Where is I?

Posted: 10/06/2013 in Buddhadasa
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Where is I? ….more on Buddhadasa page

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  1. naivelysage says:

    Your post reminded me (again) of this famous passage from St Paul:

    “[Romans 7:]14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”

    Paul describes a universal condition, sexual or corporeal desire and then he makes a distinction between what he considers his true ‘I’ and the ‘sin’ living in him. Since he is saved by Jesus Christ he evades the consequences of his sin. In Christian terminology he has ‘put on’ Christ and God sees Christ rather than the sin. I do not like this theology because it makes the body and the world ‘evil’ and takes Spirit out of the world. In my view the teaching of Jesus is simpler and more appealing. Jesus teaches radical forgiveness and essentially promises that God will ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’.

    Excellence lies in compassion and forgiveness towards others and ourselves. This is not to say that we should be complacent about sin (which interestingly means ‘missing the mark’ or performing unsatisfactorily rather than doing evil); but we should see sin as a misalignment between spiritual aspirations (Buddha nature, Christ nature) and corporeal habits and keep trying to put things right.

    Jesus tells us:

    “[Matthew 5:]21 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ and ‘Whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment.’
    22 But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, ‘Raca,’ shall be in danger of the council; but whosoever shall say, ‘Thou fool,’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”

    and

    “27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery.’
    28 But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

    Interestingly it looks like Jesus is talking about sin as ‘kilesa’ the Buddhist term referring to negative states of mind rather than negative acts.

    What Jesus is trying to do is not to put the fear of God into people but rather the love of God. He is saying that we are part of a community a continuum in which sin is a reality. We may not have the opportunity or present inclination actually murder anyone, or commit adultery but we have anger and lust so we are part of a continuum. For that reason non judgement and compassion are both essential conditions of our evolution, as individuals and as a species, towards Spirit.

    “[Matthew 7:]1 “Judge not, that ye be not judged.
    2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

    I think we have to become reconciled to our lusts and anger, to embrace and take care of them as Thich Nath Hanh might say. If our minds are fragmented and we see sin as an entity separate from us then we remain in a state of conflict. Sin or kilesa (which I’m now equating) arise from our instinctual nature and our socially conditioned minds. We are individually and unbalanced and the society we live in is unbalanced and we must seek balance. You might like this article on Buddhism and Sex: http://sweepingzen.com/buddhism-and-sex-the-bigger-picture/. The author talks about the need for a sangha, a community in which members support each other’s spiritual development without concern for rank or doctrine. I think that such a sangha is indispensable and it should go beyond Buddhism.

    This video of Eckhart Tolle discussing the pain body and entertainment may also touch on some of your concerns: http://youtu.be/f0TMxz9BNDY

    The pain body exists at individual and societal levels. It takes a community to deal with it, to embrace and heal it.

  2. zandtao says:

    Thanks again for the comment. When people write comments especially concerning those we know we write about our perceptions of them, this is understandable but is not always appropriate. Your comment does not appear to be discussing the relationship between anatta and paticcasamuppada which is what the blogpost was discussing. I am unsure as to whether sin and kilesa are synonymous as my understanding of “sin” is very superficial. In this blogentry my concerns with kilesa are only those as they pertain to anatta, something I am focussing on at the moment.

  3. zandtao says:

    Here I intend to investigate sin a little by use of my limited understanding and Buddhist influence, to be quite honest in my view mixing traditions only works on a superficial level and once you get deeper it becomes a difficult matter to align. Religions have the same objective but methodologies are very different. However if a tradition cannot evaluate except in its own terms then it cannot have a great meaning in daily life.

    I begin subjectively. I remember sin as a catholic youth (before 11). I would go to confession and relate sin to the 10 commandments:-

    6-10 concern morality so very clearly these would be sila. The 5th commandment has all kinds of moral dilemmas attached to it not appropriate to examine here, however in general respect for parents is good for a healthy society. The Sabbath is institutional. 1-3 don’t translate to Buddhism unless I take a little leeway, and as eclecticism is cherry-picking that is OK. As a Buddhist I am concerned about what is of Nature. There is what is Natural. Actions committed in harmony with Nature would for me then be Natural.

    How does this fit in with sin? In catholicism much guilt surrounds sin, and one such sin is masturbation. Whilst masturbation needs to be discouraged amongst young people with the easy availability of porn, is masturbation actually unnatural?

    Sexual activity generally needs to be considered in terms of a natural context, and therefore sex changes with age and needs to be constantly under review. In his book on Chi Gung Daniel Reid draws a close connection between chi and sex, and how damaging excessive sex can be to your health. I think then of the foolish old men here in Thailand filling themselves with viagra to try to keep up with the young girls they take on, this cannot be healthy. In Buddhism there is a moral precept concerning inappropriate sexual activity. I tend to view such inappropriateness in terms of the harm that it does, and as a consequence I have changed into supporting monogamy and consider promiscuity harmful despite the prevalance of its acceptance in the western world.

    As for kilesa I have not been seeing those in a moral context whilst quite clearly many immoral acts must defile the person doing them. There is another level of kilesa that are moral but which defile the person. It is an investigation of these with regards to anatta and paticcasamuppada that I was discussing in the blog.

    Considering the subjective description of sin in the comment “performing unsatisfactorily rather than doing evil”, this has to be more concerned with dukkha which has often been translated as unsatisfactoriness. If performing unsatisfactorily actually means creating suffering then that is not the Path as quenching suffering was what the Buddha taught. This brings me to self – again the purpose of the blogentry. It is the creation of self that creates suffering, using the terminology of the quote the self could be the sin in me.

    It is of course important to come to terms with all that is human existence and to beat oneself up for sex anger etc is not constructive. Forgiving onself for such actions can be the appropriate course. But of course blanket forgiveness can be the actions of an evil person, and there needs to be continuous questioning. Compassion defined in Buddhism as an end to suffering is what life is all about.

    This is a response to the comment. All religions are about the same objective but they all have different methodologies. It is sensible to equate the objectives of religion but equating methodologies can cause confusion. In this case this has led to a confusing semantic response.

    • naivelysage says:

      There was a problem with the way I formatted my comment so please delete that. Here is my corrected post:

      “Here I intend to investigate sin a little by use of my limited understanding and Buddhist influence, to be quite honest in my view mixing traditions only works on a superficial level and once you get deeper it becomes a difficult matter to align. Religions have the same objective but methodologies are very different. However if a tradition cannot evaluate except in its own terms then it cannot have a great meaning in daily life.”

      Religious traditions in themselves mean little to me in a personal sense. As you know I follow no one tradition. A tradition is like a bag from which I take the things I need and ignore those I don’t. My objective is not to align or to mix traditions but to see how particular insights from those traditions can help me understand myself and others. While I do not have the knowledge to engage in a scholarly discussion of any tradition I often find the discussions useful because of the insights I can derive from them; I had taken your original post to be less specifically about the Buddhist tradition than you indicate.

      “I remember sin as a catholic youth (before 11). I would go to confession and relate sin to the 10 commandments”

      The 10 commandments do not define the meaning of sin for me. My definition is in part idiosyncratic but is based on my understanding of the roots of the word ‘sin’. There is an interesting exposition on this here: http://www.biblefood.com/7wrdsin.html.

      I do not call myself a Christian because I am not part of any Christian tradition thought I am entirely comfortable with what I know of the Unitarian (http://www.uua.org/beliefs/principles/index.shtml) and Unity Church (http://www.bible.ca/cr-Unity.htm) interpretations. My own view is that the person we call Jesus was an enlightened being who transcended the Judaic tradition. His view of the commandments is summarised in
      Matthew 22:36-40:

      36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

      37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

      The teaching of Jesus is very clear in the Gospels but is obscured by the Judaic tradition that preceeded it and the Christian tradition that developed around and after it.

      “As a Buddhist I am concerned about what is of Nature. There is what is Natural. Actions committed in harmony with Nature would for me then be Natural.

      How does this fit in with sin? In catholicism much guilt surrounds sin, and one such sin is masturbation. Whilst masturbation needs to be discouraged amongst young people with the easy availability of porn, is masturbation actually unnatural?”

      My first reaction is to say that there are dangers in labling anything ‘unnatural’. What is ‘natural’ for one person may not be so for another. Homosexuality has been labled unnatural by many people who are ignorant of human nature and mistake their (natural?) aversion to something as an indication that it is unnatural. A person with homosexual inclinations might be considered to be acting unnaturally if he/she felt socially pressured to have heterosexual relationships.

      Buddhist and Catholic priests who take vows of celibacy are often doing so despite their natural desires and can be considered to be acting unnaturally.

      Your emphasis on nature here seems more Taoist than Buddhist. Buddhism, like Catholism has often been seen as an a rejection of the natural world as ‘illusion’ in the one case and as ‘fallen’ in the other.

      Sin is too often associated with sexual practice itself rather than the abuse of others and one’s own potential through misguided sexual practice. I would say that masturbation is natural and that different people have different degrees of need as far as this is concerned. Any attempt to discourage this in young people would inevitably be damaging. The question of porn is different and is a problem. I agree that porn and promiscuity are both problematic and out of control (not only in the west!) but I don’t think that social censure or legal prohibition as in the ‘drugs war’ would be an answer. The answer would seem to lie, more widely, in an emphasis on awareness and the cultivation of mental and emotional discipline.

      “As for kilesa I have not been seeing those in a moral context whilst quite clearly many immoral acts must defile the person doing them. There is another level of kilesa that are moral but which defile the person. It is an investigation of these with regards to anatta and paticcasamuppada that I was discussing in the blog.”

      My knowledge of the Buddhist terminology is slight. I took kilesa to mean disturbed or unwholesome states of mind. Looking at the listing of particular kilesa or kleshas here: http://www.palikanon.com/english/wtb/g_m/kilesa.htm, they seem little different to the listing of the seven deadly sins here: http://www.holyspiritinteractive.net/features/thesevendeadlysins/thesevendeadlysins.asp.

      “Considering the subjective description of sin in the comment “performing unsatisfactorily rather than doing evil”, this has to be more concerned with dukkha which has often been translated as unsatisfactoriness. If performing unsatisfactorily actually means creating suffering then that is not the Path as quenching suffering was what the Buddha taught. This brings me to self – again the purpose of the blogentry. It is the creation of self that creates suffering, using the terminology of the quote the self could be the sin in me.”

      The author of the quote, St Paul, is not speaking as an enlightened consciousness but as a man conscious of the contradictions within himself and others; for him, and Christian doctrine after him, the source of sin is the fallen nature of man and Adam’s sin which is mythologically or symbolically the assertion of ‘self will’ against God’s will. I don’t think that Christianity has the equivalent of an anatta doctrine. In Christianity there is a permanent self that in its ideal state is fully aligned with God’s will and it is self-will not self that is the source of sin and suffering. Is there a difference between the absence of self and a self fully aligned with God or the Tao or Buddha Nature? If there is a difference does it make a difference as far as our objective of the cessation of suffering is concerned?

      • zandtao says:

        Just to clarify. I started this page on Buddhadasa after becoming interested in his book “Heartwood of the Bodhi Tree”. Ajaan Buddhadasa was an interesting monk – dead now. He basically kicked against the Buddhist establishment in Thailand, yet he is greatly revered with a big building in central Bangkok by the largest park – slightly incongruous as he lived in a hermitage in a forest in Southern Thailand. This blogentry is best considered in the context of what is on the page (a lot of stuff I’m afraid). It was specifically about a meditation experience in which my mind was resting in the heart and the question “where is I?” came up. Nowhere, my conclusion was that I was part of mind. It was an encouragement to learn more about the Buddhist methodology in paticcasamuppada and the khandas. I have heard Buddhism described as a Nature-religion, to me anatta as non-self is basically saying we live according to Nature’s dictates – Being.

        Sadly these comments concerning sin have become bogged down in a terminology swing. Whilst I agree the kilesa are close to the 7 deadly sins, whether sin is defined as in a catholic upbringing or idiosyncratically adds little to understanding the connection between kilesa, self, meditation and anatta. This focus on terminology has to be the case when people dabble eclectically unless that dabbling is more or less identical – maybe it was for us in the 80s.

        To me Nature is fundamental to Buddhism, anatta as the doctrine of non-self to me means living according to Nature; the illusion can be understood as the illusion of self. The following is not about methodology, and is open eclectically to an answer:-

        The author of the quote, St Paul, is not speaking as an enlightened consciousness but as a man conscious of the contradictions within himself and others; for him, and Christian doctrine after him, the source of sin is the fallen nature of man and Adam’s sin which is mythologically or symbolically the assertion of ‘self will’ against God’s will. I don’t think that Christianity has the equivalent of an anatta doctrine. In Christianity there is a permanent self that in its ideal state is fully aligned with God’s will and it is self-will not self that is the source of sin and suffering. Is there a difference between the absence of self and a self fully aligned with God or the Tao or Buddha
        Nature? If there is a difference does it make a difference as far as our objective of the cessation of suffering is concerned?

        the assertion of ‘self will’ against God’s will” could be seen as anatta in the sense that it is self that
        is going against Nature. Self as ego quite obviously does that – greed etc., but on a deeper level it is the acceptance of separation that is actually going against God’s will (Nature). I don’t like the use of the term “permanent self” (discussed as part of this blog here) as with the use of the term “align” it implies separation, for me there is no separation except when self is involved and that in the end goes against Nature creating suffering (maybe through sin?). I also feel that the Mahayanan use of the term “Buddha Nature” has the same issue – a personal connection of the “Buddha Nature” in me. Effectively I am saying self cannot be fully aligned because of its personal attributes. The difference it makes with regards to the cessation of suffering is to recognise that the source of suffering is self – the creation of I. The methodology of paticcasamuppada and the khandas is an attempt to examine what arises naturally (paticcasamuppada) and then try to destroy the I that is not arising naturally. The khandas (nama-rupa – mind-body) describe attributes that arise naturally as what is often called mind, and seeing such attributes arise we can determine what is I and what is Nature. If I ask what is there in I or self that is permanent my answer is nothing personal so why make it personal by using the word self?

        It is also my understanding that anatta was a teaching unique to the Buddha.

        Finally I am including here two articles(1 and 2) by Bhikkhu Santikaro, perhaps the leading western follower of Bhikkhu Buddhadasa. These articles use much Pali terminology and therefore might not be of help, but Bhikkhu Santikaro is much more informed than I am of the teachings of Tan Ajaan. Of course it is not the teachings but what we do with them that matters.

      • zandtao says:

        So this goes against what? Your true nature? Your better judgement? If so then there is something in you that works against that better judgement? In this context the ‘pain body’ is a useful metaphor describing a complex of conditioned reactions that seems to have a life of its own and that we can sometimes observe. This complex derives from painful experiences in such a way that if someone hurts me I keep the memory of that hurt in a way that is additive and is going to be expressed in some way at some time. What I create and what I consume as entertainment is affected by those hurtful experiences.

        Is there a leap of logic here? I suppose it is a form of better judgement (that says I am wasting time watching TV), but I don’t feel that adequately describes it. I claim I know that no-self is the way of Nature, and if I allow self to attach to and create action then that is against the way of Nature. But it does not require a painful experience to go against this way, it could simply be weak will – I think it is that. Does weak will only come from pain? In no way do I feel that pain is the cause of my weak will in watching TV – maybe it is.

        I have experienced and internalised deep-seated pain primarily from relationships. I have used techniques to “let this pain go”, techniques which have been emotionally saddening and then elevating on their release. It is important to address this internalised emotion (I guess that is what Tolle means by pain body – again getting used to terminology), as it does affect our daily lives. I could understand that internalised emotion enjoying violence but for the life of me I cannot connect that to the wasted (pas)time that is my current TV entertainment. Is this internalised emotion being satiated when watching football, going to the opera, playing snooker? Sorry but that connection between entertainment and hurtful experiences doesn’t work for me.

        On the other hand if you described my watching TV as addiction I would have no argument – sadly.

      • zandtao says:

        Here is a document on “Anatta and Rebirth” written by Tan Ajaan (changed link):-

        It goes further than discussing anatta but also addresses the issue of “permanent self” discussed in these comments.

      • zandtao says:

        I have discussed pain body again towards the end of this post:-

        https://zandtao.wordpress.com/buddhadasa/#33

      • naivelysage says:

        The link you give does not work but I found the article at http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/Books7/Buddhadasa_Bhikkhu_Anatta_and_Rebirth.pdf. My first reaction was that this is a pretty thoroughgoing atheism with which many western philosophers and psychologists would be in complete accord. I call this thoroughgoing atheism because it denies the existence of the individual self and the universal self. If I understand this teaching correctly it holds that the complex of mind, self and consciousness is dependent on material conditions; this is the same at the materialist premise mind/consciousness is an epiphenomenon of matter. As you know this premise has been challenged.

        With regard to ‘quenching dukkha’ through the realisation that there is no atta; I think that for some of us it is not psychologically feasible, morally helpful or philosophically necessary to get rid of ‘self’. Getting rid of ‘selfishness’ is the goal that I aspire to and struggle with; this involves relating to ‘self’ in others and in the universe in a way that does not see ‘this self’ as separate or more important than other incarnations of self, in short, in a way that is compassionate.

      • zandtao says:

        Your first reaction ignores context. This is an article relating anatta and rebirth, but anatta needs to be understood in the context of Nature – or the Pali Tan Ajaan uses sunnata. I said this above.

        You might feel it is not psychologically feasible but you have no basis for saying it is not morally helpful. In terms of anatta getting rid of self is quenching suffering, if that is not philosophically necessary I don’t know what is. I understand that what Tan Ajaan is getting at is that getting rid of selfishness is only part of the solution. Anatta does not require relating to self in others, it recognises unity. If there is a self there is separation, that is the point, and this is why anatta is compassion.

  4. zandtao says:

    Stephen Batchelor’s discussion on sex within Buddhism is interesting. I particularly like the way he highlights the “the gap between the ariya and the puthujjana …. wider and wider. The professionals (i.e. monks, priests and yogins) were invested with ever-greater charismatic authority as “enlightened” ones, while the laity came to play an increasingly deferential and servile role. ” It is undoubtedly true that many of the sexual scandals occurred because of misuse of these roles – for example Sogyal “Rinpoche”. Personally I see these abuses as a consequence of the pervasive promiscuity in the West. A religious leader ought to be able to keep it in his pants, but western women can be known to offer sex inappropriately because that is the pervasive mores. Tibetan and Zen have to be particularly vulnerable, as Stephen Batchelor says, because of the level of personal contact and subservience prevalent in both. I agree with those who are critical of HHDL for not being more condemnatory of those “caught with their pants down” as it brings so much disrespect on the teachings and practices.

    Because of my language limitations I am unaware of the level of sexual scandal involving monks here in Thailand. Some monks are almost worshipped here (ariya) – something I consider inappropriate, it could almost be said that Thai people only consider those with orange robes to have any wisdom. I remember a story. This abbot was very knowledgeable of the dhamma but became attracted to a woman. He disrobed and they married. The woman was heard to complain as to how surprised she was that such a wise man was a poor businessman. At least the monk left the monkhood first. I do understand that it is considered seriously bad kamma for a woman to entice a man from monkhood; that could mean retribution in rebirth if I now believed that!!

  5. zandtao says:

    Tolle is discussing pain body – yet more terminology – and its relationship to violence. I have no idea how violence is connected to the original blogentry – on the internet let’s just throw something out there and see what comes back. What is the relationship between pain body and self? Is it only violence that is connected to the pain body or is the pain body concerned with entertainment? Is the pain body separate? Is the commenter interested in answering these questions?We will see?

    It is interesting that Tolle talks of focussing on the pain body – paying attention to it. As a Buddhist I translate that to focussing on self, the pain body is created as an illusion and has to be a part of the illusion of self. Once we see self as the creator of suffering we know what to do to quench that suffering – hence Paticcasamuppada in the blogentry.

    I have to ask myself how much of what I watch is concerned with a need for violence. My initial reaction is that the programmes contain violence but I am not interested, how true is that? Personally I see it more in terms of atta and sunnata, tv is atta so I am self creating suffering, with the sunnata I have to ask what would I do when I am tired?

    • naivelysage says:

      You wrote: “That brings me to entertainment. I watch too much TV, and I mostly see it as a pastime but I still value it as good and bad. Some stories I enjoy and it as if I am vicariously living my own story-telling passively. This is no as Nature intended.”

      So this goes against what? Your true nature? Your better judgement? If so then there is something in you that works against that better judgement? In this context the ‘pain body’ is a useful metaphor describing a complex of conditioned reactions that seems to have a life of its own and that we can sometimes observe. This complex derives from painful experiences in such a way that if someone hurts me I keep the memory of that hurt in a way that is additive and is going to be expressed in some way at some time. What I create and what I consume as entertainment is affected by those hurtful experiences.

  6. […] self as not existing is the first step. Yesterday I described the meditation that led me to asking “where is I?” To counter this as a proof that I does not exist it would be easy to say that I asked the question. […]

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