Weishi Philosophy & Emptiness of dharmas

Weishi Philosophy & Emptiness of dharmas

Postby Dexing » Fri Feb 19, 2010 2:09 am

This should be the same as Yogachara, but I am familiar with the Chinese version (Weishi), so I will start this in the East Asian forum.

This is basically the only sticking point I've come to in this very clear tradition. It's probably a very simple fix.

In explaining how all dharmas are dependent upon consciousness, and are subjective feeling rather than objective reality, that they are basically non-existent, it is explained in this way; let's take for example, eye-consciousness and form.

Even science proves that the eye can only see color, and that color is created subjectively when light rays reflect into the eye and the eye-consciousness translates it into color. But every being may have a different translation because it is completely subjective and changes appearance according to their karma- such as those animals which see black and white.

Based on this it is said that we never see an object itself, only color which is a subjective creation of our eye-consciousness. Also feeling the object or hearing the object by knocking on it... all ways in which we can know an object is in fact subjective and not at all objective.

Feeling hard and soft, hot and cold is also our subjective feeling. Feeling is not the object itself, just like color is not the object itself. When we knock on an object, air vibrates our eardrum and if the ear-consciousness is activated it will translate that vibration into sound. So sound is also created by our consciousness, and not existing objectively. Nothing is wrong with our ears when we are sleeping, and people are talking next to us. Consciousness is just resting, so there is no sound.

So we can never say we have experienced an object itself.

Following this logic it is said that all dharmas are empty, non-existent, because they are subjective experiences which are obviously unreal. My only problem with this is that light rays reflect off an object's surface into our eyes and is then translated into color. Color is not the object, and light is not the object. But although we can't see light itself, if it is reflecting off of something and our eye-consciousness translates it differently, does that not prove that there is something external to our consciousness that the light reflects off of, even though we have no way of experiencing it itself?

Same with sound. When I knock on a desk air is moved, the eardrum is vibrated and sound is created subjectively. Sound is not the desk, air is not the desk, the hard feeling of knocking the desk is also not the desk. But do these not prove there is something there, even though we have no way to experience it directly through our consciousness? Can't we apply logic here and know there is some objective reality, just that we can't directly know it? Perhaps that is the karma of a human being.

In Weishi Philosophy we are asked to use logic to see that since there is delusion, even though all such distinctions are unreal, then there is mind capable of delusion, just that we cannot use mind to turn around and know itself. It only knows objects of its cognition. So the saying is; "the eye can't see itself, the mind can't know itself". Of course then we establish that since there is no object, there can be no subject.

Well, I apply this same type of logic to the fact that there are light rays reflecting off the surface of something and into our eyes where eye-consciousness translates it into color and we see "form", even though light isn't the object, and color isn't the object itself. We can't experience the object through our consciousness, but using the same logic we can say that it exists external to our consciousness. We can't "know" that, but we can see using such logic.

Again, as the rest of this tradition is very clear, I'm sure the riddle to this perceived discrepancy is quite clear as well. Anyone?

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Re: Weishi Philosophy & Emptiness of dharmas

Postby Huifeng » Fri Feb 19, 2010 3:26 am

In terms of later, more developed Yogacara, which is actually Vijnaptimatra (~ "mere cognition") or near to it, the object is "external" to the cognition only if we are talking about the first six cognitions. However, it is still actually an arising from alaya. Since alaya is also a cognition (in the later systems), the object is not "external" to alaya itself. However, due to ignorance, people think that it is actually external to alaya, and create an illusion of internal subject and external object. Actually, both are just aspects of alaya. Alaya is thus, in a certain sense, neither internal subject nor external object.

You'll find, however, that early Indian Yogacara doesn't have it like this. They still basically take external objects as external and internal subjective cognition as such. It is heavily based on Abhidharma (Sarvastivada, but more like Sautrantika).

One of the problems with much understanding of Yogacara these days, is that people automatically assume that "Yogacara" is the latter form. Note all the Tibetan polemics against "Cittamatra" with it's "really existing cognition" - actually, few if any of these arguments apply to such core Yogacara texts as the Yogacarabhumi, or other Asanga / Maitreya works. Likewise for East Asian versions - the East Asian understanding of Yogacara is very heavily influenced by Kuiji and his Ci'en / Faxiang philosophy, in particular the *Vijnaptimatrasiddhi Sastra (Chengweishi Lun). This is, strictly speaking, a very late Vijnaptimatra work, and is quite different from the Yogacarabhumi Sastra and others.
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Re: Weishi Philosophy & Emptiness of dharmas

Postby Dexing » Sun Feb 21, 2010 11:06 pm

I see. Thanks for explaining this.

No further questions....

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Re: Weishi Philosophy & Emptiness of dharmas

Postby catmoon » Mon Feb 22, 2010 11:08 am

Me again.


I see some reason to suppose there is an external reality, but I recognize that it is a dangerous assumption. The only thing it has going for it is that it is less dangerous than the opposite assumption, which is pure nihilism, or solipsism at best. Once things exist only in the mind, bodhicitta has lost its object - the other guy. Altruism becomes self gratification. And so on.

The danger in assuming an external reality is the powerful tendency we have to assume our perceptions ARE the external reality, which can easily lead to huge errors of reification. A classic example being a soldier throwing his life away for the sake of a flag. Or the belief that there really are such things as left wing and right wing, and defining half the people into the class "enemy" as a result. Or on a smaller scale, one might believe that blueness is something external. :)

Is there a middle path here? I believe there is. One can say, there are real things out there, but they are not at all as they appear. All I know is appearances and whatever I can deduce from those appearances, which is surprisingly little. In this view we are freed from preconceptions, at least we are if we look for them and see them. The other guy is still there, the object of compassion, but knowing very little about him, all we can do is try to generate and apply bodhicitta and hope for the best.
In this view, we really don't know how any of our actions will play out. The money we give may be spent on booze, guns and hookers. Our good wishes may be seen as condescension. The lift we give someone downtown may be seen as an ostentatious display of wealth and superiority. The Dharma may be taken as an insult, or as often occurs in my case, sophistry. So be it.

For morale, we can always turn to the karma principle. We can have faith that well intentioned actions will have good consequences, and we can even verify this to a degree by observation. There is great strength in this.
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Re: Weishi Philosophy & Emptiness of dharmas

Postby Dexing » Mon Feb 22, 2010 12:06 pm

catmoon wrote:I see some reason to suppose there is an external reality, but I recognize that it is a dangerous assumption. The only thing it has going for it is that it is less dangerous than the opposite assumption, which is pure nihilism, or solipsism at best. Once things exist only in the mind, bodhicitta has lost its object - the other guy. Altruism becomes self gratification. And so on.


That's only taking one step, in seeing that all things are empty (non-existent). If you stop there then you don't see that all things are created by mind alone. If there is not even mind, then it is true nihilism. But it is also not solipsism because it is not the mind of materialists. If there is no object then there can be no subject.

But this is at the level of study and conceptualization.

To really see emptiness is to see true mind. And to see true mind is to see emptiness.

At that time then you also see the real other guy, not just the sentient being you vow to liberate. Because that also is an illusion.

"Buddhas don't save Buddhas" as Bodhidharma said it.

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Re: Weishi Philosophy & Emptiness of dharmas

Postby catmoon » Mon Feb 22, 2010 12:27 pm

That's only taking one step, in seeing that all things are empty (non-existent)
.

But isn't seeing emptiness as nonexistence a complete violation of the Middle Path principle?

If you stop there then you don't see that all things are created by mind alone.


It's worse than than that, I believe the idea to be self evidently wrong.

If there is not even mind, then it is true nihilism.


Heyhey something we agree on at last! :smile:

But it is also not solipsism because it is not the mind of materialists.


Huh? If there's nothing but my mind and the things it creates, I'm a solipsist. What does materialism have to do with it?

If there is no object then there can be no subject.


Dat seems logical. There is however, an object. Just not existing the way we think.

But this is at the level of study and conceptualization.

To really see emptiness is to see true mind. And to see true mind is to see emptiness.

At that time then you also see the real other guy, not just the sentient being you vow to liberate. Because that also is an illusion.

"Buddhas don't save Buddhas" as Bodhidharma said it.


To have a valid opinion on this I would have to really see emptiness. Maybe one day hm?
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Re: Weishi Philosophy & Emptiness of dharmas

Postby Dexing » Mon Feb 22, 2010 12:37 pm

catmoon wrote:
That's only taking one step, in seeing that all things are empty (non-existent)
.

But isn't seeing emptiness as nonexistence a complete violation of the Middle Path principle?


If you stop there and fall into nihilism, sure.

catmoon wrote:
But it is also not solipsism because it is not the mind of materialists.


Huh? If there's nothing but my mind and the things it creates, I'm a solipsist. What does materialism have to do with it?


By that I mean the mind that is based on sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tangibles and ideas.., form, feelings, thoughts, volition, and consciousness.

Perhaps read some of Ven. Huifeng's response above.

catmoon wrote:
If there is no object then there can be no subject.


Dat seems logical. There is however, an object. Just not existing the way we think.


That is okay for a Hinayana understanding, to help lead us to detachment and less suffering. But this is not a Mahayana view.

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Re: Weishi Philosophy & Emptiness of dharmas

Postby catmoon » Mon Feb 22, 2010 12:52 pm

That is okay for a Hinayana understanding, to help lead us to detachment and less suffering. But this is not a Mahayana view.



Wait but.. you're saying the whole of Mahayana holds the mind-only view??
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Re: Weishi Philosophy & Emptiness of dharmas

Postby Dexing » Mon Feb 22, 2010 7:36 pm

catmoon wrote:
That is okay for a Hinayana understanding, to help lead us to detachment and less suffering. But this is not a Mahayana view.



Wait but.. you're saying the whole of Mahayana holds the mind-only view??


Emptiness in Mahayana is not based on the Hinayana dependent origination with illusory objects as it's foundation, in whichever form it is explained.

All Mahayana Sutras talk about this same point.

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