Nagarjuna's Refutation of Motion

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Nagarjuna's Refutation of Motion

Post by Svalaksana »

Hello all. I'm sure there will be people who might help me make sure I got this right.

I've started studying Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika (Mark Siderits and Shoryu Katsura edition) some time ago and proceeded with difficulty for some chapters, but at some point I realised I didn't actually understand the text the way it was supposed to be. Whilst re-reading earlier chapters I became even more confused than the first time I came across them. "The Precious Garland" was fairly straight-forward and the "Seventy Stanzas" were a bit tricky at first, but I thought I had grasped them to a degree. The "Middle Way" made me reconsider that judgement.

For the past couple of days I've been trying to make sense of the notorious 2nd chapter of the work, regarding the refutation of motion, grinding my gears persistently, and eventually had to resort to the commentaries of Buddhapalita, Candrakirti, Tsongkhapa, as well as Jay L. Garfield and Jan Westerhoff's comments and studies, to finally attain what it seems to me to be a semblance of proper understanding.

I would be extremely grateful if someone could confirm that if I'm not entirely off-base or that I'm heading in the right direction, and if not I'd be happy to be corrected and re-oriented, since I feel like it's crucial to understand the argument in the chapter, given the similar iterations presented later on other stages of the work. So here goes my understanding of roughly its first 7 stanzas:

1 - Motion cannot be found in a mover that has not yet moved, nor in a mover that has already ceased moving.
2 - Motion could only tentatively be located in a mover that is presently moving.
3 - To say that motion is to be found on a presently-moving mover, would only make sense if one could conceive a presently-moving mover without motion (a non-moving mover?), since one could not attribute a property to a subject that is devoid of the possibility of not having that property.
4 - Assuming that there exists a presently-moving mover without motion, has the inevitable consequence of having to consider the existence of two motions: one for the presently-moving mover to be called as such (for to be called a mover, one has to have "a motion", whether it's actually moving or non-moving) and another for the same subject to actually move.
5 - Given that each agent has a subject in which it acts, the two motions require the existence of two movers, whilst bearing in mind that the two movers could not be a single subject, for that would mean that the mover and the motion were identical to one another, which is absurd.
6 - As there is no two movers to be found amidst the subject under analysis, the presently-moving mover, it is therefore untenable to assert that motion is to be found on the presently-moving mover.
7 - If no motion is to be found on a presently-moving mover, given that motion is not to be found on a mover that has not moved and nor is it to be found on a mover that has ceased moving, motion is not to be found in any of the three (and only) possibilities and hence no motion is to be found whatsoever.


As you know, the chapter continues with further development of Nagarjuna's arguments and responses to other objections by the opponents, but I would like to make sure that this section is more or less assimilated, to make sure confusion does not arise in later instances of the application of the argument.
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Re: Nagarjuna's Refutation of Motion

Post by Tao »

Sounds right to me.
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Re: Nagarjuna's Refutation of Motion

Post by Svalaksana »

Thanks, Tao. Hopefully more users will be able to corroborate our perspective of the text.
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Re: Nagarjuna's Refutation of Motion

Post by Malcolm »

Svalaksana wrote: Wed Jul 20, 2022 2:08 am

Motion cannot be found in a mover that has not yet moved, nor in a mover that has already ceased moving.
Nāgārjuna's approach is to attack gerunds:

རེ་ཞིག་སོང་ལ་མི་འགྲོ་སྟེ། །མ་སོང་བ་ལའང་འགྲོ་བ་མིན། །སོང་དང་མ་སོང་མ་གཏོགས་པར། །བགོམ་པ་ཤེས་པར་མི་འགྱུར་རོ།

There is no moving in that which has moved, there is no moving in that which has not moved.
A mover is not known apart from something which has or has not moved.


This is why he attacks moving movers.

He uses the same strategy in the MMK over and over again.
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Re: Nagarjuna's Refutation of Motion

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

A short way of saying it is that if you define any kind of entity, that entity can’t be in motion because then it isn’t where it was and thus becomes a differently defined entity.

I think that although it reads as a refutation of motion, Nagarjuna is really using the context of motion to refute any notion of existent entity.
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Re: Nagarjuna's Refutation of Motion

Post by Svalaksana »

Malcolm wrote: Wed Jul 20, 2022 3:20 pmHe uses the same strategy in the MMK over and over again.
Thanks for your input, Malcolm. I was indeed under the impression of that, since the chapters on the eye and sense-organs, the aggregates and agents all seemed to display a similar philosophical device in their attacks.

At least for me that became apparent after misunderstanding the chapter and struggling to make sense of the following ones, which rendered my reading more and more abstruse as I flicked the pages.
PadmaVonSamba wrote: Wed Jul 20, 2022 3:22 pmI think that although it reads as a refutation of motion, Nagarjuna is really using the context of motion to refute any notion of existent entity.
Thanks for your input as well PadmaVonSamba. Indeed, as I understood during my studying, was that this was his approach to refute any notion of independent existing entity or instrinsic existence, thereby validating pratityasamutpada, that's what you mean I suppose?
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Re: Nagarjuna's Refutation of Motion

Post by Svalaksana »

PadmaVonSamba wrote: Wed Jul 20, 2022 3:22 pm A short way of saying it is that if you define any kind of entity, that entity can’t be in motion because then it isn’t where it was and thus becomes a differently defined entity.
On a sidenote, albeit somewhat unrelated, but this brought to my mind the compromise found on the uncertainty principle of Heisenberg, in which you can either define a particle's motion (velocity) or its location, but never both at the same time with 100% certainty. Anyways, thanks for your thoughts on this.
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Re: Nagarjuna's Refutation of Motion

Post by Malcolm »

Svalaksana wrote: Wed Jul 20, 2022 4:31 pm
PadmaVonSamba wrote: Wed Jul 20, 2022 3:22 pm A short way of saying it is that if you define any kind of entity, that entity can’t be in motion because then it isn’t where it was and thus becomes a differently defined entity.
On a sidenote, albeit somewhat unrelated, but this brought to my mind the compromise found on the uncertainty principle of Heisenberg, in which you can either define a particle's motion (velocity) or its location, but never both at the same time with 100% certainty. Anyways, thanks for your thoughts on this.
It's more like Zeno's paradox.
Vases, canvas, bucklers, armies, forests, garlands, trees
houses, chariots, hostelries, and all such things
that common people designate dependent on their parts,
accept as such. For Buddha did not quarrel with the world!

—— Candrakīrti. MAV 6:166
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Re: Nagarjuna's Refutation of Motion

Post by Queequeg »

I don't think I can really add anything substantive to the above, except offer my gloss that Nagarjuna is attacking the perception that there is a continuity that could qualify as motion. This is related to PVS's pointing out the lack of an entity that moves. In the sense that Malcolm is pointing out the attack on the conceptualization of the mover, that emphasizes the subjective error that lies at the heart of the misunderstanding. I think Abhidhamma gets at a similar point in making each ksana the object of inquiry and pointing out their lack of identity from moment to moment.

I can relate to your description of studying Nagarjuna, not that I can claim any authoritative understanding, but, there definitely was a point where I was misreading him and finding him incredibly confusing, only to one day catch on to what he was doing and then all of a sudden finding the terse verses making a lot more sense. It was like, "Oh, that's the rule of the game."

Its really a fascinating work of logic. I think once you get that, it also ceases to be any kind of mystical work and you see the clear eyed, sober sage that he was, even one that might have been at home on DW enjoying demolishing another's posts. :rolling: Like that stuff about misunderstanding being like getting bitten by a snake. Woo. He is vicious.
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Re: Nagarjuna's Refutation of Motion

Post by Svalaksana »

Queequeg wrote: Wed Jul 20, 2022 5:39 pm I don't think I can really add anything substantive to the above, except offer my gloss that Nagarjuna is attacking the perception that there is a continuity that could qualify as motion.
Thanks for the reply, QQ, I think that what you said really reinforces and makes it clear that Nagarjuna may be directing his attacks to specific instances, but with a core, overarching target in his actual sights.

And it's a bit comforting to learn others went through the same obstacles, head-breaking and exhausting mental work-out to grasp what the darned wiseman meant. The past couple of nights I went to bed way beyond my usual schedule with a lingering sense of hopelessness, after reading, interpreting, re-reading, comparing, renouncing, attempting again, matching and doubting. But now that I experienced that feeling of having somewhat understood "the rules of the game" as you aptly put it, I feel a bit more relieved and confident.
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Re: Nagarjuna's Refutation of Motion

Post by Tao »

In the end, it's true that the logic problem comes from using "motion" as an object.

So it can be simplifyed, "motion" is not an object, is nowhere... so the rest of the arguments dont make sense because of this original error.

There's not such an object "motion", and that what moves is not an object neither.

All logical problems derive from this in the end if you think about it.
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Re: Nagarjuna's Refutation of Motion

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

Tao wrote: Thu Jul 21, 2022 10:21 am In the end, it's true that the logic problem comes from using "motion" as an object.

So it can be simplifyed, "motion" is not an object, is nowhere... so the rest of the arguments dont make sense because of this original error.

There's not such an object "motion", and that what moves is not an object neither.
Except that although motion is not a physical object in itself, motion is an object of observation. One can observe motion occurring.

But that’s all it is.

It’s like talking about “the wind blowing”.
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Re: Nagarjuna's Refutation of Motion

Post by Kim O'Hara »

Locked because there's a newer thread on the same subject at https://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?t=41524&.
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