Thread: Tathata or Suchness

  1. #1

    Tathata or Suchness

    This is a very short article from Ajahn Sumedho a few years ago.

    Tathata or Suchness


    Tathata means ‘Suchness’, or ‘as-is-ness of the moment’. When I first came across this word ‘Suchness’ in Zen literature, I thought, ‘What the heck is Suchness? Suchness! That’s nonsense! Can’t figure that one out.’

    If we hold perceptions to be reality, then in order for our world to be real, we have to perceive it as something. It can’t be just what it is. We have to interpret it, or give it a name, or describe it in some way. We perceive the world through words, through ideas. This obsession with cameras and photography now, is just wanting to capture things, capture moments on film, petrify them in time, and make them fixed because everything is moving and changing. But Suchness, or Tathata, the Tathagata, is right now. This is the way it is.

    But sometimes, when I say, ‘This is the way it is,’ somebody will say, ‘You mean this is the way it is forever?’ No! RIGHT NOW — this is the way it is. The only way it can be is the way it is right now! It’s changing, but at this moment, the Suchness of this moment, is just this way. The thinking mind has to stop. Otherwise you will want to ask, ‘Where is it? What is he saying?’ You just have to stop your mind and listen, or watch. Then you will be relating to Suchness, the Suchness of the moment, the as-is-ness.

    https://buddhismnow.com/2014/11/21/tathata-or-suchness/


    Any comments ?

  2. #2
    Moderator justusryans's Avatar
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    Very true, there is only this moment then it’s gone. There will be other moment’s (maybe) but the truth of the matter is as Ajahn Sumedho lays it out perfectly. Easy to understand!

  3. #3
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    I don't know about this particular camera analogy. Why do we take so many pictures? I think it is to be part of the world, to prove that we have a place in it, to show others that we are part of everything. If social media is mainly what we use to communicate, then we have to have our presence there. Or maybe it is to be part of the dance, the instant captured and shared and then we move on to the next one. I remember a photograph of the Queen out and about, perplexed that she doesn't see faces any more, just raised phones and tablets. There was a picture with just one woman in the crowd seeing her in real life, without anything to her face, seeing her not through a lens.

    Maybe the analogy could be that suchness is in not seeing things through a lens for others or to keep them, but in experiencing in the moment for ourselves. The key is to question our interpretation of the moment, and keep questioning until we run out of questions and just experience the Tathagata, without the lens of a camera or of our minds.

  4. #4
    Forums Member Laura lou's Avatar
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    Thank you for sharing this, Aloka. There’s such a huge difference between living the life of the Buddhist and living the life of someone more attached to the world of perceptions. I love having photographs that capture beautiful or sometimes funny moments. I know it’s not living in the present, but it seems like it would be a good thing, something that brings me joy in a present moment, even though it consists of looking in the past. Could there be a suchness to a moment captured in a photograph, which can allow you to relive that moment, that suchness of the moment? Or am I simply trying to find an excuse to allow for this pleasure as a Buddhist?

    I’m not understanding how to just listen, without asking, “what is he saying?” It seems the 2 would be dependent on one another. I don’t know how to have a completely empty state of mind, while trying to understand another person. I need to have questions. And yet, how do you leave the empty mind without moving into a world of perceptions?

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Laura Lou
    Could there be a suchness to a moment captured in a photograph, which can allow you to relive that moment, that suchness of the moment? Or am I simply trying to find an excuse to allow for this pleasure as a Buddhist?
    Sorry but I can't answer that, Laura, I'm not a teacher of Buddhism.

    Quote Originally Posted by Laura Lou
    And yet, how do you leave the empty mind without moving into a world of perceptions?
    I think perhaps the key might be to just breathe,.... gently relax ...and the mind will settle by itself.


    Regarding the excerpt from the "Buddhism Now" website in #1 above, Ajahn Sumedho also talks about the words "tatha", "tathagata" and "suchness" in the chapter "Refuge in Awareness" in his book "The Sound of Silence," which is available to read on the Amaravati Monastery website.(and the chapter starts on page 213 of the paper book, if anyone has it.)

    https://cdn.amaravati.org/wp-content...of-Silence.pdf



  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Laura lou View Post
    Thank you for sharing this, Aloka. There’s such a huge difference between living the life of the Buddhist and living the life of someone more attached to the world of perceptions. I love having photographs that capture beautiful or sometimes funny moments. I know it’s not living in the present, but it seems like it would be a good thing, something that brings me joy in a present moment, even though it consists of looking in the past. Could there be a suchness to a moment captured in a photograph, which can allow you to relive that moment, that suchness of the moment? Or am I simply trying to find an excuse to allow for this pleasure as a Buddhist?

    I’m not understanding how to just listen, without asking, “what is he saying?” It seems the 2 would be dependent on one another. I don’t know how to have a completely empty state of mind, while trying to understand another person. I need to have questions. And yet, how do you leave the empty mind without moving into a world of perceptions?
    Hi Laura Lou
    Lots of interesting questions there. Buddhism is full of jargon which needs a lot of talking about before even attempting to get some understanding of it. Take 'suchness', a Zen term needing a lifetime to master, perhaps meaning the 'thing in itself, free of meanings we bring to it', or something like that. I have no problem with pleasure as a Buddhist, in fact another contemporary name for Buddhists was 'The Happy People'. One of my hobbies is photography, capturing a moment which can be enjoyed many years later. I'm in the process of converting family photos from the last hundred years or so, converting them to colour, sharpening them and taking out scratches and so on. At the same time I am attaching a commentary on each photo to pass on to my grandchildren. Now that's fun, quite apart from looking at the photos.

    'Just listening' is another piece of jargon which takes a long time to unpick. What does it mean? Probably listening without bringing assumptions to the situation, or without half-listening while thinking of what you are going to say next, or any number of things which bring misunderstandings to such situations. You aren't empty in your mind but open to what the person is really trying to say. This is mindfulness as much as anything else in Buddhism. It might help to think of an empty mind as one which isn't blocked to perceptions, one that isn't blocked up with misunderstandings about the world. One that can accept new ideas about the world rather than force the world to be what it thinks it should be. There is a lot of science behind this, if you are interested.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by philg
    Take 'suchness', a Zen term needing a lifetime to master,

    Not forgetting that "suchness" is a translation of the Pali "tathata" and I think it probably appeared in the Pali Canon suttas long before "Zen" was even a twinkle in somebody's eye!



    Quote Originally Posted by philg
    One of my hobbies is photography
    I've been reviving my interest in the natural world and the many lifeforms other than human ones, and taking a lot of photos recently. Its good fun, but trying to get a photo of squirrels racing each other along a fence is beyond my capabilities at the moment!

    Oops, sorry

  8. #8
    Here's a short passage about tathata/suchness/thusness from the late Thai teacher Bhikkhu Buddhadasa:


    THUSNESS

    Now, we come to the fourth and last topic: tathata (suchness, thusness). "Merely thus," "just such": everything is such as it is and in no way different from that thusness. This is called "tathata." When tathata is seen, the three characteristics of anicca, dukkha, and anatta are seen, sunnata is seen, and idappaccayata is seen. Tathata is the summary of them all -- merely thus, only thus, not-otherness. There is nothing better than this, more than this, other than this, thusness. To intuitively realize tathata is to see the truth of all things, to see the reality of the things which have deceived us. The things which delude us are all the things which cause discrimination and duality to arise in us: good-evil, happiness-sadness, win-lose, love-hate, etc. There are many pairs of opposites in this world. By not seeing tathata, we allow these things to trick us into believing in duality: this-that, liking-disliking, hot-cold, male-female, defiled, enlightened. This delusion causes all our problems. Trapped in these oppositions, we can't see the truth of things. We fall into liking and disliking, which in turn leads to the defilements, because we don't see tathata.

    What we must see constantly and deeply is that good is a sankhara and that evil is a sankhara too. The pleasant and unpleasant feelings, sukha and dukkha, are both sankhara. Getting and disappearing, losing and winning all are sankhara. There isn't anything which isn't a sankhara. Thus, all things are the same -- tathata. All things are just suchness, just this way, not otherwise. Further, we can say that heaven is a sankhara and hell is a sankhara. So, heaven and hell are tathata -- just thus. Our minds should be above heaven and above hell, above good and above bad, above joy and above dukkha in all respects. Tathata is the fourth area of understanding or paññä, the wisdom that must be developed to a sufficient degree. We must study reality on both the physical-material level and on the mental-spiritual level, until our knowledge and wisdom is adequate, natural, and constant.


    http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books/Bhi...l_Disease2.htm
    Note: sankhara = mental formation

    https://www.accesstoinsight.org/glossary.html#s



  9. #9
    Forums Member Laura lou's Avatar
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    I loved the chapter “Refuge in Awareness,” from “The Sound of Silence” you mentioned, Aloka. I appreciated his explanation of the relationship between awareness and our thoughts. For example; “Awareness never gets angry, but it’s object can be what we call anger.” That piece of wisdom, along with the thoughts you shared, Phil, can go a long way in helping me to “just listen.” I also particularly liked Ajahn Buddhadasa’s response to the question of what would he want with him if he were isolated on a desert island - Just a little note saying pen yang nun eng: ‘this is the way it is,’ tatha.

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