Emptiness: an imputed character?

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Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby catmoon » Thu Feb 18, 2010 9:14 am

funny thing popped up in last night's meditation/contemplation. For there to be emptiness, there must a thing that is empty. Without a thing, the emptiness applies to nothing.

Put another way, there must be something behind the characteristics we impute on things. It may be ever changing, and impermanent, and unseen by our minds and senses, but

If it is not there, what has the character "emptiness"?


Does this make any sense to anyone?
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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby Huifeng » Thu Feb 18, 2010 9:37 am

catmoon wrote:funny thing popped up in last night's meditation/contemplation. For there to be emptiness, there must a thing that is empty. Without a thing, the emptiness applies to nothing.

Put another way, there must be something behind the characteristics we impute on things. It may be ever changing, and impermanent, and unseen by our minds and senses, but

If it is not there, what has the character "emptiness"?


Does this make any sense to anyone?


Not necessarily. The term emptiness is used in one of two ways:
1. X is Y-empty ==> here, there is a thing X which is does not contain Y.
2. X-empty ==> here, it refers to the absence of X.

Even in case #1, the X is often only implicit. Hence, both are sometimes written as just "X-empty". But, careful, the first states "X-empty" but refers to the absence of Y and presence of X, whereas the second also states "X-empty" but refers to the absence of X. This presence / absence of X format, with identical phrasing "X-empty" has made for some major misunderstandings over the centuries.

Don't be fooled by reading in meanings of the English word "Empty" to understanding the term "sunya(ta)". Although "empty/ emptiness" may be the closest English word, it is not exactly the same. Thus, it's grammatical and doctrinal usage is not the same either. Sometimes, in the case of #2, the word "absent" (sunya) or "absence" (sunyata) is more appropriate.
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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby catmoon » Thu Feb 18, 2010 10:49 am

Let's see if I understand. Say there is a blue cup.


One may say, the cup is empty of blueness, because blueness resides nowhere in the cup. Blueness is an appearance to the eye and mind.

Or one may say, blueness is empty, since it exists only as an appearance to the mind.

Are these the two cases you refer to above?


Hm. It occurs to me that I may imagine a blue cup, even when there is no cup present. How can this be? Good grief, it should be impossible! Something is very wrong here!

I think I need to look at this some more. I see that we can impute qualities on imputations themselves, and have imputations on imputations on imputations. But the trouble is, the imagined cup doesn't exist as a material object, nor is it imputed on anything. Ah! It's not possible! Even without the blueness the imaginary cup is still there... and nowhere at the same time!

*Catmoon fights down a rising sense of panic*

This is quite funny don't you think? What a predicament!


I will now go make a cup of tea. In a blue cup, no less.


Wait. The imaginary cup is an imputation on space. But where is this space to be found? ARGH nowhere. omg omg omg...
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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby Virgo » Thu Feb 18, 2010 4:28 pm

catmoon wrote:funny thing popped up in last night's meditation/contemplation. For there to be emptiness, there must a thing that is empty. Without a thing, the emptiness applies to nothing.

Put another way, there must be something behind the characteristics we impute on things. It may be ever changing, and impermanent, and unseen by our minds and senses, but

If it is not there, what has the character "emptiness"?


Does this make any sense to anyone?


Hi Catmoon,

Actually I think it seems to be the other way around, ie. there must be emptiness for "things" to seem to arise.

"Emptiness is form and form is Emptiness" -- The Heart Sutra

Forms are empty otherwise they would be permanent and would have control. Therefore, they aren't really "forms" in a formal sense, they are emptiness appearing as forms to deluded minds.

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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby ground » Thu Feb 18, 2010 8:07 pm

catmoon wrote:Put another way, there must be something behind the characteristics we impute on things. It may be ever changing, and impermanent, and unseen by our minds and senses, but

If it is not there, what has the character "emptiness"?


Does this make any sense to anyone?


"emptiness" is not a "character" since "character" implies affirmation and an essence that bears the property ("character"). "emptiness" however is just a negation of the mind's false projection onto an appearance.
However this negation is necessarily dependent on the false appearance of a "something" because it is this falsity of the appearance of this "something" that is negated but not the "something" (i.e. phenomenon) appearing.
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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby catmoon » Thu Feb 18, 2010 9:21 pm

TMingyur wrote:"emptiness" is not a "character" since "character" implies affirmation and an essence that bears the property ("character"). "emptiness" however is just a negation of the mind's false projection onto an appearance.
However this negation is necessarily dependent on the false appearance of a "something" because it is this falsity of the appearance of this "something" that is negated but not the "something" (i.e. phenomenon) appearing.



Well lets look at an actual cup. It can be empty or full of tea. It seems to me that at least in the conventional sense, emptiness must be just as much a character of the cup as fullness.

When you say
"emptiness" however is just a negation of the mind's false projection onto an appearance.



I have to wonder if all you have done is to define the character "emptiness"

I must admit though at this point I see all kinds of implications popping up and I cannot follow them all out or even keep track of them all properly.
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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby ground » Thu Feb 18, 2010 9:28 pm

catmoon wrote:
TMingyur wrote:"emptiness" is not a "character" since "character" implies affirmation and an essence that bears the property ("character"). "emptiness" however is just a negation of the mind's false projection onto an appearance.
However this negation is necessarily dependent on the false appearance of a "something" because it is this falsity of the appearance of this "something" that is negated but not the "something" (i.e. phenomenon) appearing.



Well lets look at an actual cup. It can be empty or full of tea.

These are possiblities.
However I have talked about the emptiness (meaning shunyata) being a negation.

catmoon wrote: It seems to me that at least in the conventional sense, emptiness must be just as much a character of the cup as fullness.

Take a cup without tea, empty of tea. You are asking "Is there tea in the cup?" the answer is: "no" bein a mere negation of the presence of tea in the cup.

When you say
"emptiness" however is just a negation of the mind's false projection onto an appearance.


catmoon wrote:
I have to wonder if all you have done is to define the character "emptiness"

If you can imagine a mere non-affirming negation being a character. There are many who can imagine "emptiness" (Shunyata) being inherently existent. You can imagine everything.
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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby catmoon » Thu Feb 18, 2010 9:44 pm

Well then.


Permit me a diversion. I am pondering the difference between an imaginary cup and the one on the table. When I close my eyes and imagine the cup, it has the same imputed qualities as the real cup. Blueness for example. Why can't I drink the tea in the imaginary cup? What it the difference between the imaginary tea and the tea I drink? To merely say "One is imaginary and the other isn't" begs the question.

Another thing has occurred to me. Take happiness and play with it. Suppose there are two unhappy people, sitting in misery. Suppose they both decide to pretend to be happy. One tells a joke and they both laugh. But wait, the joke is really funny and they are really laughing and now they are really happy - a pure imagination has somehow become real! How did that happen? What's going on here?
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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby ground » Thu Feb 18, 2010 10:03 pm

catmoon wrote:Well then.


Permit me a diversion. I am pondering the difference between an imaginary cup and the one on the table. When I close my eyes and imagine the cup, it has the same imputed qualities as the real cup. Blueness for example. Why can't I drink the tea in the imaginary cup? What it the difference between the imaginary tea and the tea I drink? To merely say "One is imaginary and the other isn't" begs the question.

Valid cognition verifies valid phenomena. Your imagination cup is only accessible to your own mind and lacks efficiency to hold real tea, but the real cup and its efficiency is accessible to everybody with sound faculties.

catmoon wrote:Another thing has occurred to me. Take happiness and play with it. Suppose there are two unhappy people, sitting in misery. Suppose they both decide to pretend to be happy. One tells a joke and they both laugh. But wait, the joke is really funny and they are really laughing and now they are really happy - a pure imagination has somehow become real! How did that happen? What's going on here?

I would not call this "happiness" but they are amusing themselves. Where do you see "pure imagination" in this example?
The joke and its comic sense is verifiable. The individuals sense of humor however may be different.
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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Feb 19, 2010 3:25 am

Greetings Catmoon,

In response to your original post, I think you've touched on why some people favour Madhyamakan analysis over Abhidharmic analysis ... namely that the classification of things as things (or as dharmas, or whatever...) involves a distinction between the thing and that which is not-thing - a distinction which risks (but doesn't necessitate) the reification of that thing as a thing which exists in and of itself, independent of conditions.

I'm open to being corrected if what I've said is patently wrong.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby catmoon » Fri Feb 19, 2010 7:15 am

TMingyur wrote:I would not call this "happiness" but they are amusing themselves. Where do you see "pure imagination" in this example?
The joke and its comic sense is verifiable. The individuals sense of humor however may be different.


Well, they have not entered Nirvana, sure, but they have become happy in some sense. The pure imagination is the original idea, "let's pretend to be happy" which is, at the outset, existent only in the mind of one of the participants.
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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby catmoon » Fri Feb 19, 2010 7:19 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Catmoon,

In response to your original post, I think you've touched on why some people favour Madhyamakan analysis over Abhidharmic analysis ... namely that the classification of things as things (or as dharmas, or whatever...) involves a distinction between the thing and that which is not-thing - a distinction which risks (but doesn't necessitate) the reification of that thing as a thing which exists in and of itself, independent of conditions.

I'm open to being corrected if what I've said is patently wrong.

Metta,
Retro. :)


I'm not worried about risks - if the truth involves such risks then I must take them.

It seems that in classifying emptiness as a character of things I have come perilously close to reification. And as Ven. Huifeng pointed out, the term "emptiness" is often used in a significantly different sense.
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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby ground » Fri Feb 19, 2010 7:27 am

Before a label ia assigned the meaning of the label has to be clear. That is valid for the term "Happiness" too.
And it is valid for the term "character".

But let's not get sidetracked. The issue I introduced was valid cognition in the context of "emptiness".

As to "character":
You say that "emptiness" is a "character" of a thing that is empty. I prefer to say that it is just a non-affirming negation. So far I have understood that we have been talking about "character" in a shunyata sense and that your "cup" has just been an example.

Now please define "character".
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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby ground » Fri Feb 19, 2010 7:36 am

retrofuturist wrote:In response to your original post, I think you've touched on why some people favour Madhyamakan analysis over Abhidharmic analysis ... namely that the classification of things as things (or as dharmas, or whatever...) involves a distinction between the thing and that which is not-thing - a distinction which risks (but doesn't necessitate) the reification of that thing as a thing which exists in and of itself, independent of conditions.

I'm open to being corrected if what I've said is patently wrong.

Metta,
Retro. :)

That (highlightened blue) is a very good thought but the context of this is not necessarily "Madhyamakan analysis over Abhidharmic analysis" but - from my Madhyamakan perspective - this applies generally to the conventional truth expressed in conventional terms. For example you can find this issue being the core of the quarrel between the Madhyamakas who apply logical reasoning and those Madhyamakas who outrightly reject the appropriateness analytical reasoning. IMO the latter are simply confusing logic with "reality".

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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby catmoon » Fri Feb 19, 2010 7:41 am

TMingyur wrote:
As to "character":
You say that "emptiness" is a "character" of a thing that is empty. I prefer to say that it is just a non-affirming negation. So far I have understood that we have been talking about "character" in a shunyata sense and that your "cup" has just been an example.

Now please define "character".


You use the term "non-affirming negation". I put it to you that this is a contradiction in terms. The term "bunge", defined as "Meaning neither yes nor no, without being indeterminate" is similar. Why?

Because you can't negate a nonexistent thing. Why? Because if a thing were nonexistent you would be unaware of it and unable to negate it. Ah, you might say, what about unicorns? They don't exist! While this is true, is is not unicorns we negate, it is the idea of unicorns we negate. There are no material unicorns to negate. And if there were material unicorns, what is the sense in negating them?

So I come to the position that if a thing exists, negation is nonsensical and if it doesn't, it's impossible.
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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby ground » Fri Feb 19, 2010 7:54 am

catmoon wrote:You use the term "non-affirming negation". I put it to you that this is a contradiction in terms. The term "bunge", defined as "Meaning neither yes nor no, without being indeterminate" is similar. Why?

Because you can't negate a nonexistent thing. Why? Because if a thing were nonexistent you would be unaware of it and unable to negate it. Ah, you might say, what about unicorns? They don't exist! While this is true, is is not unicorns we negate, it is the idea of unicorns we negate. There are no material unicorns to negate. And if there were material unicorns, what is the sense in negating them?

So I come to the position that if a thing exists, negation is nonsensical and if it doesn't, it's impossible.


Can you validly negate something that exists? You are right you cannot negate this.
Think about it. The crucial point is "validity".
You can only negate the existence of something that appears as if existing in a certain mode but does not so exist.

In your example of the absence of something: You first have to imagine its presence. Then you can negate the truth of this imagined presence.

See this is the meaning of non-affirming nagation: to just remove what is not really "there". But the resulting "absence" is no "character" of anything.

Kind regards
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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby catmoon » Fri Feb 19, 2010 7:59 am

TMingyur wrote:
catmoon wrote:You use the term "non-affirming negation". I put it to you that this is a contradiction in terms. The term "bunge", defined as "Meaning neither yes nor no, without being indeterminate" is similar. Why?

Because you can't negate a nonexistent thing. Why? Because if a thing were nonexistent you would be unaware of it and unable to negate it. Ah, you might say, what about unicorns? They don't exist! While this is true, is is not unicorns we negate, it is the idea of unicorns we negate. There are no material unicorns to negate. And if there were material unicorns, what is the sense in negating them?

So I come to the position that if a thing exists, negation is nonsensical and if it doesn't, it's impossible.


Can you validly negate something that exists? You are right you cannot negate this.
Think about it. The crucial point is "validity".
You can only negate the existence of something that appears as if existing in a certain mode but does not so exist.

In your example of the absence of something: You first have to imagine its presence. Then you can negate the truth of this imagined presence.

Se this is the meaning of non-affirming nagation: to just remove what is not really there.

Kind regards


If it's really not there, what are you removing? If you see something and it's not there, all you can do is remove the appearance, and the appearance exists, so it's not a "non-affirming negation".

Holy cats is this a bizarre thread or what!
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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Feb 19, 2010 8:06 am

Greetings catmoon,

catmoon wrote:Holy cats is this a bizarre thread or what!

I think a thread on holy cats would be more bizarre.

:?

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby catmoon » Fri Feb 19, 2010 8:09 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings catmoon,

catmoon wrote:Holy cats is this a bizarre thread or what!

I think a thread on holy cats would be more bizarre.

:?

Metta,
Retro. :)


They definitely exist. Half the beat poets would qualify.
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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby muni » Fri Feb 19, 2010 12:42 pm

Catmoon :smile: .

Enjoy your tea in the blue cup without any attachments. The emptyness as being the quality of nature. Emptiness belongs to no any category, clasification.

To be in the state free from mental constructs.

It is very important to understand correctly emptiness. Padmasambhava said about this: "if you stray to the "idea of emptiness" or don't see the state of equality and instead dissipate into a state of indolence, is this running in misunderstanding".
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