Question about dependent origination

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Rick
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Question about dependent origination

Post by Rick »

In Chapter 1 of the MMK, Nagarjuna appears to argue against <a certain understanding of> causality. But he never argues against dependent origination, quite the contrary: emptiness and dependent origination are definitive teachings.

So, Nagarjunaphiles, if causality is kaput, how in tarnation does dependent arising work?

(Feel free to correct all my misstatements and chastise me for my ignorance.)
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krodha
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Re: Question about dependent origination

Post by krodha »

Rick wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 2:10 am In Chapter 1 of the MMK, Nagarjuna appears to argue against <a certain understanding of> causality. But he never argues against dependent origination, quite the contrary: emptiness and dependent origination are definitive teachings.

So, Nagarjunaphiles, if causality is kaput, how in tarnation does dependent arising work?
Dependent origination works in a conventional sense, like Buddhapālita confirms in his commentary on Nāgārjuna’s MMK.
Malcolm
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Re: Question about dependent origination

Post by Malcolm »

Rick wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 2:10 am In Chapter 1 of the MMK, Nagarjuna appears to argue against <a certain understanding of> causality. But he never argues against dependent origination, quite the contrary: emptiness and dependent origination are definitive teachings.

So, Nagarjunaphiles, if causality is kaput, how in tarnation does dependent arising work?

(Feel free to correct all my misstatements and chastise me for my ignorance.)
Nothing arises from itself, other, or without a cause…
"Death stands before all who are born."
— Ācārya Aśvaghoṣa
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PadmaVonSamba
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Re: Question about dependent origination

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

Rick wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 2:10 am In Chapter 1 of the MMK, Nagarjuna appears to argue against <a certain understanding of> causality. But he never argues against dependent origination, quite the contrary: emptiness and dependent origination are definitive teachings.

So, Nagarjunaphiles, if causality is kaput, how in tarnation does dependent arising work?

(Feel free to correct all my misstatements and chastise me for my ignorance.)
If I recall correctly, what Nagarjuna argues is that no “thing” has even been established from dependent origination. If he saw a sand castle, he’d tell you that although appearance of a castle on the beach appears, and is an obvious example of a composite, that castle itself is still in a constant state of change, drying out in the sun and crumbling, or getting washed away by the sea or whatever.
In other words, despite the fact that whatever object one chooses to discuss arises from dependent causes, it never exists in a final, “fixed” state. That appearance too is an illusion.
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Sherab
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Re: Question about dependent origination

Post by Sherab »

Nothing arises from itself, other, or without a cause…
Here's something for everyone to chew on:

Nothing arises from itself, other or without a cause.
In other words, a thing does not arise from itself, or from other but it arises because of a cause or causes.

If a cause is a thing, then
a cause cannot arise from itself, or from another cause or causes but arise from a cause or causes.

For the above conclusion to make sense, a cause cannot be a thing.
If a cause if not a thing, what is it?

Happy chewing, everyone.
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Re: Question about dependent origination

Post by LastLegend »

What is a thought? According to Yogacara. The framework of analysis is based on thoughts.
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Malcolm
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Re: Question about dependent origination

Post by Malcolm »

Sherab wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:30 am If a cause if not a thing, what is it?
A convention.
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— Ācārya Aśvaghoṣa
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Re: Question about dependent origination

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

Sherab wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:30 am In other words, a thing does not arise from itself, or from other but it arises because of a cause or causes.
But be careful that when you say “a thing” that you aren’t implying “thingness”.

In other words, if you say that a table is established from parts (“…but it arises because of a cause or causes…”) don’t make the mistake of saying that now, some essential “table-ness” suddenly exists as the result. It’s still just a collection of parts.

The appearance of what we conceive of as a “table” only arises in the mind.
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Re: Question about dependent origination

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krodha wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 2:26 am Dependent origination works in a conventional sense, like Buddhapālita confirms in his commentary on Nāgārjuna’s MMK.
So when Nagarjuna demolishes causality in Chapter 1 of the MMK:

1. He is refuting its existence at the ultimate level?

2. He is saying that causality is conventionally true, and dependent origination is 'driven by' this conventional causality?

3. He is saying that at the ultimate level, neither causality nor dependent origination are true?
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Re: Question about dependent origination

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Malcolm wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 2:46 am
Rick wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 2:10 am So, Nagarjunaphiles, if causality is kaput, how in tarnation does dependent arising work?
Nothing arises from itself, other, or without a cause…
I can see two ways of interpreting this:

1. Nothing arises, period.

2. Nothing arises from anything (itself, other) inherently existent.
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Re: Question about dependent origination

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PadmaVonSamba wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 3:04 am If I recall correctly, what Nagarjuna argues is that no “thing” has even been established from dependent origination.
I think he's also saying that the causes driving dependent arising are not things aka inherent existents. Sound right?
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Re: Question about dependent origination

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Sherab wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:30 am If a cause if not a thing, what is it?
This is where I see a movie in my Noggin Theater of unfathomably complex swarms of overlapping causes yielding overlapping effects, which become causes that yield more effects, and so on, ad infinitum. Something like how a wave arises and dissolves in the middle of an ocean?
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Re: Question about dependent origination

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Malcolm wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 1:01 pm
Sherab wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:30 am If a cause if not a thing, what is it?
A convention.
A convention of what?
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Re: Question about dependent origination

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PadmaVonSamba wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 1:27 pm
Sherab wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:30 am In other words, a thing does not arise from itself, or from other but it arises because of a cause or causes.
But be careful that when you say “a thing” that you aren’t implying “thingness”.

In other words, if you say that a table is established from parts (“…but it arises because of a cause or causes…”) don’t make the mistake of saying that now, some essential “table-ness” suddenly exists as the result. It’s still just a collection of parts.

The appearance of what we conceive of as a “table” only arises in the mind.
Okay. The table is only an appearance that arises in the mind. So, is an appearance a thing or not?
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Re: Question about dependent origination

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Sherab wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 10:53 pm
PadmaVonSamba wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 1:27 pm
Sherab wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:30 am In other words, a thing does not arise from itself, or from other but it arises because of a cause or causes.
But be careful that when you say “a thing” that you aren’t implying “thingness”.

In other words, if you say that a table is established from parts (“…but it arises because of a cause or causes…”) don’t make the mistake of saying that now, some essential “table-ness” suddenly exists as the result. It’s still just a collection of parts.

The appearance of what we conceive of as a “table” only arises in the mind.
Okay. The table is only an appearance that arises in the mind. So, is an appearance a thing or not?
“Thing” is too ambiguous. A meaningless word by itself. Anything that can be considered an object of awareness, of discussion, speculation, etc. Is a “thing”.

But you missed my point entirely, which is whether the object has some kind of independent or unique essence defining its existence.
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Re: Question about dependent origination

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Sherab wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 10:53 pm Okay. The table is only an appearance that arises in the mind. So, is an appearance a thing or not?
Conventionally speaking, a table is a thing. But a timetable is different from a dining table.
In Spanish, a table is a mesa. But a mesa is also a flat topped hill. So, is a table the same as a hill?

I may have a metal table, you may have a wooden table. So, they are things that can be distinguished from each other, or from chairs, for example. So, they are things only in a relative sense.

But at tbe furniture workshop, if the legs are in one pile and the surfaces are in another pile, and the sides in another, and the nails or screws are in a box, and nothing has been assembled, are there anythings there that are tables? No.

If you say that they are “unassembled tables” or “inbuilt tables” then you are saying these wooden parts are tables because they have the potential of becoming tables.

But if that is the case, then since tables are made of wood, if you go to the forest, are you now surrounded by tables, simply because some of them may end up at the furniture factory? No.

There is no point at which inherent “tableness” can be established.
In that regard, a table is not a “thing” ultimately.
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Re: Question about dependent origination

Post by Malcolm »

Sherab wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 10:45 pm
Malcolm wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 1:01 pm
Sherab wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:30 am If a cause if not a thing, what is it?
A convention.
A convention of what?
A cause.
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Re: Question about dependent origination

Post by LastLegend »

Sherab wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 10:53 pm
PadmaVonSamba wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 1:27 pm
Sherab wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:30 am In other words, a thing does not arise from itself, or from other but it arises because of a cause or causes.
But be careful that when you say “a thing” that you aren’t implying “thingness”.

In other words, if you say that a table is established from parts (“…but it arises because of a cause or causes…”) don’t make the mistake of saying that now, some essential “table-ness” suddenly exists as the result. It’s still just a collection of parts.

The appearance of what we conceive of as a “table” only arises in the mind.
Okay. The table is only an appearance that arises in the mind. So, is an appearance a thing or not?
That depends on who you ask. For example, if you ask Chan Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng, he’d say ‘fundamentally there is no thing.’ His successor Master Yongjia Xuanjue also says, ‘When awakened to the Dharmakaya there is no thing.’ But he also said, ‘the delusory appearance without body is Dharmakaya.’
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Re: Question about dependent origination

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'Since things devoid of intrinsic nature are not existent,
“This existing, that comes to be” can never hold.'

(MMK 1.10, tr Siderits)

Intrinsic nature (svabhāva) is the key term that should be further clarified first, and how central it is to Sarvastivadin Abhidharma.

'A dharma is defined as that which holds its intrinsic characteristic (svalakṣaṇa-dhāraṇād dharmaḥ — § 1.2). The intrinsic characteristic of rūpa, for example, is the susceptibility of being molested (rūpyate), obstructability and visibility; that of vedanā is sensation, etc. And for a dharma to be a dharma, its characteristic must be sustainable throughout time: A rūpa remains as a rūpa irrespective of its various modalities. It can never be transformed into another different dharma (such as vedanā). Thus, a uniquely characterizable entity is a uniquely real (in the absolute sense) entity, having a unique intrinsic nature (svabhāva): "To be existent as an absolute entity is to be existent as an intrinsic characteristic (paramārthena sat svalakṣaṇena sad ityarthaḥ)"'
(Sarvastivāda Abhidharma by Bhikkhu K.L. Dhammajoti, 2.3.1, 3rd ed, p 23)

'The most notable and representative view of the Sarvastivāda is that what is real is what abides uniquely in its intrinsic nature: What is real is what has a svabhāva. Among the various synonyms of svabhāva is the term avayava, 'part'. A 'part' here refers to the smallest possible unit which cannot be further analyzed; it is the ultimate real. Whatever can be further analyzed either physically or mentally — a composite (e.g., a person) — is 'having a part' (sāvayava); it is a relative real, superimposed on the ultimate reals (e.g., the five skandha-s). This also means that what is real or what exists truly is what exists from the highest or ultimate standpoint (paramārtha-sat), as opposed to what exists relatively/conventionally (saṃvṛti-sat).'
(Sarvastivāda Abhidharma by Bhikkhu K.L. Dhammajoti, 3.5.1, 3rd ed, p 77)

So what is refuted is what is held to be verifiable in Abhidharma, the unique characteristics of those things that exist ultimately, i.e. the dharmas. Mundane things like tables and people are understood as purely conventional, nominal, conceptual even in Abhidharma teachings. Here's a commentary on Nagarjuna's argument presented above:

'As explained earlier, to an opponent for whom the absence of nature is not established, this absence will be proven by presenting dependent origination as evidence. Indeed, when nature as such has been invalidated by this evidence, the idea that being produced by ruling conditions is the nature of things will have been invalidated as well. However, just as one may negate the presence of an aśoka tree by referring to the absence of any tree, using the absence of nature as evidence to refute this convention does not pose a problem.
The unproblematic character of the argument is clarified further by considering how, in this particular context, this functions to disprove the argument advanced by the opposition. Our opponents may say that because the characteristics of ruling conditions do exist, things arise from something other than themselves. In reply, we may say that, for those of us who assert that things have no nature, such characteristics are not established.'

(Ornament of Reason by Mabja Jangchub Tsondru, comm. to MMK 1.10)

In other words, dependent origination refutes the possibility of an own nature because everything depends on others, i.e. cannot be established on their own, and because there is no own nature, there is nothing that can be called existent or even non-existent. So even dharmas are like everyday things, mere conceptual fabrications.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"
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Re: Question about dependent origination

Post by Sherab »

Malcolm wrote: Fri Nov 26, 2021 1:21 am
Sherab wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 10:45 pm
Malcolm wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 1:01 pm

A convention.
A convention of what?
A cause.
And what is a cause which is not a thing but a convention of a cause?
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