The above is a quote from 'Humphreys, Christmas. Buddhism: An Introduction and Guide'p145.

Is it true that the main aim of Buddhism (Mahayana) is for reason to destroy itself?

That really sound too colorful and worst than nihilism itself

3 Answers 3


Reason is “killed” in a sense since reason is created and conditioned. When one awakens, one reaches that point of “unborn”, which is the origin of reason within mind. Reason is then no longer necessary and mind conforms to this new state. As long as you hold on to the idea that you are this conditioned mind, you will not awaken to this understanding.

  • Thank you for your answer. Very intriguing, origin of reason within mind I guess our language itself, which is a subject of mind, will flutter to describe that. Let set aside the identity view, as I'm not claiming to be a mind. What does it mean the mind conforms to a state without reason? can there be a mind without reason? Could you pls give some analogy if language can't get there. If I think of the mirror analogy, it's like a mirror without reflection, but I'm not sure if it is valid to stretch that analogy that far.
    – Epic
    Jun 19, 2020 at 15:18
  • That which Buddha called the “deathless” is the origin of mind. The mind is completely shed at paranibbana. Meanwhile, we must use this created and conditioned mind during our unenlightened journey. However, as mentioned, mind does not create itself. We do that in ignorance. It is more complicated, but let’s leave deeper explanation for another time. You could say the mind is the reflection of the deathless, which is true once you awaken. For now, it is the reflection of ignorance. (Ignorance of who/what you are.) Btw, karma always follows from ignorance. The enlightened have no karma.
    – Dr. Robert
    Jun 19, 2020 at 17:03
  • Reason is automatically created in mind from the unborn. The unenlightened cannot access that which is reflected in mind as reason.
    – Dr. Robert
    Jun 19, 2020 at 17:29
  • Therefore, reason is used. Don’t take this wrong, reason is a good thing when used rightly. Reason leads to an understanding, although an intellectual one. It is the first step toward right understanding.
    – Dr. Robert
    Jun 19, 2020 at 17:40
  • Thanks a million.
    – Epic
    Jun 19, 2020 at 17:52

Good question. That's a rather crude statement, albeit a nice first approximation.

More precisely I would say, the aim is to clearly see the Value, the Limitations, and the Danger of having subjective experience entirely subsumed within a framework made of models and concepts (taken at their face values as being the reality itself, aka "reified"), to see how this mistake is universal, inevitable, and intrinsic part of sentient life, to see the mechanisms behind arising of said conceptually conditioned experience, and finally to master the practical means of manipulating said mechanisms towards liberation from the confines of said framework to the reality of authentic suchness.

  • Hi Andrei! What do you think about this idea taken from Peirce writings: "But we have direct experience of things in themselves. Nothing can be more completely false than that we can experience only our own ideas. That is indeed without exaggeration the very epitome of all falsity. Our knowledge of things in themselves is entirely relative, it is true; but all experience and all knowledge is knowledge of that which is, independently of being represented." (CP, 6.95). Is this idea compatible with what you wrote above? Jun 17, 2020 at 17:24
  • It is not. Our knowledge and experience of any thing, material or immaterial, is mediated by information about the thing we know/experience, it is never direct. The thing itself is never the content of our mind, it is always the thing's representation. It is confusing this representation with reality, and therefore being limited by it, is what we are talking about.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Jun 17, 2020 at 18:36
  • But that's a very limiting quote. What Peirce seems to be saying in the wider passage, is that our (waking) knowledge and experience is always a representation of something beyond mere ideas, that in some sense all of our mind without exception is a partial/distorted reflection of the ontological Truth. And this idea is very compatible with Mahayana's notion of "the unity of two truths".
    – Andriy Volkov
    Jun 17, 2020 at 18:50
  • Thanks for the answer. I'm just starting to study Peirce in deep, so I may be wrong, but I think that Peirce is talking about perceptual judgement, which is not mediated by any other logical inference. Perceptual judgement (the general concepts used to predicate something about an object) seems to be formed directly from perceptions. The question is: why does perception appear with the form it does, and not in any other way? I take 'direct experience' to mean the perception does not arise ONLY because our cultural/experiential background, but because we are in a relation with the thing itself. Jun 17, 2020 at 19:02
  • I just saw what you wrote in the second response. I agree with you. Jun 17, 2020 at 19:03

The main aim of Buddhism is to understand and be free of suffering.

SN56.11:7.2: ‘This noble truth of the cessation of suffering should be realized.’ Such was the vision that arose in me …

Reason is an aspect of consciousness devoted to inference and applied to resolving choices. Choices informed by ignorance lead to suffering.

SN12.23:6.1: So ignorance is a vital condition for choices. Choices are a vital condition for consciousness.

Reasonable people have noted that ignorance easily leads to the Tragedy of the Commons. Specifically, reason concludes that the myopia of identity view leads to adverse outcome, suffering. Understanding this, it is clearly reasonable to restrain identity view. Indeed, one might wonder, "is identity view itself reasonable?" One might be inclined to explore this reasonable question:

MN26:16.5: This teaching is such that a sensible person can soon realize their own tradition with their own insight and live having achieved it.’

At one point, one might reasonably conclude that identity view is unreasonable:

MN64:6.1: But an educated noble disciple has seen the noble ones, and is skilled and trained in the teaching of the noble ones. They’ve seen good persons, and are skilled and trained in the teaching of the good persons. Their heart is not overcome and mired in identity view, and they truly understand the escape from identity view that has arisen. That identity view, along with any underlying tendency to it, is given up in them.

And in that conclusion, one would have used reason and practice to extinguish the grasping aggregate of consciousness, that perceived and unreasoning urge to consider consciousness as self. One would reasonably conclude that grasping and craving are unreasonable. One would realize that what conventionally passes for "reason" is far too often simply self-justification and rationalization.

So the quote that "reason is used to destroy itself" is a bit of hyperbole with a ring of truth. What is destroyed is not reason itself. What is destroyed is the unreasonable urge to use reason (i.e., inference) in sole service of (it-)self. The assumed axiom of the imperative of identity view fails. It is not reason that is killed. It is the reliance on an improper basis for reason.

  • "What is destroyed is the unreasonable urge to use reason in sole service of reason". Sorry, but that statement is vague, unless you mean exactly like the original statement, which you call a hyperbole, to kill reason". What does it even mean to limit reason to service it-self which is reason???
    – Epic
    Jun 17, 2020 at 23:04
  • Hmm. I tried again. Reason/inference derives truth from axioms. Choosing identity view as an axiom leads to dissonance, to conflict and contradiction, to suffering. Identity view fetters reason. It is the fetter that is killed, not reason.
    – OyaMist
    Jun 18, 2020 at 13:40
  • So 'rationally deciding that identity view is an unhelpful axiom' is I think what you're saying -- and I think that is indeed a lesson one can infer from the suttas. But, may I ask, would you say that's the "true realisation of sunyata", "ultimate truth", and "the main aim of mahayana"?
    – ChrisW
    Jun 18, 2020 at 21:22
  • ChrisW, actually, I think the question can't be answered as stated, because reason is not used in the hearts release through emptiness. If it were, we'd be muddling along in the dimension of infinite consciousness and deluded into thinking that was empty. And THAT is not an argument, that is a statement of faith in experience, a discontent with the insufficiency of reason.
    – OyaMist
    Jun 19, 2020 at 13:22
  • "reason is not used in the hearts release through emptiness" sounds like it's pointing towards an answer to the question as stated. :-)
    – ChrisW
    Jun 19, 2020 at 13:40

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