Monthly Archives: August 2020

Svabhava – the doctrine of no intrinsic nature

There is no intrinsic nature (svabhava) to conditioned phenomena. All conditioned (samskara) and unconditioned (dharma) phenomena are without self (anatman) and are empty (shunyata). All conditioned phenomena are impermanent (anitya) and unsatisfactory (duhkha).

With this as base Buddhism teaches enlightenment (or release) (nirvana) that ends all rebirth (samsara, reincarnation).

God’s Imperfection

Time is important. 
Change and difference create value. 
God means nothing without man. 
The imperfections of man generates 
the perfection of God.

Yet, God’s perfection 
is nothing and everything. 
For that is the power 
of a knowledge that comes 
from nowhere.

Chicken soup for the non-soul

“So if there is no self, non-self, non-soul or no- soul what is it that gets reborn or reincarnated?”

This is question I often get from Westerners new to Buddhism. How can there be no soul? Who or what is doing these good and bad things?

The Buddha always starts with the idea of impermanence. All real things are impermanent. Real things do no stay the same. This much most people can understand and agree with. Then the Buddha moves on to the idea of unsatisfactoriness. All real things are unsatisfactory. This too most people can agree upon also. But then most people get tripped up by the last statement of the truth of reality. All real and unreal things have no inherent self. Real things are seen to have no coherent core, just as unreal things (ideas and concepts of the of the imagination) do not have any core.

What makes a rock a rock is not anything. There is no “rock-ness” of things. If there is a rock-ness then would that not entail a permanent “something”?

There is also another suggestion here with this formulation – that there is something permanent but without a self. Real things are impermanent and unsatisfactory. But Unreal things are “permanent” and “satisfactory” in some way even though they are without a self. But what can be permanent if it is unreal?

This kind of formulation is not dissimilar to that of God or soul. Since God and soul are permanent and satisfactory. This is the conundrum. So, does God and souls exist or not? According to Buddha they must be unreal but unreal things have no self. But real things have no self either.

The only way forward, I feel, is to deal with these issues separately. Understand the nature of real things before we deal with understanding what the nature of unreal things are.

*Remember that book? Sorry. Clickbait title.

Religion from a biological or anthropological point of view

It seems to me that everything we do is for one purpose and one purpose alone, and that is to survive. We eat, sleep, exercise, work, play, wear clothes, buy houses, read, write, speak, listen, study, teach, sing, have sex, defecate, pretty do everything as a way to survive.

We create institutions to survive. Health care, education, science, philosophy and religion are just some of the institutions we have as a way to survive as a group rather than as an individual.

Seen this way, religion is no different to the ballroom dancing club, tennis club, academic associations that we create in order to survive. Religion, God, souls, mind and self, therefore, are concepts to help us, and should be studied as a biological and anthropological necessities. It should be off-limits to scrutiny.

On nominalism

1.
If we are to take nominalism as 1) the rejection of universals, or 2) the rejection of abstract objects (of the mind) then I am neither.

What I reject is that universals or abstract objects are things in the conventional sense, or even real objects (of the mind). This sentient/animate being conceptualises universals, abstract objects and concrete objects, that is, conceptualisation is a process of a thing, this thing, and not a thing-in-itself. A process is a “characteristic” of a thing.

2.
The communicative symbol is the only “thing” in common between a universal or abstract object (of the mind) in mine and another person’s mind.

Enlightenment is the end of rebirth

There are six realms in Buddhism (mostly Tibetan Buddhism) into which one may be reborn. These are the realms of

  1. gods (through pride)
  2. demi-gods (through jealousy)
  3. humans (through lust)
  4. animals (through ignorance)
  5. hungry ghosts (through greed)
  6. hell-denizens (through hatred)

As you can see, rebirth is not a good thing. Westerners often mistake rebirth to be a positive notion. This partly has to do with shared terminology with Hinduism and Jainism (religions existent at the same time and place as Buddhism), and partly to the lack of any concept that is similar to it in Western cultures.

To be clear,

  1. the goal of Buddhism is to end rebirth (reincarnation) and
  2. enlightenment is the state in which all future rebirths have been extinguished.