Misunderstanding emptiness

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Wed Jan 11, 2012 6:32 am

It is odd that there was such interest in Conventional Reality on its original thread but now there is none.

It is odd that the only response was "More Gelug naval gazing" and no Gelug's jump forward (if this has anything to do with it).

Almost makes me uncomfortable to ask.

I don't see other discussions on Google, maybe the book is too new.

Hmm... Anyway, I finally purchased Moonshadows for Kindle so I won't return as a slug.

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Malcolm » Wed Jan 11, 2012 6:47 am

yadave wrote:It is odd that there was such interest in Conventional Reality on its original thread but now there is none.

It is odd that the only response was "More Gelug naval gazing" and no Gelug's jump forward (if this has anything to do with it).

Almost makes me uncomfortable to ask.


The reason is,is that that I can argue for the Gelug position and against it. BTW, I know Jay Garfield reasonably well, and we have also had this conversation. He is a smart guy, but I don't completely agree with his assessment of Madhyamaka -- but we respect each other.

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Wed Jan 11, 2012 7:32 am

Namdrol wrote:
yadave wrote:It is odd that there was such interest in Conventional Reality on its original thread but now there is none.

It is odd that the only response was "More Gelug naval gazing" and no Gelug's jump forward (if this has anything to do with it).

Almost makes me uncomfortable to ask.

The reason is,is that that I can argue for the Gelug position and against it. BTW, I know Jay Garfield reasonably well, and we have also had this conversation. He is a smart guy, but I don't completely agree with his assessment of Madhyamaka -- but we respect each other.

N

Hey Namdrol.

Well I am glad to see you acknowledge more than one view! ;)

And if you can argue for and against a view, it makes one wonder why you casually brush one off.

I look back at Chandrakirti's Sevenfold Reasoning on Selflessness that Sunshine turned me on to, http://www.nonduality.com/goode6.htm, and it looks so abstract, so general, like Candrakirti has the situation all wrapped up. Then I look at my example of a modern person searching for saltiness and stopping at the salt molecule and it seems so dumb to continue decomposing things, everything is made of the smaller stuff. Then I think, well Candrakirti lived in 6th century and his mental picture consisted of elements like fire, water, cookie dough, and so on. Today, modern peoples' general view includes many things we've learned over the years from chemistry and so on. So I still wonder if Candrakirti would even try to pull off his generic effort in today's world. Is this interesting? To Buddhists who debate Buddhism? Does Candrakirti have a non-metaphysical response to my salt molecule story?

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Malcolm » Wed Jan 11, 2012 3:36 pm

yadave wrote:And if you can argue for and against a view, it makes one wonder why you casually brush one off.


Because I think that Tsongkhapa's presentation does not reflect Chandrakirti's intention, or that of Nagarjuna.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Malcolm » Wed Jan 11, 2012 3:40 pm

yadave wrote: Then I look at my example of a modern person searching for saltiness and stopping at the salt molecule and it seems so dumb to continue decomposing things, everything is made of the smaller stuff.


Molecules are made of atoms which are made of electrons and protons, etc.

By stopping at the salt molecule, you are making precisely the mistake Madhyamakas criticized Sarvastivadins for making i.e. arbitrarily stopping your analysis at a false level of irreducibility.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby conebeckham » Wed Jan 11, 2012 5:55 pm

In my view, Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti are solely concerned with dispelling our clinging to conceptual imputations regarding the nature of things, and beings. Aside from conventional appearance, which they grant, nothing more can be said about relative truth, from the Absolute POV--this, in fact, is precisely the point. Tsong Khapa and his followers aim to reconcile conventional appearance (and the model of Abhidharma, Laws of Karma, and therefore Ethical Basis, etc.) with some sort of "conditional existence," which leads to the novelties of their system--but this has been discussed before.

The main point is that we need to come to the end of our conceptual proliferation, that we realize the rational, conceptual, consciousness is limited, and that there is an alternative to this thinking.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Wed Jan 11, 2012 11:50 pm

Namdrol wrote:
yadave wrote:And if you can argue for and against a view, it makes one wonder why you casually brush one off.

Because I think that Tsongkhapa's presentation does not reflect Chandrakirti's intention, or that of Nagarjuna.

OK, fine, but that is a question of values or hermeneutics. It is not always clear to beginners like myself whether a position is an opinion or something fundamental that cannot be known without direct experience of levitation or whatever. ;)

Namdrol wrote:
yadave wrote:Then I look at my example of a modern person searching for saltiness and stopping at the salt molecule and it seems so dumb to continue decomposing things, everything is made of the smaller stuff.

Molecules are made of atoms which are made of electrons and protons, etc.

By stopping at the salt molecule, you are making precisely the mistake Madhyamakas criticized Sarvastivadins for making i.e. arbitrarily stopping your analysis at a false level of irreducibility.

But atoms are not salty. The homework assignment was to find saltiness.

conebeckham wrote:In my view, Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti are solely concerned with dispelling our clinging to conceptual imputations regarding the nature of things, and beings. Aside from conventional appearance, which they grant, nothing more can be said about relative truth, from the Absolute POV--this, in fact, is precisely the point. Tsong Khapa and his followers aim to reconcile conventional appearance (and the model of Abhidharma, Laws of Karma, and therefore Ethical Basis, etc.) with some sort of "conditional existence," which leads to the novelties of their system--but this has been discussed before.

The main point is that we need to come to the end of our conceptual proliferation, that we realize the rational, conceptual, consciousness is limited, and that there is an alternative to this thinking.

Well, I am not familiar with Tsong Khapa yet, except a few things I read here, but otherwise totally agree with your comments. Buddhism has helped me enormously in getting some distance from my own kleshas, being able to work with them rather than being owned by them, but this work is internal, trees are about the same as before, but trees never push my buttons (unless I bump my head on one).

The thrust of my points here, I hope, is to highlight the confusion that can result when we speak of "shared reality" in the same way as internal work. Interestingly, in the Mahamudra book I recently completed, Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche often separates mental and physical, for example "emptiness of mind" versus "emptiness of external phenomena." (Also see 10th message in this thread).

I'm also looking at the method Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti came up with to help dispel our clinging. It starts out with two truths or two contexts in which statements may be true or false depending on context. On top of that, it chooses a 6th century language of antirealism whose words, like "reality" and "illusion", have very different meanings in today's "language framework." As if that weren't enough excitement, the purpose of the Madhyamaka method of discourse is to reject Any view, including the Madhyamaka view itself, and that's OK, because Madhyamikas neither accept nor reject their own view!

So it is almost like a semantic game and it is no wonder we see readers (including me) being confused. Confusion is fine in Zen, that's the whole purpose in (Rinzai) Zen, but Zen does not pretend there is anything to "understand" or "figure out" and that may not always be clear in our Madhyamaka back-and-forth.

Anyway, the answer to the koan is "There are at least four contexts going on here, reader beware!" ;)

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Fri Jan 13, 2012 9:02 pm

This discussion seems to be winding down. In my Mahamudra readings, Tibetan teachers all speak of "shared reality" while the only explanation or cause offered for it is "interdependence," another term for "dependent origination," and to me this feels like more of a platitude than an explanation. In my search for explanations of why external phenomena "don't really exist," I always find analogies to dreams, or the relativity of words like long and short, or the difference in peoples' values and judgements about what they see, and this is taken as an argument that "tables don't exist" for example. Yet this is simply a category error: using a subjective reality to prove something about an objective reality. As soon as we agree on a method to measure a physical property of the table, like its weight, then we will again have a "shared reality" and will agree. (I guess an antirealist can say anything she wants, objective collapses to subjective, but she still lacks a satisfying explanation for shared perceptions.)

From "Vivid Awareness, The Mind Instructions of Khenpo Gangshar, page 92:"

Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche wrote:Why is it so hard to experience external things as mind? It is because when an external object appears, it appears pretty much the same way whether there are five people looking at it, or six, or seven, or eight people looking at it. Everyone who looks at one object will say it is more or less the same sort of thing. We all think we are looking at the one, same thing, and this one thing does not seem like mind at all. We have a habitual tendency not to see it as mind, so it is not easy to meditate on it as mind. Many people tell me that meditating on external things as mind is very difficult. Some people might say that it is not so hard, but often they are speaking out of intellectual understanding, not experience.

Fascinating studies (Andrew Newberg, etc.) have monitored brains of advanced meditators and provide physical evidence of a collapse in the circuitry that distinguishes inside from outside, or "me" from "not me" as conebeckham mentioned earlier in this thread. I have had some success with "Dave" vanishing in vipashyana but have not experienced trees "on this side of my eyes." I'm sure it would be a mind-blowing sense of oneness, perhaps one day. Even so, even if several of us experience this, we still must interpret "what happened" and "what it means." Judging from our disagreements over Nagarjuna's intentions, I suspect our interpretations of this meditative experience would also not be "shared." ;)

Now folks have probably had enough of my biased heresy, and thinking is overrated anyway, so I'll just wish all the best in whatever practice they resonate with. From Vivid Awareness, page 93:"

Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche wrote:What is most important in the mahamudra instructions is that they are mind instructions: they tell us how to look at our mind, see what it is like, and see where it is. The instructions on dzogchen also give mind instructions, telling us how to look at the mind and see what it is like. In both the mahamudra and dzogchen traditions, what is most important is meditating on the mind, and both explain the reasons why we should meditate on the mind and the benefits of doing so.

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Jan 13, 2012 9:26 pm

yadave wrote: I always find analogies to dreams, or the relativity of words like long and short, or the difference in peoples' values and judgements about what they see, and this is taken as an argument that "tables don't exist" for example.


Correction: Nothing exists which can be called a table.
There is an important difference.

BTW, I just finished reading Vivid Awareness, The Mind Instructions of Khenpo Gangshar after attending a weekend teaching on it. WHAT A GREAT BOOK! I am now reading it again.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Malcolm » Fri Jan 13, 2012 9:40 pm

yadave wrote:But atoms are not salty. The homework assignment was to find saltiness.


If atoms don't produce saltiness, then from where does it come? From where does the saltiness of salt molecules come? Your analysis is not finished.

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Beatzen » Fri Jan 13, 2012 11:27 pm

Namdrol wrote:
yadave wrote:But atoms are not salty. The homework assignment was to find saltiness.


If atoms don't produce saltiness, then from where does it come? From where does the saltiness of salt molecules come? Your analysis is not finished.

N


The sixth consciousness labels the experience "salty", but the taste is dependent both on the molecules of salt and the molecules of taste buds. To paraphrase Padma, there is nothing existing which could be called salty, or cause of it's own saltiness.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Malcolm » Fri Jan 13, 2012 11:31 pm

Beatzen wrote:
Namdrol wrote:
yadave wrote:But atoms are not salty. The homework assignment was to find saltiness.


If atoms don't produce saltiness, then from where does it come? From where does the saltiness of salt molecules come? Your analysis is not finished.

N


The sixth consciousness labels the experience "salty", but the taste is dependent both on the molecules of salt and the molecules of taste buds. To paraphrase Padma, there is nothing existing which could be called salty, or cause of it's own saltiness.


So are you then asserting that saltiness is caused by something other than salt?

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Beatzen » Fri Jan 13, 2012 11:58 pm

Namdrol wrote:So are you then asserting that saltiness is caused by something other than salt?
N

Salty is a discrimination of mind consciousness. The sense object alone is not the cause of the salty experience, because that is a byproduct of the object's interaction with the sense organs. Each link in the chain leading up to mind categorization as "salty" is not the cause in itself. Therefore, emptiness via effective causality.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Sat Jan 14, 2012 1:01 am

I am trying to exit gracefully but you guys keep replying.

PadmaVonSamba wrote:BTW, I just finished reading Vivid Awareness, The Mind Instructions of Khenpo Gangshar after attending a weekend teaching on it. WHAT A GREAT BOOK! I am now reading it again.

I like it too. Khenpo Gangshar is fairly recent, maybe still living. Khenchen Thrangu says (same page as my quotes above) that Khenpo Gangshar separated internal and external phenomena for didactic reasons: "These instructions say that perceived objects are not mind, but that the feelings, thoughts, and things that arise in our mind are."

Namdrol wrote:
yadave wrote:But atoms are not salty. The homework assignment was to find saltiness.

If atoms don't produce saltiness, then from where does it come? From where does the saltiness of salt molecules come? Your analysis is not finished.

Salt molecules are salty. Saltiness comes from salt molecules. I'm not sure which part of this you don't understand. Saltiness is an English word we use to describe the experience of our tongue encountering salt molecules. Snails say "o-h-s-h-i-t" really slowly. These are just different language conventions for the experience of salt molecules.

Beatzen wrote:The sixth consciousness labels the experience "salty", but the taste is dependent both on the molecules of salt and the molecules of taste buds. To paraphrase Padma, there is nothing existing which could be called salty, or cause of it's own saltiness.

But the sixth consciousness cannot discover salt molecules during meditation. Our experience of saltiness requires a tongue but salt molecules may be identified without a tongue, say by chemists. Methinks you project your internal reality too far. Phenomenological absolutism. Salt molecules are salty, you can even see them under special microscopes.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sat Jan 14, 2012 1:22 am

yadave wrote:But the sixth consciousness cannot discover salt molecules during meditation. Our experience of saltiness requires a tongue but salt molecules may be identified without a tongue, say by chemists. Methinks you project your internal reality too far. Phenomenological absolutism. Salt molecules are salty, you can even see them under special microscopes.


sorry, you aren't getting out of here.
:tongue:
"Salty" is a matter of tasting.
So, salt possesses a quality which reacts with the tongue, which the mind identifies as a palatable quality which in the English language is called "salty".

Unless "salty" also refers to melting ice, neutalizing acids and so forth.
In all cases, "saltiness" or (measurable) salinity only occurs in interaction with a secondary property.
So, from the Buddhist point of view, salt is not inherently salty. It is only salty conditionally.

Salt is also white, gritty and dissolves in water as does sugar. Thus, can I say that salt is sugary, or that sugar is salty?
Salt molecules are cubic, like dice. But is salt dicey?
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Virgo » Sat Jan 14, 2012 1:58 am

Beatzen wrote:
Namdrol wrote:So are you then asserting that saltiness is caused by something other than salt?
N

Salty is a discrimination of mind consciousness. The sense object alone is not the cause of the salty experience, because that is a byproduct of the object's interaction with the sense organs. Each link in the chain leading up to mind categorization as "salty" is not the cause in itself. Therefore, emptiness via effective causality.

Taste consciousness actually. But taste consciousness does not produce salty taste; it experiences it. Salty taste comes from salt.

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Beatzen » Sat Jan 14, 2012 2:01 am

Beatzen wrote:The sixth consciousness labels the experience "salty", but the taste is dependent both on the molecules of salt and the molecules of taste buds. To paraphrase Padma, there is nothing existing which could be called salty, or cause of it's own saltiness.

But the sixth consciousness cannot discover salt molecules during meditation. Our experience of saltiness requires a tongue but salt molecules may be identified without a tongue, say by chemists. Methinks you project your internal reality too far. Phenomenological absolutism. Salt molecules are salty, you can even see them under special microscopes.

mind consciousness does not discover because the particle does not enjoy self existence. Think of it more as a salt wave than a salt particle, if you have to objectify the experience- which is an operation of the sixth consciousness. I don't think I project my subjectivity too far. Its far more productive to analyze the interdependence and impermanence of tasting salt, which is subjective, than to speculate about the self nature of a mineral than does not exist apart from ongoing geological formations. Effective causality: the objectively identified as salt mineral is part of a large scale geological movement, one that while slow-moving, has not yet stopped. The salt will not always be salt, has not always been. Can it be said to be salt now?
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Beatzen » Sat Jan 14, 2012 2:04 am

Virgo wrote:
Beatzen wrote:
Namdrol wrote:So are you then asserting that saltiness is caused by something other than salt?
N

Salty is a discrimination of mind consciousness. The sense object alone is not the cause of the salty experience, because that is a byproduct of the object's interaction with the sense organs. Each link in the chain leading up to mind categorization as "salty" is not the cause in itself. Therefore, emptiness via effective causality.

Taste consciousness actually. But taste consciousness does not produce salty taste; it experiences it. Salty taste comes from salt.

Kevin


Yes, but the mind consciousness makes sense of the taste as "salty.". In an of itself, the taste consciousness does not discriminate in the same way.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Sat Jan 14, 2012 2:06 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:"Salty" is a matter of tasting. So, salt possesses a quality which reacts with the tongue, which the mind identifies as a palatable quality which in the English language is called "salty".

Yes.

PadmaVonSamba wrote:Unless "salty" also refers to melting ice, neutalizing acids and so forth.

Yes. Different meanings for words. I think Namdrol threw salt on a table and asked where saltiness was when we were younger.

PadmaVonSamba wrote:In all cases, "saltiness" or (measurable) salinity only occurs in interaction with a secondary property.

Yes. You need to mix it with a tongue or some chemicals to experience saltiness or identify salt molecules. Yet no matter how you discover it, the shared requirement is that salt must be present.

PadmaVonSamba wrote:So, from the Buddhist point of view, salt is not inherently salty. It is only salty conditionally.

I have no problem whatsoever with dependent origination, Padma. It's the metaphysical stuff that raises my eyebrow. I think when traditional Buddhist teachers throw about expressions like "essence of salt" or "find the essence of that salt on that thar table", they are referring to something that is already magical, impossible, undefined. I think it is all related to the idea (or implicit desire) that nothing is mind-independent, the antirealism of our forefathers. We did not know what salt molecules were 2000 years ago. We did not find them using phenomenological methods. Today we know that salty experiences indicate the presence of salt molecules (or fake salt like they use in Twinkies).

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Virgo » Sat Jan 14, 2012 2:12 am

Beatzen wrote:Yes, but the mind consciousness makes sense of the taste as "salty.". In an of itself, the taste consciousness does not discriminate in the same way.

Actually tongue consciousness alone experiences saltiness. But it is not the rupa of the tongue alone. Consciousness arises at those rupa and experience the salty (or any other) taste. Then mental consciousness experiences a nimitta of that taste which resembles it but is not the actual experience of it and at that time there is attachment or aversion for the taste of salt, etc.

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