Misunderstanding emptiness

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Beatzen » Sat Jan 14, 2012 2:28 am

Virgo wrote:
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.

Kevin


Im not saying that the taste organ and taste consciousness don't experience saltiness, they do so in the context of a continuum of taste. I'm saying that mind consciousness isolates particular experiences out of that continuum and artificially bestows self existence to the taste of salt. This happens prior to the arising of craving produced by the Minds reflection on sense contact.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Sat Jan 14, 2012 3:08 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.
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.

mind consciousness does not discover because the particle does not enjoy self existence.

Nothing enjoys self existence from what I gather, so I'm not sure how your sixth consciousness discovered "salty" in the first place.

Beatzen wrote: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.

Lots of stuff here. There is probably some horrendous quantum mechanical equation describing a salt molecule. That might be a candidate for "essence of salt." It might provide the best physical description of salt for anyone who speaks that language. Like salt molecules, this equation was not discovered in meditation. I don't think I'm trying to objectify an experience, maybe just describing an objective reason why we experience so-and-so.

Beatzen wrote: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?

Yes, now it is salt. And you believe thinking is productive.

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sat Jan 14, 2012 3:09 am

yadave wrote:I have no problem whatsoever with dependent origination, Padma. It's the metaphysical stuff that raises my eyebrow.


In other words, you take it all with a grain of salt.

yadave wrote: 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).


I don't think is contradictory to buddhist teachings to suggest that
a conditional reality is experienced by the mind

That would include atoms, which are not salty, and the vast space between the atoms (which I am just going to guess is not salty), coming together in cube form and in so doing so, melting ice and, in the mind, making pretzels taste better.

But if Nagarjuna had an electron microscope, he might have told you that since molecules are made of atoms, that ultimately molecules have no (are 'empty of') self-inherent existence either.

And, if one imposes the characteristic "unchaging" as a must-have quality for a self-existent entity (as buddhists are apt to do)then, since molecules can change, it would be argued from that premise that molecules, being subject to change, thus have no ultimate existence.

There is a lot that we know now that we didn't know 2500 years ago. I think that the more we understand things, the more we have to keep tweaking language to serve our understanding.

There were oceans full of salt for millions of years before my mind got around to thinking about it.
I believe that one of the problems in a discussion of a 'mind-created reality' is that people think that Buddhism asserts that somehow an objective reality exists which is merely a figment of everybody's imagination,
as though we just wished it into existence and it suddenly became a solid reality.
This is sort of like God creating the universe, except that we all get to be God.

I am not so sure that this is what Buddhists actually propose.
As I recall, some schools argued that a material universe really exists but it's just our way of experiencing it that is mental.
Others argued that all of it is mental, because the space of every speck of atomic dust can be divided, and its duration (time) can likewise be divided, infinitely.

This is usually the point where I stop thinking about it and go watch TV.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Beatzen » Sat Jan 14, 2012 3:18 am

I think we knew more 2500 years ago, particularly the average person not being so specialized in their knowlege for technical reasons. Ancient peoples were more well rounded than we are today. Even poor and illiterate people can comprehend the dharma in ways that highly learned people cannot.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Beatzen » Sat Jan 14, 2012 3:25 am

Dave, thinking can be productive. Nagarjuna says that enlightenment cannot come without the aid of conceptualization.

Those mathematical formulas are nominal projections from the realm of the sixth consciousness. They will never uncover the mechanics of the sensory apparatus/consciousness of experience. They only prolong the illusion that material particles constituency their own permanent reference point.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sat Jan 14, 2012 3:41 am

some fun to add to this topic
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Sat Jan 14, 2012 5:15 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:I don't think is contradictory to buddhist teachings to suggest that a conditional reality is experienced by the mind

OK. The conditional reality (requires a tongue) of saltiness is the experience of tasting salt.

PadmaVonSamba wrote:That would include atoms, which are not salty, and the vast space between the atoms (which I am just going to guess is not salty), coming together in cube form and in so doing so, melting ice and, in the mind, making pretzels taste better.

We don't experience atoms directly. This must be the grain of salt story.

PadmaVonSamba wrote:But if Nagarjuna had an electron microscope, he might have told you that since molecules are made of atoms, that ultimately molecules have no (are 'empty of') self-inherent existence either.

If Nagarjuna had an electron microscope, he would have thought it was an alien death ray machine and freaked out. Namdrol told me the molecules-are-atoms theory and I replied that atoms weren't salty. "Self-inherent existence" is a metaphysical Buddhist notion, a stellar concept with regards to our intuitive notion of self, a misplaced idea when projected onto shared perceptions. In my humble opinion of course.

PadmaVonSamba wrote:And, if one imposes the characteristic "unchaging" as a must-have quality for a self-existent entity (as buddhists are apt to do)then, since molecules can change, it would be argued from that premise that molecules, being subject to change, thus have no ultimate existence.

Yes. Impermanence captures most of this. "Ultimate existence" is an idea. "Regular existence" is real. The lifetime of a salt molecule is not forever but so what, now it is salt, deal with it. Deal with your salt, Padma. Sorry, it's getting late. ;)

PadmaVonSamba wrote:I believe that one of the problems in a discussion of a 'mind-created reality' is that people think that Buddhism asserts that somehow an objective reality exists which is merely a figment of everybody's imagination, as though we just wished it into existence and it suddenly became a solid reality.

This is probably just a consequence of Buddhists talking about mind-created reality and shared illusions, nothing to lose sleep over.

PadmaVonSamba wrote:This is sort of like God creating the universe, except that we all get to be God.

Every view includes ethical implications. Separate topic please.

PadmaVonSamba wrote:I am not so sure that this is what Buddhists actually propose.

Well then let's just say so! :)

Personally, I would love a formulation that makes realism versus antirealism irrelevant. European Humanists do this rather elegantly. One's religious beliefs, whether one is theist or nontheist, is irrelevant. Their formulation of Humanism does not depend on these distinctions.

Beatzen wrote:I think we knew more 2500 years ago, particularly the average person not being so specialized in their knowlege for technical reasons. Ancient peoples were more well rounded than we are today. Even poor and illiterate people can comprehend the dharma in ways that highly learned people cannot.

Dude, you are a Romantic. Right on.

Beatzen wrote:Those mathematical formulas are nominal projections from the realm of the sixth consciousness.

No, I believe they are the result of extensive collaboration between physicists and mathematicians to find a best physical description of salt. It's a shared thing.

Beatzen wrote:They will never uncover the mechanics of the sensory apparatus/consciousness of experience.

But they do, Beatzen. I think the damn MRI machines can even read minds now. For simple thoughts like "screwdriver" or "salt shaker." Santa knows!

Now it is late.

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sat Jan 14, 2012 5:52 am

yadave wrote: I think the damn MRI machines can even read minds now. For simple thoughts like "screwdriver" or "salt shaker."

Here is an actual image of brain activity, sent to me by a friend who works at a research university where they are looking for the causes and treatment of autism.
This is what is going on in the brain.
Now, this light show may be interpreted as "screwdriver" or "salt shaker"
which are, in fact very complex thoughts (or rather, complex groupings of thoughts).

But this leaves four possible scenarios (as far as I can tell):

1. A pre-existing function called mind interprets this brain chemistry as thought
(such as "screwdriver" or "salt shaker" )

2. The brain creates a mechanism enabling it to witness its own activity,
and by itself interprets this chemistry as thought
(in other words, the brain's ingredients begin to think on their own)

3. The brain produces a separate function called mind which interprets this chemistry as thought

4."mind" is thought +dharmakaya (true nature of everything) arising simultaneously, but manifesting according to, and within the limits of the chemical environment that a particular brain affords (in other words, a dog and a human process the same information differently).

you could probably add a few more options...
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby catmoon » Sat Jan 14, 2012 11:23 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
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.
.


Still wrong, I think. First off, we have no way of knowing what does or does not exist beyond our sphere of perception and thought. I don't think there are any inherently existing tables out there, but I have yet to hear any reason that would rule out the possibility that there are fully existent, dependently originated tables out there somewhere. Why could there not be impermanent things, existing, that are the cause of our perceptions?
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sat Jan 14, 2012 4:09 pm

catmoon wrote: I don't think there are any inherently existing tables out there, but I have yet to hear any reason that would rule out the possibility that there are fully existent, dependently originated tables out there somewhere. Why could there not be impermanent things, existing, that are the cause of our perceptions?


This question is phrased perfectly.

The sticky part is the term fully existent.
Perhaps the word "finite" is more accurate.

If somebody says that salt or tables and so forth aren't real because they are made of smaller components,
then this is an arbitrary criteria, in which "real" = "finite".
"real" and "existing" are actually vague and misleading terms.
(I ought to should stop using them!)

What we are really talking about is whether or not, ultimately that there is some finite point.
Dharma teachings say there is no finite point.
Someone might have once said that you can't go any smaller than a grain of salt.
But the next day somebody said "you can cut that in half and have half a grain of salt"
Years later, somebody says molecules, then atoms, then subatomic particles and so on.

When Buddhists talk about "Dharmakaya" as the ultimate truth, or ultimate reality
this doesn't mean a final stop where things can't go any further. (That would be essentially the same idea as bramhan)
It means the ultimate reality is infinite.

When Buddhists assert that salt and tables and so forth aren't real or have no self-existing reality,
what they are saying is that these things are not truly finite., meaning that they only arise due to conditions.

So yes, I think what you say is true.
impermanent things are the cause of our perceptions.

(some of this same discussion seems to be happening on another thread:
viewtopic.php?f=48&t=6579)
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Malcolm » Sat Jan 14, 2012 5:56 pm

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.


So you are saying that salt is not salty?
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Beatzen » Sat Jan 14, 2012 6:12 pm

Ultimately salty?
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Sat Jan 14, 2012 6:56 pm

yadave wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:This is sort of like God creating the universe, except that we all get to be God.

Every view includes ethical implications. Separate topic please.

What am I, the lunchroom monitor? Talk about anything you like. We'll just say the topic is conventional, not truly existing.

PadmaVonSamba wrote:Here is an actual image of brain activity, sent to me by a friend who works at a research university where they are looking for the causes and treatment of autism. This is what is going on in the brain. Now, this light show may be interpreted as "screwdriver" or "salt shaker" which are, in fact very complex thoughts (or rather, complex groupings of thoughts).

I'm not sure what your picture represents. The study I saw used an MRI to monitor brain images in real time. Well, easier to just show you, I see it online,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jc8URRxPIg

PadmaVonSamba wrote:But this leaves four possible scenarios (as far as I can tell):

1. A pre-existing function called mind interprets this brain chemistry as thought (such as "screwdriver" or "salt shaker" )

2. The brain creates a mechanism enabling it to witness its own activity, and by itself interprets this chemistry as thought (in other words, the brain's ingredients begin to think on their own)

3. The brain produces a separate function called mind which interprets this chemistry as thought

4."mind" is thought +dharmakaya (true nature of everything) arising simultaneously, but manifesting according to, and within the limits of the chemical environment that a particular brain affords (in other words, a dog and a human process the same information differently).

Hmm... I'll vote for (2) but all your choices include a sort of "thinker" in there that is doing this or that while, I think, the actual process is quite messy, zillions of systems doing different things that all finally come together in "a thought." A "self" really doesn't exist, on this Buddhists and cognitive scientists seem to agree. Hearts beat. Brains exude thoughts.

I hope this work helps us find more cures for difficult conditions like autism. I heard a wonderful story about an autistic girl who exploded to life after she was introduced to music or something, very happy and unexpected ending!

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Malcolm » Sat Jan 14, 2012 8:58 pm

yadave wrote:If Nagarjuna had an electron microscope, he would have thought it was an alien death ray machine and freaked out. Namdrol told me the molecules-are-atoms theory and I replied that atoms weren't salty. "Self-inherent existence" is a metaphysical Buddhist notion, a stellar concept with regards to our intuitive notion of self, a misplaced idea when projected onto shared perceptions. In my humble opinion of course.


Your view is similar with Sautrantika position. You accept the absence of identity of persons, but you uphold that things bear intrinsic characteristics.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby conebeckham » Sat Jan 14, 2012 10:50 pm

With regard to experiencing "Saltiness," the experience is interdependent-it relies on something which has the appearing characteristic "Salty," plus an appearing sentient being who appears to experience "saltiness" via the interaction of appearing object, appearing sense organ, appearing sense consciousness, and mental consciousness which forms the label "salty." Without any of these factors, experience of saltiness does not exist. Thus, there is no intrinsic characteristic of "saltiness."
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sat Jan 14, 2012 11:01 pm

yadave wrote:Hmm... I'll vote for (2) but all your choices include a sort of "thinker" in there that is doing this or that while, I think, the actual process is quite messy, zillions of systems doing different things that all finally come together in "a thought." A "self" really doesn't exist, on this Buddhists and cognitive scientists seem to agree. Hearts beat. Brains exude thoughts.


In the brain measurable, physical electrochemical events occur that are experienced as thought.
What you are proposing is that the chemicals in the brain consciously regard themselves ( as "I" )
and witness their own activity (as in "I am sad").

How is this essentially different from animism,
in which one believes that things such as rocks and water have consciousness?

By contrast, consider the analogy of a deer in the woods.
The woods provide the environment for the deer to exist
But the trees do not directly produce the deer,
however, the deer and the trees do arise interdependently.

Likewise, the physical brain provides an environment, or the 'tools' if you will, for cognitive awareness to arise
but does not actually produce cognitive awareness. It's like a petri dish in which thoughts can reproduce.

Actually, a better analogy, and one I have already used, is that of a saxophone which is used to produce sounds.
This is a better analogy because thoughts, like sound, only exist briefly in time, not in space.
But compare a saxophone with a piccolo. because they are different, even though the same air may pass through them,
the sound is different.

likewise, because no two brains are identical, thinking varies from one being to the next.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sat Jan 14, 2012 11:34 pm

The same wind blows through the mind of an ordinary people as through the mind of a buddha.
But the experience of a buddha is completely unobstructed.

The purpose for understanding the insubstantial nature of phenomena
is to realize that there is nothing finite that one can cling on to as "me" or "mine".
whenever beings cling to phenomena as finite, the result is suffering
because the true nature of phenomena is infinite. Infinitely divisible, for example.
The truth of the infinite nature of phenomena is dharmakaya.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Sat Jan 14, 2012 11:59 pm

Namdrol wrote:Your view is similar with Sautrantika position. You accept the absence of identity of persons, but you uphold that things bear intrinsic characteristics.

OK. I don't know much about Sautrantika except that I've been thinking it is a misspelling of Svatantrika. ;)

When I began meditating some years ago, everyone talked about "empty" this and "empty" that and I thought "empty, the void, cool, right on." Then I read a Chogyam Trungpa chapter on shunyata where he said "empty means empty of inherent existence" and I thought, "Wow, it means something!" And this matched my experience as I progressed in meditation. So I was explaining to everyone in the sangha what emptiness meant, Joe Scholar.

Back then, I guess "absence of identity" or "emptiness" meant "no self" as in "no Dave" as in "really nothing there on inspection."

Now here we are today discussing emptiness and I look for a similar correlation (between the words and my experience) with emptiness of external phenomena. I find no such thing. Best I can do is see dependent origination of things, maybe drop labels and concepts for a spell in vipashyana, but the trees never disappear like the "me". In this sense, the search for "essence of tree" seems incoherent, a misguided projection from minds-ville as I've rambled elsewhere.

In ten years, I'll probably think my view today is rubbish. ;)

In the meantime, I'm gonna just say salt molecules exist and they are the smallest common denominator we know of that appears in any "salt experience." This is a nonmetaphysical "essence" if you like.

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jan 15, 2012 12:20 am

yadave wrote:
In the meantime, I'm gonna just say salt molecules exist and they are the smallest common denominator we know of that appears in any "salt experience." This is a nonmetaphysical "essence" if you like.


Yes, this a substantialist position, which is incompatible with all Mahāyāna tenet systems, but is entirely compatible with non-Mahāyāna tenet systems.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Beatzen » Sun Jan 15, 2012 12:42 am

Question: if theravadins arrive at an understanding of sinuses solely by reference to their own aggregates, isn't there a danger of solipsism?
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