Misunderstanding emptiness

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Malcolm » Thu Jan 19, 2012 8:14 pm

yadave wrote:Namdrol has me pulling out my Jay Garfield MMK and I remember an important term missing from this list. Jay says (page 220) "Essence by definition is eternal and independent" so



Right, but the point is that Nag. equates existence (bhāva) with svabhāva (essence in this translation). In other words, Nag. is asserting that bhāva is svabhāva by necessity.


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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby asunthatneversets » Thu Jan 19, 2012 9:24 pm

yadave wrote:
So my point here is not new, just another way of expressing my concern over the scope of these ideas in today's language framework because, at the end of the day, we appear to end up with odd statements like,

9a. Nothing ultimately exists.
9b. Everything conventionally exists.

and one questions the value of such an empty concept, "ultimate existence," in the first place. Seems that one could leave "existence" alone, conventional, and simply say "things have no essence" which, from what I gather, is an early way of saying "God does not really exist" or "souls don't really exist." But in my daily experience, the term "exists" is not usually associated with "eternal and independent," these latter terms come up in theistic conversations. I had one crafty pastor friend who got around the essence problem by saying "God changes." ;)

(I suppose one could make a case for physical laws like gravity being "eternal and independent" but will leave this for another day.
Dave.


It's not an early way of saying things have no essence as in a "god" or "soul" doesn't exist. It's not an "early" way of saying anything of the sort. It's a way of showing the absence of duality. That you think you're a physical body, in a physical world with objects outside of you which are alien to you, but this is simply a misconception derived from our false conditioned perception. The outcome truly is that "you" as a subjective entity are removed completely. And the feeling that there are "things" outside you is removed completely. Whatever it is you would call "experience" is all that's left. But a singular, zero-dimensional experiencing in-and-of-itself. This isn't some philosophy which is left on the level of a humored intellectual contemplation. You seem to want to rationalize it to be that way. I can't say that I blame you being that you have no reference point to gauge it in it's ultimate sense. But it surely isn't a mere "early" way of pronouncing some philosophical notion.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby conebeckham » Thu Jan 19, 2012 9:54 pm

Namdrol wrote:
yadave wrote:Namdrol has me pulling out my Jay Garfield MMK and I remember an important term missing from this list. Jay says (page 220) "Essence by definition is eternal and independent" so


Right, but the point is that Nag. equates existence (bhāva) with svabhāva (essence in this translation). In other words, Nag. is asserting that bhāva is svabhāva by necessity.


...which further points toward the later elaboration of "inherent" as a qualifier of "existence" being unnecessary.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Fri Jan 20, 2012 2:15 am

Sunshine! Nice to see you.

asunthatneversets wrote:["Things have no essence" is] not an early way of saying things have no essence as in a "god" or "soul" doesn't exist. It's not an "early" way of saying anything of the sort. It's a way of showing the absence of duality.

Jay's MMK page 220 says "Essence by definition is eternal and independent." This defines what essence meant to Nagarjuna and his nefarious opponents. Now you and I are talking about the purpose Nagarjuna may have had for asserting things have no essence, like exegicists interpreting ancient texts. From MMK, page 103,

Jay L. Garfield wrote:When Nagarjuna uses the word "cause" (hetu, rgyu), he has in mind an event or state that has in it a power (kriya, bya-ba) to bring about its effect and has that power as part of its essence or nature (svabhava, rang bzhin).

So we could say "Nagarjuna's purpose was to show nothing is self-caused" but would barely receive a passing grade because we did not follow this through to the absence of a quintessential first cause, aka God, aka self or soul, etc.

I think debates between theists and nontheists were as lively two millenia ago as they are today. Buddhism is unique in its soteriological solution to self-induced suffering: rather than imagine oneself as a deity's child, one can realize there is no suffering self in the first place. Both approaches provide relief and both require practice.

Nonduality is a term made popular by new-age writers. ;)

asunthatneversets wrote:That you think you're a physical body, in a physical world with objects outside of you which are alien to you, but this is simply a misconception derived from our false conditioned perception. The outcome truly is that "you" as a subjective entity are removed completely. And the feeling that there are "things" outside you is removed completely. Whatever it is you would call "experience" is all that's left. But a singular, zero-dimensional experiencing in-and-of-itself.

You talk the talk, Sunshine, but consider my dilemma. All I have left is a little prajna. Oh, and cooties. That's it, prajna and cooties.

Magazines like Time and Newsweek periodically run an article on meditation subjects. I recall one where a scientist told the story of waiting for a train one day when his perception of "outside" suddenly collapsed and he felt no separation between himself and the world he gazed upon. The experience passed but he was blown away and it left him with an enormous curiosity about what had happened in his mind. He did not burst out exclaiming "trains don't really exist!"

I think we all have the capacity for these realizations, our interpretations may still differ, like they do for the texts we study.

At the end of the day, suffering is not caused by clinging to a tree, tree hugging is probably soothing, suffering is caused by clinging to a self and the Buddhist technology for dismantling that self is excellent, I have only thumbs up for emptiness of internal phenomena, my main concern here has been the projection of this onto emptiness of external phenoma, of language, and other ancillary things.

People, hummingbirds, and snails must all "go around the tree" to get to the other side. Words and perceptions may differ, but the "tree" is real in this sense and no personal hubris of mine causes this to be so.

asunthatneversets wrote:This isn't some philosophy which is left on the level of a humored intellectual contemplation. You seem to want to rationalize it to be that way. I can't say that I blame you being that you have no reference point to gauge it in it's ultimate sense. But it surely isn't a mere "early" way of pronouncing some philosophical notion.

Now you are reifying and rationalizing and comparing yourself to others. Right on.

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Malcolm » Fri Jan 20, 2012 3:11 am

yadave wrote:People, hummingbirds, and snails must all "go around the tree" to get to the other side. Words and perceptions may differ, but the "tree" is real in this sense and no personal hubris of mine causes this to be so.


But some people don't.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Fri Jan 20, 2012 3:19 am

Namdrol wrote:
yadave wrote:People, hummingbirds, and snails must all "go around the tree" to get to the other side. Words and perceptions may differ, but the "tree" is real in this sense and no personal hubris of mine causes this to be so.


But some people don't.

Namdrol, are you saying some people go through the tree, as in walking through a wall?

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Malcolm » Fri Jan 20, 2012 3:47 am

yadave wrote:
Namdrol wrote:
yadave wrote:People, hummingbirds, and snails must all "go around the tree" to get to the other side. Words and perceptions may differ, but the "tree" is real in this sense and no personal hubris of mine causes this to be so.


But some people don't.

Namdrol, are you saying some people go through the tree, as in walking through a wall?

Regards,
Dave.



One day Candrakirti was walking through a passageway in Nalanda, his head in a book, and he bumped his head on a pillar -- a student saw this and said "Aha! That pillar is not so empty, is it!". Candra looked at him, and passed his hand right through the pillar much to the student's embarassed astonishment. Or so this traditional story runs.

Of course there is kashina meditation -- ostensibly, if you meditate on the kashina of earth, you gain control over the earth element and can travel through mountains, etc.

It is my opinion that the apparent solidity of phenomena such as trees and rocks, etc., is directly related to the solidity of one's delusion. The more solid one's delusion, the more solid apparent phenomena seem.

On the other hand, people with very solid delusions regularly kill themselves too, through not recognizing that solid things will kill them, like the ground when they attempt to fly off buildings.

But is said also in the suttas that the Buddha once levitated to an elevation of 14 palm trees. Such yogic feats are described too often in Buddhist texts generation after generation for me to simply reject them out of hand.

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Fri Jan 20, 2012 4:16 am

Namdrol wrote:But is said also in the suttas that the Buddha once levitated to an elevation of 14 palm trees. Such yogic feats are described too often in Buddhist texts generation after generation for me to simply reject them out of hand.

Well, my friend, you can probably tell I'm not too keen on tales of magic, be they Buddhist or Christian or otherwise. I think we all have our karmic groove, we cannot regrow an arm we have lost, we have power to change some things, the challenge is having wisdom to distinguish what those are and not be disappointed by false hopes.

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby swampflower » Fri Jan 20, 2012 4:55 am

Here is a quote from Kutthi Sutta: The Leper

"Whatever is subject to origination is all subject to cessation."

This may be a hint of the meaning of emptiness.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Jan 20, 2012 5:05 am

yadave wrote: I have only thumbs up for emptiness of internal phenomena, my main concern here has been the projection of this onto emptiness of external phenomena, of language, and other ancillary things.


The mistake being made (a very common one) ..what I think is going on,
is that you can't reckon how an "objective" reality is produced by a subjective mind.
Basically, "how can this all be a figment of my imagination of you see it too?"

That isn't what buddhist philosophy asserts.
That's not what emptiness is about.

The "objective reality" is infinite.
Our "samsaric" experience is a finite, or limited interpretation of what is actually infinite.
We all share a limited intrpretation.
For example, as humans, we have a relatively short comfort zone in terms of temperature. Only about 5 or 6 degrees.
Any cooler and we feel too cold. Any warmer and we feel too hot.
This is a physiological matter, but it is a good illustration of everything
in terms of a subjective view.

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Jan 20, 2012 5:09 am

yadave wrote:are you saying some people go through the tree, as in walking through a wall?


I know a guy who can see through walls of solid silica.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Paul » Fri Jan 20, 2012 12:55 pm

Namdrol wrote:But is said also in the suttas that the Buddha once levitated to an elevation of 14 palm trees. Such yogic feats are described too often in Buddhist texts generation after generation for me to simply reject them out of hand.


And in just about every culture & religious tradition in history - eg St Teresa Of Avila. Especially common in India and similar places, of course.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Jan 20, 2012 3:54 pm

Namdrol wrote:But is said also in the suttas that the Buddha once levitated to an elevation of 14 palm trees.


maybe they were teensy weensy trees.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Malcolm » Fri Jan 20, 2012 3:56 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
Namdrol wrote:But is said also in the suttas that the Buddha once levitated to an elevation of 14 palm trees.


maybe they were teensy weensy trees.



Yes, but even levitating half an inch off the ground is pretty damn amazing, don't you think?
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Fri Jan 20, 2012 5:44 pm

Paul wrote:
Namdrol wrote:But is said also in the suttas that the Buddha once levitated to an elevation of 14 palm trees. Such yogic feats are described too often in Buddhist texts generation after generation for me to simply reject them out of hand.

And in just about every culture & religious tradition in history - eg St Teresa Of Avila. Especially common in India and similar places, of course.

I remember reading about one of these gals, maybe it was St Teresa, who experienced a series of horrific dreams wherein she would be tortured and die, leaving her poor body physically wracked. The author compared it to progressive death of ego as she became ever closer to her God. Surely there is an easier way!

I had one dream like this, some years ago, where I was out on a vast savanna when large dinasaur-animal things, you know, began approaching from the distance. I ran but was overtaken by a giant sabre-tooth tiger thing and, just as it was about to pounce, I knew I was going to die and just laid down and gave up. Then it was peaceful and the dream ended.

So maybe I learned my lesson from Teresa: don't argue with a sabre-tooth tiger! ;)

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Jan 20, 2012 9:39 pm

Namdrol wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:
Namdrol wrote:But is said also in the suttas that the Buddha once levitated to an elevation of 14 palm trees.


maybe they were teensy weensy trees.



Yes, but even levitating half an inch off the ground is pretty damn amazing, don't you think?


maybe it was over a sink hole and it was actually the ground getting lower.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Beatzen » Fri Jan 20, 2012 10:13 pm

Namdrol, is there a variance between teachings of anatman and shunyata?
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Malcolm » Fri Jan 20, 2012 10:19 pm

Beatzen wrote:Namdrol, is there a variance between teachings of anatman and shunyata?


Mahāyāna traditionally maintains that the Pali canon and its kin and the traditions that derive from them focuses on teaching the emptiness of persons only and do not in general extend the analaysis of absence of idenitity to phenomena themselves.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Beatzen » Fri Jan 20, 2012 10:24 pm

I knew that the mahayana extended that absense to external phenomenon. But when it's analysis of the inner self, is it "emptiness of self" instead of where the pali would dictate "no self"?
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Malcolm » Fri Jan 20, 2012 10:31 pm

Beatzen wrote:I knew that the mahayana extended that absense to external phenomenon. But when it's analysis of the inner self, is it "emptiness of self" instead of where the pali would dictate "no self"?



These two terms are identical in meaning.
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