Misunderstanding emptiness

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Paul » Mon Jan 23, 2012 8:39 pm

conebeckham wrote:Can you just quote an example of where Thrangu Rinpoche assserts that external phenomena exist? I think you'll find he makes no such claim.


Page 92 & pages 148 +149 of Vivid Awareness also back up the fact that Thrangu Rinpoche doesn't hold that external phenomena are real.

When we look out, we see colours, shapes, mountains, and so forth. We see the outer world and its inhabitants. [...]
We should not think of them as being real things and cling to the. We should not think of them as being good or bad. We should not think they are something inherently real. We should not think they are nothing and emptiness.
This nature of mind is spontaneously present.
That spontaneity I was told is the dakini aspect.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Mon Jan 23, 2012 9:29 pm

conebeckham wrote:
yadave wrote:
conebeckham wrote:Are you saying Thrangu Rinpoche asserts that there ARE external phenomena?

"please see the following:"
viewtopic.php?f=39&t=6423&start=9

You're referring me back in the same thread? Dude, that's, like, literally, circular reasoning, isn't it? :smile:

It's probably genetic, blame my parents. Let me know if you really can't go thru the link, it appears to work for me, hopefully for all.

conebeckham wrote:Can you just quote an example of where Thrangu Rinpoche assserts that external phenomena exist? I think you'll find he makes no such claim.

As my reference above shows, Khenchen Thrangu distinguishes "mind" from "external phenomena" on page 4 and throughout the book. I don't have a soft copy but don't think he says much at all about "existence," his emphasis is on "emptiness," his index does not contain words absolute, relative, exists, conventional or ultimate. He avoids all the fun we are having here. He's a sharp cookie.

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Jan 23, 2012 10:03 pm

Were they salt molecules before the formation of the Earth?
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby conebeckham » Mon Jan 23, 2012 10:13 pm

yadave wrote:
conebeckham wrote:Can you just quote an example of where Thrangu Rinpoche assserts that external phenomena exist? I think you'll find he makes no such claim.

As my reference above shows, Khenchen Thrangu distinguishes "mind" from "external phenomena" on page 4 and throughout the book. I don't have a soft copy but don't think he says much at all about "existence," his emphasis is on "emptiness," his index does not contain words absolute, relative, exists, conventional or ultimate. He avoids all the fun we are having here. He's a sharp cookie.


I think so, too. He is one of my Gurus. Just so my bias is explicit. :smile:

The quote you refer to is from "Essentials of Mahamudra," right?

You should understand that Mahamudra and Madhyamika are different things. Thrangu Rinpoche has written commentaries on Madhyamika--my link refers you to one, in fact--and it may be beneficial for you to read those commentaries. Mahamudra speaks of emptiness, of course--but it is not concerned with "The Two Truths," or "Analysis of Existence," etc. Instead, it is concerned primarily with internal experience, and Nature of Mind. Your MMK is, in contrast, a presentation of Madhyamika, specificially Nagarjuna's text, filtered through a certain viewpoint or polemic.


Paul's quote above, from "Vivid Awareness," another of Rinpoche's books that is focused primarily on Mahamudra, and not Madhyamika, is worth repeating:
When we look out, we see colours, shapes, mountains, and so forth. We see the outer world and its inhabitants. [...]
We should not think of them as being real things and cling to the. We should not think of them as being good or bad. We should not think they are something inherently real. We should not think they are nothing and emptiness.


You'll note that Rinpoche does not talk about analysis at all here. Instead, he's talking about direct experience, and perception--and he's saying that, with regard to that perception, we should not superimpose "existence" onto the perception. Nor should we impose value judgements, nor should we impose some sort of "concept" of "nothing and emptiness" upon those perceptions.

When we talk about analyzing phenomena, we are considering Madhyamika. When we talk about the reality of salt, we aren't meditating in the Mahamudra tradition. In general, when making assertions, or attempting to debate "the nature of things," this is not Mahamudra at all. It's important to understand the context of discussion.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Mon Jan 23, 2012 11:39 pm

Acchantika wrote:Public accessibility is a concept in the philosophy of science that refers to a coherency between different individuals’ experiences of events. It is a fundamental part of the scientific method. It is also the distinction between something quantitative and something qualitative.

Thank you, I was not familiar with this term.

Acchantika wrote:
yadave wrote:We do not experience a mind-independent world?

In summary, the epistemological problem of realism is that, if reality is mind-independent, since all experience and thus knowledge is mediated by mind, knowledge of such a reality is impossible.

1. Reality is mind-independent.
2. Knowledge is mind-dependent.
3. Therefore mind cannot perceive reality?

Non sequitur. I would need a reference to follow this, Acchantika. It feels like Kant's thing-in-itself which was handily dismissed by some philosophers.

Acchantika wrote:If we reduce the salt to its atomic components, any form of interaction, including measurement, annihilates them.
yadave wrote:This is nonsense. If you look at salt under a microscope, it does not suddenly explode.

This isn't what annihilation means.

Wiktionary, annihilation, 1., The act of reducing to nothing, or nonexistence; or the act of destroying the form or combination of parts under which a thing exists, so that the name can no longer be applied to it.

Acchantika wrote:When you look at salt under a microscope, you are looking at photons not salt, which are annihilated on your retina.

Wiktionary, annihilation, 3., (physics) The process of a particle and its corresponding antiparticle combining to produce energy.

In neither case is your sample of salt measurably changed.

Acchantika wrote:Particles are not objects, they are packets of energy. This energy dissipates into heat when it interacts with cells in your eyes that are photosensitive.

It depends how you look, you can see particle or wave behavior. In any case, you appear to be making some connection between a minute process in the complex chain of processes known as "seeing salt under the microscope" in order to show this somehow "annihilates" the thing you are looking at. This feels specious unless we were playing with an example on the scale of Planck's constant.

Acchantika wrote:An external phenomenon is a contradiction - a phenomenon is a subjective appearance.
yadave wrote:Take your complaint up with Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche.

Rinpoche does not, as you do, equate “external” with “objective”, which is why you think he disagrees with me.

Did I say that? I provided references above in discussion with Cone if you would like to check.

Acchantika wrote:Objective means mind-independent. External means external to oneself. An external phenomena means a subjective appearance external to oneself not, as you are using it, an objective subjective appearance, which is a contradiction. Phenomena means the same thing in Buddhism as it does in science and philosophy - a subjective appearance. This is why Kant distinguished between phenomena and noumena. This is why the study of subjective experience is called “phenomenology”. This is why the word “phenomena” comes from the Latin word for “appearance”. You are trying to argue that phenomena are equal to or approximations of an objective reality. If you try to state instead that phenomena are objective you will be incomprehensible, including to other realists.

Oh dear, so many words, I feel dizzy. Let's see:

Wiktionary, phenomenon,
1. An observable fact;
2. An appearance.

Wikipedia, phenomenon,
1. Phenomena are often, but not always, understood as 'appearances' or 'experiences'.
2. In scientific usage, a phenomenon is any event that is observable, however common it might be, even if it requires the use of instrumentation to observe, record, or compile data concerning it.

So if we are realists, or hard-core physicalists, "objective phenomena" probably sounds as redundant as "subjective appearance." This might correspond to Kant's noumena. If we are antirealists, then "objective subjective appearance" sounds bizarre (well, it always sounds bizarre). In either case, one of the senses tends to collapse into the other, inward or outward, unless we are doing semiotics or something that studies relationship between appearances and their referents.

I'm not sure what we were arguing but Khenchen Thrangu distinguishes internal from external in his presentation of mahamudra and emptiness.

I'm gonna do one more of these and then take a break, forgive me if I don't reply promptly, external samsara is piling up.

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby conebeckham » Tue Jan 24, 2012 12:09 am

yadave wrote:I'm not sure what we were arguing but Khenchen Thrangu distinguishes internal from external in his presentation of mahamudra and emptiness.

I'm gonna do one more of these and then take a break, forgive me if I don't reply promptly, external samsara is piling up.


Rinpoche distinguishes for a purpose--I think you'll find that he distinguishes because he wishes to focus on the internal nature of experience. It's not that he's suggesting that there is an external object that exists, per se....
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Tue Jan 24, 2012 1:36 am

Namdrol wrote:
yadave wrote:I have a simple explanation for shared reality, you do not.

Sure I do: functionality.

Thank you. I will explore this next go-around. Sunshine has done me in for this pass. I am empty of inherent energy.

Namdrol wrote:BTW, you seem to think I am trying to convince you Madhyamaka is correct -- I am not -- I am trying to help you understand what Madhyamaka is actually pointing out. Madhyamaka is not necessarily the appropriate POV for all practitioners.

Understood. And I hope you see that I am not trying to prove Madhyamaka incorrect, just to better understand it and compare/contrast it with my personal views (i.e., that's how I learn stuff).

Namdrol wrote:
yadave wrote:We agree on the internal part, we agree Madhyamaka extends this idea to external stuff, we've (hopefully) seen that I don't accept the latter, the meaning of "clinging to salt" is dubious and bears little relationship to "clinging to self" which, as you point out elsewhere, was Nagarjuna's main target in the first place.

The point was clinging to identity (atman). Atman, as you know, means self, it also means "essence" in Sanskrit, and it s synonym of svabhava. This will be addressed below.

This is quite clear and might capture the essence of my compare/contrast message (i.e., not an argument or criticism, just a reflection of my reaction to an idea). When I buy a head of lettuce, I typically don't name it George or George-The-Lettuce-Head. The very notion does not show up in my modern framework of experience. "Self" is not something that arises for me when thinking of lettuce or salt.

Namdrol wrote:
yadave wrote:This flattening of external into internal just doesn't work for me, Namdrol. It looks elegant on the surface but loses too much "reality". And I have a strong suspicion that you and I have just about the same "salt experience."

Of course we do.

Then we will agree that lettuce heads do not cause suffering. ;)

Namdrol wrote:Conventional truth is called "conventional" (vyavahara) because it is based on empirically observed functionality shared by common people's ordinary healthy sense perception. What Madhyamaka rejects is that there is an salt atman or svabhava, and further observes that claims for the existence of salt, or anything else for that matter, quickly become entangled with identity propositions.

And I totally agree until you throw the word "existence" into the blender, creating a mystical smoothie. In my conventional world, "salt atman" is in same category as "rabbit horn" and everyone says "salt exists" because it is part of shared reality. I'm not arguing, just agreeing with Mr. Cloud that we spend enormous time on this language issue.

Namdrol wrote:Yes, and for this reason, in the Majjhima Nikaya, the Buddha quips that if one must choose a self between the body and the mind, it is better to choose the body since it at least lasts for up to 80 years, whereas a thought lasts mere miliseconds.

This is marvelous. I don't have too many Buddha jokes.

Namdrol wrote:We are not asserting, for example that dependent phenomenon are in the class of children of barren women or horns on rabbits or other such total non-existents -- which I suspect is your fear.

Not when you talk about dependent phenomena, not when you talk about wholes and parts, it is when you throw "existence/reality" into the blender and say things like "therefore rabbits don't exist" and we enter a long dialogue about how you really mean "rabbits don't have a soul" and end up wondering why you did not just say "rabbits don't have a soul." I'm not arguing, just hoping you appreciate my reaction, because next thing you know we have students walking around thinking Buddhism is idealism and they can fly and who knows what.

Otherwise, your presentation is quite clear and helpful and I almost understand what everyone here is talking about. ;)

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Malcolm » Tue Jan 24, 2012 4:21 am

it is when you throw "existence/reality"


You need to examine your attachment to the imputation you label "reality". That is the rabbit horn to which you are attached.

But part of the problem is that what you think is real is the external whole. You are happy to accept that your mental functioning creates an illusory identity, but you seem to think inert things like lettuce to be more real than your mind. Minds and lettuce however are of a piece, they are both depend phenomena and therefore, amount to no more than passing illusions.

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby wisdom » Tue Jan 24, 2012 5:48 am

yadave wrote:But you did not show this, you showed that one salt reacts in many ways when combined with many experiencers.


NaCl is only known through observation. This can be done with sight, taste or touch, and possibly smell but I am unsure as I have never tried to smell salt. At any rate each way of experiencing salt changes what salt appears to be. That change is why its indeterminate. Which experience is the real salt? If you add the other experiences like that of a fish that lives in salt water to stay alive and so forth, you end up with a range of ways in which conventional entities relate to salt. That relation is what makes salt what it is.

To put this another way, consider what salt would be if there was a salt molecule in a void, and in that void there was nothing else known, and nothing to be known, and no other reference points, and no knowledge had ever arisen in that void. All that existed in that void is a single salt molecule. How do you define it? How does it define itself? What is it at that point? In other words everything you think that salt is, is nothing but a relative kind of knowledge, which arises only because of the interaction of numerous other compounded entities. So looking for the essence of salt isn't possible, it doesn't exist. Even the salt in the void is a compound of atomic elements. And even if that were not the case, and salt was absolutely existent as it is in itself, there is no way to define it without other compounded entities with which it can interact. Thus, Dependent Origination.

wisdom wrote:Even if we stop at salt molecules, what it is has no meaning in itself, there is no "inherent salt". There is salt, and its many properties and qualities.

yadave wrote:That's it. You just said what salt means, a collection of properties we call salt. If you tell us what "meaning in itself" means, then we can talk about that.


And that collection of properties, upon examination, is shown to be devoid of anything resembling the thing we call salt. If you take a plate, you can call it a plate. Smash it on the ground, and its no longer a plate, but just broken glass. One moment the meaning of it is as a dining tool, something we put food on. The next moment that meaning is gone, not even possible. Thats what I mean by it lacking "meaning in itself". The meaning is as conventional as the object, as temporary and as based on relative conditions. Since its conventional, compounded, it is not ultimate. Whatever is not ultimate simply doesn't exist ultimately, but only conventionally.

yadave wrote:You illustrated the subjective nature of "enough" yet continue speaking as if you proved something about "saltiness."


There is nothing to prove about saltiness except that it doesn't exist in an absolute sense. All other "proofs" are conventional, relative, temporary, subjective, compounded, based on DO- which is to say all other proofs demonstrate that salt doesn't exist in its own right (as an eternal and self arisen entity).

wisdom wrote:Saltiness is just an idea, based on moods, feelings, perceptions, and memory.

yadave wrote:That's an interesting idea but I think saltiness is a taste. It tastes about the same on good and bad hair days.


I mean some days you are in the mood for "something salty",such as you might want fries with salt on them. Other days you might never think about salt.

wisdom wrote:there are no external phenomena.

yadave wrote:Take it up with Khenchen Thrangu.


If I ever have the opportunity to, I will!

yadave wrote:I think we could go in circles like this, wisdom, unless I became fluent in Nagarjuna's language framework. Then I would know exactly what you mean, I would easily map Nagarjuna's framework onto today's framework. Still, I don't know if I would then use the old language to explain things to newer students, might just confuse them.


I have only read one work of Nagarjunas, and I imagine to the scholars here it shows! If this was in the academic forum I wouldn't even be responding. Emptiness comes from within, it arises as a result of dedicated contemplation about the true nature of reality. Its not a special province of a certain kind of Tibetan Philosopher. I'm referring only to my own experience and understanding and using some words that make it easier to communicate on a Tibetan Buddhist forum like conventional, imputed, and so forth, so that other people, and hopefully you, will see easily what I'm (and others) are trying to say.

All this talk about salt, perhaps I might suggest sitting down, eating some salt, and meditating on it each day. Just meditate on the experience of salt, as your object of meditation, leaving it on your tongue, all thoughts clear, focused on the salt.

yadave wrote:Anyway, thanks for the dialogue.

Regards,
Dave.


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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby catmoon » Tue Jan 24, 2012 10:57 am

yadave wrote: When I buy a head of lettuce, I typically don't name it George or George-The-Lettuce-Head. The very notion does not show up in my modern framework of experience. "Self" is not something that arises for me when thinking of lettuce or salt.


Really? Do you ever think of it as "my lettuce" or "my salt"?
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Tue Jan 24, 2012 2:15 pm

yadave wrote: When I buy a head of lettuce, I typically don't name it George or George-The-Lettuce-Head. The very notion does not show up in my modern framework of experience. "Self" is not something that arises for me when thinking of lettuce or salt.


This points out that 'self' is not a truly existent thing in the lettuce.

If you were growing lettuce in a garden, you might think, "oh, this lettuce doesn't look very good...it needs more water" or "this lettuce gets a lot of food and water--it looks healthy"

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Tue Jan 24, 2012 3:56 pm

catmoon wrote:
yadave wrote: When I buy a head of lettuce, I typically don't name it George or George-The-Lettuce-Head. The very notion does not show up in my modern framework of experience. "Self" is not something that arises for me when thinking of lettuce or salt.


Really? Do you ever think of it as "my lettuce" or "my salt"?

That's my soul, cat, but I want to know how to experience lettuce atman. Please advise.

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby cloudburst » Tue Jan 24, 2012 4:31 pm

yadave wrote:
catmoon wrote:
yadave wrote: When I buy a head of lettuce, I typically don't name it George or George-The-Lettuce-Head. The very notion does not show up in my modern framework of experience. "Self" is not something that arises for me when thinking of lettuce or salt.


Really? Do you ever think of it as "my lettuce" or "my salt"?

That's my soul, cat, but I want to know how to experience lettuce atman. Please advise.

Regards,
Dave.


Self does not here refer to a personal self in lettuce but rather self-existence. You might not call it George, but you would have no problem saying "the salad is mediocre, but the lettuce itself is very nice." As evidenced by you positions on salt, and further evidenced by your (I am assuming) near continuous experience of dissatisfaction, you do perceive a everything from your personal self to a head of lettuce, as self-existent. independent of mind.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby yadave » Tue Jan 24, 2012 5:39 pm

cloudburst wrote:
yadave wrote:When I buy a head of lettuce, I typically don't name it George or George-The-Lettuce-Head. The very notion does not show up in my modern framework of experience. "Self" is not something that arises for me when thinking of lettuce or salt.

catmoon wrote:Really? Do you ever think of it as "my lettuce" or "my salt"?

yadave wrote:That's my soul, cat, but I want to know how to experience lettuce atman. Please advise.

Self does not here refer to a personal self in lettuce but rather self-existence. You might not call it George, but you would have no problem saying "the salad is mediocre, but the lettuce itself is very nice." As evidenced by you positions on salt, and further evidenced by your (I am assuming) near continuous experience of dissatisfaction, you do perceive a everything from your personal self to a head of lettuce, as self-existent. independent of mind.

That's right, I'm afflicted with curiosity, probably genetic. ;)

You clarify,

1. Internal atman/self means personal self, like for people, "me" and "I", etc.

2. External atman/self means self-existent = mind-independent = objective, like for lettuce.

Then you assert realists are suffering, antirealists are not.

Cloud, there is a theme in these discussions that I would like your (or anyone's) take on. The general argument goes like this: since knowledge and experience is mind-dependent, it follows that external stuff (shared reality stuff) must also be mind-dependent.

This seems like a non sequitur, seems like we could go either way on ontological status of "stuff out there" without creating a contradiction.

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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby conebeckham » Tue Jan 24, 2012 6:48 pm

yadave wrote:1. Internal atman/self means personal self, like for people, "me" and "I", etc.

2. External atman/self means self-existent = mind-independent = objective, like for lettuce.

Then you assert realists are suffering, antirealists are not.

Cloud, there is a theme in these discussions that I would like your (or anyone's) take on. The general argument goes like this: since knowledge and experience is mind-dependent, it follows that external stuff (shared reality stuff) must also be mind-dependent.

This seems like a non sequitur, seems like we could go either way on ontological status of "stuff out there" without creating a contradiction.



I'm not sure anyone asserted that "antirealists" are not suffering, Yadave. Also, I don't think Buddhists are "Antirealists," as Buddhists don't deny "everything"--the point that external things, phenomena, have no existence shouldn't lead to an assertion that there is literally Nothing--that's the Nihilst extreme, and is actually a bigger error than asserting external existence. External stuff is "mind-dependent" in the sense that it is ONLY through mind that we "know" or cognize....it is not "mind-dependent" in the sense that mind CREATES reality, at least not in the understanding of most modern masters. The Duality between subject and object is a fiction, in the Yogacara teachings, but this does not mean that it's all just subject. Or, all just object. If it were asserted that all "objective, external reality" were in fact mere creation of mind, your point about ontological status would be valid. But it's more subtle than that.

From our perspective, ignorant sentient beings percieve subject and object, and impute existence onto object(s) (and subjects). The imputation of existence, as well as the bifurcation into subject/object dichotomy, are both cognitive errors.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Tue Jan 24, 2012 9:11 pm

conebeckham wrote: The imputation of existence, as well as the bifurcation into subject/object dichotomy, are both cognitive errors.


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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby Paul » Tue Jan 24, 2012 9:20 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
conebeckham wrote: The imputation of existence, as well as the bifurcation into subject/object dichotomy, are both cognitive errors.


YEAH!


That reminds me of a thread that Namdrol once started in E-Sangha that started off a real atom of posts - the original post being something very terse like "Reality is a cognitive error". People went a bit crazy - it was very amusing. :rolling:
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Tue Jan 24, 2012 9:54 pm

conebeckham wrote: The imputation of existence, as well as the bifurcation into subject/object dichotomy, are both cognitive errors.


If they are "both" errors, how can there be two of them?
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby conebeckham » Tue Jan 24, 2012 10:00 pm

From the conventional point of view, there are two of them...or, if you like, there are infinite instances of them....

I think that there's really only one error, though--Ignorance of our True Nature is the cause of Samsara. That is the root error.
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Re: Misunderstanding emptiness

Postby asunthatneversets » Wed Jan 25, 2012 12:03 am

yadave wrote:
asunthatneversets wrote:I'm more concerned with direct experience of salt in it's form readily apparent to the senses.

OK. Salt tastes salty. I am ready.

Regards,
Dave.


As a quick disclaimer: Faculties that are named and used in making the descriptions and examinations i'm writing about are only temporary and will be discarded at a later point. Something said at one point may be contradicted and negated later on in reference to titles such as, mind, sense-fields, awareness, consciousness, subject, object etc....

When the [ultimate] truth is explained as it is, the conventional is not obstructed; Independent of the conventional, no [ultimate] truth can be found. - Nagarjuna

Ok so throughout this I want to stick with what is sensible. By "sensible" I mean capable of being sensed or that which is perceived by the senses. So audible, visible, tangible, etc... and for this we'll go with what is immediately perceived. Not mediately (through the intervention of something else). For example; when reading a book what you immediately perceive is letters on the page, but mediately or by means of these, notions of truth, virtue, vice etc are suggested to the mind. So though notions such as truth, vice, virtue etc are suggested and signified to the mind by sensible marks with which they have an arbitrary connection with, it would be absurd to designate these(truth, virtue etc..) as sensible things. So 'sensible things' means only what is immediately perceived by the senses and sensible things that we investigate don't include such designations inherently. To add; in instances such as a situation where one sees both red and blue in the sky, and thus it is inferred that there must be a cause for the differences in colors, that cause cannot be said to be a sensible quality immediately perceived by eyesight. Likewise, when one hears a variety of sounds it cannot be said that you hear their causes, and when one touches something hot or feels something heavy; one cannot say with truth that you feel the cause of the heat or weight. Hopefully we can agree that the senses perceive only what is perceived immediately because they do not make inferences.

So immediate sensible qualities include:
Sight -  light, colors, shapes.
Hearing - sounds.
The palate - tastes.
Smell - odors.
Touch - tangible qualities.
(And obviously combinations of these.)

The purpose for this is to obviously stay with the theme I mentioned in an earlier post which was based on the premise that experience suggests nothing about itself. Aside from our conceptualizations about experience, experience itself communicates nothing. So staying with what is immediately perceived allows us to remain objective (no pun intended) and allows a mutually shared middle ground (non-conceptual awareness) apart from our contrasting notions about that middle ground. So like I said we're empirically investigating the nature of experience itself, and the emptiness or non-emptiness of an objective field in relation to it's validity in being a substantiated attribute of experience.

The underlying inquiry consists of two contrasting notions which are; does the reality of sensible things consist of being perceived? Or do things in fact exist as inherent exterior objects independent of sensual perception, distinct from, and having no relation to being
perceived? And related notions of objectivity, subjectivity, physicality, etc. Inherent separate existence vs. Empty dependent origination.

You started with salt before so... beginning with salt; inquiring into salts characteristics and attributes we'll look into whether salt exists as an objective independent agent which inherently exists and posses these attributes or the contrary.

Salt as it's usually experienced is predominantly comprised of vision, tactile sensation and obviously taste. I suppose salt can, on occasion be heard and also undoubtably bears an aroma to match it's pungent taste but those senses are secondary. So I think approaching salt sense-by-sense will be appropriate so that we can ensure that each sensory field can be properly isolated and examined. The reason for this is that in my opinion the different sense fields are heterogeneous instead of how they are usually taken to be (homogeneous). So even though they seem to amalgamate and interact to create what appears to be an organized and coordinated experience of reality, they are in fact separate fields which only communicate with one another via inferential projection.

This issue was examined rather thoroughly in a philosophical thought-experiment called Molyneux's Problem which consisted of attempting to understand the level of sensorial coordination one would possess upon immediate recovery from blindness. Taken from wikipedia; The problem can be stated in brief, "if a man born blind can feel the differences between shapes such as spheres and cubes, could he similarly distinguish those objects by sight if given the ability to see?"

The question was originally posed to Locke by philosopher William Molyneux, whose wife was blind:

Suppose a man born blind, and now adult, and taught by his touch to distinguish between a cube and a sphere of the same metal, and nighly of the same bigness, so as to tell, when he felt one and the other, which is the cube, which is the sphere. Suppose then the cube and the sphere placed on a table, and the blind man made to see: query, Whether by his sight, before he touched them, he could now distinguish and tell which is the globe, which the cube? To which the acute and judicious proposer answers: ‘Not. For though he has obtained the experience of how a globe, and how a cube, affects his touch; yet he has not yet attained the experience, that what affects his touch so or so, must affect his sight so or so…’

To which Locke responds in "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding":

I agree with this thinking gentleman, whom I am proud to call my friend, in his answer to this problem; and am of opinion that the blind man, at first sight, would not be able with certainty to say which was the globe, which the cube, whilst he only saw them; though he could unerringly name them by his touch, and certainly distinguish them by the difference of their figures felt.

In 1709, in “A New Theory of Vision,” George Berkeley also concluded that there was no necessary connection between a tactile world and a sight world—that a connection between them could be established only on the basis of experience. He speculated:
the objects to which he had hitherto used to apply the terms up and down, high and low, were such as only affected or were in some way perceived by touch; but the proper objects of vision make a new set of ideas, perfectly distinct and different from the former, and which can in no sort make themselves perceived by touch (sect. 95).

There have been events matching this predicament which actually verified these philosopher's educated speculations; one of them being the case of "a woman who gained sight at the age of 12 when she underwent surgery for dense bilateral congenital cataracts. They report that the subject could recognize family members by sight six months after surgery, but took up to a year to recognize most household objects purely by sight."

So starting with vision; I included a reference image we can both use to avoid conflicting imagery.

Image
(image A)

Salt on a table is a fairly common affair (if one is making a mess) and is good because it entails fairly limited differences in color, which as it ends up is pretty much equivalent to the very sense of vision we're exploring.

My argument to start is going to be that color is exactly vision and vision is exactly color, they are synonymous in nature and manifestation. The common presupposition that the process of visually perceiving an object consists of 'seeing' a 'color' (which exists separately from said act of seeing) is a misnomer. Wherever there is color there is seeing and vice versa. The two go hand-in-hand and you cannot have one without the other. With color we also get 'shape' which is a result of colors bordering each other in various ways. So color also implies shape, and shape likewise will imply color. Ultimately the object of vision is color and therefore shape.

Vision standing alone as an isolated sense is much like Image A posted above. If we attend to the visual evidence in the image alone we get a circular patch of white surrounded by brown. There is no separating line between the colors and vision. And likewise there is no separating line between the colors and you, no evidence in the colors of being "out there" and no evidence of yourself being an observer "in here". The conclusion that the colors are external to us is based on the principle that these colors change over time. So we accept a story that the colors (object) is separate from us even though the basis for this conclusion is lacking in the visual evidence in-and-of-itself. This aligns with my previous statement that experience suggests nothing about itself. Experience instead receives projected conceptual overlay which over time serves to create habitually solidified subconscious presuppositions conveying a compelling sense of separation.

Separation in general is based on spatiality. We usually conceive of two opposite aspects existing on opposite sides of unbridgeable spatial gaps. In truth we never experience spatial externality or independence. These designations are based on the formation of a subtle reference point of a subjective self "here" as opposed to "there". The feeling of subjectivity is never anything more than a tendency to identify with certain clusters of sensation and project that the remainder is objective and "other". But by looking at experience very directly it can actually be ascertained that this "otherness" is never a part of our experience.

So back to the white salt on the brown table... this image that arises as vision is composed of these colors, we see a white circular expanse of color, and various shades of white within that circular shape. Bordering that we see a brown expanse of color which seems to surround the white, and if we could back up and see a larger image the colors would unfold as we went along.
These colors are all there is to vision. So to examine the 'objectivity' of vision let's examine the 'whiteness' in the image(and you can do this by putting salt on a table in front of you)... speaking specifically about the shades of the 'whiteness' and the particular value of the color. Can we say that the shade itself is salt? Can it be said that wherever you have that particular shade(white) you have salt - and wherever you have salt you have that particular shade(white)? Obviously not. So white itself isn't definitive of salt. Now would you say that there is salt on the far side of that color? Do you directly experience salt behind the white? Because we just established that we wouldn't take the shade of white itself to be salt one should naturally inquire as to whether there is salt behind the white. We'll find that there is in fact no salt to be found on the posterior side of the white. Now on the near side of the color, do we experience any separation between the seeing of the color and the color itself? Attending exclusively to vision and letting go of any arising concepts or beliefs, is there any distance experienced between the seeing of the white and the white itself? You can't see the 'seeing'... so there can't be any distance, the color simply arises. So there's no salt on the far side of the white, and no salt on the near side, and no distance or gap between the white and the seeing of the white itself. Wherever white appears, vision is occurring, there's no access to white without vision, so the objectivity of the salt should melt or fuse into vision itself. The color should disappear into vision, because at that point it makes no sense to say one is "seeing" a "color" in the first place... the two are inseparable. Vision itself means color is arising, they're one and the same. It's not as if you have independent access to colors where you can notice a color out of the visual field and then say now i'm seeing that color, there couldn't be a color unless vision was already there.

Now the idea that there is a bordering line between an internal aspect of the body and an external aspect apart from the body has to be taken into account as well. This 'bordering line' creating the dichotomy of internal/external is based on identification with 'the body'. But the body itself is not separate from vision either, there are other colors and shades which are identified as 'my body' but just like the colors which composed the salt, these colors appearing as a 'body' do not communicate a possessive nature. The colors simply arise no different than any other color in the field of vision. We only impute a notion of 'my body' over these colors. There are other faculties that seem to correlate with vision to give the appearance of a homogeneous cluster of sensations conventionally called the body and we can discuss those separately, but all are merely qualities appearing to awareness as awareness itself. So the notion of an 'subject inside' viewing an 'object outside' is not self-evident in vision. Vision simply appears and is completely non-discriminitive. Another thing which isn't self-evident in vision is the presence of 'eyes' doing the seeing, we never experience or see our own eyes at any time, even in the act of looking at a mirror we only are ever seeing colors and shapes arise that we identify with as 'me' and 'my eyes' but the eyes appear nowhere within vision itself, we again only accept a story about this.

About this Nagarjuna states: "Through this the eyes, visible forms and so forth, which are described as the elements, these should be known also as [the twelve] sense-fields, and as the objects and the subjects as well.

Neither atom of form exists nor is sense organ elsewhere; even more no sense organ as agent exists; so the producer and the produced are utterly unsuited for production." - Nagarjuna


"In terms of objects and subjects, whatever appears to the consciousness, apart from the cognitions themselves, no external objects exist anywhere.

So there are no external objects at all existing in the mode of entities. The very perceptions of the individual consciousnesses arise as appearances of the forms." - Nagarjuna


So vision is color. You can't even say they arise as mutually interdependent co-emergent qualities because the duality is lacking to begin with. The notion of the duality between observing and observed is a conceptual imputation. A story simply arises and say "i'm seeing white" and we accept this story, but the story is never evident in vision itself. The objectivity of color as an external quality isn't substantiated by experience. Now vision itself doesn't appear separate from awareness, or 'that' which 'knows' vision to be apparent. But that-which-knows is the appearance itself, there is no duality, even to say appearance implies something to which the appearance would appear-to, so what "is" escapes all such conceptualizations (aside from conventional descriptive concepts). So the objectivity of the salt collapses, the objectivity of color collapses, the objectivity of vision collapses as well. We can't say that vision is a 'thing' out there which is separate that we have access to sometimes and not at other times. Vision is awareness, there is no separation and there are no 'objects', all we have is awareness. And this same exercise is done for every sense modality. (Awareness itself must also be refuted as such.)

For the salty taste; my argument would be much like what has been proposed for vision, i saw that namdrol used the example of MSG in showing the appearance of 'saltiness' to not be unique to salt itself. So following the same examination done with vision and focusing on the palate alone one can successfully find taste to be empty as well. I would also add that with your argument being that saltiness is an innate quality with which salt itself is inherently endowed with; if one runs the gamut of taste congruent with other sensory appearances such as heat; it can be seen that an intense level of taste such as spiciness correlates with an intense heat in that at the highest volume of appearance both arise as pain. The pain that arises is in fact the taste. There are not two appearances such as taste and then also pain, they are one and the same. So to posit that an external objective thing like salt inherently contains it's taste would be akin to claiming it also contains the appearances of pain and pleasure. One also cannot attribute lesser volumes of the same spectrum such as a general mild taste to an object without naturally accrediting higher and lower volumes of that same spectrum. So salt cannot be said to contain it's taste. And taste cannot be said to be anything more than awareness itself and empty. This insight combined with the former which coincides with the experiment done in vision should hopefully annihilate this false designation(of inherent objective existence) apart from mere conventional usage.

Ultimately awareness itself is empty. Because for one to claim that this inquiry has successfully reached a foundation at 'awareness' implies a 'ground' of being of some type where none can be found. Yet conventionally awareness is a clear and proper concept to use in describing that-which-is, for such an awareness likewise cannot be denied.

The Buddha attempted to capture these realizations in The Heart Sutra when he stated:
There are no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind. There is no seeing, no hearing, no smelling, no tasting, no touching, no imagining. There is nothing seen, nor heard, nor smelled, nor tasted, nor touched, nor imagined.

Devoid of all real entities;
Utterly discarding all objects and subjects,
Such as aggregates, elements and sense-fields;
Due to sameness of selflessness of all phenomena,
One's mind is primordially unborn;
It is in the nature of emptiness.
- Nagarjuna
Last edited by asunthatneversets on Wed Jan 25, 2012 12:21 am, edited 4 times in total.
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