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PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2010 10:55 pm 
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Here is a video of Lama Gursam talking about emptiness at Vulture Peak while leading a pilgrimage. Some people might get frustrated with his talk because he speaks very slowly and his English isn't so good, but I found it very helpful.


His main point is that the Buddhist concept of emptiness is really the interdependence of all things. Do you agree with this?

He also points out that emptiness is inseparable from true compassion.

I have known for a long time that Buddhist emptiness is not empty space. The phrase I've been parroting for a while is "emptiness is the absence of inherent existence." Although this statement may be correct, I find that the word "absence" still creates a bit of a nihilistic impression in my mind. I like Lama Gursam's statement "emptiness is interdependence" much better because it gives me a more useful viewpoint to work with.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2010 11:13 pm 
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TNH uses "interbeing". This kind of direction leads to issues one of which is - well it isn't that hard to realize interdependence is it? So what's the big deal about emptiness? I would keep on parroting "lack of inherent existence" IMHO.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2010 2:16 am 
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I suppose interdependence can be one way to explain dependent origination. I've seen this in various places in the English-language Buddhist world; Joanna Macy's World as Lover... is one early example.

I think dependent origination is a good context in which to explain emptiness (sunyata, the category of things that don't exist in and of themselves but only contingently in concert with other such &c).

So I can see some ways in which the concepts of emptiness and interdependence might cooperate if mediated by dependent origination.

All that said and I still haven't seen the video. :crazy: Enough from me until after.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2010 2:32 am 
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Luke wrote:
The phrase I've been parroting for a while is "emptiness is the absence of inherent existence." Although this statement may be correct, I find that the word "absence" still creates a bit of a nihilistic impression in my mind. I like Lama Gursam's statement "emptiness is interdependence" much better because it gives me a more useful viewpoint to work with.

Yes, it's two ways of saying the same thing. Dharmas are empty of inherent existence (svabhāva śūnya) because of dependent arising (pratītyasamutpāda). Nāgārjuna's Vigrahavyāvartanī, verse 22:

    yaś ca pratītyabhāvo bhāvānāṃ śūnyateti sā proktā |
    yaś ca pratītyabhāvo bhavati hi tasyāsvabhāvatvam ||

    Dependently arisen entities
    Are called "emptiness,"
    [For] that which is dependently arisen
    Is that which has no inherent nature.

A translation of his commentary can be read here.

All the best,

Geoff


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2010 2:46 am 
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Yes, interdependence (which = interdependent origination) is definitely equated with emptiness in the teachings. Geoff has given one out of the countless examples of that above. As for the idea that "interdependence is easy enough to understand so why all the fuss about realizing emptiness?", there's a world of difference between generally understanding interdependent origination/emptiness and directly realizing it. The first is an intellectual fabrication (albeit one of the best fabrications!), while the second is a fundamental, permanent purification of one's mind stream and thus of one's experience.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2010 3:50 am 
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Interdependence - if used as a synonym for interbeing - has nothing to do with emptiness.

This concept may be helpful for developing compassion, empathy and a sense of connectedness with others but thats all. I know TNH and people like Joanna Macy use the terms as if they were Buddhist ideas but I'm not sure there is a scriptural reference for them.

However, there are two teachings which sound similar but explain different things and I think this is where confusion sometimes arises.

Dependent origination - as in the 12 links - which explains the arisal and continuation of samsaric rebirths. It includes the link of ignorance, the antidote to which is the wisdom realizing emptiness/selflessness, but is not itself an explanation of emptiness.

and

Dependent arising as in nothing comes into existence without depending on its causes and conditions, parts and imputed label. This is a teaching on emptiness and is said to be a relatively easy way to understand what is really meant by "lack of inherent existence".


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2010 5:18 am 
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Tilopa wrote:
However, there are two teachings which sound similar but explain different things and I think this is where confusion sometimes arises.

Dependent origination - as in the 12 links - which explains the arisal and continuation of samsaric rebirths. It includes the link of ignorance, the antidote to which is the wisdom realizing emptiness/selflessness, but is not itself an explanation of emptiness.

and

Dependent arising as in nothing comes into existence without depending on its causes and conditions, parts and imputed label. This is a teaching on emptiness and is said to be a relatively easy way to understand what is really meant by "lack of inherent existence".

These are both examples of dependent arising (pratītyasamutpāda, also translated as dependent origination, interdependent origination, interdependence, etc.).

Dependent arising -- in terms of the twelve links or in terms of any dharmas whatsoever -- means that those dependent phenomena (including the 12 links) are empty of inherent existence (svabhāva śūnya). See the Śālistamba Sūtra or Nāgārjuna's auto-commentary on his Pratītyasamutpādahṝdayakārika.

All the best,

Geoff


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2010 7:07 am 
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Quote:
Dependent arising -- in terms of the twelve links or in terms of any dharmas whatsoever -- means that those dependent phenomena (including the 12 links) are empty of inherent existence


Yes of course, as everything is a dependent arising all phenomena are also empty of inherent existence. But my point was that the teaching on the 12 links of dependent origination - although an example of a dependent arising - isn't itself an explanation of emptiness. It's an explanation of how samsara comes into existence.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2010 9:08 am 
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Lama Gursam, wonderful teacher. :anjali:

Part of translate open teaching (Tsongkhapa). May it be of benefit.

Born and reborn in boundless cyclic existence
Ceaselessly tormented by the three miseries
Thinking of your mothers in this condition
Generate the supreme mind of enlightenment.

Although you train in renunciation and the mind of enlightenment,
without wisdom which realizes the ultimate reality
You cannot cut the root of cyclic existence
therefore strive to understand dependent arising.

One who sees the infallible cause and effect
Of all phenomena in cyclic existence and peace
and destroys all focuses of apprehension
Has entered onto the path which pleases the Buddha.

Appearances are infallible dependent arsing
And emptiness is the understanding that is free of assertions
As long as these two are seen as distinct
You have not yet the intent of the Buddha

When these two realizations are simultaneous
Where from the mere insight of infallible dependent origination
Concurrently destroys all modes of grasping through definite discernment
At that time the analysis of the profound view is perfected

Furthermore appearances refute the extreme of existence
Emptiness refutes the extreme of non existence
When you understand that emptiness arsises in the form of cause and effect
You are not captived by the view of extremes.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 23, 2010 6:11 am 
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Luke wrote:
His main point is that the Buddhist concept of emptiness is really the interdependence of all things. Do you agree with this?


Firstly this is not "his main point" but your opinion about what is his main point. Secondly, no I would not agree with this definition. Emptiness means that named phenomena do not really exist, do not exist from their own side. And this fact is the basis for dependent origination. Because there is emptiness there is dependent origination. But both, emptiness and dependent origination do not really exist but are mere thoughts which are however valid in their own contexts.


Kind regards


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 23, 2010 8:32 am 
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TMingyur wrote:
emptiness and dependent origination do not really exist but are mere thoughts which are however valid in their own contexts.

Yes, this is accurate. Asserting that emptiness and dependent arising are either the same or different is based on the false assumption that emptiness and dependent arising really exist.

All the best,

Geoff


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 23, 2010 10:07 am 
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:meditate:

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 23, 2010 12:59 pm 
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Phenomena are empty because they are dependently originated... They are beyond the four mistaken thoughts (existence, nonexistence, both, or neither) because they are dependently originated. If someone would like to explain to me how they feel emptiness is somehow not synonymous with dependent origination, I'd love to see such an explanation.

(And frankly, none of this has anything to do with some strange idea about emptiness somehow "existing" as though it were a phenomenon in its own right.)


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 24, 2010 2:02 am 
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Pema Rigdzin wrote:
If someone would like to explain to me how they feel emptiness is somehow not synonymous with dependent origination, I'd love to see such an explanation.

Are you suggesting that individually designated dependently arisen phenomena (dharmas) are synonymous with dharmatā?...

Pema Rigdzin wrote:
They are beyond the four mistaken thoughts (existence, nonexistence, both, or neither) because they are dependently originated.

Ultimately there is no "they" to be found. "They" aren't ultimately established.

Candrakīrti's Prasannapadā:

    These teachings of arising in the sense of dependent origination and so on are not meant in terms of the nature of the object of the uncontaminated wisdom of those who are free from the blurred vision of basic ignorance. "To what do they refer then?" They are meant in terms of the objects of the consciousnesses of those whose eyes of insight are impaired by the blurred vision of basic ignorance.

And again, from the same text:

    Since they do not have a nature as they [seem], all conditioned phenomena are delusive, because they have the property of being deceiving, just like the water of a mirage. Whatever is real is not something that has the property of being deceiving, for example, nirvāṇa.

Śāntideva:

    Once neither entities nor nonentities
    Remain before the mind,
    There is no other mental flux [either].
    Therefore, it is utter nonreferential peace.

All the best,

Geoff


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 24, 2010 6:03 am 
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At this point an interpretation of the two (or three) truths is required.

Some argue that the samvriti-satya (conventional truth) is synonymous with pratitya-samudpada (interdepedence) and disappears upon apprehension of paramatha-satya (ultimate reality) which is emptiness.

In this case, interdependence is an erroneous perception which is clearly distinct from the direct insight into emptiness.

I think that Yeshe has alluded to that perspective with his previous post.

But others argue that samvriti-satya and paramatha-satya are simultaneous perspectives of the one reality; conventionally, phenomena are dependently arisen, and ultimately they are empty of substantial and intrinsic existence. Conventional reality is not an erroneous perception if it is in accord with the logic of dependent arising (i.e. if it 'sees' the right causal trajectory of phenomena.....that it arises, abides and decays).

In which case, emptiness and interdependence are synonymous.

It is a delicate question, and one which requires careful analysis.

I think it is particularly important to pay attention to the shifts in the discourse from Nagarjuna to Chandrakirti to other/later discourses outside of India.

Nagarjuna does not mention dharmata for instance. In the Vigrahavyavartani he is very explicit about equating dependent arising directly with emptiness. Chandrakirti is far less explicit, and is often read in the way Yeshe interprets him (i.e. samvriti-satya as the 'all concealing'). Add in Yogacaran influenced thinkers (such as Shantarakshita), Tantric influenced thinkers (really, most Tibetans), plus the Chinese Madhyamakins and you have many variations and complications.

:namaste:


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 24, 2010 7:16 am 
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tobes wrote:
Add in Yogacaran influenced thinkers (such as Shantarakshita), Tantric influenced thinkers (really, most Tibetans), plus the Chinese Madhyamakins and you have many variations and complications.

Yes, I agree that there are different interpretations. Nevertheless, the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra tells us that by seeing that all phenomena lack self-nature (niḥsvabhāva), one abandons the view of arising, duration, and dissolution (utpādasthitibhaṅga). The Mañjuśrīparivartāparaparyāyā Saptaśatikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra states that the development of prajñāpāramitā is where no phenomenon arises or ceases.

In practice, a yogī in meditative equipoise attends to what is conventionally designated as the flow of the mind-stream with nonconceptual gnosis (nirvikalpajñāna) after having correctly removed all concepts (vikalpā) of apprehended (grāhya), apprehender (grāhaka), individual phenomena (dharmā), characteristics (lakṣaṇā), arising (utpāda), duration (sthiti), and dissolution (bhaṅga), as well as the remedial concepts of nonarising (anutpāda), selflessness (nairātmya), emptiness (śūnyatā), etc.

All the best,

Geoff


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 24, 2010 11:53 am 
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I'd still rather use the term "dependent origination" than "interdependence", not just for the fact that the former is an actual term used by the Buddha and Buddhist traditions, whereas the latter is not strictly found in all traditions. There is a difference, and it is an important one.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 24, 2010 11:57 am 
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Pema Rigdzin wrote:
... If someone would like to explain to me how they feel emptiness is somehow not synonymous with dependent origination, I'd love to see such an explanation.
...


The term "emptiness" (sunyata) is used in a number of ways in the Buddhist tradition. Although it is indeed often used a synonym for dependent origination (pratitysamutpada), this is definitely not the only usage of the term. There are other uses of the term "emptiness" which are basically unrelated to dependent origination.

A very simple example would be where the location of the practicing meditator is described as being "empty", it refers to the absence of various distracting phenomena, eg. other people.
Another example is the vaidalya exegesis of the term "immeasurable", whereby the mind which is devoid of defilements is described as being "empty".

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 24, 2010 12:23 pm 
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Huifeng wrote:
I'd still rather use the term "dependent origination" than "interdependence", not just for the fact that the former is an actual term used by the Buddha and Buddhist traditions, whereas the latter is not strictly found in all traditions. There is a difference, and it is an important one.


The meaning "behind" the word, being not an academical just fit for me.

When a word can bring confusion for fellows, must the most clear explanation be used for them in order to understand the Buddhas meaning, intent.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 24, 2010 2:11 pm 
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Yeshe D. wrote:
tobes wrote:
Add in Yogacaran influenced thinkers (such as Shantarakshita), Tantric influenced thinkers (really, most Tibetans), plus the Chinese Madhyamakins and you have many variations and complications.

Yes, I agree that there are different interpretations. Nevertheless, the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra tells us that by seeing that all phenomena lack self-nature (niḥsvabhāva), one abandons the view of arising, duration, and dissolution (utpādasthitibhaṅga). The Mañjuśrīparivartāparaparyāyā Saptaśatikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra states that the development of prajñāpāramitā is where no phenomenon arises or ceases.

In practice, a yogī in meditative equipoise attends to what is conventionally designated as the flow of the mind-stream with nonconceptual gnosis (nirvikalpajñāna) after having correctly removed all concepts (vikalpā) of apprehended (grāhya), apprehender (grāhaka), individual phenomena (dharmā), characteristics (lakṣaṇā), arising (utpāda), duration (sthiti), and dissolution (bhaṅga), as well as the remedial concepts of nonarising (anutpāda), selflessness (nairātmya), emptiness (śūnyatā), etc.

All the best,

Geoff


Indeed. But of course, the Lankavatara Sutra is especially privileged in traditions which have a strong Yogacaran influence. So I think that taking that text as authoritative on this question already situates the discourse in a particular way.

I think that the Prajnaparamita Sutras are a little more open ended on the matter.

For instance, as you say, a yogi in meditative equipoise may have removed all concepts of arising, abiding, ceasing. But that does not (necessarily) mean that arising, abiding and ceasing do not occur. It simply means that they are not conceptualised by the yogi.

Likewise with emptiness. To say that the concept of emptiness has been removed, does mean that emptiness has been removed.

So, we're left with the problem of the relationship between what can be said and thought, and what is directly experienced.

No one really argues that the conceptualisation of emptiness and dependent arising are synonymous with their *reality.*; but there is still a question about causality and phenomena: do these simply disappear upon a direct apprehension of emptiness, or are they seen in their proper light (i.e. phenomena as dependently arising)?

Interesting question in relation to the Prajnaparamita Sutras, where a categorical response is often beautifully avoided!

Cheers

:namaste:


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