Empty Mind

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Empty Mind

Postby devilyoudont » Tue Aug 30, 2011 7:01 am

What mind is it that is empty?

What emptiness is it that is mind?

:juggling:
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Re: Empty Mind

Postby devilyoudont » Tue Aug 30, 2011 3:55 pm

To rephrase that, consider the following request: "Look at your mind. You will see that it is empty." Notice anything odd about it? You're asking someone to "look" and yet you've preemptively decided what he's about to see! What if the student looks at his mind, sees that it's NOT "empty", and says so? Well, the conversation is over. The student obviously isn't "ready" yet, needs more practice, and so on and so forth until he does "see" this elusive "emptiness". It seems to me that a chain of expectations is being set up that forces the student to conceive a mental image of "emptiness" which, if the term hasn't been clearly defined, usually resembles what the student imagines "emptiness" to be like, and then "recognize" this apparition as the mind's "true nature". Refusing to describe what you're asking someone else to recognize doesn't even make sense unless you subscribe to the naive "you'll know it when you see it" school of lexical idealism, or the subject is impossible to describe in the established mode of communication. Guess which route many if not most modern students will take for granted: A shortcut offering the path of least resistance, or the sheer cliff face, climbing which it hurts even to contemplate? This isn't a danger to every practitioner of the Zen method, but it's certainly one of its greatest pitfalls. All methods, being methods, have these.

Now, some will no doubt accuse me of using "Western" thought processes to analyze an "Eastern" practice. So I'm wondering, will it come as a rude awakening when I report that I'm no "literal-minded Westerner"? What people forget is that Buddhism, unlike Taoism, did not originate in the Far East, but in my motherland and country of residence, India, where the lingua franca since ancient times was Sanskrit, not only an ancestor of my native tongue, but a cousin of Latin, Greek and great-uncle to, yes, English. A not so distant branch of the same cultural, intellectual and religious heritage that produced Pythagoreanism, Platonism and mature Christianity also gave form to the Buddhist tradition. I refer you to undeniable parallels in Apophatic Theology to help alleviate your disbelief. It therefore remains to be established that Buddhism is so exotic that any trace of "Western" thinking is anathema to it. I know folks who will tell you all about how the characterization of systematic thought as "Western" is an offensive remnant of racism and colonialism. Just be thankful you'll not hear that lecture from me. Even if it were true that thinkers from different traditions can make no valid comments and criticisms about each other just because their norms are not 100% identical, a proposition I do not accept, I can only conclude that my would-be accusers are thoroughly deluded, given the embarrassing weight of evidence against their case.
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Re: Empty Mind

Postby Acchantika » Tue Aug 30, 2011 5:56 pm

devilyoudont wrote:To rephrase that, consider the following request: "Look at your mind. You will see that it is empty." Notice anything odd about it? You're asking someone to "look" and yet you've preemptively decided what he's about to see! What if the student looks at his mind, sees that it's NOT "empty", and says so? Well, the conversation is over. The student obviously isn't "ready" yet, needs more practice, and so on and so forth until he does "see" this elusive "emptiness". It seems to me that a chain of expectations is being set up that forces the student to conceive a mental image of "emptiness" which, if the term hasn't been clearly defined, usually resembles what the student imagines "emptiness" to be like, and then "recognize" this apparition as the mind's "true nature". Refusing to describe what you're asking someone else to recognize doesn't even make sense unless you subscribe to the naive "you'll know it when you see it" school of lexical idealism, or the subject is impossible to describe in the chosen mode of communication.


In other words, teachers avoid defining emptiness because if they did their students would create a concept that they misidentify as emptiness proper.

However, this refusal to define emptiness causes the student to create a concept that they misidentify as emptiness proper.

Seems to me that it is the conceptual faculties of the mind that are creating the problem, not the teacher, nor the teaching.
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Re: Empty Mind

Postby devilyoudont » Tue Aug 30, 2011 6:05 pm

Absolutely.

Well, I wouldn't blame "the conceptual faculties" in themselves, but I agree that teachers and teachings are not to "blame" either.
Last edited by devilyoudont on Tue Aug 30, 2011 8:03 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Empty Mind

Postby devilyoudont » Tue Aug 30, 2011 6:22 pm

Truth is, you'll have a time transcending dualism as long as you have something, anything to "blame". You can't still the mind of hope and fear by being averse to it, no more than you can calm down a frenzied animal by striking it. Instead, have empathy for the minds of illusory confusion that peel away like lotus petals, and respect for the Buddhas dwelling within.
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Re: Empty Mind

Postby devilyoudont » Tue Aug 30, 2011 6:26 pm

Conversely, teachers and teachings are at least as much to blame as "conceptual faculties" or "self" or "ignorance" or "blaming" or anything else you care to name.
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Re: Empty Mind

Postby devilyoudont » Tue Aug 30, 2011 7:25 pm

But you forgive them, right?
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Re: Empty Mind

Postby Acchantika » Tue Aug 30, 2011 9:31 pm

devilyoudont wrote:Absolutely.

Well, I wouldn't blame "the conceptual faculties" in themselves, but I agree that teachers and teachings are not to "blame" either.


Sure. I think you misinterpreted me to be blaming something. I don't blame the kettle when it boils. I just acknowledge the kettle as one of the causes of the boiling. The conceptual mind creates concepts, which are by definition not the reality they try to represent. Teachers and teachings do not create concepts.

My point was only to imply that a confused mind can't think itself out of its own confusion, in the same way that a broken hammer can't fix itself. That is why partly why teachers discourage conceptualising the absolute, rather than due to subscribing to a "naive...school of lexical idealism". It is of no value to a confused mind.
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Re: Empty Mind

Postby devilyoudont » Tue Aug 30, 2011 9:56 pm

There is no "conceptual mind" for you or me or anyone else to blame, whether by despising it or acknowledging the function it performs. Only teachers and teachings create "concepts".
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Re: Empty Mind

Postby Acchantika » Tue Aug 30, 2011 11:45 pm

devilyoudont wrote:There is no "conceptual mind" for you or me or anyone else to blame, whether by despising it or acknowledging the function it performs. Only teachers and teachings create "concepts".


Teachers and teachings are concepts. Concepts can't create concepts.

The brain can re-model stored information for self-reference in an abstract way. People this process the "conceptual mind" for convenience, but you don't have to.

Saying that something is not self-existent is not equal to saying it is not existent.

A Zen master once asked his student to explain to him his understanding of Buddhism.
The student replied, "All dhammas are empty, as is the mind that creates them."
The master promptly whacked the student over the head with his stick.
The student let out out a cry of pain and, rubbing his head, looked at the master with puzzlement.
"If all is empty", exclaimed the master, "what hurts?"
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Re: Empty Mind

Postby LastLegend » Wed Aug 31, 2011 12:59 am

devilyoudont wrote:To rephrase that, consider the following request: "Look at your mind. You will see that it is empty." Notice anything odd about it? You're asking someone to "look" and yet you've preemptively decided what he's about to see! What if the student looks at his mind, sees that it's NOT "empty", and says so? Well, the conversation is over. The student obviously isn't "ready" yet, needs more practice, and so on and so forth until he does "see" this elusive "emptiness". It seems to me that a chain of expectations is being set up that forces the student to conceive a mental image of "emptiness" which, if the term hasn't been clearly defined, usually resembles what the student imagines "emptiness" to be like, and then "recognize" this apparition as the mind's "true nature". Refusing to describe what you're asking someone else to recognize doesn't even make sense unless you subscribe to the naive "you'll know it when you see it" school of lexical idealism, or the subject is impossible to describe in the established mode of communication. Guess which route many if not most modern students will take for granted: A shortcut offering the path of least resistance, or the sheer cliff face, climbing which it hurts even to contemplate? This isn't a danger to every practitioner of the Zen method, but it's certainly one of its greatest pitfalls. All methods, being methods, have these.


The mind is not physical. That's why it is empty.

As long as there is conceptualization, then it is not empty. What you are trying to do is grasping on to the mind like it is physical. We cannot get behind the mind until we become Buddha.


Now, some will no doubt accuse me of using "Western" thought processes to analyze an "Eastern" practice. So I'm wondering, will it come as a rude awakening when I report that I'm no "literal-minded Westerner"? What people forget is that Buddhism, unlike Taoism, did not originate in the Far East, but in my motherland and country of residence, India, where the lingua franca since ancient times was Sanskrit, not only an ancestor of my native tongue, but a cousin of Latin, Greek and great-uncle to, yes, English. A not so distant branch of the same cultural, intellectual and religious heritage that produced Pythagoreanism, Platonism and mature Christianity also gave form to the Buddhist tradition. I refer you to undeniable parallels in Apophatic Theology to help alleviate your disbelief. It therefore remains to be established that Buddhism is so exotic that any trace of "Western" thinking is anathema to it. I know folks who will tell you all about how the characterization of systematic thought as "Western" is an offensive remnant of racism and colonialism. Just be thankful you'll not hear that lecture from me. Even if it were true that thinkers from different traditions can make no valid comments and criticisms about each other just because their norms are not 100% identical, a proposition I do not accept, I can only conclude that my would-be accusers are thoroughly deluded, given the embarrassing weight of evidence against their case.


By Western I mean Western philosophy which is based on sensual senses and the consciousnesses (in Buddhism, thinking is one of the consciousnesses). I am sure you have taken some courses. I have too.

So I would say experience through practice. This type of experience should not be based on emotional biases and biased thinking. This is a way of inquiring knowledge so to speak.
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NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)
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Re: Empty Mind

Postby tobes » Wed Aug 31, 2011 4:33 am

devilyoudont wrote:To rephrase that, consider the following request: "Look at your mind. You will see that it is empty." Notice anything odd about it? You're asking someone to "look" and yet you've preemptively decided what he's about to see! What if the student looks at his mind, sees that it's NOT "empty", and says so? Well, the conversation is over. The student obviously isn't "ready" yet, needs more practice, and so on and so forth until he does "see" this elusive "emptiness". It seems to me that a chain of expectations is being set up that forces the student to conceive a mental image of "emptiness" which, if the term hasn't been clearly defined, usually resembles what the student imagines "emptiness" to be like, and then "recognize" this apparition as the mind's "true nature". Refusing to describe what you're asking someone else to recognize doesn't even make sense unless you subscribe to the naive "you'll know it when you see it" school of lexical idealism, or the subject is impossible to describe in the established mode of communication. Guess which route many if not most modern students will take for granted: A shortcut offering the path of least resistance, or the sheer cliff face, climbing which it hurts even to contemplate? This isn't a danger to every practitioner of the Zen method, but it's certainly one of its greatest pitfalls. All methods, being methods, have these.



I like this.

The point is, there is never "emptiness." Only phenomena (including citta) which are empty.

One of the easiest traps is, as you point out, to imagine some ontological state of emptiness ~ which is tantamount to constructing something upon reality, instead of simply seeing reality for what it is. :anjali:
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Re: Empty Mind

Postby devilyoudont » Wed Aug 31, 2011 11:22 am

Acchantika wrote:Teachers and teachings are concepts. Concepts can't create concepts.

The brain can re-model stored information for self-reference in an abstract way. People this process the "conceptual mind" for convenience, but you don't have to.

"The conceptual faculty" is a concept. Concepts cannot create concepts. Same for brains and whatever else. Names are not an issue. This is about steadfastly refusing to mistake skillful means that assign dramatic roles to "concepts" and "minds" for the inconceivable Buddhadharma that lies beyond conceptual and non-conceptual realms altogether.

Acchantika wrote:Saying that something is not self-existent is not equal to saying it is not existent.

I don't know what to tell you. Teachers and teachings are the conceptual mind, or does every phenomenon on which the label "Buddhism" can be predicated in your mind get a free pass now? If your teacher's refusal to define Emptiness results in a concept being created in your mind, who creates the concept? The teacher or any number of other non-truly-existent self-natures such as "the conceptual faculty"? And who says concepts are bad? I'm told it's clinging to them, and to non-concepts, that causes bad, nasty things to happen. How does your definition of the Enemy take that into account? The Sutras say all five skandhas are Empty, so if I were you, I'd try not to imagine the polarized suppression of any portion thereof, "conceptual mind" or otherwise, as inherently desirable or a lasting cessation.
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Re: Empty Mind

Postby Acchantika » Wed Aug 31, 2011 3:42 pm

devilyoudont wrote:And who says concepts are bad? I'm told it's clinging to them, and to non-concepts, that causes bad, nasty things to happen. How does your definition of the Enemy take that into account?


Conventionally, my mind, not teachers nor teachings, creates concepts. Attachment to these concepts create suffering. I see no enemy.

The Sutras say all five skandhas are Empty, so if I were you, I'd try not to imagine the polarized suppression of any portion thereof, "conceptual mind" or otherwise, as inherently desirable or a lasting cessation.


Yes, empty of inherent existence. This is not the same as saying they do not exist. The sutras also say that both 'they exist' (eternalism) and 'they do not exist' (nihilism) are wrong views.
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Re: Empty Mind

Postby Malcolm » Wed Aug 31, 2011 6:18 pm

Acchantika wrote: This is not the same as saying they do not exist. The sutras also say that both 'they exist' (eternalism) and 'they do not exist' (nihilism) are wrong views.


Buddhapalita puts it nicely "It's not that we make a claim for the non-existence [of existents], we merely remove claims that existents exist".
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Re: Empty Mind

Postby devilyoudont » Wed Aug 31, 2011 7:48 pm

Acchantika: Now that all your objections have been reduced to rough agreements with, or incorrect claims about my position, I am satisfied. :lol:

LL: Hint: There is no generalizable right answer to the question "In what manner is the mind empty?" that is communicable in conventional language. Even silence is a wrong answer. "Mind is not matter" is no more an expression of Emptiness than anything else you might say, including "Mind is matter."

As for the rest, have you looked at the Apophatic Theology article?

tobes: A gem I just unearthed: "Thus, when you sit and meditate, you are only holding onto a bit of emptiness created by the realm of consciousness, and you think that is the Path." - Master Nan Huai-Chin

Form is Emptiness, and Emptiness is also Form. :anjali:

PS. As long as I'm randomly quoting the words of others, any Buddhist who doesn't know about this yet needs to hear it ASAP: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBQfUqd8pqI
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Re: Empty Mind

Postby devilyoudont » Wed Aug 31, 2011 8:26 pm

Acchantika wrote:Attachment to these concepts create suffering.

Hold on. Do you think there's an identifiable part of your mind/brain/teacher whose job it is to compulsively latch onto or turn away from "concepts" that, if you manage to shut down, you'll attain enlightenment or something?

Acchantika wrote:Conventionally

No offense, but you do realize that, by definition, "conventional truth" means it's not absolute, right? You recognize that the intellect must be detached from such sinister, Conceptual constructions, right? :P
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Re: Empty Mind

Postby Acchantika » Wed Aug 31, 2011 10:58 pm

devilyoudont wrote:
Acchantika wrote:Attachment to these concepts create suffering.

Hold on. Do you think there's an identifiable part of your mind/brain/teacher whose job it is to compulsively latch onto or turn away from "concepts" that, if you manage to shut down, you'll attain enlightenment or something?


I'm not sure how you are extrapolating these meanings from my statements.

If shutting down the conceptual mind is what is necessary for liberation, we should all become drunks.

Which wouldn't be so bad, but doubtful what the Big B intended.

Acchantika wrote:Conventionally

No offense, but you do realize that, by definition, "conventional truth" means it's not absolute, right? You recognize that the intellect must be detached from such sinister, Conceptual constructions, right? :P


"Non-attachment" does not mean "detachment". One implies awareness, the other a lack thereof.

You seem to be under the impression that conceptualising is something 'you' are 'doing' and thus can actively prevent. I do not take this view. I am not familiar with any teacher nor teaching that takes this view.

Thus my original point: one cannot use concepts to think oneself out of concepts.
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Re: Empty Mind

Postby Acchantika » Wed Aug 31, 2011 11:00 pm

Namdrol wrote:
Acchantika wrote: This is not the same as saying they do not exist. The sutras also say that both 'they exist' (eternalism) and 'they do not exist' (nihilism) are wrong views.


Buddhapalita puts it nicely "It's not that we make a claim for the non-existence [of existents], we merely remove claims that existents exist".


Precisely.
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Re: Empty Mind

Postby devilyoudont » Wed Aug 31, 2011 11:49 pm

Acchantika wrote:I'm not sure how you are extrapolating these meanings from my statements.

Just checking. I'm not suggesting you actually believe any of this rubbish.

Acchantika wrote:"Non-attachment" does not mean "detachment". One implies awareness, the other a lack thereof.

Er... no? Depends on which definition you're looking at. I believe you're talking about "emotional detachment" in psychology, whereas I was thinking of "philosophical detachment", which requires anything but "unawareness".

Acchantika wrote:You seem to be under the impression that conceptualising is something 'you' are 'doing' and thus can actively prevent. I do not take this view. I am not familiar with any teacher nor teaching that takes this view.

Oh good, we're in agreement then...

Acchantika wrote:Thus my original point: one cannot use concepts to think oneself out of concepts.

Or not. Here we go again. This is a view diametrically opposed to Emptiness, as all views are, so: No, liberation is Only attainable by using concepts to think oneself out of concepts. Just like you're doing this very moment. ( :crazy: )
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