Analysis of Imputing Inherent Existence

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Analysis of Imputing Inherent Existence

Postby dharmanaut » Tue May 08, 2012 4:47 pm

In my readings I have never found an analysis of the functions of "imputing inherent existence to phenomena" or of the related function of "self-grasping". They are always presented as problems to be overcome, with lots of suggestions for overcoming them, but not as objects of analysis themselves.

I get peace and insight out of studying, thinking about and applying practices related to emptiness of inherent existence, dependent origination, and conceptual designation. However, the functions of imputing inherent existence and self-grasping are conventionally real, potent and persistent. It seems that there would be some benefit in analyzing why and how they operate on a neuro-psychological level, with the potential practice of interrupting their operation by becoming more mindful of them, by understanding them better.

The recommended practices around emptiness seem to be aimed at the objects of these functions, i.e. refuting their imputed objects as logically incoherent, dissolving their imputed objects into impermanence, and sublimating their imputed objects into pure awareness. It seems that the functions of imputing inherent existence and self-grasping themselves could be analysed and analogously treated, as well as the objects of the functions.

It seems that this analysis of the operation of imputing inherent existence and self-grasping would to be a suitable topic for Abhidharma, or would be found somewhere in the commentaries on the Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way. However, I have not encountered such analysis.

I was wondering if any of the members of this forum have encountered such an analysis, and if so, if they could provide pointers to it. Or, alternatively, possibly suggest why this analysis has not been included in the main Mahayanist texts.

Any help with this would be appreciated.

Thanks!
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Re: Analysis of Imputing Inherent Existence

Postby Andrew108 » Tue May 08, 2012 9:37 pm

What do you really want?
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.
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Re: Analysis of Imputing Inherent Existence

Postby Greg » Tue May 08, 2012 10:03 pm

dharmanaut wrote:In my readings I have never found an analysis of the functions of "imputing inherent existence to phenomena" or of the related function of "self-grasping". They are always presented as problems to be overcome, with lots of suggestions for overcoming them, but not as objects of analysis themselves.

I get peace and insight out of studying, thinking about and applying practices related to emptiness of inherent existence, dependent origination, and conceptual designation. However, the functions of imputing inherent existence and self-grasping are conventionally real, potent and persistent. It seems that there would be some benefit in analyzing why and how they operate on a neuro-psychological level, with the potential practice of interrupting their operation by becoming more mindful of them, by understanding them better.

The recommended practices around emptiness seem to be aimed at the objects of these functions, i.e. refuting their imputed objects as logically incoherent, dissolving their imputed objects into impermanence, and sublimating their imputed objects into pure awareness. It seems that the functions of imputing inherent existence and self-grasping themselves could be analysed and analogously treated, as well as the objects of the functions.

It seems that this analysis of the operation of imputing inherent existence and self-grasping would to be a suitable topic for Abhidharma, or would be found somewhere in the commentaries on the Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way. However, I have not encountered such analysis.

I was wondering if any of the members of this forum have encountered such an analysis, and if so, if they could provide pointers to it. Or, alternatively, possibly suggest why this analysis has not been included in the main Mahayanist texts.

Any help with this would be appreciated.

Thanks!


If I understand correctly you are curious about the mechanics of grasping. If so I'd would agree you'd be most likely to find this treated under the rubric of Abhidharma. How familiar are you with the available academic material?
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Re: Analysis of Imputing Inherent Existence

Postby dharmanaut » Wed May 09, 2012 1:28 am

Thanks for the suggestions, Greg. I've got about 50 books on Buddhism, centered around Gelugpa Mahayana and emptiness teachings. I've got four versions of Mind in Tibetan Buddhism, (Guenther, Rabten, Lati, Kelsang) and there are Abhidharma materials in Komito's "Seventy Stanzas" and in sections of other books. "Grasping" is is a very good suggestion for a place to start, however, these texts don't seem to provide a lot of detail about "how that works".

I'm wondering if there isn't a whole other level of detail in Abhidharma that I've never encountered? Or whether the Abhidharma was never driven down to that level of detail. I have outlined a model of why "imputing inherent existence" is a conventionally useful function, why it might have evolved, how it is constructed from more elemental concepts, etc. It's not that complicated. Basically, it's very useful in a practical sense in everyday life in to make the assumption that things will persist for a while and don't change for no grossly apparent reason. Mammals would have a difficult time surviving if they did not automatically assume that. I think there may be some psycho-therapeutic opportunities in that analysis, and it seems to provide me with a little bit of leverage in becoming more mindful of emptiness. It's difficult to grasp if you're contemplating the mechanisms of grasping.

If on the other hand such analysis is actually NOT part of the Dharma, that would be interesting by itself, because it would imply that a) that particular Dharma has not yet been explicated (Dharmas are, after all, boundless), b) it was looked at and found to be not particularly beneficial (or maybe even harmful), c) Nagarjuna's basic approach is so short and powerful that it would only be a distraction, d) the Abhidharma only looks at fairly coarse mental functions, just enough to get you into shunyata, which is the next point of departure, e) the literature was written for monks seeking the shortest path possible for enlightenment, and they weren't thinking about generally exploring every possible way to reduce suffering, f) they never thought about it or g) hunh?

The other thought is that the categories in the Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way are aimed at both a logical refutation of inherent existence AND and an undermining of the psychological components of the function of imputing inherent existence. But I've never seen it described that way.

I don't believe they didn't think about it, didn't explore it, etc. But now I'm even more curious about why I can't find more in the literature about it!

And, just in case this comes up, I appreciate that we're supposed to be transcending conceptualization, however, I've signed up with Tsongkapa, not Ha-sang, and as Milarepa said, we want spontaneous insight, but if we can't have it, we definitely want analytic understanding.

Still looking, then...
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Re: Analysis of Imputing Inherent Existence

Postby 5heaps » Wed May 09, 2012 1:10 pm

its not.....easy.

for example, essentially only in Gelug will you encounter the idea that for nonconceptual cognition such as the eye consciousness objects appear to exist from their own side.

combine that with the fact that you can go all through the form realm and to the pinnacle of existence, the top of the formless realm, and still not encounter any of the impossible modes of existence that buddhism speaks about.
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Re: Analysis of Imputing Inherent Existence

Postby zerwe » Wed May 09, 2012 3:13 pm

Greg wrote:
dharmanaut wrote:In my readings I have never found an analysis of the functions of "imputing inherent existence to phenomena" or of the related function of "self-grasping". They are always presented as problems to be overcome, with lots of suggestions for overcoming them, but not as objects of analysis themselves.

I get peace and insight out of studying, thinking about and applying practices related to emptiness of inherent existence, dependent origination, and conceptual designation. However, the functions of imputing inherent existence and self-grasping are conventionally real, potent and persistent. It seems that there would be some benefit in analyzing why and how they operate on a neuro-psychological level, with the potential practice of interrupting their operation by becoming more mindful of them, by understanding them better.

The recommended practices around emptiness seem to be aimed at the objects of these functions, i.e. refuting their imputed objects as logically incoherent, dissolving their imputed objects into impermanence, and sublimating their imputed objects into pure awareness. It seems that the functions of imputing inherent existence and self-grasping themselves could be analysed and analogously treated, as well as the objects of the functions.

It seems that this analysis of the operation of imputing inherent existence and self-grasping would to be a suitable topic for Abhidharma, or would be found somewhere in the commentaries on the Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way. However, I have not encountered such analysis.

I was wondering if any of the members of this forum have encountered such an analysis, and if so, if they could provide pointers to it. Or, alternatively, possibly suggest why this analysis has not been included in the main Mahayanist texts.

Any help with this would be appreciated.

Thanks!


If I understand correctly you are curious about the mechanics of grasping. If so I'd would agree you'd be most likely to find this treated under the rubric of Abhidharma. How familiar are you with the available academic material?


I think that the information you are seeking would be contained in a study of the mind and mental factors. This is in the Abhidharma. Within the Gelug, many study;
Kachen Yeshe Gyaltsen’s A Necklace for Those of Clear Awareness Clearly Revealing the Modes of Minds and Mental Factors
and Yongdzin Purbuchok’s Explanation of the Presentation of Objects and Object-Possessors as well as Awarenesses and Knowers.
Shaun :namaste:
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Re: Analysis of Imputing Inherent Existence

Postby Anders » Wed May 09, 2012 6:13 pm

Andrew108 wrote:What do you really want?


To be free of the suffering associated with intellectual proliferation by way of excess intellectual proliferation from the looks of it.

dharmanaut wrote:And, just in case this comes up, I appreciate that we're supposed to be transcending conceptualization, however, I've signed up with Tsongkapa, not Ha-sang, and as Milarepa said, we want spontaneous insight, but if we can't have it, we definitely want analytic understanding.

Still looking, then...

There is a saying here in Denmark: You can't blow and have flour in the mouth at the same time. One is welcome to try of course, but blowing will blow the flour out anyway.
Last edited by Anders on Wed May 09, 2012 6:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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As your companion in practice"

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Re: Analysis of Imputing Inherent Existence

Postby Greg » Wed May 09, 2012 6:15 pm

dharmanaut wrote:Thanks for the suggestions, Greg. I've got about 50 books on Buddhism, centered around Gelugpa Mahayana and emptiness teachings. I've got four versions of Mind in Tibetan Buddhism, (Guenther, Rabten, Lati, Kelsang) and there are Abhidharma materials in Komito's "Seventy Stanzas" and in sections of other books. "Grasping" is is a very good suggestion for a place to start, however, these texts don't seem to provide a lot of detail about "how that works".

I'm wondering if there isn't a whole other level of detail in Abhidharma that I've never encountered? Or whether the Abhidharma was never driven down to that level of detail. I have outlined a model of why "imputing inherent existence" is a conventionally useful function, why it might have evolved, how it is constructed from more elemental concepts, etc. It's not that complicated. Basically, it's very useful in a practical sense in everyday life in to make the assumption that things will persist for a while and don't change for no grossly apparent reason. Mammals would have a difficult time surviving if they did not automatically assume that. I think there may be some psycho-therapeutic opportunities in that analysis, and it seems to provide me with a little bit of leverage in becoming more mindful of emptiness. It's difficult to grasp if you're contemplating the mechanisms of grasping.

If on the other hand such analysis is actually NOT part of the Dharma, that would be interesting by itself, because it would imply that a) that particular Dharma has not yet been explicated (Dharmas are, after all, boundless), b) it was looked at and found to be not particularly beneficial (or maybe even harmful), c) Nagarjuna's basic approach is so short and powerful that it would only be a distraction, d) the Abhidharma only looks at fairly coarse mental functions, just enough to get you into shunyata, which is the next point of departure, e) the literature was written for monks seeking the shortest path possible for enlightenment, and they weren't thinking about generally exploring every possible way to reduce suffering, f) they never thought about it or g) hunh?

The other thought is that the categories in the Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way are aimed at both a logical refutation of inherent existence AND and an undermining of the psychological components of the function of imputing inherent existence. But I've never seen it described that way.

I don't believe they didn't think about it, didn't explore it, etc. But now I'm even more curious about why I can't find more in the literature about it!

And, just in case this comes up, I appreciate that we're supposed to be transcending conceptualization, however, I've signed up with Tsongkapa, not Ha-sang, and as Milarepa said, we want spontaneous insight, but if we can't have it, we definitely want analytic understanding.

Still looking, then...



I haven't read this book, so I don't know if it is any good or how related it is, but I suspect it may be: Reasoning Into Reality: A System Cybernetics Model and Therapeutic Interpretation of Buddhist Middle Path Analysis by Peter Fenner
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Re: Analysis of Imputing Inherent Existence

Postby dharmanaut » Thu May 10, 2012 5:15 pm

Shaun, thanks for the leads. I see those titles on the FPMT site. I'll have to decide if I want to stump up for them. However, I can see from the site that there probably IS another layer of Abhidharma, which is a strong partial answer to the question.

Greg, thanks for that lead. I'm big on system cybernetics, so I might give it a look.

5heaps, thanks for your comments. Definitely hard, and a good reminder.

Anders, thanks for your comments. Please forgive me, are they not self-negating?

To add a little, I was revisiting my original thoughts on this subject (which I've been having for about a year), and I realized that the best point of departure might not be "imputing inherent existence" or "self grasping" but instead "the illusion of inherent existence".

The illusion of inherent existence has a strong conventional existence. However, in most of the emptiness literature it is only identified as the object of negation through demonstration of its logical incoherence. The goal appears to be to exercise the conscious logical mind in the refutations sufficiently that the subconscious/unconscious mind applies them automatically.

A supplemental approach, which is the one I'm looking into, would be to analyze, understand and learn to perceive the psychological construction of the illusion of inherent existence, so that (maybe) it is weakened as it arises. This analysis is complicated, though still approachable in terms of combining conventionally recognizable concepts and functions that have strong conventional psychological utility, such as:
> persistence, reliability, repeatability, and purity
> the dimension of "from very little to lots of"
> the importance of mental focus, which entails screening-out, which exercises ignoring
> the utility of the concept of essence, as shorthand for "what makes something different and useful"
> the value of having concepts reliably associated with objects
> the need for self-reification to stabilize conceptualization at all
> the use of others' attention for self-reification
> the social conditioning of self-other differentiation
> the strong sense-neural wiring of subject-object differentiation

And through the suggestions of some of the above posts, I did start to tie this analysis back into the Abhidharma ideas of types and moments of cognition, ascertainment, engagement and so on, which shows some promise.

The net though is that, yes, it really is a challenge to overcome the illusion of inherent existence, because it really is deeply seated. And maybe yes, the most direct and effective way is through training in logical refutation.

However, I suspect that the training in logical refutation may not be accessible to large numbers of people. So if there were an easier way to help others overcome the illusion of inherent existence, that might be useful. On the other hand, while the above listed phenomena are not that subtle in terms of contemplative perception, they are still a lot more subtle than network television. So, the work continues.

Again, thanks to all for your help.
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