Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby swampflower » Wed Sep 21, 2011 11:28 pm

It may be seen that Nagaujuna has recommended a graduated path dependent on one's training and understanding.
It is not necessary or even possible to grasp Sunyata or emptiness in some levels or stages of the path.
Following the precepts of avoiding harm to other beings, taking things not freely offered, sexual misconduct, false speech, alcohol and drugs; also having Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration do not require an understanding of emptiness.
However to travel further along the path and to develop true compassion it becomes important to realize the true nature of existence as dependent origination.
This does not mean that things do not exist, things rather do not exist with permanence. As the old saying goes "Nothing lasts forever".
On the other hand there is no non-existence of things, things do not vanish or are not annihilated. Rather things change as a result of the cause and effect relationship.
This cause and effect relationship determines that all actions have a result that is dependent on the contributing causes and the effects of these causes.
This may be seen as the karmic imprint of our actions.
Right Actions, etc ultimately result in positive outcomes.
Wrong actions etc ultimately result in negative outcomes.
This is the nature of reality which may be understood from Nagarjuna's teachings on existence and non-existence.
The danger is to fall into the many mind traps of a flawed understanding of the nature of reality.
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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby conebeckham » Wed Sep 21, 2011 11:43 pm

swampflower wrote:However to travel further along the path and to develop true compassion it becomes important to realize the true nature of existence as dependent origination.
This does not mean that things do not exist, things rather do not exist with permanence. As the old saying goes "Nothing lasts forever".
On the other hand there is no non-existence of things, things do not vanish or are not annihilated. Rather things change as a result of the cause and effect relationship.


Well....Nagarjuna doesn't really say that.

Nagarjuna says, quite frankly, that things do not exist at all, though they seem to exist. In fact, It is precisely because "things DO vanish" or "things ARE annihilated" that they don't exist in the first place. If they did exist, they would be immune to change, for example.

The gross level of cause and effect can be seen as a continuum of change, surely. But there is a flaw in understanding that this continuum exists, when one examines on a more subtle level. There is no becoming, etc. which we can point to as a "mode of existence."
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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby swampflower » Thu Sep 22, 2011 12:11 am

conebeckham wrote:
swampflower wrote:However to travel further along the path and to develop true compassion it becomes important to realize the true nature of existence as dependent origination.
This does not mean that things do not exist, things rather do not exist with permanence. As the old saying goes "Nothing lasts forever".
On the other hand there is no non-existence of things, things do not vanish or are not annihilated. Rather things change as a result of the cause and effect relationship.


Well....Nagarjuna doesn't really say that.

Nagarjuna says, quite frankly, that things do not exist at all, though they seem to exist. In fact, It is precisely because "things DO vanish" or "things ARE annihilated" that they don't exist in the first place. If they did exist, they would be immune to change, for example.

The gross level of cause and effect can be seen as a continuum of change, surely. But there is a flaw in understanding that this continuum exists, when one examines on a more subtle level. There is no becoming, etc. which we can point to as a "mode of existence."


Sorry to disagree...but I do. At least to the way you state this. There is conventional existence but no ultimate existence.
Nagarjuna says that things do not inherently exist, there is no independent existence. He does not say that things do not exist at all. Things arise dependently from cause and effect. And yes there is no independent arising or becoming. However there is nothing that has arisen from no thing as well therefore there is a continuum of interdependent relationships. There is no beginning and no end.
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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby el_chupacabra » Thu Sep 22, 2011 12:18 am

swampflower wrote:...This cause and effect relationship determines that all actions have a result that is dependent on the contributing causes and the effects of these causes.
This may be seen as the karmic imprint of our actions.
Right Actions, etc ultimately result in positive outcomes.
Wrong actions etc ultimately result in negative outcomes.
This is the nature of reality which may be understood from Nagarjuna's teachings on existence and non-existence.


Lama Tashi Namgyal,
"This vast and profound complex of Buddhist teachings, sutras, commentaries, philosophical schools, viewpoints, methods, and stages of practice Khenpo Rinpoche often divides into four:
l. Teachings on the way things appear to be, including the teachings on suffering, impermanence, rebirth, karmic cause and effect, atoms, and moments of consciousness, corresponding to the hinayana;
2. Teachings on the way all things are fundamentally mind and that there is no real distinction between mind and matter, corresponding to the doctrine of the Cittamatra;
3. Teachings on the way things really are—empty of true existence or self-nature, corresponding to the sutras of the second dharmachakra;
4. Teachings on the ultimate reality of the way things really are merely the play, the display, the radiance, or the light of the clear light nature of mind, corresponding to the sutras of the third dharmachakra, the shentong, and the vajrayana, including the teachings of tantra, mahamudra, and dzogchen."

Nagarjuna belongs to the above third category in keeping with the forum heading "Mahayana Buddhism" - the second turning of the wheel of Dharma, and without the third turning would appear to come dangerously close to nihilism. While I agree with the meaning of Conebeckham's response, I'm not sure I can go with the idea that "things DO vanish" or "things ARE annihilated" - surely they are just in flux and only appear to vanish (unless you are talking about the interaction between matter and anti-matter).
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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby el_chupacabra » Thu Sep 22, 2011 12:27 am

swampflower wrote:Sorry to disagree...but I do. At least to the way you state this. There is conventional existence but no ultimate existence.
Nagarjuna says that things do not inherently exist, there is no independent existence. He does not say that things do not exist at all. Things arise dependently from cause and effect. And yes there is no independent arising or becoming. However there is nothing that has arisen from no thing as well therefore there is a continuum of interdependent relationships. There is no beginning and no end.


You have to take into account that one of the things in the causal chain is human perception and conceptualization of what is perceived - hence things appear to be in a cause-effect relationship - the underlying truth is that that defines the boundary of human perception which has lead to the false idea of a really existing external ultimate truth, which Nagarjuna's argument dispels.
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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby swampflower » Thu Sep 22, 2011 12:47 am

el_chupacabra wrote:
swampflower wrote:Sorry to disagree...but I do. At least to the way you state this. There is conventional existence but no ultimate existence.
Nagarjuna says that things do not inherently exist, there is no independent existence. He does not say that things do not exist at all. Things arise dependently from cause and effect. And yes there is no independent arising or becoming. However there is nothing that has arisen from no thing as well therefore there is a continuum of interdependent relationships. There is no beginning and no end.


You have to take into account that one of the things in the causal chain is human perception and conceptualization of what is perceived - hence things appear to be in a cause-effect relationship - the underlying truth is that that defines the boundary of human perception which has lead to the false idea of a really existing external ultimate truth, which Nagarjuna's argument dispels.



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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby Sherab » Thu Sep 22, 2011 12:58 am

Here's my take on Nagarjuna:
As Ven Huifeng explained, if there is true existence, there can be no change and therefore there can be no liberating practice. This is the easy part.

The hard part is non-existence. No phenomenon truly exists. If no phenomenon truly exists, any relationships between phenomena cannot have true existence. This would mean that phenomena are illusions and not like illusions. And that dependent existence itself is an illusion and not the basis of illusion-like phenomena.

Knowing no phenomenon truly exists, it is possible to let go of cling to any phenomenon. However, if you say that while there is no true existence, but there is true dependent existence, then there is the possibility of clinging to dependent existence as truly existing. But as long as there is any form of clinging, liberation is not possible.

In summary, phenomena have no true existence and exist only as illusions. Because of this, liberation is possible because there is the possibility of completely no clinging to anything whatsoever.
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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby swampflower » Thu Sep 22, 2011 1:18 am

One may be drowning in the Ocean and try to cling to a bubble. The bubble is there but it will not save one from drowning.
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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby conebeckham » Thu Sep 22, 2011 5:20 pm

Sherab wrote:Here's my take on Nagarjuna:
As Ven Huifeng explained, if there is true existence, there can be no change and therefore there can be no liberating practice. This is the easy part.

The hard part is non-existence. No phenomenon truly exists. If no phenomenon truly exists, any relationships between phenomena cannot have true existence. This would mean that phenomena are illusions and not like illusions. And that dependent existence itself is an illusion and not the basis of illusion-like phenomena.

Knowing no phenomenon truly exists, it is possible to let go of cling to any phenomenon. However, if you say that while there is no true existence, but there is true dependent existence, then there is the possibility of clinging to dependent existence as truly existing. But as long as there is any form of clinging, liberation is not possible.

In summary, phenomena have no true existence and exist only as illusions. Because of this, liberation is possible because there is the possibility of completely no clinging to anything whatsoever.


Right. This is what Nagarjuna says--sort of....I don't think he would actually say they "exist only as illusions," though...he might say they "Appear, " you know?

Swampflower, can you point out where Nagarjuna asserts some sort of conditional existence?

El Chupacabra said:
While I agree with the meaning of Conebeckham's response, I'm not sure I can go with the idea that "things DO vanish" or "things ARE annihilated" - surely they are just in flux and only appear to vanish (unless you are talking about the interaction between matter and anti-matter).


Well, right....if there is no thing in the first place, then how can it "vanish" or be "annihilated," right? Seeming Things Seemingly vanish or are annihilated...in fact, seeming things appear to be in flux, but that, too, is merely a seeming.
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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby swampflower » Thu Sep 22, 2011 7:54 pm

Swampflower, can you point out where Nagarjuna asserts some sort of conditional existence?

I never said that Nagarjuna asserts a conditional existence.
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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby conebeckham » Thu Sep 22, 2011 7:56 pm

What you said was:
Nagarjuna says that things do not inherently exist, there is no independent existence. He does not say that things do not exist at all.


This statement would lead us to believe that there is some sort of "existence" that Nagarjuna does not "negate," right?
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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby conebeckham » Thu Sep 22, 2011 8:04 pm

Put another way, the only sort of existence that is possible, in Nagarjuna's view, is "inherent existence." In his view, "conventional existence" is only a seeming existence. Cause and effect only function from the worldly level, or from the worldly point of view, which is no true view at all. Thus, the connections, causes, effects, etc., are all nonexistent.

My concern is not with the "inherent existence of a tree," for example, which can be analyzed and found to not withstand analysis. My concern is with a more subtle sort of "tree as process, as continuum of causes, effects, conditions, and connections," which Nagarjuna also shows to be nonexistent.
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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby el_chupacabra » Thu Sep 22, 2011 8:43 pm

conebeckham wrote:Well, right....if there is no thing in the first place, then how can it "vanish" or be "annihilated," right? Seeming Things Seemingly vanish or are annihilated...in fact, seeming things appear to be in flux, but that, too, is merely a seeming.


I'm just not sure what you're referring to. Something like a piece of wood appearing to vanish when it is burnt - where we know that it is transformed into heat, smoke, ash, etc. - or whether you are talking about dissolution of the conditioned world during meditation, or something else entirely?

conebeckham wrote:Put another way, the only sort of existence that is possible, in Nagarjuna's view, is "inherent existence." In his view, "conventional existence" is only a seeming existence. Cause and effect only function from the worldly level, or from the worldly point of view, which is no true view at all. Thus, the connections, causes, effects, etc., are all nonexistent.

My concern is not with the "inherent existence of a tree," for example, which can be analyzed and found to not withstand analysis. My concern is with a more subtle sort of "tree as process, as continuum of causes, effects, conditions, and connections," which Nagarjuna also shows to be nonexistent.


2 point apropos of nothing in particular - apparently the carbon that makes up about 50% of wood actually comes from the air.

Secondly, I'm wondering what consequences this idea has for our concept of time? (assuming of course that our perception of time is founded upon causality).
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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby conebeckham » Thu Sep 22, 2011 9:39 pm

el_chupacabra wrote:
conebeckham wrote:Well, right....if there is no thing in the first place, then how can it "vanish" or be "annihilated," right? Seeming Things Seemingly vanish or are annihilated...in fact, seeming things appear to be in flux, but that, too, is merely a seeming.


I'm just not sure what you're referring to. Something like a piece of wood appearing to vanish when it is burnt - where we know that it is transformed into heat, smoke, ash, etc. - or whether you are talking about dissolution of the conditioned world during meditation, or something else entirely?


Nothing vanishes....the wood doesn't exist, because it can be changed. In the same way, all conditioned phenomena do not exist, either-any thing which is subject to change cannot be said to exist in the first place. Thus, there are no "things."
Neither can one say a given "thread of processes or things" (seed to sprout to seed, for example) exists.
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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby Virgo » Thu Sep 22, 2011 9:45 pm

conebeckham wrote:Nothing vanishes....the wood doesn't exist, because it can be changed. In the same way, all conditioned phenomena do not exist, either-any thing which is subject to change cannot be said to exist in the first place. Thus, there are no "things."
Neither can one say a given "thread of processes or things" (seed to sprout to seed, for example) exists.

Right, phenomena simply appear to arise. They neither exist, nor do not exist.

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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby swampflower » Thu Sep 22, 2011 10:02 pm

Put another way, the only sort of existence that is possible, in Nagarjuna's view, is "inherent existence." In his view, "conventional existence" is only a seeming existence. Cause and effect only function from the worldly level, or from the worldly point of view, which is no true view at all. Thus, the connections, causes, effects, etc., are all nonexistent.

Actually in Nagarjuna's view "inherent existence" is impossible and makes no sense.
There is no form without emptiness and no emptiness without form.
Non existence is essentially nihilism, which Nagarjuna rejects.
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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby conebeckham » Thu Sep 22, 2011 10:05 pm

Virgo wrote:Right, phenomena simply appear to arise. They neither exist, nor do not exist.


Sometimes folks make the "jump" from understanding that a single, appearing-to-exist-on-it's-own phenomenon does not exist, to a sort of affirmation of existence-as-process. That was my concern--that it appeared that Swampflower was arguing that the continuum of, for example, seed-sprout-tree-fruit-seed-sprout-etc., could be said to exist, even if a single element--tree, for example--could not. Or that this continuum, in combination with various other causes and conditions--rain, sunlight, etc., could be said to exist.

It cannot.

This is all somewhat tangential to the original question, though...but I do think that's been answered pretty well.
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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby conebeckham » Thu Sep 22, 2011 10:11 pm

swampflower wrote:Put another way, the only sort of existence that is possible, in Nagarjuna's view, is "inherent existence." In his view, "conventional existence" is only a seeming existence. Cause and effect only function from the worldly level, or from the worldly point of view, which is no true view at all. Thus, the connections, causes, effects, etc., are all nonexistent.

Actually in Nagarjuna's view "inherent existence" is impossible and makes no sense.


Agreed--but it's to be understood that this is the only kind of existence that can be considered. The idea of "conventional truth" is a seeming-to-be-real, on the level of no analysis, while the "Absolute Truth" is the lack of reality arrived at via analysis. These two aspects are inseperable, as your quote about Form and Emptiness is meant to illustrate.
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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby swampflower » Thu Sep 22, 2011 10:20 pm

Yes....agreed!
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Re: Benefits of Nagarjuna / Dangers of Existence & Non-Existence

Postby conebeckham » Fri Sep 23, 2011 12:11 am

Awesome! :twothumbsup:
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