Author Topic: Buddha nature  (Read 3286 times)

TMingyur

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Buddha nature
« on: December 07, 2009, 12:34:15 am »
Dear all

inspired by the thread On buddha nature in the Nyingma forum I am pondering about this "Buddha nature" but somehow cannot make up my mind.
On the one hand I see that such teachings can be very wholesome, i.e.  inspiring, motivating and providing a base for some sort of "self-confidence" which I think is important on the path.
On the other hand I am often thinking: Why has there be so much additional concepts like "dharmakaya", "buddha nature", "nature of mind" when there seems to be common agreement among the different schools that all phenomena are empty, that empty does not mean non-existent. So if the nature of all phenomena is emptiness why then pick special phenomena out of the context of "all phenomena" and talk about "nature of mind", "Buddha nature" interminably* (*exaggeration  ;) )?
Why is that?

Kind regards

Offline humanitas

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Re: Buddha nature
« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2009, 11:26:56 am »
This is a complex question, and I'm not advanced enough to really answer it the way you need it answered.  Something that came to mind while reading your post is that there are many ways to portray the dharma (if we just look at the sheer variety of the flavors in traditions alone, we can see how many different parts get emphasized and other teachings are de-emphasized).

I think we have to look at the origin of the teaching/concept and we need to take its cultural context/origin into perspective.  There is a strong philosophical movement within many Buddhist traditions and this comes in the form of some of the more in-depth definitions and delineations of concepts that surround the reality of our existence in relationship to the teachings. While the ultimate truth is that all phenomena are "empty" the relative truth is that objects exist in relation to each other as well.  We still have relative truth because we are still creatures of duality since we haven't attained a general view of non-duality in our lives.  Every "phenomenon" we discuss is probably singled out as such because it is part of a relative truth most related to what we are attempting to comprehend.  When we are living the relative duality right here right now our intellect serves to distinguish and differentiate and put pieces together in our understanding.  Again, intellect only being a tool, a means to an end (awakening out of suffering).  All those teachings that single out nature of mind, buddhanature, etc, are singling it out because they're being taught to a duality-facing group of students who are still learning the pieces of concepts to eventually get rid of "concepts" and notions.

Much in the same way that a seasoned artist can whip up a great sketch without even thinking about it, the seasoned monastic probably spends less time questioning the basic tenets while the basic mediocre artist questions everything about media used, geometry, natural proportional harmony and disharmony, etc.   In order to reach the simplicity of teachings one often has to do a lot of hard work.  The breakdown of terms and discussion of concepts is relevant to those who are still trying to master the basics.  Simplicity comes from mastery.  When a teaching is completely absorbed, I think many people don't have a lot of words for it, they simply ARE it.  The difference is in how much we've really assimilated that teaching as part of our view and our skill level is impacted as to how much we are able to live out of relative truth alone or with ultimate truth as well...  Does that make any sense?

And I apologize if this doesn't really answer you question satisfactorily.  <3
« Last Edit: December 09, 2009, 11:33:42 am by 0gyen Chodzom »
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TMingyur

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Re: Buddha nature
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2009, 12:26:39 pm »
...  Does that make any sense?

And I apologize if this doesn't really answer you question satisfactorily.  <3

Yes, thanks Ogyen. Interesting thoughts and expressively elaborated.

Kind regards

Offline humanitas

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Re: Buddha nature
« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2009, 12:30:11 pm »
Another thing just popped up in my head.  The main reason for splitting up teachings in this way is because we (as humans in samsara) tend to think in very rigid patterns.  Teaching like buddhanature force us to break away from ego-based thought and think in a different way.  The reason one might have to define so much is because we tend to get very solidified in our ways and thoughts and it's an effort to "keep things loose" and not so rigidly formed in our minds.  So it's using relative truth to our benefit, to actually change the structures of solid concepts (much like mental object formations) and elaborate a less solid reality because awakening is an experience state, it's not a solid object at all. 

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Offline Pema Rigdzin

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Re: Buddha nature
« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2009, 10:36:50 pm »
On the other hand I am often thinking: Why has there be so much additional concepts like "dharmakaya", "buddha nature", "nature of mind" when there seems to be common agreement among the different schools that all phenomena are empty, that empty does not mean non-existent. So if the nature of all phenomena is emptiness why then pick special phenomena out of the context of "all phenomena" and talk about "nature of mind", "Buddha nature" interminably* (*exaggeration  ;) )?

The first part of my answer is that since the true nature of mind is emptiness which at its core is aware, terms that emphasize the teachings that this emptiness is not merely empty are both skillful and necessary.

More specifically, there are many different forms and varieties of delusion, so there must be many different ways of presenting the ground, path, and fruit that suits those different varieties of delusion. For instance, it's been said by some that the Prajnaparamita teachings, whose main focus is the emptiness of all phenomena, are presented mainly as an antidote to those leaning more towards eternalism, whereas the teachings on "buddha nature" are geared more towards those leaning towards nihilism. If you really dig, you can find that both of these approaches include, to some extent, the teachings of the other, but each emphasizes one aspect over the other. Both of these sutra Mahayana approaches are, also, grounded in analysis whose conclusions are then meditated upon.

Then, there's the Vajrayana, which places an even more explicit emphasis on the unity of emptiness and luminosity, and unlike sutra, is based not on analysis but on the experience of this unity during empowerment. Beyond this, inner Vajrayana being presented from the POV of a buddha's actual experience, its worldview presents the true nature of one's own experience and all of reality in terms of enlightened body, speech, and mind and the way these are from the POV of the ground, from the path, and finally, the way they manifest to benefit beings at the time of the fruition. To express these concepts, there needs to be some vocabulary corresponding to these ideas. Hope this helps.

TMingyur

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Re: Buddha nature
« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2009, 11:11:31 pm »
Teaching like buddhanature force us to break away from ego-based thought and think in a different way.  
Really? Hmh I feel that buddha nature provides something to grasp for the "I" (sorry I don't find "ego" appropriate since for me it is a psychological term with somehow different meaning)

The reason one might have to define so much is because we tend to get very solidified in our ways and thoughts and it's an effort to "keep things loose" and not so rigidly formed in our minds.  So it's using relative truth to our benefit, to actually change the structures of solid concepts (much like mental object formations) and elaborate a less solid reality because awakening is an experience state, it's not a solid object at all.  
Well nothing against relative truth. Without it there would not be any teachings. However I think the discussion is always about the skillfulness of relative truth teachings.

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TMingyur

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Re: Buddha nature
« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2009, 11:19:19 pm »
Then, there's the Vajrayana, which places an even more explicit emphasis on the unity of emptiness and luminosity, and unlike sutra, is based not on analysis but on the experience of this unity during empowerment. Beyond this, inner Vajrayana being presented from the POV of a buddha's actual experience, its worldview presents the true nature of one's own experience and all of reality in terms of enlightened body, speech, and mind and the way these are from the POV of the ground, from the path, and finally, the way they manifest to benefit beings at the time of the fruition. To express these concepts, there needs to be some vocabulary corresponding to these ideas. Hope this helps.
Thanks. I think the decisive feature of vajrayana is the focus on the subject and its experience from the perspective of that very subject. That renders it e.g. impossible to participate in discussions from a vajrayana perspective since discussions presume that phenomena are objectivied and without this there cannot be logic reasoning.
In contrast to this prajnaparamita teachings seem more inclined to objectivy all phenomena thus making it different for the observing subject to include its own experiencing as a subject.

Kind regards
« Last Edit: December 09, 2009, 11:22:32 pm by TMingyur »

Offline Pema Rigdzin

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Re: Buddha nature
« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2009, 11:59:56 pm »
Not sure I get what you mean, TMingyur.

TMingyur

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Re: Buddha nature
« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2009, 12:14:12 am »
Not sure I get what you mean, TMingyur.
:) hmh this is perhaps not astonishing. The cause being my way of expressing myself.
Actually I have been trying to compare the vajrayana perspective (pure "subject") and the Madhyamaka perspective (pure "object"). I am convinced that both are pointing at the same but that they are only using different means of expression.
But actually "buddha nature" is a term that is applied in the context of sutra (and not necessarily in the context of vajrayana [only]), which is perhaps the reason for the potential misunderstandings of this term.

Sorry if I do not achieve to express myself more clearly ... just be patient and do not bother further if so. :)

Kind regards

Offline Pema Rigdzin

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Re: Buddha nature
« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2009, 01:34:43 am »
lol don't sweat it, T. If the worst I have to put up with is a much-needed test of my patience, then I have no complaints.

I'm not sure what I think about your subject vs object thoughts thus far, but if you don't mind me asking, what do you wish to achieve with this analysis? I.E. how do you think this is relevant to your practice?

TMingyur

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Re: Buddha nature
« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2009, 11:42:32 am »
I'm not sure what I think about your subject vs object thoughts thus far, but if you don't mind me asking, what do you wish to achieve with this analysis? I.E. how do you think this is relevant to your practice?
It is my reconciliation of different kinds of practice that I appreciate. One being  dialectical and the other not.

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Offline humanitas

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Re: Buddha nature
« Reply #11 on: December 10, 2009, 12:18:02 pm »
It is my reconciliation of different kinds of practice that I appreciate. One being  dialectical and the other not.

I can certainly appreciate the spirit of that.  <3
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Offline Pema Rigdzin

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Re: Buddha nature
« Reply #12 on: December 10, 2009, 02:38:44 pm »
It is my reconciliation of different kinds of practice that I appreciate. One being  dialectical and the other not.

Oh OK. To my mind, they're easily reconciled as responses to the various predilections and habits of sentient beings. I.E. since just like in medicine there's no one magical elixir or panacea that cures all beings of all ailments, different elixirs have been devised to cure them according to their own needs.

- Brian

TMingyur

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Re: Buddha nature
« Reply #13 on: December 10, 2009, 09:16:32 pm »
It is my reconciliation of different kinds of practice that I appreciate. One being  dialectical and the other not.

Oh OK. To my mind, they're easily reconciled as responses to the various predilections and habits of sentient beings. I.E. since just like in medicine there's no one magical elixir or panacea that cures all beings of all ailments, different elixirs have been devised to cure them according to their own needs.

- Brian

Ah yes. I recognize yours to be an explanation I am very familiar with. However as far as I am concerned this explanation does not satisfy. I can accept it intellectually but that does not suffice. I have to reconcile the approaches from within, in my heart(-mind). There they have to merge without losing their discerning characteristics. See for me the advantage of having a solid rooting in dialectical teachings and approaches is to safeguard me against taking a delusive direction which I am prone to take if I am applying non-dialectical approaches exclusively. I know that I cannot abide permanently in any non-dialectical sphere in this current life. Therefore I need Manjushri's support.

Kind regards
« Last Edit: December 10, 2009, 09:19:31 pm by TMingyur »

Offline humanitas

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Re: Buddha nature
« Reply #14 on: December 10, 2009, 09:32:28 pm »
Ah yes. I recognize yours to be an explanation I am very familiar with. However as far as I am concerned this explanation does not satisfy. I can accept it intellectually but that does not suffice. I have to reconcile the approaches from within, in my heart(-mind). There they have to merge without losing their discerning characteristics. See for me the advantage of having a solid rooting in dialectical teachings and approaches is to safeguard me against taking a delusive direction which I am prone to take if I am applying non-dialectical approaches exclusively. I know that I cannot abide permanently in any non-dialectical sphere in this current life. Therefore I need Manjushri's support.

And this is precisely why the Buddha recommended various kinds of practice, no?  Study, and experience, and meditation, all these are different forms of one practice.  I at least just saw the necessity for all these forms and kinds of practice. 
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