Emptiness: an imputed character?

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.

Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby muni » Fri Feb 19, 2010 8:11 pm

Virgo wrote:
catmoon wrote:funny thing popped up in last night's meditation/contemplation. For there to be emptiness, there must a thing that is empty. Without a thing, the emptiness applies to nothing.

Put another way, there must be something behind the characteristics we impute on things. It may be ever changing, and impermanent, and unseen by our minds and senses, but

If it is not there, what has the character "emptiness"?


Does this make any sense to anyone?


Hi Catmoon,

Actually I think it seems to be the other way around, ie. there must be emptiness for "things" to seem to arise.

"Emptiness is form and form is Emptiness" -- The Heart Sutra

Forms are empty otherwise they would be permanent and would have control. Therefore, they aren't really "forms" in a formal sense, they are emptiness appearing as forms to deluded minds.

kevin


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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby kirtu » Fri Feb 19, 2010 8:33 pm

catmoon wrote:Let's see if I understand. Say there is a blue cup.


What is cupness? What makes the cup a cup?

One may say, the cup is empty of blueness, because blueness resides nowhere in the cup. Blueness is an appearance to the eye and mind.


What causes the appearance of blueness? Is blueness a permanent, independant property of the cup?

Or one may say, blueness is empty, since it exists only as an appearance to the mind.

Really? We can measure blueness. Is it only an appearance?

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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby kirtu » Fri Feb 19, 2010 8:38 pm

[quote="catmoon"]funny thing popped up in last night's meditation/contemplation. For there to be emptiness, there must a thing that is empty. Without a thing, the emptiness applies to nothing.
[quote]

Where is this thing to which emptiness might apply (as you say)? Where did it come from? Where did that thing go? Has it always existed? If not how did it begin? Has it ceased? Will it cease?

And what does this term emptiness mean?

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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby catmoon » Sat Feb 20, 2010 9:51 am

kirtu wrote:
catmoon wrote:Let's see if I understand. Say there is a blue cup.


What is cupness? What makes the cup a cup?

One may say, the cup is empty of blueness, because blueness resides nowhere in the cup. Blueness is an appearance to the eye and mind.


What causes the appearance of blueness? Is blueness a permanent, independant property of the cup?

Or one may say, blueness is empty, since it exists only as an appearance to the mind.

Really? We can measure blueness. Is it only an appearance?

Kirt


When I say "Say there is a blue cup" I mean "Kindly grant me, for the sake of this argument, a conventionally existing blue cup. Just for the sake of the discussion." This discussion is not concerned with what makes a cup a cup anyways. Not yet at least!

Nobody knows what causes the appearance of blueness, we only know that there is such an appearance. It has a label "blueness". Buddha said something about a threeway contact between eye consciousness and other things, but I don't really see HOW contact gives rise to sensation, we only know it does.

You cannot measure blueness. Intruments interacting out in the world have no sensation "blueness". To measure it you would have to ask me how blue I thought it was, and I probably would regard the answer as pretty meaningless. For one thing there are many blues, and none is inherently greater than the next.

If you think you can measure blueness, the various camera manufacturers will want to talk you immediately if not sooner! To see why, look up color theory and see what lies beyond the primary color model.

Blueness is only an appearance and certainly not something that resides in the cup. However, the cup might be a cause of this appearance, hm?
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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby catmoon » Sat Feb 20, 2010 10:16 am

Addendum: other demonstrations that blueness does not reside in the cup.

1. If the blueness is in the cup, how does it arrive in my mind? Wouldn't the cup eventually run out of blue?

2. I can imagine a blue cup. If blueness resides in external things, how can I SEE in my mind's eye a blue thing?

3. I have observed, while sitting in the dark, after-images of bright lights that display an intensity of blueness beyond any laser, beyond any fluorescent ski jacket, way beyond anything I have ever experienced in the conventional world. How can this occur in a dark room, in the absence of any external object, with closed eyes, unless this blueness is generated internally?
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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby kirtu » Sat Feb 20, 2010 8:25 pm

catmoon wrote:When I say "Say there is a blue cup" I mean "Kindly grant me, for the sake of this argument, a conventionally existing blue cup. Just for the sake of the discussion."


What is a conventionally existing blue cup?.

This discussion is not concerned with what makes a cup a cup anyways. Not yet at least!


From the beginning of analysis it is. Before analysis it isn't.

Nobody knows what causes the appearance of blueness, we only know that there is such an appearance. It has a label "blueness". Buddha said something about a threeway contact between eye consciousness and other things, but I don't really see HOW contact gives rise to sensation, we only know it does.


The perception of blue arises because the cup has an entity that reflects blue light and that is perceived by our eyes as blue. At this level we can actually say that blueness is a property of blue cups (and esp. this blue cup).

You cannot measure blueness. Intruments interacting out in the world have no sensation "blueness". To measure it you would have to ask me how blue I thought it was, and I probably would regard the answer as pretty meaningless. For one thing there are many blues, and none is inherently greater than the next.


We can measure the frequency of the light that corresponds to the range of blue light as humans perceive it. We can actually measure it.

As you note there is not a single frequency that is blue. It is part of a spectrum.

Blueness is only an appearance and certainly not something that resides in the cup. However, the cup might be a cause of this appearance, hm?


Blueness will be recognized as such by all humans with non-defective senses.

But what is this cup thing?

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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby kirtu » Sat Feb 20, 2010 8:30 pm

catmoon wrote:Addendum: other demonstrations that blueness does not reside in the cup.

1. If the blueness is in the cup, how does it arrive in my mind? Wouldn't the cup eventually run out of blue?


The cup has an infinite amount of blue. :quoteunquote:
Or blueness is an integral characteristic of blue cups. :popcorn:
Or blueness is something else.

2. I can imagine a blue cup. If blueness resides in external things, how can I SEE in my mind's eye a blue thing?


You mind can form images.

3. I have observed, while sitting in the dark, after-images of bright lights that display an intensity of blueness beyond any laser, beyond any fluorescent ski jacket, way beyond anything I have ever experienced in the conventional world. How can this occur in a dark room, in the absence of any external object, with closed eyes, unless this blueness is generated internally?


Most rooms have light and our eye sense reacts to it (even very dark rooms). Or our internal senses combine to generate sense objects.

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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby catmoon » Sun Feb 21, 2010 1:53 am

kirtu wrote:What is a conventionally existing blue cup?.



Sorry, I'm not interested in this question at the moment.

The perception of blue arises because the cup has an entity that reflects blue light and that is perceived by our eyes as blue. At this level we can actually say that blueness is a property of blue cups (and esp. this blue cup).



You can say whatever you please. Until someone perceives a color, there is no color anywhere. So blueness cannot reside in the cup.


We can measure the frequency of the light that corresponds to the range of blue light as humans perceive it. We can actually measure it.

As you note there is not a single frequency that is blue. It is part of a spectrum.





All you have done is observe the position of a needle on a dial or read some numbers off of a digital readout. No blueness in that. When one measures, one is not measuring blueness, you are just counting marks on a dial. You can label the number anything you want but that does not mean there is any blueness in the number.
Blueness will be recognized as such by all humans with non-defective senses.


Ok. So you think the number of people that attest to something has some bearing on its truth?

But what is this cup thing?


Why does it matter?
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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby kirtu » Sun Feb 21, 2010 6:06 pm

catmoon wrote:
kirtu wrote:What is a conventionally existing blue cup?.



Sorry, I'm not interested in this question at the moment.


? This would mean that you aren't interested in your original question.

The perception of blue arises because the cup has an entity that reflects blue light and that is perceived by our eyes as blue. At this level we can actually say that blueness is a property of blue cups (and esp. this blue cup).



You can say whatever you please. Until someone perceives a color, there is no color anywhere. So blueness cannot reside in the cup.


In the physical universe color is in fact light reflecting off an object and being perceived by an eye organ (in this case an undefective human eye organ) that then perceives the color. Absent an eye organ we can measure the frequency of light (basic physics) and theoretically determine the color. Color is actually a property of the physical universe as it is just reflected light. This frequency can be measured. Therefore color can be determined absent an eye organ (although it might not be economical to do this).




All you have done is observe the position of a needle on a dial or read some numbers off of a digital readout. No blueness in that. When one measures, one is not measuring blueness, you are just counting marks on a dial. You can label the number anything you want but that does not mean there is any blueness in the number.


That is actually what an eye organ does. It perceives the light which the brain perceives as a color. It's a real physical process. In fact, the eye organ as a sensor is an extension of the brain with some actual computation taking place in the eye.

Just like a machine detecting a light frequency and using some computation (a neural net for example or just a straightforward linear math function) to map the frequency analysis to an output color the physical eye organ in conjunction with the brain maps the input stimuli to a perceived defined color.

Blueness will be recognized as such by all humans with non-defective senses.


Ok. So you think the number of people that attest to something has some bearing on its truth?


Different kinds of beings in the six realsm with differnt karma do in fact experience consensual relative existence. Most humans with non-defective eye organs will perceive a blue cup as a blue cup.

Blue as blue doesn't exist. This is simply a label that humans created to communicate a concept. But in fact in the physical world the concept that we designate as blue has a real physical measurement. Because the concept corresponds to a physical measurement it can be said to be "objective". For example, once we determine that an object is blue we will never determine the same object to be yellow or red or white under the same measured conditions without actually changing the object.

But what is this cup thing?


Why does it matter?


Because it does to the heart of your question as I understood it. Unless the question was just about color itself.

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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby catmoon » Mon Feb 22, 2010 1:10 pm

Color, as known by scientists, has dimensions of length, of distance. Wavelength to be exact. Now, in a world of blind scientists, they would most likely become aware of this aspect of light. Who knows they might even discover transparency and build a lens or two to play with. We did that with X rays and we can't see them.

But they would be utterly devoid of the concept "blue". The would have no beginning of an idea what blue looks like. And no matter how much they studied the world, the never would suddenly say "AHA this is blue! Very pretty too." It would forever simply be a number for them. Because blue arises in the mind, nowhere else, the poor blind scientists cannot ever perceive it.

The only way we fool ourselves into thinking we measure blueness is by checking the measurements against our perceptions, where we find a correlation. It's a fuzzy, ill defined correlation and doesn't always hold, but we cling to it and impute this perception on objects anyhow as if it were real.
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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby Dexing » Mon Feb 22, 2010 9:44 pm

catmoon wrote:funny thing popped up in last night's meditation/contemplation. For there to be emptiness, there must a thing that is empty. Without a thing, the emptiness applies to nothing.

Put another way, there must be something behind the characteristics we impute on things. It may be ever changing, and impermanent, and unseen by our minds and senses, but

If it is not there, what has the character "emptiness"?


Does this make any sense to anyone?


Hi catmoon,

We've been on this topic of emptiness and cups (or other objects) in several threads.

Let me offer you a clear quote from the Shurangama Sutra, Chapter 2, that explains how in emptiness there is only illusions of objects based on false thoughts of solidity.

"Ananda, Why do I say that the five skandhas are basically the wonderful nature of true suchness, the Treasury of the Tathagata? Ananda, suppose a person with clear vision were to gaze at clear bright space. His gaze would perceive only clear emptiness devoid of anything else. Then if that person for no particular reason fixed his gaze, the staring would cause fatigue. Thus in empty space he would see illusory flowers and other illusory and disordered unreal appearances. You should be aware that the form skandha is like that.

Ananda, those illusory flowers did not originate from space nor did they come from the eyes. In fact, Ananda, if they came form space, coming from there they should also return to and enter space. But if objects were to enter and leave it, space would not be empty. And if space was not empty, then there would be no room for it to contain the flowers that might appear and disappear, just as Ananda's body cannot contain another Ananda. If the flowers came from the eyes, coming from them, they should also return to the eyes. If the image of flowers originated in the eyes, then they themselves should have vision. If they had vision, when they went out to space, they should be able to turn around and see the person's eyes. If they didn't have vision, then in going out, they would obscure space and in returning they would obscure the eyes. But when the person saw the flowers, his eyes should not have been obscured. But on the contrary, isn't it when we see clear space that our vision is said to be clear?

From this you should understand that the form skandha is empty and false. Fundamentally its nature cannot be attributed to either causes and conditions or spontaneity.


And Shurangama Sutra, Chapter 9, again states:

"Ananda, you should know that as a cultivator sits in the Bodhimanda, he is doing away with all thoughts. When his thoughts come to an end, there will be nothing on his mind. This state of pure clarity will stay the same whether in movement or stillness, in remembrance or forgetfulness. When he dwells in this place and enters Samadhi, he is like a person with clear vision who finds himself in total darkness. Although his nature is wonderfully pure, his mind is not yet illuminated. This is the region of the form skandha. If his eyes become clear, he will then experience the ten directions as an open expanse, and the darkness will be gone. This is the end of the form skandha. He will then be able to transcend the turbidity of time. Contemplating the cause of the form skandha, one sees that false thoughts of solidity are its source."


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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby catmoon » Tue Feb 23, 2010 12:11 am

Dexing wrote:
catmoon wrote:funny thing popped up in last night's meditation/contemplation. For there to be emptiness, there must a thing that is empty. Without a thing, the emptiness applies to nothing.

Put another way, there must be something behind the characteristics we impute on things. It may be ever changing, and impermanent, and unseen by our minds and senses, but

If it is not there, what has the character "emptiness"?


Does this make any sense to anyone?


Hi catmoon,

We've been on this topic of emptiness and cups (or other objects) in several threads.

Let me offer you a clear quote from the Shurangama Sutra, Chapter 2, that explains how in emptiness there is only illusions of objects based on false thoughts of solidity.

"Ananda, Why do I say that the five skandhas are basically the wonderful nature of true suchness, the Treasury of the Tathagata? Ananda, suppose a person with clear vision were to gaze at clear bright space. His gaze would perceive only clear emptiness devoid of anything else. Then if that person for no particular reason fixed his gaze, the staring would cause fatigue. Thus in empty space he would see illusory flowers and other illusory and disordered unreal appearances. You should be aware that the form skandha is like that.

Ananda, those illusory flowers did not originate from space nor did they come from the eyes. In fact, Ananda, if they came form space, coming from there they should also return to and enter space. But if objects were to enter and leave it, space would not be empty. And if space was not empty, then there would be no room for it to contain the flowers that might appear and disappear, just as Ananda's body cannot contain another Ananda. If the flowers came from the eyes, coming from them, they should also return to the eyes. If the image of flowers originated in the eyes, then they themselves should have vision. If they had vision, when they went out to space, they should be able to turn around and see the person's eyes. If they didn't have vision, then in going out, they would obscure space and in returning they would obscure the eyes. But when the person saw the flowers, his eyes should not have been obscured. But on the contrary, isn't it when we see clear space that our vision is said to be clear?

From this you should understand that the form skandha is empty and false. Fundamentally its nature cannot be attributed to either causes and conditions or spontaneity.


And Shurangama Sutra, Chapter 9, again states:

"Ananda, you should know that as a cultivator sits in the Bodhimanda, he is doing away with all thoughts. When his thoughts come to an end, there will be nothing on his mind. This state of pure clarity will stay the same whether in movement or stillness, in remembrance or forgetfulness. When he dwells in this place and enters Samadhi, he is like a person with clear vision who finds himself in total darkness. Although his nature is wonderfully pure, his mind is not yet illuminated. This is the region of the form skandha. If his eyes become clear, he will then experience the ten directions as an open expanse, and the darkness will be gone. This is the end of the form skandha. He will then be able to transcend the turbidity of time. Contemplating the cause of the form skandha, one sees that false thoughts of solidity are its source."


:namaste:



Very nice quotes, I do see much of what is being said, but not the whole of it.

For now, I would very much like to cease discussing this and ponder the quotes in an unhurried way.

Besides, I have been presenting my views as if they were facts for much too long now and that bothers me.
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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby Pema Rigdzin » Tue Feb 23, 2010 9:28 am

catmoon wrote:
TMingyur wrote:
As to "character":
You say that "emptiness" is a "character" of a thing that is empty. I prefer to say that it is just a non-affirming negation. So far I have understood that we have been talking about "character" in a shunyata sense and that your "cup" has just been an example.

Now please define "character".


You use the term "non-affirming negation". I put it to you that this is a contradiction in terms.


Catmoon,

This is just a simple misunderstanding of what this Prasangika Madhyamaka term intends. What is meant by the term "non-affirming negation" is that one's analysis is arguing away all the false notions about a phenomenon without taking the next step of positing supposedly true things about it.

The utility of this is that any notions and statements about ultimate truth is necessarily still just a concept - still just discursive mind, nowhere near ultimate truth as it is. So one destroys false notions in order to allow one's non-conceptual, primordial wisdom shine as it is, free of elaboration.

P.S. I only just now saw your final post about ceasing to discuss this for a while so you can ponder all this; hopefully what I've written will only be helpful to your contemplation.
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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby catmoon » Tue Feb 23, 2010 12:33 pm

Pema Rigdzin wrote:Catmoon,

This is just a simple misunderstanding of what this Prasangika Madhyamaka term intends. What is meant by the term "non-affirming negation" is that one's analysis is arguing away all the false notions about a phenomenon without taking the next step of positing supposedly true things about it.

The utility of this is that any notions and statements about ultimate truth is necessarily still just a concept - still just discursive mind, nowhere near ultimate truth as it is. So one destroys false notions in order to allow one's non-conceptual, primordial wisdom shine as it is, free of elaboration.

P.S. I only just now saw your final post about ceasing to discuss this for a while so you can ponder all this; hopefully what I've written will only be helpful to your contemplation.


Well I havent stopped but I think I am winding down steadily. I will say I agree, it does seem to be a simple misunderstanding, especially in light of the Dalai Lama quote. I have to wonder, in all that has been said, how many such elementary errors have passed unnoticed?

BTW the first result of contemplation is in. On first reading, I had the feeling I understood nearly completely. Now, a day later, I read them and am certain I do not understand more than a tenth of them. I can't even follow the arguments, really.
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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby Pema Rigdzin » Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:34 pm

catmoon wrote:
Pema Rigdzin wrote:Catmoon,

This is just a simple misunderstanding of what this Prasangika Madhyamaka term intends. What is meant by the term "non-affirming negation" is that one's analysis is arguing away all the false notions about a phenomenon without taking the next step of positing supposedly true things about it.

The utility of this is that any notions and statements about ultimate truth is necessarily still just a concept - still just discursive mind, nowhere near ultimate truth as it is. So one destroys false notions in order to allow one's non-conceptual, primordial wisdom shine as it is, free of elaboration.

P.S. I only just now saw your final post about ceasing to discuss this for a while so you can ponder all this; hopefully what I've written will only be helpful to your contemplation.


Well I havent stopped but I think I am winding down steadily. I will say I agree, it does seem to be a simple misunderstanding, especially in light of the Dalai Lama quote. I have to wonder, in all that has been said, how many such elementary errors have passed unnoticed?

BTW the first result of contemplation is in. On first reading, I had the feeling I understood nearly completely. Now, a day later, I read them and am certain I do not understand more than a tenth of them. I can't even follow the arguments, really.


Well, you should congratulate yourself on your commitment to honestly contemplate all this for yourself and not simply deciding you understand just to make yourself feel better or to have a position you can stand on. I'm sure I speak for all when I say we've all fallen into that trap at some point. It's an important trap to grow out of. You seem committed to really contemplating this and getting to the bottom of it yourself, which is very important. My friendly advice, to paraphrase something one of my lamas always says: slowly, slowly... step by step. That is the way we progress.

Remember we've gone at least the years of this life mired in ignorance, and the Buddha said this has been the case for us over countless lifetimes. So it's naturally a bit difficult to overcome our habitual way of thinking, but by progressing slowly and diligently without stressing too much or being overly attached to figuring things out, we will make progress. It's also important, as a Mahayanist, to set one's motivation to figure out the truth not just for oneself, but in order to liberate all beings. To do strive only out of one's own thirst to know will cause plenty of obstacles. I speak from experience in this last bit. :tongue:

Having gone the wrong route for a while when I first became a Buddhist and started studying all this stuff and later corrected myself and set the proper motivation, I can say that truly learning and contemplating the teachings with the purpose of enabling one to realize the wisdom and knowledge to benefit others has an "opening up" type quality on the mind. Instead of being more tightly wound in trying to crack open difficult concepts or feeling painfully confused and discouraged, which is due to feeling unable to immediately fulfill our own desire to know, the mental and emotional resources are freed up into compassion and the determination to keep working at this because we want to be of help. That compassionate type of urgency is not like the restrictive, selfish urgency, and it's an aid to actually gaining the understanding we're after. You're probably already on this right track, Catmoon, so if what I've said was unnecessary, please don't take offense.
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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby catmoon » Thu Feb 25, 2010 4:37 am

Offense? :rolling: Nope, no offense!

Today's ponder of the quotes has yielded a personal verification. Buddha speaks of fixing the gaze and seeing flowers and such. I have seen this I think, and a number of times. While gazing fixedly at a building in the sun, I have seen seen the concrete sort of disappear and be replaced by a sort of amorphous window through which a forest of green is seen. These forms are not sharp and clear, mostly, but I have seen them repeatedly.

So the form skandha is like that, eh? That's my next ponder. If I tire of that, I can always ask, "Where are these forms arising?"
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Re: Emptiness: an imputed character?

Postby catmoon » Thu Feb 25, 2010 9:04 am

I'm still reflecting. Strangely, when reflecting calmly, the things that draw the mind again and again are not the detailed arguments. It's those enigmatic Buddha quotes, and what you said about losing sight of Bodhicitta while grinding logic.
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