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Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature (3) (book review) Dalai Lama XIV, Thubten Chodron

230129: if you have ever wondered why the Dalai Lama is so well-regarded, this book will answer you. as it is mostly about samsara (cyclic existence of life, death, rebirth...) and nirvana (indescribable bliss of escaping samsara), buddha nature is not so much in argument but assertions. this is far better organised than [book:Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations|418428]. this builds relevant logic into the form of its structure. if there is an overarching theme it is the buddhist path to overcoming essential ignorance, which cloud our minds, our perceptions, our emotions. ignorance is always the error in buddhism, in everything from insisting on self-being, to grasping for permanence in all modes of being, desires, others. which, the buddha says, by simple awareness of the world around us, will fail...

he is aided by buddhist nun, he uses her to ask himself questions: this is very friendly book. he begins with the self (illusory, mistaken, empty) and asks three questions: is there a self, when did it begin, will it end. that is the self of non-buddhist thought. in buddhist thought self is obviously 'empty' for everything from physical to psychological to consciousness reasons. but we need this awareness not intellectually, religiously, ritually, but in our very core of how we are in the world. I am moved to unify this with what continental philosophy read, particularly phenomenology, because this seems even an application of those thoughts. and from buddhist perspective, any thoughts that do not lead to liberation from this world cannot be called Philosophy...

on the other, it cannot truly be called religion. this work, the complexity, investigation, of our experience of world and mind are not based on secure foundation, this is troublesome of some as is the beginingless nature of the cosmos: but why need there ever have been 'big bang'? as universe of space is apparently limitless, how so not time? Buddhists, or at least the Dali Lama, do not reject science but scientism- the idea science is an omnicompetent view of our universe, our world- and offer reinterpretations, particularly focusing on our minds, spirits, that cannot be quantified...

this is technical, challenging book, not simplified self- help. it could be university text, certainly guru or prof. might increase understanding, but I read it after other buddhism etc books (143) and buddhism philosophy (80). do not learn anything surprising, for I am well familiar with the basics, but it is fascinating to read the embedded tradition of the Dalai Lama. he is not the 'pope' of buddhism, but seems well read and thoughtful...

this is more that which in the 'west' would be called psychology, though it expresses, relies on, certain 'eastern' motifs: such as enlightenment, rebirth, suffering, afflictions, and does not refer to common names such as freud, James, Jung. this refers to ancient buddhist texts, mostly Indic, some Sanskrit, some Pali, and their elaboration, exploration, over the past 2 600 years. there are a lot of these, though again to be buddhist philosophy is: to see there is no 'i', me, mine: to see the 'emptiness' of conventional experience. everything blossoms, or is implicated, from the four noble truths: there is dukkha (suffering, ill-being, unsatisfactoriness), there is cause for dukkha, there is cure for dukkha, this is the cure (eightfold path), then the three types of dukkha, six disadvantages of cyclic existence, eight unsatisfactory conditions, then twelve links of dependent origination: ignorance, formative action, consciousness, name and form, six sources, contact, feeling, craving, clinging, renewed existence, birth, aging or death...

I will simply gesture to titles of the chapters to describe the book: 1) the four truths, coarse and subtle four truths, sixteen attributes of four truths of Aryas 2) revolving in cyclic existence: the truth of duhkha, knowing duhkha for what it is, realms existence, three types of duhkha, feelings, afflictions, and duhkha, six disadvantages of cyclic existence, eight unsatisfactory conditions, examine true duhkha via ten points, our human value 3) origins of duhkha: six root afflictions, more types of defilements, afflictions, fetters, pollutants, hindrances 4) afflictions, their arising and antidotes: eighty-four thousand afflictions, order in which afflictions arise, order in which afflictions arise, factors causing afflictions to arise, feelings that accompany afflictions, ethical dimension of afflictions, counterforces to afflictions, afflictions- our real enemy 5) afflictions and karma, their seeds and latencies: acquired and innate afflictions, coarse and subtle afflictions, seeds, latency, and having-ceased: latencies and ideas in other religions and philosophy, virtue, non virtue, merit, and the roots of virtue 6) karma, the universe, and evolution: the origin of the universe, mind and external world, laws of nature and the law of karma and its effects, karma and our present environment, karma, instinctual behaviour, and our bodies 7) revolving in cyclic existence: twelve links of dependent origination, dependent arising, how cyclic existence occurs, thus 'afflictive suffering: ignorance, formative action, consciousness, name and form, six sources, (contact, feeling, craving, clinging, renewed existence, birth, aging or death) 8) dependent origination: cycling in samsara, how the twelve links produce a life, an example, flexibility, Pali tradition: how we cycle, an example from Pali sutra, who revolves in cyclic existence, ultimate nature of the twelve links 9) determination to be free: benefits of meditating on the twelve links, invigorating a dry Dharma practice, can leper find happiness, compassion for ourselves and others, demarcating of generating determination to be free 10) seeking genuine peace: ye dharma dharanji, forward and reverse orders of afflictive and purified twelve links, transcendental dependent origination 11) freedom from cyclic existence: stages leading to liberation and full awakening, two obscurations (afflictive, cognitive), nirvana ('goal' of buddhism), Pali tradition- nirvana, bodhi(enlightened being who stays among unenlightened to aid to awakening) 12, mind and its potential: mind's potential, is liberation possible? excellent qualities can be cultivated limitlessly, afflictive mental states and nature of mind, equality of samsara and nirvana (it is not separate realm of bliss, not 'heaven), levels of mind 13) buddha nature: mind's potential according to Pali tradition, Arya disposition according to vabhasikas and sautrantikas, buddha nature according to cittamatra school, according to madhymaka school, to tantra, nine similes for tathatagarbha, three aspects of tathatagarbha, three aspects of buddha disposition, a puzzle 14) going deeper into buddha nature: three turnings of dharma wheel and buddha nature, a link between sutras and tantra, nothing is to be removed, capacity giving rise to three kayas, a buddha nature's dharmakaya, pristine wisdom abiding in afflictions, causal clear light mind, what continues to awakening, dzogchen and mahamudra, are we already buddhas? awareness of our buddha nature eliminates hindrances...

I do not know why i thought to understand this all in one reading. this text for serious study, conversations, readings, indeed this could be the project of years for the curious. as this is the third volume, I do not know what I have missed, but names, schools, ideas- all seem familiar from other books. if you like intellectually rigorous arguments about buddhism, this is great place to start...


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