Buddhist 3 Marks of Existence and Analysis of the Soul Theory

BodhiBodhi Posts: 7,932 ✭✭✭✭✭
edited December 2012 in R & R (Religion and Race)
1. Anatta (No Soul/The absence of a permanent, enduring or immortal self)
2. Anicca (Impermanence)
3. Dukkha (Dissatisfaction when tied to the unenlightened mind)/Nibbana (Liberation, when tied to the enlightened mind)

There are these six speculative views, monks: an uneducated worldling untrained in the Dhamma the Noble Ones, doesn‟t see the Noble Dhamma of the Noble Ones, they don‟t see the Dhamma of the True Individuals: They understand:

1. this form is mine, I am this form, this form is myself.
2. this sensation is mine, I am this sensation, this sensation is myself.
3. this apperception is mine, I am this apperception, this apperception is myself.
4. this volition is mine, I am this volition, this volition is myself.
5. that which is seen, heard, felt, cognised; sought, obtained, or reflected on by the mind – this is mine, I am this, this is myself.
6. As the world, so myself: I will exist after death; permanent, constant, eternal; I will not change for the worse; I will remain forever – they think this is mine, I am this, this is myself

The educated Noble disciple trained in the Dhamma the Noble Ones, sees the Noble Dhamma of the Noble Ones, and sees the Dhamma of the True Individuals: They understand:

1. this form is not mine, I am not this form, this form is not myself.
2. this sensation is not mine, I am not this sensation, this sensation is not myself.
3. this apperception is not mine, I am not this apperception, this apperception is not myself.
4. this volition is not mine, I am not this volition, this volition is not myself.
5. that which is seen, heard, felt, cognised; sought, obtained, or reflected on by the mind – this is not mine, I am not this, this is not myself.
6. As the world, so myself: I will exist after death; permanent, constant, eternal; I will not change for the worse; I will remain forever – they think this is not mine, I am not this, this is not myself

Thus understanding they are not tormented by the non-existent.

“That possession you might take hold of which is permanent, constant, eternal; not changing for the worse; remaining forever. Can you see it, monks?”

“No, bhante.”

“Good, monks, I don‟t see it either.”

“Do you see an eternalistic view which you might take hold of, that would not lead to grief, lamenting, misery, dejection, and trouble?

“No, bhante.”

“Good, monks, I don‟t see it either.”

“There being a self, might there be what belongs to my self?”

“Yes, bhante.”

“Or, there being what belongs to my self, might there be my self?”

“Yes, bhante.”

“Not truly or reliably finding self or what belongs to it, then isn‟t this speculative view – „as the world, so myself: I will exist after death; permanent, constant, eternal; I will remain forever – the height of foolishness? Could it not be the height of foolishness?”

From the Alagaddūpama Sutta


  • BodhiBodhi Posts: 7,932 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited December 2012
    Avalokita, The Holy Lord and Bodhisattva, was moving in the deep course of the Wisdom which has gone beyond. He looked down from on high, He beheld but five heaps, and he saw that in their own-being they were empty.

    Here, Sariputra, form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form; emptiness does not differ from form, form does not differ from emptiness; whatever is form, that is emptiness, whatever is emptiness, that is form, the same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses and consciousness.

    Therefore, Sariputra, in emptiness there is no form, nor feeling, nor perception, nor impulse, nor consciousness; No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind; No forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touchables or objects of mind; No sight-organ element, and so forth, until we come to: No mind-consciousness element; There is no ignorance, no extinction of ignorance, and so forth, until we come to: there is no decay and death, no extinction of decay and death. There is no suffering, no origination, no stopping, no path. There is no cognition, no attainment and non-attainment.

    From the Heart Sutra
  • BodhiBodhi Posts: 7,932 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited December 2012

    The Buddha gave his students 4 "elements" for visualization in helping to realize anicca (emptiness) and letting go of attachment. The elements were fire, water, earth, and air. Of course, the human body is not literally made of four elements; this was simply a tool for the student. But I'm going to go further, tying together the teachings of anatta (the absence of a permanent, enduring or immortal self/no-soul) and anicca (emptiness).

    The elements in the human body are as follows:
    oxygen, carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen
    calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, sodium, magnesium, chlorine, iron, and iodine
    ..and the remaining trace elements.

    Air can be conceptualized as oxygen..
    Likewise, water as hydrogen + oxygen..
    Earth as all of the most common elements found on the earth's crust (all of which are also found in the body):
    46.6% Oxygen (O)
    27.7% Silicon (Si)
    8.1% Aluminum (Al)
    5.0% Iron (Fe)
    3.6% Calcium (Ca)
    2.8% Sodium (Na)
    2.6% Potassium (K)
    2.1% Magnesium (Mg)

    ..And fire as the body's heat; the body creates, regulates its own heat internally and gives off heat by conduction, radiation, convection and/or evaporation.

    Air, earth, water, and heat can also be conceptualized as the breath of living beings; the bones, internal organs, and solid formation of the body; blood, sweat, pus, mucus, saliva, etc. etc.; our body heat (respectively).

    The point is that none of these elements are what we can call a "self", or an eternal soul existing before and/or after the breakup of the body.

  • BodhiBodhi Posts: 7,932 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited December 2012
    Some think that consciousness itself is the human soul or the manifestation of the self, but if we look closer we see that this is not true.

    Consciousness is defined by Merriam-Webster as
    a : the quality or state of being aware especially of something within oneself
    b : the state or fact of being conscious of an external object, state, or fact


    Think of consciousness as a fire or even a single flame.

    What are the origins of this flame? First, a fire needs pre-existing elements and causes, such as oxygen, in the right conditions to exist. Likewise, a set of pre-existing conditions has to be in existence before conciousness can take place. The human brain, for example, creates the right conditions for our consciousness.

    To be conscious, we need something to be conscious of, just the same as a fire needs something to burn. We experience phenomena by way of the sensory organs -- smell (and the nose), taste (and the tongue), visual objects (and the eyes), tactile objects (and the body), and auditory vibrations (and the ears). Light, odors and sounds are transformed by the sensory organs into a code of electrical impulses and are received by the brain through the neurons in the body. Your consciousness, or your subjectivity, is the result of your brain interpreting these impulses.

    A fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the exothermic chemical process of combustion and releases heat, light, and gases (carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide). Likewise, our consciousness "releases", or generates, such things as feelings, emotions, thoughts and in turn we generate karma, or in other words, volitional action.

    We believe that throughout our lives, we are a single, lasting entity and we say, "this is me" or, "that was me". But a flame burning throughout a period of time is not one lasting entity. The flame appears to be, but it is a process of continual movement and impermanence. The flame is not the same now as it was a minute, thirty minutes, or an hour ago.

    Realizing this, we see that there is no "self" in human consciousness. There is no lasting soul that controls the body or watches from deep within. Realizing this, we see that we are interconnected with nature and our consciousness itself depends on other conditions for its existence. There is no soul that sits seperate from the world.
  • BodhiBodhi Posts: 7,932 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited December 2012
    The human body comprises various organs and parts, none of which are permanent or what we could call our selves.

    Skeletal system


    Some believe the brain to be the seat of the soul; we will get to that later.
  • BodhiBodhi Posts: 7,932 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited December 2012
    Your Body Is Younger Than You Think
    Whatever your age, your body is many years younger. In fact, even if you're middle aged, most of you may be just 10 years old or less.

    This heartening truth, which arises from the fact that most of the body's tissues are under constant renewal, has been underlined by a novel method of estimating the age of human cells. Its inventor, Jonas Frisen, believes the average age of all the cells in an adult's body may turn out to be as young as 7 to 10 years.

    But Dr. Frisen, a stem cell biologist at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, has also discovered a fact that explains why people behave their birth age, not the physical age of their cells: a few of the body's cell types endure from birth to death without renewal, and this special minority includes some or all of the cells of the cerebral cortex.

    It was a dispute over whether the cortex ever makes any new cells that got Dr. Frisen looking for a new way of figuring out how old human cells really are. Existing techniques depend on tagging DNA with chemicals but are far from perfect. Wondering if some natural tag might already be in place, Dr. Frisen recalled that the nuclear weapons tested above ground until 1963 had injected a pulse of radioactive carbon 14 into the atmosphere.

    Breathed in by plants worldwide and eaten by animals and people, the carbon 14 gets incorporated into the DNA of cells each time the cell divides and the DNA is duplicated.

    Most molecules in a cell are constantly being replaced but the DNA is not. All the carbon 14 in a cell's DNA is acquired on the cell's birth date, the day its parent cell divided. Hence the extent of carbon 14 enrichment could be used to figure out the cell's age, Dr. Frisen surmised. In practice, the method has to be performed on tissues, not individual cells, because not enough carbon 14 gets into any single cell to signal its age. Dr. Frisen then worked out a scale for converting carbon 14 enrichment into calendar dates by measuring the carbon 14 incorporated into individual tree rings in Swedish pine trees.

    Having validated the method with various tests, he and his colleagues have reported in the July 15 issue of Cell the results of their first tests with a few body tissues. Cells from the muscles of the ribs, taken from people in their late 30's, have an average age of 15.1 years, they say.

    The epithelial cells that line the surface of the gut have a rough life and are known by other methods to last only five days. Ignoring these surface cells, the average age of those in the main body of the gut is 15.9 years, Dr. Frisen found.

    The Karolinska team then turned to the brain, the renewal of whose cells has been a matter of much contention. Prevailing belief, by and large, is that the brain does not generate new neurons after its structure is complete, except in two specific regions, the olfactory bulb that mediates the sense of smell, and the hippocampus, where initial memories of faces and places are laid down.

    This consensus view was challenged a few years ago by Elizabeth Gould of Princeton, who reported finding new neurons in the cerebral cortex, along with the elegant idea that each day's memories might be recorded in the neurons generated that day.

    Dr. Frisen's method will enable all regions of the brain to be dated to see if any new neurons are generated. So far he has tested only cells from the visual cortex. He finds these are exactly the same age as the individual, showing that new neurons are not generated after birth in this region of the cerebral cortex, or at least not in significant numbers. Cells of the cerebellum are slightly younger than those of the cortex, which fits with the idea that the cerebellum continues developing after birth.

    Another contentious issue is whether the heart generates new muscle cells after birth. The conventional view that it does not has recently been challenged by Dr. Piero Anversa of the New York Medical College in Valhalla. Dr. Frisen has found the heart as a whole is generating new cells, but he has not yet measured the turnover rate of the heart's muscle cells.

    Although people may think of their body as a fairly permanent structure, most of it is in a state of constant flux as old cells are discarded and new ones generated in their place. Each kind of tissue has its own turnover time, depending in part on the workload endured by its cells. The cells lining the stomach, as mentioned, last only five days. The red blood cells, bruised and battered after traveling nearly 1,000 miles through the maze of the body's circulatory system, last only 120 days or so on average before being dispatched to their graveyard in the spleen.

    The epidermis, or surface layer of the skin, is recycled every two weeks or so. The reason for the quick replacement is that "this is the body's saran wrap, and it can be easily damaged by scratching, solvents, wear and tear," said Elaine Fuchs, an expert on the skin's stem cells at the Rockefeller University.

    As for the liver, the detoxifier of all the natural plant poisons and drugs that pass a person's lips, its life on the chemical-warfare front is quite short. An adult human liver probably has a turnover time of 300 to 500 days, said Markus Grompe, an expert on the liver's stem cells at the Oregon Health & Science University.

    Other tissues have lifetimes measured in years, not days, but are still far from permanent. Even the bones endure nonstop makeover. The entire human skeleton is thought to be replaced every 10 years or so in adults, as twin construction crews of bone-dissolving and bone-rebuilding cells combine to remodel it.

    About the only pieces of the body that last a lifetime, on present evidence, seem to be the neurons of the cerebral cortex, the inner lens cells of the eye and perhaps the muscle cells of the heart. The inner lens cells form in the embryo and then lapse into such inertness for the rest of their owner's lifetime that they dispense altogether with their nucleus and other cellular organelles.

    But if the body remains so perpetually youthful and vigorous, and so eminently capable of renewing its tissues, why doesn't the regeneration continue forever?

    Some experts believe the root cause is that the DNA accumulates mutations and its information is gradually degraded. Others blame the DNA of the mitochondria, which lack the repair mechanisms available for the chromosomes. A third theory is that the stem cells that are the source of new cells in each tissue eventually grow feeble with age.

    "The notion that stem cells themselves age and become less capable of generating progeny is gaining increasing support," Dr. Frisen said. He hopes to see if the rate of a tissue's regeneration slows as a person ages, which might point to the stem cells as being what one unwetted heel was to Achilles, the single impediment to immortality.



    Thus, the human being is much like the wave of the ocean.
    subsequent waves differ in height, duration and shape, with a limited predictability. They can be described as a stochastic process, in combination with the physics governing their generation, growth, propagation and decay
    The human "exists" in the mind subjectively, in a sea of subatomic particles; man differs in height, duration and shape, ultimately impermanent and subject to birth, growth, aging, death, and decay.
  • BodhiBodhi Posts: 7,932 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited December 2012
    Let us visualize the waves on the ocean, several waves appearing on the surface of the ocean. Some waves are big, there are those that are small, and each wave seems to have its own life. A wave may have ideas like, "I am a wave. I am only a wave among many waves. I am smaller than the other wave. I am less beautiful. I last less than the other wave." Ideas like that. A wave can be caught in jealousy, in fear, in discrimination.

    But if the wave is able to bend down and touch the water within herself, it will realize that while it is a wave, it is at the same time water. Water is the foundation of the wave. While waves can be high and low, more and less beautiful, the water is free from all these notions. That is why if we are able to touch the foundation of our being, we can release our fear and our suffering.

    Touching the foundation of our being means touching nirvana. Our foundation is not subjected to birth and death, being and non-being. A wave can live the life of a wave, but a wave can do much better than that. While living the life of a wave, a wave can live a life of the water. The more our solidity and our freedom grows, the deeper we touch the ground of our own being. That is the door for emancipation, for the greatest relief.

    As your insight into the ultimate nature of reality is deepened and enhanced, you will develop a perception of reality from which you will perceive phenomena and events as sort of illusory, illusion-like, and this mode of perceiving reality will permeate all your interactions with reality. [...] Even emptiness itself, which is seen as the ultimate nature of reality, is not absolute, nor does it exist independently. We cannot conceive of emptiness as independent of a basis of phenomena, because when we examine the nature of reality, we find that it is empty of inherent existence. Then if we are to take that emptiness itself is an object and look for its essence, again we will find that it is empty of inherent existence. Therefore the Buddha taught the emptiness of emptiness.
  • BodhiBodhi Posts: 7,932 ✭✭✭✭✭
    The Buddhist notion of emptiness is often misunderstood as nihilism. Unfortunately, 19th century Western philosophy has contributed much to this misconstruction. Meanwhile Western scholars have acquired enough knowledge about Buddhism to realise that this view is far from accurate. The only thing that nihilism and the teaching of emptiness can be said to have in common is a sceptical outset. While nihilism concludes that reality is unknowable, that nothing exists, that nothing meaningful can be communicated about the world, the Buddhist notion of emptiness arrives at just the opposite, namely that ultimate reality is knowable, that there is a clear-cut ontological basis for phenomena, and that we can communicate and derive useful knowledge from it about the world. Emptiness (sunyata) must not be confused with nothingness. Emptiness is not non-existence and it is not non-reality.

    What is emptiness then? To understand the philosophical meaning of this term, let's look at a simple solid object, such as a cup. How is a cup empty? We usually say that a cup is empty if it does not contain any liquid or solid. This is the ordinary meaning of emptiness. But, is the cup really empty? A cup empty of liquids or solids is still full of air. To be precise, we must therefore state what the cup is empty of. Can a cup be empty of all substance? A cup in a vacuum does not contain any air, but it still contains space, light, radiation, as well as its own substance. Hence, from a physical point of view, the cup is always full of something. Yet, from the Buddhist point of view, the cup is always empty. The Buddhist understanding of emptiness is different from the physical meaning. The cup being empty means that it is devoid of inherent existence.

    What is meant with non-inherent existence? Is this to say that the cup does not ultimately exist? - Not quite. - The cup exists, but like everything in this world, its existence depends on other phenomena. There is nothing in a cup that is inherent to that specific cup or to cups in general. Properties such as being hollow, spherical, cylindrical, or leak-proof are not intrinsic to cups. Other objects which are not cups have similar properties, as for example vases and glasses. The cup's properties and components are neither cups themselves nor do they imply cupness on their own. The material is not the cup. The shape is not the cup. The function is not the cup. Only all these aspects together make up the cup. Hence, we can say that for an object to be a cup we require a collection of specific conditions to exist. It depends on the combination of function, use, shape, base material, and the cup's other aspects. Only if all these conditions exist simultaneously does the mind impute cupness to the object. If one condition ceases to exist, for instance, if the cup's shape is altered by breaking it, the cup forfeits some or all of its cupness, because the object's function, its shape, as well as the imputation of cupness through perception is disrupted. The cup's existence thus depends on external circumstances. Its physical essence remains elusive.

    Those readers who are familiar with the theory of ideas of the Greek philosopher Plato will notice that this is pretty much the antithesis to Plato's idealism. Plato holds that there is an ideal essence of everything, e.g. cups, tables, houses, humans, and so on. Perhaps we can give Plato some credit by assuming that the essence of cups ultimately exists in the realm of mind. After all, it is the mind that perceives properties of an object and imputes cupness onto one object and tableness onto another. It is the mind that thinks "cup" and "table". Does it follow that the mind is responsible for the existence of these objects? - Apparently, the mind does not perceive cups and tables if there is no visual and tactile sensation. And, there cannot be visual and tactile sensation if there is no physical object. The perception thus depends on the presence of sensations, which in turn relies on the presence of the physical object. This is to say that the cup's essence is not in the mind. It is neither to be found in the physical object. Obviously, its essence is neither physical nor mental. It cannot be found in the world, not in the mind, and certainly not in any heavenly realm, as Plato imagined. We must conclude that the objects of perception have therefore no inherent existence.

    If this is the case for a simple object, such as a cup, then it must also apply to compound things, such as cars, houses, machines, etc. A car, for example, needs a motor, wheels, axles, gears, and many other things to work. Perhaps we should consider the difference between man-made objects, such as cups, and natural phenomena, such as earth, plants, animals, and human beings. One may argue that lack of inherent existence of objects does not imply the same for natural phenomena and beings. In case of a human being, there is a body, a mind, a character, a history of actions, habits, behaviour, and other things we can draw upon to describe a person. We can even divide these characteristics further into more fundamental properties. For example, we can analyse the mind and see that there are sensations, cognition, feelings, ideas. Or, we can analyse the brain and find that there are neurons, axons, synapses, and neurotransmitters. However, none of these constituents describe the essence of the person, the mind, or the brain. Again, the essence remains elusive.

  • BodhiBodhi Posts: 7,932 ✭✭✭✭✭
    The Heart Sutra expresses the same idea by stating the emptiness of the five skandhas, i.e. the emptiness of the body, sensations, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness. The five skandhas are commonly translated into English as the five aggregates. According to the Buddha, these aggregates are what constitutes a person. As adumbrated above, it is possible to deconstruct the five skandhas in the same manner as objects. However, this method of deconstruction assumes a third person perspective. It analyses phenomena perceived as external to the observer. When we talk about the essence of a person, the situation is slightly different, because we talk indirectly about ourselves. It may therefore be more intuitive to look at things from a first person perspective. The first person perspective allows us to make statements about the internal state of the observer thereby producing self-reference. What is observed is the observer. Perhaps this will lead to new insights into the essence of mind and body.

    First, let's look at experience. What exactly is experience? - Obviously, we experience objects and phenomena through the senses. This is one form of experience. We also experience feelings, moods, thoughts, and emotions. The former can be called sensory experiences and the latter mental experiences. Upon contemplating the distinction we may find that there is no clear boundary between sensory and mental experience. As soon as we perceive a physical object, for example an apple, the corresponding mental experiences are immediately triggered. First, we think "apple". This is identification. Following this thought, a number of things we associate with apples may come to mind, for example "sweet, edible, green, red, healthy, delicious, juicy," and so on. These associations may be followed by the build-up of a desire to touch or to taste the apple. Once the desire is strong enough, our thoughts may be occupied with consuming the apple and we start weighing the merits and demerits of consuming the apple now or later. All these mental experiences are caused by, yet independent of the original object. If the apple is withdrawn, the memory of it may be able to sustain the chain of thoughts for a short time, yet it will eventually cease.

    We can infer that mental experience requires sensory experience, or respectively memory of sensory experience. Sensory experience in turn requires the body. If we carried through a thought experiment and examined whether each of the skandhas is able to exist without the other four, we would find that this is not possible. The latter four aggregates all depend on the body. Without the brain and the nervous system there is no consciousness, no sensation, no perception, and no mental formations. On the other hand, we cannot imagine the body to function without the mind. The body and the mind depend on each other, the five skandhas depend on each other. We must conclude that none of the skandhas is fundamental. Body, sensations, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness are interrelated. Experiences emerge from the interaction of all five skandhas. Just as objects, experiences are conditioned by the interplay of multiple phenomena. Experience has no inherent existence either.

    Our brain is advanced enough to reflect on its experiences. By means of self-reference we can direct mental activity onto itself. For example, we can think about thought. From this arises a division between subject, percept, and object. The percept is the mental impression, the subject is the owner of it, the thinker, and the object is that which causes the mental impression. This threefold division seems so natural to us that it is reflected in the grammar of most human languages. We perceive the separation of subject, percept, and object as real, because mind attributes an owner to experience and thought. This owner is the "self", the subject, the centre of consciousness, the supposed psychological entity. Surprisingly, this entity remains completely undetectable. Body, feeling, perception, and mental formations are not the self. Consciousness is not the self either, otherwise it would follow that the self temporarily ceases to exist during unconscious states, for example during deep sleep.

    We might ask how "self" can be independent of a surrounding world. Is it possible for the self to exist in a mental vacuum, a world devoid of sense impressions, thought, and mental images? Would the self not literally run out of fuel if it lacked thoughts and contents to identify itself with or to set itself apart from? It seems there is no basis an independent entity. It seems more that the self is an emergent phenomenon arising from the application of complex interpretative schemes to perception. In particular, it arises from the conceptual division between subject, object, and percept. Through introspection it is possible to realise that the "self" is not fundamental. It is created by the mind through identification and discernment. The "self" is itself a mental formation - a product of mind. It is therefore empty of inherent existence.

  • BodhiBodhi Posts: 7,932 ✭✭✭✭✭
    The ancient Greeks believed that matter is composed of indivisible small elements with certain characteristics, such as the characteristics of earth, water, air, and fire. They called these elements atoms and they held that atoms were solid and fundamental, like microscopic billiard balls. Ernest Rutherford invalidated the billiard ball theory by conducting an experiment, which suggested that atoms have an internal structure. He established that atoms have a nucleus containing most of its mass and that electrons orbit the nucleus. Moreover, he established that the nucleus of an atom is only about one ten-thousandth of the diameter of the atom itself, which means that 99.99% of the atom's volume consists of empty space. This is the first manifestation of emptiness at the subtle level of matter. Not long after Rutherford's discovery, physicists found out that the nucleus of an atom likewise has an internal structure and that the protons and neutrons making up the nucleus are composed of even smaller particles, which they named quarks after a poem of James Joyce. Interestingly, quarks are hypothesised as geometrical points in space, which implies that atoms are essentially empty. This is the second manifestation of emptiness at the subtle level of matter.

    The terms "quarks" and "points in space" still suggest something solid, since they can be imagined as irreducible mass particles. Yet, quantum field theory does away even with this finer concept of solidity by explaining particles in the terms of field properties. Quantum electrodynamics (QED) has produced an amazingly successful theory of matter by combining quantum theory, classical field theory, and relativity. No discrepancies between the predictions of QED and experimental observation have ever been found. According to QED, subatomic particles are indistinguishable from fields, whereas fields are basically properties of space. In this view, a particle is a temporary local densification of a field, which is conditioned by the properties of the surrounding space. Ergo, matter is not different from space. This is the third manifestation of emptiness at the subtle level of matter.

    An important class of phenomena in the subatomic world is defined by the various interactions between particles. In fact, there is no clear distinction between the notions of phenomena, particles, and interactions, although interactions can be described clearly in mathematical terms. For example, there are interactions between free electrons by means of photons that result in an observed repelling force. There are also interactions between the quarks of a nucleon by means of mesons, interactions between the neighbouring neutrons or protons, interactions between nucleus and electrons, and interactions between the atoms of molecules. The phenomena themselves -the nucleon, the nucleus, the atom, the molecule- are sufficiently described by these interactions, meaning by the respective equations, which implies that interactions and phenomena are interchangeable terms. Interestingly, the interrelations of quantum physics do not describe actual existence. Instead they predict the potential for existence. A manifest particle, such as an electron, cannot be described in terms of classical mechanics. It exists as a multitude of superposed "scenarios", of which one or another manifests only when it is observed, i.e. upon measurement. Therefore, matter does not inherently exist. It exists only as interrelations of "empty" phenomena whose properties are determined by observation. This is the fourth manifestation of emptiness at the subtle level of matter.

  • BodhiBodhi Posts: 7,932 ✭✭✭✭✭
    In mathematics the notion of emptiness finds expression in the number zero, as well as in contemporary set theory. The concept of zero was discovered in India prior to the sixth century A.D. The "Arabic" number system we use today is neither Arabic nor Greek in origin. In fact, the digits 0123456789 go back to India where they were first created. The ancient Indian number system distinguished itself from other positional systems by virtue of allowing the use of zero as a legitimate number. Interestingly, the number zero did not exist in Greek mathematics, because the Greeks were essentially geometricians and had no use for the mathematical concept of a non-entity, neither did it exist in Egyptian mathematics. The Arabs, who encountered the Indian number system during their early conquests in India, found it superior to their own traditional system which used letters, and thus adapted it to develop Islamic mathematics. The Arabic word for zero is "sifr", meaning "empty." In the 12th century, the Italian mathematician Leonardo Pisano Fibonacci studied Arabian algebra and introduced the Hindu-Arabic numerals to Europe. The word "sifr" thus became "zephirum" in Latin and "zero" in English.

    In the ancient Indian context, the number zero did not originally refer to nothingness or nullity. The Sanskrit word for zero is shunya, which means "puffed up, hollow, empty." The zero stands for emptiness suggestive of potentiality. The discovery of the mathematical zero concurred with the emptiness of prajna-intuition in India around 200 BC. Both signify polar opposition between being and nonbeing. Zero is that which contains all possible polarised pairs such as (+1, -1), (+2, -2), etc. It is the collection of all mutually cancelling pairs of forward and backward movements. Put it another way, zero is fundamental to all existence. Because of it, everything is possible. Zero is the additive identity, the focal point of all numbers; without it, numbers cannot be created. India alone, among the great civilisations of antiquity, was able to fathom the depth of emptiness and willing to accept its consequences in mathematics.

    Following the introduction of the Hindu-Arabic numerals into Western culture, zero became a number that was used in calculations like any other number. Consequently, it lost some part of its original meaning, namely the part that suggests potentiality. Today, most mathematicians do not associate the notion of emptiness with zero, but with the empty set, which is a construct of set theory. A set is a collection of objects or numbers. For example, the set { 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 } is a set of numbers containing five elements; it is therefore said to have the "cardinality" of 5. The empty set { } is a collection that contains nothing and has the cardinality 0. The mathematician John von Neumann (1923) invented a method, known as von Neumann hierarchy, which can be employed to generate the natural numbers from the empty set as follows:

    Step 0: { } (empty set)
    Step 1: { { } } (set containing the empty set)
    Step 2: { { }, { { } } } (set containing previous two sets)
    Step 3: { { }, { { } } , { { }, { { } } } } (set containing previous three sets)
    Step 4: { { }, { { } } , { { }, { { } } }, { { }, { { } } , { { }, { { } } } } } (etc.)

    This sequence is obtained by iterating a functor that creates a new set from the union of the preceding two sets, thus generating sets with the cardinalities 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, ad infinitum. In less mathematical terms, the principle can be described as follows: Beginning with emptiness (step 0), we observe emptiness. Through the act of observing we create an entity containing emptiness (step 1). Now we perceive emptiness, as well as an entity. From the combination of the former two we create another entity by observation, which is different from the first entity (step 2). This process is repeated again and again. Interestingly, if we define suitable operations on the obtained sets based on union and intersection, the cardinalities of the resulting sets behave just like natural numbers being added and subtracted. The sequence is therefore isomorphic to the natural numbers - a stunningly beautiful example of something from nothing.

  • BodhiBodhi Posts: 7,932 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited December 2012
    12 Links of Interdependent Origination

    1. Ignorance
    2. Volitional Action (Karma)
    3. Consciousness
    4. Mind & Body/Name & Form
    5. Sense Organs
    6. Contact
    7. Feeling
    8. Craving
    9. Grasping
    10. Becoming
    11. Birth
    12. Old Age & Death

    The twelve links transform as does the person when enlightened but given here are the twelve links of deluded mind.
    The twelve links are commonly rendered as the wheel of life, shown below


    The wheel represents the interdependent nature of the 12 links. It is like the philosophical question, which comes first; the chicken or the egg? The answer is that they depend on each other, given the interdependent nature of both chicken and egg.

    i.e. 11 (birth) & 12 (old age & death) depend on each other. The moment you are born, your body is aging and dying.

    The universe is the same. All of existence is marked with anicca and anatta. One thing, no matter what the thing, is dependent on something else, or a number of different things, for its existence.
    The Buddha wrote: »
    When this exists, that comes to be; with the arising of this, that arises. When this does not exist, that does not come to be; with the cessation of this, that ceases.

  • BodhiBodhi Posts: 7,932 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited December 2012
    Where does the personality come from??

    Some believe that the brain is the seat of the soul but know not where the soul resides. Different parts of the brain are responsible for different functions. Brain damage is the destruction or degeneration of brain cells and can severely alter or destroy the personality. This link is unavoidable. It seems that the brain as a whole, and thus the personality, is a product of its parts, working together in interdependence and not the seat of some lasting personality or soul.


    The soul theory implies that nature and nurture plays no role in the development of the personality. This is not possible. The personality is a combination of genetic inheritance from our parents and environment. Our behavior throughout our lives is also an important and significant factor. Personality and behavior are inseparably linked, behavior being the way in which one acts or conducts oneself; in other words, volitional action, or as the Buddha calls it: karma. As the teaching of the 12 Links of Interdependence states, volitional action (karma) depends on consciousness. With deluded mind, ignorance is also present as one of the 12 links. This is why it is important to possess right view, to clear the ignorance that is present and purify our action, changing our behavior and consequently transforming and stabilizing our personality. Thus, our karma shapes our being.
    The Buddha wrote: »
    I declare, O Bhikkhus, that volition is Karma. Having willed one acts by body, speech, and thought.
    The Buddha wrote: »
    Mind precedes all mental states.
    Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought.
    If with an impure mind a person speaks or acts
    suffering follows him
    like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox.
    Mind precedes all mental states.
    Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought.
    If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts
    happiness follows him like his never-departing shadow.
  • ILL_AnversILL_Anvers Posts: 176 ✭✭✭
    Interesting read.
    So you approach buddhism in a scientific/philosophical manner rather than a spiritual one (in a supernatural sense)?
  • BodhiBodhi Posts: 7,932 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited December 2012

    Buddhism has always been a scientific and philosophical tradition. Spirituality is difficult to define because it is such a broad term and covers a wide variety of practices and beliefs. For me, the greatest spirituality is harmonizing with nature and controlling the emotions and behavior. The teachings of the Buddha provide the way and the path to this goal. If anything, I worship nature itself.

    Most of the supernatural beliefs that people associate with Buddhism comes from different traditions outside of Buddhism. Taosim and Hinduism come to mind.
    Krazy KicksMeester
  • BodhiBodhi Posts: 7,932 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited December 2012
    If you are interested in further reading aside from this thread, I recommend


    You can buy it online from booksellers like amazon or you can read it for free here:
  • BodhiBodhi Posts: 7,932 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited December 2012
    1. There is an order in the physical world. This is proved by the following phenomenon.
    2. There is a certain order in the movements and actions of the starry bodies.
    3. There is a certain order by which seasons come and go in regular sequence.
    4. There is a certain order by which seeds grow into trees, and trees yield fruits ,and fruits give seeds.
    5. In Buddhist terminology these are called Niyamas, laws which produce an orderly sequence such as Rutu Niyam, Bija Niyam.
    6. Similarly is there a moral order in Human Society. How is it produced? How is it maintained?
    7. Those who believe in the existence of God have no difficulty in answering the question. And their answer is easy.
    8. Moral order, they say, is maintained by Divine Dispensation. God created the world, and God is the Supreme Governor of the world. He is also the author of moral as well as of physical law.
    9. Moral law, according to them, is for man's good, because it ensues from Divine will. Man is bound to obey God, who is his maker, and it is obedience to God which maintains the moral order.
    10. Such is the argument in support of the view that the moral order is maintained by Divine Dispensation.
    11. The explanation is by no means satisfactory. For if the moral law has originated from God, and if God is the beginning and end of the moral order, and if man cannot escape from obeying God, why is there so much moral disorder in the world?
    12. What is the authority of the Divine Law? What is the hold of the Divine Law over the individual? These are pertinent questions. But to none of them is there any satisfactory answer from those who rely on Divine Dispensation as the basis for the moral order.
    13. To overcome these difficulties the thesis has been somewhat modified.
    14. It is said: No doubt creation took effect at the command of God. It is also true that the cosmos entered upon its life by his will and by his direction. It is also true that He imparted to the cosmos once for all the energy which served as the driving power of a stupendous mechanism.
    15. But God leaves it to Nature to work itself out in obedience to the laws originally given by him.
    16. So that if the moral order fails to work out as expected by God, the fault is of Nature and not of God.
    17. Even this modification in the theory does not solve the difficulty. It only helps to exonerate God from his responsibility. For the question remains, why should God leave it to Nature to execute His laws What is the use of such an absentee God?
    18. The answer which the Buddha gave to the question, " How is moral order maintained?", is totally different.
    19. His answer was simple. "It is the Kamma Niyam and not God which maintains the moral order in the universe." That was the Buddha's answer to the question.
    20. The moral order of the universe may be good or it may be bad. But according to the Buddha, the moral order rests on man and on nobody else.
    21. Kamma means man's action, and Vipaka is its effect. If the moral order is bad, it is because man does Akusala (Bad) Kamma. If the moral order is good, it is because man does Kusala (Good) Kamma.
    22. The Buddha was not content with merely speaking of Kamma. He spoke of the law of Kamma, which is another name for Kamma Niyam.
    23. By speaking of the law of Kamma, what the Buddha wanted to convey was that the effect of the deed was bound to follow the deed, as surely as night follows day. It was like a Niyam or rule.
    24. No one could fail to benefit by the good effects of a Kusala Kamma, and no one could escape the evil effects of Akusala Kamma.
    25. Therefore, the Buddha's admonition was: do Kusala Kamma so that humanity may benefit by a good moral order which a Kusala Kamma helps to sustain; do not do Akusala Kamma, for humanity will suffer from the bad moral order which an Akusala Kamma will bring about.
    26. It may be that there is a time interval between the moment when the Kamma is done, and the moment when the effect is felt. It is so, often enough.
    27. From this point of view, Kamma is either (1) Ditthadamma Vedaniya Kamma (Immediately Effective Kamma); (2) Upapajjavedaniya Kamma (Remotely Effective Kamma); and [=or] (3) Aporapariya Vedaniya Kamma (Indefinitely Effective Kamma).
    28. Kamma may also fall into the category of Ahosi Kamma, i.e., Kamma which is non-effective. This Ahosi Kamma comprises all such Kammas which are too weak to operate, or which are counteracted by a more [powerful?] Kamma, at the time when it [=they] should have worked.
    29. But making allowance for all these considerations, it does not in any sense derogate from the claim made by the Buddha that the law of Kamma is inexorable.
    30. The theory of the law of Kamma does not necessarily involve the conception that the effect of the Kamma recoils on the doer of it, and there is nothing more to be thought about it. This is an error. Sometimes the action of one affects another instead of the doer. All the same, it is the working of the law of Kamma, because it either upholds or upsets the moral order.
    31. Individuals come and individuals go. But the moral order of the universe remains, and so also the law of Kamma which sustains it.
    32. It is for this reason that in the religion of the Buddha, Morality has been given the place of God.
    33. Thus the Buddha's answer to the question of how the moral order in the universe is sustained, is so simple and so irrefutable.
    34. And yet its true meaning is scarcely grasped. Often, almost always, it is either misunderstood or misstated or misinterpreted. Not many seem to be conscious that the law of Kamma was propounded by the Buddha as an answer to the question [of ] how the moral order is maintained.
    35. That, however, is the purpose of Buddha's Law of Kamma.
    36. The Law of Kamma has to do only with the question of general moral order. It has nothing to do with the fortunes or misfortunes of an individual.
    37. It is concerned with the maintenance of the moral order in the universe.
    38. It is because of this that the law of Kamma is a part of Dhamma.
  • BodhiBodhi Posts: 7,932 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited December 2012
    The 3rd mark of existence is dukkha, often translated as dissatisfaction or suffering.
    Some Buddhist teachers list nibbana as the 3rd link as opposed to dukkha, given that nibbana is the state of the enlightened and liberated mind.
    I will explain both at a later date.
  • ILL_AnversILL_Anvers Posts: 176 ✭✭✭
    Oceanic wrote: »

    Buddhism has always been a scientific and philosophical tradition. Spirituality is difficult to define because it is such a broad term and covers a wide variety of practices and beliefs. For me, the greatest spirituality is harmonizing with nature and controlling the emotions and behavior. The teachings of the Buddha provide the way and the path to this goal. If anything, I worship nature itself.

    Most of the supernatural beliefs that people associate with Buddhism comes from different traditions outside of Buddhism. Taosim and Hinduism come to mind.

    I ask this because i've been to Thailand and i know what you're saying but most buddhists over there have some supernatural beliefs as well. It seems like it's mostly the westerners who take the "strictly" scientific and philosophical route not that there's anything wrong with it. I've always had respect for buddhest, regardless.
    And i've always found their philosophy interesting.

  • BodhiBodhi Posts: 7,932 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited December 2012

    It depends on the school, or the branch, of Buddhism and also the culture and country from which it thrives.
    Most of all, it depends on the practitioner.
    Most of my understanding has come from [Indian] Theravadan elders (who reject the supernatural beliefs) mixed with a little Zen here and there.
    Supernaturalism is a part of some cultures and Buddhist countries, though. It just doesn't work for me.
    Supernaturalism is not a requirement, however.
    Buddhism at its core is the 4 Noble Truths and The Eightfold Path, which is largely mental discipline and ethical conduct.
    From there, practice between different people vary.

    Rahula and Ambedkar, for example, were eastern (Indan to be specific) Theravadan Buddhists who did not support supernaturalism:
    § 1. Belief in the Supernatural is Not Dhamma

    1. Whenever any phenomenon occurs, humanity is always wanting to know how it has happened, what is the cause of it.
    2. Sometimes cause and the effect are so proximate and so close that it is not difficult to account for the occurrence of the event.
    3. But oftentimes the effect is so far away from the cause for [=that] the effect is not accountable. Apparently there appears to be no cause for it.
    4. Then the question arises: How has this event occurred?
    5. The commonest answer is that the occurrence of the event is due to some supernatural cause, which is often called a miracle.
    6. The Buddha's predecessors gave very different answers to this question.
    7. Pakauda Katyana denied that there was a cause for every event. Events, he said, occurred independently.
    8. Makhali Ghosal admitted that an event must have a cause. But he preached that the cause is not to be found in human agency, but is to be sought in nature, necessity, inherent laws of things, predestination, or the like.
    9. The Buddha repelled [=rejected] these doctrines. He maintained that not only every event has a cause but the cause is the result of some human action or natural law.
    10. His contention against the doctrine of Time, Nature, Necessity, etc., being the cause of the occurrence of an event, was this:
    11. If Time, Nature, Necessity, etc., be the sole cause of the occurrence of an event, then who are we?
    12. Is man merely a puppet in the hands of Time, Nature, Chance, Gods, Fate, Necessity
    13. What is the use of man's existence, if he is not free? What is the use of man's intelligence, if he continues to believe in supernatural causes?
    14. If man is free, then every event must be the result of man's action, or of an act of Nature. There cannot be any event which is supernatural in its origin.
    15. It may be that man is not able to discover the real cause of the occurrence of an event. But if he has intelligence, he is bound one day to discover it.
    16. In repudiating supernaturalism, the Buddha had three objects.
    17. His first object was to lead man to the path of rationalism.
    18. His second object was to free man to go in search of truth.
    19. His third object was to remove the most potent source of superstition, the result of which is to kill the spirit of inquiry.
    20. This is called the law of Kamma or Causation.
    21. This doctrine of Kamma and Causation is the most central doctrine in Buddhism. It preaches Rationalism, and Buddhism is nothing if not rationalism.
    22. That is why worship of the supernatural is not Dhamma.

    It must be repeated here that according to Buddhist philosophy there is no
    permanent, unchanging spirit which can be considered 'Self', or 'Soul', or 'Ego', as
    opposed to matter, and that consciousness should not be taken as 'spirit' in
    opposition to matter. This point has to be particularly emphasized, because a wrong
    notion that consciousness is a sort of Self or Soul that continues as a permanent
    substance through life, has persisted from the earliest time to present day

    The Buddha declared in unequivocal terms that consciousness depends on
    matter, sensation, perception and mental formations, and that it cannot exist
    independently from them. He says: 'Consciousness may exist having matter as it
    means, matter as its object, matter as its support, and seeking delight it may grow,
    increase and develop; or consciousness may exist having sensation as it means... or
    perception as it means... or mental formation as it means, mental formation as its
    object, mental formation as its support, and seeking delight it may grow, increase
    and develop. 'Were a man to say: I shall show the coming, the going, the passing
    away, the arising, the growth, the increase or the development of consciousness
    apart from matter, sensation, perception and mental formations, he would be
    speaking of something that does not exist.
    Buddhism stands unique in the history of human thought in denying the
    existence of such a Soul, Self, or Atman. According to the teaching of the Buddha,
    the idea of self is an imaginary, false belief which has no corresponding, reality, and
    it produces harmful thoughts of 'me' and 'mine', selfish desire, craving, attachment,
    hatred, ill-will, conceit, pride, egoism, and other defilements, impurities and
    problems. It is the source of all the troubles in the world from personal conflicts to
    wars between nations. In short, to this view can be traced all the evil in the world.

    Two ideas are psychologically deep-rooted in man: self-protection and
    selfpreservation. For self-protection man has created God, on whom he depends for
    his own protection, safety and security, just as a child depends on its parent. For
    selfpreservation man has conceived the idea of an immortal Soul or Atman, which
    will live eternally. In his ignorance, weakness, fear, and desire, man needs these two
    things to console himself. Hence he clings to them deeply and fanatically.

    The Buddha's teaching does not support this ignorance, weakness, fear, and
    desire, but aims at making man enlightened by removing and destroying them,
    striking at their very root. According to Buddhism, our ideas of God and Soul are
    false and empty. Though highly developed as theories, they are all the same
    extremely subtle mental projections, garbed in an intricate metaphysical and
    philosophical phraseology. These ideas are so deep-rooted in man, and so near and
    dear to him, that he does not wish to hear, nor does he want to understand, any
    teaching against them.

    What kind of supernatural beliefs have you come across?

  • BodhiBodhi Posts: 7,932 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Add on to that the fact that Buddhism can be added to other spiritualities like Voodoo or whatever you wish as long as you are practicing the path. So a lot of supernatural beliefs are not Buddhist in origin but stem from another source. For example, some Hindus believe that The Buddha was an incarnation of Vishnu.
  • BodhiBodhi Posts: 7,932 ✭✭✭✭✭
    IMO it is difficult to reconcile supernatural beliefs like the soul theory with Buddhism given that the teaching of no soul and impermanence exist.
  • ILL_AnversILL_Anvers Posts: 176 ✭✭✭
    Thanks for the info bruh, definitely gonna look into it some more.
  • ILL_AnversILL_Anvers Posts: 176 ✭✭✭
    Oceanic wrote: »

    What kind of supernatural beliefs have you come across?

    My guide in Chiangmai was a thai buddhist and sometimes he would talk about certain spirits (devas maybe?) and how you can get in touch with them or feel them and stuff like that. Also at the temples there were some things going on that looked like religious rituals involving prayer and such. (not the monks though, they were just meditating most of the time)
    They were regular thai people, they seem to have some (as you said) set of supernatural beliefs along with the fundamentals of buddhism.

  • BodhiBodhi Posts: 7,932 ✭✭✭✭✭
    No problem brother man. Check the links and read those two books. If you have any other questions, let me know.
  • BodhiBodhi Posts: 7,932 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited December 2012
    ILL_Anvers wrote: »
    My guide in Chiangmai was a thai buddhist and sometimes he would talk about certain spirits (devas maybe?) and how you can get in touch with them or feel them and stuff like that.


    Devas in the sense of spirits and supernatural beings possessing supernatural abilities are originally from the Hindu religion. A lot of terminology in the Buddhist tradition is also found in Hinduism, but in Buddhism the terms oftentimes denote something slightly or either entirely different; remember that Hinduism predates Buddhism. Both religions were born in India and the language was for the most part the same. The meaning is what you want to pay attention to and be careful of so as not to become confused. For example, in Hinduism, karma relates to an immortal soul but in Buddhism, there is no immortal soul so the term karma relates to something different. In the case of devas, Buddhism says that they mortal, limited beings, not supernatural entities.
    Also remember that the Buddhist scriptures were not handwritten by the Buddha himself but were reported by his followers. The Bhikkhus later transcribed the teachings for the Sangha. The difference between Buddhism and other religions is that Buddhism does not claim to be inerrant; misreporting happened. There are examples of such in the texts themselves and it is possible that misreporting made its way into the scripture without forewarning. The Buddhist cannot always accept what is said in the texts to be the words of Siddhartha Gautama.
    The major teachings of Buddhism are those which all schools and branches of the tradition agree on and are generally accepted to be the true teaching of Gautama, for example The 4 Noble Truths and The Eightfold Path, The 3 Marks of Existence, etc. Everything else is to be taken with a grain of salt, imo. The Buddha said not to believe in a thing just because it was said but rather to test the teachings for yourself. What works for you and is beneficial, keep to it. What is not beneficial, abandon it.
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