Misunderstanding emptiness

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby cloudburst » Sun Jan 22, 2012 3:39 am

Mr. G wrote:Why are you goading him cloud? Grow up.


I'm just having fun, Mr. G.

I have something verging on certainty that Namdrol is not in the least bothered by this, so why should you be?
I would apologize immediately if I thought anyone's feelings were hurt.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Sun Jan 22, 2012 3:54 am

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

Yes but it's understood that it's merely a product of conventional language implemented as a tool in the context of this conversation for the purpose of communication, and there's nothing wrong with that. I enjoy discussions like these.

No, it's understood as Sunshine talking to Dave. There's an ethical dimension to this business of "gaming" someone for an allegedly ethical purpose, a means to an end. Surely we enjoy a rhetorical dance in discussions but when we pass responsibility for our statements to some doctrine we may cross a line.

I had a Bible-thumper friend years ago who was very strong-willed and seemed to have trouble avoiding insulting people by "calling a spade a spade" and so on. He would destroy relationships and rationalize that God forgave him so everything was OK. Then the cycle would continue.

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby cloudburst » Sun Jan 22, 2012 4:05 am

Namdrol wrote:However, please do not confuse my sincere answers to questions as debate, since that is not my intent.


Thank you for your good intentions.

Namdrol wrote: My days of debating this point and that point are finished.


Where you give your sincere answers I will debate this and that point. For me this is a pleasure. I hope you understand.

Namdrol wrote:All of this discussion is just chasing illusions and being wrapped in accepting and rejecting.


If it is then you must be chasing illusions, wrapped up, though you claim you are not.
If it's not why say such silliness?

Whether one is wrapped up depends upon whether or not one is wrapped up. If one is chasing illusions, then one is. If not, not.

Participating in a discussion and then saying "this is not a worthwhile pursuit" appears somewhat censorious and will be uninteresting to those who wish to have the discussion. I seem to recall you laying into a few people in the past for precisely this behavior. I personally do not mind if you do it, and I think some may benefit from your advice since they have some faith, but I hope you are not upset if one points out the hypocrisy.

Namdrol wrote: I have very little interest in debate, since debate generally consists of dancing on books.

Others learn from and enjoy the dance. If you put forth a point and I show that it does not hold, please do respond. You can be not debating but rather giving your sincere answers, I will debate and chase down my illusions, and all can enjoy or not, as is their wont.

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby cloudburst » Sun Jan 22, 2012 4:38 am

yadave wrote:
I have been looking for a consistent story and would like to better understand what happened in the other thread wrt this.

Namdrol wrote:
cloudburst wrote:If there is no necessary reason to avoid self-contradiction, anything can be claimed, and there can be no valid reason adduced to show that it is incorrect, as these reasons [within] conventional discourse depend on the law of non-contradiction, or excluded middle. You lose the liberating path.

"Is and is not" are not my positions. They are the positions of others {Samkhya, etc.]. Therefore, the fault of self-contradiction is not entailed. Either you accept the dualistic position of others and defend them, or you accept that asti and nasti are wrong views described by the Buddha as such.


I will try to clarify my points here, I hope you find them consistent.

yadave wrote:Here it appears Namdrol would be inconsistent if his statements expressed a view or constituted a position. Since his statements are instead a game (i.e., "Blame the game, not the player"), he cannot be accused of inconsistency, he is only playing a game?


Namdrol does have a position. Ask him whether or not living beings in Samsara suffer. He may say he does not have a "position" by which he means, as he put it "a fundamental view about reality," but unless he is feeling contrary, he will simply admit, just as Buddha and all the great masters do, that conventionally, Samsara is filled with misery. It all depends upon what is meant by "position."

You might choose a response attuned to the ultimate and say "I have no position on whether or not samsara is suffering as there is no such thing as samsara in reality. This is what is meant by not having a position. It means not have a position in the ultimate sense.

Even if it is a game, it must be consistent or be dismissed as nonsense. There are of course different types of game, no?

yadave wrote:We can say anything in conventional discourse, even contradictory things, without being contradictory, as long as we neither agree nor disagree with what we say (i.e., no view, no position).
Is this right?


To me, that is not correct. What you are describing is a nonsense dialog with no rules or constraints of any kind. Is this what you see when you read Nagarjuna, or do you perceive some deep consistency at play in his positions?
There may be surface contradictions, but these simply invite us to investigate more deeply and in so doing, to develop insight

If I say day begins at dawn and then also say that immediately after the sun comes up, it is night, you will say I am contradicting myself, and rightly so. If I claim my points are non-contradictory because even I don't agree with myself, who but a fool accepts this?

Madhaymaka is not a game of "play the fool and teach others that the real point is to abandon statements that have content or intention."
Madhyamaka is a means to lead sentient beings to the experiential view that although things appear, they do not truly exist.

not sure if that is helpful, it's late and I'm a bit tired, long day today.

see you all tomorrow, I am sure.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Sun Jan 22, 2012 6:45 am

cloudburst wrote:What you are describing is a nonsense dialog with no rules or constraints of any kind. Is this what you see when you read Nagarjuna, or do you perceive some deep consistency at play in his positions?

Well I bought Jay's translation some years ago and, you know, it is a book, like a thick book, and I assumed it was consistent maybe because I assumed Buddhism was the last bastion of consistent stories in a religious world of complete stories, but I come here and find gaming and think that maybe this book is not a view but a method for deconstructing views, any views, like the entire book is an instruction manual for how to say "No, not that either," like a Tea Party Manifesto for shutting down discourse. So treating it as a "manual for how to trash any view" would make its inconsistency OK, in some possible world, or something.

Does my personal interpretation of Nagarjuna's work even matter? If you and I are the only two people in the world who insist on a consistent reading of Nagarjuna does it even matter?

cloudburst wrote:Even if it is a game, it must be consistent or be dismissed as nonsense.

Not necessarily. If the end justifies the means then the teacher can say anything to facilitate "liberation." Consistency is optional?

cloudburst wrote:Madhaymaka is not a game of "play the fool and teach others that the real point is to abandon statements that have content or intention."

I hope not but do not yet grok Namdrol's message as clearly as you seem to. I'll keep working on it.

cloudburst wrote:not sure if that is helpful, it's late and I'm a bit tired, long day today.

It is quite helpful, sleep well.

Regards,
Dave.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Virgo » Sun Jan 22, 2012 6:57 am

yadave wrote:Does my personal interpretation of Nagarjuna's work even matter? ...people in the world who insist on a consistent reading of Nagarjuna does it even matter?

Dave.

Of course it matters. Also as your opinion arises, it is the only thing that "exists", so to speak (mhmmm) in the world, so it is the only thing that matters. So please know that your opinion is extremely important, whether I agree or disagree etc.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby conebeckham » Sun Jan 22, 2012 7:18 am

It strikes me that all of the various views and positions are really about conventional reality. The ultimate is beyond concept, I believe on that score every interpretation of Madhyamika agrees...so it's somewhat ironic that the Tibetan commentators spends so much time and energy on how, exactly, appearances relate to reality.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Sun Jan 22, 2012 7:35 pm

Virgo wrote:
yadave wrote:Does my personal interpretation of Nagarjuna's work even matter? ...people in the world who insist on a consistent reading of Nagarjuna does it even matter?

Of course it matters. Also as your opinion arises, it is the only thing that "exists", so to speak (mhmmm) in the world, so it is the only thing that matters. So please know that your opinion is extremely important, whether I agree or disagree etc.
Kevin

Thanks for the encouragement, Kevin. My last post sounds more like a campaign speech so will try to clarify.

If MMK represents a consistent view (or "view" or 'view', I don't have the quotes down yet), then my goal will be to understand it, to find out what it means, to use my confusion as a guide for progress, knowing in the end it is something that should "make sense."

If MMK represents a method of discourse seeking to liberate others, then consistency is not necessarily paramount, it could be like an extended koan, I might just "learn to talk that way" like learning to play piano so I could go around liberating everyone from their ignorance.

The latter seems less interesting, and maybe a little sneaky, and I think everyone agrees on the former, possibly with different 'quote' "marks", so I'll choose that.

What remains are sources of confusion we've covered here. Multiple contexts where words can have multiple meanings and repeated references to "essence of salt" which makes absolutely no conventional sense, nobody can seem to define it, yet everyone wants us to get rid of it.

Something like that.

Regards,
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Acchantika » Sun Jan 22, 2012 8:25 pm

yadave wrote:Multiple contexts where words can have multiple meanings and repeated references to "essence of salt" which makes absolutely no conventional sense, nobody can seem to define it, yet everyone wants us to get rid of it.


In order to process its environment a conceptual mind needs to quantify its experience in terms of discreet units. It then represents these units to itself as objects, or essences. An essence, then, is one of these represented experiences. It exists nowhere other than in the context of this process. Mistaking the sum of these represented objects as reality is called clinging or ignorance, while the associated perception is called samsara. Emptiness is the fact that, at base, these units are simply aggregations of information with no core whatsoever. Trying to find the "essence of salt" is like trying to find the "essence of 3"; it is a category error, because they are representations, without independent reality.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Acchantika » Sun Jan 22, 2012 8:27 pm

conebeckham wrote:It strikes me that all of the various views and positions are really about conventional reality. The ultimate is beyond concept, I believe on that score every interpretation of Madhyamika agrees...so it's somewhat ironic that the Tibetan commentators spends so much time and energy on how, exactly, appearances relate to reality.


If you want to cure a disease, you have to study both an afflicted person and a healthy person, find out what is different and correct it. Perhaps their reasoning is similar.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Sun Jan 22, 2012 9:27 pm

Acchantika wrote:
yadave wrote:Multiple contexts where words can have multiple meanings and repeated references to "essence of salt" which makes absolutely no conventional sense, nobody can seem to define it, yet everyone wants us to get rid of it.

In order to process its environment a conceptual mind needs to quantify its experience in terms of discreet units. It then represents these units to itself as objects, or essences. An essence, then, is one of these represented experiences. It exists nowhere other than in the context of this process.

I think the actual process is messier than this Buddhist model but you seem to be defining "essence of salt" as "the thought of salt." That's easy enough.

Acchantika wrote:Mistaking the sum of these represented objects as reality is called clinging or ignorance, while the associated perception is called samsara.

I consider the thought of salt to be the thought of salt. Then I call reality the fact that both of us see and taste this white stuff on the table, we are not sleeping, and there must be something external causing us to agree. Your unqualified "reality" may mean something else, like a "nonconceptual ultimate reality" which nobody can see or conceive of, but I'm not sure what this has to do with salt.

Acchantika wrote:Emptiness is the fact that, at base, these units are simply aggregations of information with no core whatsoever. Trying to find the "essence of salt" is like trying to find the "essence of 3"; it is a category error, because they are representations, without independent reality.

Thoughts and perceptions arise and cease, but salt remains on the table if we peek. If "essence of salt" is just "thought of salt", then it is easy to find, so I am probably misunderstanding you.

Regards,
Dave.

P.S. And your "emptiness of salt" here is just emptiness of internal phenomena, I don't think you are saying anything about "emptiness of external phenomena." (This was a concern of mine here.)
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Jan 22, 2012 9:54 pm

yadave wrote:... I call reality the fact that both of us see and taste this white stuff on the table, we are not sleeping, and there must be something external causing us to agree.


Just because two or more individuals share the same experience (of salt, if you wish) does not mean that the salt is not therefore conditionally arising.

We could likewise both share the experience of being in a thunderstorm. Of course, a thunderstorm is not a single thing at all. It also arises from multiple conditions (temperature, humidity, barometric pressure , etc.) all coming into play at the same time. The 'emptiness' of a thunderstorm is much easier to perceive. With something like salt, it is much harder to perceive.

Salt too occurs where it does, when it does and as it does either experienced by a living witness or not, depending on arising conditions. In other words, salt is not really a thing at all, but an event taking place very slowly.

Names and labels such as "salt" are merely conveniences by which we freeze-frame parts of a constantly unfolding, endlessly transforming now according to the dictates of our limited perceptions.

The conditions which make salt describable (white & alkaline) only occur when they do as a result of dependent conditions. For example, salt has no color when dissolved in water. As a solid, it only has color when viewed from a distance (salt is actually clear, not white) and then only when reflecting light. Salt in an unlit salt mine has no visual characteristics at all.

Similarly, conditions can be shown to be necessary for its alkaline (salty taste) quality.

It can be said that the potential for (what we call) salt to be seen and tasted in exactly the same way by multiple individuals (white & salty) is a result of events occurring on molecular level. But none of these events are "salt".

But the main point is that, while lots of people can share the same experience of something, that doesn't mean it is, what you might say, "truly" or objectively happening. Is salt white & salty if nobody is looking at it or tasting it? No.

Consider the appearance of star constellations such as the Big Dipper. Millions of people have seen this formation for centuries, but when viewed from any viewpoint other than Earth, it ceases to have that shape at all. It doesn't "really" exist. Furthermore, there are stars that we "see" which in fact may have ceased to "exist" billions of years ago...their light only now reaching our solar system.

With regards to your quote, it isn't something external causing us to agree. It is karma, which for us upper primates in what we call the "Human Realm" is amazingly similar.

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Sun Jan 22, 2012 10:07 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:Just because two or more individuals share the same experience (of salt, if you wish) does not mean that the salt is not therefore conditionally arising.

Yes, of course Padma, I think we've been over this before, physical objects arise dependently in the sense that a salt molecule is made of atoms and so on. My concern is when folks begin claiming that "emptiness of salt proves salt does not exist" or other bizarre assertions that work fine for internal phenomena but seem meaningless for external phenomena. For example, does "inherent existence of salt" mean anything? Like that. But yes, a thunderstorm is a good example of how we conventionally label many conditions with a single word for communicating.

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Jan 22, 2012 10:16 pm

yadave wrote: My concern is when folks begin claiming that "emptiness of salt proves salt does not exist" or other bizarre assertions that work fine for internal phenomena but seem meaningless for external phenomena.


I think what makes such a statement meaningless is the term "exist" rather than the point being made. This holds true for internal and external (whatever that means) situations.

There is a tendency for buddhists to sort of try to deconstruct their 'reality' and I think it ends up being silly. Potato chips have salt on them but salt doesn't exist. I mean, c'mon!

The statement "salt does not exist" is inaccurate.
the statement, "no thing exists which can be called salt" is more accurate.
but most accurate might be, "there is no finite point at which salt can be said to occur".
...finite meaning unconditional.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jan 22, 2012 10:18 pm

yadave wrote: My concern is when folks begin claiming that "emptiness of salt proves salt does not exist"


The emptiness of salt does not prove salt does not exist, it merely removes the claim that there is an existent called "salt" When salt is analyzed, no salt is found in salt. There is no entity among the components of salt that make salt salt.

It is the same for any composite entity. We experience an appearance, we impute a label upon it, this act lets us work with that appearance. When we exame the appearance to find the basis for the label, however, none can be found. That non-finding is the emptiness of the appearance in question.

There is some disagreement among Tibetans as to what we are not supposed to find.


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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Jan 22, 2012 10:20 pm

Namdrol wrote: There is some disagreement among Tibetans as to what we are not supposed to find.


Tibetans put salt in their tea.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jan 22, 2012 10:21 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
Namdrol wrote: There is some disagreement among Tibetans as to what we are not supposed to find.


Tibetans put salt in their tea.



Is this really a helpful statement? If so how? If people spent less time being smart asses and trying to be clever, this conversation might be more worthwhile.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby wisdom » Sun Jan 22, 2012 10:49 pm

To begin with, salt is an indeterminate truth. On the tongue, its salty. In a wound, its pain. For a slug, its death. For sea creatures its part of their natural environment. For the stomach, its a cause for illness. Hence, even the thing we call salt, due to its compounded nature, is found to be indeterminate.

If we narrow it to the tongue, and just the experience of "saltiness" that is still indeterminate. What is enough salt for me, is too much for you and too little for someone else. Even for you, what is too much salt today, might taste good tomorrow if you are craving it, and might be just right the next day.

The experience of saltiness arises purely as a result of a number of compounded entities. The salt itself (sodium chloride) coming into contact with the compounded entity of the tongues taste buds. That in turn is translated into electrical impulses which reach the brain, causing electro-chemical reactions, all of which are compounded entities, arising due to Dependent Arising, and lacking inherent existence. This is all experienced by the mind, and when the mind is delusional, it also is a compounded entity, with a belief in the existence of a self who experiences saltiness.

So saltiness is not only an indeterminate truth, meaning we cant even peg down what "saltiness" really is, but it arises entirely within conditions which are compounded phenomena, made up of other phenomena, and ultimately upon examination all these phenomena are discovered to be empty. The meaning of Dependent Arising is more or less this, that things appear to arise, they appear to abide, they appear to cease. They relate to one another in a relative, limited, indeterminate and conventional way. However all of it, the entire display, is just an illusion, like a dream, or the moon in water, it has no inherent and lasting existence.

Furthermore saltiness only exists in a specific compounded form interacting with another specific compounded form. Sodium or Chlorine by themselves are both deadly poisons, which are in turn just arrangements of protons, electrons and neutrons, which are in turn just arrangements of sub atomic particles, quantum particles, mathematical abstractions, and finally they are realized to be completely empty.

What does it mean to say "salt exists conventionally"? It means that salt exists only relative to other conventional, compounded entities. To admit of a things conventional existence is the same as saying that it does not exist at all. Why? Because once we are making a distinction that something is conventional, we are also acknowledging that ultimately it has no absolute, inherent reality. This does not mean that conventionally the salt is "non existent", it means precisely what it says. Salt only exists as a compounded, indeterminate and temporary appearance whose nature is emptiness.

People want to nitpick the idea that "it exists" conventionally as meaning somehow that someone is saying "it exists absolutely". Whats happening though is that people are taking the word "exist" to always indicate absolute existence. Thats why we modify our meaning with the words "conventional" and "absolute" or "inherent" so as to be clear that we are not making a claim that would fall into Eternalism, the idea that salt is an inherently existent entity which has some kind of eternally existing quality called "saltiness".
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Sun Jan 22, 2012 10:51 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
yadave wrote:My concern is when folks begin claiming that "emptiness of salt proves salt does not exist"

The statement "salt does not exist" is inaccurate.
the statement, "no thing exists which can be called salt" is more accurate.

Salt molecules are things. Salt is salt molecules.

PadmaVonSamba wrote:but most accurate might be, "there is no finite point at which salt can be said to occur".
...finite meaning unconditional.

But then we are back to simply saying salt is conditioned, to which I totally agree.

Namdrol wrote:The emptiness of salt does not prove salt does not exist, it merely removes the claim that there is an existent called "salt" When salt is analyzed, no salt is found in salt. There is no entity among the components of salt that make salt salt.

Salt molecules are entities, conditioned entities, the smallest things we find that have properties we know of that make salt salt, make salty taste salty. What are you looking for?

Namdrol wrote:It is the same for any composite entity. We experience an appearance, we impute a label upon it, this act lets us work with that appearance. When we exame the appearance to find the basis for the label, however, none can be found. That non-finding is the emptiness of the appearance in question.

There is some disagreement among Tibetans as to what we are not supposed to find.

Well I apologize, Namdrol, I know we've been through this, but we do find a basis for our labels. The only way I can make sense of your assertion is by imagining some kind of blocks world where we are looking for a smallest indivisible block to label. But we don't do this when looking for the smallest component of salt, we label this "salt molecule." For Padma's composite thunderstorm, we find a basis consisting of wind, rain, lightning, an array of composite entities that we collectively label "thunderstorm." We don't include "airplanes" in our collection because they are not required to have a "thunderstorm."

And I really don't see how any of this leads to suffering, rather it leads to mutual understanding, something we appear to struggle with here at times. ;)

Regards,
Dave.

P.S. I think we concluded back there that my view was more Yogacara and left it at that. It feels more like a language issue than anything else.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby cloudburst » Sun Jan 22, 2012 11:10 pm

Namdrol wrote: it merely removes the claim that there is an existent called "salt" When salt is analyzed, no salt is found in salt. There is no entity among the components of salt that make salt salt.


Let's just follow the Madhyamika style and not argue with the world about their conventions. Of course there is an existent called salt. I had some on my eggs this morning and it was delicious. If it were totally nonexistent, how would it have made my eggs so salty? Though you don't like it, if something does not exist in anyway, it is nonexistent.

Though you bridle, it is actually a form of obscurantism that you will not admit up front that you are using the term "existent" in a specialized sense. As a result, newbies can't figure out what you are saying. At least in the other thread you use quotation marks to implicity communicate that you were using the term in a particular way YOU know you are using the term in a specific way, but they do not, so they get excited because they get that mystical zap, but their minds only become more perplexed.

Namdrol wrote: it is the same for any composite entity. We experience an appearance, we impute a label upon it, this act lets us work with that appearance. When we exame the appearance to find the basis for the label, however, none can be found. That non-finding is the emptiness of the appearance in question.


that is well put, thank you

Namdrol wrote:There is some disagreement among Tibetans as to what we are not supposed to find.


However, when we clearly identify that the object of our investigation is a truly existent pheneomena, for example, the body that we normally perceive with our faulty perception, all schools agree that it does not exist in any way. We all fail to find the same thing.

Namdrol wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:
Namdrol wrote: There is some disagreement among Tibetans as to what we are not supposed to find.


Tibetans put salt in their tea.


Is this really a helpful statement? If so how? If people spent less time being smart asses and trying to be clever, this conversation might be more worthwhile.


I have to agree.
Too much smartassery in Buddhist circles.

In order to be a crazy wisdom yogi, someone in almost all Tibetan Buddhist circles feels they have to say absurd things as though that were the imprimateur of realization.

I blame Trungpa "blue pancake" Rinpoche, godfather of the zany offbeat example. I remember seeing a video of him in the seventies and this hippy chick asks him "Rinpoche why do we stay in Samsara?" He dryly quipped, "because we like the smell of our own armpits."

Its a fine answer, but let's be honest, now that we've shocked everyone into understanding that Buddhism is not daddy's hidebound religion, can we get on with it?

Non-sequitur, compulsive coarseness, and affected disinterest in actually learning and representing our traditions do not indicate realization, they indicate parroting something whose time has come and gone. My two cents.
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