Queequeg wrote:I'm just uncomfortable with applying this term "meta-truth".... The "meta-truth" might be applied to this "emptiness of emptiness" but then we end up with this same failure of the conditioned...
It is just an analogy drawn during an exploration, so no need to get too uncomfortable. I think that the "great emptiness" (mahāśūnyatā) is implied, here, so it escapes the problem of the "failure of the conditioned", * in most schemas.
When I start thinking about all this emptiness and emptiness-of-emptiness business, I tend to get disoriented - so please forgive me if I seem unclear or confused - because I probably am.
This might be getting off tack of the original post, but I'll justify this digression by saying its a sub-issue...
As I was walking along this morning, thinking this emptiness-of-emptiness through, I came back to something that has always bothered me about Madhyamika - it has no punchline - its like a joke that is all set up. It doesn't even venture an, "Aristocrats!" at the end to let you know the joke is completed. The emptiness-of-emptiness itself, at a, ahem, meta-level, is yielded only in relation to the Madhyamika analysis. Divorce it from this analysis, and what is there? You've now just asserted a "meta-truth" subject to the same impossibility of every other dharma... I understand that there are some schools of Madhyamika interpretation that assert precisely this, with all the caveats of nuance properly footnoted. I may also be mistaken - its not a subject I've studied extensively. Assuming my perception is more or less accurate (all this hedging language demanded by Madhyamika!)...
My impression is that Madhyamika is an incomplete teaching. This is for so many reasons. The primary one is that all it does is show the impossibility of a naive notion of self. An active application of Madhyamika analysis can engender a particular state of consciousness, but I have to say, I sympathize with critics of Madhyamika who characterize this state as dangerous pit, functionally similar, if not identical to the Hinayana enlightenment with all of its failures. If this was all that the Buddha taught, there would be no basis for compassion. That's why, even though this is just an exercise in interdisciplinary dialogue, I am uncomfortable with calling even Mahasunyata a Meta-Truth. As I speculated, though, this may just be a sectarian distinction, or my own misunderstanding.
Please forgive me, Viniketa, if I am reading too much into your brief comments here, but I sense futerko has a slightly different view than you that is closer to mine.
futerko wrote:This is exactly what I was trying to say. The issue for post-modernism is the apparent lack of a meta-truth, but as with your allusion to Nagarjuna - this only reveals itself in the apparent "failure" of the conditioned.
It is revealed precisely as a lack in the fabric of what was apparently solid, and that is why the "failure" to locate any essential quality is exactly what gives us a way out of the endless cycle of repetition.
The emptiness of emptiness is referring to the idea that emptiness may not only be found as a lack of any essential quality of the conditioned, but also that the quality found only expresses itself as the absence of a quality.
Its like a footprint reveals two absences, both a gap in the ground where the earth was, and the lack of the foot which made them. If you look for the second without finding the first you grasp at nothing.
"Nothing" being thoroughly unreal. As Bob Thurman was fond of saying in class, "You can't have nothing!"
I agree with all of this, and futerko, your interpretation may in fact follow the turn I'm about to describe - just not certain based on what you write here.
Examining the conditioned for essential nature we fail, revealing, as you say, "the absence of quality." The absence is indistinguishable from the conditioned that is revealing the absence. Absence cannot be distinguished as anything in itself.
Unable to distinguish emptiness, however, we are compelled to return and fully engage in the conditioned, the difference now being that we do so with the Madhyamika insight into the conditioned.
In terms of our practice - and I only tread here because you mentioned this quality of "the absence of quality", so to speak, gives us the out from the endless cycle (samsara) - we seek to realize liberation from the conditioned - but all of our activities to achieve this are necessarily conditioned. Our practices to be liberated from the conditioned are themselves conditioned, and can be no other way. Its only when we realize that the goal is, and has always been an inherent quality of our activity that we can in any sense be liberated; the goal is achieved in the place of practice, so it is said; liberated without being liberated, or rather neither liberated nor not liberated. I'll just wrap this up by suggesting the existential implications I'm referencing here seem to be the issues at play in questions about Sudden and Gradual Enlightenment, Buddhanature, and in a more distant way, Alaya and Amala Vijnana.
Bringing this back to the subject of the "post-modern", although some of there analysis parallels aspects of Madhyamika, they engage in a different discipline than Buddhists because their activity is oriented to a different goal. They may deny that they have a goal, but whatever they are doing, its not Buddhism.