Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

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Re: Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Postby michaelb » Fri May 02, 2014 5:29 pm

Jikan wrote:That's not what I'm doing (bolded bit). I'm asking why this or that articulation of Madhyamika has more value than more straightforward presentations of Madhyamika.
Why does it have to be polemical? I'm asking the same question, but I'm not an author of any of the polemics under discussion.
I'm increasingly convinced that Tibetan Madhyamika has a tendency to specify and spin out many more concepts than one might see in Indian or Chinese Madhyamika. If you read the post I wrote in full, the one quoted partially above, you will see that I'm asking how this marks an improvement over Indian Madhyamika, particularly in the light of practice.
Oh yes. I think I may have confused the points you and Greg were making. Well, I'm not sure there is a totally straightforward presentation and each tradition may see their presentation as the most straightforward. But, as people here subscribe to Tibetan versions, I don't think it's a bad idea to get some idea of what the Tibetan teachers meant. This is the Gelug forum, afterall. That's not to say that going back to the original Indian texts without the Tibetan commentaries is a bad idea. I understand Khenpo Shenga did that, but I have not read anything by him, so I cannot judge. Seems a good idea though, I agree.
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Re: Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Postby michaelb » Fri May 02, 2014 6:00 pm

jiashengrox wrote:I would think that that (non-conceptual) will only be the case only after one has produced discerning awareness, i.e. After the analysis and to a decisive conclusion of the voidness of phenomena, with shamatha being the basis of that development.
Tom wrote:This is not true. For example, on the path of preparation there is a union of shamata and special insight, however the realization of emptiness is conceptual until you reach the path of seeing. It is then that there is no appearance of a distinction between subject and object within the meditation.
Thanks both. I see. I think I may have been taking the Pabongkha quote too literally. So the non-conceptual realisation of emptiness is quite a way off after being very clear in one's understanding of emptiness and one's meditation on it.

I don't mean to keep on about non-conceptual methods and realisation, but this seems to be one of the differences between Tsongkhapa and Gorampa's positions. I suppose this isn't a good place to ask what Gorampa thought of nonconceptual meditation after the four extremes are refuted. He too had a conceptual nominal ultimate, apparently, so maybe this was also his object of meditation.
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Re: Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Postby Jikan » Fri May 02, 2014 6:13 pm

michaelb wrote: Well, I'm not sure there is a totally straightforward presentation and each tradition may see their presentation as the most straightforward. But, as people here subscribe to Tibetan versions, I don't think it's a bad idea to get some idea of what the Tibetan teachers meant.


I think that's fair enough. Mostly what I'm interested in learning in this thread--the reason why I spoke up in the first place--is how learning the nuances of these philosophical debates informs practice in a way that is both meaningful and distinctive. Which is to say, I posed a question that was intended as a question, not as a rhetorical question. I'm asking for knowledge from those who seem most likely to know a thing or two about the matter (as you point out, here we are in the Gelugpa sub-forum...).

On an ancillary point: it's true that Chinese Madhyamika is quite well developed, but well-developed is not necessarily synonymous with baroquely elaborated. That is to say, a great profusion of concepts or fine distinctions is not necessarily identical to a high degree of development or refinement or precision. In some instances, introducing distinction 1 may seem to solve problem A, but at the cost of introducing problems B and C which must be resolved by distinctions 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, and so on. I would like to be convinced that later Tibetan Madhyamika does not do this. Can anyone here help me out?
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Re: Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Postby jiashengrox » Fri May 02, 2014 6:57 pm

Jikan wrote: I would like to be convinced that later Tibetan Madhyamika does not do this. Can anyone here help me out?


Hmmm, that is going to be obviously quite a task. Because majority of the fundamental understanding, especially within the gelug and sakya tradition, is done through the process of debate. This tradition of debate is not created by the Tibetans; it has been inherited from ancient nalanda traditions. If we examine some of the biographies of the mahasiddhas, such as naropa, u can see that they are actually gatekeepers of the certain gates of the monasteries (i.e. Debaters placed to protect the philosophical traditions of the Buddha, to put it very very loosely). As a result, these ideas and subtle differences are refined again and again through debates, which may take place face to face, or letters. It is through this refining process that one gains an understanding of madhyamika through logical reasoning. Hence, as the subtle differences arise from the ways people refine things, to undo all these refinements will not be an easy thing to do.

That being said, I wouldn't think of it as useless elaborations, but points of consideration to clear away doubts whenever such doubt arises. U can think of it as the great debate btw pureland schools and the humanistic buddhism movement. Till now, i still have my reservations towards humanistic buddhism (nevertheless, my respect for Reverend Yin Shun and his works are definite), and u will notice that under the heat of criticisms from reverend yin shun (refer to his works such as those on pureland (净土与禅, for instance), there has been an increase in the emphasis of study in pureland buddhism as well. AFAIK, reverend Jin Kung has pioneered many translations, and many transcripts have been published dealing with topics on pureland. Though the main method of reciting the names if Amitabha Buddha is still the heart, but now it is supplemented with more instructions, such as the 48 ways of meditating on Buddha's name, etc. with a lot of explicit details, and it is necessarily a good thing, because it informs practitioners, putting them in a better position to understand buddha dharma. It also presents a clear distinction of what pureland practice is like in contrast to the narrations of Venerable Yin Shun and his camp.

In all, i wouldn't think this is convincing enough to convince u that tibetan madhyamika is simple, but what i would hope to achieve is to shed (a little i hope?) light that in any tradition, be it Chinese, Tibetan, or even Thai, Burmese, etc. there will definitely be more specifications and refinements to make the standpoint clearer. These refinements are necessary to refute any possible doubts on the doctrine. I wouldn't think it's easy to adapt to it, but ultimately, rely on the teacher who teaches the right path, and discern whatever he teaches carefully. I think this is the most important of all.

Hope this helps! :namaste:
Homage to the Mother of Buddhas as well as of the groups of Hearers and Bodhisattvas
which through knowledge of all leads Hearers seeking pacification to thorough peace
And which through knowledge of paths causes those helping transmigrators to achieve the welfare of the world,
And through possession of which the Subduers set forth these varieties endowed with all aspects.

- Ornament of Clear Realisation
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Re: Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Postby Tom » Fri May 02, 2014 7:54 pm

Jikan wrote:I think that's fair enough. Mostly what I'm interested in learning in this thread--the reason why I spoke up in the first place--is how learning the nuances of these philosophical debates informs practice in a way that is both meaningful and distinctive.


Certainly, these different philosophical perspectives have a meaningful impact on the way people practice. One striking example is the different emphasis placed on analytical meditation དཔྱད་སྒོམ and settling meditation འཇོག་སྒོ. Tsongkhapa instructs even advanced practitioners to continually return to analysis rather than settling the mind for long periods because he is worried that otherwise that the development towards union of shamatha and insight will degenerate to mere shamatha on emptiness. This particular instruction is called out for criticism from other Tibetan masters who says there is no need for repeated analysis to maintain the attained view since the goal is not to maintain some conceptual understanding.
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Re: Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Postby Lotus_Bitch » Fri May 02, 2014 10:36 pm

Tom wrote:Certainly, these different philosophical perspectives have a meaningful impact on the way people practice. One striking example is the different emphasis placed on analytical meditation དཔྱད་སྒོམ and settling meditation འཇོག་སྒོ. Tsongkhapa instructs even advanced practitioners to continually return to analysis rather than settling the mind for long periods because he is worried that otherwise that the development towards union of shamatha and insight will degenerate to mere shamatha on emptiness. This particular instruction is called out for criticism from other Tibetan masters who says there is no need for repeated analysis to maintain the attained view since the goal is not to maintain some conceptual understanding.


Returning momentarily to my prior inquiry, while keeping your explanation in account, does this imply that Tsongkhapa's formulation of the two truths were a means to an end, an opposition to a normative he felt needed to be remedied?
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Re: Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Postby Tom » Sat May 03, 2014 2:08 am

Lotus_Bitch wrote: Returning momentarily to my prior inquiry, while keeping your explanation in account, does this imply that Tsongkhapa's formulation of the two truths were a means to an end, an opposition to a normative he felt needed to be remedied?


It does seem Tsongkhapa had concerns about a declining lack of emphasis on ethical practice. However, I think his unique presentation of the two truths comes about because he was unsatisfied with the explanations of his day, and having thought about the original material he believes he realized the correct interpretation.

This type of search for the real meaning of texts and the intellectual analysis and debates that come with it, was not uncommon during this time. For example, Tsongkhapa would have spent quite a bit of time following Rendawa around and attended debates as Rendawa waged what was quite a personal crusade to set what he believed to be the mistaken view of the Janangpas straight. I don't think we need to be automatically suspicious of these types of new interpretations and I have no problem approaching them as honest intellectual enquiries.
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Re: Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Postby Lotus_Bitch » Sun May 04, 2014 10:28 pm

Tom wrote:
Lotus_Bitch wrote: Returning momentarily to my prior inquiry, while keeping your explanation in account, does this imply that Tsongkhapa's formulation of the two truths were a means to an end, an opposition to a normative he felt needed to be remedied?


It does seem Tsongkhapa had concerns about a declining lack of emphasis on ethical practice. However, I think his unique presentation of the two truths comes about because he was unsatisfied with the explanations of his day, and having thought about the original material he believes he realized the correct interpretation.


It's clear he had a particular agenda by formulating the two truths the way he did, otherwise his critics wouldn't have rallied against his interpretations as a deviation from the source material. This agenda may have been multifaceted in its focus, but determining any prime motivations may prove elusive.
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Re: Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Postby kunle » Tue May 06, 2014 3:13 pm

Sherab Dorje wrote:So...

My question is: what does all this mean at the level of practice? Does it have some profound effect? Or is it all just an Indo-Tibetan pissing contest (to put it crudely)?


a teacher once told me that from the practitioners point of view, the point of such discussions mustn't be criticism of individuals (no matter what we read in texts). they must help us identify the view we hold, and how we can let go of it.
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Re: Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Postby jiashengrox » Tue May 06, 2014 7:13 pm

Lotus_Bitch wrote:It's clear he had a particular agenda by formulating the two truths the way he did, otherwise his critics wouldn't have rallied against his interpretations as a deviation from the source material. This agenda may have been multifaceted in its focus, but determining any prime motivations may prove elusive.


While I probably agree that part of the attribution comes from the decline of the Vinaya traditions within Tibet during that era, I certainly will not rest the entire issue upon this. I still believe that the adding of the qualification is to ensure the precision of the object of refutation.

I would rather attribute it though, to the difference in their fundamental definitions between inherent existence and existence.
Homage to the Mother of Buddhas as well as of the groups of Hearers and Bodhisattvas
which through knowledge of all leads Hearers seeking pacification to thorough peace
And which through knowledge of paths causes those helping transmigrators to achieve the welfare of the world,
And through possession of which the Subduers set forth these varieties endowed with all aspects.

- Ornament of Clear Realisation
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Re: Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Postby 5heaps » Wed May 07, 2014 7:33 am

Lotus_Bitch wrote:
Tom wrote:
Lotus_Bitch wrote: Returning momentarily to my prior inquiry, while keeping your explanation in account, does this imply that Tsongkhapa's formulation of the two truths were a means to an end, an opposition to a normative he felt needed to be remedied?


It does seem Tsongkhapa had concerns about a declining lack of emphasis on ethical practice. However, I think his unique presentation of the two truths comes about because he was unsatisfied with the explanations of his day, and having thought about the original material he believes he realized the correct interpretation.


It's clear he had a particular agenda by formulating the two truths the way he did, otherwise his critics wouldn't have rallied against his interpretations as a deviation from the source material. This agenda may have been multifaceted in its focus, but determining any prime motivations may prove elusive.


a clear agenda...no...his formulation of the two truths started even way back at drawing differing distinctions on how to understand sautrantika correctly

even in sautrantika the non-gelug do not accept functioning wholes..for them wholes are imputedly knowable categories. this simple difference illustrates some of the boundaries on how each can formulate the two truths
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