Tag Archives: Buddhism

Buddha-Mysteries, Brahman-Realization

Question: Why is Buddha counted among the Dāśavatāras since his teachings are averse to Vaiṣṇava philosophy?

Answer: There are two possible explanations. Some scholars propound the idea that there were two Buddhas. One Buddha is the well-known Buddha who was born as Gautama to King Śuddhodana in Nepal. The other is the Buddha included in the Dāśavatāras. He is not Gautama Buddha. At least,the way He is described in śāstra does not match the historical Buddha. Then who is the Buddha mentioned in śāstra? I have no answer.

Alternatively, the historical Buddha is the Buddha part of the Dāśavatāras. His teachings are atheistic to provide discipline for atheistic people. As you can see, so many atheistic people follow Buddha. It is better to follow Buddha than to be a gross atheist. Then, gradually one may come to sanātana dharma. That also happens to some people. Moreover, if God is inclusive of everything, then He must be inclusive of atheism also. So He comes as Buddha.

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Question: Is there a difference in the use or meaning of the words avatāra and “incarnation?” Can they be used interchangeably?

Answer: No, they are not the same. The word avatāra means coming down or descent. It implies that one who is taking an avatāra already exists and then comes into the world. He already has a form which then becomes manifest in the world. It also signifies that the body of an avatāra is spiritual and hence eternal. Incarnation, on the other hand, means to take a body of flesh. It means that one did not have a body before but has one now, and that body is material.´

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Question: How do Buddhists attain nirvāṇa? Is it not the same as Brahman?

Answer: The Buddhist meditate and try to attain nirvikalpaka-samādhi. That is what they call nirvāṇa. They do not believe in an eternal ātmā or any eternal Truth like Brahman. Therefore, nirvāṇa cannot be compared to Brahman.

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Question: Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī concludes in Bhagavat Sandarbha that even liberated persons take pleasure in devotional service to Bhagavān. You commented that this is so because liberation is devoid of transcendental variety and hence does not afford one the possibility of rendering service to the Lord. Please explain further.

Answer: The first mention of “liberated persons” refers to the jīvan-mukta—one who has become liberated while living but has not yet given up the body. The second mention of “liberation” refers to the final liberation where the jīvan-mukta gives up the body and identifies with Brahman (brahma-sāyujya.)

Question: Does this refer to impersonal liberation or Brahman realization?

Answer: Yes, this refers to Brahman realization and it is also called impersonal liberation.

Question: In impersonal liberation, there is no end?

Answer: Yes, there is no end to brahma-sāyujya.

Question: How am I to understand this in the context of the Vedic statements that the jīva is the eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa, and always has the potential to serve Kṛṣṇa?

Answer: “Eternal servant” means that the jīva has the potential to serve. But the potential does not manifest in brahma-sāyujya. You may have the potential to paint or sing but you never paint or sing. Still, you can be called a painter or singer. You may know how to cook but you never cook. A singer is called singer because he sings. But if he never sings, although has the potential to sing, he is not called a singer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buddhist Conceptions

Question: Certain schools of thought, namely Buddhism, put forward the idea of momentariness. The flow of events gives rise to a continuum of consciousness, but this continuum is observed by a subtle level of mind, and not by a witness like the ātman/soul from an underlying substratum. Schools such as the Gelugpa tradition state that there is a transference of information/memory from one moment to the next, thus accounting for memory and saṁskāras. Similarly, science-based proponents put forward the idea that information/memory etc. is transferred via DNA/RNA, thereby also denying the existence of an eternal individuated ātman/soul that possesses the qualities of agency, knowingness etc.

I believe in Nyāya there is a pūrva-pakṣa that things must exist in more than one moment for transference and change to take place. But that does not seem to dispel this idea.

What is the Gauḍīya refutation to this idea of transference, that denies the existence and necessity of the ātman?

Answer: The most basic principle accepted by all Vedāntists is that the observer is distinct from the observed; and that only a person who has experienced something can remember it. 

The transfer of information theory does not account for this. For example, suppose there is a person named Ramadasa. He dies and after his death, his bank account is automatically transferred into the name of his son. But his son does not know this. For all practical purposes, the son cannot use the money. Now imagine that when the son dies, his bank account is also transferred into his own son’s name. And this continues for every descendent of Ramadasa. In this example, the money is transferred to the next generation, but it cannot be utilized because the person into whose name the money is transferred is not aware of the transfer. From this example, you can understand that if information is transferred from one moment to another, then this information would not serve any purpose unless there is an agent, who can use the information. The agent has to be distinct from the information to make use of it.

Moreover, in the theory of momentariness, karma makes no sense because there is no fixed agent. It is illogical that the fruit of an action performed by one agent is experienced by another agent. We all have the subjective experience that we enjoy the fruits of action done in the past. Such a subjective feeling is not possible if the subject is changing at every moment.

Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī refutes the Buddhist idea in Tattva Sandarbha. Please refer to that for more details.

Question: Some Buddhist schools say that memory, experience, etc. are all contained within the content of information that is passed via transference, from moment to moment, which then gives rise to a feeling of there being an observer; however, an observer does not actually exist. Only the sensation of one’s being there is present. Whatever memory, experience, etc. was transferred to the next moment is contained within what is available at this moment. This is how they explain memory/observation.

Answer: My question is: What is the proof of this? What is the proof that the observer actually does not exist? It is our own experience that we experience things. Can we deny our own experience of being the observer? We have a very distinct feeling of the experiencer and the experience. Can anyone deny that? If there is no actual observer, then from where does this feeling come and why does it exist? Who is monitoring the transference of the memory? Is it automatic? You can give the example of a smart computer or a robot who can store memory and have a sense of identity. But this is nothing but an imitation of a human mind generated by a human mind. It does not answer my question about my subjective feeling of being different from my experience. A computer or robot does not have that feeling. It can talk like us because it has been programed to do so.

All these questions need to be answered. 

 

 

Questions on Sankhya and Buddhism

Question:  I have studied Sankhya very briefly as part of another course I took at the Hindu University and I have been interested in it ever since. Your notes on the topic are very clear, but I have some questions.

Lesson 12 says: “The appearance of an effect is only its passage from potentiality to actuality.  It needs some helping conditions (sahakari karana) and a sentient person (nimitta karana) to transform.  Is this suggesting that effects only happen when a sentient being is involved?  It seems that such changes occur without the intervention sentient beings.  What am I missing?  But, Purusha is sentient, right?   Maybe it’s the term “person” that is throwing me off.  Yet still, can NO change happen without a sentient person?

Answer: According to Sankhya, change happens when prakriti and purusha (person) come together. Without purusha there is no modification in prakriti. So no change can occur without purusha who is sentient.

Question: You describe change: “When any change is in a potential state, it is called future, when the change is manifest it is called present, when it become latent again, it is called past.  Sankhya does not admit the existence of time as an independent entity.”  I do not understand the second sentence.  Does this means that time is not moving independently of the changes that are occurring?  In other words, if change stops, time does also?  “Time” is really just a way to talk about the constantly changing universe?

Answer: Time does not move, but we feel it by the change in prakriti. In Sankhya, time is not an independent entity. It is the change in prakriti. If you do not perceive change, you do not perceive time. That is why we can perceive time differently. When in a happy situation, time seems to pass quickly. If you cannot sleep at night, time seems to be not passing at all. For our mutual dealings, we have standardized time, not just depending on our feelings. The basis for time on earth is its movement in relation to the sun.

Question: I do not understand what you say about Buddhism.  Buddhism holds to the theory of an ever changing universe.  “But their change has no background.  Every change is absolutely a new one.  And when the change is in the past, the next moment the change is lost absolutely.  There are only passing manifestations of forms and qualities.  There is no underlying substance.”   Does “substance” in this last sentence mean “matter?”  Are we talking “mind only” school here?  And, “every change is absolutely a new one …” does this mean that Buddhism does not believe in the barriers that keep changes from happening in random ways?

Answer: Buddhism has a problem in its theory. If everything is changing at every moment, then how can you remember the change? Unless there is some unchanging experiencer, there is no one to observe the change

Question: I have a follow up question to this point. The question / challenge is this: Suppose you have three marbles – one red, one yellow, one blue. In the next frame of “time” you have a different set, but not ENTIRELY different: one red, one green, one blue. In the next frame again you have a different set, but not entirely different: one red, one green, one purple. In the next frame you again have a different set: one green, one purple, one orange. Etc.

Continuity is maintained from one frame to the next by the marbles which persist from one frame to the next. But still none of the marbles is permanent. If we take the Buddhist theory “nothing is eternal” in this manner, can you disprove it?

Answer: The flaw in the marble example is that the experiencer is never fragmanted like that. You cannot change a part of the experiencer. You as an experiencer are indivisible. The knowledge is obtained by the indivisible experiencer at a point in time and it is he alone who can remember the experience.

For example, if you see a book on table, you say, ” I see a book”.  You do not say that one part of me sees the book and other part of me is ignorant of it. Whenever you know something , right or wrong, you know it as one unit of knower. There are no divisions in the knower. You never feel that one part of you knows and one part is ignorant, or one part of you remembers some experience but another part does not. You either know or remember something or you do not. But this would not be the case of if “I or knower” was made of parts, as in case of your marble example.

If the experiencer changes, one cannot remember the experience. The instrument of experience may change, but not the knower. For example, we may use glasses to see and then we may replace the glasses with a new pair. We can remember what we saw with the old pair because we have not changed. Change is outside the knower.

 

Prakriti and Purusha

Question: I have studied Sankhya very briefly as part of another course I took at the Hindu University.  But, I have been very interested in it ever since.  I have read about it and have learned some and been confused some.  Your lesson notes are very clear and helpful.  Of course, being from the Western mind-set and not knowing Sanskrit, I’m very challenged in this study. I have some questions regarding Lesson 12:

1. The lesson says:  “The appearance of an effect is only its passage from potentiality to actuality.  It needs some helping conditions (sahakari karana) and a sentient person (nimitta karana) to transform.  Is this suggesting that effects only happen when a sentient being is involved?  It seems that such changes occur without the intervention of sentient beings.  What am I missing?

Answer: According to Sankhya, change happens when prakriti and purusha (person) come together. Without purusha there is no modification in prakriti. So no change can occur without purusha who is sentient.

Question: 2. You describe change: “When any change is in a potential state it is called future, when the change is manifest it is called present, when it become latent again it is called past.  Sankhya does not admit the existence of time as an independent entity.”  I do not understand the second sentence.  Does this mean that time is not moving independently of the changes that are occurring?  In other words, if change stops, time does also?  “Time” is really just a way to talk about the constantly changing universe?

Answer: Time does not move, but we feel it by the change in prakriti. In Sankhya time is not an independent entity. It is the change in prakriti. If you do not perceive change you do not perceive time. That is why we can percieve time differently. In a happy situation time seems to pass quickly.  If you cannot sleep at night, times seems as if it is not passing. For our mutual dealings we have standardized time, not just depending on our feelings. As you know, the basis for time on earth is its movement in relation to the sun.

Question: 3. I do not understand what you say about Buddhism.  Buddhism holds to the theory of an ever changing universe.  “But their change has no background.  Every change is absolutely a new one.  And when the change is in the past, the next moment the change is lost absolutely.  There are only passing manifestations of forms and qualities.  There is no underlying substance.”   Does “substance” in this last sentence mean “matter?”  Are we talking “mind only” school here?  And, “evey change is absolutely a new one…” does this mean that Buddhism does not believe in the barriers that keep changes from happening in random ways?

Answer: Buddhism has problems in its theory. If everything is changing every moment then how can you remember the change? Unless there is some unchanging experiencer, there is noone to observe the change.