Misunderstanding emptiness

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Sun Jan 08, 2012 4:32 pm

Hey guys,

I don't want to veer off course here but, thinking about Madhyamaka, I have a general question. Let me know if this is in ballpark.

In terms of language or rhetoric, Nagarjuna's method works so well, and frustrates so many, because it is based on two truths, and two truths is effectively two contexts from which to interpret anything, be it the true/false value of truthbearers (like statements, perceptions, cognitions), or the real/unreal value of objects (like whether something exists).

So one cannot say "p is true" because it is not true in all contexts. Similarly, one cannot say "p is false" because Nagarjuna again shifts to the other context. Same method works for statements about existence.

Is it this simple, in broad terms?

Reminds me of Zen, conflabulate the student. ;)

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Dave.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jan 08, 2012 4:49 pm

gad rgyangs wrote:as soon as you posit "something" that is either given an imaginary nature by erroneous cognition, or understood as empty of that imaginary nature by correct cognition, it is trisvabhava.

you said "the given apparent phenomena being perceived as an object", which is saying "something" ("phenomena") is being perceived as an object, i.e. paratantra is being perceived as parikalpita.


No, what you said as that the imputed identity was parikalpita. Look back at what you said.

The three own natures have to do with how objects themselves are deluded cognitions (parikalpita) i.e. mental states (caittas) which arise from the activation of seeds (bijas) stored in the alayavijñāna (paratantra). When those appearances are recognized as being mere mental states, and non-existent in the ālayavijñāna itself, then the ālayavijñāna transforms into wisdom (parinispanna). Paratantra only refers to the ālayavijñāna.

Basically, if you want to talk about Yogacara this is not the thread to do it.

As I said, what I stated it basically pulled directly from MAv -- and as you know, Candra, later in this text, demolishes the three own nature thoery altogether.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jan 08, 2012 4:58 pm

yadave wrote:
In terms of language or rhetoric, Nagarjuna's method works so well, and frustrates so many, because it is based on two truths, and two truths is effectively two contexts from which to interpret anything, be it the true/false value of truthbearers (like statements, perceptions, cognitions), or the real/unreal value of objects (like whether something exists).

So one cannot say "p is true" because it is not true in all contexts. Similarly, one cannot say "p is false" because Nagarjuna again shifts to the other context. Same method works for statements about existence.


What Candrakirti is saying is that Nagarjuna is saying that any given entity someone perceives can be perceived either correctly or incorrectly.

Among incorrect perceptions of objects there is a further subdivision; true relative truth and false relative truth. A true relative truth is somethat that is efficient and producing a result, for example, a wheat seed that produces a wheat sprout. Such observed efficiency provides the basis for consensus reality. False relative truths are conventional delusions, for example, a drunk who has doubled vision or a juandice patient who perceives everything as yellowed.

Ultimate truths are always true no matter the context. Relative truths are contextual. For example, the relative truth of the speed of light breaks down when gravitational conditions are altered the event horizon of a black hole, for example. However, we can connect these relative truths on a continuum by understand their context so they remain generally true even when they are not specificially true.

N
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby gad rgyangs » Sun Jan 08, 2012 5:44 pm

Namdrol wrote:What Candrakirti is saying is that Nagarjuna is saying that any given entity someone perceives can be perceived either correctly or incorrectly.

N


entities are not "given" and if you are perceiving one, it is an incorrect cognition. this goes back to the prajnaparamita sutras.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jan 08, 2012 5:51 pm

gad rgyangs wrote:
Namdrol wrote:What Candrakirti is saying is that Nagarjuna is saying that any given entity someone perceives can be perceived either correctly or incorrectly.

N


entities are not "given" and if you are perceiving one, it is an incorrect cognition. this goes back to the prajnaparamita sutras.


Perhaps we do not mean the same thing by entity. Here I am using "entity" simply to mean an apparent.

If you mean by an "entity" something which possesses being, then we are in agreement —  any perception predicated on perceiving an entity as existent is an incorrect cognition.

Apparents are a given, that is what it means when Nagarjuna states that one understands ultimate truth through relative truth. If they are not a given that the classical statement "Matter is empty, emptiness is matter..." etc., is unintelligible.

We have to have "given" objects because we do not reject appearances in classical Madhyamaka. We understand that appearances arise in dependence. What we reject about appearances is not the appearance itself, rather, that it has any underlying realty. For example, a moon in the water.

This is quite different than yogacara where appearances themselves in their totality are rejected.

N
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby gad rgyangs » Sun Jan 08, 2012 6:05 pm

Namdrol wrote:Perhaps we do not mean the same thing by entity. Here I am using "entity" simply to mean an apparent.

If you mean by an "entity" something which possesses being, then we are in agreement, any perception predicated perceive an existent entity is an incorrect cognition.

Apparents are a given, that is what it means when Nagarjuna states that one understands ultimate truth through relative truth. If they are not a given that the classical statement "Matter is empty, emptiness is matter..." etc., is unintelligible.

We have to have "given" objects because we do not reject appearances in classical Madhyamaka. We understand that appearances arise in dependence. What we reject about appearances is not the appearance itself, rather, that it has any underlying realty.

This is quite different than yogacara where appearances themselves in their totality are rejected.

N


yes but an apparent what? you can't say a table is apparent in any way beyond an arbitrary conceptual construction. in madhyamaka, conventional reality is unanalyzable because it disappears under analysis, but that doesn't mean that there is anything to be called "the given" that then one either mis-perceives as objects or truly perceives as empty, because that then would be the yogacara view. the statement about understanding the ultimate through the relative is didactic like saying to understand that mirages are illusions, you first have to be fooled by one.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jan 08, 2012 6:14 pm

gad rgyangs wrote:
yes but an apparent what? you can't say a table is apparent in any way beyond an arbitrary conceptual construction.


That is not true -- conceptual construction occurs after perception of an appearance. Otherwise, we would left with many ensuing faults. Please see Gorampa on this point.

"the given"


"Given" means when this specific chair is offered up for examination, this chair is the given chair. This is the kind of petty quibbling that really stalls meaningful conversation.

the statement about understanding the ultimate through the relative is didactic like saying to understand that mirages are illusions, you first have to be fooled by one.


No, first you merely have to see one, whether you are fooled by a mirage or not, still one perceives one, no?
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby gad rgyangs » Sun Jan 08, 2012 6:35 pm

Namdrol wrote:conceptual construction occurs after perception of an appearance.


what exactly is it that is "appearing"?
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jan 08, 2012 6:42 pm

gad rgyangs wrote:
Namdrol wrote:conceptual construction occurs after perception of an appearance.


what exactly is it that is "appearing"?


A clearly apparent non-existent or non-existent clear appearance (med par gsal snang), take your pick.

N
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby gad rgyangs » Sun Jan 08, 2012 6:51 pm

Namdrol wrote:
gad rgyangs wrote:
Namdrol wrote:conceptual construction occurs after perception of an appearance.


what exactly is it that is "appearing"?


A clearly apparent non-existent or non-existent clear appearance (med par gsal snang), take your pick.

N


isn't that a bit too dzogchenny for a madhyamaka thread? where in madhyamaka texts does it talk like that?

anyway, either this CANE/NECA needs a sentient being to perceive it for it to appear, or it doesn't. which is it? if it does need the sentient being, then it is really just a mental appearance. if it doesnt need the sentient being, then its either being reified, or its some kind of alaya/paratantra.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jan 08, 2012 7:01 pm

gad rgyangs wrote:
where in madhyamaka texts does it talk like that?


Gorampa uses this term all the time in his Madhyamaka texts.
Last edited by Malcolm on Sun Jan 08, 2012 7:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jan 08, 2012 7:03 pm

gad rgyangs wrote:... if it does need the sentient being, then it is really just a mental appearance. if it doesnt need the sentient being, then its either being reified, or its some kind of alaya/paratantra.



According to classical Madhyamaka texts, a perception cannot occur if there is no object and no subject. I.e. the standard abhidharma triad, sense organ, object, sense consciousness. Candra rejects reflexive cognition, you may recall.

Remind me: with whom did you study madhyamaka?

N
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Sun Jan 08, 2012 7:26 pm

Information overload. Let me back up.

Namdrol wrote:First things first -- truths (satyas) are objects of cognitions -- which can be either correct (ultimate) or false (relative). Since you are studying Gelug influenced discourse, this may not be immediately evident to you.

I'm sure many things are not evident to me, probably a good thing overall since it means less parikalpita. The best I can do is compare your view with the MS authors, then at least my (mis)interpretations are consistent. Here's what they say about "truth:"

MS pg. 4 wrote:Buddhist texts sometimes characterize these [two] truths as statements (very roughly, those that are just taken to be true and those that are actually true) and other times as states of affairs or sorts of things (those generally taken to be real and those that are fully real). Because satya means "truth" but also can mean "real" and "what is existent," [we translate satya as "truth" but use "reality" or "existence" when context demands].

So there is a clear differentiation here between truthbearers (true or false cognitions) and, say, realitybearers (real or unreal things). I cannot tell if 1) you make this distinction but say "truth" for both flavors of satya, or 2) your "truth" always means something like "object + a cognition". If yours is the latter, I'll have to work on managing unusual expressions like "true relative truth." (Seem simpler to just say "true cognition" is a truth, "false cognition" is a falsehood...)

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jan 08, 2012 7:35 pm

yadave wrote:always means something like "object + a cognition". If yours is the latter, I'll have to work on managing unusual expressions like "true relative truth." (Seem simpler to just say "true cognition" is a truth, "false cognition" is a falsehood...)


For Candrakirti, a truth [satya] is always the object of a cognition (of which there are two kinds).

The reason why we say that there is a true and false relative truth, is as I explained it above. The former is mistaken concerning the nature of an apparent object; the latter is mistaken about the apparent object itself.

An ultimate truth is an object of an wholly unmistaken cognition.

N
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby gad rgyangs » Sun Jan 08, 2012 8:04 pm

Namdrol wrote:
gad rgyangs wrote:
where in madhyamaka texts does it talk like that?


Gorampa uses this term all the time in his Madhyamaka texts.


i mean indian madhyamaka texts, not post-dzogchen tibetan ones
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jan 08, 2012 8:14 pm

gad rgyangs wrote:
Namdrol wrote:
gad rgyangs wrote:
where in madhyamaka texts does it talk like that?


Gorampa uses this term all the time in his Madhyamaka texts.


i mean indian madhyamaka texts, not post-dzogchen tibetan ones


Gorampa was not a Dzogchen pracitioner at all. He was a Sakyapa. He rejected the authenticity of kun byed rgyal po, and so on.

But anyway, it does not matter. Pre-Yogacara Madhyamakas [i.e. pre Shantarakṣita] accepted the standard cognitive model of Abhidharma, so for them it was proper to speak of objects, organs and sense consciousnesses. So in fact your whole line of inquiry is in vain. For them, there were, conventionally speaking, given objects in precisely the terms to which you object. For them, from Nagarjuna onwards, without the meeting of a cup, for example, and a healthy eye organ [i.e a functional patch of atoms in the shape of a flax flower in the back of the eye], and an eye consciousness operating through that sense organ, there could be no eye-consciousness of a cup at all. Three things are required for an instance of vision, in the Madhyamaka model.

Face it, my statement was just not a problem from a classical Madhyamaka point of view so I am not going to spend anymore time on this. Why? Because this is non-controversial.

N
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby gad rgyangs » Sun Jan 08, 2012 8:28 pm

the whole point of madhyamaka is to deconstruct the abhidhharma phenomenology as anything other than arbitrary and illusory convention. once abhidharma loses its really existent simple dharmas, it collapses as anything other than a language game.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jan 08, 2012 8:30 pm

gad rgyangs wrote:the whole point of madhyamaka is to deconstruct the abhidhharma phenomenology as anything other than arbitrary and illusory convention. once abhidharma loses its really existent simple dharmas, it collapses as anything other than a language game.



No, the whole point of Madhyamaka is to bring abhidharma back into line with dependent origination by refuting abhidharma essentialism. Madhyamaka does not reject such things as the 5 skandhas, twelve āyatanas, and eighteen dhātus, the tweleve nidanas and so forth.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jan 08, 2012 8:39 pm

gad rgyangs wrote:the whole point of madhyamaka is to deconstruct the abhidhharma phenomenology as anything other than arbitrary and illusory convention. once abhidharma loses its really existent simple dharmas, it collapses as anything other than a language game.



You've confused Madhyamaka with Wittgenstein.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Sun Jan 08, 2012 9:41 pm

Namdrol wrote:
yadave wrote:
MS pg. 4 wrote:Buddhist texts sometimes characterize these [two] truths as statements (very roughly, those that are just taken to be true and those that are actually true) and other times as states of affairs or sorts of things (those generally taken to be real and those that are fully real). Because satya means "truth" but also can mean "real" and "what is existent," [we translate satya as "truth" but use "reality" or "existence" when context demands].

So there is a clear differentiation here between truthbearers (true or false cognitions) and, say, realitybearers (real or unreal things). I cannot tell if 1) you make this distinction but say "truth" for both flavors of satya, or 2) your "truth" always means something like "object + a cognition". If yours is the latter, I'll have to work on managing unusual expressions like "true relative truth." (Seem simpler to just say "true cognition" is a truth, "false cognition" is a falsehood...)

For Candrakirti, a truth [satya] is always the object of a cognition (of which there are two kinds).

So you agree with MS and, for Candrakirti, a truth [satya] means an object, and each "object" is really two objects,

Madhyamakavatara wrote:All things bear two natures constituted through correct and false views. The object (visaya) of those who see correctly is said to be "reality" (tattva) and the object of those who see falsely is said to be "conventional existence" (samvrtisatya).

and my perception somehow "constitutes" or "creates" one or the other of these two objects, and if I'm enlightened, the object selected by my cognition ultimately does not exist and this nonexistent object is called "reality."

I dunno guys, a real nonexistent object is just too bizarre, maybe I could learn to talk like this with some years of practice, but I don't know if I would, it would confuse cowherders to no end, it seems so far from "what the world accepts". So maybe I'm a nasty Gelug at heart but I think this confusion has solutions that don't compromise the Dharma, are good for the Dharma, and already exist per these authors' thoughtful suggestions.

But I'm just a cowherder.

Thanks for your assistance.

Regards,
Dave.
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