Also see: +A and -A Emptiness

Thusness, some quotations from 2014:

"Wonder why K sees "things" are only conceptual designations as an issue. In fact that is key to understanding prasangika madhyamaka and in fact only after insight of anatta can one fully accept this profound insight. But it is not how jax explains and understands.

We must accept that all are mere imputations but from the insight of anatta, not from the insight of substantialist view. "Phenomena" is understood differently from our general English usage, "phenomenon" in Buddhism in general is object possessing identifiable characteristic and therefore having essence that is findable. However in Prasangika it is said that phenomena are merely names and imputations. But "mere" imputation in Prasangika cannot be understood apart from its dependencies. This dependency is key and is what dependent arising and emptiness are about.

When Prasangika says that things or phenomena are just mere labels, names, designations or imputations, it is not as we understood in common English terminology, rather, it is to be understood from the perspective of dependent designations, not just designations. Without understanding this dependencies, we are not understanding what is meant by "mere designations". That is, it is mere name/designation/imputation because the designated referent as an entity when sought can never be found apart from its basis of designation. This basic understanding must be there and must go into our inmost mindstream. And only direct insight of anatta can understand the significance.

Therefore the non-conceptuality is not simply non-conceptuality as in freedom from labeling but a freedom from the blinding spell of seeing things in terms of 4 extremes from reified designations. This extends to all phenomena be it conditioned or unconditioned phenomena. As for non-conceptuality, there are fierce debates between Gorampa and Tsongkhapa. There is also Mipham's view of non-conceptuality but these masters agree that the mode of non-conceptuality is a very specific and special mode of intuitive insight that relates to freedom of extremes, not just imageless bare mode perception."

This is important if you want to progress into the realization of emptiness of phenomena.

It relates to the Jang Gya quote I asked you to contemplate. In fact that is the key and in article I wrote to you about what I meant by two fold in dharma overground where I asked you what is emptiness."
"the way the 7 phases of insights are quite similar except that it is not as structured. For example, in hearing, there is no hearer, only sound. In this case the background is deconstructed but sound appears to be true, clear, vivid and undeniable. So we deconstruct further and realized that it is empty and non-arising. But at the conceptual level we do not have a way to guide the conceptual mind, we need to see the "dependence" in conceputality whenever we attempt to single out from a dynamic complex flux. In mmk, we see thinker and thinking arises in dependence, runner and running...u cannot have one without the other. Then we may ask if there is no running, isn't the agent is still there? Then Nagarjuna will tell you there is no state where you are not in activity in a state of flux. However when the mind imputes, designate, it is immediately frozen and partial so we need to know the dependence, know that nothing is established ultimately, know the way the conceptual mind deals with the nature of experience in a valid way.

Then in direct experience experience is like totally exerted yet non-arise and similarly in conceptuality, you see the relationships yet nothing is established. Both conceptual and non-conceptual are like dreams, like water, like rainbow...both have the taste as what the madhymaka yogi describe, pouring water into water."

Prasangika is the perfect view for anatta practitioners especially the way we understand anatta. It is like a complete system of thoughts based on using anatta as the base. But being a system that is highly focused on logics and reasoning, it may not be suitable for all even for those who have realized anatta. To these practitioners (anatta), their preferred mode is more direct than conceptual as that mode of direct perception is already open.

But by making that experience and insight (anatta) into a systematic logical reasoning platform, so many subtle points are being revealed.

So when I try to bring across to you these subtle points, I always try to make it comes as an experiential insight to you. One is the Jang Gya comment that I try to bring across to you for almost a year...when I asked you to contemplate the 2-fold emptiness article.

Because your mind always skew towards the illusion aspect, you can't understand it is not just about the illusion.

Not just about the illusion-like nature..."


space is based on imputed consciousness...basically to be designated is to be imputed by consciousness. When talking about designation, it is like even non-conceputality is also included. That is, if you hear sound as if it is external, standalone...if you see rainbow you see it as a whole as if standing objectively by its own...that is being imputed and designated...having the same import."

"Don’t misunderstand the term “mere imputation” wrongly. It is very important to understand the term “mere” is very special in Prasangika. “Mere” and “cannot stand at its own side” are synonym. I suggest you to treat “mere” to mean “that it is merely labelled as the emptiness of phenomena is deep and the dependencies are profound.” The very fact that phenomenon are empty of inherent existence means that phenomena are not existing at their own side therefore this “mere designation” cannot be eliminated in the ordinary sense; in fact there is no elimination, you can’t. To free it, one must see “Emptiness” and Dependent Origination. Because of the profundity, if one practice the inferring and reasoning path, there are various lines of reasoning like diamond slivers, sevenfold reasoning, unfindable as one or many, four extremes and lastly of course, the king of reasoning Dependent Arising to guide the practitioners towards right understanding. Thus this “mere imputation” can’t be overcome by deep shamatha concentration; can’t be overcome by ordinary non-conceptuality; can’t be overcome by non-thinking because it is “dependent” on its basis; it is not just a designation. Even the cessation of Nirodha-samapatti cannot do away with this “mere imputation” permanently. In Prasangika, only the intuitive insight of prajna wisdom of both self/Self and Phenomena is able to break the chain of specific dependent origination because ignorance as the root cause of cyclical existence is severed. Anyway just my 2 cents. Please read and understand with your own insights and experiences. See you in Singapore!"

"I am going tell you how to read nagarjuna mmk and understand prasangika with ur heart...opening ur full heart and read it with anatta insight. Fully experiential form of reading. It is will not be the orthodox way of interpretation but fully from experiential insight."

"Just like when hearing sound, if your heart is open, it can turn into a full bloom experience of anatta and even into the subtlety of 2 fold. When contemplating even the word "mere" in prasangika, we can also have a full blown insight, experience and realization."

"I am documenting my zen of prasangika...i find so much joy in it...when i meditate, my mind is in incredible bliss...illusory yet amazingly real...the intellect is put into place...experience and view in succinct, precise and beautiful."

"See non-conceptuality and conceptuality as empty appearances like pure sound and scenery... they are of equal status, no special hierarchy. Over-skewing towards either is a disservice. If you see a vivid clear rainbow even in non-conceptual mode, if you chase after rainbow without realizing its causal dependencies and empty nature, how is grasping released. If you want to see its dependence arising then initial phase of inferring is necessary. Both must work hand in hand."

"Recently you been using quite frequently the term "dependent designation", what does it mean?

...socially we don't designate and label this way. We do not label "things" based on their parts as basis of designation. Socially agreed labeling is based on the "thing" itself that appears to truly exist objectively.

But why do we need to understand this way, meaning the name is just a convenient convention that is pointing to an object? Still we can apply and say that the label "table" is empty.

It is a practice for the conceptual mind to re-wire itself to see emptiness and dependent arising. So conceptuality is not a problem. Otherwise even non-conceptual mode of perception is grasping. Why expressed this way? Because (imo) it expresses reality (experiential reality) as it is, as the 2 truths. It trains the conceptual mind to constantly see the 2 truths in a unified way. The beauty is this: The "mere designation" is in actual experience non-conceptual; the dependencies in actual experience is conceptual; Yet ironically it is the conceptual that releases the non-conceptual by realizing its non-arisen because it dependently originates. When the 2 converged and actualized into seamlessness, that then is the non-conceptuality that is free from extremes (imo).

In seeing, there is no seer, only scenery. Scenery is clear, lurid and brilliance. It is non-conceptual yet it is not released. It is released when realized as not truly there, empty.

In prasangika there are 4 terms that can be quite confusing but interesting. But when you know what it points to, it can be extremely useful in helping us to articulate clearly. These 4 terms are false, valid, mistaken and erroneous...if you are interested, you can explore into it. But you don't have to go into it if you are not

In prasangika there are 4 terms that can be quite confusing but interesting. But when you know what it points to, it can be extremely useful in helping you articulate clearly what is meant by sentient being, arya, Buddha, conventional reality, conventional truth. These 4 terms are false, valid, mistaken and erroneous...if you are interested, you can explore into it. But you don't have to go into it if you are not interested... lol."

"The non-conceptuality of Appearance must be 2fold [emptiness of person and emptiness of phenomena] then it is the "appearance as divine" of RongZom Chokyi Rinpoche...also the same as Mipham. Appearance can still be non-conceptual but still being reified."

"Also after anatta, there is just these on going reflections...when anatta is realized, dharma is directly seen. When selflessness of phenomena is realized, then one sees dharmata and appearance becomes illusion-like. This however is different from analytical negation by way mmk reasoning. It is an experiential taste. When this is carried out fully and non-dually then the way of "naturalness" becomes clear.

We must also be completely and thoroughly clear that naturalness is impossible when non-dual is not seen as empty. The other point is latent disposition of seeing origination must go hand in hand with analysis, not just by non-conceptual experience alone. This is because in post meditative equipoise, the mind analyses and if the mind continues to analyze with its inherent/dualistic framework, it cannot rest. Therefore the best way is to re-orientate the mind to see mere-designations because it is a direct semblance of the nature of non-conceptual appearance."

"the purpose of teaching mere designation is to tell us the nature of mind and phenomena, there is no other purpose other than that imo. We are not studying the physical causes and conditions, then it would be better off studying hard science."


When listening to music, the beautiful music is form from the flowing notes but each note when hit is already gone. How is the music heard? It is said that "music" is a convention designated in dependence on it parts -- the flowing notes. The "music" is empty and non-arising. The notes never really "meet" each other, nvr caused each other yet the current note depends on the previous to be played. So "conditionality" but not a causal agent having the inherent power to effect. What is this telling you abt designation, emptiness, conditionality and dependent arising? They are telling you the nature of experience, the nature of mind."

"when sentient beings are lost seeing inherent this and that, consciousness is termed "mind"; when an arya directly perceived emptiness, it is terms "wisdom" in Dzogchen. Mind is but a designation, when sought it cannot be found. What found are these on going appearances without core, without substance and without dimension.

so studying how these appearances are formed is studying the nature of mind. We do not understand mind as empty and dependent arising and likewise we do not know wisdom is naturally perfected. Grasping "essence" obscures the way of spontaneous presence and natural perfection.

but it is better not to talk about it as the 7th phase of insights.

no matter how one negates, appearances continue to magically appear; then at this point one realizes appears therefore empty and empty therefore appears. If phenomena are not empty, appearances are impossible.

The mind is singling out and abstracting certain aspects of whatever arises and therefore appearance and emptiness appear separate, when realized both cannot be even said to be one.

In emptiness practice, these 2 terms are used to described the taste of emptiness. In meditative equipoise it is known as space-like, post meditative equipoise it is termed illusion-like. This relates to an arya when seeing appearances post meditation, how things appears is still as if it is on its own but deep down, it is realized to be dependently originated and non-arisen. However these descriptions imo suit those practitioners that take the path of analysis, direct yogic experience after 2 folds require more creative expressions...:P

my entire body-mind experience for the pass few weeks has been unobstructed like space; phenomena are luminous and dimensionless like evanescent mist...background nothing and foreground empty even in the 3 states...natural and perfect, inexpressible beyond words. I think 2 folds have sunk sufficiently deep. I pray hard that Buddha bless me the wisdom to penetrate into the deepest nature of mind and let these insights be my authentic mind stream life after life....


"But learning madhyamaka mere designation helps me a lot.

I find Candrakirti's "mere designation" is quite creative and insightful. It helps me a lot. "


we can talk and talk and talk...but without seeing essencelessness from top to bottom, left to right...the unconditioned release and the spontaneous perfection will not dawn as actual is not necessary to do analysis like in the mmk but it does help a lot especially in this modern age where the mind is so is the recognition of the "essencelessness" that is most crucial, once we clearly see by way of analysis or by way of direct insight of the relationships between essencelessness, freedom, grasping, natural manifestation and spontaneity....and continue to authenticate the truth in activities...when non-dual essencelessness as it is dawn...everything and every action will be free, perfect and unmade."


Actually in prasangika, designation is not just a simple place can have multiple can include whatever cognized, known, imputed... "mind is but a designation", it is a way of practice....practicing how the prasangika trains one to see non-arising, sync "how phenomena appears" with "phenomena as it is".... In this practice of seeing "mind is but a designation", complex dynamic of pure process is seen, the meaning "mere" is seen...non-arising is seen...dependencies are seen...unfindability is seen.... It is like saying "no self"...a practitioner that has matured his insight of anatta not only sees non-dual, not only directly experiences vivid luminous sounds, colors, shapes, scents....not only taste what freedom is like...not only realized what is reification...a practitioner sees all of these.

when i say mind is but a mere designation, i also see anatta."


For Tsongkhapa himself, the mere I, is not only that...the absolute I is negated...but mere I is very special to prasangika practitioners...mere I carries memories from life to life...the continuity of the mental the gelug prasangika, they do not need foundation alaya consciousness alaya, they just need this "mere I" which is a designation ... that is why I say when you read "mere" in prasangika, you must know it is not the normal english word that means "just or simply".

so mere designation has the taste of "a dream in a dream" and not only that, it also defines the entire dependent arising, emptiness and non-arisen relationships. It cannot be empty appearances kept appearing due to its dependencies.

It is like the term "logos" in bible which means "word"...but the word is itself

so in this case, when one is engaged in conventionality, he is in fact in full practice. The profoundity of this cannot be under-estimated....this is how duality has invaded us totally to make the world appears dual.

read about the mere I, you will understand more what i meant....

but i find many made it a form of academic study rather than a practice. However i have integrated it as a practice my own bridge the desync of view and experience.

btw this is what that is revealed in my dream...where the designation and the phenomena mystically merged into one...and a voice somehow told me the word is not a representation of the phenomena, see the designation as the phenomena! Then i woke up and became clear how to practice even engaging in conventionality.

I re-read john ahn and albert's relates to another question about de-construction of "physicality". What is the relation between "physical", designations and consciousness? If we seriously think about it, how is it possible that a chain of physical causes (like hitting a bell, sound waves, air vibration) can give rise to a mental event (sound-consciousness)? We feel "physical" as something very different and separated from consciousness as if physical conditions went through a twilight zone then magic happens and BAM sound-consciousness arises. Actually "the alienness and difference" between physical and mental is purely due to the power of classifications -- the mind is bounded by that spell of our worldly definitions and suddenly "physical" feels very different from "consciousness". This is analogous to drawing a line in thin air and miraculously we find ourselves unable to step beyond that line. Designations have profound implications to consciousness and is magic to mind. We must b aware of that. Be it science or religions, we are always bounded by the power of definitions and designations. So the difference between them is in fact difference by hypnotism but not by reality. If we break this spell then "physicality" and "mental" becomes a blur and we realize "physical" is nothing "physical" and never a moment separated from consciousness; likewise consciousness is also only consciousness by definition. So in addition to seeing through mind's constructs into direct experience of non-duality and non-conceptuality, we must also be deeply aware of the power of mind's constructs and designations to consciousness; otherwise we are not understanding consciousness at all."

"Actually before I read into the details of prasangika madhyamaka, I do not know the relationships between them -- Total exertion/Mere designation and dependent designation."

"So to experience the "interconnectedness" of total exertion is to see the web of designations. There are 2 points you are missing: 1. "Mere" designation of Prasangika is special. It is not a designation that reference an objective object. 2. The other part you are missing is the dream in a dream to make these designations alive."

"if we were to read mere designation like a scholar without meditative experience in deconstruction, we will not understand how mere designation gives rise to non-conceptual experience. But if we read with the experience of deconstruction in anatta and mind-body drop, we will understand."


In prasangika, is a phenomenon mistaken rest on whether it is understood as dependent arising and empty of inherent existence, not on the validity of cognition in accordance to accepted conventionality or its (direct/indirect) mode of cognition. This is different from Buddhist logicians Dharmakirti or Dignaga or ur teacher Chen treatment of first direct immediate mode of perception as always valid and unmistaken. There are 2 important points abt this imo, one is to clearly distinguish between non-conceptual direct mode of perception from direct perception of selflessness. Both are non-conceptual and direct but the former is considered sentient being in ignorance and the later is arya mode of perception. The other point which I believe is unique to gelug is the pointing out that even what we considered as intrinsic characteristic is nothing intrinsic at all; It is rather established by worldly conventions and a mistaken view of taking uniqueness as intrinsic. Btw once insight of anatta arose, we should focus on non-conceptual mode of tasting the non-arising nature of phenomena until it becomes the default mode. Otherwise imo it becomes a retrogress and a waste.



What you should do now is focus on second fold...empty foreground in the form of non-conceptual taste. Then discipline on one energy practice. The refinement of view will b must simple when non-dual releasing becomes mature.

Don't entertain too much conceptuality now...intellectual quest will not help you much now ... It can only help you gather knowledge and nothing much. However for those that has no direct insight and is unclear about non-conceptuality, non-dual and anatta, it helps.

I said conceptuality is imp becoz ppl gives the wrong impression that conceptuality is a problem and preach the idea of throwing them aside before direct insight arises

And emphasized no need for conceptuality. After anatta, one still engages in concepts, how can it not be important. To have the mind rest in right view is important. But for one that has direct insight, focus should be non-conceptual taste of whatever arises. The essencelessness in both background and foreground. This is much more crucial.

For me my purpose of studying is to find out is there a sound and proper view for one to start...and how this view can penetrate all the total exertion...which I can't find anywhere beside dogen soto zen.

Not to go back to

Because as I told you the desync of view and experience is a problem in actual practice. So my question is what is a good and sound clear view that a practitioner should have from start and this view can help to penetrate all the insights.

I prefer a combination of koan and short stanza like that of anatta with right view. But this view must be clear from start. Zen lack a defined structure. mmk is too analytical esp after all the Tibetan masters polemic exchanges.

No what I mean is a view and a structure like that of "mere designation" to hv a semblance of direct experience of 2 fold and total exertion. Then in each of the phase, to trigger the direct insight, use koan or short stanza for contemplation.

Mere designation is good but to understand that one need to understand what is meant by existence in name only or nominality. Nominality is the core of gelug prasangika and there are certain points that I think it is not appropriate to write as I m not a gelug practitioner. Nominal or designation should not b the way it is explained by the scholars and even those gelug masters but I guess I m not in the position to talk abt that. And seriously I do not want to get into unnecessary discussions abt it. Nominality makes the different gelug and other schools abt conventional reality. Other schools focus more on clarity and appearances ... What is clarity and appearance like in each of the phase of clearing the intrinsic-ness. Quite the same as the 7 phases also. "

"If asked what I am most drawn to (in Tsongkhapa's teachings), I am most drawn to Prasangika's "mere imputation". The quintessence of "mere imputation" is IMO the essence of Buddhism. It is the whole of 2 truths; the whole of 2 folds. How the masters present and how it is being taught is entirely another matter. It is because in non-conceptuality, the whole of the structure of "mere imputation" is totally exerted into an instantaneous appearance that we are unable to see the truth of it. In conceptuality, it is expanded and realized to be in that structure. A structure that awakens us the living truth of emptiness and dependent arising that is difficult to see in dimensionless appearance."
"In ultimate (empty dimensionless appearance), there is no trace of causes and conditions, just a single sphere of suchness. In relative, there is dependent arising. Therefore distinct in relative when expressed conventionally but seamlessly non-dual in ultimate."

When suchness is expressed relatively, it is dependent arising. Dependent designation in addition to causal dependency is to bring out a deeper aspect when one sees thoroughly that if phenomena is profoundly without essence then it is always only dependent designations."

"When Dogen rows the boat, the rowing makes the boat a boat and makes the hand, the sea, wooden oars and the movement of the boat into the "rowing". The designations turns "alive" yet are like mere reflections. Why is it like water pouring in water? Because one tastes the hand, the sea, the wooden oars going beyond their designated boundaries into one seamless (like pour water in water) action of rowing. There is no self, only that action of rowing. With anatta and dependent arising, you will feel immense inter-relatedness yet empty like reflections even in the world of conceptualities. The father is dependent on the son and the son makes the father a father. Don't just look at the logic, see how much emotions and love are invested in them. There are no "things" and "world" other than that. So not just what that is direct, clean, brilliance, non-dual, non-conceptual and transparent is empty like space; you must re-enter the world, dirty your hands and see conventionalities with this new found insights of selflessness and DO...see the whole chain of intricate yet empty like reflections."

Jan 2015:

The "link" explained to b convention is not what I m look at. Dependent arising is not about conventions. Do not read pass by simply ascribing it to conventionality. Like ignorance, the karmic tendencies and clarity, you do not say they are just conventions. Conventions are used to explain certain but not all stuff. Buddhism is definitely not all about conventions...don't escalate it unnecessarily.

The 7 fold and 5 reasoning of madhyamaka are not to tell you abt conventionality. It is to tell you how intricate, inevitable, inseparable and cannot b understood and contained by any extremes views. Y Candrakirti must analyse in such a way...especially in conceptual understanding..."

"Found the term - emergent. When hearing the post by James.

Means DO as the understanding of the relationship between emergent phenomena like (qualia) and its parts. How the whole is more than the sum of its parts and how non-arisen emptiness and DO step in instead of seeing emergent phenomenon as a by-product that is somehow derived from the parts.

No this is not what I meant by table and it's relationship with its parts...but I dun actually like the way it is presented by ken Wilber...Michael Talbot in holographic universe presents a better explanation. The whole is contain in a part and the parts are contain in whole. It explains why only a tiny bit of brain is only required for memories. Means if you keep cutting a small part of the brain out, memories seem to retain without being affected much. How so? One of the explanation is every single part contain the whole - holographic.

Don't mixed the purpose of conventions for explanations for dependencies and dependencies for being holographic..."


"Nirvāṇa is an illusion. Even if there is anything greater than Nirvāṇa, that too will be only an illusion."400 A Bodhisattva is a mere dream. Even the Buddha is only a name. Even the Perfect Wisdom itself is a mere name. Dreams, echoes, reflections, images, mirage, illusion, magic, void—such are all objects of intellect.401 The Śatasāhasrikā Prajñā-pāramitā (八 千 頌 般 惹 經) also condemns all dharmas as illusory. They have neither origination nor decay, they neither increase nor decrease, they are neither suffering nor its cessation, they are neither affirmation nor negation, neither eternal nor momentary, neither Śūnyatā nor aśūnyatā.402 They are mere names and forms. They are Māyā (夢 幻). And Māyā is declared to be an inconsistent category which cannot resist dialectical scrutiny and which is ultimately found to neither existent nor non-existent.403 All phenomena arc mere names; they are only a convention, a usage, a practical compromise.404 The Laṇkāvatāra (楞 伽 經) condemns them to be like an illusion, a dream, a mirage, a hare’s horn, a barren woman’s son, a magic city, the double moon, a moving fire-brand presenting an appearance of a circle, a hair seen floating in the atmosphere by defective vision, an empty space, a sky-flower, a mere echo, a reflection, a painting, a puppet like mechanism, which can be called neither existent nor non-existent.405

Many Mahāyāna sūtras such as the Lalitavistara (神 通 遊 戲 經),406 the Samādhirāja (三 妹 王 經)407 and the Suvarṇaprabhāsa (金 光 明 經) 408... also join in such descriptions.


Thusness Stage 6 commentary:

"Here practice is clearly understood as neither going after the mirror nor escaping from the maya reflection; it is to thoroughly 'see' the 'nature' of reflection. To see that there is really no mirror other than the on-going reflection due to our emptiness nature. Neither is there a mirror to cling to as the background reality nor a maya to escape from. Beyond these two extreme lies the middle path -- the prajna wisdom of seeing that the maya is our Buddha nature."
0 Responses