Advayavada Study Plan – week 41

Dear friends,

The purpose of Advayavada Buddhism is to become a true part of the whole.

Our quest is fully personalized: it is firmly based on what we increasingly know about ourselves and our world, and trusting our own intentions, feelings and conscience. Adherence to the familiar five precepts (not to kill, not to steal, sexual restraint, not to lie, and refraining from alcohol and drugs) and a well-considered understanding of the three (in Advayavada Buddhism, four) signs of being and the Buddha’s four noble truths suffice to start off on this Path at any time.

Advayavada Buddhism does not tell you what to do or believe, but invites us all to make the very best of our own lives by indeed attuning as best as possible with wondrous overall existence advancing over time now in its manifest direction. The Advayavada Study Plan (ASP) is repeated four times a year.

The purpose of the autonomous ASP is that we study (and debate in a local group, the family circle or with good friends) the meaning and implications of the weekly subject, not as a formal and impersonal intellectual exercise, but in the context of whatever we ourselves are presently doing or are concerned with, or about, such as our health, relationships, work, study, our place in society, etc.

(As stated earlier, my personal specific objective this quarter is to further investigate and explain to my fellow Buddhists in my country and elsewhere what is meant by the ‘whole’ in the non-dual and life-affirming philosophy and way of life we call Advayavada Buddhism – what’s yours?)

To continue this weekly series, in week 41 we shall again study the selflessness and finitude of all things as thoroughly as possible; in Dutch: de vergankelijkheid van alles (het tweede kenmerk van het bestaan)

This task is based on the Buddhist anatta (Pali) or anatmata (Sanskrit) doctrine. Anatta or anatman means that no self exists in the person in the sense of a permanent, eternal, integral, and independent substance. It is one of the three (in Advayavada Buddhism, four) signs or marks or basic facts of being. Human beings currently live about 4,000 weeks.

In Mahayana Buddhism, the nisvabhava (Sanskrit) doctrine teaches further that in fact all things without exception are empty (shunya) of self-nature (svabhava), i.e. devoid of self-sufficient, independent existence or lasting substance. Everything, indeed, arises, abides, changes and extinguishes in accordance with the universal process of interdependent origination or pratityasamutpada, meaning that ‘all causes are effects and all effects are causes’. Svabhava-shunyata is a central notion in Madhyamaka philosophy.

Kind regards,
John Willemsens,
Advayavada Foundation.
@advayavada

Advayavada Study Plan – week 28

Dear friends,

The purpose of Advayavada Buddhism is to become a true part of the whole.

The purpose of the autonomous Advayavada Study Plan (ASP) is that we study (and debate in a local group, the family circle or with good friends) the meaning and implications of the weekly subject, not as a formal and impersonal intellectual exercise, but in the context of whatever we ourselves are presently doing or are concerned with, or about, such as our health, relationships, work, study, our place in society, etc.

Advayavada Buddhism does not tell you what to do or believe, but how to make the very best of our own lives by indeed attuning as best as possible with wondrous overall existence advancing over time now in its manifest direction. The ASP is repeated four times a year.

As stated last week, my personal specific objective this quarter is to further explain the tenets of the non-dual and life-affirming philosophy and way of life we call Advayavada Buddhism to my fellow Buddhists in my country and elsewhere – what’s yours?

To continue this weekly series, this week (28) we shall again study the selflessness and finitude of all things as thoroughly as possible.

This task is based on the Buddhist anatta (Pali) or anatmata (Sanskrit) doctrine. Anatta or anatman means that no self exists in the person in the sense of a permanent, eternal, integral, and independent substance. It is one of the three (in Advayavada Buddhism, four) signs or marks or basic facts of being. Humans live about 4,000 weeks.

In Mahayana Buddhism, the nisvabhava (Sanskrit) doctrine teaches further that in fact all things without exception are empty (shunya) of self-nature (svabhava), i.e. devoid of self-sufficient, independent existence or lasting substance. Everything, indeed, arises, abides, changes and extinguishes in accordance with the universal process of interdependent origination or pratityasamutpada, meaning that ‘all causes are effects and all effects are causes’. Svabhava-shunyata is a central notion in Madhyamaka philosophy.

Kind regards,
John Willemsens,
Advayavada Foundation.
@advayavada

Advayavada Study Plan – week 15

Dear friends,

The purpose of Advayavada Buddhism is to become a true part of the whole.

The purpose of the autonomous Advayavada Study Plan (ASP) is that we study (and debate in a local group, the family circle or with good friends) the meaning and implications of the weekly subject, not as a formal and impersonal intellectual exercise, but in the context of whatever we ourselves are presently doing or are concerned with, or about, such as our health, relationships, work, study, our place in society, etc.

Advayavada Buddhism does not tell you what to do or believe, but how to make the very best of our own lives by indeed attuning as best as possible with wondrous overall existence advancing over time now in its manifest direction. The ASP is repeated four times a year.

As stated last week, my personal specific objective this new quarter is to further develop my good relations with fellow Buddhists in my country – no doubt you have your own specific objective.

To continue this weekly series, this week (15) we shall again study the selflessness and finitude of all things as thoroughly as possible.

This task is based on the Buddhist anatta (Pali) or anatmata (Sanskrit) doctrine. Anatta or anatman means that no self exists in the person in the sense of a permanent, eternal, integral, and independent substance. It is one of the three (in Advayavada Buddhism, four) signs or marks or basic facts of being.

In Mahayana Buddhism, the nisvabhava (Sanskrit) doctrine teaches further that in fact all things without exception are empty (shunya) of self-nature (svabhava), i.e. devoid of self-sufficient, independent existence or lasting substance. Everything, indeed, arises, abides, changes and extinguishes in accordance with the universal process of interdependent origination or pratityasamutpada, meaning that ‘all causes are effects and all effects are causes’. Svabhava-shunyata is a central notion in Madhyamaka philosophy.

Kind regards,
John Willemsens,
Advayavada Foundation.
@advayavada

There are not two realities

There are not two realities, but there are, Madhyamaka teaches, two ways of seeing, of experiencing, of understanding the one reality: there are two truths, conventional everyday truth (samvriti-satya) and ultimate truth (paramartha-satya). In our everyday application of conventional truth, though we are aware of the intrinsic emptiness of all dharmas or phenomena since we know that all things are interdependently arisen and exist conceptually only by virtue of our idea of them or of their alleged opposite, we nevertheless do take into account and make use of the relative, conceptual aspects of phenomena in our commonplace interaction with other sentient beings and with our environment. As a matter of fact, the Noble Eightfold Path operates throughout exclusively at the level of conventional truth. As we advance along the Buddha’s Middle Way responding to his promise of Nirvana by ridding ourselves of the so-called ten fetters (dasha-, dasasamyojana) that restrict us to Samsara, the fallacies in our perception of Samsara are progressively transformed, purified first into conventional truth, and it is through conventional truth that we shall eventually come to understand the non-conceptual import of ultimate truth. The dialectic of Madhyamaka, with its exhaustive analysis of the nature of reality, indeed takes place at the level of conventional truth. By ultimate truth is meant our awareness of the underlying field of experience where all phenomena stripped of their relative aspects are known to happen: it is our insight into the void beyond all concepts. This field of experience where the real events are known to take place is that of non-dual emptiness, advayata, shunyata, the realm of prajña, non-dual, contentless intuition. To experience existence at this level, which we can truly say lies between the notions of being and non-being, is nothing less than Nirvana.  ~ @advayavada

Mind and Consciousness

The non-dual and life-affirming philosophy way of life we call Advayavada Buddhism, to which we wholeheartedly adhere, is derived from Nagarjuna’s Madhyamaka, or philosophy of the Middle Way. For the Advayavadin, Samsara and Nirvana are not different objectively, and there is, in Advayavada Buddhism, no talk of a mind separate from the body. Mind is merely to think and to think is a manifestation of being, as are to walk, to talk or to sleep. It is one of the many ways in which the one ‘person’ exists, i.e. becomes over time. To the Advayavadin, to say that the mind has or does things, sounds like saying that not one but one’s running does the sprinting. This is particularly true when he or she hears other Buddhists saying, for example, that not they but their consciousnesses will eventually enter Nirvana or be reborn or something. However important, consciousness is merely to know, the activity of knowing going on in our brains. Mind (to think) and consciousness (to know) are not things but functions, activities, deeds, events without any substance or corporeality. Also Buddha-nature is insubstantial and not something different or separate from Reality – it is but a name for Reality as it manifests itself in sentient beings. Nirvana, for the Advayavadin, is indeed to live fully in accordance with one’s Buddha-nature. ~ @advayavada

The term ‘advaya-vada’

We gave the name Advayavada Buddhism to the radical non-dual standpoint of the Madhyamaka school of Mahayana Buddhism to which we specifically adhere. A sound explanation of the term ‘advayavada’ can be found in for instance professor T.R.V. Murti’s The Central Philosophy of Buddhism: “The sole concern of the Madhyamaka advaya-vada is the purification of the faculty of knowing. The primordial error consists in the intellect being infected by the inveterate tendency to view Reality as identity or difference, permanent or momentary, one or many etc. These views falsify reality, and the dialectic [of the Madhyamaka] administers a cathartic corrective. With the purification of the intellect, Intuition emerges; the Real is known as it is, as Tathata [advayata; non-dual suchness] or bhutakoti [reality-limit; the extreme limit beyond which there is nothing which can be known]. The emphasis is on the correct attitude of our knowing..” It is in this sense that we use the term ‘advayavada’. ~ @advayavada

Advayavada Study Plan – week 2

Dear friends,

The purpose of Advayavada Buddhism is to become a true part of the whole.

The purpose of the Advayavada Study Plan (ASP) is that we study (and debate in a local group, the family circle or with good friends) the meaning and implications of the weekly subject, not as a formal and impersonal intellectual exercise, but in the context of whatever we ourselves are presently doing or are concerned with, or about, such as our health, relationships, work, study, our place in society, etc.

Advayavada Buddhism does not tell you what to do or believe, but how to make the very best of our own lives by indeed attuning as best as possible with wondrous overall existence advancing over time now in its manifest direction.

As stated last week, my own objective for the coming weeks is to try to deepen my joyous equanimity in face of the vicissitudes of life – no doubt you have your own specific objective.

In week 2 of this overall Study Plan, we shall again study the selflessness and finitude of all things as thoroughly as possible.

This task is based on the Buddhist anatta (Pali) or anatmata (Sanskrit) doctrine. Anatta or anatman means that no self exists in the person in the sense of a permanent, eternal, integral, and independent substance. It is one of the three (in Advayavada Buddhism, four) signs or marks or basic facts of being.

In Mahayana Buddhism, the nisvabhava (Sanskrit) doctrine teaches further that in fact ‘all things are empty (shunya) of self-nature (svabhava), i.e. devoid of self-sufficient, independent existence or lasting substance’; everything, indeed, arises, abides, changes and extinguishes in accordance with the universal process of interdependent origination or pratityasamutpada (as understood in Madhyamaka philosophy, where ‘all causes are effects and all effects are causes’).

Kind regards and a Happy New Year,
John Willemsens,
Advayavada Foundation.
@advayavada

The Three-Treatise School (Wing-tsit Chan)

The Three-Treatise School (from The Philosophy of Emptiness: Chi-tsang of the Three-Treatise School, in A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, by Wing-tsit Chan, Princeton 1963, 1969, 1973)

The Three-Treatise School and the Consciousness-Only School [Vijñanavada] represented the two major developments of Mahayana or Great Vehicle philosophy in India. The former insists that dharmas (elements of existence) and their causes are unreal and has therefore been known as the School of Non-being, while the latter insists that they are real and has therefore been known as the School of Being. Both were introduced into China by outstanding philosophers. Both had something profound and subtle to offer which China had never known. Both lasted for several centuries. But both failed to exert lasting influence on Chinese thought. It is important to understand why this has been the case.

The Three-Treatise School, called Madhyamika (Middle Doctrine) in Sanskrit, was founded in India by Nagarjuna (c.100-200 A.D.). Kumarajiva (344-413) introduced it into China by translating Nagarjuna’s two most important treatises, the Madhyamika sastra (Treatise on the Middle Doctrine) and the Dvadasanikaya sastra (Twelve Gates Treatise) and his disciple Aryadeva’s Sata sastra (One Hundred Verses Treatise). Hence the school is called the Three-Treatise School.

The central concept of the school is Emptiness (Sunyata) in the sense that the nature and characters of all dharmas, together with their causation, are devoid of reality. Thus all differentiations, whether being or non-being, cause or effect, or coming-into-existence or going-out-of-existence are only ‘temporary names’ and are empty in nature. The only reality is Emptiness itself, which is the absolute, Ultimate Void, the Original Substance, or in Chinese terminology, the correct principle (cheng-li). As such it is equivalent to Nirvana and the Dharma-body.

The doctrine was transmitted in China through Kumarajiva’s pupil Seng-chao (384-414) and played a dominant role there from the fourth to the seventh century. It had a tremendous attraction for the Chinese because its philosophy of Emptiness suited the temper of Chinese intellectuals of Wei-Chin times (220-420), who were then propagating the Taoist doctrine of non-being. Its highly developed and systematic method of reasoning was a stimulating novelty to the Chinese. Its spirit of criticism and refutation gave the rebellious Chinese philosophers, including the Neo-Taoists, a sense of emancipation. Its nominalism reinforced the Chinese opposition to the Confucian doctrine of ranks and names, especially in the sixth century. In addition to all this, it had the great fortune [sic] of having as its systematiser the outstanding figure, Chi-tsang (549-623). […]

Ironically, Chi-tsang’s success was at the same time the failure of his school, for it became less and less Chinese. As mentioned before, Seng-chao was still a bridge between Taoism and Buddhism. He combined the typical Chinese concept of identity of substance and function, for example, with the Buddhist concepts of temporary names and Emptiness. In Chi-tsang, substance and function are sharply contrasted instead. In that, he was completely Indian in viewpoint, although he quoted Taoists. As a systematiser and transmitter of Indian philosophy, he brought about no cross-fertilization between Buddhist and Chinese thought. And it happened that the Indian thought which he promoted was so utterly unacceptable to the Chinese that the school declined in the ninth century. […]

To this [the Middle Doctrine] school, refutation of erroneous views is essential for and indeed identical with the elucidation of right views. But when a right view is held in place of a wrong one, the right view itself becomes one-sided and has to be refuted. It is only through this dialectic process that Emptiness can be arrived at, which alone is free from names and character and is ‘inexplicable in speech and unrealizable in thought’.  The specific method in this dialectic process is Nagarjuna’s Middle Path of Eightfold Negations, which denies that dharmas come into existence or go out of existence, that they are permanent or come to an end, that they are the same or different, and that they come or go away. The basis of all arguments is the so-called Four Points of Argumentation. By the use of this method of argument, a dharma as being, as non-being, as both being and non-being, and as neither being nor non-being are all refuted and proved to be untrue. Chi-tsang illustrates this method fully in his refutation of causation.

It is obvious that this approach is as nihilistic as it is destructive. The school had little new substance to offer and nothing constructive. It is true that Emptiness as the Absolute is as pure and perfect as anything conceivable, but being devoid of specific characters and divorced from mundane reality, it becomes too abstract for the Chinese. It might be hoped that its novel and radical method of reasoning at least aroused the Chinese mind and led to a new approach to life and reality, but it did not. That opportunity was left to the Zen (Meditation, Ch’an) School.