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I think Buddhists agree that the past cannot return, look at e.g. Dogen on firewood, or perhaps the Awakening of Faith

all that had been conceived in the past was as hazy as a dream, that all that is being conceived in the present is like a flash of lightning, and that all that will be conceived in the future will be like clouds that rise up suddenly.

There are no "wholes" in Buddhism. But are there, conventionally speaking?

Vasubandhu rejects both wholes and combined sets (whether cohesive or merely contiguous). Wholes are rejected by appealing to the Buddhist reductionist principle which says that only the component parts of an entity are real (aggregated wholes, on this view, are not).

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/mind-indian-buddhism/

I was merely some things may be of the sort that could potentially be wholes, but never are: and so they are never complete. Is that the case, why, and if so, so what?


Take the canonical example of a chariot.

Does anyone say that the chariot is not ultimately real, but you can conventionally find the chariot in among its parts - that it has then itself as a part - meaning the chariot appears to be a whole: it is potentially but not actually as there is always more.

  • Please briefly clarify what is meant conceptually, and in what sense & context & object class(es), by wholes & complete – M H Aug 28 at 4:34
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    huh? i'm confused what you even mean, let alone how to clarify words @MH – user2512 Aug 28 at 5:42
  • Thank you for your kind comment; then conventional objective objects could be whole & complete, as could existential & undescribable things, although undescribable things would be undescribable by language, as mentioned by Dogen Daishi – M H Aug 28 at 9:03
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Everything is work in progress (becoming) except Nibbana (non-becoming) according to Buddhism.

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  • is nirvana a thing? – user2512 Aug 27 at 22:43
  • is non-becoming is another becoming? – SarathW Aug 28 at 21:17
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What is complete or whole?

A car which is not missing any parts is surely complete or whole, by convention.

Buddhism is not concerned about this. It is only concerned with the fact that the car, as a conditioned thing is impermanent, and also the car as a phenomena that is not self and not belonging to a self.

When your car becomes damaged or has problems, this causes you suffering. It's not because it became incomplete. It's because it is impermanent, and you assumed it as belonging to your-self.

Please see the River Sutta. Please also see this answer for the longer story of the red car.

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    that's just not true at all. there's lots of discussion on parts and wholes – user2512 Aug 28 at 5:43
  • @satirical_buddhist You could be more specific about which school of Buddhism you're asking about. You mentioned Dogen in the question; ruben2020's answer seems to be more based on the suttas, and soteriology not ontology. – ChrisW Aug 28 at 16:28
  • hey sorrry, everyone @ChrisW i'm wastiung my life, apologies for that. see you – user2512 Aug 28 at 16:50
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I think it's an observation or an axiom of Buddhism that things which are put together -- physically pieced together from components, and/or constructed in the mind -- they come apart again.

In this sense at least, things are not whole.

They are not permanent, they are subject to change -- and empty of "self", being "mere aggregates".

A thing might be complete though in another sense of the word "complete" -- not "finally constructed", but "finished", "undone" (deconstructed).

An action can be complete too -- finished, not continued -- "perfect" in the grammatical sense.

Arguably only what is not constructed (e.g. nibbana) is complete in being not subject to change.


I say "arguably", I think that various Buddhists over time made more and more of these "philosophical arguments" -- but the kind of statement I'm referencing here, about sankharas and nibbana, are mentioned even in the earliest tranche.

The last words of the Buddha were something like,

vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā”ti
Conditions fall apart. Persist with diligence.

I've also seen (and remember) that translated as,

All compound things are subject to decay.

Conversely the first words of the Buddha include the following which I think are relevent here because they point to the possibility of an action or an intention, an endeavour, being completed:

This is the noble truth of suffering.’ Such was the vision, knowledge, wisdom, realization, and light that arose in me regarding teachings not learned before from another. ‘This noble truth of suffering should be completely understood.’ Such was the vision that arose in me … ‘This noble truth of suffering has been completely understood.’ Such was the vision that arose in me …

‘This is the noble truth of the origin of suffering.’ Such was the vision that arose in me … ‘This noble truth of the origin of suffering should be given up.’ Such was the vision that arose in me … ‘This noble truth of the origin of suffering has been given up.’ Such was the vision that arose in me …

‘This is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering.’ Such was the vision that arose in me … ‘This noble truth of the cessation of suffering should be realized.’ Such was the vision that arose in me … ‘This noble truth of the cessation of suffering has been realized.’ Such was the vision that arose in me …

‘This is the noble truth of the practice that leads to the cessation of suffering.’ Such was the vision that arose in me … ‘This noble truth of the practice that leads to the cessation of suffering should be developed.’ Such was the vision that arose in me … ‘This noble truth of the practice that leads to the cessation of suffering has been developed.’ Such was the vision, knowledge, wisdom, realization, and light that arose in me regarding teachings not learned before from another.

See also these suttas refencing a palmyra stump -- see also What is effluent? which I think is to do with the kind of mental habit or tendencies which keep people from finishing (or being finished) with things.

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Arahat, once reached, means complete and Mahaparinibbana is the ultimate (comp)lete*, good householder. No use of seeking else, seeking of complete in the world. May good householder hurry up for it's gain, and such as philosophy will always be incomplete, a waste of time and effort, for the wise.

  • *while meaning of complete in it's use might fit, the real meaning doesn't as real (comp)lete isn't compound.

[Note that this isn't given for stacks, exchange or what ever world-binding trade, but for Completeness.]

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