Appearances without an underlying reality

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Re: Appearances without an underlying reality

Postby Jack Dawkins » Mon Jul 12, 2010 11:41 am

Huseng wrote:In the case of the pot, it appears inherently existent to the mind,

Dexing wrote:Does it?? I challenge you to find one person in a million who believes there is a pot that exists permanently, possessing its own self-sustaining substance.

Who believes such a ridiculous thing? So why would Mahayana doctrine spend so much time tearing up a strawman argument?

Huseng wrote: You have yet to refute the Madhyamika position that to the unenlightened mind objects and phenomena appear inherently existent.

Jack Dawkins wrote:Whether phenomena appear to so-called ordinary people to be inherently existent is an empirical question. It is not something to be established or refuted by abstract argument.

Anders Honore (referring to the second post above, by Dexing) wrote:This is actually very easy to demonstrate. Find an object, perhaps a pot for the sake of relevance, that is dear to you. Maybe a family heirloom, or your pc or whatever.

Then break it.

You will then quickly have a demonstration of how the mind apprended that object as existing as it now turns to non-existence in the mind, with all the dhukkha that comes with it.

An empirical test! Great, but why/how does this particular test establish that "ordinary people" grasp outer objects as existing inherently?

Clearly, if the person carrying out the test is grasping the object as existing inherently then he hasn't worked out the full consequences of this view, otherwise the intention to break the objects would not arise in him (he would appreciate that this would be impossible). This does rather beg the question of what we mean by grasping an object as inherently existent, because we clearly don't mean grasping it as having all the properties an inherently existent object would have. What properties have to be attributed to the object before the subject can be said to have grasped it as existing inherently?

The example of breaking something of sentimental value (your PC Anders? Really??!) reminds me of one I've come across in another context, involving stabbing a photo of a loved one. It's true that this does feel a bit like stabbing the person. If I had a hundred pictures, I wouldn't want to stab one of them even though I'd still have plenty left, so it is not simply a matter of not being able to use or enjoy something in the future. This could be said to be related to inherent existence, because it can be interpreted as showing that we sometimes confuse the representation of a thing (the photo) with the thing itself (the person). To injure one is to injure the other. The same can perhaps be said for breaking things of sentimental value generally. I suppose it can be argued that this is similar to confusing a mental representation of an outer object with the outer object in itself, and so coming to view the object as existing from its own side. I think this is a bit tenuous though, and not only because in the case of an object of sentimental value the thing represented (a person, a particular event or period in life, or some other source of nostalgia) has already been experienced as separate from its representation (the object), whereas outer objects are never experienced separately from their mental representations. Apparently (I have never asked one) Australian Aborigines object to having their photos taken because they believe that a part of the person's spirit is captured in the image. I don't see that this has much to do with inherent existence of phenomena (inherent existence of "spirits" is another matter, and not the one under discussion). However, it seems to me to be much closer to what is going on in the "sentimental value" experiments.

In short, while this empirical test may be on the right lines, I think it is a bit hasty to say that the proposition is "very easy" to demonstrate by reference to it.
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Re: Appearances without an underlying reality

Postby Anders » Mon Jul 12, 2010 11:47 am

Jack Dawkins wrote:An empirical test! Great, but why/how does this particular test establish that "ordinary people" grasp outer objects as existing inherently?


Because the notion of the item's existence acts as a cognitive basis for the grasping. If no object is identified as existing, there is no possibility for it to be grasped at and hence no possibility for the arising of craving, aversion, and so forth.

Clearly, if the person carrying out the test is grasping the object as existing inherently then he hasn't worked out the full consequences of this view, otherwise the intention to break the objects would not arise in him (he would appreciate that this would be impossible). This does rather beg the question of what we mean by grasping an object as inherently existent, because we clearly don't mean grasping it as having all the properties an inherently existent object would have. What properties have to be attributed to the object before the subject can be said to have grasped it as existing inherently?


Indeed, the person has not worked out the consequences (and impossibility) of this. This is why the grasping at being and nonbeing that is ordinary perception is termed 'ignorance'. This is the very point of the MMK - it sets out to demonstrate the absurdity of being and nonbeing in all its guises and shapes. And yet beings hold to it despite this.

It is perhaps also worth noting that when Nagarjuna talks of nonexistence, he uses the term in terms of an existing object ceasing to exist (and becoming nonexistent).
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra
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Re: Appearances without an underlying reality

Postby Jack Dawkins » Mon Jul 12, 2010 12:16 pm

Sherab wrote:Hi Jack,

In brief, what you are asking as I understand it is whether there is an underlying reality to a quark and whether there is an underlying reality to a mental moment.

The underlying reality you seek is not to be found in the world of phenomena that all observable physical and mental phenomena inhabit. The observable phenomena are all ephiphenomena of an underlying reality that cannot be known by any means (physical or mental) that are part of the world of phenomena.

Hope this helps.


Thanks Sherab.

I was actually asking about a particular stage in a particular debate which is set out in a particular book, but unfortunately that didn't go across very well. I probably should have been clearer. Anyway, the issue you mention is certainly part of the wider context.

The issue was really "can a person who claims that nothing at all has true existence still claim that (say) quarks can appear to exist"? After all and the nature of an illusion is not that something appears when there is nothing there, but that a particular thing appears to be something else. This issue arises because Buddhists from the Madhyamaka tradition argue that everything we see is merely an appearance, and that nothing is real at all. This is inevitably a simplified explanation of what is a highly sophisticated view, and Madhyamikas have emphasised that they are not denying that things actually appear, only that there is nothing real behind the appearances. They define real (or "inherently existent") in a particular way, which guarantees that nothing real can come into existence. They then insist, without evidence – or without satisfactory evidence - that human beings take things to exist in this particular way, and they identify this as a cause of suffering. The point of the distinctively Madhyamaka teachings is to remove this cause of suffering.

It's an interesting view you express, though not one (so far as I know) which is taught by any of the Buddhist schools. One aspect of your view - one that I used to share - seems to be that mind and matter are fundamentally different such that neither can be explained in terms of the other. I was eventually persuaded, mainly by reading books by Dan Dennett and Antonio Damasio, that in fact the subjective realm of perception, cognition and meaning can be explained in physical terms. I especially recommend AD's The Feeling of What Happens if you are interested in consciousness.

What your view has in common with that of the Mahayana schools is that the nature of ultimate reality cannot be grasped by the conceptualising mind. Otherwise I think it is fundamentally different.
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Re: Appearances without an underlying reality

Postby Dexing » Mon Jul 12, 2010 3:09 pm

Anders Honore wrote:It is not nihilism, but simple the middle way between the extremess of existence and non-existence. That even Nirvana is not truly existent does nothing to undermine the liberating consequences of its realisation. What Madhyamika is saying is that to effect true liberation, even Nirvana must not be apprehended as real. This is in fact echoed by Yogacara, as seen here by Vasubandhu:

As long as one places something before himself and, taking it as an object,
Declares that it is the nature of Mere-consciousness,
He is really not residing in the state of Mere-consciousness,
Because he is in possession of something.


Thus we can see Vasubandhu too acknowledged the problem of taking the ultimate as real, as it inevitably entails possession and is hence a fetter. This is the kind of subtle afflictions Bodhisattvas labour on that Buddhas do not. And incidentally, why even many moderate madhyamikas tend not to like Yogacara. Although they may acknowledge that yogacara does not fundamentally abide by the fault of realism, the language of it nevertheless encourages it. A case in point being, it seems, your arguments here.


"As long as one places something before himself" such as the mere concept of Nirvana or Bodhi, he is in possession of something. That means he creates something and then attaches to it and is unable to go beyond it.

The kind of Nirvana and Bodhi that we name and speak of is not the true state itself, but a false concept that we may attach to. It is taught for the sake of direction. But once we get that direction we must ultimately let it go. Lack the simile of the raft.

But that does not mean that the state and realizations of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, beyond conceptualization, is also illusory. Otherwise they would be just as attached and ignorant as Ordinary Beings. They see clearly the false and imaginary in Ordinary Beings, while Ordinary Beings do not.

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Re: Appearances without an underlying reality

Postby Dexing » Mon Jul 12, 2010 3:25 pm

Huseng wrote:
Dexing wrote:The problem is that that "Dependent Origination" is not defined here, so you may apply a Hinayana definition to it and make the mistake of taking dharmas as external to the mind.


Again, I'm talking about how Nagarjuna defined it and not how Dexing does.


But your understanding of the definition doesn't seem to make a difference between Nagarjuna and Hinayana interpretations.

That dharmas depend on other dharmas is a fine, but taking the analysis further we can see how all the requisite dharmas are likewise dependent on infinite more causes and conditions for their existence. It is thus we can say on one hand they appear to exist, but through reason we can determine that all the dharmas, both the immediately perceived and the requisite, are empty and non-arisen.


They appear to depend on other dharmas that likewise depend on more Causes & Conditions. And all of this appears to be taking place independently from mind. That is the mistake.

There need not be any discussion of dharmas arising independently of the mind. In fact the analysis Nagarjuna provides us with negates the mind as an absolute basis because it too is conditional and arises dependent on causes and conditions.


That is of course the deluded mind of Ordinary Beings which is ultimately to be relinquished. As Shakyamuni teaches that which can be returned to prior cause is false and unreal, but that which can be returned nowhere is none other than true and real.

Relative existence means there is an appearance, while there is no underlying reality. That means there are no inter-dependent dharmas arising outside of mind. But consciousness evolves to resemble internal and external.


So are you asserting that the mind is not subject to causes and conditions for its existence?


Not exactly, that is the deluded consciousness of Ordinary Beings, which appears to be due to Causes & Conditions, but ultimately cannot be attributed to that because it is false and unreal from the beginning.

Okay, so you deny the process of dependent origination -- that things arise from causes and conditions?


In an ultimate sense, yes. But of course not conventionally. Dependent Origination appears to be working in such a way and is taught to the Shravakas for the sake of uprooting suffering, but since all Ordinary Beings know is illusory it cannot be attributed to Causes & Conditions. Not just the physical matter as inherently existing, but the whole process of co-arising is illusory. This is taught to the Mahayana for the sake of realization of truth in order to be able to save others, as you can't do that if you are still confused about the nature of things.

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Re: Appearances without an underlying reality

Postby Dexing » Mon Jul 12, 2010 3:28 pm

Huseng wrote:
Dexing wrote:Then you are already in a different boat from the majority of people who study them and say they are definitely in opposition. It's a rather widespread opinion, but I don't see why.


It is because the early Indian thinkers from such schools debated amongst themselves and were in disagreement.


And not because what is held in each is actually in opposition. Because Shakyamuni can be considered the greatest Madhyamikan and Yogacarin, and taught the points of both perfectly, before later people came and divided them into separate schools and argued that they are contradictory.

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Re: Appearances without an underlying reality

Postby Dexing » Mon Jul 12, 2010 3:43 pm

Anders Honore wrote:
Dexing wrote:
Anders Honore wrote:That dharmas arises dependent on causes and conditions (the most fundamental of all Buddhist teachings. It's really quite extraordinary that you reject this)


It is explicitly taught in Mahayana Sutras spoken by Shakyamuni, such as the Shurangama. That sort of Hinayana understanding of Causes & Conditions is to be relinquished.

:namaste:


Please do provide a quotation for this. I've never ever come across any Buddhist teaching that relegates causation to the level of a mere deluded appearance on par with spontaneous arising.

The surangama too describes the mind and the arising of ignorance in terms of causation. So I really don't know where you are getting this from.


It is not on par with spontaneous arising. It is in fact neither attributing phenomena to Causes & Conditions nor to Spontaneity.

As Shakyamuni explains to Ananda in the Shurangama Sutra, Chapters 2 and 9;

"Ananda, what I have spoken about causes and conditions
in the mundane sense does not describe the primary meaning."


"Contemplating the cause of the form skandha,
one sees that false thoughts of solidity are its source."


An excerpt, from Chapter 2:

"Ananda, Why do I say that the five skandhas are basically the wonderful nature of true suchness, the Treasury of the Tathagata? Ananda, suppose a person with clear vision were to gaze at clear bright space. His gaze would perceive only clear emptiness devoid of anything else. Then if that person for no particular reason fixed his gaze, the staring would cause fatigue. Thus in empty space he would see illusory flowers and other illusory and disordered unreal appearances. You should be aware that the form skandha is like that. Ananda, those illusory flowers did not originate from space nor did they come from the eyes. In fact, Ananda, if they came form space, coming from there they should also return to and enter space. But if objects were to enter and leave it, space would not be empty. And if space was not empty, then there would be no room for it to contain the flowers that might appear and disappear, just as Ananda's body cannot contain another Ananda. If the flowers came from the eyes, coming from them, they should also return to the eyes. If the image of flowers originated in the eyes, then they themselves should have vision. If they had vision, when they went out to space, they should be able to turn around and see the person's eyes. If they didn't have vision, then in going out, they would obscure space and in returning they would obscure the eyes. But when the person saw the flowers, his eyes should not have been obscured. But on the contrary, isn't it when we see clear space that our vision is said to be clear? From this you should understand that the form skandha is empty and false. Fundamentally its nature cannot be attributed to either causes and conditions or spontaneity.


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Re: Appearances without an underlying reality

Postby White Lotus » Mon Jul 12, 2010 5:43 pm

Hi Whitelotus,

Really friend, whatever bakes your cake is fine by me.

So when it comes to right or wrong, high vs low - I would say: The right teaching, the highest teaching is the one that works for that particular individual at that particular time, there is no problem. May everyone find that which works for them, that which cuts through their delusions and mental afflictions.

You are welcome to your views of what is right and what is wrong.
to encourage flexibility and openness of view is important. i also respect your view! however, to me emptiness is like the white of the egg. not the yolk.
when you crack the shell that hides own nature you first of all taste emptiness. this lasts for some time, then emptiness like mist is blow away by the heat of the sun of Mind.


Your view seems to reify mind, to me. My understanding of Mind is that it is Buddha nature, tathata and all things, silence and noise, emptiness, fullness, movement. time, being, dependent origination. therefore it is to be reified, being completely normal and mundane it is also extrodinary.

"Emptiness is regarded as the "ultimate" object. emptiness is not. it cannot be. it is an abscence.

emptiness of inherent existence is the ultimate or deepest way in which all phenomena exist." in emptiness from the beginning there is not a single thing. that objects are dependent is a function of Mind. emptiness has no potential to act nor bind together interdependence, since it is not. it is empty of all potentiality. Mind is the potentiality upon which emptiness rests. Mind operates beneath emptiness. and is the source of all emptiness.

"definitive truth" for Buddhism is the absolute negation of any one truth as the Definitive Truth. which is the same as saying there is no truth other than negation. (emptiness is the fruit of negation). or there is no definite truth.
this is fine, but is only one angle on things.


One is many are the same. If you only see from the perspective that says one is different from many, your understanding is too materialistic and superficial.” keeping an open and flexible mind, one takes whatever position is helpful at that given time. thank you for quoting this. it is helpful.

i think your approach must be orthodox from a Thibetan perspective, this should encourage you. it is me who is saying something different. i am the one that should walk carefully, my experience being my understaning.

best wishes, White Lotus.

beginnings are always fragile,
finding a firm basis from which to practice,
the orthodox will do just fine.
once roots are firmer, branching
out into uncharted territory.
every path has its own virtue.
in any matters of importance. dont rely on me. i may not know what i am talking about. take what i say as mere speculation. i am not ordained. nor do i have a formal training. i do believe though that if i am wrong on any point. there are those on this site who i hope will quickly point out my mistakes.
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Re: Appearances without an underlying reality

Postby BFS » Mon Jul 12, 2010 6:01 pm

I have nothing further to add to what I have already written, White Lotus, except thanks for chatting. :)
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Re: Appearances without an underlying reality

Postby Sherab » Tue Jul 13, 2010 1:00 am

Jack Dawkins wrote:The issue was really "can a person who claims that nothing at all has true existence still claim that (say) quarks can appear to exist"?

Yes, as all observables are ultimately illusions.

Jack Dawkins wrote:…Madhyamikas have emphasised that they are not denying that things actually appear, only that there is nothing real behind the appearances. They define real (or "inherently existent") in a particular way, which guarantees that nothing real can come into existence …

In meditation on emptiness, one has to drop all forms of grasping. The purpose of Madhyamaka arguments was to stop people from that grasping. That is all. Underlying all graspings (defined to include clinging and rejection) is the belief that the object grasped is either existing or not existing. The refinement of argument against existence into argument against inherent existence merely muddies the water.

Jack Dawkins wrote:What your view has in common with that of the Mahayana schools is that the nature of ultimate reality cannot be grasped by the conceptualising mind. Otherwise I think it is fundamentally different.

Not really.
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Re: Appearances without an underlying reality

Postby Sherab » Tue Jul 13, 2010 1:54 am

Jack Dawkins wrote:One aspect of your view - one that I used to share - seems to be that mind and matter are fundamentally different such that neither can be explained in terms of the other.

Yes and no. Yes if you are referring to the phenomena themselves. No if you are referring to their ultimate reality.
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