Talk:Ātman (Buddhism)

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Atman as affliction[edit]

The quote- So, when Buddhists claim that there is no ātman, they are not really saying that it does not exist, but that it exists solely as an affliction - an innate response to the world around us; and this deeply enmeshed affliction lies at the root of all misery Is one that is contrary to anatta doctrine. They really are saying no self exists, the point the causes ignorance is the conception that it does. it doesn't exist, but the idea of it does. It is this which brings about suffering. The beginning of this passage of the article should be changed to be more in line with the suttas in it's reflection of anatta. Ref- MN 22, SN 22.1, SN 44.10, AN 7.46, AN 10.60


—Preceding unsigned comment added by 90.219.255.22 (talk) 08:13, 2 June 2009 (UTC)

The Buddha never says "there is no self." Mitsube (talk) 06:32, 3 June 2009 (UTC)

This article is biased towards Mahayana. I have references from Buddhadasa and Rahula, two very famous Theravadin monks (and others as well), who claim that Buddhism (Nikaya/Hinayana/Theravada) deny both the personal self and Atman. This article should therefore say something about not accurately representing the views of Theravada Buddhism. It is not about Buddhism, but Zen/Mahayana and Advaita Vedanta. See Rahula's What the Buddha Taught and Buddhadasa's The Buddha's Doctrine of Anatta.-- Summa Dracologica 06:54, 26 November 2006 (UTC)

I would argue that a neutral position pays a great deal of attention to what the Buddha said--not what he did not say. On that note, the Buddha never categorically denied the self or atta. Throughout the Nikayas he teaches that the five aggregates or khandhas (attributes of being) which, by the way, belong to Mara the evil one, are not the self just as I would say the clothes I wear are not my self or the heap of rubbish in my front yard is not my self. Frankly, I don't see what is so confusing about understanding the Buddha's notion of self and 'not-the-self' (anattâ). Songhill (talk) 18:57, 24 October 2009 (UTC)
He never says there is no Self, however he does say that the Self theorized in Brahmanical yoga is nonexistent in the Alagaddupama Sutta. Mitsube (talk) 03:18, 25 October 2009 (UTC)
Still, the Buddha never really denies the existence of a Self, anattavada is a post-canonical doctrine with no real basis in the Sutta Pitaka. I think this article could be presented from a more NPOV by expressing what was taught first in classical Buddhism, before expounding upon Theravada and Mahayana perspectives. — Joshua Johaneman Flag of New York.svg 23:14, 13 January 2010 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Joshuajohaneman (talkcontribs)

The comment that the article is shaped by the late Mahayana understanding of the Buddha Dhamma is apt. However, it does appear that all the commentators on this page, including the writer of the article itself, have not read the Anatta Sutta with the requisite diligence, precision and care. Slow and precise reading of that sutta reveals that the Buddha does not reject the notion of atta, i.e. of 'the deathless', per se, but opposes the view/belief that anything that has arisen, for instance, name-rupa and its various elaborations, is not the atta, i.e. because impermanent, hence leading to suffering (and which is hardly a compelling argument). In short, the Hinayana Buddha does not reject the notion of atta but the notion that nama-rupa (or some part of it) is atta. The Wikepidia article, so far as it refers to the Hinayana (or Theravada) understanding of the Buddha Dhamma, is seriously misleading and should be re-written.

25.02.2007 Bikkhu Bodhangkur


ah, wasn't mahayanan emphasis on trancendent Budahood/bodhisatva accused of being the hindunisation of buddhism? Is this a modern topic or was debated at ancient time in India (suc as by middle school)? FWBOarticle

Hinduization is not a term I would feel comfortable using. It is of late coinage. Essentially the difference between Mahayana and non-Mahayana traditions such as Theravada have more to do with what the Buddha supposedly uttered and what he did not which therefore makes such utterances apocryphal. But then consider this pericope from the Nikayas which is considered orthodox:"That which is well spoken is the word of the Buddha" (from the Uttara Sutta in the Anguttara-Nikaya Book of Eights). So my question is, "Is Mahayana well spoken?" Songhill (talk) 19:46, 24 October 2009 (UTC)
Mahayana practices are ofter quite different from the practices laid out in the early texts. Mitsube (talk) 03:27, 25 October 2009 (UTC)

Should we maybe move this page to Atman in Buddhist thought? Calling it Atman (Buddhism) sounds weird since Buddhism soundly rejects it as a concept. - Nat Krause 08:04, 29 Jul 2004 (UTC)

I disagree strongly. Not only does "Atman in Buddhist thought" make a cumbersome title, but I was lectured on how "Atman" was very much a Buddhist philosophical concept which has a rich history of its own real interpretation of it as a phenomenological concept of ego and abstract being. I in fact argued for a while against its being cited as Buddhist concept since I felt it was Hindu and Buddhism rejected it, using it as a fulcrum for its own ideas. Others, as I've said, poo-pooed that idea. For this reason I moved the page here, and would thus object to its move to "Atman in Buddhist thought." --LordSuryaofShropshire 02:26, Jul 30, 2004 (UTC)
  1. I don't think that "Atman in Buddhist thought" is cumbersome. It's only four words.
  2. I don't see how "Other people argued that atman was very much a Buddhist philosophical concept" is, by itself, any kind of argument against moving the page, although it may well indicate that these "other people" might show up and oppose the move. - Nat Krause 05:58, 30 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  1. Atman in Buddhist Thought, in comparison to Atman (Buddhism), is cumbersome and does not parallel the form used for situations of multiple usage of a single term or name.
  2. Atman (Buddhism) is as value-free and neutral as "Atman in Buddhist Thought."
  3. The other people who argued is not, by itself, an argument. But the clear implication understood by an intelligent reader is, that you look up their arguments which led me to change the page. Obviously, they clearly seemed defensible and reasonable enough for me to change my views and alter the page, and thus a proactive encyclopaedic surfer, such as Wikipedians are, might care to view Talk:Atman.
He/She who argued with me in fact didn't like the move, but I'm not concerned with that. I thought the argument for Atman's being a Buddhist concept was fair and you may want to look at it. --LordSuryaofShropshire 01:41, Jul 31, 2004 (UTC)

The specific arguments, which are relavant to the article on Atman, have been added here. Nat, I feel that, solely within the context of Buddhism, there is good reason and purpose to separate the discussion of anatman from atman. Also, it occurs to me that the treatment of Atman in Buddhism is so distinct from Hindu concepts that I recant from opposing the split from Hinduism (nods to Surya) - though I feel there could be an interesting opportunity to look at the counterpoint between Buddhist, Hindu, Jain etc. views on the nature and function of Atman.

I am not sure about the argument for "Atman in Buddhist thought" -- it looks more like an essay title than an encyclopedia entry.

PS, Surya, just to aid in your comments, 'He' works fine :-) (20040302)

Well, Lord Surya's suggestion that I go back and read the arguments on Talk:Atman was a good one. Despite producing a mildly unpleasant tingling sensation in my brain, they did not convince me that "atman" vis a vis Buddhism can most clearly be discussed in terms of it being a "concept in Buddhism". What did seem sensible to me was when Mar. 2 pointed out that "atman" is a regular word in Sanskrit, that is, that it's meaning does not come exclusively from any particular philosophy. Isn't having a page titled Atman (Buddhism) pretty much the same as having a page titled Self (Buddhism)? Buddhism contains alot of original ideas about the nature of the self, and these ideas are very different than what a lot of people in, for instance, the west think about the self. But for one to say that our use of the word "self" is a concept distinct from what everybdoy else means would, I think, defeat the whole purpose of trying to communicate with other people about the self.
I tend to agree with the main thrust of this - which is that a single Atman article could be used - as you say, Atman was not coined by philosophers. However, there are precedents for the split. For instance, Rebirth has a similar (somewhat messy) structure.
I will agree that Atman in Buddhist thought is comparatively more cumbersome than Atman (Buddhism). To be exact, it is more cumbersome in the amount (two words - one set of parentheses). I don't think this is big enough difference to worry about -- in other words, "comparatively cumbersome" is not necessarily "cumbersome". It's also true that this is not the usual naming convention for multiple uses of a single word, but I don't think that this case exactly parallels other disambiguations. It's also also true that Atman in Buddhist thought sounds like the title of an essay, but I don't really see this as a problem; in some cases, it's not feasible and not productive to distinguish between an essay and an encyclopedia article.
On the other hand, I don't care very much what the article is called, so if you guys want to keep it here, fine.
Phew! Let's leave it be for the time being.. Also, maybe we can merge the various Atman articles after they have been developed somewhat.
By the way, the current layout is not very good as wikipedia style. It would be good if somebody could familiar with the subject could write at least one sentence for an introduction, stating what Atman (Buddhism) is. If I wrote it, it would say: "Atman is some sort of cognitive obscuration and it's got something to do with whether there's a self", and I don't think that would be much of an improvement. - Nat Krause 10:36, 12 Aug 2004 (UTC)
Okay. I am not known for being a good wiki-editor, as you know. But I will have a look! 20040302 11:07, 12 Aug 2004 (UTC)

I appreciate the incredible openness of all here in considering ideas and even changing stances (something which I found great difficulty in doing). Since we've come to an ostensible fork in the road regarding how to deal with this, I think your idea regarding comparative looks at Atman between Hinduism and Buddhism (and also Jainism) is a great one. Perhaps a 'half-article' on the Atman redirect page would be an interesting one. In it, a broader description of Atman's growth in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain traditions and some of the key similarities and differences would be quite cool. I know next to nothing about Jainism, though one of best friends in Bombay's Jain (yes, his dad's a diamond dealer :) guess most of you won't get that...), so we may have to recruit someone (unless one of you has the goods). Anyway, I think it'd be good. Any thoughts?--LordSuryaofShropshire 19:15, Aug 12, 2004 (UTC)

Yup - I agree. My current position is to attempt to bring the current article to maturity; this is not as easy as it sounds as related wiki-material on this knotty subject (in Buddhism anyway!) appears to be quite contradictory in places, and there are some very opinionated people on wikipedia.
A 'leader' on Atman could provide not only a good comparative approach, but also be a good introduction as well. I am certainly willing to contribute. It may be good to have a sanksrit philologist in as well. Regards, 20040302
"'Atman' is an essence of things that does not depend on others." - Isn't this an interesting paradox with the Buddhist statement that "All phenomena is conditioned", i.e. dependent arising? --ZhiXing-Bhikkhu 20:33, 18 Sep 2004 (UTC)
ZhiXing - that is the point. Candrakirti is saying that the conception of atman is mistaken. Atman is a concept - more specifically, a cognitive obscuration. However, if we were to say that Atman (as a cognitive obscuration) does not exist, then there would be no liberation. As I understand it, Candrakirti is pointing out (and thereby defining) the central feature of the Madhyamika-Prasangika- that dependant arising and emptiness of inherent existence necessarily entail one another. (20040302)
That definition you're giving wasn't accepted by Buddhists... they redefined it according to (perhaps through twisty logic) shunyata as a transient phenomenological being/ego.--LordSuryaofShropshire 19:05, Sep 19, 2004 (UTC)

Toward a more definitive article[edit]

Seems to me several sections are needed

A Hindu precursor to the Buddhist Doctrine. Anataman in the Brihdaranyaka Upanishad.

The Persistent Nikaya Doctrine. The Dhammapada and the Sabbasava Sutra provide the earliest and most fundamental teachings of Buddhism about atman. Dhammapada 279 reads "ßSabbe dhammà anattàû ti, ~ yadà pa¤¤àya passati, Atha nibbindati dukkhe ~ - esa maggo visuddhiyà"; "All phenomena lack self; seeing with discernment, turning away from affliction, this is the path of purification" (my quick and dirty translation; needs to be checked. Translated version should not have more subjects and objects than the original. C.f. [1], [2], and [3].) Across the ages and throughout all the nations where the Buddhadharma spread, Buddhists abandon the conventional idea of the self as a delusion. That delusion contributes to the preconditions for "dukkhe"—suffering or affliction. This teaching is reflected in the great majority of existing and historical varieties of Buddhism. However, it is complemented by another, equally fundamental doctrine that's traceable to the Nikaya tradition: Namely, the denigration of metaphysics. Paving the way for future Buddhist traditions, the Nikaya literature chastises those who seek an answer to the metaphysical question of the existence of a self. The Sabbasava Sutra (Majjhima Nikaya 2, namely, the 2nd of the middle-length discourses) reads in part

Tassa evaü ayoniso manasi karoto channaü diññhãnaü a¤¤atarà diññhi uppajjati: atthi me attà'ti và'ssa saccato thetato diññhi uppajjati, natthi me attà'ti và'ssa saccato thetato diññhi uppajjati, attanà' va attànaü sa¤jànàmã'ti và'ssa saccato thetato diññhi uppajjati, attanà'va anattànaü sa¤jànàmã'ti và'ssa saccato thetato diññhi uppajjati, anattanà'va attànaü sa¤jànàmã'ti và'ssa saccato thetato diññhi uppajjati. Atha và pana'ssa evaü diññhi hoti. Yo me ayaü attà vado vedeyyo tatra tatra kalyàõapàpakànaü kammànaü vipàkaü pañisaüvedeti. So kho pana me ayaü attà nicco dhuvo sassato avipariõàmadhammo sassatisamaü tatheva ñhassatã'ti. Idaü vuccati bhikkhave diññhigataü diññhigahanaü diññhikantàro diññhivisåkaü diññhivipphanditaü diññhisaüyojanaü. Diññhisaüyojanasaüyutto bhikkhave assutavà puthujjano na parimuccati jàtiyà jaràmaraõena sokehi paridevehi dukkhehi domanassehi upàyàsehi, na parimuccati dukkhasmà'ti vadàmi. Excerpted with footnotes removed, from [4]
From unwise reflection arises one of the six erroneous views: I have a self; this view arises as true and real. I have no self; this view arises as true and real. By self I perceive self; this view arises as true and real. By self I perceive nonself; this view arises as true and real. By nonself I perceive self; this view arises as true and real. Or, a wrong view arises such as this: This is my self which speaks and feels, which experiences the result of good and evil actions done here and there; this self is eternally stable. Oh, wanderers, this is the soul view, this is a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a bondage of views. The person in bondage to these views is not released from birth, decay, death, sorrow, lamentations, suffering, distress, and despair. The person is not freed from afflictions. (Another quick and dirty; I consulted [5], [6], Rahula What the Buddha Taught p99, and King Buddha Nature, p91 for that. Still needs fine-tooth comb to make sure it does not exaggerate nor underestimate the actual number of subjects and objects— in other words, to preserve both the use and avoidance of personal subjects expressed, consciously or unconsiously by the author of the best available source texts.)

Various interpretations of the Nikayas' attitude toward atman are possible. Some may infer that the Dhammapada's virtually unconditional anatman is simply inconsistent with the Sabbasava's labeling "I have no self" as an erroneous view. Others find that both of these Nikaya tradition strongly reject conventional views of the self, and do not replace those views with their polar opposites. Sakyamuni apparently felt it necessary to refute then-current ideas which on the surface at least closely resemble the Cartesian cogito (namely, "I think therefore I am", which resembles "by self I perceive self") as well as the eternally popular idea of an eternal soul. Some perceive that, taken as a whole the Nikayas espouse no metaphysical view that could be open to refutation, leaving nothing whatever (sunya) in their place. (Elsewhere in the Nikayas, right view is defined simply as knowledge of the four noble truths, not as a set of answers to metaphysical questions.) Others see the denial of both "I have a self" and "I have no self" as evidence that the Nikaya's attitude toward atman resides squarely in the tradition of the later Buddhist doctrine of nonduality.

Atman in Yogacara and syncretic texts. (After the existing section on the tathagatagarbha literature) Brief explanation of asrayaparavrtti; the de-reification of self; mine Vasubandhu, see Nhat Hanh Transformation of the Base, maybe Kalupahana Buddhist Psychology. Atmaparamita is the actualization of nonself, see King p89.

Contemporary critique of crypto-atman. Matsumoto et al criticism of Buddha nature, "inherent enlightenment", and all "dhatu-vada" as inappropriately re-introducing atman into Buddhism. See also Victoria, Zen at War, about "The nation of Japan" as a crypto-atman; check entries in that book on Hakugen, who I suspect weighed in on the subject. It also seems to me that Stephen Batchelor in part bases Buddhism without Beliefs (haven't read it, it just seems likely to me) on the rejection of the soul view, in accord with the Sabbasava.

--Munge 07:56, 11 Apr 2005 (UTC), modified 15 April

It is an unwarranted leap to believe the Buddha categorically denied the self or atta. It simply isn't the case if you read the Nikayas soberly. Much of what is said about the self by the Buddha in the Nikayas is in the context of the five khandhas. And it is there we are to find the truth of self that it is not anyone of these khandha which, by the way, happen to be synonymous with Mara the Evil One! (Which makes the self, by implication, the good guy.) We also find the Buddha's 'self' when of khandha he says, "This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self."Songhill (talk) 17:46, 24 October 2009 (UTC)
There is no unqualified denial of Self. However, we do find the Buddha's "self" when he says what it is: “an agreed term, a common form of words, a worldly usage, a practical designation” (D I 202). The Buddha drew an analogy with milk. Milk can become curds, then butter, and then ghee, but it is pointless to speak of an abiding entity which would persist through these changes: milk is just milk, butter is just butter … just as milk progressively changes, so the self which we experience changes continually for specifiable reasons. He described doctrines of the Self was an invitation to further suffering: “such [a doctrine of the eternal Self] is merely a sensation, a writhing in discomfort, of those venerable ascetics and Brahmins who neither know nor see, and who have fallen victim of desire [for such a Self].” (D I 40-1). So to give up such a doctrine was to give up a potent source of frustration. The emotional tone of the teaching of non-self is that of a calm and relieved detachment. It is a liberation which transcended the frustrated strivings of those who revolve around a Self, “like a dog tied to a post” (M II 232-3).
In general, if one thinks of things in terms of unchanging existence or non-existence, one will never understand dependent origination; this is stated in the Kaccayanagotta Sutta. Mitsube (talk) 03:27, 25 October 2009 (UTC)
Any attempt to phenomenalize the self the Buddha rejects which explains why he repeatedly says,in regard to khandhas in the nikayan discourses, "This is not mine, this am I not, this is not my self." This is too often glossed over when in fact the Buddha is telling us that this temporal body with its thoughts is not who we really are--yet we cling to it blindly as if it were which is the cause of our suffering. This leads me to say that the five khandha/skandha that we attach to as if they were the self is the real problem--not the self.Songhill (talk) 05:37, 25 October 2009 (UTC)
Our sense of self comes from clinging to the khandhas. The "I am" is dependently originated. Remove clinging to the khandhas and there is no longer the thought "this I am" about anything. This is explicitly stated in suttas and described in the anatta article. Mitsube (talk) 06:13, 25 October 2009 (UTC)

Pre RV edit..[edit]

Atman is a Sanskrit word, in Pali Buddhist texts, the term is Attan, or atta, normally translated as 'soul' or 'Self', certainly not to be confuses with the aggregate or khandhic self (psycho-physical), which was anatta, or ‘na me so atta’ (not my Soul).

In Buddhism, the concept of Atman is the “only refuge” [DN 2.100], "The Soul (Attan) is Charioteer"[Jataka-2-1341], “The Soul (Attan) is ones True-Nature (Svabhava)” [Mahavagga-Att. 3.270], "The Soul is the dearest beloved" [AN 4.97], "The Soul is the refuge that I have gone unto" [KN Jatakapali 1441], "To be fixed in the Soul is to be flood crossed" [Mahavagga-Att. 2.692].

"Dwell with the Soul (Atman) as your Light, with the Soul as your refuge, with none other as refuge." [SN 5.154, DN 2.100, SN 3.42, DN 3.58, SN 5.163]-Gotama Buddha

The common error both as mentioned in Buddhist sutra as well as by others, was the confusion of the empirical and corporeal self with The Self, the Atman, the Soul. “the light (joti) within one’s mind/will (citta) is the very Soul (attano)” [DN2-Att. 2.479]. Buddhism denies the conceptualization upon the Soul, the Atman, this being attanuditthi or (speculations/ theories of or upon the Soul) which was the “root of suffering, of delusions”.

I have some difficulties with this. First of all, the bibliographical marks are not so easy for me to identify: DN, AN, KN - can we be specific?; moreover, these concepts come from -what- tradition? Also, just because there are four or five sutras that assert the importance of the concept of self does not mean that this is a correct interpretation of Buddha's thought - especially as there are thousands of references that overtly teach anatman/annata. (20040302 19:15, 17 December 2005 (UTC))
  • The removed comments have inherent value, I feel, although they were perhaps inappropriate in the introductory position in which they were placed. They could perhaps be added to a separate section of their own called "Controversial Interpretation of the Atman Doctrine in Early Buddhism"? I personally think the writer is absolutely correct in his understanding of what the Buddha was actually articulating in his "non-Self" teachings (that impermanent, worldly phenomena precisely do not constitute the Soul - which is transcendent of all the conditionality, transience and pain of Samsara) - although I recognise that I am very, very much in a Buddhist minority on this one. So, while I totally agree with the writer myself, I think that for the sake of balance and to reflect the mainstream trend within Buddhist thought, the positive quotes on the Self could be placed in a separate section, as indicated. Perhaps that section could even be called "Positive Comments on the Self Taken from the Pali Canon"? As regards the writer's source references: they are indeed unclear if one is not so familiar with the Pali Canon's Nikayas, that is for sure; "DN", for example, is a standard reference to the "Digha Nikaya" (the collection of long suttas in the Pali Canon). But I agree with the previous commentator that it would be helpful if these references were spelt out more fully. Overall, then, I would say keep these comments, but re-position them within the article and make the references easier to understand. Best wishes to both parties! From Tony. TonyMPNS 23:38, 17 December 2005 (UTC)

moved to it's own section[edit]

I have had a go - as the contributor is rather insistent on placing the editorial. I hope he is open to discussion. I have pulled one paragraph:

"Citation source, the Nikayas: “It follows that only the Nikayas go back to a period which predate the formation of Buddhist sects, which is important in discerning doctrinal matters." [page 12]-"Only the Nikayas thusly, reflect the first and earliest period of the history of Buddhist thought when the Sangha was in doctrine at one." [page 13]-"The Nikayas would have to be placed as having been recorded no later than the first half of the 4th century B.C." [page 13]- [Studies in the Origins of Buddhism. Govind Pande Chandre; Motilal publishers ISBN 8120810163 1999]

as it is an argument for the validity of Nikaya sutras, which is not relevant to the current article, and is (of course) highly contentious - there are many Buddhists who do not accept Govind Pande Chandre as an authority! Morever, merely because the Nikayas have an early point of view does not mean that their ideas are more 'Buddhist'. We must acknowledge the developments of Buddhist doctrine as being legitimate for those who adhere to them. (20040302 10:10, 18 December 2005 (UTC))

Thanks Tony - you helped me identify AN,KN,MN,SN - but I don't know about SB! (20040302 10:22, 18 December 2005 (UTC))

  • Thanks, 20040302, for your thanks! It is good that the quotes from the Nikayas now have their own very clearly displayed section. All the best. From Tony. TonyMPNS 11:28, 18 December 2005 (UTC)
    • To User 20040302, you’ve committed several illogical fallacies and baseless claims, namely that: "merely because the Nikayas have an early point of view does not mean that their ideas are more 'Buddhist'"; in fact the Nikayas are THE oldest Buddhist texts which exist, period. Most importantly, the Nikayas are the only presecular Buddhist texts on earth, of which other Buddhologists, (including myself)such as Dr. GC Pande, Dr. H. Nakamura, Dr. AK Coomaraswamy, K.L. Hazra, Dr. C.A.F. Rhys Davids and many others are in 100% agreement. #2, your mention of a "Pali-biased section" is mere ad hominem, and irrelevant. #3 your: "I am unsure that it represents all Buddhists" is also irrelevant, namely quoting the Bible directly, for example does not in fact represent many later schisms and secular schools of Christianity, the same applying to Buddhism as well. Its apparent Doctrinal accuracy is something irrelevant and merely coincidental, which is a great disservice to anyone looking for substantiated, doctrinal and logical facts here. In fact there can be no doubt your de-evolving the basis of this religious term which must be presented as per doctrine, since all religious statements must be Sola Scriptura (based in Doctrine), rather than commentary and conjecture which may or may not appeal to people by and large. Pali Scholar, Buddhologist, author
Dear Attasarana, let us examine some of these issues a little. First of all, let me ask you - who is Buddhist? Not who is most Buddhist? Buddhism does not merely belong to the domain of scholars and academics - there are Buddhists found across the entire world. Many of these Buddhists have traditions that extend back for well over a thousand years, and all of them are rooted in the words and deeds of Gautama Buddha. I agree with you that the Nikayas are the oldest texts, but age is not the sole criteria for authority - certainly you must agree that many Buddhists acknowledge the Mahayana sutras as authoritative texts? Otherwise we would not have Mahayana Buddhism! So - merely within the framework of Sutra, we can see that (1) Different buddhists have different ideas about what sutras are authoritative. (2) Within those sutras, there are distinct approaches to the concept of Atman. So - we must understand that 'Buddhist' texts are those texts which are meaningful for Buddhists: texts for which some group or another accept as Dharma. Therefore, we cannot talk about some texts being more 'Buddhist' than others, as different communities have different emphasis on which texts are to be accepted as authoritative.
Secondly, I am not sure of your reference to my supposed "Pali-biased section" - maybe I said that, but I cannot see where. What I do think is relevant is your discourse on the Nikaya views of Atman, and as I have repeatedly mentioned, your contribution there is welcome.
Your final point is the most crucial - which is that you are used to writing academic literature for academics, and therefore, your particular community has a set of conventions as to what is, and what is not acceptable (This is most evident by the statement all religious statements must be Sola Scriptura (based in Doctrine - this is not a Wikipedia Rule ) . An encyclopedia has a broader audience, and needs to meet the issues of that audience, which often includes informing practioners about the views of their own schools. I refer you to Wikipedia:Guide_to_writing_better_articles for some relevant pointers.
In conclusion, an article on Atman in Buddhism, is not necessarily an article on Atman in Nikaya. It appears that you conflated 'Buddhism' with 'Nikaya', which of course is a mistake. I feel that we have reached an excellent compromise by placing your valuable contribution within it's own section.
In explanation of my most recent edit, generally, there is no need to qualify Nikaya as being "the oldest existing texts of Buddhism" - this is not doubted by scholars, and is provocative to some practitioners. (20040302 07:07, 19 December 2005 (UTC))


Misunderstanding as to "Atman" in Buddhism

There seems to be much misunderstanding regarding "atman" in Buddhism. Some here mistakenly posit that there is a permanent self, an "atman" or soul, in Buddhist thought. I submit that in the original teachings as contained in the Pali Canon, this is a misunderstanding which clings to personality view to hold on to the concept of "atman". I note that often there seems to be a desire to change Buddhism to meets one's own needs rather than to see what the teachings are in and of themselves. Of course, in Buddhism the teachings (the Path) are not the end in themselves--realization based upon wisdom, thus the end of suffering, as the direction the path leads. Please see explication in article by Bhikkhu Bodhi below.

Metta, Devamitta

Dhamma and Non-duality by Bhikkhu Bodhi Source: BPS Newsletter cover essays nos. 27 (2nd mailing, 1994) & 29 (1st mailing, 1995).


Copyright © 1994-95 Buddhist Publication Society Access to Insight edition © 1998 For free distribution. This work may be republished, reformatted, reprinted, and redistributed in any medium. It is the author's wish, however, that any such republication and redistribution be made available to the public on a free and unrestricted basis and that translations and other derivative works be clearly marked as such.



One of the most challenging issues facing Theravada Buddhism in recent years has been the encounter between classical Theravada vipassana meditation and the "non-dualistic" contemplative traditions best represented by Advaita Vedanta and Mahayana Buddhism. Responses to this encounter have spanned the extremes, ranging from vehement confrontation all the way to attempts at synthesis and hybridization. While the present essay cannot pretend to illuminate all the intricate and subtle problems involved in this sometimes volatile dialogue, I hope it may contribute a few sparks of light from a canonically oriented Theravada perspective.

My first preliminary remark would be to insist that a system of meditative practice does not constitute a self-contained discipline. Any authentic system of spiritual practice is always found embedded within a conceptual matrix that defines the problems the practice is intended to solve and the goal toward which it is directed. Hence the merging of techniques grounded in incompatible conceptual frameworks is fraught with risk. Although such mergers may appease a predilection for experimentation or eclecticism, it seems likely that their long-term effect will be to create a certain "cognitive dissonance" that will reverberate through the deeper levels of the psyche and stir up even greater confusion.

My second remark would be to point out simply that non-dualistic spiritual traditions are far from consistent with each other, but comprise, rather, a wide variety of views profoundly different and inevitably colored by the broader conceptual contours of the philosophies which encompass them.

For the Vedanta, non-duality (advaita) means the absence of an ultimate distinction between the Atman, the innermost self, and Brahman, the divine reality, the underlying ground of the world. From the standpoint of the highest realization, only one ultimate reality exists — which is simultaneously Atman and Brahman — and the aim of the spiritual quest is to know that one's own true self, the Atman, is the timeless reality which is Being, Awareness, Bliss. Since all schools of Buddhism reject the idea of the Atman, none can accept the non-dualism of Vedanta. From the perspective of the Theravada tradition, any quest for the discovery of selfhood, whether as a permanent individual self or as an absolute universal self, would have to be dismissed as a delusion, a metaphysical blunder born from a failure to properly comprehend the nature of concrete experience. According to the Pali Suttas, the individual being is merely a complex unity of the five aggregates, which are all stamped with the three marks of impermanence, suffering, and selflessness. Any postulation of selfhood in regard to this compound of transient, conditioned phenomena is an instance of "personality view" (sakkayaditthi), the most basic fetter that binds beings to the round of rebirths. The attainment of liberation, for Buddhism, does not come to pass by the realization of a true self or absolute "I," but through the dissolution of even the subtlest sense of selfhood in relation to the five aggregates, "the abolition of all I-making, mine-making, and underlying tendencies to conceit."

The Mahayana schools, despite their great differences, concur in upholding a thesis that, from the Theravada point of view, borders on the outrageous. This is the claim that there is no ultimate difference between samsara and Nirvana, defilement and purity, ignorance and enlightenment. For the Mahayana, the enlightenment which the Buddhist path is designed to awaken consists precisely in the realization of this non-dualistic perspective. The validity of conventional dualities is denied because the ultimate nature of all phenomena is emptiness, the lack of any substantial or intrinsic reality, and hence in their emptiness all the diverse, apparently opposed phenomena posited by mainstream Buddhist doctrine finally coincide: "All dharmas have one nature, which is no-nature."

The teaching of the Buddha as found in the Pali canon does not endorse a philosophy of non-dualism of any variety, nor, I would add, can a non-dualistic perspective be found lying implicit within the Buddha's discourses. At the same time, however, I would not maintain that the Pali Suttas propose dualism, the positing of duality as a metaphysical hypothesis aimed at intellectual assent. I would characterize the Buddha's intent in the Canon as primarily pragmatic rather than speculative, though I would also qualify this by saying that this pragmatism does not operate in a philosophical void but finds its grounding in the nature of actuality as the Buddha penetrated it in his enlightenment. In contrast to the non-dualistic systems, the Buddha's approach does not aim at the discovery of a unifying principle behind or beneath our experience of the world. Instead it takes the concrete fact of living experience, with all its buzzing confusion of contrasts and tensions, as its starting point and framework, within which it attempts to diagnose the central problem at the core of human existence and to offer a way to its solution. Hence the polestar of the Buddhist path is not a final unity but the extinction of suffering, which brings the resolution of the existential dilemma at its most fundamental level.

When we investigate our experience exactly as it presents itself, we find that it is permeated by a number of critically important dualities with profound implications for the spiritual quest. The Buddha's teaching, as recorded in the Pali Suttas, fixes our attention unflinchingly upon these dualities and treats their acknowledgment as the indispensable basis for any honest search for liberating wisdom. It is precisely these antitheses — of good and evil, suffering and happiness, wisdom and ignorance — that make the quest for enlightenment and deliverance such a vitally crucial concern.

At the peak of the pairs of opposites stands the duality of the conditioned and the Unconditioned: samsara as the round of repeated birth and death wherein all is impermanent, subject to change, and liable to suffering, and Nibbana as the state of final deliverance, the unborn, ageless, and deathless. Although Nibbana, even in the early texts, is definitely cast as an ultimate reality and not merely as an ethical or psychological state, there is not the least insinuation that this reality is metaphysically indistinguishable at some profound level from its manifest opposite, samsara. To the contrary, the Buddha's repeated lesson is that samsara is the realm of suffering governed by greed, hatred, and delusion, wherein we have shed tears greater than the waters of the ocean, while Nibbana is irreversible release from samsara, to be attained by demolishing greed, hatred, and delusion, and by relinquishing all conditioned existence.

Thus the Theravada makes the antithesis of samsara and Nibbana the starting point of the entire quest for deliverance. Even more, it treats this antithesis as determinative of the final goal, which is precisely the transcendence of samsara and the attainment of liberation in Nibbana. Where Theravada differs significantly from the Mahayana schools, which also start with the duality of samsara and Nirvana, is in its refusal to regard this polarity as a mere preparatory lesson tailored for those with blunt faculties, to be eventually superseded by some higher realization of non-duality. From the standpoint of the Pali Suttas, even for the Buddha and the arahants suffering and its cessation, samsara and Nibbana, remain distinct.

Spiritual seekers still exploring the different contemplative traditions commonly assume that the highest spiritual teaching must be one which posits a metaphysical unity as the philosophical foundation and final goal of the quest for enlightenment. Taking this assumption to be axiomatic, they may then conclude that the Pali Buddhist teaching, with its insistence on the sober assessment of dualities, is deficient or provisional, requiring fulfillment by a nondualistic realization. For those of such a bent, the dissolution of dualities in a final unity will always appear more profound and complete.

However, it is just this assumption that I would challenge. I would assert, by reference to the Buddha's own original teaching, that profundity and completeness need not be bought at the price of distinctions, that they can be achieved at the highest level while preserving intact the dualities and diversity so strikingly evident to mature reflection on the world. I would add, moreover, that the teaching which insists on recognizing real dualities as they are is finally more satisfactory. The reason it is more satisfactory, despite its denial of the mind's yearning for a comprehensive unity, is because it takes account of another factor which overrides in importance the quest for unity. This "something else" is the need to remain grounded in actuality.

Where I think the teaching of the Buddha, as preserved in the Theravada tradition, surpasses all other attempts to resolve the spiritual dilemmas of humanity is in its persistent refusal to sacrifice actuality for unity. The Buddha's Dhamma does not point us toward an all-embracing absolute in which the tensions of daily existence dissolve in metaphysical oneness or inscrutable emptiness. It points us, rather, toward actuality as the final sphere of comprehension, toward things as they really are (yathabhuta). Above all, it points us toward the Four Noble Truths of suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the way to its cessation as the liberating proclamation of things as they really are. These four truths, the Buddha declares, are noble truths, and what makes them noble truths is precisely that they are actual, undeviating, invariable (tatha, avitatha, anannatha). It is the failure to face the actuality of these truths that has caused us to wander for so long through the long course of samsara. It is by penetrating these truths exactly as they are that one can reach the true consummation of the spiritual quest: making an end to suffering.



In this sequel to the previous essay, I intend to discuss three major areas of difference between the Buddha's Teaching, which we may refer to here as "the Ariyan Dhamma," and the philosophies of non-duality. These areas correspond to the three divisions of the Buddhist path — virtue, concentration, and wisdom.

In regard to virtue the distinction between the two teachings is not immediately evident, as both generally affirm the importance of virtuous conduct at the start of training. The essential difference between them emerges, not at the outset, but only later, in the way they evaluate the role of morality in the advanced stages of the path. For the non-dual systems, all dualities are finally transcended in the realization of the non-dual reality, the Absolute or fundamental ground. As the Absolute encompasses and transcends all diversity, for one who has realized it the distinctions between good and evil, virtue and non-virtue, lose their ultimate validity. Such distinctions, it is said, are valid only at the conventional level, not at the level of final realization; they are binding on the trainee, not on the adept. Thus we find that in their historical forms (particularly in Hindu and Buddhist Tantra), philosophies of non-duality hold that the conduct of the enlightened sage cannot be circumscribed by moral rules. The sage has transcended all conventional distinctions of good and evil. He acts spontaneously from his intuition of the Ultimate and therefore is no longer bound by the rules of morality valid for those still struggling toward the light. His behavior is an elusive, incomprehensible outflow of what has been called "crazy wisdom."

For the Ariyan Dhamma, the distinction between the two types of conduct, moral and immoral, is sharp and clear, and this distinction persists all the way through to the consummation of the path: "Bodily conduct is twofold, I say, to be cultivated and not to be cultivated, and such conduct is either the one or the other" (MN 114). The conduct of the ideal Buddhist sage, the arahant, necessarily embodies the highest standards of moral rectitude both in the spirit and in the letter, and for him conformity to the letter is spontaneous and natural. The Buddha says that the liberated one lives restrained by the rules of the Vinaya, seeing danger in the slightest faults. He cannot intentionally commit any breach of the moral precepts, nor would he ever pursue any course of action motivated by desire, hatred, delusion, or fear.

In the sphere of meditation practice or concentration, we again find a striking difference in outlook between the non-dual systems and the Ariyan Dhamma. Since, for the non-dual systems, distinctions are ultimately unreal, meditation practice is not explicitly oriented toward the removal of mental defilements and the cultivation of virtuous states of mind. In these systems, it is often said that defilements are mere appearances devoid of intrinsic reality, even manifestations of the Absolute. Hence to engage in a programme of practice to overcome them is an exercise in futility, like fleeing from an apparitional demon: to seek to eliminate defilements is to reinforce the illusion of duality. The meditative themes that ripple through the non-dual currents of thought declare: "no defilement and no purity"; "the defilements are in essence the same as transcendent wisdom"; "it is by passion that passion is removed."

In the Ariyan Dhamma, the practice of meditation unfolds from start to finish as a process of mental purification. The process begins with the recognition of the dangers in unwholesome states: they are real pollutants of our being that need to be restrained and eliminated. The consummation is reached in the complete destruction of the defilements through the cultivation of their wholesome antidotes. The entire course of practice demands a recognition of the differences between the dark and bright qualities of the mind, and devolves on effort and diligence: "One does not tolerate an arisen unwholesome thought, one abandons it, dispels it, abolishes it, nullifies it" (MN 2). The hindrances are "causes of blindness, causes of ignorance, destructive to wisdom, not conducive to Nibbana" (SN 46:40). The practice of meditation purges the mind of its corruptions, preparing the way for the destruction of the cankers (asavakkhaya).

Finally, in the domain of wisdom the Ariyan Dhamma and the non-dual systems once again move in contrary directions. In the non-dual systems the task of wisdom is to break through the diversified appearances (or the appearance of diversity) in order to discover the unifying reality that underlies them. Concrete phenomena, in their distinctions and their plurality, are mere appearance, while true reality is the One: either a substantial Absolute (the Atman, Brahman, the Godhead, etc.), or a metaphysical zero (Sunyata, the Void Nature of Mind, etc.). For such systems, liberation comes with the arrival at the fundamental unity in which opposites merge and distinctions evaporate like dew.

In the Ariyan Dhamma wisdom aims at seeing and knowing things as they really are (yathabhutananadassana). Hence, to know things as they are, wisdom must respect phenomena in their precise particularity. Wisdom leaves diversity and plurality untouched. It instead seeks to uncover the characteristics of phenomena, to gain insight into their qualities and structures. It moves, not in the direction of an all-embracing identification with the All, but toward disengagement and detachment, release from the All. The cultivation of wisdom in no way "undermines" concrete phenomena by reducing them to appearances, nor does it treat them as windows opening to some fundamental ground. Instead it investigates and discerns, in order to understand things as they are: "And what does one understand as it really is? One understands: Such is form, such its arising and passing away. Such is feeling... perception... formations... consciousness, such its arising and passing away." "When one sees, 'All formations are impermanent, all are suffering, everything is not self,' one turns away from suffering: this is the path to purity."

Spiritual systems are colored as much by their favorite similes as by their formulated tenets. For the non-dual systems, two similes stand out as predominant. One is space, which simultaneously encompasses all and permeates all yet is nothing concrete in itself; the other is the ocean, which remains self-identical beneath the changing multitude of its waves. The similes used within the Ariyan Dhamma are highly diverse, but one theme that unites many of them is acuity of vision — vision which discerns the panorama of visible forms clearly and precisely, each in its own individuality: "It is just as if there were a lake in a mountain recess, clear, limpid, undisturbed, so that a man with good sight standing on the bank could see shells, gravel, and pebbles, and also shoals of fish swimming about and resting. He might think: 'There is this lake, clear, limpid, undisturbed, and there are these shells, gravel, and pebbles, and also these shoals of fish swimming about and resting.' So too a monk understands as it actually is: 'This is suffering, this is the origin of suffering, this is the cessation of suffering, this is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.' When he knows and sees thus his mind is liberated from the cankers, and with the mind's liberation he knows that he is liberated" (MN 39). [ http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/bps-essay_27.html]



Request that references be added[edit]

This very interesting article currently reads more like an essay than a referenced encyclopedia article. Any addition of specific page references to standard books on the subject would be helpful. Buddhipriya 17:58, 25 March 2007 (UTC)


Is the section "Ātman and the Tathagatagarbha" really needed?[edit]

Hi, I was just wondering whether the section titled "Ātman and the Tathagatagarbha" could be removed, since its points are also (basically) stated in the "Positive teachings on the Atman in Mahayana Buddhism" section. Thanks! --Lucifereri 11:33, 7 September 2007 (UTC)

  • Hallo Lucifereri. We meet again! I think you are probably right: the "Tathagatagarbha" section could be deleted, as most of the key points are made later on in the section, "Positive Teachings on Atman in Mahayana". That section could have the words "(Tathagatagarbha Doctrine") added to its title. We could then, perhaps, add a few sentences from the "Tathagatagarbha" section to the "Positive Teachings on Atman" section, so that nothing gets lost. I think, though, that we should wait a few days and see if other editors agree to this deletion of the "TG" section. All best wishes to you. From Tony. TonyMPNS 12:19, 7 September 2007 (UTC)
  • I've deleted the section on the "Tathagatagarbha and Atman" and placed its main material in the "Postiive teachings on Atman" section, as discussed earlier. No one so far seems to have objected. Best wishes. From Tony. TonyMPNS 23:20, 9 September 2007 (UTC)
Hi Tony, thanks for the hard work :). I also noticed, there was no article for the Mahayana version of the True Self, which I think might be useful to anyone interested in the various interpretations of self in Mahayana. I say this since many people are likely to confuse the idea with the similar concept in Hinduism. Thanks again. --Lucifereri 09:05, 13 September 2007 (UTC)

Hallo again Lucifereri. Thank you very much for your kind words. Yes, it would be very good to have an entry on "The True Self in Mahayana Buddhism". You are right! When I get time, I'll try to work on that one! Best wishes to you. From Tony. TonyMPNS 10:45, 13 September 2007 (UTC)

On denial (of Atman?)[edit]

"...in order to be able to deny something..."-- does the author (of this sentence) means "in order to be able to deny the existence of atman"? Maxim Leyenson (talk) 02:02, 8 March 2012 (UTC)

Commentaries to the text suggest that Shantideva is talking in the general sense - namely, that knowing exactly what it is one is negating is highly important in that otherwise one may over-reach or under-reach the negation. It's because of this that one must have a good understanding of the object of negation which, in this context, is atman 20040302 (talk) 08:57, 29 October 2012 (UTC)

Restored entire Atman (Buddhism) Article[edit]

An editor in the last 24 hours has taken it upon him/herself to 'merge' the whole of this article with 'Atman(Hinduism/Sanskrit)' - without a single word of discussion with the rest of us editors, some of whom have worked on this article for many years. Moreover, I was horrified to see that the 'merged' version simply redirects the reader to the 'Anatta' article - which is an entirely different article. Thus all the contents of 'Atman (Buddhism)' were lost! This is outrageous behaviour. I have restored the entire article, as it should be. Please do not make any such major changes without discussing them with fellow editors first. Thank you. Best wishes from Suddha (talk) 01:12, 18 November 2012 (UTC)

The whole article is based on a misconception. The word "atman" means the same thing in Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. It is Sanskrit for "self" or "identity". There is no difference in content between this article and the anatta article. Merigar (talk) 03:30, 18 November 2012 (UTC)
That's your opinion, but you are required to get consensus of the existing editors that this is the proper thing to do before doing it. Please follow the processes that have been pointed out to you. Yworo (talk) 03:33, 18 November 2012 (UTC)
Can you explain to me what the difference is between this article and the anatta article? The whole thing doesn't make any sense. Its the same content repeated. Merigar (talk) 03:37, 18 November 2012 (UTC)
I don't have to explain to you. The issue is not the article content. The issue is that there are processes for discussing and making these decisions which involve the other editors of the articles, and you have skipped them. This article is watched by several different Wikiprojects. You don't simply get to move it without discussion, whether or not you are right about duplicated content. Yworo (talk) 03:40, 18 November 2012 (UTC)
You are another editor, correct? Can I move the content of this article into a Atman (Sanskrit) article?Merigar (talk) 03:42, 18 November 2012 (UTC)
Follow the requested moves process, please. I am not the only other editor. I am not going to collude with you to evade getting the opinions of the other editors of the article. There is no hurry. Yworo (talk) 03:44, 18 November 2012 (UTC)
  • Thank you, Yworo, for your reasonable comments, and thank you, Merigar, for your response. Life on Wikipedia would be much more pleasant if people co-operated more and behaved in a reasonable, considerate manner! Yes, saying that the article is based on a 'misconception' is merely one editor's opinion. No other editors have expressed this view or sought to remove the article single-handedly - and indeed the aritcle has stood for many years. The two articles are certainly not the same: there are numerous differences in content. Anyway, thank you, Yworo, for constructively addressing the 'problem'. Best wishes. From Suddha (talk) 03:47, 18 November 2012 (UTC)
Yes the anatta article is more extensive. Other than that, the content is more or less the same. Merigar (talk) 03:50, 18 November 2012 (UTC)
  • In 'Atman Buddhism' there is, for one thing, a detailed discussion of positive Mahayanic interpretations of Atman not found in the 'Anatta' article, containing numerous referenced quotes, including one from the Dalai Lama! Regards. Suddha (talk) 04:05, 18 November 2012 (UTC)
What about this section in the anatta article? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anatta#Anatta_in_the_Tathagatagarbha_Sutras And the Tathagatagarbha Sutras have their own page as well. This whole article is unnecessary and misleading. Merigar (talk) 04:12, 18 November 2012 (UTC)
  • Merigar, that the aritcle is 'unnecessary and misleading' is simply your personal opinion - one which I do not share; nor, I note, do any other editors seem to espouse that view here. The upshot is: there is no clamouring from any other editors for a removal of this article, only from yourself. Ergo: the article should remain. Regards to all. From Suddha (talk) 04:18, 18 November 2012 (UTC)

Merigar, others - I was involved (along with LordSuryaofShropshire) in the original proposal to split the various interpretations of Atman into a disambiguation page, and I think it's probably worthwhile explaining why. There are lots of things about the current article which I am unhappy with - and in many cases I agree that edges have begun to blur. However, as far as I am concerned the original arguments stand. The term ātman, as you say, is a Sanskrit word. However, the interpretation of that word is completely different for many different people. When looking at three of the Dharma religions (Jainism, Hinduism, Buddhism), ātman does not only have a very distinct meaning, but it's meaning is pretty central to a vast amount of the philosophy, tenets, and Weltanschauung of those traditions. Representation of those interpretations on a single article wasn't easy even back in 2004. As for the argument that the term ātman should be subsumed by anātman for Buddhists, I disagree. In the article, my contributions that remain include pointing out (citing Śāntideva, a key author of the Madhyamaka wisdom tradition) that if we do not understand precisely what it is that we are rejecting, then we are unable to reject it. It seems obvious to me that if we do not know how to identify the demon that chains us to suffering then what can we do to eliminate it? So understanding what it is is one thing. Then understanding how it doesn't exist (never existed, and cannot exist) is something else. This is why one cannot conflate ātman with anātman. They are two separate words, with two separate interpretations. Both of them have their own philosophical heritage. Both are technical terms with their own provenance. There's also the positivistic use of ātman within Buddhism which has nothing whatsoever to do with anātman. Such as it's use in the teachings of the tathagatagarbha wisdom tradition where it is sometimes conflated with the tathagatagarbha ( cf. Mahaparinirvana Sutra ). Likewise, one can find instances (such as the Dhammakaya Movement) where it is conflated with nirvana. So, in conclusion, I agree that quite a lot of what is found on anātman would be better off on ātman (Buddhism) and vice versa. I agree that as editors we could work together to generate a far more cohesive group of articles. I agree that ad hoc global edits made without consultation completely miss the point of wikipedia and, in many ways, betray an absence of awareness of the sensibilities, expertise, and experience of others - which itself implies (to me) some degree of narcissism that is the very anathema of the purpose of the wisdom tradition and the rôle that anātman plays in it. (20040302 (talk) 12:54, 21 November 2012 (UTC))

  • Well said! Suddha (talk) 14:08, 21 November 2012 (UTC)

Religious texts as primary sources[edit]

Shantideva is currently being used in the article as references, which constitutes using a religious text as a primary source. Wikipedia should not be relying on religious texts as primary sources. In this case it constitutes both WP:Original research (because the text is being interpreted without the use of a secondary or tertiary source), and also WP:Synthesis (since it is relating this primary source to the subject of Atman). Tengu800 12:54, 9 October 2013 (UTC)

Tengu800, when dealing with Sutras, I would agree with you. I also accept that there is some argument for the claim that Bodhicaryavatara is a primary source. However by the time we get to the Gelugpa scholastic tradition, from which I have added additional references, this no longer remains the case.
Secondly, I would only agree regarding the issues of 'primary' texts, if there were any interpretation going on. In this case there is no interpretation at all. Santideva, a prominent Mahayana Madhyamaka Buddhist, clearly states "Without contacting the entity that is imputed / you will not apprehend the absence of that entity". The statement is also cited. The point of using secondary sources is to do with when interpretation is required. Regardless, the addition of references from scholars such as Candrakirti (in his commentary, a secondary source, of Aryadeva's 400 verses) re-establishes the same message. As does Tsongkhapa across several of his texts, which are all secondary sources. There is no WP:OR here. I would like to remind you that the Geshe tradition of the Kadam and the subsequent Gelug has all the same requirements of academic provenance and peer review as can be found in modern academic studies. Moreover, there are plenty of modern western academics who agree with all four of the mentioned authors regarding this statement. For example, Elizabeth Napper, Jay Garfield, Jeffrey Hopkins, Huntington, Williams, etc. Notwithstanding hundreds of contemporary Tibetans. The fact is that this stuff is published in modern works, with commentaries, commentaries on the commentaries - notwithstanding entire scholastic debates that have involved different arguments and counter-arguments for at least 600 years. There is a reason for using a citation from the primary source - the hundreds of secondary sources often include citations in their work. In places within the Tibetan academic tradition, one can find citations of citations of citations - and this really doesn't necessarily add much for the purposes of WP. Lastly, the business of 'secondary sources' has been downplayed recently in terms of WP recommendations, with far more emphasis being placed on WP:RS and likewise the avoidance of interpretation, putting issues of semiotics to one side. (20040302 (talk) 16:52, 9 October 2013 (UTC))
One of the issues that I see here is that the quote has no clear connection to the subject of Atman. The reader is meant to infer that there is, but Shantideva does not appear to make such a connection himself. To me, this indicates WP:Synthesis and WP:Original research. Also, although it could be argued that Shantideva is a secondary source with regard to the Buddhist sutras, Shantideva is a primary source when concerning his own views. Tengu800 10:12, 11 October 2013 (UTC)
Tengu, I refer you to the many texts and academic commentaries that refer to this verse. There is no doubt about the purpose or context of Shantideva's claim. Moreover, it is relevant in the context from within it is found, where it a (Madhyamaka) response to the previous verse (posed as an objection) within the Wisdom chapter of the text. (20040302 (talk) 16:41, 11 October 2013 (UTC))
Why should we look into texts and commentaries that refer to this verse, when the subject at hand is use of the primary source? Where is the clear connection to Atman? Tengu800 22:05, 11 October 2013 (UTC)
Tengu, sorry I don't understand what you are asking. Are you asking why one would cite a primary text in an article? (20040302 (talk) 08:07, 12 October 2013 (UTC))
I'm questioning if there is a clear connection between Shantideva's quote and the subject of the article. Tengu800 09:20, 12 October 2013 (UTC)
Okay, thank-you for that. What answer could I give you that would demonstrate that there is indeed a clear connection between Shantideva's quote and the subject of the article? (20040302 (talk) 08:46, 14 October 2013 (UTC))
Either Shantideva himself connecting it to the subject of Atman, or a later writer, or a modern scholar. Any of these would be perfectly fine as long as they establish the connection. Tengu800 09:01, 14 October 2013 (UTC)
Well, that's what I would have thought too. But it seems that you have ignored this evidence as supplied above. Try Tsong-khapa's Final Exposition of Wisdom, Trans: Jeffrey Hopkins, Snow Lion Publications, 2008. ISBN 978-1-55939-297-6; Chapter titled "Importance of identifying the object of negation" pp183-187. Also, try Translations from "The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path of Enlightenment", Vol. 3 by Tsong-Kha-Pa, Snow Lion Publications ISBN 1-55939-166-9; p213. Detailed reasoning pp204-223. These are likewise used and commented on by Jay Garfield, et al. (as mentioned above). Note that the citation is taken from the Wisdom chapter of the Bodhicaryavatara - so it is clear from context that Santideva is referring to what it is that wisdom refers to - emptiness, namely the emptiness of both self and phenomena. Emptiness of self is, without any interpretation, equivalent to the notion of atman. Importantly, when 'self' (or atman) is being used here, it is not being used to deny the conventional self - but the innate misconception of an efficacious self - a self that is worthy of grasping at, clinging to, and pandering on.
But I have said all of this before. Maybe there's something else that I am missing? (20040302 (talk) 16:14, 14 October 2013 (UTC))

Massive unjustified removal of referenced material[edit]

Joshua Jonathan, I am shocked by your actions. You claim not to have an agenda, but you are now clearly displaying one (as I suspected) by massively hacking away at perfectly valid material - referenced material which has stood on Wiki for some years - and removing that material under spurious pretexts. Please restore the illegitimately censored material. If you have any sense of justice, you will do so. Such slash and burn approaches to editing are quite unacceptable. Regards Suddha (talk) 16:43, 18 July 2014 (UTC)

Suddha, I can fully understand that you're shocked. I'll try to explain what my main concern is. Several articles contain long exposés on the Buddha-nature. Exposés, since they are not exactly an overview on the Buddha-nature thought, its history, and the relative importance in the various Buddhist cultures (especially Indian Buddhism and Chinese Buddhism); instead, the Buddha-nature thought is used to develop an argument on "self"-thought in Buddhism. It is used to argue that Buddhism also contains views which are almost similar to "self" or "atman-thought". And that's not encyclopedic, but WP:OR.
The main article for Buddha-nature should be Buddha-nature. And that article should be more than an exposé of which sutra contains "self"-thought. It should explain how these ideas developed, how imoprtant they were in various Buddhist cultures and countries, and why. And what they meant: as far as I understand it, "Buddha-nature" in chinese thought does not refer to some eternal, unchanging "atman", but to the interplay of aboslute and relative, the wholeness and connectedness of all of existence. That's soemthing else than a "thing" which is the "essence" of a person.
Regarding the section on Buddha-nature in the "Ātman (Buddhism)" article: maybe some parts of it are useful; I don't reject that a priori. But please at the proper place.
Regarding the article itself: it should make very clear what;s being meant with "atman", and how "atman" appears in the Buddhist tardition, according to which secondary source. Or how it does not appear. That's what I think. Nevertheless, I'll take a second (and a third, and probably also a fourth) look, of course. Best regards to you too. Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 19:43, 18 July 2014 (UTC)
I completely support Joshua Jonathan's actions here.VictoriaGrayson (talk) 20:44, 18 July 2014 (UTC)
Joshua, I agree with you. The Buddha-nature thought should not be used to develop an argument on "self"-thought in Buddhism. Thank you very much for adressing the problems! JimRenge (talk) 08:09, 19 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Hello Joshua Jonathan and Victoria. Thanks for your replies. Needless to say I don't agree with the huge deletions that have been made in the last day or so on the Atman (Buddhism) article, which strike me as unjustified and extreme. Yes, you are right that the history of Buddha-nature thought is important and should be given; I think that is already there in the Buddha-Nature article. If you feel it is not adequately represented, feel free to add such mateiral.

Please note again that the Buddha-nature or positive Atman doctrine is not merely a Chinese phenomenon: it originated in India (allegedly from the Buddha himself) and is represented in a number of different Buddhist cultural traditions.I am only concerned that an important dimension of Buddhist doctrine should not be needlessly expunged or one-sidedly reduced on the pages of Wikipedia. As editors we don't want to indulge in selective deletions. I myself (as you can see from my editorial record) virtually never delete referenced material, even if I strongly dislike or disagree with it. I think all properly referenced views should be given space here. I think it is better to add to, rather than diminish, content of articles on Wikipedia, so that a rich plurality of views and knowledge can be disseminated.

As for some of the specific claims that have been made in the last day: I would say that the Harada insertion was anything but 'interpretation' in the way it was framed; the introductory remarks did not state anything that was not in the actual quote - and that quote is not from some 'primary source' (in the sense of a sutra or tantra), but a printed record of Buddhist commentarial talks. The same with the Dolpopa quotes on positive attributions of Selfhood. Dolpopa was a famed scholar-monk and his work was one of scholarly commentary. The list of positive Self-envisionments comes from his own list of positive Self/Supreme-Buddha formulations and is highly pertinent to an encylopedic article on Atman in Buddhism, I should have thought.

On the major quote from the MPNS about 'the Buddha has said that all dharmas are non-Self, but it is not true to say that all dharmas are non-Self': the whole point about that passage is that the Buddha is correcting the one-sided and unbalanced view of his monks who have been practising non-Self meditation in an extremist way by applying it to absolutely everything; non-Self meditation is important, of course - but the Buddha then gives a whole corrective explanation of how the monks are writing the writ of non-Self too large and attaching it invertedly or perversely to what is not 'non-Self' - i.e. the Buddha (embodiment of Bodhi) himself. As for your disagreement that the Self or Buddha (the same thing ultimately in the MPNS) is 'eternal and unchanging': that is precisely what is stated again and again in that sutra. In fact, an alternative title for the sutra given by the Buddha himself is that it is the sutra of the eternality/ unchangingness (nityata) of the Buddha - and the word 'nitya' also has connotations of inner or 'interior' reality (see Professor Hiromi Habata on this). Bodhi (Awakening)/true Selfhood in the MPNS is not some free-floating phenomenon, but is always (implicitly or explicitly) linked to the person of the Buddha - as DharmaKAYA (note the word 'Kaya' - which means body: Bodhi is thus rooted in some form of inconceivable (acintya) body-hood, as it were). Additionally, it is factually incorrect to state that the MPNS contains only 'a few' references to Self: it contains numerous references and allusions.

Finally, editors should think long and hard before deleting referenced material that has been up on Wikipedia for years - and thus implicitly accepted by the bulk of editors working on that particular article. Anyway, let us see if other editors have views on this whole discussion before we move forward with any radical changes (although - alas! - I fear those radical changes have already been made). Best wishes from Suddha (talk) 23:43, 18 July 2014 (UTC)

Dolpopa's views are mostly based on the Kalachakra tantra. There are 2 different Buddha Natures, sutric and tantric. These are not even remotely the same.VictoriaGrayson (talk) 02:24, 19 July 2014 (UTC)
  • And Dolpopa saw no conflict between the two. Best regards, Suddha (talk) 02:28, 19 July 2014 (UTC)
Note that Suddha is actually advocating his own personal interpretation of a primary quote.VictoriaGrayson (talk) 02:55, 19 July 2014 (UTC)
  • There is no ban on Wikipedia from using words from a scholarly work of commentary on a Buddhist topic - as long as one does not distort that scholar's meaning and viewpoint. Dolpopa's books are scholarly commentaries - and can be cited liberally. Also, I am not giving a personal interpretation of Dolpopa but simply stating fact: he regarded the tathagatagarbha sutras as statements of definitive truth (rather than provisional truth) and as such on a par with the higher tantras. There was no conclict between those two Buddhic revelations for him. I think you and I may have to agree to differ on this - unless you can find a statement from Dolpopa where he enunciates a clash between sutric and tantric Buddha Nature (but I doubt that such a statement from Dolpopa will be forthcoming). Regards, Suddha (talk) 03:09, 19 July 2014 (UTC)
I was referring to the MPNS quote.VictoriaGrayson (talk) 03:13, 19 July 2014 (UTC)
  • That quote is legitimate and no interpretation is added (if you simply read the context in the sutra). While it is not encouraged on Wikipedia to use direct quotes from primary texts, it is not actually forbidden; it is not a Wikipedia crime!The key point is not to twist what the quote actually says. In any case, there are scholarly references which say much the same thing (Dolpopa amongst them). Best wishes - Suddha (talk) 03:18, 19 July 2014 (UTC)
JJ: You both know authors and texts that I'm not even aware of... and both of you touch on important points, namely the context of the Buddha-nature texts, and our interpretations. Suddha, what you write about Dolpopa makes clear that "Buddha-nature" was a matter of debate, and that he tried to reconcile various views. That's the interesting part, I think; not the fact an sich that he uses Buddha-nature thought. How did he reconcile those various views, and why? What's the context? I'll have a look again at his list. But I also have the impression that there is some personal interpretation involved in the presentation of some primary sources. Your comment "as long as one does not distort that scholar's meaning and viewpoint" - how do we judge that? By using secondary sources. You explain the "major quote" from the MPNS; is this your explanation, or a scholarly one? But you also explain that "Bodhi (Awakening)/true Selfhood in the MPNS is not some free-floating phenomenon, but is always (implicitly or explicitly) linked to the person of the Buddha - as DharmaKAYA". That's relevant, I think! This "juggling" with terms and meanings. Articles and sections on Buddha-nature should make clear that the meaning of "Buddha-nature" "shifted" from the potential of liberation to 'the base of All'. Which is hard to explain, I'm afraid, but essential to a proper understanding. For me, Paul Williams was very helpful with his notion that Mahayana was a minor stream in India, but became the dominant (if not only) stream in east Asia. And Lusthaus and Lai also helped, with their explanation of the Chinese elements which form the basis of Chinese Buddhism. Apparently "Buddhism" is not just one tradition, but several traditions.
Suddha, I know ho important this Buddha-nature tradition is for you, and it hurts me to hurt you. you're such a nice guy! It's not my intention to disrupt Wikipedia; I want to understand the topics I'm writing about, and in some cases (see also Rigpa and Mindstream that also means, apparently, cutting down the size of articles and bringing it back to the essentials. My uderstanding of "atman in Buddhism" improved yesterday, when, after seizing down the article, I added those few lines on atman as "I am" awareness. If the question in early Buddhism was if there is a personal, unchanging "self", and later Buddhist traditions argued that there is a wholeness and potentiality to reality which mat be seen as "permanent", in the sense of always being there, then, I think, there's no contardiction between these two strands of thought. Actually, Buddha-nature thought then resembles the middle way between eternalism and annihilationism, particularly arguing against annihilationism. If my understanding of this is correct... And even so, the use of the term "self" in these cases still refers to a dynamic essence, not a static essence as in Hinduism. Nuances are important, if we want to understand those texts. Best regards, Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 04:17, 19 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Hello Joshua Jonathan. Thank you for your very nice comments. As I said to Victoria, I think we may have to agree to disagree on certain points. On one matter you and I are in harmony, however: the Atman of the Buddha-nature sutras is not a static one: it is salvifically active within samsara, while yet simultaneously residing in (Mahapari)nirvana. Let us try to go forward constructively and in a way that does justice to both sides in this discussion. Best wishes from Suddha (talk) 04:45, 19 July 2014 (UTC)

Translation[edit]

From which source comes the following translation?:

"it is not the case that they [i.e. all phenomena] are devoid of the Self. What is this Self? Any phenomenon ["dharma"] that is true ["satya"], real ["tattva"], eternal ["nitya"], sovereign/autonomous ["aishvarya"] and whose foundation is unchanging ["ashraya-aviparinama"] is termed 'the Self' [atman]. (Source: "translated from Dharmakṣema's version of the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra")"

Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 19:50, 18 July 2014 (UTC)

Funny, the full quote says a little bit more:
"Even though he has said that all phenomena [dharmas] are devoid of the Self, it is not that they are completely/ truly devoid of the Self. What is this Self ? Any phenomenon [dharma] that is true [satya], real [tattva], eternal [nitya], sovereign/ autonomous/ self-governing [aisvarya], and whose ground/ foundation is unchanging [asraya-aviparinama], is termed ’the Self ’ [atman]."
That's a selective quote, isn't it? It's also one of the few uses of the term "atman" in a text of more than 500 pages. Here's another one:
"You, the Buddha, say: "All things have no Self and nothing belonging to Self. O you Bhiksus! Learn and practise [this]!" Once this is practised, self-conceit goes away. Self-conceit gone, one enters Nirvana. O World-Honoured One! No tracks of birds exist in the sky. Such can never be. One practising selflessness meditation can have no various views of life. Nothing such as this is possible."
Then, the World-Honoured One praised all the bhiksus and said: "It is good, it is good, that you practise the selflessness meditation." Then all bhiksus said to the Buddhha: "We not only practise the selflessness meditation, but even other meditations, to wit, all those on Suffering, the non-Eternal, and Selflessness."
Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 20:21, 18 July 2014 (UTC)
Please go ahead and remove original research based on primary materials.VictoriaGrayson (talk) 20:41, 18 July 2014 (UTC)
  • See my comments in the section above. Best regards, Suddha (talk) 00:29, 19 July 2014 (UTC)
Note that Suddha is actually defending his own personal interpretation of this primary quote.VictoriaGrayson (talk) 02:56, 19 July 2014 (UTC)

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Self, no-self[edit]

@107.77.172.33: please read the cited sources. If you allege that Nikaya don't state this, then you need to identify the Nikaya(s) and a reliable source that verifies what you allege / state. See content policies of wikipedia, particularly WP:V and WP:RS guidelines. Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 16:25, 4 May 2017 (UTC)

The onus is on the one claiming these sources say that. They clearly do not. Show me a reference to anatta outside of already known impermanent things in the Nikayas. Instead, what the Nikayas state is that certain things are non-self. There is no statement of "there is no Self".

[Samyutta Nikaya 3.196] At one time in Savatthi, the venerable Radha seated himself and asked of the Blessed Lord Buddha: “Anatta, anatta I hear said venerable. What pray tell does Anatta mean?” “Just this Radha, form is not the Soul (anatta), sensations are not the Soul (anatta), perceptions are not the Soul (anatta), assemblages are not the Soul (anatta), consciousness is not the Soul (anatta). Seeing thusly, this is the end of birth, the Brahman life has been fulfilled, what must be done has been done.” — Preceding unsigned comment added by 128.136.36.121 (talk) 17:09, 5 May 2017 (UTC)

Early Buddhism[edit]

This entire section is filled with bias, and should be removed until it can be rewritten in its entirety. No one can show a primary source (any scripture of early Buddhism) which states "there is no Self". Instead the language of the Nikayas states which things are not self. It is up to the interpretation of the individual schools to determine whether there is a Self outside of the things which the Buddha said are non-self. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 128.136.36.121 (talk) 17:16, 5 May 2017 (UTC)

Welcome to wikipedia. Please see content policies and guidelines and discuss them at the WP:TEAHOUSE. Please stop removing sources and sourced content. If you find a reliable source that states something different, that will be welcome. Just WP:FORUM-y allegations that Nikaya say this or that, is not helpful. Your cooperation is requested, Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 19:44, 5 May 2017 (UTC)

Intro Bias[edit]

Hello Folks,

I have a bit of an issue with this article. It has quite a bias toward the no-self concept. Dont get me wrong, more weight on the no self POV is warranted since the majority of Buddhist scholars believe that and wikipedia is an encyclopedia, but except for one section the article is very skewed to that idea. However my biggest issue specifically is in the intro where it says, "Although the Buddha argued that no permanent, unchanging "self" can be found, some Buddhist schools, sutras and tantras present the notion of an atman (/ˈɑːtmən/) or permanent "Self", although mostly referring to an Absolute and not to a personal self."

This is quite a biased statement and implies there is near consensus on the issue of no self, which there isn't. Thats like saying "Although the Bible teaches a literal transubstantiation some denominations interpret it as a figurative one". Not exactly a fair statement for the denominations who believe it to be figurative. Im also not quite sure how accurate the statement "The Buddha argued that no permanent, unchanging 'self' can be found" is. I know he says the five aggregates are "non self" but it doesnt seem like he ever says there is no "self" to be found. Unless someone can produce a source for the Buddha actually stating that that shouldnt be in the intro. Anyways the point Im trying to get at is that the intro doesnt commit to a totally neutral point of view on an issue thats quite debatable. Apparently its even led to attacks and threats so the intro shouldn't underplay the debate. I dont think major rewording is needed but at least some rewording should be done to reflect the controversial nature of the subject. Thoughts? Wikiman5676 (talk) 06:48, 14 May 2017 (UTC)

Wikiman5676: The article cites many sources and seems a good NPOV summary to me. Is your concern just the lead? Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 12:32, 14 May 2017 (UTC)
Pretty much. It doesn't reflect how debated the no self issue is in my opinion. Wikiman5676 (talk) 16:52, 14 May 2017 (UTC)
I just checked the article. Intro looks good now. Thanks. Wikiman5676 (talk) 16:58, 14 May 2017 (UTC)