- Reality in Buddhism
Buddhismevolved a variety of doctrinal/philosophical traditions, each with its own ideas of reality. The following are still regularly studied in some branches of the Buddhist tradition: Theravada, Vaibhashika, Sautrantika, Jojitsu, Madhyamika, Yogacara, tiantai, Huayan. Some of these are divided into subschools, and all are subject to interpretation, both by Buddhist teachers and by academic scholars. In addition to these, some less doctrinal traditions and individual teachers have their own ideas on the subject.
Some views of reality in Buddhism are relevant to the issue of
dependent originationand some to teachings beyond cause and effect. Examples are discussed below.
* Some consider that the concept of the unreality of "reality" is confusing. They posit that, in Buddhism, the perceived reality is considered illusory not in the sense that reality is a fantasy or unreal, but that our perceptions and preconditions mislead us to believe that we are separate from the elements that we are made of. Reality, in Buddhist thought, would be described as the manifestation of karma, part of the process of impermanence, similar to the Hindu concept of Maya.
* Other schools of thought in Buddhism (e.g.,
Dzogchen), consider "perceived reality" literally unreal. As a prominent contemporary teacher puts it: "In a real sense, all the visions that we see in our lifetime are like a big dream [...] ". Chögyal Namkhai Norbu"Dream Yoga And The Practice Of Natural Light" Edited and introduced by Michael Katz, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, NY, ISBN 1−55939−007−7, pp. 42, 46, 48, 96, 105.] In this context, the term 'visions' denotes not only visual perceptions, but appearances perceived through all senses, including sounds, smells, tastes and tactile sensations.
Different schools and traditions in
Tibetan Buddhismgive different explanations of the mechanism producing the illusion usually called "reality". [Dr. A. Berzin. " [http://www.berzinarchives.com/tantra/alaya_impure_02.html Alaya and Impure Appearance-Making] "] [Elías Capriles. " [http://eliascapriles.dzogchen.ru/buddhismanddzogchen1.zip Buddhism and Dzogchen] : the Doctrine of the Buddha and the Supreme Vehicle of Tibetan Buddhism. Part 1 - Buddhism: a Dzogchen Outlook". Published on the Web.]
Reality in Buddhist sutras
Buddhist sutrasdevote considerable space to the concept of reality, with each of two major doctrines — the Doctrine of Dependent Origination (" pratitya-samutpada") and the Doctrine of Cause and Effect (" karma" and " vipaka") — attempting to incorporate both the natural and the spiritual into its overall world view. While there is no prime force setting the universe in motion, no " First Cause", Buddhist teachings continue to explore the nature of the world and our place in it.
The Buddha did not give lengthy descriptions of "ultimate reality." According to Karel Werner,
Experience is ... the path most elaborated in early Buddhism. The doctrine on the other hand was kept low. The Buddha avoided doctrinal formulations concerning the final reality as much as possible in order to prevent his followers from resting content with minor achievements on the path in which the absence of the final experience could be substituted by conceptual understanding of the doctrine or by religious faith, a situation which sometimes occurs, in both varieties, in the context of Hindu systems of doctrine. [Karel Werner, "Mysticism and Indian Spirituality." In Karel Werner, ed., "The Yogi and the Mystic." Curzon Press, 1989, page 27.]
The Mahayana developed those statements he did make into an extensive, diverse set of sometimes contrasting descriptions of reality "as it really is." [See [www.lulu.com/items/volume_63/2864000/2864713/1/print/Microsoft_Word_-_Ron_Henshall__Dissertation__2007.pdf] , a master's thesis by a student of Peter Harvey.]
Theravadaschool teaches that there is no universal personal god. The world as we know it does not have its origin in a primordial being such as Brahmanor God. What we see is only a product of transitory factors of existence, which depend functionally upon each other. The Buddha is said to have said: "The world exists because of causal actions, all things are produced by causal actions and all beings are governed and bound by causal actions. They are fixed like the rolling wheel of a cart, fixed by the pin of its axle shaft." (Sutta-Nipata 654) [http://www.accesstoinsight.org/canon/sutta/khuddaka/suttanipata/index.html]
The word 'illusion' is frequently associated with
Buddhismand the nature of reality. Some interpretations of Buddhism teach that reality is a coin with two sides: impermanence or " anicca" and the "not-self characteristic" or " anatta", referred to as "emptiness" in some Mahayanaschools. Dzogchen, as the non-dualculmination of the Ancient School (a school with a few million followers out of a few hundred million Buddhists) of Mantrayana, resolves atmanand anatmaninto the MindstreamDoctrine of Tapihritsa. The Buddha Shakyamuni is said to have taught the variously understood and interpreted concept of "not-self" in the Anatta-lakkhana Sutta. In this sutta, he lists the characteristics that we often associate with who we are, and found that these characteristics, ultimately, are not who we are because they are subject to change. He further illustrates the changing nature of our feelings, perceptions, and consciousness.
We can look at the concepts of impermanence and not-self in objective terms, for example by deconstructing the concept of an aggregated object such as a lotus and seeing that the flower is made up entirely of non-flower elements like soil, nutrients, photosynthetic energy, rain water and the effort of the entities that nourished and grew the flower. All of these factors, according to the
Diamond Sutra, co-exist with each other to manifest what we call a 'flower'. In other words, there is no essence arisen from nothingness that is unique and personal to any being. In particular, there is neither a human soulthat lives on beyond the death of the physical body nor one that is extinguished at death since, strictly speaking, there is nothing to extinguish. The relative reality (i.e., the illusory perceived reality) comes from our belief that we are separate from the rest of the things in the universe and, at times, at odds with the processes of nature and other beings. The ultimate or absolute reality, in some schools of Buddhist thought, shows that we are inter-connected with all things. The concept of non-discrimination expands on this by saying that, while a chair is different from a flower, they 'inter-are' because they are each made of non-flower and non-chair elements. Ultimately those elements are the same, so the distinction between chair and flower is one of quantity not of quality.
Diamond Sutra, a Mahayanascripture, has many passages that use the formula: A is not A, therefore A is called A.
From a metaphysical standpoint, some subschools of the Mahayana school have posited the idea of this ultimate reality of inter-connectedness as a unity with all things, a
buddha-naturewhich illuminates or personifies the 'ultimate dimension' of reality. The Mahayana Uttaratantra Shastra, one of the 'Five Treatises', presents what are alleged by some Mahayanists to be the Buddha's definitive teachings on how we should understand this ground [definition needed] of enlightenment and clarifies the nature and qualities of buddhahood ( Dharmakaya). The Buddha Nature is declared to be the True Self of Buddha, both within and beyond samsara; and that True Self is stated by the Buddha in what is traditionally said to be his final Mahayana sutra, the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, to be "sovereign/ autonomous" ("aishvarya"), "real", "true", and "eternal" ("nitya" / "sasvata"). It is dependent on nothing — but is utterly free.
Reality and dreams in Dzogchen
Dzogchen, perceived reality is considered to be unreal.
According to contemporary teacher
Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, all appearances perceived during the whole life of an individual, through all senses, including sounds, smells, tastes and tactile sensations in their totality, are like a big dream. It is claimed that, on careful examination, the dream of life and regular nightly dreams are not very different, and that in their essential nature there is no difference between them.
The non-essential difference between the dreaming state and ordinary waking experience is that the latter is more concrete and linked to attachment; the dreaming experience while sleeping is slightly detached.
Also according to this teaching, there is a correspondence between the states of sleep and dream and our experiences when we die. After experiencing the intermediate state of
bardo, an individual comes out of it, a new karmic illusion is created and another existence begins. This is how transmigration happens.
Dzogchenteachings, the energy of an individual is essentially without form and free from duality. However, karmic tracescontained in the individual's mindstreamgive rise to two kinds of forms:
* forms that the individual experiences as his or her body, voice and mind
* forms that the individual experiences as an external environment.
What appears as a world of apparently external phenomena, is the energy of the individual him or herself. There is nothing external or separate from the individual. Everything that manifests in the individual's field of experience is a
continuum. This is the ' Great Perfection' that is discovered in Dzogchenpractice. [The Crystal and The Way of Light. Sutra, Tantra and Dzogchen by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu. Compiled and Edited by John Shane, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, NY, USA, 2000, ISBN 1-55939-135-9, pp. 99, 101.]
It is possible to do yogic practice such as
Dream Yogaand Yoga Nidrawhilst dreaming, sleeping and in other bardostates of trance. In this way the yogi can have a very strong experience and with this comes understanding of the dream-like nature of daily life. This is also very relevant to diminishing attachments, because they are based on strong beliefs that life's perceptions such as objects are real and as a consequence: important. If one really understands what Buddha Shakyamuni meant when he said that everything is unreal, then one can diminish attachments and tensions.
The teacher advises that the realization that life is only a big dream can help us finally liberate ourselves from the chains of various emotions, different kinds of attachment and the chains of ego. Then we have the possibility of ultimately becoming enlightened.
Chögyal Namkhai Norbu"Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural Light". Edited and introduced by Michael Katz, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, NY, ISBN 1−55939−007−7, pp. 42, 46, 48, 96, 105.]
Reality in the Tathagatagarbha Sutras
Prior to the period of the Tathagatagarbha Sutras, Mahayana
metaphysicshad been dominated by teachings on emptinessin the form of Madhyamakaphilosophy. The language used by this approach is primarily negative, and the Tathagatagarbha genre of sutras can be seen as an attempt to state orthodox Buddhist teachings of dependent originationusing positive language instead, to prevent people from being turned away from Buddhism by a false impression of nihilism. In these sutras the perfection of the wisdom of not-self is stated to be the true self; the ultimate goal of the path is then characterized using a range of positive language that had been used in Indian philosophy previously by essentialist philosophers, but which was now transmuted into a new Buddhist vocabulary to describe a being who has successfully completed the Buddhist path. [Sallie B. King, "The Doctrine of Buddha-Nature is impeccably Buddhist." [http://www.nanzan-u.ac.jp/SHUBUNKEN/publications/nlarc/pdf/Pruning%20the%20bodhi%20tree/Pruning%209.pdf] , pages 1-6.]
Contrasting with some forms of Buddhism, the Buddha's teaching on 'reality' in the
TathagatagarbhaMahayana scriptures - which the Buddha states constitute the ultimate manifestation of the MahayanaDharma (other Mahayana sutras make similar claims about their own teachings) - insists that there truly "is" a sphere or realm of ultimate truth - not just a repetitious cycle of interconnected elements, each dependent on the others. That suffering-filled cycle of x-generating-y-and-y-generating-z-and-z-generating-a, etc., is "Samsara", the prison-house of the reincarnating non-self; whereas liberation from dependency, enforced rebirth and bondage is nirvanaor reality / spiritual essence ("tattva" / "dharmata"). This sphere also bears the name "Tathagatagarbha" (Buddha matrix). It is the deathless realm where dependent origination holds no sway, where non-self is supplanted by the everlasting, sovereign ("aishvarya") self (atman) (as a trans-historical, unconditioned, ultimate, liberating, supra-worldly yet boundless and immanent awakened mind). Of this real truth, called nirvana - which, while salvationally infused into samsara, is not bound or imprisoned in it - the Buddha states in the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra:
"What is the Real ("tattva")? Knowledge of the true attributes of Nirvana; the Tathagata, the Dharma, the Sangha, and the attributes of space ... is the Real. What is knowledge of the attributes of Nirvana? The attributes of Nirvana are eightfold. What are these eight? Cessation [of ignorance and suffering] ; loveliness/ wholesomeness; Truth; Reality; Eternity, Bliss, the Self ["atman"] , and complete Purity: that is Nirvana."
He further comments: " ... that which is endowed with the Eternal, Bliss, the Self, and Purity is stated to be the meaning of 'Real Truth' ... Moreover, the Real is the Tathagata [i.e., the Buddha] ; the Tathagata is the Real ... The Tathagata is not conditioned and not tainted, but utterly blissful: this is the Real ...".
Thus, in such doctrines, a very positive goal is envisioned, which is said to lie beyond the grasp of the five senses and the ordinary, restless mind, and only attainable through direct meditative perception and when all inner pollutants (twisted modes of view, and all moral contaminants) are purged, and the inherently deathless, spotless, radiantly shining mind of Buddha stands revealed. This is the realm of the "Buddha-dhatu" (popularly known as
buddha nature) - inconceivable, beginning-less, endless, omniscient truth, the Dharmakaya(quintessential body-and-mind) of the Buddha. This reality is empty of all falsehood, impermanence, ignorance, afflictions, and pain, but filled with enduring happiness, purity, knowingness ("jnana"), and omni-radiant loving-kindness ("maitri").
God in Buddhism
* Maya in Hinduism
* Reality and chakras in Bön
# Sarvabuddhavishayavatarajñanalokalamkarasutra as cited by Elías Capriles in " [http://eliascapriles.dzogchen.ru/philosophicalschools.zip The Four Schools of Buddhist Philosophy] : Clear Discrimination of Views Pointing at the Definitive Meaning. The Four Philosophical Schools of the Sutrayana Traditionally Taught in Tibet with Reference to the Dzogchen Teachings". Published on the Web.
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