Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

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Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Sep 09, 2011 5:47 am

Greetings,

As I understand it, Nagarjuna criticised certain Buddhist thinkers/schools who he believed fell into the trap of "existence" (roughly parallel to Western "Realism") or "non-existence" (roughly parallel to Western "Immaterialism"). I'm not sure what Sutras he referenced (that not really being my domain), but in a Sutta/Agama sense, I understood he used suttas such as the following as the basis for his arguments.

SN 12.15: Kaccayanagotta Sutta - http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
SN 22.95: Phena Sutta - http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Setting aside the doctrine and his actual critique for the moment, I'd like to ask the following question...

What did Nagarjuna explain to be the dangers of (explicit or implicit) belief in Existence and Non-Existence?

Let's just assume for the moment that Nagarjuna was right... so what? What is the practical implication to one's pursuit of the Buddhist path? How does belief in Existence or Non-Existence bring suffering or put roadblocks in the way of one's spiritual progress?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts, and for any references you may be able to share that address this question.

Maitri,
Retro. :)
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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby Huifeng » Fri Sep 09, 2011 7:04 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

As I understand it, Nagarjuna criticised certain Buddhist thinkers/schools who he believed fell into the trap of "existence" (roughly parallel to Western "Realism") or "non-existence" (roughly parallel to Western "Immaterialism"). I'm not sure what Sutras he referenced (that not really being my domain), but in a Sutta/Agama sense, I understood he used suttas such as the following as the basis for his arguments.

SN 12.15: Kaccayanagotta Sutta - http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
SN 22.95: Phena Sutta - http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Setting aside the doctrine and his actual critique for the moment, I'd like to ask the following question...

What did Nagarjuna explain to be the dangers of (explicit or implicit) belief in Existence and Non-Existence?

Let's just assume for the moment that Nagarjuna was right... so what? What is the practical implication to one's pursuit of the Buddhist path? How does belief in Existence or Non-Existence bring suffering or put roadblocks in the way of one's spiritual progress?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts, and for any references you may be able to share that address this question.

Maitri,
Retro. :)


Hi Paul,

The Indic sense of existence as "sat" implies permanence, and thus is contrary to dependent origination. ie. whatever is sat cannot be changed or developed. So, if mind were defiled, it would always be defiled. Cultivation of the path would be useless. Likewise for non-existence as "asat", or also in the sense that considering there to be no further rebirth (a la ucchedavada) there would again be no use in cultivating the path. Both views, sat and asat, lead to views which totally reject any use in cultivating that path to release from samsara.

One can see these from the Katyayanavada and other sutras which have their equivalents in SN 12, Nidana-samyutta. Though of course, it is highly unlikely that Nagarjuna referred to the Pali. More likely those from other schools. You may also wish to check out a range of Agama texts which were later called the "Mahasutras", such as the Mayajala, Mahasunyata-paryaya, Hastopadama, etc. which have similar themes and ideas, but do not appear in the Pali canon. (See Skilling, Mahasutras.)

~~ Huifeng
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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby Aemilius » Fri Sep 09, 2011 8:22 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

As I understand it, Nagarjuna criticised certain Buddhist thinkers/schools who he believed fell into the trap of "existence" (roughly parallel to Western "Realism") or "non-existence" (roughly parallel to Western "Immaterialism"). I'm not sure what Sutras he referenced (that not really being my domain), but in a Sutta/Agama sense, I understood he used suttas such as the following as the basis for his arguments.

SN 12.15: Kaccayanagotta Sutta - http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
SN 22.95: Phena Sutta - http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Setting aside the doctrine and his actual critique for the moment, I'd like to ask the following question...

What did Nagarjuna explain to be the dangers of (explicit or implicit) belief in Existence and Non-Existence?

Let's just assume for the moment that Nagarjuna was right... so what? What is the practical implication to one's pursuit of the Buddhist path? How does belief in Existence or Non-Existence bring suffering or put roadblocks in the way of one's spiritual progress?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts, and for any references you may be able to share that address this question.

Maitri,
Retro. :)


It is like this: If matter exists essentially it means that matter has a self, and it precludes the realisation of selflessness.
Besides Nagarjuna this said by Bhagavan Shakyamuni in the Pali suttas, ( sorry, can't remember the name of the sutta, but in it the Bhagavan holds in his hand a clod of earth and then speaks to the bhikshus).

kindly
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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Sep 09, 2011 12:35 pm

Greetings,

Thank you for the recommendations!

I shall investigate further.

(But keep the recommendations coming!)

Maitri,
Retro. :)
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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby Malcolm » Fri Sep 09, 2011 12:58 pm

retrofuturist wrote:How does belief in Existence or Non-Existence bring suffering or put roadblocks in the way of one's spiritual progress?


Not escaping higher realms because one engages in spiritual practice in the context of a real self (existence); negating the effects of karma and therefore, falling into lower realms (non-existence).

It is really that simple.

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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby ground » Sat Sep 10, 2011 3:51 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

As I understand it, Nagarjuna criticised certain Buddhist thinkers/schools who he believed fell into the trap of "existence" (roughly parallel to Western "Realism") or "non-existence" (roughly parallel to Western "Immaterialism").


I don't think that this is an appropriate phrasing. Actually he demonstrated the pitfalls of language. It is all about language and attachment to the self-created mixture of vedana, perceptions (incl. papanca) and volitional formations that may arise from its application.


Kind regards
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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby Virgo » Sat Sep 10, 2011 4:00 am

TMingyur wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

As I understand it, Nagarjuna criticised certain Buddhist thinkers/schools who he believed fell into the trap of "existence" (roughly parallel to Western "Realism") or "non-existence" (roughly parallel to Western "Immaterialism").


I don't think that this is an appropriate phrasing. Actually he demonstrated the pitfalls of language. It is all about language and attachment to the self-created mixture of vedana, perceptions (incl. papanca) and volitional formations that may arise from its application.


Kind regards

His criticisms of the pitfalls of language were about it's inability to perfectly express the correct view, which is experiential. However, it's benefit is that it can definitely point to this view. Through others people usage of language, he could recognize their pitfalls and point them out, criticizing them.

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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby el_chupacabra » Sat Sep 10, 2011 11:05 am

On the one hand we have Samsara, the relative world of phenomena-in-flux. Take for example a dictionary where every word is defined in terms of every other word - there is no anchoring point to stop an infinite regress, no meta-word which would pin all the others in place.

On the other hand we have the absolute, the independent thing-in-itself about which no relative comparison may be made and about which nothing may be said.

Nagarjuna realised that at some point these two sets must intersect, and so the empty (absolute) set must also be an element in the relative set, providing it with an anchoring point to stop infinite regress into relativity, but which also in-itself must remain empty in order for it to serve this function.

His dialectic moves through four stages;
- The emptiness of all things (that all things have no inherent existence)
- The identity of dependent origination with emptiness
- The indifferentiability of nirvana from samsara
- The tentative or merely conventional nature of all truth

Basically, when we say that Samsara is like a magical illusion, we are tempted to enquire about what is the "truth" behind such an illusion. Nagarjuna's dialectic suggests that the only certainty is that the illusion is an illlusion.

To explain it differently, when we say "presence" and "absence", in language they have the relationship of +1 to -1, whereas in actuality they have the relationship of +1 to 0
The same goes for light and dark, where in language we treat them as opposites when in fact darkness is merely the absence of light, so we can see how the word and the concept are inadequate representations of emptiness. (Interestingly, on a mathematical graph, zero and infinity behave as if they are identical).
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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby Nirveda » Mon Sep 19, 2011 5:26 am

Retro,

I found this book The Sun of Wisdom: Teachings on the Noble Nagarjuna's Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way by Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso to be indispensible in helping me understand Nagarjuna:

http://www.amazon.com/Sun-Wisdom-Teachings-Nagarjunas-Fundamental/dp/1570629994

Best regards

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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby Andrew108 » Mon Sep 19, 2011 3:53 pm

Yes that book is brilliant.
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.
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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby Will » Mon Sep 19, 2011 4:03 pm

In Nagarjuna's Ratnavali, ch. 1, vv 37-8 (Kalavinka trans.):

37
It does not exist having arisen from itself, from some other, or both, and also does not exist in any of the three periods of time,
once this is realized, the view imputing a “self” ceases, along with subsequent karmic actions and retributions.
38
Having perceived cause-and-effect in this manner, its arising, and its complete cessation, one therefore refrains from seizing upon there being any reality to the world’s existence or its non-existence.


"Seizing upon" is the key; believing in existence or non-existence requires attachment. Knowing that neither is true frees one and promotes non-attachment or renunciation.
Last edited by Will on Tue Sep 20, 2011 6:00 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby swampflower » Tue Sep 20, 2011 3:29 am

Further there is the pitfall that if one believes only in this physical world, the Realism, then one may say that there is no reason not to take whatever one wishes at any cost since there is only this "now" and there is the wish to live with the most wealth and pleasures possible no matter how much this may harm others.

The nihilistic view of "no thing" may also lead to extremes of thinking that there is no value to anything, no purpose or reason to do good deeds here either.

The Middle Way chooses the path between these extremes leading to an understanding of the interrelationships and dependencies between all beings. From this understanding arises true compassion.

Nagarjuna is a most precious teacher!
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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby ground » Tue Sep 20, 2011 4:13 am

swampflower wrote:Nagarjuna is a most precious teacher!


No. The Buddha is, i.e. was.


Kind regards
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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby Josef » Tue Sep 20, 2011 5:38 am

TMingyur wrote:
swampflower wrote:Nagarjuna is a most precious teacher!


No. The Buddha is, i.e. was.


Kind regards

Swampflower said "a" precious teacher, not "the" or "only".
They both were.
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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby Epistemes » Tue Sep 20, 2011 2:37 pm

Will wrote:In Nagarjuna's Ratnavali, ch. 1, vv 37-8 (Kalavinka trans.):

37
It does not exist having arisen from itself, from some other, or both, And also does not exist in any of the three periods of time,
Once this is realized, the view imputing a “self” ceases, along with subsequent karmic actions and retributions.
38
Having perceived cause-and-effect in this manner, Its arising, and its complete cessation, one therefore refrains from seizing upon there being any reality To the world’s existence or its non-existence.


"Seizing upon" is the key; believing in existence or non-existence requires attachment. Knowing that neither is true frees one and promotes non-attachment or renunciation.


Virgo wrote:His criticisms of the pitfalls of language were about it's inability to perfectly express the correct view, which is experiential. However, it's benefit is that it can definitely point to this view. Through others people usage of language, he could recognize their pitfalls and point them out, criticizing them.


I'm going to sound really stupid, but I'm here to learn, so:

When Nagarjuna says that there is no existence, is he claiming that the Earth, universe, and multi-verses do not exist in the sense that they cannot be sensually experienced? Or, is he, in a spirit of recognizing the universality of pratītyasamutpāda and sūnyatā, saying that the Earth, universe, and multi-verses do not intrinsically exist as such?

Furthermore, is Nagarjuna claiming the seed of a thing does not intrinsically exist either in itself or through another thing? By this I mean, we cannot find any trace of an iPod in sunlight. This is because sunlight does not instrinsically exist, right, and not because we are not currently able to handle an iPod which, through pratītyasamutpāda, has been manifested?

Lastly, to say that the Earth, universe, multi-verses, sunlight and iPods do not exist is equally a misnomer due to the nature of their apparent manifestation?

I apologize for disrupting this thread with such basic questions as these.
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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby Malcolm » Tue Sep 20, 2011 2:55 pm

Epistemes wrote:I'm going to sound really stupid, but I'm here to learn, so:

When Nagarjuna says that there is no existence, is he claiming that the Earth, universe, and multi-verses do not exist in the sense that they cannot be sensually experienced? Or, is he, in a spirit of recognizing the universality of pratītyasamutpāda and sūnyatā, saying that the Earth, universe, and multi-verses do not intrinsically exist as such?



For Nāgārjuna, stating that things exist is a statement that they inherently exist.

Therefore, the only existence that Nāgārjuna was willing to grant phenomena was what we term a relative or nominal existence. Thus he is saying "...that the Earth, universe, and multi-verses do not intrinsically exist as such" "in a spirit of recognizing the universality of pratītyasamutpāda and sūnyatā".

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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby el_chupacabra » Tue Sep 20, 2011 5:35 pm

Epistemes wrote:When Nagarjuna says that there is no existence, is he claiming that the Earth, universe, and multi-verses do not exist in the sense that they cannot be sensually experienced? Or, is he, in a spirit of recognizing the universality of pratītyasamutpāda and sūnyatā, saying that the Earth, universe, and multi-verses do not intrinsically exist as such?


Sense perception is equally subject to causality. The eye that sees is an object in the world, and what is perceived is dependent upon that eye (and brain which interprets the sense perception). We tend to think of red as being a property of the thing, but in fact it is dependent upon a number of things, (spectral light, that light bouncing off the object and entering the eye, the eye itself, and the interpretation of this sensory input by the brain... etc.) all of which are themselves dependent on something else.

What colour is red in total darkness? We tend to think that it would still be red if only we had some light, but then what if that light was itself coloured? we tend to take our "normal" perceptions as some sort of baseline truth when in fact all the elements are contingent and dependently related to each other - if our eyes were built differently then our colour perception would also vary - so where then is the baseline truth? Any perception or attempt to measure is itself part of the chain of dependent interrelations. (So we have a process of standardisation for measurement - we all accept what an inch is even though its an arbitrary measurement)

Epistemes wrote:Furthermore, is Nagarjuna claiming the seed of a thing does not intrinsically exist either in itself or through another thing? By this I mean, we cannot find any trace of an iPod in sunlight. This is because sunlight does not instrinsically exist, right, and not because we are not currently able to handle an iPod which, through pratītyasamutpāda, has been manifested?

Lastly, to say that the Earth, universe, multi-verses, sunlight and iPods do not exist is equally a misnomer due to the nature of their apparent manifestation?


Say for example the i-Pod was crushed into dust, it would no longer be an iPod, but it would not simply cease to be. Matter cannot be created or destroyed, it can neither go out of existence nor have come into existence out of nothing. Science has tended to say that the smallest part of matter is the molecule, but quantum theory seems to be catching up with Buddhist ideas which state that there is no smallest unit of matter - there is nothing, no matter how small that we can't imagine removing a tiny sliver of an making it smaller.

So we have a notion of everything in flux and in a dependent relationship - the iPod was once made of other stuff, and can return to a state of "stuffness", but if we try to discover what the smallest part of that stuff is, we find no baseline of truth.

That would suggest then that everything is totally relative, but one thing rescues it from that because without mind it would not be possible to perceive anything at all, the question then becomes how is it then possible to know mind itself when at no point can we step outside?

Mind itself is subject to this same “emptiness”, but this is not to say that emptiness is another view of “reality”, it is the very ground itself. If we take mind as an object for consciousness then we distort it by conceptualisation - emptiness cannot be adequately conceived and must be experienced to be “known”.

(I should probably put a disclaimer that this is my current (limited) understanding and that I am painting with very broad brushstrokes here)
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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby ground » Tue Sep 20, 2011 8:37 pm

Nangwa wrote:
TMingyur wrote:
swampflower wrote:Nagarjuna is a most precious teacher!


No. The Buddha is, i.e. was.


Kind regards

Swampflower said "a" precious teacher, not "the" or "only".
They both were.


That depends. If you come from a wrong path and Nagarjuna helps you to let go of wrong tenets to find your way to the Buddha's teachings then Nagarjuna is in fact a precious one.
If however you get distracted by Nagarjuna and follow a wrong path then he is a false teacher.
Why is this? Because the Buddha is the only precious one.

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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby swampflower » Wed Sep 21, 2011 12:12 am

"That depends. If you come from a wrong path and Nagarjuna helps you to let go of wrong tenets to find your way to the Buddha's teachings then Nagarjuna is in fact a precious one.
If however you get distracted by Nagarjuna and follow a wrong path then he is a false teacher.
Why is this? Because the Buddha is the only precious one."



With all due respects I am on the Noble Eightfold Path of the Buddha. And I do hold Nagarjuna's teachings to be precious Buddhist teachings. And Nagarjuna as a precious teacher. There is no wrong path here to find. I humbly submit that I have a deep understanding of Nagarjuna's teachings. I suggest perhaps further study of Nagarjuna would benefit these discussions and with less "opinion".
If one views Buddhist teachings with ignorance that does not make the teachings false.
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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Wed Sep 21, 2011 4:14 pm

TMingyur wrote:If however you get distracted by Nagarjuna ...

It's possible to get distracted by anything including Buddha.
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