delusion, but have you thought that perhaps it is precisely because it is not a delusion that we speak in terms of self? Again I do not hold the delusion that I am independent of anything for my existence. I don't think people think like that. We see ourselves as individuals, you, me, him, her, etc but not people who are independent of any causes. If there is such a person then he is indeed deluded. All you need to wake this person up is to deprive him of food and water!

      Special pleading basically means making exceptions for yourself, as in "what you are speaking is conventional truths but what I am speaking is ultimate truths" or that "99.999% of people is deluded but not me."

  • BroInChrist's Avatar
    3,110 posts since Dec '11
    • Originally posted by sinweiy:

      actually, ‘suffering’ as in birth, old age, illness, and death, is in line with impermance and Impersonality. it's real and universal, and it's as ultimate as Impermanence and Impersonality.


      Agreeable with what you said to the extent that suffering is contingent. Only living and conscious beings suffer. So what does it mean when someone says "I am suffering" yet there is no "I" or self?

      Again if the point is that you and I do not have independent existence, that I agree. We won't be alive if our parents did not meet and fell in love and got married and had sexual relations and then conceived us etc etc. Neither would we be alive if there is no air or food or water to sustain us. Our continued physical existence is dependent on many factors. This is not a matter of dispute as far as I am concerned. What I am saying is that even then it does not negate the existence of "self". Just because we are contingent beings does not make us any less real or that our self or existence is an illusion.

  • BroInChrist's Avatar
    3,110 posts since Dec '11
    • Originally posted by An Eternal Now:

      1. Exists is a mere conventional statement. Whatever arises, arises interdependently, and so an inherent independent existence or core cannot be established.

      2. The visudhimagga portion would suffice.

      1. Conventional statement or not, you do not deny that something exists, right?

      2. I see a new term, what do you mean by denying a substantialist car or suffering? In what way is a Honda Jazz not substantial? If there is no sufferer, then who is suffering? Can there be a painting without a painter? It seems to me too that calling things conventional tends to make any claim to truth rather slippery. Can anyone be wrong about anything if everything is a matter of conventional speaking?

  • BroInChrist's Avatar
    3,110 posts since Dec '11
    • Originally posted by An Eternal Now:

      1. Either through direct realization in insight meditation [enlightenment], or through inferential analysis like Chandrakirti's sevenfold reasoning [a theoretical understanding]. You are enlightened when there is doubtless realization of what is always already the case, and a doubtless seeing through of a fundamental delusion of a self and agent that is realized to have no place place in reality, is realized to be a mere fabrication imputed on reality.

      2. and 3.




          Everywhere, in all the realms of existence, the noble disciple
          sees only mental and corporeal phenomena kept going through the
          concatenation of causes and effects. No producer of the
          volitional act or kamma does he see apart from the kamma, no
          recipient of the kamma-result apart from the result. And he is
          well aware that wise men are using merely conventional language,
          when, with regard to a kammical act, they speak of a doer, or
          with regard to a kamma-result, they speak of the recipient of the

          No doer of the deeds is found,
          No one who ever reaps their fruits;
          Empty phenomena roll on:
          This only is the correct view.

          And while the deeds and their results
          Roll on and on, conditioned all,
          There is no first beginning found,
          Just as it is with seed and tree. ...

          No god, no Brahma, can be called
          The maker of this wheel of life:
          Empty phenomena roll on,
          Dependent on conditions all.


      2.8 Monotheism

      This is the big one, the view that concerns most westerners. There is a long and venerable history of discussion between the monotheistic tradition and Buddhism. This dialogue between the two traditions often centers on whether or not at core these two traditions have a common understanding. The need for this dialogue appears because at a certain obvious level Buddhism simply does not have a supreme being, what the monotheistic tradition generally means by God.

      I distinguish two components of ultimacy that are unique to the monotheistic tradition. Given that the monotheistic tradition believes in the existence of only one God, the monotheistic tradition conceives of God as the ultimate; furthermore God in this tradition is the creator of all existence and also bears moral responsibility for the activities which occur in this existence.

      Both of these components are absent from the Buddhist tradition. The Buddhist tradition lacks a being who has created existence. Instead, from the perspective of Interdependent Transformation, Buddhism conceives of existence as always existing, without beginning and without end. Furthermore, from the perspective of Interdependent Transformation, there is no specific locus of creation, no specific being is responsible for bringing existence into existence. Rather, creativity is an aspect of all existing things and therefore the source of existence is the things of existence, spread out over all of existence, throughout all space, throughout all time.

      John Reynolds, among western scholars I am familiar with, has written with clarity on this issue:

      The principle here, derived from the core insight of Interdependent Transformation, is that all things appear from a causal base. This understanding is extended to the existence of entire universes or world systems. The Dalai Lama makes this same point in his commentary on Shantideva’s Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, the Ninth Chapter on Wisdom. Verse 124 speaks directly to this discussion:

      Both of the above quoted passages are rooted in the understanding of existence as a causal matrix, the view of Intedependent Transformation. It is somewhat astonishing to think of God as deluded, as Reynolds suggests. God thinks he has created this world system because, due to his karma, he was the first conscious being in this world system. Unaware of his past karma which created the conditions for his rebirth in this world system, and not observing any other conscious beings in this world system, God then concludes that he is the creator of this world system. Unaware that there are other world systems, incalculably numerous, God/Ishvara concludes that he is the creator of all of existence.

      It takes some time to take in all the implications of such a world view. It is breathtaking in scope and rich in implications. One of the implications is that being reborn as God is not, from a Buddhist perspective, a fortunate rebirth. It is not a rebirth that will lead to liberation, to nirvana, and the cessation of all sorrow because such a rebirth re-enforces the idea that there is something that exists independently, and it is this very idea/belief/feeling that is the source of sorrow.

      It might seem that this is the end of the story; Buddhism doesn’t believe in a creator Deity that bears moral responsibility for existence while the monotheistic tradition has this view at its core. The two traditions, therefore, diverge.

      However, God has many names and many meanings and Interdependent Transformation has many facets. Though the view of Interdependent Transformation does lead to a view of existence that in some respects differs from that of the monotheistic tradition, we should not stop at this conclusion. I have previously mentioned in the discussion on the basic implications of Intedependent Transformation that this core view of the Buddha means that all things exist dependently. Because the monotheistic tradition regards God as the creator of all existing things and of existence itself, the monotheistic tradition views all things as existing dependently, as in a totally dependent state. From this perspective, the perspective of dependence, the Buddhist and Monotheistic tradition share a common insight into the transcendent nature of all existing things.

      Or take the view that God is love. It is out of God’s love that existence emerges. Existence is an expression of the generosity and benign nature of God. In the Buddhist tradition it is the realization that all things exist interdependently that gives rise to the blossoming of the compassionate heart. Love and Compassion are always present, but they are covered over by ignorance, self-concern, and distraction. I think that these two insights are very close for they both proclaim that in some sense love and compassion are the true nature of existence, that love and compassion blossom when we comprehend the transcendental.

      What I am suggesting is that even if I put aside the idea of a Creator Being, even if I put aside the idea of a Being who bears moral responsibility for existence, there are still significant, broad areas for dialogue between the two traditions because there is more to the idea of God than the idea of a Creator. From a Buddhist perspective, the most important aspects might lie outside of the Creator view.

      How do we access this broader understanding that lies at the core of the monotheistic tradition? I would suggest using those traditions centered on positive theology. Positive theology is that theology which explores the Divine Names and Attributes of God. For example, Dionysius the Areopagite wrote a theological work called The Divine Names. I think it would be an excellent place to start making such a comparison. For example, Dionysius writes:

      Now, turn to the Buddhist tradition and uncover the names that the Buddha in the Discourses uses for nirvana. He uses such terms as the “cessation of suffering”, “the non-clinging”, “peace”, “serenity”, “the lovely”, “the unconditioned”, “love”, “the unborn”, “the deathless”, etc.. Just as the core view of the monotheistic tradition is multi-faceted, so also the ultimate goal and core notion of the Buddhist tradition has many facets and many names. Once I move away from a fixation on the idea of God as a creator of existence, I am actually able to find a lot of similarity between these core views, many overlaps. It is useful to compare these two because how they arrive at these core understandings, such as dependence, differs, but often the core understandings themselves are amazingly similar. Thus, both traditions are mutually enriched by broadening their understanding.

      This is not the place to go into a systematic treatment of these two core views. It would require a book in and of itself. I believe what would be required is to compare and contrast the facets of ultimacy that each tradition has lived with down through the centuries. In addition to comparing and contrasting, I would also suggest comprehending how each tradition arrives at this understanding.

      I believe the result of such a project would produce a mosaic of overlapping and divergent understandings. From the perspective of a particular facet X, the two traditions have a shared view. From the perspective of facet Y, the two traditions diverge. From the persective of how they arrive at the same view X, there will also appear similarities and contrasts. When engaging in this project it is also important to keep in mind that monotheism is not a uniform tradition; it is actually more accurate to say “monotheisms”, and the same applies to Buddhism. The personalism of Christianity, for example, is something not shared by Judaism or Islam. Similarly, the view of the ontological status of suffering is quite different in different Buddhist traditions. Though this complicates the task, I do not consider it an insurmountable obstacle as long as one maintains a broad focus.

      This may seem like a lot of work, but I believe the results of such a project would be an ability to speak clearly to each other, from the views that each tradition holds, and come to a genuine and deep mutual understanding and appreciation. A good way to start such a project would be to compare two specific core texts, such as The Divine Names with something like the Udana in the Buddhist tradition. This may seem to narrow the focus from the broad focus I just suggested. However, the virtue of taking two specific works and comparing them is that it grounds the investigation in a specific work and tradition so that it reduces mere speculation.

      The dialogue between monotheism and Buddhism has been going on for a long time. I believe such an exchange can prove fruitful for both traditions. I would hope that such an exchange of views could be expanded to include other traditions as well, such as the western philosophical tradition, the secular humanist tradition, and the many spiritual traditions in the world today. With a good heart, mutual respect, and the capacity to perceive all people as equal, such an endeavor will help all concerned.





      If the creator of the world entire
      They call God, of every being be the Lord
      Why does he order such misfortune
      If the creator of the world entire
      They call God, of every being be the Lord
      Why prevail deceit, lies and ignorance
      And he such inequity and injustice create?
      If the creator of the world entire
      They call God, of every being be the Lord
      Then an evil master is he, (O Aritta)
      Knowing what's right did let wrong prevail!


      1. Something exists. I think that much we agree on! I can't think of anyone who would argue with that.

      2 & 3 - Can you distil that into a more summarised answer for the benefit of myself and other readers? Short and sweet perhaps?

  • BroInChrist's Avatar
    3,110 posts since Dec '11
    • Perhaps the issue is over the following:

      1. Does anything exist?

      2. Why does something exist instead of nothing?

      3. Contingent vs necessary existence.

      For #3 it seems to me that Buddhism is teaching that it is a misconception that things possess necessary existence i.e. inherent existence, where things exists independently apart from causes and conditions arising. That's why there is no inherent essence for car or cup. For Christian theism, only God is a necessary being, all others being contingent. So I would agree with you that all created beings/things have no independent or inherent existence by themselves, but this does not apply to God who is a necessary being. I may or may not exist, thus I am a contingent being. But God cannot not exist or else nothing would exist. But since something exists, contingency cannot go on forever. I don't consider myself an expert philosopher but I think this line of argument makes good sense.

      You may also wish to see argument #7 from this link  http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm

      Edited by BroInChrist 19 Dec `12, 9:17AM
  • BroInChrist's Avatar
    3,110 posts since Dec '11
    • Originally posted by An Eternal Now:

      The small percentage are those that have become enlightened. They exist and it is actually highly achievable if one practices with the aim of becoming enlightened.

      99.999% means if 1 out of 100,000 in the world are enlightened, that would mean 70,000 people in the world are enlightened. That means if you really practice hard and have right understanding it is totally possible to gain enlightenment.

      The question remains what about 99.999% others? First of all, only a small percentage, say less than 1% of the world population actually listens to the dharma. (maybe the percentage of Buddhists are greater, say 6%, but they merely claim to be Buddhists but aren't actually learning or practicing Buddhism)

      Out of the 1%, who would actually be interested to put in effort in practice the dharma?

      So even though getting enlightened is not more difficult than learning and mastering piano, few people get enlightened. But it is definitely very possible.

      To understand the self is a delusion you have to get enlightened and discover it is a delusion. If you have not gotten enlightenment then at least teachings like the Chandrakirti's sevenfold reasoning might help to at least give some theoretical understanding: http://nonduality.com/goode6.htm - even though this understanding is inferential, it can show you that the self we think we are is a delusion.

      Lastly, Buddhism asserts that there is indeed a beginningless chain of cause and effects (however afflictive cause and effects can cease for those who are enlightened). Buddhist cosmology teaches that this universe albeit having a beginning and end is not the first and there were previous and other universes. We reject a first cause. But really Buddhism is not so much concerned with cosmology, but soteriology: suffering, the cause of suffering, the end of suffering, and the path that leads to the end of suffering.

      1. Actually the point I was making was how does one show that self is indeed a delusion? How do you know that you are being enlightened instead of still being deluded?

      2. It is one thing to assert that there are other universes besides the one we live in (which is entirely speculative), but quite anothr to assert that there is an endless chain of causes and effects. What is the justification for rejecting a first cause?

      3. In Buddhism, would suffering be considered a conventional truth or an ultimate truth? If there is no "I", then "who" is suffering, and "who" needs to be delivered? "Who" needs to realise or has "his" ignorance dispelled?  

  • BroInChrist's Avatar
    3,110 posts since Dec '11
    • Originally posted by An Eternal Now:

      Why would being clamped etc imply an inherently existing essence? None of that implies an ultimate essence either. It does however prove that the law of inter-dependent origination works. Via inter-dependent origination, a conglomerate, a gestalt results in a function called 'driving', and such a functional conglomeration is being imputed as a 'car', and due to many necessary reasons, human laws are enacted upon the 'imputed car'.

      What I'm saying is that 99.999% of the world population has not realized a fundamental truth, and they are living in a delusion, the delusion of an 'I' that is driving their suffering and cyclic existence. If they knew better they would never have thought that 'I' and 'things' have any thingness at all.

      And this can be directly investigated and realized to have never been. It is just a false notion that can be exposed as a false belief, just like the notion that the sun revolves around the earth or that the earth is flat, or that santa claus is real, can be investigated and exposed.

      I also understand your view about I AM and the ground of being, however I would add that Buddhism is unique among all other religions in that it accepts infinite regress of the stream of causality without an ultimate beginning, it teaches it, and it does not present itself as a problem in our teaching.

      The Buddha:

      "At Savatthi. There the Blessed One said: "From an inconstruable (sic) beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on. What do you think, monks: Which is greater, the tears you have shed while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — or the water in the four great oceans?"

      "As we understand the Dhamma taught to us by the Blessed One, this is the greater: the tears we have shed while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — not the water in the four great oceans."

      "Excellent, monks. Excellent. It is excellent that you thus understand the Dhamma taught by me.

      "This is the greater: the tears you have shed while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — not the water in the four great oceans.

      "Long have you (repeatedly) experienced the death of a mother. The tears you have shed over the death of a mother while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — are greater than the water in the four great oceans.

      "Long have you (repeatedly) experienced the death of a father... the death of a brother... the death of a sister... the death of a son... the death of a daughter... loss with regard to relatives... loss with regard to wealth... loss with regard to disease. The tears you have shed over loss with regard to disease while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — are greater than the water in the four great oceans. "Why is that? From an inconstruable beginning. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on. Long have you thus experienced stress, experienced pain, experienced loss, swelling the cemeteries — enough to become disenchanted with all fabricated things, enough to become dispassionate, enough to be released."

      People would not talk about the essence of a car or its inherent existence in normal conversation. Either the car exists or it does not. Why not see things as they really are instead of trying to deconstruct everything but yet living as though nothing is being deconstructed?

      If 99.9999% are living in a delusion, then what would exclude that small percentage from being the exception? How does one even know that everyone is deluded except him? What is the evidence that virtually everyone is living in a delusion? False notions of the sun revolving around the earth or a flat earth can be proven simply because the truth can be discovered somehow. That the earth is round is not a mere conventional truth, it is objectively true that the earth is round. We can test this. But there is no test or evidence to show that everyone's self is a delusion.

      The problem with an infinite regress is that it answers nothing and explains nothing.  You can have a being who is infinite like God, but you cannot have an endless chain of cause and effects. Given that nothing in the universe is the cause of its own existence, the universe cannot be explained by an infinite regress of causation. If there were infinite regress then the series would not have gotten started in the first place. The universe is here, no one doubts that so there must either be a first cause for the universe that accounts for the chain of causation that we see everywhere in the world or the universe has eternally existed. But then we already know the universe did not always existed.

  • BroInChrist's Avatar
    3,110 posts since Dec '11
    • Originally posted by An Eternal Now:

      It is not contradictory because Jui is using 'self' in a conventional manner, he has never implied that there is a truly existing, independent self. He is only rejecting a view of self that has ultimate, inherent, unchanging, independent existence. We do not need to reject the usage of conventional self as a label for communication just like we do not need to reject the word/imputation 'weather' for convenience.

      Re-read this:


      Would an arahant say "I" or "mine"?

      Other devas had more sophisticated queries. One deva, for example, asked the Buddha if an arahant could use words that refer to a self:

      This deva realized that arahantship means the end of rebirth and suffering by uprooting mental defilements; he knew that arahants have no belief in any self or soul. But he was puzzled to hear monks reputed to be arahants continuing to use such self-referential expressions.

      The Buddha replied that an arahant might say "I" always aware of the merely pragmatic value of common terms:

      The deva, trying to grasp the Buddha's meaning, asked whether an arahant would use such expressions because he is still prone to conceit. The Buddha made it clear that the arahant has no delusions about his true nature. He has uprooted all notions of self and removed all traces of pride and conceit:


      But I think the point is that Buddhists need to show that that there is really no such thing as a truly existing, independent self. It would be perfectly fine to reject a view of self that has ultimate, inherent, unchanging, independent existence if we are talking about finite beings like us. But how does this applies to God who by definition does not fall into this category?


  • BroInChrist's Avatar
    3,110 posts since Dec '11
    • Originally posted by An Eternal Now:

      You are just using conventions to communicate your experience from top to bottom. It does not correspond to true, ultimate existence.

      The reality we are rejecting is not conventional truths. It is ok to use conventions to describe your experience. We are simply rejecting that your notions of reality correspond to some objective and independent existence separate from all conditioned manifestation.

      So just understand that we reject an unchanging, independent, separate, existence that can be established, pinned down, located, as some core essence of self and things.

      We understand phenomena to be empty of self-essence but vividly manifesting in appearance just like river flowing, weather weathering, but empty of some fixed unchanging 'I' or 'core' anywhere. Instead everything is a gestalt that dependently originates. We are not denying experience (we are not nihilists), we are simply rejecting a solid view of core-essence in self and phenomena. This allows us to experience the world as fluid, dynamic, interdependently manifesting from moment to moment, which is the true nature of phenomena: ever-changing, empty of a self and dependently arisen. As Thusness puts it in 2005: "Viewing things as solid entities and categorizing them as 'this' or 'that' is due to the poverty of our thinking mechanism, it is not reality."

      As I wrote before:

      Emptiness is not a thing, but emptiness is also not a nothing. By saying 'emptiness is not ...' is simply to negate the false conceptions of what the Buddhist teachings on Emptiness is about.

      Shunyata (Emptiness) means whatever appears are empty of independent or inherent existence, be it a sound, a form, or any other phenomena. This is because it is the 'interconnectedness' that give rise to the sound or experience (The person, the stick, the bell, hitting, air, ears, etc, i.e. the conditions).

      Thus, whatever arises interdependently is vividly clear and luminous, but empty of any *independent* or *inherent* existence. This is not the same as nothing or nihilism.


      Whatever is dependently co-arisen,
      That is explained to be emptiness.
      That, being a dependent designation,
      Is itself the middle way. (Treatise, 24.18)

      Something that is not dependently arisen,
      Such a thing does not exist.
      Therefore a nonempty thing
      Does not exist. (Treatise, 24.19)

      Words are convention. Convention does not correspond to ultimate reality. So when does words convey ultimate reality? Let's just be clear that I am not saying that words = reality. I am saying that words convey truths. If we don't use words, labels, conventions then we are not communicating. I think when we communicate we use the plain sense method. The laws of logic are applicable. When we talk about a dog, the law of identity says we are talking about a dog, not a cat, or a non-dog that has been deconstructed.

      You said you reject an unchanging, independent, separate, existence that can be established, pinned down, located, as some core essence of self and things. But that depends on exactly what is the object or subject in question, isn't it? The God of the Bible is unchanging, independent, separate, whose existence that can be established but not pinned down or located since God is Spirit, and who is the source and origination of all things in the universe, seen and unseen.

  • BroInChrist's Avatar
    3,110 posts since Dec '11
    • Originally posted by Jui:

      What's wrong with using you/me/I/yours? I believe it's already been said that we live in a world of conventions. It's my opinion that unless the person is actually trying to teach you something, people who avoid using conventional terms, insight or not, are trolls and too full of themselves.

      Communication becomes horrible when you don't use labels like these words. The problem with these "truths" is that when we first hear of them we tend to roll our eyes. "DUH. You join a religion just to hear such simple logic?". But the fact is that we can go deeper and work with the nature of experience. The stresses of life is the result of our neurotic relationship with our experience, our fixation with giving experiences labels (nothing wrong) but then treating them as fixed in time, treating them to belong to someone, immune to interaction from their surrounding. 

      Oh and that statement? It's false. We're working with emptiness, not nothingness.

      Interesting that you've written that invented truths are called lies. Because there's a person who's since retired his presence on the web who said "the self is a lie". You never actually experience a "self". Thoughts of it, yes. But that's it. A thought. But that takes quite a bit of effort to actually experience, assuming that a person is willing to do so to begin with.

      I think we're trying to get to the point where we're equating the narrator in the blind men tale to be the christian god isn't it?

      I agree that we live in a world of conventions i.e. agreed or generally accepted norms and standards. But it still leaves the question open, where do you draw the line? All words are convention. If so, how can you talk about ultimate truth or reality without using conventions, and without begging the question or engaging in special pleading for your views?

      If you experience a headache yesterday, what's wrong with identifying that you actually had a headache yesterday? There would be a cause, or causes, for why you had that headache but it would be incorrect to say that the headache did not happen. Yes, the headache is not an entity, but it is simply to describe the state of pain or the experience of pain you felt in your head.

      You affirmed the statement I provided as example as false. So what does it mean to say that an object or subject is emptiness? And is it meaningful to talk about experiencing a self?

      Lastly, I am not saying that in the blind men analogy the narrator is God. What I am trying to communicate is that objective truth exists, and that it is independent of our views about it.


  • BroInChrist's Avatar
    3,110 posts since Dec '11
    • Originally posted by An Eternal Now:

      Subject and object may be spoken merely for convenience of communication, putting very gross labels is necessary for communication. It does not necessarily imply that there is a true inherent existence of subject or object. Anyway, we are not using laws of logic or dualistic concepts to reject dualistic concepts. We are just challenging, investigating, and pointing out at the fallacy of inherent and dualistic concepts that we have been employing in our perception and communication in day to day living. We do not create new concepts, we simply investigate and expose our existing concepts/views.

      For example, we know there is no inherently, independently, unchangingly existing thing called a "weather" that can be pinned down as an entity.

      But for convenience we say "how is the weather like tomorrow"? "Weather" is simply a convenient label or convention for pragmatic purposes of communication. It does not correspond to a solid reality. 'Weather' is empty of any inherent core or essence that can be pinned down or located anywhere, it is merely a name imputed on an ever-changing process of clouds forming and parting, rain falling, wind blowing, lightning, snow, etc etc.

      The same goes for 'car' and 'self'. Even though there is no inherently, solidly existing 'car', we speak of car for convenience. No inherently existing car can be pinned down or established, merely an aggregated appearance that functions interdependently as a gestalt.

      See http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.sg/2009/03/conceptions-of-self-in-western-and.html

      It is important to realize what is meant by the “self” rejected by the Buddha as illusory. Not only are human beings declared to lack a soul or self, but so is everything else: rivers, mountains, this paper, and your pencil, all lack a separate self. What this means is that they cannot have any existence except in terms of the interconnected net of causal conditions that made their existence possible. All things (including human beings) are composites, in other words, they are composed of parts, and have no real existence other than as temporary (impermanent) collections of parts. They are essentially patterns, configurations, or Gestalten rather than objectively existing separate entities. They possess no separate essence, self, or soul that could exist by itself, apart from the component parts and conditions.

      Consider, for example, an automobile. Does it have an essence or a “soul” when separated from its component parts? Does it have any real existence apart from its parts? One could try the following mental exercise. Removing one of the tires of the car, one could ask oneself, is this the car? Successively taking away the windshield, a door, a piston, a bolt, the radiator cap, and continuing until the last piece of metal, plastic, glass, or rubber has been removed, one would never find the part which, if removed, transforms what remains into a non-car. Such part, if found, would have represented the essence or the “soul” of the car, and yet it was nowhere to be found. Now all we have is a pile of parts—where is the car? At which point did the car disappear? If we reflect carefully we are left with the realization that there never was a car there—all that was there was a conglomerate of parts temporarily connected in a certain way, so as to result in a particular mode of functioning, and “car” was just a convenient label to designate this working arrangement. The word “car” is nothing but a label for the gestalt formed by the constituent parts, and although it is true (as realized by Wertheimer and the other Gestaltists) that the whole is more than the sum of the parts (one cannot drive sitting on any of the separate parts, or on a random heap of them, but driving is possible when one puts them together in a certain way), it is equally true that a gestalt cannot continue to exist when separated from its parts. The gestalt, the “whole,” cannot exist by itself; it does not have a separate self or “soul.”

      But what about a person? According to Buddhist psychology, what we call a “person” is the composite of five groups of elements or skandhas. The skandhas are form, feelings, perceptions, impulses, and consciousness. Just as an automobile is a temporary collection of car parts, a person is a temporary arrangement of these five aggregates or skandhas. There is no separate, independent self or soul that would be left if we removed form (which includes the body), feelings, perceptions, impulses, and consciousness. While these aggregates are together, the functioning gestalt we call a person exists; if they are removed, the gestalt ceases to be. For this reason, the self can be said to be “empty” of reality when separated from its component aggregates— a view of the self radically different from Western perspectives. But it is not only the self that is empty, and cannot exist by itself; the skandhas themselves are also empty.

      The five skandhas, like everything else, are dependently arisen, and cannot exist by themselves. Take the form of one’s body, for example. What would remain of it, if one removed one’s perception of it, one’s feelings about it, one’s impulses to act on it or with it, and one’s conscious awareness of it? Form is empty of reality when separated from perceptions, feelings, impulses, and consciousness. And what about feelings? They also cannot exist by themselves. Feelings are feelings about something, about one’s body, one’s perceptions, one’s impulses, one’s state of consciousness. The same is true of the remaining skandhas—each one is composed of the other four. They are in a state of interdependent co-origination, they inter-are (Hanh, 1988).

      The teaching of “dependent origination” is at the core of the Buddha’s teaching or Dharma. In its simplest expression, dependent origination is a law of causality that says “this is, because that is; this is not, because that is not; when this arises, that arises; when this ceases, that ceases.” Despite the apparent simplicity of this formulation, it is a farreaching principle, that leaves nothing untouched, and, in fact, causally connects everything in the universe, for it implies that all phenomena, whether they be external objective events or internal subjective experiences, come into existence depending on causes and conditions without which they could not be. These causes and conditions can themselves be either internal mental states or external events.

      Borrowing an example from Hanh (1988), consider a piece of paper: it can be, because a tree was, since the tree had to be in order to be cut down to make the paper. This same piece of paper, is also because there was rain and sunshine, for without them the tree could not have grown. The same is true for the seed and the fertile soil, and for the logger who cut the tree down, for without them, the tree would not have been there for the paper to be. But for the logger to be, his parents had to be, and the food they consumed, and all the conditions that made their lives possible, and those lives upon which theirs in turn depended, and on, and on. There is no end to this causal interconnectedness. Everything in the universe is connected to this piece of paper through a web of causal conditions. If the component conditions are regarded as elements, we can say that this piece of paper is composed of non-paper elements, or, in other words, that conditions other than the paper itself are necessary for the paper to exist. Stated differently, the paper cannot exist by itself; it lacks a separate self, soul, or essence. The same is true for anything else in the universe, including a person. It is also true of cognitive or mental states, because for every emotion, for every perception, for every thought, there are necessary causal conditions without which they would not have come into being. Everything is dependently arisen, everything exists only if the necessary conditions are there. This means that nothing is ever truly independent or separate from everything else.


      I agree that while it does not necessarily imply that there is a true inherent existence of subject or object, neither does it necessarily imply there is none. And the word in dispute would be "inherent" which I suspect could be subjected to equivocation.

      The word "weather" is used to describe the conditions like raining, snowing, hot, cold etc etc. I have yet come across anyone who is of sound mind who thinks that weather is a thing, it is not. Since no one attributes such a notion to weather, why talk as if people do? But I have yet come across anyone who thinks that a car is not a car or does not exist when he has just driven it and parked it. And it surely doesn't work when your car gets clamped or you get a parking violation ticket.

      I think I understand your point about dependent origination. But it is infinite regress and not an answer if you do not have a necessary being. Which is where God comes into the picture. A self-existent, independent being, eternal, spiritual being, who is the source of all that exists but who Himself is not dependent on any other. Instead of there being no-self or each one recognising himself as "I am", there is a God who exists eternally and who is known as "I AM", through whom an by whom all things are made, in heaven and on earth i.e. the universe.


  • BroInChrist's Avatar
    3,110 posts since Dec '11
    • Originally posted by Jui:

      Unfortunately, apart from asking you to try and experience it for yourself, I do not yet know how to explain the whole experience/experiencer relationship that I wrote earlier to make sense. If you're interested, the first thing you can try to ask yourself is who or what exactly is being referred to when you say "I exist". The key here (in fact, the first step) is to know about this core of existence that is often referred to as the "soul".

      For the other points, I'm afraid I'm not actually qualified to talk about the buddhist position since I'm actually quite bad at understanding scripture. So what I'm writing from here on is likely to be not what the guys in this forum would accept as the "correct" view:

      Let's look at things two ways. The first way is at the thing outside of experience i.e. "objective reality". Does the Sun exist? Sure. But the Sun itself is made up of a bunch of matter. It's dependent on these stuff to exist. Just like a car is reliant on all its parts existing to be given a label called a "car". So, conventionally, they exist. But the way they exist is through dependence on other factors so that we can affix labels on them.

      The second way is to look at experience ("subjective reality") itself. Does the sun exist? Yes I experience it as existing, thanks to my senses. If for some reason I experience sunlight as utterly cold then my experience of the sun is totally different to yours. In this sense, yes it's like the blind men and elephant analogy.

      But the fact is, there's no way to experience "objective reality". Experience is all we have. Some buddhists who lean towards the earlier theravada teachings believe that the Buddha actually had no interest in "objective reality", because there's no way to get to experience it anyway. The problems we have are just inside our world of experience.

      It is interesting the number of times the word "yourself" was used yet it's reality is denied. To me it's a worldview which is always inconsistent with itself. Think of the following statement


      If the statement is true, it is self-refuting and is false.

      Re the point about the sun and the car. I would say that the problem is in trying to deconstruct things or to engage in some kind of reductionism as a worldview. Yes, a car is the sum of it parts and taken apart I do not have a car. So I won't call the unassembled parts a car, any more than I would call a bagful of alphabet letters a novel. We should call things as they are and not deconstruct for the sake of deconstructing. The unassembled parts of a car in a workshop is just as real as a completed car in the carpark.

      Even the three blind men and the elephant? Yes the blind men are wrong, but someone was right, the narrator! The elephant has an objective reality, we need to align ourselves to objective reality, not deny that it exists. This is why truth is discovered, not invented. I believe we have a word for invented truths, lies.

  • BroInChrist's Avatar
    3,110 posts since Dec '11
    • Originally posted by Weychin:

      Good rebuttal! Similiar to what Buddha asked Ananda of where the mind resides in Shurangama Sutra! Stumped me more than twenty years to grasp l, so not easy to grasp! So assuming "I" exist, independent of the aggregates, not a construct, so where do "I" of BroInChrist resides ?


      If I may borrow the words used here before, I would deem this question to be those that are to be set aside and categorised under idle speculation. Why? Because it assumes wrongly that self is nothing but matter. It is not. It is like trying to ask which part of you is jealous when you see your girlfriend talking to another guy. The person consists of both the material and the immaterial. If the person is dead you call it a corpse, the word implying the loss of something inherent that makes a living person alive. It is the same question like asking who caused God? But by definition an eternal God has no beginning and thus begs no cause. So the question is mistaken and meaningless to begin with, unless one assumes a wrong view of God as one that has a beginning. But that's not the view of the God spoken of in the Bible.

  • BroInChrist's Avatar
    3,110 posts since Dec '11
    • Originally posted by Weychin:

      Using pronouns and words are just a platform to convey ideas. Using "I"is iust a convenient way of relating objective and subjective in a conventional way. I am going to puke, I am puking now, I just puked! "I" is simply like a finger pointing to an occurence, after which one moves on!


      Words are not just a platform to convey ideas, they are also the means by which we communicate truths, real truths. If words cannot communicate truth, then it also means they cannot communicate ultimate truths, and any distinction between so-called conventional and ultimate truths becomes incoherent and meaningless. Language is more than just a convenient way of relating objective and subjective, it really communicates what is has happened, is happening, or perhaps what will happen. You said "I" is a finger pointing to an occurrence, but what occurred? And who is the "one" that moves on? Again I hope you see the problem with denying the existence of self. I know it may seem that I am actually challenging a central tenet of Buddhism, but I hope I am not causing offense to you or any Buddhist here, anymore than I would be offended that atheists challenge me on the existence of God issue.

  • BroInChrist's Avatar
    3,110 posts since Dec '11
    • Originally posted by Dawnfirstlight:

      Are you in control of your body? You can't. You can't stop it from growing old, falling sick and dying.Anything that you are not in control are not yours. The "I" I'm referring to is just referring to our body. There's more to it. There are many experts here who can explain better than me.

      There are things beyond the ability of man to control, one of it is aging and death. But there are some things we can do to age well and to delay death, e.g. eat well, exercise and don't be a reckless driver. And there are bodily functions that I can control, like whether to continue typing on the keyboard now or just turn on the TV. In any case, I think the issue of "self" is not about just being identified as the body. If it is, then the self exists because the body exists physically. The Bible speaks of the person as a whole, comprising of body and soul/spirt. Though the body can be separated from the soul/spirit at death, it was not meant to be so originally. God created man as a complete being of body and soul/spirit.

  • BroInChrist's Avatar
    3,110 posts since Dec '11
    • Originally posted by Weychin:

      “I”exist, therefore I desire.

      Exactly my point!

      So why deny the existence of "I"? Isn't it like denying reality?

  • BroInChrist's Avatar
    3,110 posts since Dec '11
    • Originally posted by Weychin:

      Such experiences are transitory, eg. impermanent. Desires are craving, difference is the intensity of it. The more we crave or desire and unable to assuage that desire we become unhappy! This is the main point of Buddhism!


      All experiences are by definition temporary. I see that as a self-evident thing. If I am in pain, it is temporary, even if I felt like it lasted a very long time. Whether my desire intensity level is low or off the charts it is "I" who is having the desires or cravings or the sensations or the experiences. My point is that you cannot avoid talking about "self". The denial of the existence of self is IMO rather self-refuting and self-contradicting. You have to exist in order to deny that you exist!

  • BroInChrist's Avatar
    3,110 posts since Dec '11
    • Originally posted by Weychin:

      Our experience change all time.
      You/I may think of ice cream, but we may want to buy or eat ice cream! You need craving for ice cream and the actual intention to buy and carry out the whole process.
      But suppose you have stuffed yourself silly with ice cream the past few days?! Would you crave for ice cream? Is it suppose to be the same thought of ice cream?
      Is’nt it the same thought, for now instead of craving, aversion rises and possible puking may ensue!

      I hope you can see how impossible it is to avoid using pronouns. It is inevitable and impossile to talk without referring to Yourself, myself, himself, ourselves. Yes, I may stay away from ice cream after gorging on it. But it was MY doing, in all these the "I" was involved. If I really puked can I say that "I" did not really puke just because I tell myself that the self does not exist? Can I deconstruct the puke such that it does not exist in ultimate reality? But I just cleaned up my puke. How does that work?

  • BroInChrist's Avatar
    3,110 posts since Dec '11
    • Originally posted by Weychin:

      I/you can think ice cream and yet not buy ice cream. You went and buy ice cream because craving rises, then the thoughts go thinking of buying ice cream.


      Indeed, if I had bought an ice cream it would be because I desired for it, though unlikely that I would be craving for it. But even if I did crave for it, it would be because those desires were real and experienced by MYSELF. If I did not exist then of course no such desires need to be entertained and it is moot to talk about it at all.

  • BroInChrist's Avatar
    3,110 posts since Dec '11
    • Originally posted by Weychin:

      Conventionality of Self exist, simply because we have mistaken mind process as a single stream of continuity. The difference lies in point of reference the amount of emotional baggage.


      But I think this is also where the question is being begged. How do you determine that it is mistaken that the self does exist when it is the common and shared experience that we act like self does exist? It is a universal experience that the self exist. If even you have to say that "I" am mistaken it already presupposes an "I" to have been mistaken that there is an"I" that exist. Why act contrary to that?

  • BroInChrist's Avatar
    3,110 posts since Dec '11
    • Originally posted by Weychin:

      Relationship existed, and ended, left are memories. If on a very sour note, negative emotions arises (that *ucking * itch! eg.) until we've let go. It is as Buddhist we learn how to let go! God may exist or may not exist, if I were to enter hell, it does not matter!


      That relationship was between two real persons who existed in time and spac. Relationships begin and end, but not the people unless you are talking about being dead. There are good and sour relationships, and relationships that sucked really sucked in reality. You felt it, didn't you? It was your SELF feeling the negative emotions. It wasn't anyone else feeling it but you. You can't detach yourself from feeling what you are feeling, unless of course you numb yourself through some medical means. But that is merely suppressing your human senses which are really there. Letting go of emotions and moving ahead is actually acknowledging that these emotions are real. Even in pschology or psychiatry I think they encourage their patients to acknowledge the truth and reality of events that have happened and then move on. They do not ask the patients to deny those events.

      If there is no God, then I submit that there is no hell to enter. The Bible teaches that hell is created for the devil and his evil angels, and also for those who rebel against God and refuses His offer of salvation.

  • BroInChrist's Avatar
    3,110 posts since Dec '11
    • Originally posted by Weychin:

      If you have thought of eating ice cream today, and tomorrow we talk again about eating ice cream, are the thoughts the same or identical, or is just similiar thoughts of eating ice cream?!

      I thought of ice cream yesterday and I am thinking of ice cream now. Other than the time of the thinking, it is "I" who is doing the thinking at both times. And if I go out now and buy an ice cream to eat, I acted on my thoughts. If I may say so without offence, it would be idle speculation to ask whether those thoughts are same or identical. You cannot capture a thought and compare them via some scientific method. What is not at dispute is that it was me having those thoughts about the same subject matter i.e. eating ice cream. Maybe yesterday I wanted chocolate ice cream but today I had a durian flavour. But still isn't it that I am the one thinking and acting on my own thoughts?

  • BroInChrist's Avatar
    3,110 posts since Dec '11
    • Originally posted by Weychin:

      I no longer have any relationship with god, I therefore consider it not profitable to make idle speculations. However, at this moment, I have a karmic ability with you. Hopefully, being here will sow the seed of liberation.


      One can say he no longer has a relationship with his ex-girlfriend, but that does not translate to saying that the girl did not exist or does not exist. The same with God. Many people will say they do not know God, but that isn't the question yet, the question is whether God exists or not and this is hardly a matter of idle speculation. In philosophy the existence of God is always, if not usually, the most important topic of discussion. There are good reasons and arguments supporting the case for there being a God.

  • BroInChrist's Avatar
    3,110 posts since Dec '11
    • Originally posted by Weychin:

      You should realise that you habitually label your thoughts emotionally.
      Slow the mind a bit, settle down, and you will start to experience or”see” thoughts and sensations arising and passing. Liken this to watching a film on slow motion.
      You will notice as long you do not indulge in you mind stories, your minds actually shifts betweens thoughts and thoughts, thought and sensation.
      Until you are able to shift out the “I” perspective, you can only remain at your conceptual reality.

      There are thoughts and there are sensations which are what I am thinking and experiencing. They are real. I can be thinking of a real person, or thinking of having a nice ice cream and then experiencing the sensation of an ice cream. They are all real and experienced by "I", I cannot go outside the "I" perspective. I don't agree that I am having only the concept of eating an ice cream if at this moment I am slurping on one.

      You mentioned about slowing down and realising certain things. But who is doing the slowing down and realising? It has to be "me" or "I". Otherwise who exactly are you communicating to? Or who should be heeding your words if not "me" or "I"?

      Edited by BroInChrist 17 Dec `12, 3:49PM
  • BroInChrist's Avatar
    3,110 posts since Dec '11
    • Originally posted by Weychin:

      I am more interested that you investigate “Self”, not as an intellectual subject or debate, but as an personal experience.
      As of this moment, you are unable to see past “I” view.
      You are unable to your “I”ness past your mind stories.
      You see and indulge in your thoughts as a single stream.

      But my personal experience is that self exists. I even refer to MYSELF when I am talking or communication. At every moment I am affirming the existence of self. I am communicating to you just as you are to me. At this point there is two selfs talking to each other. It is impossible to see past "I" view. Who is seeing past the "I" view? Surely it would mean you taking a vantage point above what you can see, but this is logically impossible.