Conceptuality in Buddhism

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Re: Madyamika Sautrantika vs Prasangika

Postby catmoon » Tue Nov 29, 2011 4:31 am

It is the curse of Buddhists everywhere that we routinely deal with topics that require making the distinction between the apparent and the real. Worse, the distinction has to made with surgical precision or the logic of our arguments will fall apart. Worse still, the vocabularly and syntax we use is prone to double interpretations, defeating our best efforts.

So, awkwardness is inevitable. We have to accept odd definitions, and argue with pedantic attention to details. Such is the price of exactitude.
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Re: Madyamika Sautrantika vs Prasangika

Postby Malcolm » Tue Nov 29, 2011 5:05 am

RichardLinde wrote:And Buddhas appear to have concepts, so we say they have concepts.



If Buddhas appear to have concepts, that appearance comes from our concepts.

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Re: Madyamika Sautrantika vs Prasangika

Postby RichardLinde » Tue Nov 29, 2011 6:21 am

Namdrol wrote:If Buddhas appear to have concepts, that appearance comes from our concepts.


There is only a problem with "concepts" if we define a "concept" to be the projection of inherent existence onto things. But that's not how the term is generally defined. For example, in science we have a concept of, say, "the moon", based on what appears to us in the sky. Whether there really is a moon in the sky is completely irrelevant so far as science is concerned. All that matters in science is that there appears to be a moon in the sky. A good scientist is one who doesn't unnecessarily project inherent existence onto what he observes, but deals only with what actually appears. In this manner a person is able to have good concepts instead of bad ones.
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Re: Madyamika Sautrantika vs Prasangika

Postby conebeckham » Tue Nov 29, 2011 6:23 am

RichardLinde wrote:
Namdrol wrote:If Buddhas appear to have concepts, that appearance comes from our concepts.


There is only a problem with "concepts" if we define a "concept" to be the projection of inherent existence onto things. But that's not how the term is generally defined. For example, in science we have a concept of, say, "the moon", based on what appears to us in the sky. Whether there really is a moon in the sky is completely irrelevant so far as science is concerned. All that matters in science is that there appears to be a moon in the sky. A good scientist is one who doesn't unnecessarily project inherent existence onto what he observes, but deals only with what actually appears. In this manner a person is able to have good concepts instead of bad ones.


Perhaps, but that person is not a Buddha.
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Re: Madyamika Sautrantika vs Prasangika

Postby Mariusz » Tue Nov 29, 2011 9:22 am

RichardLinde wrote:
Namdrol wrote:If Buddhas appear to have concepts, that appearance comes from our concepts.
A good scientist is one who doesn't unnecessarily project inherent existence onto what he observes, but deals only with what actually appears. In this manner a person is able to have good concepts instead of bad ones.

As I wrote here earlier: ...It reminds me of modern science, more and more complicated, when it looks endlessly for example Higgs particle.

Object-side perspective paradox. The process works and is useful only for a person, a sentient being.
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Re: Madyamika Sautrantika vs Prasangika

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Nov 29, 2011 10:20 am

The problem with conceptualising is that it creates a false subject-object dichotomy. It leads to a failure to appreciate that ALL apearances are merely projections of our mind.

Buddhas apparently overcome this dualistic notion and thus perceive phenomena as they actually are and thus have no "need" to conceptualise. But this is difficult (to impossible) for us to comprehend beacuse we are trapped into the basic dualism of apparently "outer" appearances as somehow seperate, or existing in contrast, to our "inner" perception.

I reccomend, RinchardLinde, that you read the Lankavatara Sutra or Abhidharma/Abhidhamma to get an idea of how Buddhists "conceptualise" the workings of samsaric mind.
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Re: Madyamika Sautrantika vs Prasangika

Postby RichardLinde » Tue Nov 29, 2011 10:39 am

conebeckham wrote:Perhaps, but that person is not a Buddha.


I think you are assuming that literally all concepts inherently contain an error, but there's no reason this need be the case. For example, there's no reason that a scientist, with all manner of concepts, can't be a Buddha.

If you want to define the word "concept" to mean something that is necessarily flawed, then that's fine, but I won't be joining you, since the word is far too useful to discard. Likewise with all other words in the language.

If you want to say that "concepts" are necessarily flawed then you will also have to say that every other word in the language necessarily always refers to something that is inherently flawed.

Then you will have to tell the Buddha off for every single word he uses.
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Re: Madyamika Sautrantika vs Prasangika

Postby RichardLinde » Tue Nov 29, 2011 10:49 am

gregkavarnos wrote:The problem with conceptulaising is that it creates a false subject-object dichotomy.


If an enlightened person tells you that they have a concept of something, such as how a computer works, are you going to tell them that they are creating a false subject-object dichotomy?

I would hope not. The word "concept" doesn't always imply a false subject-object dichotomy. It depends entirely on who is using the word, and how they are using it.

Incidentally, you wouldn't be able to tell for sure whether the person is enlightened or not, but you still need to keep an open mind as to how people are using words.

The meanings of words are not set in the stones that you yourself have created.
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Re: Madyamika Sautrantika vs Prasangika

Postby tobes » Tue Nov 29, 2011 10:52 am

I'm not sure my question has been adequately addressed.

Clearly Buddhahood is defined by most Madhyamikans as the cessation of concepts.

There is no argument that emptiness/ultimate reality is non-conceptual; that the person who attains that state no longer possesses something we might call 'a conceptual mind.'

But why does it follow that that person cannot know other conceptual minds, or conceptual phenomena in general?

In this respect, that kind of argument implies that a Buddha would not be able to sufficiently cognise the understandings (better phrased as misunderstandings) of his students.

Let's say a student had the mistaken world view that there were no causes and effects. If he asserted that world view to a Buddha, surely the Buddha would be able to recognise the conceptual structure which underpins that view, and be able to propose the right kind of view.

The recognition of the false view surely tells us that a Buddha can know concepts, even if, he does not possess a conceptual mind.

Is the question at least clear??

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Re: Madyamika Sautrantika vs Prasangika

Postby RichardLinde » Tue Nov 29, 2011 11:07 am

tobes wrote:the person who attains that state no longer possesses something we might call 'a conceptual mind.'


If a person who realizes emptiness can still itemize umpteen realms of existence, and make countless other distinctions, such as distinguishing between wisdom and ignorance, then as far as I'm concerned they still have a conceptual mind. I'm not suggesting for a moment that the person is deluded in any way, but that's just the way I use language. Call me old fashioned, but if some particular expression is useful, then I use that expression, and I don't see any good reason to throw all language out the window.

The recognition of the false view surely tells us that a Buddha can know concepts, even if, he does not possess a conceptual mind.

Is the question at least clear??


I would say that if a Buddha knows anything at all then they have concepts, by definition. But since they are a Buddha their concepts would not be deluded or unrealistic in any way. The concepts would not be "possessed" or post-processed in any way, but would rise and fall perfectly naturally.
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Re: Madyamika Sautrantika vs Prasangika

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Nov 29, 2011 11:32 am

You are counfounding the "display" with the "reality". A Buddha cannot talk to us, beings trapped in samsaric dualism, in terms other than those that we understand. Just because the explanation is being given conceptually does not mean that the "reality" it describes is conceptual. Finger and moon!!!

The word "concept" doesn't always imply a false subject-object dichotomy.
Yes, it does.
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Re: Madyamika Sautrantika vs Prasangika

Postby Mariusz » Tue Nov 29, 2011 11:44 am

RichardLinde wrote:
I would say that if a Buddha knows anything at all then they have concepts, by definition. But since they are a Buddha their concepts would not be deluded or unrealistic in any way. The concepts would not be "possessed" or post-processed in any way, but would rise and fall perfectly naturally.

Concepts are useful only for sentient beings because the "seeming" is "useful" although in illusion-like manner only. Santideva explained the collapse of any analysis using concepts, until realization of sunyata beyond concepts and other reference points:

If what has been analyzed
Is analyzed through further analysis,
There is no end to it,
Because that analysis would be analyzed too.

Once what had to be analyzed has been analyzed,
The analysis has no basis left.
Since there is no basis, it does not continue.
This is expressed as nirvana.


I guess Nirmanakaya-buddha does not need concepts because already knows precisely the seeming of students (the omniscience). If students for example see Nirmanakaya-buddha reading a book, this is only the seeming of these students, their object-side perspective.

It works because:

The two truths are only from deceiving perspective of students (the seeming): conventional- it is not possible to know the infinitive cause/cognitions of any object, ultimate-is not possible for sentient beings because the total freedom from all reference points.

For buddha there is no such division: Nirmanakaya-buddha knows precisely the seeming (omniscience)=the total freedom from all reference points.
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Re: Madyamika Sautrantika vs Prasangika

Postby RichardLinde » Tue Nov 29, 2011 1:49 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
The word "concept" doesn't always imply a false subject-object dichotomy.
Yes, it does.


Let's say the Buddha says to you, "I have a concept for a new design of building."

Tell us how you would explain to the Buddha how he shouldn't be using the word "concept", because it implies a false subject-object dichotomy.


A Buddha cannot talk to us, beings trapped in samsaric dualism, in terms other than those that we understand.


Let's say that the Buddha was talking to another Buddha, and said to that other Buddha, "I have a concept for a new design of building." Do you think he would be correct to use the word "concept" in that instance? Or would you tell him that he is wrong in that instance as well?

I would like to hear your reasoning.
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Re: Madyamika Sautrantika vs Prasangika

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Nov 29, 2011 2:04 pm

RichardLinde wrote:Let's say the Buddha says to you, "I have a concept for a new design of building."

Tell us how you would explain to the Buddha how he shouldn't be using the word "concept", because it implies a false subject-object dichotomy.
I wouldn't, I am a deluded samsaric being, like you are, and would probably go along with the Buddhas new building concept (probably) blissfully unaware of the fact that it is the Buddha wearing the engineers helmet.
Let's say that the Buddha was talking to another Buddha, and said to that other Buddha, "I have a concept for a new design of building." Do you think he would be correct to use the word "concept" in that instance? Or would you tell him that he is wrong in that instance as well?
This question is null and void coz I don't eavesdrop on Buddhas having conversations. :tongue:

Anyway, theoretically, when one is a Buddha there is no "this Buddha and that Buddha" as there is no "this or that" for a Buddha so...
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One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
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Re: Madyamika Sautrantika vs Prasangika

Postby RichardLinde » Tue Nov 29, 2011 2:07 pm

Mariusz wrote:Concepts are useful only for sentient beings because the "seeming" is "useful" although in illusion-like manner only.


The important thing is that concepts are useful, and that's why we use them.

For example, before we build something it's useful to have a concept of what we're going to build, and how we're going to build it, before we begin the physical work.

Concepts are equally useful for Buddhas too. If they cook a meal then they would have some concept of what they want to cook, and how they want to cook it, before they actually cook the meal, just the same as ourselves - but without the delusions.

Planning ahead involves the necessary use of concepts.
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Re: Madyamika Sautrantika vs Prasangika

Postby RichardLinde » Tue Nov 29, 2011 2:21 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:I am a deluded samsaric being, like you are


Be careful about the assumptions you make about others in this world. Right here in our world you can meet Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and on a lower level, those with such a deep and extensive intellectual understanding of the Dharma that even the Buddha would be amazed.

And on a lower level again, there are people who can show great wisdom in some areas, but not in others - "gods" if you will. We should not make assumptions about any of these people.

When one is a Buddha there is no "this Buddha and that Buddha"


So if you overheard one Buddha saying to another Buddha "I have a concept for a new design of building", would you tap the Buddha on the shoulder and say to him, "Excuse me, Mr. Buddha, Sir, but there is not this Buddha and that Buddha."

I think I know where the Buddha's glass of water will be going. :wink:
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Re: Madyamika Sautrantika vs Prasangika

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Nov 29, 2011 2:27 pm

Well I can't speak on behalf of Buddhas since I am not one (you may be and that's why you can freely express what is useful or not for Buddhas), but definitely, at the relative level concepts are useful, for communication, for planning (as you said) etc...

But for Buddhas, that are theoretically beyond the dualisms of before, now, after, I can't really say how helpful they are.
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Re: Madyamika Sautrantika vs Prasangika

Postby RichardLinde » Tue Nov 29, 2011 2:57 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:Theoretically beyond the dualisms of before, now, after


Even on the theoretical level Buddhas are beyond non-dualism too.

I can't really say how helpful they are


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Re: Madyamika Sautrantika vs Prasangika

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Nov 29, 2011 3:18 pm

It's like a joke:

Two Buddhas walk onto a building site and one Buddha asks the other: "Do you think we can build a non-conceptual building by using concepts?
To which the second Buddha replies by presenting a set square.
The first Buddha then smiles and presents a compass.
The second Buddha then smiles and presents a ruler.
The first Buddha then smiles and presents a plumb line.
The second Buddha then smiles and presents a rhinocerous.
The first Buddha smiles and then presents a... ad nauseum.

I think the important questions to ask are:
a)which authority would grant a building permit for a non-conceptual building?
b)are the Buddhas members of the builders union? coz if they aren't, then even if they did get a plan together and the necessary authorisation they ain't never gonna build that building!
:namaste:
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Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
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Re: Madyamika Sautrantika vs Prasangika

Postby Malcolm » Tue Nov 29, 2011 5:18 pm

RichardLinde wrote:
Namdrol wrote:If Buddhas appear to have concepts, that appearance comes from our concepts.


There is only a problem with "concepts" if we define a "concept" to be the projection of inherent existence onto things.


But that is not how a vikalpa (rnam par rtog pa) is defined.
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