Author Topic: Two truths and so on ....  (Read 735 times)

Offline paracelsus

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Two truths and so on ....
« on: November 20, 2018, 05:53:33 pm »
This discussion contains differing definitions: What is truth? Comparative “spiritual” experiences and how different religious traditions describe them, What or who is Amida Buddha and will he or can he save you/me/anyone?

From the perspective of "non-adherence" to any religion, and a practice of meditation based on (my interpretation of) various Buddhist teachings the answers to some of these questions could be:

Truth is what IS. It can be divided, for the purposes of communication and debate by worldlings, into two aspects:  Relative Truth and Ultimate Truth.

Relative Truth is the perception of reality by the divided sentient being, i.e. one who is still under the impression that they are an independent entity separate from the whole. This separateness is as easily proven by logic as is the opposite. “Reality" is relative truth and is as various in character as the beings who perceive it.

The Relative is no less “true” than Ultimate Truth but is limited to the individual’s own experience which is largely seen and fashioned through the filter of karma. (What we’ve taught ourselves to be through our thought, speech and action.) If we want to test whether our personal being is real or not it can be done either by putting a finger in a candle flame or eating a plate of ice cream.

Ultimate Truth is beyond thought and communication; not because it is metaphysical or even mysterious beyond comprehension, but because all definition or description or attempt to render it into language immediately splits it into “relative” pieces. Us and the meaning, perceiver and perceived.

Hence: “Ultimate truth is beyond words. Doctrines are words, they are not the Way. The Way is without words” (Bodhidharma)

Spiritual experiences are all Relative Truth in that they are personal. Although they may include experiences of oneness and wholeness or emptiness, vastness or bliss or visionary events and so on, these are all within the bhavańga or mind stream of the individual. Yogis and mystics and meditators, if they wish to communicate these experiences, will do it through the concepts and language of their culture, or invent new ones.

And Amida Butsu and whether he can save you? This idea is a profound one based on the primordial truth of the impermanence of suffering. The presence of Amida is the reality that the individual is not separate from the Ultimate, but recognises the temporary split between relative self and ultimate unity. The “condition” of the individual is determined by the use of energy and it is the nature of their behaviour that determines the results. In the mean time having faith that there is a Way to improve their existence could be of great importance. So to have Amida “beside” one is to have confidence that to dispense with the turmoil, and abandon the trappings of personal identity will not be to have it replaced with void and darkness.

The confidence begets fearlessness and this allows peace, the peace is the dying out of internal conflict, the end of internal conflict allows freedom to breathe and the calmness to perceive space. The space is an intimation of the emptiness of all phenomena, but not as void and darkness but as vibrant with energy and potential.

 Make of it what you will.

Metta
« Last Edit: November 28, 2018, 09:38:07 am by Chaz »

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: Re: Amida Buddha & The Book of Exodus
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2018, 09:19:16 am »
Quote
As for "Ultimate Truth", it's basically a meaningless expression.  Is "Ultimate Truth" more true than "Truth"?  And is "Truth" more true than plain old "truth"?


Well said. ”Ultimate truth”, “conventional truth”, “two truths”, capitalized “Truth”, and similar gimmicks, are just the invention of some thoughtless translators of Buddhist texts, lacking any clue even about their own language, let alone about the translated meanings.

The "two truths" have nothing to do with an "invention of some thoughtless translators of Buddhist texts." They refer to the teachings of Nagarjuna and a dialectic which was influential on the development of zen and other Mahayana teachings. It’s a subtle philosophy which is somewhat meaningless without some insight from meditation practice.

http://www.thezensite.com/MainPages/nagarjuna.html

Quote
Nagarjuna was scathingly critical toward those who interpret shunyata as nothingness: woe to those who hold it, for it’s like grasping a snake by the wrong end. They confuse two different levels of truth, the conventional (samvriti) and the ultimate (paramartha). The conventional is not ultimately true, but it’s needed in order to point to the ultimate. Shunyata is a conventional truth that helps us realize the ultimate, which cannot be expressed in words. Shunyata is itself empty, but it is useful only for pointing out that nothing has self-existence. Shunyata helps pry us free from our attachment to things. But since shunyata has meaning only in relation to something that is not empty, and since ultimately there are no self-existing things, there is therefore no shunyata, either. As with the Buddha’s raft; we need to let go of shunyata, too. The “ultimate truth” does not refer to some other transcendent reality. As another Madhyamika, Atisha, later expressed it: “If you use reason to examine the conventional world as it appears to us, you can find nothing that is real (that has self-existence). That not-finding is itself the ultimate.”

from --
http://www.thezensite.com/ZenEssays/Nagarjuna/SecondBuddha_Nagarjuna_Loy.html


« Last Edit: November 25, 2018, 10:05:09 am by zafrogzen »
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: Re: Amida Buddha & The Book of Exodus
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2018, 12:22:50 pm »
I’m not convinced. Can you elaborate further about the teachings of Nagarjuna and the “two truths” – without the personal vitriol?
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline paracelsus

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Re: Re: Amida Buddha & The Book of Exodus
« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2018, 03:42:57 pm »
As for "Ultimate Truth", it's basically a meaningless expression.  Is "Ultimate Truth" more true than "Truth"?  And is "Truth" more true than plain old "truth"?

Well said. ”Ultimate truth”, “conventional truth”, “two truths”, capitalized “Truth”, and similar gimmicks, are just the invention of some thoughtless translators of Buddhist texts, lacking any clue even about their own language, let alone about the translated meanings.

Maybe you misunderstand how language works and the purpose of it.

The thoughtful use of the Truth definitions is to assist all of us unenlightened beings to break though our intellectual barriers, enlightened beings such as yourself, maybe, are above the need for such words but should surely, with compassion, recognise their benefit in assisting us.

The Buddha was said to have said that: Whatever the world held to be true, he too would hold to be true. This allowed him to communicate with us in our language and using concepts we could relate to, despite the "Truths" he spoke of being beyond the province of language and intellect.

The "two truths" as I said in my post above is a device to help us understand through intellectual debate and introspection, they were never meant to be taken as literal definitions of separate things.

To quote again, (and I will do so wherever it might be a helpful reminder) from John Locke. English philosopher. 1632- 1704: "We should have a great many fewer disputes in this world if words were taken for what they are, the signs of our ideas only, and not for things in themselves."

And also from Seng-Ts'an in "Hsin-Hsin Ming": ... "Words, words, the way is beyond language,  ..."

From Bodhidharma: "Ultimate Truth is beyond words. Doctrines are words. They are not the Way. The Way is without words".

If this is so, Matibhadra, what language are you communicating in here, that contains no words?



Offline zafrogzen

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Re: Re: Amida Buddha & The Book of Exodus
« Reply #4 on: November 26, 2018, 07:57:38 pm »
Matibhadra wrote --
Quote
...the teachings of the Buddha or of Nagarjuna, which have never included the alleged “two truths”...

But there's this is from the Mulamadhyamakakarika by Nagarjuna --

Quote
9. teaching of the Dharma
Is based on two truths:
A truth of worldly convention
And an ultimate truth.

10. Those who do not understand
The distinction drawn between these two truths
Do not understand
The Buddha’s profound truth.

11. Without a foundation in the conventional truth,
The significance of the ultimate cannot be taught.
Without understanding the significance of the ultimate,
Liberation is not achieved.

12. By a misperception of emptiness
A person of little intelligence is destroyed.
Like a snake incorrectly seized
Or like a spell incorrectly cast

from -- http://aaari.info/notes/03-06-06Tam2.pdf



« Last Edit: November 26, 2018, 08:28:12 pm by zafrogzen »
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline VincentRJ

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Re: Re: Amida Buddha & The Book of Exodus
« Reply #5 on: November 26, 2018, 09:43:18 pm »
Matibhadra wrote --
Quote
...the teachings of the Buddha or of Nagarjuna, which have never included the alleged “two truths”...

But there's this is from the Mulamadhyamakakarika by Nagarjuna --

Quote
9. teaching of the Dharma
Is based on two truths:
A truth of worldly convention
And an ultimate truth.

10. Those who do not understand
The distinction drawn between these two truths
Do not understand
The Buddha’s profound truth.

11. Without a foundation in the conventional truth,
The significance of the ultimate cannot be taught.
Without understanding the significance of the ultimate,
Liberation is not achieved.

12. By a misperception of emptiness
A person of little intelligence is destroyed.
Like a snake incorrectly seized
Or like a spell incorrectly cast

from -- http://aaari.info/notes/03-06-06Tam2.pdf


Wow! There are some very strange statements in that Mulamadhyamakakarika. The following struck me as very puzzling, similar to statements that something can be both true and untrue, or that something can both exist and not exist at the same moment.

Quote
Investigation of Conditions

4. "There is no activity which has conditions. There is no activity which does not have conditions. There are no conditions which do not have activity, and none which do have activity".


How on earth does one understand such 'apparently completely contradictory' statements? The only explanation I can think of, is that there is either a mistranslation of the original text, or an inadequate precision in the use of the words in the original text, which are too general and not sufficiently specific.

For example, let's suppose we are looking at a flower which has a yellow centre and some red, outer petals. One viewer claims the flower is yellow. Another viewer claims the flower is red.

Ignoring the issue of precision of language, we could claim the flower is both red and not red, or both yellow and not yellow. In other words, that part of the flower which is yellow, is not red, and that part of the flower which is red, is not yellow.

However, if we do our best to be precise and avoid confusion, we should say, 'part of the flower is yellow and part of the flower is red', which also means that the flower is neither completely red nor completely yellow.

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: Re: Amida Buddha & The Book of Exodus
« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2018, 10:41:43 pm »
As I wrote earlier on this thread in regard to the two truths –
Quote
It’s a subtle philosophy which is somewhat meaningless without some insight from meditation practice.
Or without some genuine experience of emptiness or sunyata.

Regarding the passage you picked out, I’d say that with ultimate truth, everything is unconditioned, With relative truth everything is conditioned.

Suzuki Roshi used to say that, “We die and we don’t die.” Those are two truths.
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline Pixie

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Re: Re: Amida Buddha & The Book of Exodus
« Reply #7 on: November 26, 2018, 11:34:07 pm »
Quote from: VincentRJ
Wow! There are some very strange statements in that Mulamadhyamakakarika.


You might find this helpful:

"The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way, Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika. Translation and Commentary by Jay L. Garfield"

http://promienie.net/images/dharma/books/nagarjuna_mulamadhyamakakarika.pdf

In general, its also worth looking at Nagarjuna's Chapter 15 "Examination of Essence" alongside Sutta SN 12.15 in the Pali Canon:

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn12/sn12.015.wlsh.html

alternate translation:

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn12/sn12.015.than.html


Hope everyone has a happy, healthy day.


_/|\_




« Last Edit: November 28, 2018, 02:14:47 pm by Pixie »
May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.
May they all be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May they never be deprived of true happiness devoid of any suffering.
May they abide in great impartiality, free from attachment to loved ones and aversion to others.

Offline VincentRJ

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Re: Re: Amida Buddha & The Book of Exodus
« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2018, 06:27:58 am »
As I wrote earlier on this thread in regard to the two truths –
Quote
It’s a subtle philosophy which is somewhat meaningless without some insight from meditation practice.
Or without some genuine experience of emptiness or sunyata.

That's another meaningless statement, or at least imprecise expression. It's impossible to have an 'actual' experience of 'actual' emptiness because no experience, by definition, can be empty. An experience of emptiness is an empty experience, which is equivalent to no experience at all. All experiences are 'something'.

I can only assume that what is meant by an 'empty experience' is an experience which is partially empty, that is, empty of the usual worrisome thoughts that occupy most peoples' minds most of the time; and when I use the expression 'worrisome', I mean worrisome in all degrees, from very significant to hardly significant at all.

Quote
Regarding the passage you picked out, I’d say that with ultimate truth, everything is unconditioned, With relative truth everything is conditioned.

You need to precisely define 'conditioned' and 'unconditioned', for that statement to make sense. For example, if an Arahant, or a person who had achieved a state of Nirvana, a state of being so-called 'unconditioned', were to attempt to burn himself alive, he would presumably not burn, if he were in an unconditioned state. Do you not agree?



Offline Chaz

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Re: Re: Amida Buddha & The Book of Exodus
« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2018, 08:39:07 am »
As I wrote earlier on this thread in regard to the two truths –
Quote
It’s a subtle philosophy which is somewhat meaningless without some insight from meditation practice.
Or without some genuine experience of emptiness or sunyata.

That's another meaningless statement, or at least imprecise expression.

Actually, it's quite the opposite.  Anyone with proper knowledge of the teachings on Emptiness would agree.


Quote
It's impossible to have an 'actual' experience of 'actual' emptiness because no experience, by definition, can be empty.


An experience of emptiness is an empty experience, which is equivalent to no experience at all. All experiences are 'something'.

He's not talking about an "empty experience".  He said it quite plainly - experience of emptiness.

So, what you're doing is erecting a straw ma..  You are trying to refute zafrogzen's statement by  substituting your assertion as his.


Quote
I can only assume that what is meant by an 'empty experience' is an experience which is partially empty, that is, empty of the usual worrisome thoughts that occupy most peoples' minds most of the time;

That's not it at all.  It is empty of inherent characteristics .....


Quote
and when I use the expression 'worrisome', I mean worrisome in all degrees, from very significant to hardly significant at all.

...like worrisome, for example.

Quote
Quote
Regarding the passage you picked out, I’d say that with ultimate truth, everything is unconditioned, With relative truth everything is conditioned.

You need to precisely define 'conditioned' and 'unconditioned', for that statement to make sense.

He shouldn't have to.  If you are comfortable discussing the finer points of emptiness, then the difference the meaning of the word "conditioned" in the context of Buddhist teachings should be a snap.  It's Buddhism 101 stuff to be sure.

Quote
For example, if an Arahant, or a person who had achieved a state of Nirvana, a state of being so-called 'unconditioned', were to attempt to burn himself alive, he would presumably not burn, if he were in an unconditioned state. Do you not agree?

Why on Earth would an Arhant try to burn him/herself alive?

It would seem that you don't really understand the term "conditioned".  I'm surprised by that. Very basic stuff - Dependent Origination.  Any phenomena that is dependent on causes and conditions to arise is said to be "conditioned".

Offline VincentRJ

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Re: Re: Amida Buddha & The Book of Exodus
« Reply #10 on: November 27, 2018, 04:48:50 pm »

Actually, it's quite the opposite.  Anyone with proper knowledge of the teachings on Emptiness would agree.


Of course. I'm in complete agreement. Any belief in any religion requires a 'proper' knowledge of that religion. However, what is proper for one religion is not considered to be proper for another religion, or sect.

I'm not a Buddhist from the religious aspect, but from the philosophical, moral, and rational aspect. I tend not to accept things or concepts that don't make sense, at least not without questioning until they do make sense.

Quote
He's not talking about an "empty experience".  He said it quite plainly - experience of emptiness.
So, what you're doing is erecting a straw ma..  You are trying to refute zafrogzen's statement by  substituting your assertion as his.

I know what he wrote. I can read English. I'm just trying to make sense and understand, from a rational perspective, how it might be possible to determine with absolute truth, that all things are inherently empty, through a process of relying upon a 'non-empty' experience.

However, I understand perfectly that it is possible for any individual  to have a huge variety of experiences, and that what is experienced by any individual is not necessarily true.

For example, an individual might reach a state of depression and get the experience that everything is meaningless, but we don't necessarily accept that as a universal or absolute truth, although the depressed individual might.

Likewise, someone else might experience  a voice in his head, which he attributes to the voice of God, and claim, 'I know that God exists because he has spoken to me'. Many of us also wouldn't accept that as true.

Quote
...like worrisome, for example.

No. Like suffering, which includes experiences ranging from acute pain to mild discomfort.

Quote
Why on Earth would an Arhant try to burn him/herself alive?

To make a political protest. It's happened in countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar in the past. Didn't you know that?

If you are doubtful that such people are Arahants, then consider a another situation of an Arahant peacefully meditating in a small hut in a forest in California. He has reached a state of eternal bliss, unconditioned. Whilst sitting there peacefully, the fire gradually surrounds him. There's nowhere to escape to, but he's not worried. He's reached a state which is free of all conditioning. Does that mean his body will not burn when the fire reaches the hut?

Quote
It would seem that you don't really understand the term "conditioned".  I'm surprised by that. Very basic stuff - Dependent Origination.  Any phenomena that is dependent on causes and conditions to arise is said to be "conditioned".

Maybe the problem is due to your lack of understanding of basic logic. I understand quite well that the existence of everything without exception is dependent upon causes and conditions.

To claim that something can exist whilst simultaneously being unconditioned seems to me like a miraculous fairy tale.
« Last Edit: November 27, 2018, 05:04:57 pm by VincentRJ »

Offline Dairy Lama

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Re: Re: Amida Buddha & The Book of Exodus
« Reply #11 on: November 28, 2018, 02:55:17 am »
Regarding the passage you picked out, I’d say that with ultimate truth, everything is unconditioned, With relative truth everything is conditioned.

Isn't the ultimate truth simply that everything is conditioned? 
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Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: Re: Amida Buddha & The Book of Exodus
« Reply #12 on: November 28, 2018, 03:16:42 am »
Of course you can have an experience of emptiness, it's called insight or enlightenment. It's a timeless moment of no thought that only impinges on your consciousness after the event. Isn't it what vipassana meditation is all about?
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Offline Pixie

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Re: Re: Amida Buddha & The Book of Exodus
« Reply #13 on: November 28, 2018, 06:35:58 am »
Here's a Vajrayana explanation of emptiness from "Awakening the Sleeping Buddha" by 12th Tai Situpa.

Quote

EMPTINESS: The doctrine that emptiness is the basis of everything, and that all concepts and phenomena are devoid of reality because they are the products of changeable conditions and therefore illusory.

 In Mahamudra practices, the play between emptiness and "reality" is used to realise emptiness, which is ultimately beginningless, ceaseless, and limitless.


("Mahamudra" is a meditation teaching and practice.)


_/|\_


« Last Edit: November 28, 2018, 06:38:58 am by Pixie »
May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.
May they all be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May they never be deprived of true happiness devoid of any suffering.
May they abide in great impartiality, free from attachment to loved ones and aversion to others.

Offline Chaz

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Re: Re: Amida Buddha & The Book of Exodus
« Reply #14 on: November 28, 2018, 06:49:35 am »
Regarding the passage you picked out, I’d say that with ultimate truth, everything is unconditioned, With relative truth everything is conditioned.

Isn't the ultimate truth simply that everything is conditioned?

Nope.

Ultimate truth = emptiness.  Simply.

The answer - that everything is conditioned - may be "true", but that doesn't mean it is "ultimate truth" - at least in the context of the Two Truths.

I guess you could call it ultimate if you want.  After all, the statement is true regarding all phenomena.  Perhaps "universal" would be a better choice?
« Last Edit: November 28, 2018, 07:25:02 am by Chaz »

 


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