[Buddha-l] Not being able to imagine annihilation [confused]

Dan Lusthaus vasubandhu at earthlink.net
Thu Jun 3 04:11:31 MDT 2010

>> Really? Questioning whether there is such a thing as a Tathagata? Can you
>> cite some "standard" sources for this?

> I thought that was standard, from where ever the avyakrta occur.

If you think so, then the same request goes to you. Can you cite a 
"standard" source?

Avyakata (Skt Avyakrta) means "indeterminate". The world is eternal, not 
eternal, both, neither; the Tathagata exists after death, does not exist 
after death, both, neither; etc.

That there is a world is not what is indeterminate. Neither is the facticity 
of Tathagatas (it was a Tathagata who refused to select a determinate, 
definitive position from those alternatives, which is why the refusal is 
significant for Buddhists).

>> I suggested bringing in non-Buddhist sources to explicate an answer to a
>> question about what *Buddhism* says is not helpful because they confuse 
>> the
>> matter; one might conflate a non-Buddhist position with a Buddhist
>>  position. There may or may not be a single "Buddhist" position on the
>>  question of final death -- but in the context of the avyakata questions
>>  and the eternalism vs annihilationalism dichotomy, there is general
>>  agreement between different Buddhist schools.
> This is to misunderstand, so far as I understand them, the two positions.
> They are not about the existance of something in the afterlife, but the
> existence of anything at all.

That is a misunderstanding, explicitly precluded by the neither/nor option.

> phenomenal reality [...] does not have a self-nature
> so there is no
> residual trace after extinction (the wither the tathagata goes), except 
> karma.

No trace of what? It might be clearer if "phenomenal reality" were discussed 
in relation to "The world is eternal, etc." set of alternatives rather than 
the Tathagata set. They are related, but not identical sets, and not 
substitutable for each other. Also, Tathagata's do not generate karma, and 
once the karma left over from previous lives is exhausted, that is 
Parinirvana, or so "standard" Buddhist doctrine says. Attributing permanent 
selfhood, and hence eternal continuance, to a Tathagata would be an error --  
agreed. That is not the same as denying there are such things as Tathagatas, 
or "The presupposition is that there is a tathagata at all." How a Tathagata 
is understood to be, and what can accurately be predicated of him is at 

It is a "self" that a Buddhist will say (as Richard pointed out) cannot be 
either eternal or annihilated, since it doesn't exist: what doesn't exist 
cannot go on forever, nor can it be transformed from an existent to a 
nonexistent. Unless one mistakes a Tathagata for a self, or attributes such 
a self to a Tathagata, the facticity of a Tathagata is not at issue, nor is 
the facticity of a phenomenal world. What one imagines the Tathagata to be, 
or the world to be, is at issue. Big difference.

> Since Dan has accused me of the reificatation of nirvana before (and yes, 
> it
> hurt!)

Sorry to cause pain.

>I want to assert the truth that there is no tathagata, and there is
> one, and both and neither and any other combination logicians can come up
> with.

That would be great if you were a Jain instead of trying to think 
Buddhistically (classical expression of anekantavada). Not being Jains, 
that's not how the Indian Buddhists used the tetralemma.

>because Richard is
> right.  (And Dan, too)

The both/and option (one of the four untenable options) is the Jain 
baseline, not the Buddhist baseline, which considers all four untenable.

Is there any difference that you can see between embracing all four (and 
then considering them besides the point) and finding all four untenable?


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