Just to be clear where I'm coming from:
Nagarjuna is clearly concerned to be systematically consistent with the historical Buddha, and the discourses of the historical Buddha.
So, instead of thinking about the vajra universe, Buddhalands, sambogakaya as the grounds for communication etc, let us contemplate for a moment both the historical and logical connection between Nagarjuna's work and Gautama's discourses.
Does anyone want to argue that the Pali cannon is not conceptual?
That the many dialogues which Gautama had with a range of different sentient beings, was not conceptual?
That he was not intimately engaged with the ordinary language of sentient beings?
And therefore, that he necessarily
apprehended the conventional phenomena of ordinary language and concepts, in order to teach, in order to liberate.
Ever had a conversation in a dream, dealt with a virtual call centre, received an email auto response, googled something?
Why should interaction involving language necessitate conception on the other party?
Why should it for a Buddha?
Paul Griffiths has a few interesting things to say on the subject …
"Our utterance is usually marked with deliberation and choice … perhaps the only true spontaneous, choiceness, effortless utterances that most of us ever make are … grunts of agony or ecstasy, moans of appreciation and the like.. they also, of course, generally communicate across boundaries of natural languages. Some few of us … may do more: we may compose poetry, prose or speak ad hoc in a manner which, in terms of its phenomenal properties at least, appear to us to be spontaneous and effortless in just the way that Buddha's utterance must be. But such instances are for us atypical, mysterious even to those who experience them, while for Buddha's they are all that is possible".
I find this very unconvincing.
Why does language necessitate conception? Because that is what language is
. Each signifier is a concept. The word "apple" is not the reality of an apple; it is the concept of an apple abstracted from reality and shared in a community of language speakers.
So, it makes no difference how poetic, or spontaneous or effortless a stream of prose or an utterance may be - poetry is the organisation of signifiers in a particularly aesthetic way.......it may yield non-conceptual experiences in the reader.....but the form of poetry, being in language is still nothing more or less than the articulation of concepts.
Surely we all agree on this?
Now in any case, the Buddha - Gautama - was doing far more than making utterances or producing poetry. He was talking to ordinary folk all the time. He was relating to kings and resolving their political problems.
How could the Buddha talk to a king, and resolve a particular political problem, without entering into that understanding - that language game - of politics etc?
So, the linguistic relation between the Buddha and his subjects is not at all akin to a virtual call centre or an auto email response: because surely it is a two way process. A mutual
Might it be like a conversation in a dream? Well, Chandrakirti would say that for the subject, it would
be like a dream. Because that subject does not apprehend paramatha satya
. But I'm talking from the point of view of the Buddha, not the subject. The dream has ended for the Buddha - but he still talks. So, I'm asking, what are the implications of this for our understanding of the two truths?
It seems to me, that either, a Buddha can still
- that it is simultaneous with paramatha-satya
. So, a Tsong Khapian kind of argument.
Or, that the language and concepts that a Buddha uses are somehow considered paramatha-satya
- in which case, I would like to know how it can also be held that paramatha-satya
is the cessation of all conceptual thought and activity.