Atanavat wrote:That is my main conceptual problem with the interpretation of Madhyamaka. Circular emptiness biting its own rhetorical tail.
Hi there, and glad if my posts have helped. As for emptiness being circular, I've actually warmed to Madhyamaka a lot now and am genuinely starting to see them as both equal. I don't think in essence (so to speak.) it is actually circular. The problem is maybe one I mentioned earlier : that it's easy to paint either Yogacara or Madhyamaka in a negative light. (even if it's not done with ill will.) It seems like Yogacara can be said to be positing something that it actually doesn't if seen in a balanced way, and Madhyamaka can also be seen as denying something that it doesn't on the same token. The way I see it now is that Yogacara consciousness-only is pointing to the idea that all we perceive is manifestations of the deluded manas, with the alayavijnana feeding karmic seeds at the same time which makes things worse, and that both of them are to be transcended. As for Madhyamaka, it simply points to the absolute emptiness (of self or inherent nature.) of the dependent, just like the Buddha said with the idea of not-self. But it doesn't posit anything about the ultimate so it isn't actually nihilistic.
Was just posting back as well to say that I've finally found something that works for me personally. It would probably have many Yogacarins and Madhyamikas shaking their heads, but the important thing as far as I can see is that it refuses to side with either school and it seems to work. I don't think I've come up with anything special by the way either, it's simply showing that if I can do it this easily, the two schools can be harmonized in many ways. It's basically eight forms of emptiness, and strangely enough jeeprs helped me find one of them with prapanca, so thanks loads.
1. Emptiness of mind. (manas.)
2. Emptiness of imprints. (vasanas.)
3. Emptiness of concepts. (prapanca.)
4. Emptiness of duality. (vikalpa.)
5. Emptiness of karma. (seeds.)
6. Emptiness of the six senses & their dependents. (dhatus = eye, forms, eye-consciousness being one, same repeated for the other 5 senses.)
7. Emptiness of delusion. (parikalpita.)
8. Emptiness of the dependent. (paratantra.)
Then this is finished with one more thing : Non-applicability (of any concept, description, etc.) of the ultimate (paramartha-satya.)
To quickly sum up : The manas is subject to four influences + vasanas, prapanca, vikalpa, and the karmic seeds. The alayavijnana in this interpretation has been dumped, and the karmic seeds simply take its place. This is because I think the alaya is beyond range and I don't like to posit anything about it. So there's 7 consciousnesses here, the usual six and the manas. Then you simply have karma as seeds being the karmic influence, but seeds is simply a way of pointing towards it, it could be renamed in a myriad of ways. Then you have 2 of the 3 natures/svabhavas of the Yogacara, but in a Madhyamaka sense, nothing at all is posited about the ultimate. There's simply nothing to be described about it, not even emptiness. So it's placed outside of the eight as paramartha-satya instead.
To add a quick thing about one way I think that prapanca and vasanas work together and/or collude (if the person isn't conscious if it.) : there's the habit of conceptualizing, and this can either be done in a limited way, or it can proliferate badly and become a habit/attachment. If it's attached to, it can be turned into a type of perception, or a perceptual set, where you have groups of different proliferations arranged together, or that are related, and recalled in a type of partly subconscious and partly conscious group when any of the group arises (due to karmic seeds ripening.) At this stage it's then a type of imprint, a vasana. The negative karmic seeds also clearly play a part in keeping these vasanas in place, but if skillful means, or upaya are used, these vasanas can then be worked through, weakened, dropped, etc, and good mental qualities, or habits, can replace them.
So for instance, if a vasana arises, whether it's a perceptual set (group of previous prapanca proliferating habits.) or one type of problem that's a lot simpler in nature (a single proliferating habit for instance), equanimity can be used so that's it's not attached to. It can be seen as completely empty (of self or inherent existence.) and then over time, as it tries to repeatedly re-assert itself, if equanimity is used enough (or whatever other upaya that also works.) the vasana is then gradually replaced, or weakened in a big way to the point that it no longer holds the influence it used to.
That might seem overly complicated, but it's not really. I just see the manas and its issues as the main problem, so think about it more than most other aspects. It could simply be pointed out as either :
prapanca > negative chains/proliferations > attention turned elsewhere/upaya used to drop it.
prapanca > negative chains/proliferations > new negative perceptual set (vasana) created, or current proliferation added to an already existing set > upaya > perceptual set/vasana weakened, dropped, or replaced by upaya.
This was only arrived at recently anyway, and many would probably think it's simply pointless as current teachings are more than adequate at doing the same thing and much more. At the same time though, I have a habit (vasana!) of trying to structure things in my own way, and because I want to blend Yogacara and Madhyamaka so much, am going to try and stick with this if it works. I like both schools and have a lot of respect for them, and now more than ever, think they can be blended fairly easily.
"A 'position', Vaccha, is something that a Tathagata has done away with." - MN 72