Nagarjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā: Questions and Comments

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Nagarjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā: Questions and Comments

Postby rachmiel » Wed May 08, 2013 6:11 pm

Please post your questions/comments about Nagarjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā to this thread.
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Re: Nagarjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā: Questions and Comments

Postby rachmiel » Wed May 08, 2013 6:19 pm

So I've taken a breezy ride through the first few chapters, and the vibe I'm getting is: radical emptiness. By radical, I mean emptiness that allows for NO reification, including that of the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā texts themselves. Which is, I'm guessing, one of the reasons that the texts are so full of apparent contradictions and paradoxes; "this is not that, nor is it the opposite of that, nor is it anywhere between that and its opposite, nor is it not not that, " etc.

It's a wonderful antidote for me to Advaita, which unravels and unravels and unravels reality ... until at the very "bottom" voila: brahman appears, the ultimate (solution-less) solution, (un-reifiable) reification. Or at least that's how brahman comes off for me. I much prefer an unraveling that, at its bottom, reveals no ultimate substrate, no solution, just more unraveling.
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Re: Nagarjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā: Questions and Comments

Postby rachmiel » Wed May 08, 2013 6:46 pm

No "place" to hang onto ... not even the notion that there *is* no place to hang onto. Just: ________________ . (And not even that.)
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Re: Nagarjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā: Questions and Comments

Postby rachmiel » Fri May 10, 2013 3:28 pm

Done. (For now.) I'm a believer! (As I was before I starting working through the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā.)

Time to realize emptiness, live it: back to my Khenpo Gangshar-ian vivid awareness (un-)practice.

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Re: Nagarjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā: Questions and Comments

Postby Will » Fri May 10, 2013 8:55 pm

rachmiel wrote:No "place" to hang onto ... not even the notion that there *is* no place to hang onto. Just: ________________ . (And not even that.)


Yet karma & its effects still function and at 'bottom' is the swabhava that is niswabhava - the nature that is natureless. Very nifty!
Revealing one essence: this means the inherently pure, complete, luminous essence, which is pure of its own nature. -- Fa-tsang
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Re: Nagarjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā: Questions and Comments

Postby rachmiel » Fri May 10, 2013 11:33 pm

Will wrote:
rachmiel wrote:No "place" to hang onto ... not even the notion that there *is* no place to hang onto. Just: ________________ . (And not even that.)


Yet karma & its effects still function and at 'bottom' is the swabhava that is niswabhava - the nature that is natureless. Very nifty!

I'm not familiar with the term niswabhava. Does it mean: the nature that is natureless?
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Re: Nagarjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā: Questions and Comments

Postby Will » Sat May 11, 2013 12:00 am

rachmiel wrote:
Will wrote:
rachmiel wrote:No "place" to hang onto ... not even the notion that there *is* no place to hang onto. Just: ________________ . (And not even that.)


Yet karma & its effects still function and at 'bottom' is the swabhava that is niswabhava - the nature that is natureless. Very nifty!

I'm not familiar with the term niswabhava. Does it mean: the nature that is natureless?


Not quite, only 'natureless'. Swabhava = nature -- ni-swabhava = no nature
Revealing one essence: this means the inherently pure, complete, luminous essence, which is pure of its own nature. -- Fa-tsang
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Re: Nagarjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā: Questions and Comments

Postby rachmiel » Sat May 11, 2013 12:16 am

Would you say that this means that, at the "bottom," there is no solidity, no answer/solution ... that, in effect, there *is* no bottom (or top, or sides, or inside/outside, etc.)?
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Re: Nagarjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā: Questions and Comments

Postby Will » Sat May 11, 2013 1:40 am

rachmiel wrote:Would you say that this means that, at the "bottom," there is no solidity, no answer/solution ... that, in effect, there *is* no bottom (or top, or sides, or inside/outside, etc.)?


"No solidity" yes, I agree. Yet that is the answer & solution. Nothing has inherent permanent existence, but everything has conventional, functional, impermanent existence.
Revealing one essence: this means the inherently pure, complete, luminous essence, which is pure of its own nature. -- Fa-tsang
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Re: Nagarjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā: Questions and Comments

Postby jeeprs » Sat May 11, 2013 1:16 pm

I would say that it means, nothing exists in its own right, or is permanent stable and everlasting. But this has to be interpreted carefully. If you want to build a solid structure, from an engineering viewpoint, you need to use materials and a design that is long lasting and durable. So this is really not a statement about the properties and qualities of material objects. There are degrees of purity of materials and some materials have greater or lesser degrees of stability. So be careful how to interpret this idea.

The other point is that the relation between Madhyamika and Advaita are best interepreted historically. They inform each other, in many ways. If you are familiar with Ramana Maharishi, who is neo-Advaita, you will find it very hard to draw a line between his teaching and Buddhist teaching. Whatever Ramana says about Buddhist teaching is generally spot on. It might have been different in ancient times when the two traditions were very much philosophical antagonists. But even then, traditionalist Indian philosophers criticized Shankara for being 'too Buddhist or 'crypto-Buddhist'. So I wouldn't, overall, spend too much time weighing up one against the other. That is an occupation for dedicated Sanskrit scholars. The arguments and counter-arguments between the Vedic 'advaita' and the Buddhist 'advaya' forms of non-dualism are very subtle.
Last edited by jeeprs on Sat May 11, 2013 1:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Nagarjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā: Questions and Comments

Postby rachmiel » Sat May 11, 2013 3:11 pm

Will wrote:... everything has conventional, functional, impermanent existence.

Does this mean that objects in the world -- trees, houses, ducks, thoughts, stories, emotions -- are all *real*?
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Re: Nagarjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā: Questions and Comments

Postby Will » Sat May 11, 2013 5:05 pm

rachmiel wrote:
Will wrote:... everything has conventional, functional, impermanent existence.

Does this mean that objects in the world -- trees, houses, ducks, thoughts, stories, emotions -- are all *real*?


Not being cute, but the dichotomy of real vs unreal is just our unenlightened mind's way of misunderstanding. Perhaps one way to ponder it, is to consider all 'objects', 'subjects', 'processes', 'thoughts', 'feelings' etc. as of perfectly equal status, of identical nature: impermanent & empty of intrinsic existence.
Revealing one essence: this means the inherently pure, complete, luminous essence, which is pure of its own nature. -- Fa-tsang
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Re: Nagarjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā: Questions and Comments

Postby rachmiel » Sat May 11, 2013 5:49 pm

Will wrote:
rachmiel wrote:
Will wrote:... everything has conventional, functional, impermanent existence.

Does this mean that objects in the world -- trees, houses, ducks, thoughts, stories, emotions -- are all *real*?


Not being cute, but the dichotomy of real vs unreal is just our unenlightened mind's way of misunderstanding. Perhaps one way to ponder it, is to consider all 'objects', 'subjects', 'processes', 'thoughts', 'feelings' etc. as of perfectly equal status, of identical nature: impermanent & empty of intrinsic existence.

But are they *there* ... ? When you and I look to the right and agree that there is a tree there, does Buddhism say that, yes, there is *something* there (clusters of elementary particles, wave interference patterns, etc.)? Or that there is nothing there ... and our agreement on seeing a tree is a kind of folie a deux? Or does Buddhism just smile and say nothing at all?
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Re: Nagarjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā: Questions and Comments

Postby Will » Sat May 11, 2013 5:59 pm

Will wrote:Not being cute, but the dichotomy of real vs unreal is just our unenlightened mind's way of misunderstanding. Perhaps one way to ponder it, is to consider all 'objects', 'subjects', 'processes', 'thoughts', 'feelings' etc. as of perfectly equal status, of identical nature: impermanent & empty of intrinsic existence.


rachmiel: But are they *there* ... ? When you and I look to the right and agree that there is a tree there, does Buddhism say that, yes, there is *something* there (clusters of elementary particles, wave interference patterns, etc.)? Or that there is nothing there ... and our agreement on seeing a tree is a kind of folie a deux? Or does Buddhism just smile and say nothing at all?

Never mind 'here' or 'there'. When Buddha or Nagarjuna look at a tree, they see a tree, yet they know the character or nature of the tree. For the rest of us, our shared delusion is not the tree being seen, but whether it is 'there' or 'not there' etcetera.
Revealing one essence: this means the inherently pure, complete, luminous essence, which is pure of its own nature. -- Fa-tsang
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Re: Nagarjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā: Questions and Comments

Postby rachmiel » Sat May 11, 2013 6:07 pm

Will wrote:When Buddha or Nagarjuna look at a tree, they see a tree, yet they know the character or nature of the tree.

When I look at a tree I see/feel that it is impermanent and empty of independent existence/essence. But I still wonder about what is or isn't there, about what entities exist independently of my mind/perception, of all minds/perceptions.
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Re: Nagarjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā: Questions and Comments

Postby Tom » Sun May 12, 2013 4:27 am

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Re: Nagarjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā: Questions and Comments

Postby Azidonis » Sun May 12, 2013 1:34 pm

Tom wrote:This should be extremely good...

http://www.amazon.com/Nagarjunas-Middle ... =nagarjuna


I really like this version, as well as Kenneth Inada's translation.
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Re: Nagarjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā: Questions and Comments

Postby Adamantine » Sun May 12, 2013 2:36 pm

rachmiel wrote:
rachmiel wrote:Does this mean that objects in the world -- trees, houses, ducks, thoughts, stories, emotions -- are all *real*?



But are they *there* ... ? When you and I look to the right and agree that there is a tree there, does Buddhism say that, yes, there is *something* there (clusters of elementary particles, wave interference patterns, etc.)? Or that there is nothing there ... and our agreement on seeing a tree is a kind of folie a deux? Or does Buddhism just smile and say nothing at all?



I think you need to go more deeply into what constitutes your personal definition
of "real", "there", and "really there" before anyone can reply adequately.
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Detachment is the final happiness. ~Sri Saraha
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Re: Nagarjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā: Questions and Comments

Postby rachmiel » Sun May 12, 2013 4:37 pm

Adamantine wrote:
rachmiel wrote:
rachmiel wrote:Does this mean that objects in the world -- trees, houses, ducks, thoughts, stories, emotions -- are all *real*?


But are they *there* ... ? When you and I look to the right and agree that there is a tree there, does Buddhism say that, yes, there is *something* there (clusters of elementary particles, wave interference patterns, etc.)? Or that there is nothing there ... and our agreement on seeing a tree is a kind of folie a deux? Or does Buddhism just smile and say nothing at all?


I think you need to go more deeply into what constitutes your personal definition
of "real", "there", and "really there" before anyone can reply adequately.

Fair enough.

1. There exists stuff*. The universe is not a stuff-less dream or group hallucination. The mind co-creates what it calls "reality" with this existing stuff. You and I look to the right and agree that we see a tree. Our reality of perceiving that tree depends on: the sensory/interpretive abilities of our minds *and* the existence of some stuff (clump of atoms, waveforms, energy, etc.) that we interpret as "tree."

2. There exists no stuff. The universe is created and sustained 100% by mind. You and I look to the right and agree we see a tree. In reality, there is no you, no I, no right, no seeing, no agreeing, no tree, no stuff. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily ... life is but a dream.

Which is Buddhism closer to?

* Stuff = that which inhabits a not-100%-empty vacuum.
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Re: Nagarjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā: Questions and Comments

Postby Astus » Mon May 13, 2013 10:40 am

rachmiel wrote:Which is Buddhism closer to?


Neither of that. Buddhism is not about giving clever answers to difficult ontological-epistemological questions. Madhyamaka is about understanding that suffering comes from the reification of concepts, from the ignorance of imagining things to have self-nature. To see that all appearances are without essence, to see them insubstantial and fabricated, is the liberating wisdom of emptiness, i.e. the end of conceptual proliferation.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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