Misunderstanding emptiness

General forum on Mahayana.

Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Sun Jan 01, 2012 3:56 am

Hi all,

This is similar to Konchog1's thread "Understanding emptiness" and I see many helpful replies there (some I am still unpacking), thank you, and I've decided to use a separate thread since that one already has a flavor and my question may be different or may change when I try to write it down. I appreciate the difference between a conceptual understanding of emptiness and its direct experience and my goal here is to find a coherent description of emptiness, a true story as it were. I think my confusion is often a matter of understanding the language or vocabulary usage!

Let me know if the following statements are correct:

1. Emptiness is the state of being empty (duh);

2. In ordinary conversation, when people say "The bottle is empty" they normally mean it doesn't contain any more fluid inside. For example, "The bottle is empty, please pass me another beer!"

3. When Buddhists (at least those discussing emptiness on boards like this) say "The bottle is empty", they mean it doesn't have any inherent existence. Here "empty" is shorthand for "empty of inherent existence."

4. "Inherent existence" is not an expression I normally use among friends and family members. For New Years, you might exclaim "Inherent Existence!" and everyone will applaud but its meaning remains unclear (to me) so,

5. "Existence" is "the state of being or occurring; beinghood" (Wiktionary). Fairly standard stuff, I say "My beloved dog exists but mythical Thor does not exist." I think Julian Jaynes, in his book "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" mentions that Sanskrit had no verb for "To Be", the closest they had was "To Breathe" or something. (Strange what this brain remembers but) If true, this means Buddha had no word for "existence". No wonder this emptiness business is so challenging!

6. Following this Wiktionary path, it says the adjective "inherent" means "naturally a part or consequence of something." Now in Konchog1's thread, everyone seems to agree that "empty of inherent existence" is the same as "dependent origination" which suggests that "inherent existence" needs to come out as being sort of the opposite of "dependent origination" where something exists only in its dependence on other parts or causes and conditions. So this Wiktionary definition, where "inherent" implies parts or consequences, must be rejected from any True Story and a proper burial is in order.

7. Wiktionary should never be referenced, neither for casual nor scholarly use. The site is owned by criminals, run by charlatans, and studies indicate repeated usage may lead to tooth decay and hair loss.

8. Let's try Random House College Dictionary: "inherent, adj. existing in something as a permanent and inseparable element, quality, or attribute." Much better. So to say something is empty is to say we can find in it no permanent and inseparable element, quality, or attribute.

Some examples:

9. Our bodies are made of many cells but even these change, cease to be, are newly created. Our bodies are empty (of inherent existence).

10. A harder one. A titanium cube. How did it arise (come to exist)? It wasn't here in the dinosaur age, it was created by special machines. It depends on some special technology and intelligent titanium engineers for its existence. That technology took many people years to develop and those engineers require power bars to keep going. The titanium cube cannot exist without all these dependencies. Years from now, the titanium cube will be dissolved in a nuclear holocaust. (Sorry, bad ending.) Titanium cubes are empty.

11. Our mind. Ken McLeod says Western usage often associates "mind" with "brain" while in Buddhism "mind" is better associated with "experience". I like this clarification. Thoughts come and go. Feelings come and go. Values change. Mind has a permanent and inseparable element, an inherent existence, a soul, if you can find it (but this would not be a conceptual exercise). Mind is empty.

So we've nailed emptiness. Hallelujah. Let me know if the result is on track or hopelessly confused. There is one more expression that confuses me, "nature of."

If I visit the zoo and someone asks "What is the nature of an elephant?" I might (wonder if they are using drugs and) reply "Well, the nature of an elephant is that it has a long trunk, big flappy ears, a little wiggly tail and a gigantic round and heavy body." Buddhist texts talk about "nature of mind" and it feels scary, like something magical is about to happen, or something esoteric I can never grasp. What does this mean? "Well, the nature of mind is that it thinks a lot, feels good on Saturdays, dies nightly and is resurrected every morning?" This doesn't sound very scholarly so let's check Random House:

12. nature, n. the particular combination of qualities belonging to a person, animal, thing, or class by birth, origin, or constitution.

13. nature, n. the instincts or inherent tendencies directing conduct.

14. nature, n. character, kind, or sort: two recent books of the same nature.

There's that "inherent" word again but there's also some fuzziness here, especially (14). So I read a Buddhist text that posits "What is the nature of mind?" and I think "Oh dear, there is one right answer here" except that the Random House definition is fuzzy, there is no right answer, I could just talk about what my mind, or experience "is like" and celebrate. So I'll end this rambling post with this specific question and wish all the happiest new year:

*** What exactly do Buddhist texts mean when they talk about, or ask us to investigate, the "nature of mind" or "nature or phenomena"? What does "nature of X" mean in this Buddhist context?

Regards,
Dave.
yadave
 
Posts: 116
Joined: Sat Dec 31, 2011 6:57 pm

Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Konchog1 » Sun Jan 01, 2012 10:40 pm

These answers are of course based on my (possibly wrong) understanding so take it with a grain of salt.

1. Emptiness is a quality of things. There is no emptiness without objects. (HHDL's Heart Sutra commentary)

2. Emptiness is a translation. Other translations include voidness. Don't analyze the word. Things are not hollow or lacking in qualities. Emptiness simply means that things are empty of inherent existence. (Emptiness by Tashi Tsering) Not empty of anything else.

3. Correct.

4. Everything exists but not inherently. Not by itself but from conditions. Now you may say "Well duh, trees comes from seeds" but that's a mistake I made. It's deeper than that. Without branches, leaf, space etc. there is no tree. If it existed by itself it still would. Yet, the tree does exist due to conditions. Thus things lack inherent existence. Google Hume bundle theory for a good explanation of this.

5. Everything exists, just not inherently.

6. If things have conditions to exist they do not exist inherently. If things exist inherently they cannot have conditions to exist. These conditions bringing a thing into existence is dependent origination.

If something dependently originates it cannot exist on its own right and is thus empty. Also, because things are empty they must have dependently originated.

7. Sure why not.

8-11. Yeah

Nature of mind is another discussion, it is empty (of course just like every thing else) but in this context it refers to things like Clear Light.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
User avatar
Konchog1
 
Posts: 1294
Joined: Sat Nov 26, 2011 4:30 am

Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby asunthatneversets » Mon Jan 02, 2012 12:20 am

Konchog1 wrote:These answers are of course based on my (possibly wrong) understanding so take it with a grain of salt.

1. Emptiness is a quality of things. There is no emptiness without objects. (HHDL's Heart Sutra commentary)

2. Emptiness is a translation. Other translations include voidness. Don't analyze the word. Things are not hollow or lacking in qualities. Emptiness simply means that things are empty of inherent existence. (Emptiness by Tashi Tsering) Not empty of anything else.

3. Correct.

4. Everything exists but not inherently. Not by itself but from conditions. Now you may say "Well duh, trees comes from seeds" but that's a mistake I made. It's deeper than that. Without branches, leaf, space etc. there is no tree. If it existed by itself it still would. Yet, the tree does exist due to conditions. Thus things lack inherent existence. Google Hume bundle theory for a good explanation of this.

5. Everything exists, just not inherently.

6. If things have conditions to exist they do not exist inherently. If things exist inherently they cannot have conditions to exist. These conditions bringing a thing into existence is dependent origination.

If something dependently originates it cannot exist on its own right and is thus empty. Also, because things are empty they must have dependently originated.

7. Sure why not.

8-11. Yeah

Nature of mind is another discussion, it is empty (of course just like every thing else) but in this context it refers to things like Clear Light.


It gets a little more in-depth than just seeing that "things" are only dependent on constituent qualities (such as a tree is dependent on branches, leaves, space etc..). There's different "tiers" or levels of the emptiness investigation and it's application to reality. In seeing that nothing inherently exists separate from causes and conditions the study actually has to descend to the most fundamental of levels in order to have a profound effect, otherwise it merely stays on the level of conceptualization(which is all well and good, but there's "deeper" realizations to be had).

This "emptiness" investigation is seeing that nothing exists separately from causes and conditions. So it's true on a conventional level that a tree isn't separate from it's branches, leaves, space etc... but to leave it at that; you're still left with branches, leaves, space etc.. (for the sake of what i'm trying to describe i'll treat 'space' as a thing) and these are 'things' as well. The evaluation can continue further and further to deconstruct branches and leaves down to their constituent particles(and the particle down to their constituents) but this process never ends and really never leaves the realm of the intellect. All of this evaluation is going on within the mind, fundamentally using concepts which are no different than the 'tree' you began with.

From here it gets closer to what was said above about separating the 'experience' of emptiness from the 'conceptualization' of it.

So what's been said so far is still using emptiness on the tier or level of deconstructing 'things' to constituents which ultimately end up being other 'things'. But what does this deconstructing or conceptualizing depend on? Depends on the mind. And when one looks at the mind, you see that the mind is made of constituents called thought and memory. So so far this intellectual deconstructing is dependent on mind(aka thought) and the mind(aka thought) is dependent on that which the thought is conceptualizing. So there is no mind separate from thought/memory... and no thought/memory separate from that which they(thought/memory) objectify. What is objectified is not separate from the thought/memory... and the thought/memory is not separate from mind. If that can be assimilated thoroughly what's seen is that there's no separation between any of them. And that there are no 'things' (branches, leaves, space) separate from conceptualization. And the collection of conceptualizations (in time; which is dependent on conceptualization) constitutes that which we call mind.

Once 'things' such as branches, leaves, space are seen to dependently exist on concepts (and the concepts dependent on those 'things'). And the concepts are seen to be dependent on mind (and the mind a conglomerate of concepts) one starts to see that a web of dependent origination starts to form and that these different designations are only a product of conventional language. Apart from the conventional language(which is useful!) these 'things' do not inherently exist.

Now at this point one will say "ok but i still see 'things', i still experience these things"... even if they're divorced from the notion of inherent existence on the level of conceptualization, the sensual 'happening' of life and reality is still there. I'm still here seeing sights, hearing sounds etc... so this can't be left at this level.

About this Nagarjuna states: "All of this is but one's mind," That which was stated by the Able One, is to alleviate the fear of the childish; it is not [a statement] of [final] truth.

At this point the investigation reaches yet another tier or level and this is where it really starts to have a profound effect. The sensual experience has to be investigated. Take the experience of that which we'd label a branch for example; in the investigation of the 'branch' you'll notice that this 'appearance' isn't separate from the sensory perceptions with which it's experienced. The 'branch' is dependent on the sensual experience of it. So the 'branch' is predominantly 'seen' and 'felt'(in addition to the other senses). You can even say the 'branch' is composed of the 'seeing' of it and the 'feeling' of it. Apart from the visual and tactile sensations, there is no 'thing'(branch). So the 'thing'(branch) is dependent on the sensory experience. But for this to be a true application of emptiness both sides of this have to be accounted for. And that comes like this; without the 'sight'(branch) there is no 'seeing'(sensory perception) of it. So the appearance of a sensory perception is dependent on it's percepts(objects of perception). So with this being ascertained; why even conceptualize two different designations(perception, percept)? Both designations are mutually interdependent co-arisen imputations. An 'object' is the cognizing of the 'object' and the 'cognizing' is dependent on the appearance called an 'object'. They are not two different things.

And this goes for every sensory perception.

From here however... the same investigation is directed onto the subject and applied to the position of the 'cognizer' a.k.a. the 'self which is perceiving'. One sees that the appearance of the self(subject which perceives) is dependent on the perceiving... and the perceiving is dependent on the perception. So no piece of the trifecta stands alone or has any inherent existence. They all collapse all the way down and the existence of the triad(perceiver, perceiving, perceived) is merely a conventional imputation overlaid onto a seamless 'happening'.

About this Nagarjuna states: The cognizer perceives the cognizable; without the cognizable there is no cognition; Therefore why do you not admit that neither object or subject exists at all?

From here the next tier or level goes to the awareness, or consciousness, or 'knowing' of this.

About this Nagarjuna states: The mind is but a mere name; Apart from this name it exists as nothing; So view consciousness as a mere name; Name too has no intrinsic nature.

The consciousness/awareness is also of dependent origination and therefore empty.

Time is also of dependent origination and therefore empty.

Emptiness is of dependent origination and is therefore empty.

These investigations allow for one to account for and see the dependent origination of every 'thing'.

And that these 'things' being of dependent origin lack inherent existence.

So if apperceived directly beyond mere conceptualization the reification of these 'things' as being concrete ceases. That includes yourself.... and the knowledge of this. So even though a realization is had, the realization likewise is empty.

I would've broke this down further but i gotta go!
asunthatneversets
 
Posts: 1302
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2011 10:30 pm

Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Konchog1 » Mon Jan 02, 2012 1:37 am

Right, the conditions are empty too and so forth.

I understand that there are no labels without mind. And that there are no senses without phenomena. And that the mind is empty.

So the following verse means that everything exists due to the labels the mind puts on them but the mind itself doesn’t exist inherently? What does subject mean?

22. The manner of all appearances is the creation of one's own mind; the nature of mind from the beginning is free from the extremes of [mental] elaboration. Knowing this, it is the practice of Bodhisattvas not to make mental distinctions between object and subject.

-37 Practices of a Bodhisattva
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
User avatar
Konchog1
 
Posts: 1294
Joined: Sat Nov 26, 2011 4:30 am

Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Mon Jan 02, 2012 2:15 am

Konchog1 wrote:These answers are of course based on my (possibly wrong) understanding so take it with a grain of salt.

Hey Konchog,

You are doing just fine from what I can tell so relax and enjoy the swim.

I started this post to try and clarify my questions but it sort of meandered into a vague question about "nature of." But hey, now we have your reply and an interesting comment from the sun that never sets. How cool is that? Great group here.

I think my main issue with these emptiness discussions was how people mixed the terms "nonexistence" and "emptiness". It felt confusing and I tried to clarify that in your thread.

As for this thread, I pretty much concur with your points.

Regards,
Dave.
yadave
 
Posts: 116
Joined: Sat Dec 31, 2011 6:57 pm

Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Quiet Heart » Mon Jan 02, 2012 4:55 am

:smile:
I hope this doesn't confuse you more...but such questions and the explanations can not be understood merely by intellectual efforts...not by mind alone.
The best example I can give of what I mean by this type of understanding not dependent on intellectual effort alone is this:
My wife and I have been together for 30 years. We have a shared history of experiences...and a common language of understanding from those shared experiences.
So sometimes when she says something, I can understand her meaning...outside of what another without that common language of shared experience could understand.
But that other person COULD learn that common language...if he or she was willing to invest the time and effort to do that.
For me, personally, that explanantion has a lot to do with understanding "emptiness", "dependent arising or dependent origination", "existance", and the relationship between "object (which is percieved)" and "observer" (that which percieved).
Pretty heavy stuff...and not the kind of thing you can understand in a single reading or even repeated readings.
I started this voyage 5 years ago...had no idea where it would take me then...and, if I have learned anything in that time, it is only in the last 6 months or so that it has become clear where the trip is taking me.
So you see, once you're in the pool, the water gets deep very quickly at the deep end of that pool.
But, enough of that, here's a poem as a quote to consider.
The lines is parentheses () are my comments

The mind-ground is birthless from the first;
(In short...it is EMPTY....emptiness)
The causal ground arises from underlying cause.
(All objects and experiences that are CAUSED are dependently arising...therefore they are essentially empty)
Seed and underlying cause do not impede each other;
(BOTH the object percieved and the perciever do not invalidate the other's existance)
Neither do the flower of wisdom and the fruit of enlightenment.
(I take this conclusion on faith alone...I hope it is indeed true)

From: The Transmission Of The Lamp, Sohaku Ogata p.35
:smile:
Shame on you Shakyamuni for setting the precedent of leaving home.
Did you think it was not there--
in your wife's lovely face
in your baby's laughter?
Did you think you had to go elsewhere (simply) to find it?
from - Judyth Collin
The Layman's Lament
From What Book, 1998, p. 52
Edited by Gary Gach
User avatar
Quiet Heart
 
Posts: 269
Joined: Thu May 19, 2011 10:57 am
Location: Bangkok Thailand

Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby DarwidHalim » Mon Jan 02, 2012 4:59 am

You may need these books to have a clear understanding of emptiness, relative truth, ultimate truth, or dependent origination.

1. The sun of wisdom - this is the foundation
2. Relative truth, ultimate truth - geshe tashi tsering
3. Emptiness - gear tashi tsering
4. Boddhisattva way of life, chapter 9 - perfection of wisdom - shantideva

There are a few books explaining this chapter 9, such as
Practicing wisdom - dalai Lama
The nectar of manjushri's speech - kunzang pelden

They are many books actually.

With your super effort, you will quickly get it.
:namaste:
I am not here nor there.
I am not right nor wrong.
I do not exist neither non-exist.
I am not I nor non-I.
I am not in samsara nor nirvana.
To All Buddhas, I bow down for the teaching of emptiness. Thank You!
User avatar
DarwidHalim
 
Posts: 418
Joined: Thu Sep 22, 2011 6:04 pm

Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby ground » Mon Jan 02, 2012 5:34 am

DarwidHalim wrote:They are many books actually.

With your super effort, you will quickly get it.

Yes, if you do not already have it you will get it - incurability.

Kind regards
User avatar
ground
 
Posts: 1782
Joined: Mon Nov 23, 2009 8:31 am

Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Beatzen » Mon Jan 02, 2012 6:32 am

as i understand this, and in the context of my practice, it is something unattainable.

i like how dr. robert thurman puts it. he says that you spend so long looking for the self, not getting caught up in story lines of the non-finding, but keeping watch untill a non-conceptual understanding sunyata effortlessly arises.

i think that this sort of tells us that on the relative level, concepts of an 'emptiness' can be useful. ultimately, you're discussing a freedom which is free of itself. i like the mahayana idea of a dharmakaya... that we are already in touch with these truths, but so ignorantly fixated that we can't recognize what's under our noses

im of the opinion that emptiness is something you settle for when your desire to 'possess' truth is utterly exhausted, the way a zen student's mental effort implodes before they understand the meaning of a koan.
"Cause is not before and Effect is not after"
- Eihei Dogen Zenji
User avatar
Beatzen
 
Posts: 206
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 6:18 am
Location: Portland, Oregon, USA

Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Mon Jan 02, 2012 6:35 am

asunthatneversets wrote:It gets a little more in-depth than just seeing that "things" are only dependent on constituent qualities (such as a tree is dependent on branches, leaves, space etc..). There's different "tiers" or levels of the emptiness investigation and it's application to reality. In seeing that nothing inherently exists separate from causes and conditions the study actually has to descend to the most fundamental of levels in order to have a profound effect, otherwise it merely stays on the level of conceptualization(which is all well and good, but there's "deeper" realizations to be had).

Hi Sunshine,

Forgive me if this is inappropriate, it feels awkward saying "Hi A Sun That Never Sets". Let me know what works best.

Thanks so much for your interesting discussion of emptiness. It reminds me of page 4 in the book I'm reading, "Essentials of Mahamudra",

Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche wrote:It is important to know why we practice meditation. There are two main types of meditation: analytical meditation and placement meditation. The Madhyamaka school has given us extensive, clear explanations of how external things or phenomena are actually emptiness. In analytical meditation we meditate on these reasons and arguments; however it is very difficult to actually meditate on the emptiness of phenomena. In the tantric, or Vajrayana, tradition of Tibet, rather than meditating on the nature of external phenomena, we meditate on mind itself. The technique of mahamudra meditation is essential and unique to the Vajrayana tradition.

Your post is sort of like analytical meditation on steroids. I find this very helpful. Even sitting outdoors, looking at a tree, becoming aware of its branches, its bark, imagining its roots reaching into the ground, and going further, the rings in its trunk for every year, the wood cells, on and on and on. It relaxes me and does alter my perception of this wonderful "tree" in front of me. Is this an analytical meditation? It sure ain't shamata.

I tried to follow your exposition but, in all honesty, I get lost. You sound like someone who is quite knowledgeable on the original arguments surrounding Nagarjuna's life and legacy. From my modern naive perspective, I like Ken McLeod's definition of "mind" as the entire package of internal experience (feelings, thoughts, sense of self, aggregates) so some of your presentation, contrasting "mind" with "thought" and so on does not compute. Nevertheless, I attempt the exercise, I deconstruct my poor tree upward and downward into infinite graphs of bigger and smaller dependencies. At this point my poor tree is so empty you could spit. (Ph-tooeey.) Then I think you ask what my project itself is dependent on (this is an exercise in dependent origination) and you conclude that my project ("things depend on concepts and concepts depend on things?") depends on the tree it is deconstructing? Not really. If I were to continue this exercise, I might say my conceptual project depends on my interest in Buddhism which leads us to basic personality, disposition, genetics, random selection and things that may not have been popular in Nagarjuna's day.

So you lost me, friend!

Regards,
Dave.
yadave
 
Posts: 116
Joined: Sat Dec 31, 2011 6:57 pm

Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby asunthatneversets » Tue Jan 03, 2012 4:08 am

Konchog1 wrote:
I understand that there are no labels without mind. And that there are no senses without phenomena. And that the mind is empty.


But more so that since 'senses and phenomena' are of interdependent origination they are not two separate things. Same goes for 'labels(thoughts/concepts) and mind(thought-based-mind)'... with any of these pairs, if emptiness is applied correctly, the direct intuitive knowing that the pair is in fact not-two or non-dual, should be very apparent. And this apperception should negate the inherent existence of said 'pair'.

Konchog1 wrote:So the following verse means that everything exists due to the labels the mind puts on them but the mind itself doesn’t exist inherently? What does subject mean?

22. The manner of all appearances is the creation of one's own mind; the nature of mind from the beginning is free from the extremes of [mental] elaboration. Knowing this, it is the practice of Bodhisattvas not to make mental distinctions between object and subject.

-37 Practices of a Bodhisattva


Yes that 'things' exist because of the labels projected by the mind, and the mind-itself has no inherent existence beyond the labels(thoughts/concepts). One way to look at it is; the supposed 'mind' is projecting labels onto seamless fields of sensory perception... but ultimately the notion of 'sensory perceptions' needs to be seen as empty too.

Subject and object is 'self and other'... so you are the subject, or at least you feel you are... you lack inherent existence as well. There's no separation between 'you' and 'what you experience'.

"extremes of [mental] elaboration" in that verse points to how concepts arise in a dualistic schematic... hot implies cold, dark implies light, life implies death, up implies down.... etc..

Every-thing is empty and therefore lacks inherent existence. Things have conventional existence as "labels/ideas/concepts" but beyond their conventionality they are unreal.
asunthatneversets
 
Posts: 1302
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2011 10:30 pm

Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby asunthatneversets » Tue Jan 03, 2012 5:02 am

yadave wrote:
Hi Sunshine,

Forgive me if this is inappropriate, it feels awkward saying "Hi A Sun That Never Sets". Let me know what works best.

Thanks so much for your interesting discussion of emptiness. It reminds me of page 4 in the book I'm reading, "Essentials of Mahamudra",

Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche wrote:It is important to know why we practice meditation. There are two main types of meditation: analytical meditation and placement meditation. The Madhyamaka school has given us extensive, clear explanations of how external things or phenomena are actually emptiness. In analytical meditation we meditate on these reasons and arguments; however it is very difficult to actually meditate on the emptiness of phenomena. In the tantric, or Vajrayana, tradition of Tibet, rather than meditating on the nature of external phenomena, we meditate on mind itself. The technique of mahamudra meditation is essential and unique to the Vajrayana tradition.

Your post is sort of like analytical meditation on steroids. I find this very helpful. Even sitting outdoors, looking at a tree, becoming aware of its branches, its bark, imagining its roots reaching into the ground, and going further, the rings in its trunk for every year, the wood cells, on and on and on. It relaxes me and does alter my perception of this wonderful "tree" in front of me. Is this an analytical meditation? It sure ain't shamata.


Sunshine works for me! That is an analytical meditation, separating something into it's constituent pieces by means of mental deconstruction. There's many different types of analytical meditation, and especially in the theme of emptiness. It's good to start off with external objects, and then eventually move to yourself. If you google "Chandrakirti’s Sevenfold Reasoning" some good links come up... a guy by the name of Greg Goode, Ph.D has a great discourse on it, the link should pop up in that search close to the top. It's a similar meditation.

yadave wrote:I tried to follow your exposition but, in all honesty, I get lost. You sound like someone who is quite knowledgeable on the original arguments surrounding Nagarjuna's life and legacy. From my modern naive perspective, I like Ken McLeod's definition of "mind" as the entire package of internal experience (feelings, thoughts, sense of self, aggregates) so some of your presentation, contrasting "mind" with "thought" and so on does not compute. Nevertheless, I attempt the exercise, I deconstruct my poor tree upward and downward into infinite graphs of bigger and smaller dependencies. At this point my poor tree is so empty you could spit. (Ph-tooeey.) Then I think you ask what my project itself is dependent on (this is an exercise in dependent origination) and you conclude that my project ("things depend on concepts and concepts depend on things?") depends on the tree it is deconstructing? Not really. If I were to continue this exercise, I might say my conceptual project depends on my interest in Buddhism which leads us to basic personality, disposition, genetics, random selection and things that may not have been popular in Nagarjuna's day.

So you lost me, friend!

Regards,
Dave.


The term "mind" can actually have a lot of different meanings in teachings like this, depending on who's coining the term. Most, like it seems Ken McLeod did; try to make it clear what they mean by "mind", i should've done the same in writing all that. Mind in the way i presented it is just the thought and memory based "mind". So mind in the way i used it, is a collection of thoughts and memories.

That section where I asked "what your project itself is dependent on" I was just trying to show that the deconstructing and conceptualizing is a thought-based activity, so it's dependent on the mind, as an activity of mind. As you're sitting there looking at the tree, the act of analytically deconstructing the tree into all of those parts you mentioned is an activity going on in your mind; be it via cognitive visualizations or thinking or what-have-you. But i'm not saying that the "things depend on concepts and concepts depend on things", i'm attempting to convey that there are no 'things' apart from concepts or ideas. The concept IS the thing. There's no inherently existing 'thing' there. So there is no tree apart from the conceptualization of 'the tree'. There isn't even a 'you' apart from the conceptualization of 'you'.

Prior to, during and after the conceptualization of the tree; the clusters of sensation which are labeled as 'tree' are actually inseparable parts of un-fragmented fields of sensory perception. For example; the field of vision is only a field.. what is seen 'in' the field is not separate from 'seeing'. You can even say it's 'made' of 'seeing'. So as you sit there looking at the tree... the 'tree' is 'made' of seeing, it's made of vision.. and truly the tree 'is' vision. If you 'touch' the tree, there is no tree separate from the tactile sensation of 'touch'. What you call a tree is made of sensory perception. And sensory perception IS whatever is perceived. They are not separate, they are not two. What you call your 'body' is the same way. It's merely a part of sensory fields and is inseparable from sense perception. So there is no 'body' inherently. This is going to be counter-intutitive to how you normally accept experience to be, but that's the point of these inquiries and teachings. They are meant to bring about a radical change.

Ultimately 'sensory perception' or 'sense fields' will be seen as empty as well. And consciousness, awareness, life, death.... the rabbit hole gets deep.
asunthatneversets
 
Posts: 1302
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2011 10:30 pm

Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Tue Jan 03, 2012 8:32 pm

asunthatneversets wrote:Sunshine works for me! That [tree deconstruction] an analytical meditation, separating something into it's constituent pieces by means of mental deconstruction. There's many different types of analytical meditation, and especially in the theme of emptiness. It's good to start off with external objects, and then eventually move to yourself. If you google "Chandrakirti’s Sevenfold Reasoning" some good links come up... a guy by the name of Greg Goode, Ph.D has a great discourse on it, the link should pop up in that search close to the top. It's a similar meditation.

This is very good, thank you, but Oof!, it's a bit more complicated than Vedanta self-inquiry where the instruction is simply "find out who you are." One asks "Am I this body?" Then "Who is aware of this body?" One repeatedly pushes back in this way, not this, not that. I believe Vedanta and Buddhist schools hold different interpretations of the outcome but these are wonderful practices for head-cases like myself, turning one's busy mind back onto itself.

asunthatneversets wrote:That section where I asked "what your project itself is dependent on" I was just trying to show that the deconstructing and conceptualizing is a thought-based activity, so it's dependent on the mind, as an activity of mind. As you're sitting there looking at the tree, the act of analytically deconstructing the tree into all of those parts you mentioned is an activity going on in your mind; be it via cognitive visualizations or thinking or what-have-you. But i'm not saying that the "things depend on concepts and concepts depend on things", i'm attempting to convey that

1. there are no 'things' apart from concepts or ideas. The concept IS the thing.

2. There's no inherently existing 'thing' there. So there is no tree apart from the conceptualization of 'the tree'.

3. There isn't even a 'you' apart from the conceptualization of 'you'.

Thanks for clarifying. I have no trouble with (3). In fact, (3) agrees, in both meaning *and* language use, with modern cognitive science. The brain is complex and most of what we experience happens prior to "us" "seeing" "it."

As they stand, your (1) and (2) are solipsism. To hijack a quote from Greg Goode, Ph.D.:
Buddha wrote:What the world accepts, I accept. What the world does not accept, I do not accept.

I do not accept us casually saying "that car does not really exist" as we watch it pass by together or capture it with a hidden camera for later viewing. This language is too far from the world. If "shared reality does not really exist" then we must diverge into a lengthy discourse on why reality no longer means existence as it is used in modern science and philosophy. Granted, my existence project may go nowhere since the Heart Sutra is already loaded with "no nose, no eye" rather than "no nose Essence, no eye Essence", but hopefully I'll still get to Rome.

I have no trouble saying "the car is empty" -- Buddhism has a patent on "empty" and can say whatever it likes -- and when anyone asks what "the car is empty" means, we walk them through the deconstruction practice, help them see how the car's existence depends on innumerable factors, help them appreciate how the car is much more than it seems. But the car still exists, otherwise we would not agree it was a car.

Or something like that.

Maybe there is no clear discussion in Buddhism on the elephant in the dream (no external referent) versus the elephant in the waking state (external referent, shared reality).

Regards,
Dave.
yadave
 
Posts: 116
Joined: Sat Dec 31, 2011 6:57 pm

Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Tue Jan 03, 2012 8:59 pm

Take a careful look at this list of ingredients:
Water: 78%
Fat: 11%
Protein:8%
Soluble organic substances: 2%
Inorganic salts: 1%
That is the material composition of the human brain.
So, who is reading the list - Is it "you" or is it these these composites?
.
...or is it something else?
Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
User avatar
PadmaVonSamba
 
Posts: 2845
Joined: Sat May 14, 2011 1:41 am

Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby LastLegend » Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:01 pm

I am sorry can you all repeat the question? Just put all of your concern about emptiness into one question.
NAMO AMITABHA
NAM MO A DI DA PHAT (VIETNAMESE)
NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)
User avatar
LastLegend
 
Posts: 2005
Joined: Sat Mar 19, 2011 3:46 pm
Location: Washington DC

Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:26 pm

yadave wrote: Or something like that.

We have a shared reality because we have, as humans,
evolved a nearly identical process of processing stimuli.
All animals are like this.
We perceive the same events the same way because we are built in much the same way.
But different animals perceive the same things differently.

Consider the situation of a house cat, a snail, and a hummingbird
passing through a garden on a warm spring day.
Each one perceives their pace, their speed, as "normal" speed.
The cat sees the humming bird moving in a blur,
and the snail as creeping along at what we would call a snail's pace.
This is similar to what a human sees.
But the snail sees the cat as a blur, and cannot perceive the hummingbird at all.
Likewise, the hummingbird perceives the cat as moving in 'slow motion'
and cannot detect any movement by the snail at all,
just a we cannot easily see the movement of the hour hand on a clock.
So, the snail sees the cat the way the cat sees the bird
and the bird sees the cat the way the cat sees the snail.

Two snails were watching flowers bloom one summer day.
"Wow--did you see that one open?" says one snail.
"Darn!" says the other snail, "I blinked, and missed it!"

We can put together parts and call them cars, and even say we are hit by a car, and ten witnesses can identify the same grouping of parts and say it is the same car, and the police can take a picture of it and call it a picture of the car that hit you.

At the same time, if you put that photo of a car into a dark sealed box, the picture of the car no longer exists. The causes for that image exist, embedded in the coating of the photo paper. And as soon as you take the lid off the box, the image will reappear, on the paper, at the speed of light.

Does a tree falling in a forest make a sound if no ears are there to hear it? No. It will cause air molecules to vibrate, and even these vibrations can be recorded, but until those vibrations (live or recorded) hit ear drums and are processed by the brain and experienced by the mind, there is no sound.

.
.
.
Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
User avatar
PadmaVonSamba
 
Posts: 2845
Joined: Sat May 14, 2011 1:41 am

Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:36 pm

yadave wrote: If "shared reality does not really exist" then we must diverge into a lengthy discourse on why reality no longer means existence...


I think, what exists is the fact that we all share something the same way.
What may not exist, is the thing we think we are sharing.
The car is a little bit of an illusion,
but our perceptions are even more of an illusion.

Speaking of cars, I saw a great bumper sticker. It read:
Don't Believe Everything You Think.
.
.
.
Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
User avatar
PadmaVonSamba
 
Posts: 2845
Joined: Sat May 14, 2011 1:41 am

Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby asunthatneversets » Tue Jan 03, 2012 11:29 pm

yadave wrote:
asunthatneversets wrote:That section where I asked "what your project itself is dependent on" I was just trying to show that the deconstructing and conceptualizing is a thought-based activity, so it's dependent on the mind, as an activity of mind. As you're sitting there looking at the tree, the act of analytically deconstructing the tree into all of those parts you mentioned is an activity going on in your mind; be it via cognitive visualizations or thinking or what-have-you. But i'm not saying that the "things depend on concepts and concepts depend on things", i'm attempting to convey that

1. there are no 'things' apart from concepts or ideas. The concept IS the thing.

2. There's no inherently existing 'thing' there. So there is no tree apart from the conceptualization of 'the tree'.

3. There isn't even a 'you' apart from the conceptualization of 'you'.

Thanks for clarifying. I have no trouble with (3). In fact, (3) agrees, in both meaning *and* language use, with modern cognitive science. The brain is complex and most of what we experience happens prior to "us" "seeing" "it."

As they stand, your (1) and (2) are solipsism.


Definition of Solipsism: the philosophical idea that only one's own mind, alone, is sure to exist.

They would be solipsistic if there was in fact an individual(subject) who possessed a mind, which was the center of activity. This isn't so.

As for (3) I'd advise not seeking to compare or validate any of these teachings with findings of modern cognitive science. Sure there may be some parallels on a relative level but modern cognitive science isn't of the same nature. Same goes for 'the brain'. Don't take my word for it, but if you treat the brain as the all powerful source of things, and that you are a product of cerebral processes there won't be much progress made. Reality isn't subject to materialism, idealism, solipsism or any of these designations, and neither are these teachings. Step outside of the modern cognitive scientific paradigm which reigns supreme in our culture, for it is just that... a mere paradigm.


yadave wrote: To hijack a quote from Greg Goode, Ph.D.:
Buddha wrote:What the world accepts, I accept. What the world does not accept, I do not accept.

I do not accept us casually saying "that car does not really exist" as we watch it pass by together or capture it with a hidden camera for later viewing. This language is too far from the world. If "shared reality does not really exist" then we must diverge into a lengthy discourse on why reality no longer means existence as it is used in modern science and philosophy. Granted, my existence project may go nowhere since the Heart Sutra is already loaded with "no nose, no eye" rather than "no nose Essence, no eye Essence", but hopefully I'll still get to Rome.


We're not saying "the car does not really exist"... it certainly does conventionally. But not inherently. Conventionally, you're projecting "a car" and projecting "two of us" to "watch" it "pass by". Everything in that sentence in quotations is a projection. I'm not sure if this language is too far from the world, or the world is too far from this language. More-so that the world is a product of this language. Again diverging into a lengthy discourse to prove whether this (i guess you'd label it as "un-modern philosophy?" according to your point of view) does or doesn't compare to the notion of 'existence' in "modern science and philosophy"; is again assuming that 'modern science and philosophy' is somehow 'more mature' or 'of greater substance'. This simply isn't the case. You're taking 'modern science and philosophy' to be a 'truth' and then creating a point of reference based on that projected truth. And then using that point of view/reference to judge these teachings and discourses. If you insist the 'truth' is in these modern schools of thought then you're shooting yourself in the foot to begin with. There will need to be a willingness to be open to the idea that these 'modern' paradigms may not be what you take them to be. Otherwise you're not open to reconfiguring how you experience reality, you're shut into a certain mode of thinking, taking that to be 'the truth' and then comparing all to it. Your 'truths' haven't liberated you thus far, maybe try being open to the idea that they aren't 'ultimate truths' but merely a product of the intellectual state of western man trying to prove it's misguided assumptions of a materialistic world. Your road to Rome seems to be crossing the himalayas backwards and naked. While these teachings are trying to show you that you never left Rome to begin with.

yadave wrote:I have no trouble saying "the car is empty" -- Buddhism has a patent on "empty" and can say whatever it likes -- and when anyone asks what "the car is empty" means, we walk them through the deconstruction practice, help them see how the car's existence depends on innumerable factors, help them appreciate how the car is much more than it seems. But the car still exists, otherwise we would not agree it was a car.

Or something like that.

Maybe there is no clear discussion in Buddhism on the elephant in the dream (no external referent) versus the elephant in the waking state (external referent, shared reality).

Regards,
Dave.


This isn't some mere philosophical pondering one does for fun. The elephant(or car) in the 'dream' is of the same nature of the elephant(or car) in the 'waking state'... and apart from conventionality there is no external or internal. It's the same empty 'screen' images are appearing on(the images being inseparable from the screen), only in the 'waking state' time and space appear to be more solidified due to ignorance. Reality isn't shared between anyone, in truth there is only a timeless display of nondual perfection. But I cannot ask you to believe that, and I hope that someday this apperception dawns upon you for the sake and benefit of all sentient beings.
asunthatneversets
 
Posts: 1302
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2011 10:30 pm

Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Tue Jan 03, 2012 11:35 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:Take a careful look at this list of ingredients:
Water: 78%
Fat: 11%
Protein:8%
Soluble organic substances: 2%
Inorganic salts: 1%
That is the material composition of the human brain.
So, who is reading the list - Is it "you" or is it these these composites?
.
...or is it something else?

A fundamental challenge for hard materialism is just this: if the universe is deterministic, nothing more than a giant machine of causes and effects, then how can we have free will?

Mystics have the same dilemma: if there is no "you", then who is free to change anything? I think Vedanta gives up, like Descartes, and says "OK, God is doing the looking, you're God, have a nice day." I don't think Buddhists go that far being fascinated as they are with voids and the like.

PadmaVonSamba wrote:We have a shared reality because we have, as humans, evolved a nearly identical process of processing stimuli. All animals are like this. We perceive the same events the same way because we are built in much the same way. But different animals perceive the same things differently.

Different people perceive the same things differently. ;)

I concur with you. I think my emphasis here is to avoid drifting into solipsism where the only thing real is whatever you happen to be thinking about at the moment.

PadmaVonSamba wrote:Two snails were watching flowers bloom one summer day.
"Wow--did you see that one open?" says one snail.
"Darn!" says the other snail, "I blinked, and missed it!"

LOL, this is hilarious!

PadmaVonSamba wrote:Does a tree falling in a forest make a sound if no ears are there to hear it? No. It will cause air molecules to vibrate, and even these vibrations can be recorded, but until those vibrations (live or recorded) hit ear drums and are processed by the brain and experienced by the mind, there is no sound.

You just admitted that air molecules, vibrations, and tape recorders have a reality external to or separate from you and I. This is my point. Yes they are all empty, yes they depend on many causes and conditions for their existence, but they do not depend on my mood or whether you are taking a nap.

PadmaVonSamba wrote:Speaking of cars, I saw a great bumper sticker. It read: Don't Believe Everything You Think.

That's great. Another of my favorites is the Zen tee-shirt that reads: Just Don't Know.

Regards,
Dave.
yadave
 
Posts: 116
Joined: Sat Dec 31, 2011 6:57 pm

Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Wed Jan 04, 2012 2:12 am

asunthatneversets wrote:Definition of Solipsism: the philosophical idea that only one's own mind, alone, is sure to exist. [My points (1) and (2)] would be solipsistic if there was in fact an individual(subject) who possessed a mind, which was the center of activity. This isn't so.

You are correct. I will try to dot my i's in future and use "idealism" rather than "solipsism" to describe the view that "reality is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial."

asunthatneversets wrote:As for (3) I'd advise not seeking to compare or validate any of these teachings with findings of modern cognitive science.

I did not know you were a guru. Right on.

asunthatneversets wrote:Sure there may be some parallels on a relative level but modern cognitive science isn't of the same nature.

I would need you to unpack this for me before I know how to respond.

asunthatneversets wrote:Same goes for 'the brain'. Don't take my word for it, but if you treat the brain as the all powerful source of things, and that you are a product of cerebral processes there won't be much progress made.

Well, there is no "me" as you pointed out above and my concern was how your (1) and (2) treat the brain as a source of things. I compare the brain to the heart. Some years ago, Israeli scientists successfully coerced stem cells into heart cells and the damn things were beating. It's amazing, they know how to be a heart on the cellular level. Similarly, brains know how to think, brains exude thoughts.

asunthatneversets wrote:Reality isn't subject to materialism, idealism, solipsism or any of these designations, and neither are these teachings.

"Reality" is a word. It is subject to the world's shared definition of it if we are to heed Buddha's advice and "accept what the world accepts."

asunthatneversets wrote:Step outside of the modern cognitive scientific paradigm which reigns supreme in our culture, for it is just that... a mere paradigm.

But it is a new paradigm, my Lord. I think that should count for something.

asunthatneversets wrote:We're not saying "the car does not really exist"...

Actually, lots of people are saying "the car really doesn't exist" or "ultimately, the car doesn't exist." It's awful. If this Ultimate Reality is not unreal then the car really doesn't exist and Buddhism reduces to Idealism.

asunthatneversets wrote:[the car] certainly does [exist] conventionally. But not inherently.

Seems simpler to just say "for Buddhists, the car is not what it seems" and if anyone is curious we explain how the car depends on many factors. I mean, look at the expression "inherently existing". Does *anything* have this property? No? The darn thing (i.e., the concept "inherently existing") is metaphysical to start with yet it litters every other sentence. I appreciate its importance but wonder if we could leave existing language conventions, like "exists" and "reality", out of it and simply say "the car is empty" which has a specific meaning that differs from the notion of "empty space" which is what "nonexistent" brings to mind.

asunthatneversets wrote:Conventionally, you're projecting "a car" and projecting "two of us" to "watch" it "pass by". Everything in that sentence in quotations is a projection.

The car will pass by and we will see it regardless of whether:

4) We both somehow magically create mental projections of the same blue car moving at the same speed; or

5) The car possesses an external reality / existence that causes us both to experience the same thing.

I'm a Number 5. I think both (4) and (5) require us to grow up in similar environments where there are cars and such.

asunthatneversets wrote:I'm not sure if this language is too far from the world, or the world is too far from this language.

The language is too far from the world. Trust me on this one.

Regards,
Dave.
yadave
 
Posts: 116
Joined: Sat Dec 31, 2011 6:57 pm

Next

Return to Mahāyāna Buddhism

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 15 guests

>